Chapter One- Nightmares and Insomnia

Laine awoke suddenly, her green eyes widening in shock as she swiftly kicked off her sweat-soaked covers and sat up in bed, frantically gasping for air.
Her eyes darted around the room, desperately trying to see into the depths of the shadows, but after several seconds passed, she realized that whatever had been in her dreams had stayed there and, slowly but surely, her breathing changed from deep, heaving gasps to normal, shallower ones.
Once both her heart and breathing had slowed back down, Laine sat back against her headboard, waiting to make sure that she had fully collected herself, before she quietly swung her long legs over the side of the bed and slipped her feet into the fuzzy slippers that resided next to it. She then reached out to the pink lamp on the night stand next to her bed and flicked its light switch on, allowing light to flood the room.
After her eyes adjusted to the seemingly blaring light, she carefully made her way to the door and, as silently as she could, walked through the hallway towards the kitchen, turning on every lamp or light switch that she encountered.
After what seemed like an eternity, Laine reached the kitchen and immediately opened the fridge to get out a gallon of milk. She then proceeded to get out a tall, clear glass and the somewhat full cookie jar. After she poured herself a glass of skim milk and took out a few cookies, she sat down with her plate and glass in hand, and began devouring the delicious, homemade cookies, completing her ritual for the past few weeks: have a nightmare, wake up, then go to the kitchen to try and calm down with a glass of milk and a couple of cookies.
"You know, sis, if you keep having these nightmares, you're going to put on some serious weight," a voice proclaimed quietly, causing Laine to jump slightly and immediately turn around in her chair to look at the intruder, even though she was relatively sure about who it was. When she saw her sister, Charity, standing in the doorway to the kitchen, she forced herself to relax her tensed muscles.
"What are you doing up?" Laine asked, after swallowing the last bit of cookie.
"I could ask you the same thing, you know. After all, it is two o'clock in the morning on a school night. You should be in bed," Charity stated, crossing her arms in front of her chest and frowning down at her little sister as she casually walked over to the chair across from Laine and sat down.
Laine frowned back up at her, her green eyes darkening slightly to match her mood. "Okay, first of all, you're not my mother. Second of all, you have school tomorrow, too. You should also be in bed."
Charity sighed loudly and uncrossed her arms in a somewhat defeated way. "I know, I know. I couldn't sleep. I was in the process of counting sheep for the hundredth time when I heard you go downstairs and I figured I should come see what you were doing."
Laine smiled at her sister. "What a pair we make. You want to sleep, but you can't and I have nightmares every time that I fall asleep."
Charity studied her sister for a minute before speaking. "Yeah, what's up with that? What do you keep having nightmares about?"
She shrugged slightly, causing her long, black and somewhat tussled hair to ripple slightly. "I can't remember."
Charity frowned again. "That's kind of weird. I always remember my nightmares. In fact, I remember them better than I remember my happy dreams."
Laine shrugged again. "I know. Normally I do, too. But, as soon as I wake up, I forget. The only reason I know I had a nightmare is that I always wake up with my heart pounding and my covers saturated with sweat." She sighed quietly. "I'm really getting sick of waking up that way."
Charity nodded sympathetically. "It must be really hard on you. I know that my lack of sleep has sure been affecting me. Half the time, I can barely keep my eyes open at school."
"How long have you been unable to sleep at night?" Laine asked, quirking her eyebrow up slightly at Charity.
Charity thought about the question for a minute, her brow furrowing slightly in concentration. "Well, let's see...it started the day after school started...so, what is that? Two weeks or so?"
Laine stared at her sister, a look of surprise on her face. "The day after school started? That's really weird."
Charity did a sort of half-shrug, her green eyes remaining decidedly untroubled. "Why is that weird?"
"Well, that's the same day that my nightmares started."
Charity shrugged again. "So what? It's just a coincidence," she replied.
Laine nodded slowly, her frown smoothing out and her mouth forming a small smile. "Yeah, I guess you're right. I guess I'm just paranoid."
Charity laughed quietly, still keeping in mind that her father was sound asleep upstairs. "Well, that's what happens when you're addicted to marijuana. You start getting really paranoid," she teased, trying hard to keep a decently serious looking face.
"Oh, yeah. You know me. Such a big marijuana addict," Laine replied sarcastically.
Charity shook her head, her medium-length, curly blonde hair moving gently with the motion. "And to think you used to be such a good kid. What a shame." They both laughed quietly for a few seconds. Eventually, though, their laughter died out and the silence stretched before them, although neither one was uncomfortable with the extended lack of chatter, as some people would be.
Finally, after several minutes of silence, Laine sighed quietly, got up from the polished wood chair, and put her dishes in the sink.
"Well, Charity," she said quietly after she finished, "I think I'm going to try and get some sleep, even though I doubt I'll be able to. But, hey, it's worth a shot, I guess."
"Okay, sis. Sleep well," Charity replied, holding back a yawn herself.
Laine smiled. "Thanks. You, too." And with that, she made her way back up the stairs to her room, leaving her sister in the kitchen, and closed her poster-covered door as she entered her room and quickly jumped back into her bed to snuggle in under the covers.
However, just as Charity had decided to also go back to bed, her father, Rock, appeared in the kitchen.
"What are you doing up so late?" he asked, yawning and rubbing his slightly red eyes sleepily.
"I couldn't sleep, Dad. What are you doing up?" she asked, resisting the urge to yawn back at him.
He scratched his stubble-covered chin and replied, "I was thirsty. Thought I'd get a glass of water." He paused for a second. "You really should be in bed, sweetie. Try to get some sleep. Tomorrow's your big day after all."
Charity looked up at him, her petite mouth parting slightly in surprise. "You remembered?"
"Of course I remembered. How could I possibly forget? You've been mentioning it at least once a day for how long now? A month?" he asked.
Charity laughed softly. "Yeah, I guess I have been kind of obsessing over the play auditions for awhile."
"Well, how well do you think you're going to do if you're up all night? Go to bed!" Rock exclaimed, gently pushing her out of her chair and shoving her in the general direction of her bedroom.
"Okay, okay, Dad! I get the point! Let up!" Charity said, laughing all the while.
Rock simply kept gently pushing her forward until he reached the door to her room. He then proceeded to open her door and push her inside. "There you go," he said, laughter lacing the edge of his voice. "Thank you for using the Rock Taxi Transportation. Have a great night."
Charity turned around and gave him a hug. "Night, Dad. Love you," she said.
Rock hugged her back, and then ruffled her hair. "Night, sweetie. Good luck tomorrow."
"Thanks, Dad."
After he was sure Charity was safely in bed, Rock climbed the stairs to go check in on his youngest daughter. He quietly opened the door and, when he saw that she appeared to be sleeping soundly, proceeded to close her door again and head off to bed. And so, for the rest of the night, the Shore family household was silent and peaceful.
That is, until a dark figure approached their doorstep...