This story has been dancing, bashing, screaming about my head for the best part of two years. Now it has finally made its way out into the world on 1s and 0s!
Chapter One: Life Is Uncertain... Eat Dessert First
A small autumn breeze was busy tossing around the fallen leaves of a nearby oak. They swirled one way, seemed to pause then swirl in the other direction. Every now and then these cross breezes would collide and send dry brown leaves scuttling in every direction.
A gaggle of teenage girls bounced briskly through the wind driven leaves, ignoring them as vegetation was crunched underfoot by trendy school shoes as the mob continued on.
Lagging behind the giggling, gossiping mass of peers, a small girl carefully stepped around the leaves, admiring their bizarre dance. The wind kicked up and sent her curly brown into her face. With a sigh the girl patiently tugged the offending locks back behind her ear. Her hazel eyes scanned the backs of the other girls as they continued, oblivious to their surroundings and the quiet girl hanging at the back.
Emily didn't mind being ignored; she had a few close friends to support her and didn't worry herself with the petty popularity politics that raged in her age group. She was just happy to listen and pick up all the gossip and pass along to her friend Mandy, who was a renowned gossip monger.
Lost in her daydreaming, Emily had lagged behind more than usual, so the group of girls had already crossed the intersection while Emily got caught at the light. Leaning against the pole she pulled her blazer closer as the wind, sick of playing with leaves, tried to worm its icy fingers underneath her clothes and steal away her warmth. Staring blandly at the traffic lights, Emily found her mind turning towards more "nerdy" pursuits, such as her maths homework and the new book she'd purchased the other day.
A putrid smell evaded her thoughts and tugged her back to the physical world. Shambling her way was a homeless man. His dirty clothes looked stiff, covered in grime and other substances Emily really didn't want to identify. In his left hand he clutched a bottle of what she assumed was alcohol, his right hand was pushed against his forehead, as if he had a head ache and he was muttering furiously y under his breath.
Without warning, his eyes snapped up to Emily's. Embarrassed, she wasn't sure where to look and settled on staring at her feet. The green man on the lights opposite stated to flash and the pole beside started to rapidly tick.
Before she could take a step, a surprisingly strong hand grabbed her arm and started to drag her in the opposite direction. Before she could think, Emily let out a small squeal and started to struggle. The homeless man stopped suddenly and turned to face her.
Emily gasped. His eyes were glowing silver and her looked about to be in his early twenties. Not what you expect a homeless man in his condition to look like. Startled, Emily just stared until he started to mutter. The spell broken, Emily resumed her efforts to wiggle out of his grasp.
'Let me go, please!'
The man ignored her as his rant started to become louder.
'Someone? Please help me!' Emily started to yell over the man's insane chanting. He clutched her arm tighter and lent in close until flecks of spittle started to hit her face making her flinch away.
Drawing in another breath to scream, her traumatized mind registered another person enter the fray pulling the raving man away from her.
'Hey, kid? Are you okay?' someone was asking her. Shaking like a leaf, Emily managed to nod.
'Th-thank you,' she managed to get out between her chattering teeth as she raised a trembling hand to push her glasses back into place.
'Do you want me to call a taxi?' the stranger asked, still concerned.
Emily shook her head to indicate the negative. 'N-no, my bus stop is j-Just over there,' she gestured behind her. Waiting until her shaking subsided somewhat, Emily looked around for the man but couldn't see him anywhere. With slow steps as not to jostle her suddenly pounding head, she slowly started towards her bus stop.
The house was silent in the way only an empty house could be. Thankful that her parents spent a lot of time at work, Emily quickly deposited her schoolbag in her room before making a bee-line for the bathroom medicine cabinet. The packed bus had sent her headache on a trip that was bordering a migraine.
Dry swallowing two Panadol, Emily headed into the kitchen, surprising hungry despite her pounding head. Opening the fridge revealed it to be all but bare except the pleasant surprise of seeing half a cantaloupe. With a smile Emily set about cutting a slice.
Carefully she drew the knife alone the inside to the slice to remove the seeds, too many times in the past had she managed to cut herself in her haste. Today was not turning out to be her day. At the very end of her de-seeding action her hand slipped and the sharp knife wasted no time in slicing her left forefinger. With a startled cry, Emily dropped the rock melon and knife on the chopping board and headed towards the sink. Feeling her headache rush back, she sighed, leaning against the sink as a droplet of blood fell from her finger.
Before her startled eyes a small wisp of grey mist curled into the air. Slowly her eyes turned towards her finger in time to follow another droplet of blood on its journey to the bottom of sink. Only it didn't make it. Before the droplet had reached half way it had started to transform into that bizarre grey mist and twirl up into the air before fading out.
Trembling, Emily quickly placed her finger in her mouth. Her eyes were as wide as saucers as she started to back away from the sink, her mind denying what she'd seen. In a speed that surprised her, Emily ran to her room and quickly dived into her bed.
Curled up into a ball, she rocked herself to sleep repeating a mantra "it's just a hallucination. It's just a hallucination..."