The coming dawn was announced by the croaking of a carrion bird outside my window, making me jump and all but fall off of my bed in shock. For the entire night, I had lain there, clamping my hands over my face, attempting to hide myself from the world, but failing miserably. I had not even noticed the time pass. Still in a form of trance brought on by insomnia and repulsion, I tripped to the bathroom, moving like a zombie in the soft dawn light.
With the surgically clean white tiles around me, the whole night seemed less threatening, not as real, but still just as horrific, my heart raced and I shivered in the cool air. Taking a deep breath to steady my nerves (and stomach) I forced myself to look down at my hands, and yet again, I was in for a shock. The skin was not the bright red that I had been expecting, nor were they caked in the cracking gloves of dried blood. No, they were both pristine, white and exactly the same as always, if a little pale due to my fear. As pleased as I was by this, the room still began to spin around me and I slumped heavily to the floor. Was this all inside my head? Or was it a dream? Was I mad? Or was there something even worse happening here?
A sudden idea popped into my head and I had to stop myself from running to the dining room to check on the picture that had sparked all of this grief, but it wasn't there. Neither was the poem. Or the box. The room was entirely empty, exactly like the events of last night had never happened. In that case, I must have dreamed it all, right?
Striving for some form of normalcy, I made myself get dressed, eat something (though the food felt like sand in my mouth) then set off out of the front door. I refused to allow myself the time to look at the spot where I had found the box last night, instead, I ran straight across the road, getting some annoyed looks from drivers. I was going to go to school today. Everything was going to be normal. Nothing will have changed, but then, why would it?
Despite my determination, my mind was still preoccupied by the nightmare so I kept to myself. On the bus, everyone must have sensed my mood because no one noticed me, they didn't come and save me from the prison of my thoughts, but I think that would have been impossible anyway. If there is one thing that you cannot take refuge from, it is your own mind. Regardless, I tried, and failed.
Still in a dreamy state, I drifted around the campus, heading towards my homeroom class, ignoring everyone in the corridors just as they ignored me. I had never been a sociable person, only possessing a few friends, so no one noticed my strange state of mind. For that, I was thankful. I had reached my desk by the window, the one with the view of the decrepit old mansion, before I was forced to acknowledge the existence of someone, and that was only because they were sat in my seat. Erin Galloway, the school celebrity, was laying with her head on the desk, trying to avoid the stares of those around her. The poor girl was in a tough situation I remembered. Her parents were the inventors of the new game, causing her to be the talk of the school. For such a shy girl, it must have been torture!
For the minute, thinking of someone else's problems was comforting, giving me the confidence I needed to actually come out of my shell and talk to her. Not that I ever had before, she was more introverted than me, but still, this couldn't hurt, so long as I kept it light.
"You're in my seat sweat heart."
The soft sound of my voice may well have been a slap to the face for all the effect it had. The girl jumped as though an electric current had been passed through her and she lifted her head to look at me. It was only then that I noticed that she had been crying recently, her eyes are still red.
"I said: You're in my seat."
"Oh." She looked around in a confused manor, as though she hadn't even noticed. "Oh, right, sorry." She stood up quickly causing her chair to crash to the floor. I felt a sudden pang of sympathy for the girl. It seemed like I was not the one with problems.
We both went to grab the chair at the same moment, causing our hands to brush over each other. She recoiled immediately from the contact, almost as though she was scared. I picked up the chair.
"You okay?" The question was simple, with a simple answer, but it was the only thing that I could think to say. I didn't have much experience talking to girls in general, and, well, this girl was harder to talk to than most.
With that, she moved off to the chair behind and returned to the stance that I had found her in, From the way she sat, it looked like the weight of the world was on her small shoulders. Her ebony hair fell across her face, hiding her from the world and her problems. Lucky.
I sighed and leaned back in my chair, now that the minor distraction of the girl was gone, my mind immediately returned to last night, dwelling on all the details. No matter how often I told myself that it was just a dream, my mind kept rebelling. Frustrated, I slammed my head into the solid wood of the desk, the pain helping me to forget for the present. If I was not careful, I was scared that I was going to become a masochist, though, I would rather that then being labelled as insane. My breath came out as a sigh.
Thankfully, Jake came over after that and he talked at me until the teacher called the class to order. Apparently, the girl that led his team had disappeared for a long time then came back last night and they had talked. I heard the girl behind us shift uncomfortably in her chair, but I thought nothing of it.
When Ms Jones called the class to order, we all settled down and I looked at her expectantly and, yes, a little desperately. I needed another distraction and I hoped that something she was going to say would serve as one. Unfortunately, I got my wish.
"Class, I would like to introduce a new student today. She is really young because she has skipped a few years, but I want you all to be nice to her!"
Standing next to our teacher stood a small girl with a heart-shaped face, large, blue eyes and long mousy hair down past her waist. When the time came for her to introduce herself, it sent a shiver down my spine. She was the girl from my nightmares, the only difference was the fact that there was no slit across her throat. At least not one I could see over her shirt collar and tie. I tried to write it off as a coincidence, perhaps I had seen her somewhere in the street before? But the girl herself made it impossibly.
When she spoke, her eyes were fixed upon me the whole time. "Ivory Summers." That was all I heard before a crippling pain flashed behind my eyes and the world turned black once again, her small smirk flashing behind my eyes, torturing my consciousness, even in the dark.