Nightmares, acting as messages from a lost time, have plagued Lianna Loraine Von all her life. Magical and horrific dreams have drawn her in so close to the otherworld that each night as they worsen they bring her closer to the dead and the damned. She wakes cut, burned, and bleeding as they steal her sanity in a time when clarity means the difference in survival and demise. Lianna must stand strong, and fight for not only her life, but her destiny.
Death doesn’t always want our eternal sleep. Sometimes, Death just wants our eternity.
The sky was painted midnight with no moon. Unreal with wisps of clouds whispered across the horizon, bright with stars. On the edge of a cliff, I stood in a dense eerie fog that blanketed the ground with my back to a thick wall of lush woods. Trees, draped in willowy vines, held leaves too large for their delicate branches. Palms entangled by ivy so rich and dark, it hinted blue as it crept from the jungle forestry all the way down the cliff to the jagged rocks below. Black water sprayed white froth with every billowing wave against the glistening rocks amongst the break of the surf. The waves sprang up, reaching to grab me from the towering cliff. Trembling, I stood. My body throbbed in pain. Looking down, I saw the blood that covered my hands, and feet. A ghastly scream startled me as it echoed across the seascape for only a moment before it was abruptly cut short. Seconds passed before I heard rustling from behind. Something running for me, Death was coming for me. My chest ached from the strain of my racing heart. Stepping closer to the edge, I turned to look into the trees. Straining to see what was out there in the night. Another step and I fell from the edge of the cliff to the awaiting rocks, and dark water below. There was no scream. I had jumped to my salvation.
My body jerked awake violently the moment I hit the water, the moment my mind took realization to the agony of death. Every dream, every night, nightmare after nightmare, I remember vividly. Magic spinning into a world of death, and pain. Oh yes, even magic can be quite frightening. They’re complicated. Just dreams though. Right?
Throughout my life I’ve never slept much because to sleep means to dream. Some people say if you die in your dreams then you die in real life. If that’s true then I must be a ghost.
The dreams were more than just vivid. They were real to me or her, whoever she is. As if I was living in two different worlds leading two entirely different lives each day, and every night.
When I was a child she was a child. As I grew she grew. Our worlds were nothing alike. Her world was one of beauty, filled with vibrant colors more exotic than a Brazilian rainforest. There were even fairies.
The entire place was pure magic in its most beautiful form. Although, for every wonderful thing in this world- and other worlds, too, I suppose, there are things just as horrible to counter the beauty. They call this the balance of life. Yin and yang, light and dark, good and bad so to speak. To me it’s just Hell.
Upon waking, I laid there staring at the glowing green numbers from the clock, counting to myself. Soft as a whisper, I counted the seconds from the time the clock read four-o’ one a.m. to four-thirteen a.m. Letting out a long disappointed sigh, and squeezing my eyes shut, I knew the last I looked at that clock was just three hours before. For the millionth time, I wondered how many seconds does it take to make the pain of death go away? Even though it wasn’t I who had died, they did. That was always just as painful if not more so.
For the last many years, I have been forced to watch and suffer the death of her people. It is our curse. Each and every one of the torturous, and the horrifying deaths alike. Some were worse than others. The so called lucky ones managed to end their suffering on their own terms. Most did not.
Each death I was bound to watch through their eyes. Destined to feel their pain. No matter how she tried to fight. No matter how she tried to save them. She was cursed to watch and to feel every bit of their pain- mental and physical. By some strange twist of destiny I am bound to this same fate for I am bound to her. We’re helpless from saving them. Old mothers, young children, entire families, it didn’t matter. None were spared.
Despite the moderately warm humid weather of late May the sheets were cool from the draft coming in through the open window. It was ghostly the way the sheer plain white curtains bellowed from the breeze. Ghostly, yet beautiful in its silent dance.
The only sound to be heard was a low howl of wind. No birds or owls. Nothing. Not even a stray dog barking, or the sound of traffic, nor people from the city streets below. The night was holding its breath just before the break of dawn.
Stiff and slow, I pulled my legs out from the sheets, letting my feet touch to the cold, scarred wooden floor. Fresh scratches, paired with smears of blood, and dirt stung my legs horribly. It looked as if I had been running barefoot through the woods.
This was a physical reminder of my dream. This, too, happened every night or something similar to it anyway. Cuts, mud or dirt sometimes, though always blood.
It’s okay. Even the cuts healed within a few hours. They vanished as if they were no more real than the dreams. Impossible, right? You would think so.
Moving over to the open window, I leaned out into the dank night air to see the quiet city. The place was Vermont, in a town called Burlington. Burlington is the largest city in the state of Vermont, and the shire town, Chittenden County. It had been my home since birth. With my luck, I would die there, too.
My hometown also happens to be the birthplace of Ben & Jerry’s, which was sounding like a promising breakfast option as I looked out the window at one of their infamous ice cream shops. Aggravated because my sweet tooth would have to wait, I let out a heavy sigh. They didn’t open until eleven. Everything should be twenty-four hours in my opinion. After all, I am. “Damn it.”
Burlington’s a big city, but the people refuse to acknowledge that. Most of the traffic is on the sidewalks or out by the docks. For example, I had a license, however I’d never owned a car.
Vermont is also well known for the rain. Fortunately, I’ve always loved the rain. It was clear that night, although from the humidity I could tell it would be raining by noon. After a few moments of window gazing it was time to move on, and start the morning as usual.
Walking over to the white fifties model refrigerator, I opened it up to get my so-called breakfast. Squinting from the sudden blaring light from the refrigerator, I groaned in annoyance.
There’s nothing more inside but six bottles of Fiji water on the bottom shelf, fifteen cans of Red Bull on the top shelf, and one mostly empty container of old Chinese. I grabbed it up, opened, sniffed, chucked it in the trash.
Snagging a Red Bull off the top shelf, I used my foot to shut the heavy door as I turned away. Living alone, as well as working in a restaurant meant that I didn’t have much need to stock up on groceries. When I did, it was usually my friends that ate them anyway. So why bother?
Rarely did I keep lights on in my house. They gave me headaches. The dark was normal for me. I liked it. Probably more than most people do, or should for that matter.
Still groggy, my eyes began playing tricks on my fuzzy mind. The dancing shadows on the walls cast from the dull light of the open window nearly looked human. Rubbing my eyes, I looked again but the image was gone. I was left with only a disturbing chill in the room, and the strangest feeling of being utterly alone. “Of course I’m alone. No one else lives here.” Whilst shaking my head, I rolled my eyes, feeling ridiculous.
“Music. I need music,” mumbling to myself as I often tend to do, I quickly moved to turn the radio on as my phone rang. Scowling at the ringing intruder, I abandoned the radio to answer the phone. Red Bull still in hand, I cringed upon seeing the name on the screen of the cell phone. Paul. I had promised to go see him at work that night. He’d started a new job. Crap. “I know, I forgot. I’m sorry!” It shouldn’t have been a surprise really. No one else would have called me this early. Most people were asleep after all. Then again, there were only a small handful of people that ever called me anyway.
Paul Davis was a close friend of mine. Or maybe a more accurate description is that Paul was one of those people you meet which never go away so they become permanently embedded into your life. Everyone has at least one. They grow on you. We had known each other since we were kids.
Over a year ago, we had dated for a period of three months before we decided that was a silly idea to start with, or I did rather. There was nothing romantic there. At least not in my opinion. There were a few people that didn’t agree of course. Paul was one of them unfortunately, but we had remained friends.
“It’s all right. I didn’t expect you to show anyway. What’re you doin’?” That night Paul had started a job at a local nightclub. It’s true that I hated bars, however, I hadn’t blown him off. That frustrating subconscious had just conveniently forgotten.
Yawning heavily as I rubbed my eyes, my mind supplied the appropriate response, “Did you have fun at work?”
“I can make all sorts of drinks with dirty names now.” I could practically hear the perverted grin even through the phone. “You know, since you bailed on me, now you gotta come eat breakfast.” Ah, a ploy. My eyes narrowed.
He won. I sighed. “It’s gonna take a lot more than you to get me outta the house this early. Just come over.” It was a personal goal of mine to not leave the house before ten. He knew this.
“All right, all right. I’ll see ya in a bit. I’m bringing food.” He sighed exaggeratedly with a blend of expected disappointment, and mild agitation. With nothing more said, we both hung up.
The crisp sound of opening the Red Bull made me smile. Pausing, I let myself take a moment to breathe in the sweet yet tart smell before taking a long drink. “Time to get dressed then.” Yes, I talk to myself a lot. Heh. Just be glad you’re not really in my head. That can get a little twisted.
On the way to the closet, my reflection caught in the full length mirror that was poorly tacked to the wall near the bed. It had been left there by the previous tenants. The mirror was miraculously held on to the brick and mortar wall with bent nails. It bore a raw edge that I had cut myself on more than once. Being accident prone, sharp glass in my proximity should really have a frame or something. Paul said he would fix it. I wouldn’t let him for a complicated world of different reasons.
The girl staring back at me was nineteen years old, standing at five-foot-four. She was thin with very pale skin the sun didn’t faze with more than a burn now and then, with a slew of freckles across her shoulders and arms alone. Not a monster by any means. Just plain. The cuts were gone already. Good. No one needed to see those. Even the smudges of dirt had all but worn off from moving about my loft.
Neither too thin nor curvy, I had clear skin, but my complexion had always been dull and lifeless. Nose and lips were all very average. Eyes of stone grey had no real color at all aside the blue and purple circles under them from a lifetime of ill sleep. That’s what they invented makeup for I figured.
My hand ran up from my grey underwear clad hips to pull up my dove white tank, exposing the thorn vines of black roses, and the dragonfly tattoo covering the left side of my ribs from hip bone to breast. I’d been thinking of adding to it or getting another. Decisions, decisions. For me, tattoos are more than just a piece of art work. They are an expression of yourself, a visual extension of your soul.
While caught in a trance by the ghostly reflection, a sudden gust of wind ripped through the room that chilled me to the bone. It sent a shiver up my spine that made the hair on my arms raise and tingle, giving me goose bumps from head to toe.
Panic stricken nerves held me in place for countless seconds. I held my breath as if anticipating something horrible to come. After a long moment something seemed to click inside of me. Like a spell breaking, I was able to move again. I checked the window to find the chilling breeze from the moment before was gone.
Despite the early hour, the air was actually quite warm. The breeze brought up the scent of the city. Wet brick and concrete. Moist soil and fresh cut grass from someone mowing the day before. The smell of the ocean and docks from a few miles away drifted faint on the wind. Salt water and fresh fish. I loved those smells. It was home.
Humidity from the fog bellow clung to my skin as my head hung out the window. My eyes closed as I instantly dismissed the squirming discomfort in my stomach to let a peaceful moment completely absorb me.
What a mistake.
While enjoying the quiet warmth of the night, the stereo came to life blaring Nickelback’s “I’d Come For You” at the highest volume setting. Shrieking, I jumped in shock. The panic ripping through me felt like my skin had tried to leave before the rest of my body could catch up. My head slammed up into the window. Hitting hard enough the window rattled the sill. A flush of heat filled my skull, and left my head pounding like a jackhammer. “Owe! Son of a-!” the increasing shock of pain stole the curse right out of my lips.
A can of Red Bull lay on the floor at my feet now forgotten, glugging out the contents onto the old wooden floor as it rolled back and forth idly. Eyes watering from the sudden stinging pain, I wiped the tears away as they splashed down my cheeks. Spinning around, staggering away from the window over to the bed, I went for the only weapon in the house.
It wasn’t me that turned it on. Had to be someone though, right?
In the corner between the bed, and the nightstand was an old Louisville Slugger my brother had given me from his glory days in high school. Grabbing it up, I looked more like a drunk with a misshapen cane than a pro ball player. Holding my head with the other hand as it pounded internally to the music, my hair felt wet. I was bleeding. Terrific.
The stereo was blasting louder than I remembered having it set to. Or maybe it was the mild concussion making my ears ring with sensitivity. Luckily, having no surrounding neighbors, there was no one to disturb. The loft was above an empty storefront. It had been empty for a couple of months. Rent is high downtown for store front lots. I was lucky.
Clumsy I may have been, but inept I was not. If there was someone in my house, I was not the type to willingly go down without a fight. Speaking of going down however, just at that moment I slipped through the spilled Red Bull. Landing on my rear, a wave of pain shot up through my tailbone. Mumbling some of my favorite curses, I crawled back to my feet, using the bat to help me stand. It was humiliating even being alone. Was I alone? Would an intruder be laughing if there was one? Seemed like a probability. I know I sure would’ve been if the tables had been turned.
After picking myself up off the floor, I saw my doorknob twisting back and forth forcefully. What I had forgotten though was Paul was on his way over, and he also had a key. The door had gone still as I crept up to it along the wall. Just as I came up on the door, it swung open. The bat came up over my head, and in multiple short swings I clobbered the door as well as the assumed intruder. Twice I swung back so hard I hit myself, too.
Obviously, I didn’t play sports for a reason. Can you imagine what would have happened if someone had given me a real weapon?
“Son of a bitch, Anna! What the hell is wrong with you?” Paul yelled over the music, holding a defensive arm up over his face. Good question, however a better one would have been, ‘what isn’t wrong with you?’
Paul ripped the bat from my hands, before he tossed it across the room. It bounced twice on my unmade bed. Shocked, and guilt ridden, I paused to punch him hard in the shoulder before I threw my arms around his neck. Locked in a state of contradiction, I wanted to beat the crap out of him for scaring me, yet hug him because I was glad it was Paul, and not someone else.
Grumbling, he wrapped a free arm around my waist. Paul was a sturdy guy. Stout, too, fortunately. He stumbled back as I threw him off balance. “I’m so sorry! I didn’t know it was you! I thought someone was trying to break in,” my voice trembled sheepishly as the words, raspy with panic, trailed off with the sound of the music.
Paul rumbled a hard laugh at my expense. “I’m fine. Don’t worry, you’re no all-star,” his voice was not so much amused, but irritated at my idiocy, as indicated by his mocking back tone.
Paul stood roughly five seven with a face like a boxer. The dog more than the kind of fighter. His jaw was heavy on the masculinity, and square cut. Close to his face was his boxy nose, broken more than once. His brown eyes were tight and deep set as if he were always heavily burdened mentally. Although he’d never admit to it, his height gave him a complex. To make up for it he was a fanatic about going to the gym four times a week to hit the weights. He ran there and back. It paid off.
The downside of this, he was also a bit too into himself not to mention deep in the belief of his own indestructibility. He kept his thick curly hair military short because he hated it. Though not a GQ dresser, he was compulsive about his clothes as well. He once dumped a girl for stepping on his shoe, and scuffing it. His defense was she refused to apologize.
Staggering further into the room, Paul dragged me along, stumbling with him. Once stable, he released me as his free hand patted against my head lightly (which hurt like hell) as he pushed a brown sack into my arms. Paul never seemed to have noticed the fact that I had punched him even though my knuckles felt it still.
Reaching behind him, he fumbled along the wall for the lights. When they flickered on, he saw the blood on his hand. His face churned in a sickened sneer. Paul hated the sight of blood. “Why are you bleeding? What did you do this time? God, Lianna, turn that shit down!” His agitation grew more intense by the second.
“I hit my head on the window.” With red cheeks, and bloodshot eyes ready to brim over with tears, I walked over to the stereo. Shaking fingers hit the power button. Just to be on the safe side, I also unplugged it. To myself, I muttered quietly, “No one’s coming for me.” The one sentence motivational speech to reassure me actually did the opposite. Strangely my mood tanked quickly into depression. Fortunately, I’m not one for self-pity. I hid the dip well.
Lifting a hand to the back of my head, I felt my blood soaked hair again. Why do head injuries have to bleed so much?
“If you ever had a light on or turned down that music maybe you wouldn’t get hurt so much. Well, okay you’d still manage to get hurt a lot, and don’t you dare call me grandpa. It’s been a long night.” My brow rose as he rambled on. He did seem rather cranky. “You okay?” his tone softened once he realized how much of an ass he was being.
“It’s nothing. Like you said, just a long night.” My face tightened with bitterness. Paul was used to my scowl. It didn’t faze him at all. I walked the sack into the kitchen, plopping it onto the counter.
“Sounds like a long morning for you. Was it the dreams again?” Paul asked with a sigh. Shrugging my shoulders was my only response. Why did he bother asking? With my back to him, I rolled my eyes. The dreams were not what bothered me really, just my paranoia. Paul knew that I suffered from chronic nightmares. He did not know what they were about, or what they did to me physically.
Paul looked me over again with a raised brow. A slow evil grin spread over his thin lips. “I know you were excited to see me, but did you miss your trip to the bathroom this morning, too?”
He may have been laughing, but I sure wasn’t. Not only having not been able to get dressed before he barged in, my bottom half was soaked in Red Bull. “Damn it. I fell you jerk!” I chucked a plastic spoon at him from the bag. “I dropped my Red Bull when I hit my head on the window, and I slipped in it.” Indeed, I was humiliated- and pissed.
Paul laughed again, catching my bad throw midair. He sure wasn’t helping matters. Walking over to me, he leaned to kiss my forehead before walking off for the bathroom. After washing the blood off his hands a towel was chucked in my direction as he walked over to the window to mop up the sticky mess with another towel. “Thanks,” mumbling as I caught the towel, I dried my bare legs, and scrubbed the rest of the dirt from them as well.
Twisting around, I hopped up onto the countertop with a wince caused from the bruise forming on my tailbone. Once I got comfortable I held the towel against my head. After a minute of holding pressure on my head, I dropped the bloody, Red Bull soaked cloth in the sink. As carefully as possible, I maneuvered into a cross-legged position on the countertop.
When Paul was done, he tossed the rag in the sink on top of mine though not before he saw the blood, grimacing at the sight. “Are you sure you’re okay? I can drive you to your father’s or to the hospital if you want.” The empty can was tossed into the trashcan like a basketball. Swoosh! Two points!
Reflexively, I shuddered at the thought. “Thanks, but no thanks. I’m not starting the day with a trip to the hospital. I’ll be fine.” Paul was standing at the open fridge. He reached for two Red Bulls, tossing one to me.
“Uh huh. Well anyway, I got us some breakfast.” He popped the can open downing half of his in one gulp while I just stared at mine.
My brow wrinkled curiously. “How’d you get over here so quickly?” While looking over at the food on the counter, I opened the can.
“Eh, I already had the food. ‘Sides, you gotta eat something other than bad Chinese and Riads once in a while.” Paul smiled, winking at me.
Reaching into the sack, he handed me a Styrofoam box filled to the brim with fruit. He really knew me too well. It shouldn’t have bothered me so much. Paul pulled out biscuits and gravy for himself. Thanks to me, he was already armed with a spoon.
Grabbing up a stool, he plopped down next to me. We ate in silence- a blessing for my head was still pounding. When we were done, he cleaned up the trash for me. I gave a groan, holding my hands over my stomach, hanging my head down. “What’s wrong with you?”
“Um… Headache,” I grumbled tightening my arms around myself protectively.
“Not what I meant, but whatever. I swear I don’t know how you get into some of the situations you do. You’re hardly even human because of how accident prone you are.”
That struck a chord. Remaining silent, still upset over what had gone on before he showed up, I pondered explaining more thoroughly. Though if I had told him what all had happened he probably would have called his brother, gotten him out of bed, and over here.
Paul’s brother’s name was Richard. Richard Davis was a cop in Burlington. He was quite a bit older than Paul. Still single though which was too bad. He was a good guy. Richard was one of the many people that constantly tried to push Paul and me into dating again. Had since we were five, I think.
So as nice as he was I liked avoiding that topic, which so often came up, at all costs. His family was thrilled when we first decided to try it. When it ended, they acted as if they were in mourning for someone who had died. Sneering at the thought, my decision became final. Stay quiet.
“Well I should get home, and get some sleep. You work tonight?” I shook my head no with my gaze still on his feet. The day was not promising from the start. I felt drained, and ready to climb back into bed. Yet he just kept on talking. “Well since tomorrow’s your birthday, I wanna do something with you. ‘Sides Shannon wants us all to go to Penny’s tomorrow night, don’t forget.”
While groaning my complaint, my eyes rolled at the thought. Penny’s is a café. The full name is Penny Cluse Café. Pretty much everyone in town could be found there at some point in the week. Some even go on a daily basis. Don’t get me wrong it was a great place. I just never liked being forced into social situations where I was the one in focus.
You see, at age nineteen I was the exact opposite of most anyone else around that age. I hated to party, and I’d never had a real drink. It just wasn’t worth the puking or the hangover. This is Vermont; very few of us even smoke cigarettes. I don’t do drugs. I’m screwed up enough without them. It’s not that I mind crowds- I just suck at the social scene. Thus my reasoning for going to an online college versus a campus in the mecha of college towns that was Burlington.
Shannon Miller was his actual girlfriend. She was a sweet girl. We had met through a study group when she had moved to Vermont about five years ago. I introduced them. Shannon looked like a trendy, new age hippy type, with hair like that chick from the film Pulp Fiction. Mia Wallace black hair, devil red lipstick with hemp purses, hippy skirts, and toe rings. Strange girl though sweet as could be. Always so full of life.
Then again, who am I to call anyone else strange?
Bizarre fact: She’s adamant that she’s never seen the movie Pulp Fiction. A lie or not it was hard to tell with her. I was voting for the lie myself. Oh come on, I’m not that cynical. Everyone lies.
“Don’t bother arguing. I also figured you could use a more relaxed night. So since you’re not working, you can put the books down, and come over for dinner. We’ll rent some movies. Maybe get a pizza or something. Just the two of us, like we used to do.” He seemed thrilled over the idea to my absolute dismay.
Nodding obediently, I chose to remain silent. It would save not only time but personal duress to just agree with my friend’s plans. Paul grinned ear to ear. “Okay. I’ll see you about six. Night, Anna,” that said, he gave me a quick peck on the cheek as he walked to the door. Double-checking the lock on his way out, he locked it behind him.
Once Paul shut the door, I slid off the counter, and walked to the window, waiting for him to leave. As soon as he was gone, I turned on every light in the apartment before shoving the chair against the locked front door. It was quite a task moving the mammoth old chair across the room. When that was done, I checked the window, and contemplated locking it, too. Why bother? I live on the third floor, I told myself.
With the lights on, I climbed back into bed with the bat pulled tight against me. Burying my head under the mound of pillows, I prepared to let the nightmares take me away. Yeah, Red Bull doesn’t really give you wings if you drink it all the time.
Literature with Unhindered Arts by Jacquelynn Faye. If you wish to use any materials found here, articles, excerpts, photos, graphics, or otherwise, please request permission and show where and how the materials will be used. A source must be provided where materials are used.
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