“Get up!” A hand yanks me up painfully. I look for the source of the hand and see Jude. “We have to get the hell out of here!”
I try to tell him that I’m already in hell but my mouth won’t open. My feet won’t move, either, which he seems to realize with increasing frustration.
Finally, he sweeps me up into his arms and runs, ending with a jump that launches us into the air and onto the top of a building. He sets me down and bends over, hands on his knees. His breathing is heavy.
“It’ll be a while before the Nightwalkers find us up here,” he says.
The pill is still in my hand, starting to feel sticky from my body’s warmth. How is it possible that my body can still have warmth when Graham’s doesn’t?
“Piper,” Jude says, kneeling beside me. “I know this is hard, and you might think I’m asking too much of you, but I need you to do something.”
I just look at him. My mind is as empty as my heart.
“When did you first meet Graham?” he asks me. When I don’t answer, he says, “You never actually met him, did you?”
Anger slices through my numbness. “Of course I did! We’re engaged.”
I hold up my left hand, but the engagement ring is gone. I look around desperately. How could it have fallen off without me noticing it?
“Okay, you met,” he says. “But where? When?”
I try to think about it, but I can’t. I can’t because it’s too painful. I can’t think about Graham just yet. Instead, I shake my head.
“Tell me,” he says, putting his hands on my shoulders.
My cheeks are wet.
“I–I–,” I struggle to think back.
I remember Graham in our house. I remember kissing him. I remember going out into the Milky Way for our first date, even though that really is more appropriate for the first anniversary. I remember every facet of a relationship as perfect as the diamond on the ring I lost–completely unmarred.
But when I try to remember the day we met or how any of this began, the memory proves to be elusive. I feel like it’s there, but I can’t quite get a hold of it.
“You can’t, can you?”
“I can.” I force my mind back so fiercely that my head begins to pound. I screw my eyes shut, envisioning the moment. And then– “I remember! We met the day after both of us first got hit by the Insomnia Epidemic.We were in line at the Somnology Institute. It was the day before…it was the day before the Nightwalkers first appeared.”
I shake myself free of Jude’s grip and look at him triumphantly, but he isn’t even looking at me. His contemplative gaze is on the floor. Just like that, the feeling of triumph fades away, carving out a hollow inside of me. Remembering when and where I first met Graham does nothing to bring him back to me.
“Right before the Nightwalkers first appeared,” Jude says. “Can’t you see now that this is a dream?”
I don’t believe him but I’m getting frustrated with his constant claims that it is. Graham is gone, and Jude still won’t let go of his stupid ideas or his stupid need to push them on me.
“Fine!” I snap. “So maybe this is a dream. So what? Is there really anything wrong with that? What do you have against dreams anyway?”
“Dreams are a wonderful thing,” he says. “I have nothing against them. Dream all you want. It’s just when you start living in them that the problem starts.”
I sniffle. “Why are you telling me all this?”
I know he has nothing to do with the sleeping pill shortage, but since this trouble started the day I met him, I can’t help blaming him. I need someone to blame because otherwise I won’t know where to place the emotions that are welling up within me.
“Because the Nightwalkers came from you,” he says seriously. “They’re born from your mind, which means only you can stop them.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” I say, backing away as he reaches out toward me. “I would never create such horrible creatures. Did you not see what just happened? They killed Graham. They took him away from me.”
Now I’m sobbing.
“You wouldn’t create them consciously, but your subconscious can do so much without your permission,” he says.
“Just get away from me and stay away,” I warn him. “My life was perfectly great until you can along, and now my fiancé is dead.”
I turne around to see a candy cane coming off the side of the building. Wrapping my legs around it, I slide down. As soon as I hit the ground, the burns on my collarbone and forehead twinge. I can feel the cold ground through the holes in my shoes.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12
Snippet Saturday is my chance to share bits and pieces of my writing.