Melissa woke sick. Her stomach was churning. When she reached the bathroom, she saw that her skin was covered in sweat. Though she felt cold enough to shiver, she had to have a fever.
Fumbling her phone out of her hoody’s pocket, she looked at the time.
She groaned, proceeding to retch into the small sink. Her uncle’s trailer was not the best place to be sick.
With little thought, she texted her dad so that he would know. (“I’m sick.”)
He’d be working still though, but might check his phone. She didn’t think about it too much as she curled forward to heave again.
“Melissa?” Her uncle had woken up, “Are you okay?”
She felt a prickling at her shoulders and called out, “Leave me alone!” Like any respectable teenager would.
Turning on the water, she splashed it onto her face. It didn’t feel relieving. Instead, the moisture seemed to frustrate her. She took a step back, dramatically placing a hand upon her chest and looking at herself in the mirror as if shocked.
Perhaps it was because she was not alone in the mirror.
There was another girl looking back at her, not as her, but beside her, over her shoulder or what not. She resisted the urge to look back. Melissa knew better.
Instead, she gulped and felt the breath go out of her lungs. Vibratory tremors rippled under her skin. Her gaze sunk to her throat. A deep, dark corruption was visible. It was pulling in the cells… particles… whatever you needed to call it to comprehend it… dragging them deep into an abyss that was not of this world. She could almost hear it calling to her.
Behind her, the girl whispered in a tongue she could not repeat.
Then, she blinked.
And none of it disappeared.
It remained exactly the same, except a forked tongue was dragging along her cheek. Melissa held her breath, shutting her eyes tight and trying to ignore the beating drums, shrill cries for help, murmurings of bargains to be had (at the low, low cost of your soul), patterns of destruction, creation – she felt her head hit the sink as she fainted.
“He’s going to kill me.”
Melissa woke to her uncle muttering the same phrase over and over again.
Horace looked amiss, still in pajamas with tears on his face. Blood coated his hands, arms and face. It had to be blood with how bright red it was. She squinted, looking around and trembling as she looked at her own bloody hands.
Opening her mouth, she didn’t say anything. She continued to look around. They were not in the trailer. Instead, they were in a field.
“Wh-where are we?” She managed, turning to look at Horace.
He didn’t look at her. Instead, he curled up into a ball and cried.
Trying to see if there was anything, but dry grass, Melissa found she couldn’t see much of anything else. There was a strange taste in her mouth.
At least there was silence now. She didn’t like hearing all of what she had… she suppose the bathroom visit had been a dream. But, as she looked to her cowering uncle, this seemed more like the dream.
Drawing her black curls out of the way, she took a determined breath, “Right, which way back to the school?”
He didn’t answer her, just cried and began to chew away at his bleeding nails.
Frustrated, she huffed and kicked him lightly in the shin, “Which way?!”
Rolling away from her, Horace dug at the ground beneath him.
Why?, Melissa could not figure out. She watched in shock as her uncle began to eat the dirt. “What?” Kneeling down, she knocked the dirt out of his hands, “Stop that! Why are you doing that?”
He looked at her with eyes that seemed so normal at first, but rapidly declined into a dark red that made her stand and quickly step away. She found her breath again when he turned away and continued to eat the dirt.
She had to be dreaming.
This had to be a nightmare.
“It’s not.” A faint voice answered, overlapping whispers on the wind, “This is as real as anything ever is.”
Melissa turned, despite herself, towards the voice.
The girl from the mirror was there.
She was seemingly sweet, unlike last time, and healthy with human characteristics. A normal girl that could easily be someone from her school that she’d just never got around to chatting with before. Melissa relaxed.
“I’m so glad you’re here.” She said, though the words carried little meaning with them. If anything, they came from a shocked subconscious.
“I’m glad too.” The girl said, smiling and taking Melissa’s hand, “I’m here to guide you.”
“You know the way back to the school?” Melissa said, hopefully.
“Oh, I do.” She squeezed her hand, “I know the whole town of Juanita!” Her teeth seemed to sharpen, but maybe it was just the light. Melissa didn’t look too closely, feeling calm and protected by the other’s touch.
They were in the street that led to the school. It was the same street that Melissa had walked with her friends the day before. Chills rattled her bones. Coughing, she fell to her knees as she realized that she wasn’t holding anybody’s hand at all.
“What?” Melissa whispered hoarsely. Looking down at her hands, the blood hadn’t gone away.
Frantic honking interrupted her stuttering thoughts. Turning her head, she was blinded by headlights.
The impact didn’t register at first. Her body lifted into the air with ease. She felt weightless, watching as the scenery passed her by. As she neared the pavement, she heard laughter and singing.
Then, the pain came all at once.
Her nerves fried like green beans in an oily skillet. Tensing, unable to move against the rigid jerking of her joints fighting against the brutal manipulation of reality, she gasped for air so that she could cry.
In the blurry corner of her vision, she could see and hear someone letting loose a stream of curses. She felt jostling, but the stabbing pain began to throb so nothing else could be sensed.
Blackness enveloped Melissa’s consciousness.
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