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It started out like most all of them.
She was falling, unable to control the speed of her descent until her feet touched the inky blackness and she slowed. She waited a few moments with her head between her knees before she lifted her head, black hair damp with sweat. Her gray-green eyes took in the room she was standing in curiously.
It was a medium sized room. The walls were a creamy rose color, and the floor was dark wood. There were two doors, both dark like the floor, and at least four windows that displayed a tranquil and ordinary sunset outside. She picked up photographs that were arranged casually around the room as she walked around the large bed that took up the majority of the space. The bed was covered in a soft down quilt, her mother lying with a leather bound book that looked to be several hundred years old propped up in her lap.
But, the girl said, My mother doesn’t own clothes like that. Or a book like that. She paused. Who are you? The clothing that the girls’ mother wore seemed to fit right in with the era of the book; a blood red skirt that draped elegantly off the bed, an identically colored blouse that dripped off the woman’s slender frame and a cream corset laced over it. I said, the girl said again, impatiently this time, My mother doesn’t own those clothes. You are not my mother. The girl knew she had said the words aloud, and yet, her lips hadn’t moved, and her mother didn’t seem to hear.
The girl was standing with her back up against a dark wood dresser when she heard footsteps. But these footsteps sounded heavy and deliberate, seeming to fade as quickly as they had occurred. When the girl looked to the doorway, she staggered. Standing across the threshold, was none other than…her.
This ‘her’ was different though. It appeared to be only about 7 years old, dressed in a dark black dress shirt that was cinched at the waist with a gold belt. The girl looked at her doppelganger, stunned. Her eyes traveled from where they were on the gold belt to the girl’s face, and screamed.
The black hair was the same, but that’s where the similarities ended. Instead of the familiar gray, stormy looking eyes that the girl possessed, this girl’s eyes were black. All black. There was no white in her eyes, or color. The girl smiled, exposing thin, jagged teeth that seemed to be dyed reddish brown at the tips. Tips that, very noticeably, were sharper and more deadly looking than the girl had ever seen.
The girl’s mother sat up and called out to her, Lucia! Lucia’s mother’s lips did not move, and yet Lucia could very well hear her name called. Lucia! Don’t let her touch you! Lucia began to be both confused and disturbed.
But, Lucia began, only to be cut off by her mother.
Just watch out, she said, getting on to her knees, the book no longer clasped in her fingers, And whatever you do, don’t touch her shadow!
The sense of urgency in her mothers’ voice gave Lucia chills. She quickly moved behind the bed, to the window seat. She fingered the loose loops in the fabric covering the sill and glanced uneasily out the window, pushing back gauzy curtains. Outside, it had gone from windy and nonchalant to dark and foreboding.
Lucia wondered if this had anything to do with the girl in the doorway.
Her mother lifted her head. What do you come here for Nila? Her mother stared right at the creature as she said it, and Lucia assumed that the dark, evil version of herself was Nila.
Nila laughed, a chilling sound that was the vocal reproduction of nails on a chalkboard. She smiled, showing her horrible teeth, and Lucia shuddered. I come for Lucia. Her voice sounded exactly like an ordinary child’s, but the words were spoken with venom, with special emphasis on her name.
Our deal is not yet up Nila, Her mother presented the aura of authority, but her voice shook as she spoke. Your mother knows this. Ever so slowly, she was drawing the book closer and closer to herself.
Nila scoffed, Mother disagrees. She absently looked to the ceiling. Lucia got the feeling that Nila was perfectly calm in the situation. For some reason, that made it almost worse for Lucia, thinking that this thing was completely uncaring about what it was trying to do. So when her mother threw the book at Nila, Lucia found herself without remorse.
It’s not as if Lucia was expecting it. She wasn’t. But the reaction from Nila was even less expected. With the impact of the heavy book, thrown with precision and accuracy at her temple, Nila screeched. The sound incorporated pain, terror, anger, and absolute hatred. Lucia shut her eyes and tried to block out the noise, but it seemed to go on for eternity, until suddenly, it stopped.
Lucia opened her eyes hesitantly, and jerked when she saw the body of Nila lying motionless on the floor. What’s more, Nila’s shadow seemed to rise on its own. It moved from where Nila’s finger grazed the edge of the door, and traveled along the walls, up and over to where Lucia’s mother was sitting on the bed, vanishing only when bits of her form passed through the windows.
Lucia’s mother swore, Don’t touch the walls! Lucia instantly back away from the window she was leaning on, and moved at the suggestion of her mother, to the center of the room, as far away from the windows as possible. It’s the only way she can touch you! Through the walls! Lucia’s mother turned her attention away and looked at the shadow. You can tell your mother, she said with hatred in her tone, that Lucia will never go with you.
The shadow of Nila tsked. Have it your way. With a sweep of her hand, an action that almost seemed 3D, though she never left the wall, Nila rose. Nila’s shadow, now with a flesh and blood puppet, began to laugh. The dead girl had a much higher voice than Nila and the effect of the two in unison was mind numbing.
Lucia’s mother stared at the two in shock before putting a protective hand on Lucia’s shoulder. Why do you laugh? She said, never taking her eyes off the demons while drawing Lucia closer to herself.
You shouldn’t have done that Vivian, the two spoke in unison, their voices growing with anticipation.
Vivian growled, Too late. She held Lucia close to her now, and whispered to her hair that she should shut her eyes. Lucia did as she was told.
Fine, both creatures said with a smirk. With a wave of the shadow’s hand, the lights in the small bedroom erupted, spraying glass everywhere. Lucia heard herself scream as her mother wrapped her tight. Lucia began to cry, hot tears against her skin. With another sweep of her hands, the windows shattered inwardly and the cold night air whirled around them. Lucia’s sobs became erratic as Nila clapped and giggled. But mother will be angry.
Lucia looked up to her mother, screaming at her to do something. But her mother had become stiff and still and cold and when Lucia looked up into her eyes, she saw the pupil in her eyes begin to grow, covering the color. The blackness grew until it overpowered the last bit of whites from the corners of Vivian’s eyes. Lucia choked down her horror as her mother looked down at her and smiled. Suddenly, a deeper, more ethereal voice rocked the bedroom with a shriek of a mother who had just lost a child.
It was the last thing that Lucia saw.
Lucia awoke with a start, sweat soaked and heart racing. She tried to slow her breathing, What had that dream been about? It was the latest in a series of dreams with this girl in it. But this one had been different. In this one, the girl spoke. She learned its name, and it knew hers. Furthermore, it had said it ‘came’ for her. What had that meant?
Lucia flicked on the lamp by her bed and caramel light spilled through the room, filtered by purple and green polka-dots on the shade. She jotted down the dream in a notebook by her bedside, making sure to write down everything she remembered. It was around 3:30 in the morning by the time she had finished, so she went to tell her mother.
She picked her way around the piles of books and clothing that lay strewn across the room. After navigating her way through the dark hallway, she entered the room that was in her dream.
This hadn’t been the first time that she had come in the early hours of the morning, and by the looks of things, it wouldn’t be the last. “Hey mom…” She said, sighing inwardly when she felt her lips move. At least she knew this wasn’t part of the dream.
“Mmmmmnnnnggghh…” Vivian said, rolling over and opening her eyes a slit. “What time is it Luce?” Luce was Vivian’s name for Lucia.
“’Bout 3:30. I had another nightmare.”
Instantly, Vivian was awake. “Alright, what happened this time? Did the creature come back?”
Lucia relayed the story she had written in her notebook. When she had finished, Vivian offered her daughter her arm. Lucia gladly snuggled up against her mother in the darkness, glad that her dream was just that; a dream. Finally Vivian sighed.
“I think they’re getting worse,” She said, sitting up. “I mean, you learned her name this time. What was it, Nila?” Lucia shook her head yes. Vivian sighed again. “I just don’t know what to do, I-“
Vivian stopped, and stiffened. She began to feel very cold, and Lucia felt her heart race. “Mom?” She asked, feeling the hairs rise on the back of her neck. “M…mom?” She stuttered. She began to scoot herself away when a cold hand gripped the back of her neck.
“Your mother is gone,” she said, turning to stare at her. Lucia felt her limbs grow weak as she looked into the eyes the creature – they were all black, just like in her nightmare. Except this was no nightmare. Sensing Lucia’s terror, the creature laughed and tightened her grip. “You’re mother took what I loved most,” she said, almost a sad look in her eyes. “So I’m going to fulfill our bargain.” She glanced at Lucia. “I’m going to take you.”
Dimly, Lucia remembered that she wasn’t supposed to touch the creature. But it was too late now. The world was fading fast, growing black around the edges with unimaginable speed, though the creature wasn’t hurting her, as far as she could tell. Or maybe she was. Lucia didn’t know anymore. She felt the world spin as she fell once more into the blackness, into a place where Lucia knew that even her mother couldn’t protect her.
Lucia was traveling into her nightmares.
Except this time, she wouldn’t be waking up.