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I wake up screaming. My body’s drenched in a cold sweat, heart hammering, lips trembling. This makes about the ninety ninth time I’ve had the same nightmare.
In the dream, I’m standing in a field of some kind. Wind’s blowing all around me, grass bowed flat against the ground in the gust. Overhead, black clouds swirl in a giant hurricane, pulling more and more of the distant blue sky into their churning tempest.
Right below the eye of the storm, in the middle of the extensive plain I’m on, is a ditch. It’s black as midnight, with no visible bottom. And I know there isn’t one. Know it from that omniscient sixth sense you have in dreams.
Screams issue up out of the abyss, pleading for help. Sending chills through every nerve in my body. Because they’re my parents’ screams. My brother’s.
And then the black storm lowers. The force of the whirlwind draws me like a magnet towards the ditch. My feet struggle to get a grip on the rippling grass below me, but the world is titling. I’m half tripping, half sliding down to the chasm. I throw my arms back in a desperate attempt to fight the winds, teetering on the edge, and then they pull me in. I’m falling through nothingness. Hurtling towards emptiness, because this pit has no floor.
As I plummet, a demon’s face looms up out of the black fog surrounding me. It’s hideous – horrible rotting lips pulled back in a hellish leer, blood-shot eyes ruby red and smoldering. I’m screaming, flailing, trying to do anything to fall faster, just hit the floor and die already, but the monster is faster. It’s level with me, staring straight into my eyes. It opens a gaping mouth to engulf me… and then the nightmare ends with me shrieking my head off.
Escape. I have to get away from the images, still freshly imprinted in my mind. That demon face, still stretching out to swallow me. The screams, still echoing through my head.
Escape. It’s the only thing I let penetrate my mind as I pad across the dark room. My bare feet, ghostly white in the blackness, slide into boots by the door, and a jacket somehow finds itself around my trembling frame. I open the door, and let the body I’m not attached to carry me down the silent hall.
Where I’m going, I have no idea. I’m not thinking. I have no purpose, no destination. I just have one thought controlling me: Get. Away. So when I end up at the top of the front steps, rocking on the tips of my toes like a bird about take flight, I’m not surprised.
Some control must be leeching back, though, because I’m aware of bunching the muscles that will carry me into the alley. Of pulling a hood over my head, because it’s pouring outside. Of leaping into the darkness and feeling drops hitting my skin. And aware as I hit the hard asphalt of the street that is currently a river.
I land squatting, crouched tense against the ground like a jaguar stalking its prey. I inhale deeply, savoring the smell and feel only a night storm brings. The rain surrounds me completely. Its steady rhythm blankets my hearing, the flood washes around me down the muddy street. I feel nothing but the roaring wind and the downpour bucketing over me. See nothing, except a velvet wall of night broken here and there by the hazy glow of a street lamp.
My muscles shift again, swaying my taut body back and forth. I wet my lips, roll my neck across my shoulders once, and then I launch, catlike, into a full sprint down the dark alley.
The glassy puddles on street corners shatter as I hurtle over them, their shards joining the liquid shell encasing me. My feet pound a rapid tempo on the pavement. Houses fly past, blurry from my speed, all signs of activity inside long ago extinguished.
It’s strange that in the abandoned blackness of a dark back street, I feel the safest. But here, in the dark and rain, I am invincible. I have no obligations, no thoughts, no feeling. It’s just me and the wind and the pouring rain. Completely free. Each running, splashing step I take is a step further from the life I don’t want to face.
I run and run and run. Till my lungs burn and my calves ache. But I can’t hold out forever. My steps are slowing, sloshing in the water that is everywhere. It’s no longer reviving, but restrictive. Clinging to every inch of fabric, each soggy strand of hair. Flooding every single pore. Dragging me backwards. Pulling me under. Drowning me.
The sidewalk lurches up to meet me, and I’m down. I’m not sure if it’s blood or rain that flows down my raw, stinging knees, and I don’t care enough to find out. I just want to lie here dying on the concrete, the rain brimming over me, until I’m nothing but another piece of rubble fallen in the storm.
Unfortunately, nature isn’t that generous. My breathing’s ragged, my throat on fire, but my stubborn heart still races on. Stupid thing. Like working ten times faster is gonna help anything. Not even the most industrious organ can save somebody when she really wants to die.