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I see it. I see it, dancing just over the horizon. I can smell the rich perfume of damp soil. It has been a long while since that scent has touched my mind. For many a day I have longed for that delicious fragrance. I can hardly believe the scent has woven into my system.
It was only hours ago that I had forgotten the scent of wet soil. It was only hours ago that I believed I would never be able to refresh that memory. I remember hoping, aching for the simple smell. I was so tired, so tired.
I fall to my knees, plunging my hands into the smooth sand as I drink the luxurious scent. I can taste the cool water in the air. Oh, how I've missed it! I want more. But I have to wait. I can go no further today. I have walked much longer then I should have, already. I should have found a cactus by now, but the scent of water distracted me. I want to reach the Oasis, but I know that I must rest.
I feel drained. I feel like everything beneath my skin had been evaporating through the course of the day. I feel like only bones are left beneath my dry leathery excuse for skin. Of course, it would be worse if it were daytime. I would have been burned to crisp by now. I travel by night, though, warming myself with a collection of ferns bound together by a snake skin. The cold is horrible, but it's better then the sun. This way, my worries about about dehydration are decreased tenfold. But I still won't last more then a couple days. My worries of exhaustion, however, are unchanged. I'm so tired that I can barely move, but I need to find shelter before I sleep.
I decide to set up camp at a clear patch of sand in the shadow of a Saguaro Cactus. I collect shards of old cacti and prop them up against each other to for a one-man tepee. I can fit in pretty well if I'm crouched up in a ball, which is all I need. I learned to sleep this way after only a couple nights of being in the desert. I find a dead shell of a huge Saguaro Cactus and use some pieces as walls for my tepee.
Only now can I escape into the realm of dreams. I hope, for once, that I will not dream of thirst, because I doubt I could take it, now that water is so close. I slip into my tepee and pull up my cactus wall behind me. I close my eyes. Then the sand ground into my body disappears, along with my blistered feet and tepee.
I know that I'm dreaming. The fact that I'm clean and hydrated has proven that. I savor this feeling, though. Even though it's fake, I rather this then another minute suffering the pains of reality. I like being able to look at my hands and see perfect skin, rather then the scaly lizard-like flesh I have obtained in the real world.
Carefully, I examine my appearance. I want to remember every detail, so when I wake, I will have the refreshing memory to look back on. I look down at my body to see that I am clothed in a brilliant strawberry red gown, decorated with creamy white lace and spotted with milk-colored fresh roses. A tingle shoots through my body. I've worn this dress before...
I look around, starting to get nervous. I don't like it here. The black-and-white checker pattern of the floor tiles is much too familiar... And I remember the expensive furniture around me. I am in a room the size of two queen-sized beds shoved together. I start to feel claustrophobic. There is something very wrong in this room! I just... don't remember what....
That's when I see them. Pure white rose heads, scattered all over the floor. I hate them instantly. I don't know why I hate them, but I want to tear the petals off of each one! Perhaps it's the clean, pure white of the petals. They're so pure and unscathed... they're out of place here! They won't stay that way, though... I know they won't.
“Gwen,” A smooth, perfect baritone voice calls my name from behind the door. My body goes cold, and my heart quickens. I remember this! I remember! Now... now, this is different. This isn't how my dreams are supposed to be. They're meant to be refreshing! They are NOT supposed to be memories! “Gwen, honey, do you like the roses?”
I shiver. My stomach feels like a cold seal, doing flips and making me feel sick. Terror tightens my throat and makes it hard to speak, but I know I have to. “Yes, Tony.” I choke. My eyes start to water. I blink back the tears. I can't let him see me cry. Why is that? Why can't I remember the rest of this memory?
“What's the matter, baby?” The knob turns. I want to scream, but I know that it would wreck everything. “Did you step on a thorn? I'm sorry; I thought I put all the stems into a bowl, but perhaps I dropped a couple.” Tony pushes the door open. I stifle a squeal of horror. It is he, my boyfriend, dressed in a spotless white tux. That shouldn't have been scary, and it wasn't. It is the innocence of his appearance that brings terror to my heart. I know that he is not innocent. I have known that all along, yet I was not scared off. Now, at a time entirely too late, I was scared.
He shuts the door softly behind him. I can not stop the tears now. They flow like a raging river, coursing down my cheeks.
Wake up. WAKE UP! For once, I ache to see my scaly skin and the desert sunlight pouring through the cracks in my tepee. But no. I remain, clutching my blood red dress as Tony draws ever closer.
“You haven't answered me, Gwen.” He looks like he's trying to scowl, but he can't wipe his big fat grin off his face.
“D-don't do this, Tony.” My voice is barely a whisper, but you could hear a pen drop in this silence. “Go back to the party. They'll be missing you.”
He finally stops trying to look angry and lets himself smile. I remember seeing that grin on our first date, and thinking it was beautiful. How wrong I was. He'd been planning this since the moment we met.
“Sweetie, you know you can't change my mind. Especially not when I have my heart set on something,” He throws his obsidian colored hair back and looks me in the eye. “I will never give up until I get it.”
My throat is suddenly dry. I don't like the reasons for this dryness. I prefer dehydration.
“It's not like you didn't ask for this. You accepted my offer to date you.” His voice has taken a soft edge, only chilling my body even more.
“We have only dated for a month. It had only been a month, Tony!” I scream. His dark, iridescent green eyes flash down at me. His lips curl into an amused grin.
“A month is enough,” Tony breathes. He advances toward me suddenly, his arm extended. No, no, no, no, NO!
I step back, but he only quickens his pace. Beads of sweat race down my neck. His hair falls out over his eyes, casting a shadow all over his face. He looks like a living corpse. A living corpse, coming after me.
I begin to run backwards, but I hit a wall. My heart is pounding. My hands are trembling, and my throat is too dry to let me scream. This isn't happening, not again!
Tony's hand wraps around my waist. No. No, no WAY am I going to let this happen!
I rip Tony's hand off of my waist and smash my fist into his nose. He stumbles back and cries out with pain. Blood spurts from his nose, spilling onto his white roses. His eyes widen, his knees buckle, and he collapses.
I want to run. But my feet are glued to the floor. I am remembering the rest, but I can't change what I do in the memory. All I can do now is stand here, trying to keep myself from vomiting, just as I had when this really happened.
“GUARDS!” Tony shrieks. I freeze as his dark green eyes glare into mine. Oh no.
The door bursts open to reveal his nine guards, all holding guns. My heart drops like a stone. I am as good as dead. Tony sees my expression, and bursts out with laughter.
“Take her away! Dump her in the desert--” Tony cackles, waving his guards over. “And let her suffer.”
I can't stop staring at the bloody man as the guards twist their arms around mind. I can't stop looking at those soul-less green eyes and his crushed nose. He smiles at me, but his eyes are full of hate. He mouthes, “That's what you get,” over and over, and suddenly, I realize that I never knew Tony, but only the person he pretended to be. The boy I loved was only a figment of Tony's imagination; a tactic to get me. I'm about to die for trusting him.
Taking them all by surprise, I shove my guards away and slam my fist into his neck. He chokes and sways, but I don't care. I am calm as the guards drag me away to my death.
My eyes snap open. Immediately I check my skin. Scaly. I'm too shaken to feel much relief. Instead, I'm overwhelmed with thoughts of how his betrayal has destroyed my life. Memories of my family, of my parents, of my little eight year-old brother. I can't stop thinking about how he's been waiting for me to come home. He waited for me, whenever I left to attend one of Tony's parties. I wonder if he knows that I'm not coming back. I wonder if he knows, even after all these days, that this is not a joke. Maybe. He never trusted Tony. I wish I never had.
BAM! Goes my heart. Suddenly I can't breathe. I'm seeing Tony's eyes everywhere, burning into mine. Every memory, now turned sour.
Every moment since I met him is flipping through my head. I can see our meeting, when my parents introduced us. I was fourteen then, but I can already see the tiny seductive smile of his seeping into his face. I can see, beneath his innocent boyish features, the man who... who...
I squeeze my eyes shut even tighter, trying to block the words from my mind. My fists are clenched so tightly that my fingernails are making dents in the flesh of my hands. My heart is beating so loud and destructively. It's like gunshots. Every time it pounds, another memory is tainted by my discovery of Tony's intentions.
Blam! Our first kiss. I can see him leaning closer, I can feel my heart fluttering. Then the bullet from my heart smashes into the pictures, and I can see his iridescent green eyes flashing down on me with a dark hunger coming out from hiding. I can see his horrible seductive smile turning his lips upward.
Blam!! His first 'I love you.' I feel our lips touching, breaking apart for only seconds at a time to breath. Them, as the words pass through his lips, the bullet pops in. I realize that he was squeezing my shoulders a little too hard, pressing me too close to him.
BLAM! Our first party together. The night I wore the strawberry red gown. The night the white rose heads were strewn over the floor. I remember my friends frantically pleading me not to go. I feel his arms looping around my waist behind the closed door...
Suddenly, it's too much pain to even think. I slam my arms against the sides of my tepee, not afraid of the light, and knock it down. Breathing heavily, I let the night air calm my mind. I can't take much more of this. All I can think about is his betrayal. I need to focus on my survival.
Suppressing any thoughts of Tony, I look around. Luck is with me, seeing as I woke at the right time. Moonlight colors the sand silver. I can travel.
As I pick the remains of my tepee off of my skin, I realize that I'm shaking. My dream has terrified me so much that my ache for water has dimmed. I would think that would be a good thing... but I'd rather live with the agonizing dehydration I'd been so focused on before.
Summoning all my strength, I get to my feet. If I can reach the Oasis, my survival will be confirmed. Tony's wishes will never come true. That simple thought gives me energy. My legs fill with refreshing energy, and suddenly I'm off, racing to the Oasis dancing at the horizon. I can nearly feel the water dribbling down my throat and easing the pain of dehydration. The sensation almost erases the quivering fear I feel from my dream. Almost.
The scent of the Oasis is overwhelming. It's not far now; it looks like only an hour's walk. I've got two hours till sunrise, so I know I'll make it if I keep a steady pace. My heart wells up with hope. I'm going to live. I can live in the leafy ferns of the Oasis, drinking the insanely refreshing water and eating the succulent fruit of the Saguaro Cacti. Maybe someone will even find me someday...
“Gwen!” Tony's voice whispers in my head. My knees buckle, just at the sound of his baritone voice. I catch myself before I can fall, though. He's not really here! He can't be! I can't stop myself from shaking. I know that I must be hallucinating from water deprivation. I guess that realization makes it a little easier to continue. But I know what follows voices.
“Gwennie...” The smooth baritone of his voice is like a knife, jabbing into my gut and twisting through the duration of the word. I found myself clutching my stomach as if trying to keep my blood from spilling out.
“Gwennie, I didn't mean it...” I want to scream as his shimmering image materializes before me. But my throat is too tight. I feel like crying, but I am too drained of water to even blink a tear.
Why is my mind doing this? Why am I torturing myself? I have hope! Why am I hallucinating him?
“Gwen, I wasn't planning what your friends told you I was...” Sadness washes over his face. I feel a tug at my heart. Then I realize how impossible it is for his words to be true. The pain begins.
I scream. I throw myself at the vision, shattering his image. He mends almost instantly.
“Then why did you send me here?!” My heart hurts. It hurts more then it has ever hurt before. How can it hurt so much if I haven't really been stabbed? How?
“You loved me, didn't you, Gwennie? You thought I was the one that you would marry. You thought--”
“Shut UP, Tony!” I shriek, giving his image a final swing and then taking off towards the Oasis. I have to get water! I have to stop the voices!
“Gwen!” I can see him running by my side. I hate that I know every movement of his, every little twitch, the way he takes long strides rather then quick leaps, and how he leans forward just a bit while he runs. I hate it, I HATE it!
I lose control of my eyes. They fall on him, then man I once thought of as handsome. I... I kind of think he is handsome, still. His nose is perfect in the mirage, undamaged by my fists. I can't stop gazing at his iridescent green eyes. His long-ish hair billows out behind him makes my heart tingle. This can't be happening! I can't still care for him after what he did! But every small thing he does makes my heart buzz. The way his eyes watch me with such love and sadness. The way he stresses to keep at my pace. The way his swings his hand close to mine, as if hoping that I would catch his hand.
“No, no, NO!” I cry, sweeping my hand through his misty image. I close my eyes, but his face is burned in my eyelids.
“Stop lying, Gwennie!” Tony screams. I can hardly take it anymore. After running so much, the Oasis is only about five minutes away. I have to get there before I go completely insane.
“I don't love you anymore, Tony!” I sob. I feel my heart ripping to pieces. Like there are scissors, cutting away at the one part of my heart that I have devoted entirely to Tony.
“I can't forgive you.” Snip. “Loving you was a mistake!” Snip. “I wish I'd NEVER MET YOU!” SNIP. I can feel pieces of my heart, toppling down into an abyss. The shards of my heart that'd been infected by him-- they are gone. All that remains of them is the raw edges my heart.
I look around. He's... gone. I slow to a stop and inspect the ground around me. There are no foot prints. I'm free! And, if this isn't a mirage, I've reached the Oasis!
I burst into a run, waltzing into the Oasis. I'm free of Tony! I'm going to live! I can almost hear my heart pounding with joy!
The glistening creek shines before me, gift-wrapped in foliage. I sigh at the sight for a second before sinking myself into the cool stream. I drink so much that I feel bloated, but even then it doesn't seem to be enough. My throat is cool and moist. I can't ask for more. I feel happier then I have in days. I can sit here forever, wading in the miracle of a stream. I want to. Perhaps I might do just that.
Never leaving the water, I perch myself on a stone that sits in the shade of at lovely fruit tree. I clothe myself in a dress of moss, and let the tattered remains of my red dress float away down the stream. I can start a new life here. I will start a new life here. I am free.
Marveling at how good I feel, I roll a piece of fruit over my hands. Thoughts of Tony raid my brain, but they don't hurt as they used to. He didn't win. I won! I am the winner of this game! I am alive, and he can't touch me. I will never have to look at his nasty little face again. I will never again feel the touch of those awful seductive hands, and I will never have to hear that baritone voice ever aga--
“Hello, Gwennie,” I freeze. No. Oh no... Not again. Never again! “Miss me?” And his hand closes over my throat.