Chapter One: The Dream
The crowd is unruly in the city square. They call for blood, the blood of my parents. I take in the scene with innocent eyes, not fully comprehending the situation playing out before me. Holding my hand is my infant brother. He picks at the blades of grass growing just high enough to tickle his ankles, too young and naïve to understand that something is awry. I hold him tightly, afraid I will lose him among the chaos.
Adults thrust past us, eager for a better view. I look into the faces of the people standing closest to me, their expressions an array of outrage and gratification. They are so enthralled by the festivities that they don’t even notice the two small children standing in their midst, alone and afraid.
The multitude shuffles and, for just a moment, I catch a glimpse of a man and woman standing on the platform ahead. Their hands are secured to a concrete pillar, and cloth strips binds both of their mouths. Several guards surround them, ready to intervene should it be necessary. I want to run to them, to save them from their wretched fate, but it was too late; they had made their choice a long time ago, and now they’d have to make retributions for it.
My view is soon obscured by a tall man with big, brown eyes, as he steps before me and lifts my brother into his arms. The man is familiar to me and when he says it’s time to go, I do not hesitate to clutch his warm, russet hand.
We turn from the square and make our way to the end of the street, moving so swiftly that my small strides can hardly keep up. I turn to the square for a final view of the spectacle, surveying the elevated area where the man smiles menacingly at the throng. He seems to be enjoying the commotion, not an ounce of fear on his face as he scans over the mob and meets my curious stare, his eyes cutting through me like a knife. I whimper with terror for what feels like an eternity before he finally looks away, bored with his intimidation game.
As I recuperate, my gaze drifts to the bright hazel eyes of the woman standing next to him. She stares past me to my large companion, who had also stopped for one last look. Anxiety is etched into the woman’s face as the man shakes his head beside me, a solemn sigh escaping his lips.
The woman turns to look at me, her eyes unwavering. She smiles warmly as tears escape down her cheeks, and feelings of serenity and comfort wash over me. This lasts only momentarily before a fiery torch is thrown at her feet, setting the brush surrounding her ablaze.
The scream that escapes my mouth is unfamiliar. “MOMMA!!” the young girl’s voice yells. The sound mingles with the cheers of the crowd as I am whisked into the arms of the brown eyed man. I look over his shoulder one last time to see the woman’s hazel eyes staring hollowly at me as she is engulfed in flames.
Alexis Thompson wakes with a jolt, gasping as she struggles to catch her breath. She lies sprawled across her twin bed, her hands entwined around her pillow like a vice, and her heart palpitating so quickly it feels as though it may explode. Sticky perspiration has soaked into her hair, clinging to her skin like the morning dew.
She gives an involuntary shiver, despite the boisterous heat of the mid-August night. The nightmare, so realistic, reiterates in her mind with astounding detail. It felt more like a memory than a dream, as though she could actually feel the brush on her skin as strangers rushed past, smell the smoke from the nearby chimneys, could feel the earth between her toes.
Of course, that was unlikely since she had never stepped foot in that small, rustic town. Hell, she had barely left the state of Maine during her twenty years of life, let alone visited this primordial city where corporal punishments were still enforced. It had just been her overactive imagination, hard at work once again.
“Get it together, Lexi,” she whispers. “It was just a dream.”
Lexi takes a deep breath in an attempt to control the incessant shaking of her body, but she still finds herself rattled by the nightmare. She squints at her bedside table- it was just after three o’clock in the morning. Hoisting herself from her excessively warm bed, she walks down the hallway to the bathroom and begins splashing handfuls of tap water on her face. The cool liquid felt pleasant on her feverish skin, and seemed to not only wash the sticky sweat, but the graphic images from her mind as well.
She grabs a towel and dries her face, staring at her image in the mirror. The nightmares had drained away what little color her pale skin usually managed to retain, causing the dark hair surrounding her face to look strange in contrast. It falls in messy waves down her back, the stray clumps sticking to her damp cheeks.
Lexi scrutinizes her reflection, lingering on her own gaze for a long moment before looking away- her bright hazel eyes were identical to the woman’s in her nightmare, something she didn’t want to be reminded of.
Feeling flustered by the similarities, she hangs her towel and hurries out of the bathroom, a light at the end of the dark hallway catching her attention. Why would her parents be awake at this hour? She tiptoes toward their bedroom, the sound of nervous whispers causing her to stop in her tracks.
“You know I’m right, Chris. Lexi is entitled to the truth!” her mother says.
“I’m not saying that you’re wrong, Abby, but what are we supposed to tell her? That we’ve been lying to her for her entire life?” Lexi’s father, Christopher, asks.
“I know it’s a delicate subject, but she needs to know. She has to understand how much danger she’s in! We’ve already put this off for too long. Ready or not, she’s going to find out soon enough. Her birthday is in two days, and you know what that means as much as I do. We can’t wait any longer.”
“Okay, you’re right. But we should wait until morning, at least. Her whole world is going to be turned upside down soon. The least we could do is give her these last few hours of normalcy.”
“Fine,” Abigail mutters with a disinclined sigh.
Lexi can see her blurry silhouette as she sits on the edge of their mattress. Christopher rubs her shoulders and kisses her on the forehead.
“I know that you’re worried. So am I, but we need to get some sleep if we expect to be of any use to her. The next few days with be the most challenging yet, and we need to be ready. Let’s go to bed,” he says softly, as he pulls back their duvet cover. Abigail reluctantly agrees and Lexi hears the click of their bedside lamp as the room goes dark.
Treading softly down the hallway, Lexi gets back into her own bed and stares at the ceiling of her childhood bedroom, her mind reeling. What secrets have her parents been keeping from her, and why were they so hesitant to tell her the truth? Yes, her twenty-first birthday was approaching, but what was so special about that? Why do they think that she’s in danger? Her thoughts race until exhaustion overpowers her and she falls into a fitful sleep full of bright hazel eyes and men with no faces.