Chapter 2: Only A Dream
Kate awoke in a cold sweat. She forced her eyes open to see darkness all around. Everything was silent, but Kate could distinctly make out hum of her small fan. She was back in her room.
Rising into a sitting position, Kate pushed her hair out of her face. That vision, it couldn’t have been a dream. The castle, the coronation, the murder, the escape; it all felt so vivid. It was like I was that boy, Kate thought. I can even remember what the blood felt like too... Now I just sound insane... It was definitely just a dream. But how did my mind even conjure that? She sighed and rubbed her eyes. But something made her freeze.
Tears? Had she been crying? Kate remembered watching Nomaru die. A heartbreaking and very graphic sight it was, nothing like she had ever experienced before. It’s probably natural, maybe my mind is just trying to tell me something, I don’t know.
Kate lay back down heavily and pulled the covers up. My mind isn’t messed up! She closed her eyes, snuggling deeper into the blankets. It was just a dream, a bad dream.
“Kate!” came her mother’s voice from behind her bedroom door. “You need to get up. You’ve got to get to school!”
Kate let out an irritated groan. “Five minutes!” She grabbed her pillow and pulled it over her head, blocking out all sound. How about never, she thought.
A few minutes passed.
Her bedroom door swung open. Kate lifted the pillow a tad and grimaced at the bright light coming from the hallway. A short, childish figure with messy blond hair stood in the doorway. “IT’S TIME TO GET UP!” he yelled.
“Go away, Ben!” Kate backfired, pulling the pillow tighter over her head.
Ben huffed and walked up to Kate’s bed and tore off the sheets. “GET—UP!”
Kate had it now. She shot up from her bed and growled, “That’s it—” Kate snatched his collar and began dragging him out.
“Let me go!” Ben protested as he flailed his arms and tried to punch her with his meaty fists.
Kate managed to pull him out of the room and slam the door, making sure to lock it. She walked back to her bed before falling right back into it. From the other side, Kate could hear Ben beginning to cry. His loud stomping down the hall vibrated the room slightly.
Kate rolled her eyes. Could I just be left in peace for once?!? she thought.
Stomping came from the other side of the door. A heavy knock fell upon the door, intruding the silence. “Kate Bergman! Open this door right this instant!” came her mother’s voice. Kate groaned and lazily rose. She opened the door to see her mother, staring daggers at her. The steely eyed woman placed her hands on her curved hips and commanded, “Go apologize to your brother for what you did to him! Yes ma’am?”
Kate sighed tiredly and answered, “Yessum...”
Her mother stepped out of the way for her to get through. Ben stood there, teary eyed and flushed. He sniffed and looked up at Kate with sorrowful eyes. Ben looked quite pitiful, but to Kate, those puppy-dog eyes only made her blood boil even more.
Kate crossed her arms and looked down at Ben. “I’m sorry for hurting you,” she said in a fake sympathetic tone.
Ben gulped. “I forgive you.”
Her mother sighed heavily. “Now, Kate, go get ready.” She turned and walked back down the hall and went down the stairs with Ben tagging along. Ben looked back at Kate and grinned evilly at her.
Kate scowled at him as he followed his mother. Look at you, kissing mom’s heels, you little stuck up runt, she thought. Somehow, Ben always managed to get what he wanted. Whether it was crying, begging, or setting up a scenario, which made his parents pity him and made Kate or some unlucky fellow look bad, he always got what he asked for. The very idea made Kate loathe her little brother all the more.
Kate retrieved some clothes from her room before entering the bathroom parallel to her room. Switching on the light and closing the door, Kate set her clothes down on the toilet lid. Reaching into the cabinet beneath the sink, she pulled out a bottle of face wash. Kate stood back up but froze.
In her reflection, she could see something distinctly on her hand. Kate directed her gaze down as she held up her hand. An intricate symbol etched across the skin on her hand. Six circles all connected into one larger circle that encased what looked to be a star that sat at the very center of her hand. It was the exact same one she saw from her dream…
“Where did I— wait... Seal...?” Kate muttered, looking at her hand in bewilderment. Now you’ve really gone insane, Kate! It’s probably not even there. But as she continued to look at the symbol, she began to have doubts. The design was way too precise and Kate could never draw such exact and on point shapes, let alone in her sleep. And it didn’t look like ink, but more of a birthmark. Kate bit her lip. I’m not going to succumb to this! She grabbed the bottle of face wash and squirted some of the soapy substance onto her hand. Turning the faucet on warm, Kate fervently washed her hand with the soap, trying to get the marking off. She relaxed and let the water run over her hand. But when the bubbles disappeared, the seal was clearly still there. Kate began to panic a little and quickly tried again. And another time. And another. And by the fifth time, she had given up hope.
What was this thing doing on her hand? How did it get there? Had she lost her memory of the event in which it had gotten there? Don’t stress over it, maybe it means nothing, hopefully, she thought. If my morning could get any weirder...
“Kate, hurry up!” her mother called from below.
Hesitantly, Kate proceeded with getting ready for the day ahead, getting dressed and brushing her hair and teeth. She shut off the light and left the bathroom before making a stop to grab her backpack. Descending the stairs, Kate turned a corner and entered the kitchen. She set her bag down on the kitchen table momentarily.
Her mother stood at the stove, stirring a spoon through scrambled eggs. She looked up from her cooking towards Kate and spat, “Kate, its already a quarter till, you’re going to be late for the bus!”
“Well can I at least eat something?!” Kate said impatiently. She walked over to the fridge and pulled out a cold, frosty Poptart before opening the package. Throwing away the plastic, Kate munched on the tart as she grabbed her backpack and headed for the front door. No one bothered to say goodbye as she left.
Kate walked down the sidewalk towards the stop sign where the bus would stop. The cool morning breeze brushed against her skin, leaving a cold chill down her spine. The air was filled with the scent of fresh dew rising from plants as the sun touched the small neighborhood.
Stopping at the sign, Kate pulled out her phone and looked at the clock. Right on time, she thought. Kate finished up her Poptart and pulled her right jacket sleeve down over her hand. She was just hoping none of her friends would see that on her hand. She would just have to go the whole school day without letting anyone see. I really wish I could get some answers for what this thing even is… Kate thought.
Down the road came a soft motor hum. The bright yellow bus turned a corner around a street and headed Kate’s way. Kate gulped and relaxed her shoulders and made a complete poker face. Just act normal. No one will ask, she thought.
The bus came to a stop, letting out a low exhausting breath of carbon from its inner bowels. The door to the bus slid to the side as the driver gave a quick glance to Kate.
Hefting her bag over her shoulder, Kate stepped onto the bus and into the isle. Students scattered across both sides of the isle, tired and not looking forward to another day at school. Some sat quietly, staring out the window with their headphones in. A low chatter arose from the back of the bus. Over the dozen’s of heads, Kate spotted someone familiar sitting alone, her friend, Hannah.
From Kate’s viewpoint, she could tell Hannah was looking down at something very intently. She walked over and sat down next to her just before the bus began to screech into motion. Kate set her bag down at her feet and let out a tired sigh.
Hannah looked up from her phone in a bit of shock. “Whoa, when did you get here?” she asked. “And what’s with you?”
“Oh—” Kate began, “just tired as usual.”
“Ugh,” Hannah groaned. “I don’t blame you. Soccer practice was pure torture yesterday. Our Coach literally made us do laps just because one girl wasn’t able to complete the workout!”
Kate raised her brow. Hannah always seemed to have something new to rant about everyday, and it had gotten very old. “That sucks,” she said simply.
“Yeah, it does!” Hannah huffed and crossed her arms. She glanced to Kate and cocked her head to the side. “Hey, you never answered any of my texts last night.”
Kate furrowed her brow. “Texts?”
“Are you serious right now?” Hannah said. She pulled out her phone and unlocked it. Tapping several things on the lit up screen, Hannah shoved the phone into Kate’s face. The screen displayed a conversation between Kate and Hannah. Hannah’s messages read, “Did you finish the English packet? I haven’t done any of it and I need to copy yours”
“Kate answer seriously.”
Kate felt her heart sink a little. “Oh…” she mumbled.
“Well?” Hannah pressed. “Is it finished?”
“No…” Kate said and grimaced a little.
Hannah looked at her in disbelief. “Seriously?” she said and rolled her eyes. “Well now we’re both going to fail!”
Kate was going to say, “You should’ve done it yourself” but held herself back. “Look on the bright side! It’s Friday and next week is Spring break.”
“Hmmm…true,” Hannah said, looking out the window. “Can’t wait to get on the beach and away from home-town-suburbia.”
For the rest of the ride to school, the two girls sat quietly through the continuous low drone of the motor. The bus had eventually dropped them off at the school where they made their way to their lockers to get the supplies they needed and head back to their first class. As the day started to slowly gain pace, Kate had been on edge about her hand being seen. But she took every opportunity she needed to get a peak at the seal and see if it was just a figment of her imagination. Unfortunately, it was still there. It means nothing. Nothing at all, Kate would tell herself. But how could she be so sure? What if the dream corresponded with the appearance of this mark? Nothing was making sense at all the more she thought about it.
“Kate, what’s the next step we take in this problem?” the teacher asked.
Kate was immediately knocked out of her daydream. She looked up at the board confusedly. “Um…” Kate rubbed the back of her neck. “I um…don’t know.”
Some of the students in the class giggled.
“How about you, Abby?” the teacher asked, turning his attention to a girl sitting in the front row.
Kate sighed pushed her hair out of her face. The more she tried hiding this thing, the more attention she was getting. Kate picked her pencil back up and wrote down the rest of the problem on her paper. But something caught her eye. The mark on her hand was glowing lightly. It soon began to glow brighter and brighter. Kate’s eyes widened. She quickly stuffed her hand into her pocket before looking around hesitantly. No one really seemed to notice—
“Kate?” came a whisper.
Kate whipped her head to her left to see a boy sitting at a desk next to her. Jeremy. She relaxed her shoulders and pretended like nothing was wrong. “What?”
Jeremy cocked and eyebrow. “Are you okay?”
“Um, yeah. I am.”
“Jeremy, Kate, is there something so important that you need to talk about that you have to interrupt class?”
Jeremy and Kate sat a bit speechless for several seconds. Kate blinked and spoke up, “Could I go to the bathroom? It’s an emergency…”
The teacher exhaled deeply. “Hall-pass is next to the door,” he said.
Kate nodded and got up, not giving Jeremy one last glance back. She took one of the hall-passes hanging on the wall and walked outside of the classroom. Kate turned right down the hall and looked down at her hand. It was still glowing brighter and brighter even still. Why me? Why was this given to me? she thought. Kate let out a despicable sigh as she continued to walk down the hall.
Kate strode past the long isle of lockers to the bathroom but stopped in her tracks. Where she thought the bathroom would be was instead a door leading to classroom 218. She had just walked by that room. I need to pay more attention. The bathroom should just be up ahead. Kate continued to walk down the hall and through another isle of blue lockers. But when she passed the lockers and approached where the bathroom door was supposed to be, there was the same classroom door in front of her, and no bathroom in sight. Above the door sat a sign with the number “218” imprinted on it.
“No…” Kate murmured, her eyes wide in shock. This couldn’t be real. She just walked by that room before. It couldn’t have possibly moved places. Kate stepped back with her hand over her mouth. “I’m not going insane, I’m not going insane!” she said in a stifled voice.
The walls and floor began to grow an aged yellow. The plaster began to melt off the walls, revealing a rustic color beneath. The lights above flickered and emitted a low hum. Kate looked around in horror as her surroundings began to change faster than she could comprehend. This…this isn’t happening! she thought. Kate looked down the hall to her right to see it stretch and twist. From behind, there was a low gurgle followed by a roar and a cacophony of voices. She whipped her head back to see an endless darkness pulling everything inside its endless void. Kate could feel it’s grabbing force trying to pull her in. Filled with fear, she looked back ahead and darted down the hall. Kate felt as if all her life depended on finding that bathroom, or at least some place to hide. But could she hide from this? What was that thing? But Kate had no time to think. She could only set her mind on escaping this thing.
Kate felt cold tendrils graze against her ankles. The thing was getting closer, and soon she would be pulled right inside of it. But just as she was beginning to lose hope, Kate spotted up ahead on her left. With what strength she had left, she used all her might to run right to the door. Kate grabbed the door handle and yanked it open. Making her way inside, she closed it just in time to block out the darkness. Kate pressed her back to the door and panted shakily. She felt her whole body shake from the fear and fatigue. What had just happened back there? It was as if she was living a real nightmare. “Please let this all be a dream…!” Kate muttered. Her breathing slowly became steady, but that didn’t stop her from shaking in terror. Kate walked over to one of the bathroom sinks and clutched the sides of it. She looked into the mirror to see an exhausted look on her face.
Pushing strands of hair out of her face, Kate noticed the reflection of someone else behind her. It was a girl with deep black hair and dark make-up. Vanessa? Kate thought. She was one of the more popular students, but not for good reasons. Vanessa was known for getting caught for things she wasn’t supposed to do. The Goth-like girl leaned up against the bathroom stall doors and held a lighter while holding a cigarette in her mouth.
Kate spun around and turned her attention to Vanessa. “What are you doing?!” she stammered.
Vanessa looked up from the lighter and glared at Kate. “What does it look like?” she said cockily.
“That thing is out there and you’re just going to smoke?”
Vanessa cocked an eyebrow. “If you mean the teacher I honestly don’t care anymore,” she said.
Kate furrowed her brow. Did she not hear any of that outside? Kate looked around the bathroom. Everything was back to normal, nothing peeling off of the walls. What had she seen out there? Was she imagining it all?
Then there was a flick of the switch. Kate looked back at Vanessa who was already beginning to let out a puff of smoke. This girl really had no limits. “Hey!” Kate said, quickly walking to her. “You’re not supposed to be smoking in here!”
“Back off!” Vanessa threatened with a scowl.
Kate grabbed her wrist. “Put it down the drain now or we’ll all get soaked!”
Vanessa struggled and tried to shove her back. “Get off of me, bi—” her sentence was quickly cut off when smoke began to rise from Kate’s hand. Vanessa screamed and yanked her hand back.
Kate quickly let go in shock. She looked down at her hand to see the Seal glowing brightly. The palm of that hand felt like it had gone through ten saunas; it was steaming hot but not painful. Had she burned Vanessa? Before Kate could pull her thoughts together, the alarm went off as water rained down over their heads.
As rain pelted her head and shoulders, she tried covering herself from the cool droplets. A teacher stumbled inside of the bathroom. She looked at the two girls and ordered, “Out of the bathroom! Now!”
Kate sat in front of the principal’s desk, squeezing out some of the remaining water in her hair. Everything was still and with lack of movement. Each object was in the same place it had been left from before the sprinklers went off. Kate felt her stomach twist and turn inside of her. The sound of the ticking of the clock on the wall drilled into her ears. Tick, tock, louder, tick, tock, louder, tick, tock, louder! Where was the principal? Now that Kate thought about it, she didn’t want him to come in, let alone be there at all. What if she got in trouble, too? Would she get suspended? Kate bit her lip and glanced to Vanessa out of the corner of her eye who sat directly to her right. She looked back ahead angrily and didn’t say anything. Kate let herself hunch back in the plush leather chair.
From behind, the door opened, letting a rush of voices flood in. “I know I know we’ll contact them later!” principal Baker said, walking inside and over behind his desk.
“Well don’t forget to make sure to note what we found,” a teacher said, following him inside.
The door was closed, leaving it back to the way it was. Principal Baker sat down in his chair with a sigh. He glared towards Kate and Vanessa and folded his hands on the desk. His dark beady eyes seemed to pierce right into their souls. “You two better explain yourselves because a lot of the schools money is going down a drain because of the damage,” the principal said sternly.
The two of them were silent for a moment, not sure how to begin. Vanessa hastily chose a head start. “It was her!” she exclaimed, pointing to Kate. “I walked in and she was smoking them. I tried stopping her but when I did she burned my arm! I swear I’m telling the truth!”
Kate’s jaw dropped open a bit. “T-that’s not true!”
“Yes it is! You have to believe me, Mr. Baker!”
“Both of you settle down!” Principal Baker barked. He looked to Kate expectantly. “What’s your story?”
Kate relaxed back in her seat. She decided to leave out the part that made her sound completely bonkers. “I went into the bathroom and I saw Vanessa leaning up against the bathroom stall doors holding a lighter and a cigarette. I tried stopping her but it was too late and—”
“—you burned my arm!” Vanessa hissed and pulled up her jacket sleeve to reveal a vague red imprint of a hand.
“You burned yourself!”
“Enough!” Baker ordered again. “Kate, is this true?”
Kate hung her shoulders. “I don’t even know exactly how she got burnt,” she began, “But yes, what I said was true.”
Vanessa looked between them in disbelief. “Wha- so you’re just going to believe her?!?” she stammered.
The principal took off his glasses and set them on the desk. He looked to Vanessa with a cold stare. “You have been in this office more times than Miss Kate has. And how embarrassing will it be for me to have to explain this to your parents that you were smoking in school premises.” Baker nodded to Kate. “You may head back to your classroom, the busses should be here shortly. Enjoy your break, Kate.”
Kate nodded in return. “Yes, sir. Thank you…” She got up and walked towards the door. She felt as if she had just emerged from the suffocating waters of a river. Kate reached for the metallic doorknob and grabbed it.
“And Kate—“ the principal began.
Kate froze and looked back. “Yes, sir?”
“Watch your back, alright?”
Kate sat next to Hannah on the buss, feeling the vibrations of the vehicle all across her aching body. Fresh air wafted through the windows in gusts and rejuvenated her lungs. She stared out at the overcast sky, still trying to comprehend what was going on. First the dream, then the marking, and then the unknown darkness chasing her. Was she actually going insane? What if she told her parents? Would they simply say she had a wide imagination, or would they make her undergo therapy? And it all came down to the plan of keeping it a secret. No one would believe what she saw or experienced.
Turning in his seat in front of them to face the two girls, Jeremy rested his arms on the top of the seat. “So what happened? Kate, why did you go to the principals office?” he asked curiously.
Hannah looked between them at Kate’s side. “That’s exactly what I’ve been wondering! Kate, come on tell us!” she begged.
Kate looked to them. Probably leave out the part where I sound crazy, she thought. “I walked in on Vanessa smoking in the bathroom.”
Jeremy laughed. “Wow, what? She was smoking, in the bathroom…in the school?”
Hannah rolled her eyes. “I’m not the least bit surprised,” she said. “Vanessa is stupid and wrecked. She’ll do anything to get attention.”
“Yeah but I didn’t know she would resort to smoking! Seriously!”
“Jeremy, she was found lighting a fire outside of the school with some group of boys at midnight last year in seventh grade! And out of all of them she’s the one caught red-handed. It’s karma if you ask me.”
Kate looked at the both of them. “But guys, I burned Vanessa’s arm!”
Jeremy squinted at her. “Come again?”
“When I went to stop her,” Kate explained, “I grabbed her arm and burned her! I-I don’t even know how!”
Hannah cocked an eyebrow and looked to Kate in disbelief. “Kate, I’m sure she burned herself just so she could get you in trouble too.”
“But there was a literal hand imprint on her arm!”
Jeremy sighed and spoke, “Hannah’s right. Vanessa is very desperate, she’ll do anything to pull you down with her.” He turned back around and sat back in his seat.
Kate sighed and sunk deeper into the bus seat. No one believed her at all. You’ll only sound like a mad man, Kate. She let out a deep sigh and gazed back out the window. At least this was the last school day until spring break. Next week, she would sort things out, or so she hoped.