I stood in the middle of the burning forest, the hot flames licking at my skin, threatening to scorch it. I could barely see my hands in front of me in the thick black smoke as I coughed and choked, drenched in sweat.
“Where am I? How did I even get here?!” The questions were flooding my thoughts, but I knew I needed to focus on getting out of there before I succumbed to the smoke… or worse, the flames. I tried my best to push through the burning brush, but suddenly some small movement caught my eye. As I looked over to the left, I could just barely make out a pair of glowing yellow eyes, almost hidden by the thicket of burning trees.
“Ahh… there you are, sheep. You’ve hidden from me for so long, but no more.”
“H- hello?! Is anybody there?”
The menacing laugh reverberated throughout the burning forest. The vibrations from it feeling like a small earthquake.
“You can’t hide from me any longer! And once I catch you, I will kill you, filthy sheep!”
Suddenly a large black wolf appeared, right where the glowing yellow eyes had been. I felt frozen in fear as the wolf bared its dripping fangs and released a low, menacing growl. He leaped high into the air and bounded towards me. Finally finding my footing, I turned and ran as fast as I could. But I was no match for the swift, sure-footed creature hot on my heels. I opened my mouth to let out a scream, hoping that maybe there was someone nearby. But my voice was immediately cut off as I felt the sharp talons of the wolf close around my throat, bringing me to the moss-covered floor of the forest.
I can feel the trickle of blood on my neck from where the wolf grabbed me as I lay pinned beneath his enormous paws. Growling, he once again bared his teeth at me. The last thing I remember is the gleaming sharp fangs as they dove for the soft flesh of my exposed neck.
Sweating and panting, I sat straight up in the bed. I paused a moment to take in my surroundings, thankful that the flaming forest was no longer visible, instead replaced by the small, stuffy motel room that I was sharing with my aunt.
Oh thank goodness. It was just a dream… a really scary one. I wonder where that even came from…
“Aurora? Why are you still in bed? You know we have a long drive ahead of us! Besides, check out time is in half an hour.”
“Sorry, Noorie. I must have slept through my alarm.” I tried to play off how rattled that dream had made me feel, but I’d never been able to completely hide my emotions from my aunt. It was almost as if she had radar that would tell her when I was upset.
She paused and looked at me, her brow creasing with concern as she studied me.
“Sweetie, what’s wrong?”
“It’s nothing, Noorie. I just had a really weird dream.” I felt the soft burning in my cheeks that always happens when I feel even the slightest bit embarrassed. I couldn’t believe I was this upset over a silly dream. But rather than laughing it off as I had expected, Noorie’s frown grew deeper.
“What was the dream about?”
Why is she so interested in a stupid nightmare?
I shrugged my shoulders as I spoke, trying to signal to her that it really was no big deal. “I don’t really remember most of it. But what I do remember was being chased by a giant wolf through a burning forest. Silly right?” I chuckled as I gathered my clothes and prepared to go take a shower and get dressed. I pasted on a nonchalant smile, hoping to ease both Noorie and myself as I headed into the bathroom. But the truth was, I couldn’t seem to shake the very real terror that I had felt in that dream. Even the realization that it was just a dream didn’t seem to erase the uneasiness in the pit of my stomach.
It’s just the nerves that come with moving to a new city and starting college. I’m sure that’s all it is.
I turned and walked into the bathroom, but even as I did,I caught the uneasy look written across my aunt’s face. Despite my efforts to convince her it was just a silly dream, it seemed that both of us were aware that it may be something more…
The silence was heavy in the car as Noorie pulled away from the small roadside motel that we had stopped at for the night. I stole a quick glance at her and noticed the frown lines in her face seemed to have aged her overnight. Her usual cheerful demeanor had been replaced with an anxious, wary expression as her eyes nervously shifted to and fro.
Why does she seem so worried?
Hoping I could get her mind off of whatever was worrying her, I tried to strike up a light-hearted conversation.
“Noorie, didn’t you tell me you were from Echo? What’s it like?”
She looked over at me absentmindedly, almost as if she had forgotten that I was in the car with her.
“I’m sorry. Did you say something, sweetie?”
“Noorie are you okay? You’re acting really weird this morning.”
“I- I am?”
“Yeah, you just seem really distracted, I guess.”
Noorie took a deep breath as she looked over at me. Her eyes were full of worry, but I couldn’t understand why.
I guess the move is getting to her too.
“I’m sorry, Aurora. I’ve just been trying to figure out how we can celebrate your eighteenth birthday. It’s right around the corner!”
“I know we’ll be far away from all of your friends and I just want to make sure it’s really special.”
I eyed her suspiciously. I know there’s something she isn’t telling me. But Noorie and I have always been very close. She’s been the closest thing to a mother that I’ve ever known. My own mother passed away when I was just a baby and my aunt stepped up and raised me.
She’ll tell me what’s going on when she’s ready.
“Don’t worry about my birthday, Noorie. It doesn’t need to be anything big. I’m just as happy to spend a quiet night with you and your famous spice cake with cream cheese frosting!”
Noorie laughed, allowing me to see a glimpse of her usual cheerful self. She knows that’s my favorite dessert and I know what a headache it is for her to bake. Things felt almost normal as Noorie and I chatted about possible birthday plans. After a while, the calming motion of the car began to lull me into a dreamless sleep… or so I thought.
Unsure if I was awake or still sleeping, I suddenly found myself once again standing in a forest, this time in a small clearing surrounded by a thick barrier of trees. In the very center of the clearing was a large bonfire. A group of cloaked figures stood in a circle, hand in hand around the fire, faces hidden beneath the dark hoods of their cloaks.
I could just barely make out the soft hum of their chanting. But before I could try to make sense of it, I suddenly recognized the glowing yellow eyes of the wolf from my nightmare staring at me from the flames of the bonfire. Once again, my feet felt stuck in place, as if I was standing in drying cement.
I looked around frantically, suddenly locking gaze with the brightest green eyes I’d ever seen. I was mesmerized by them for a brief moment until I recognized the fear that registered in them. The handsome young man was staring directly at me as he opened his mouth to cry out. While I couldn’t hear him, I could very clearly make out the word “Run!” The urgency and terror in his expression shocked me out of my stupor and I realized that the wolf was closing in on me!
I turned to run, but as I did, I felt a growing warm sensation on my chest. I looked down to see the dark obsidian stone I always wear around my neck had suddenly turned a brilliant white! It was glowing and vibrating against my chest. The bright light emanating from my necklace becomes so blinding I have to shield my eyes. As the wolf leaps towards me, fangs bared, the force of the light suddenly forces him backward, throwing him into the hot flames of the bonfire.
Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, the brilliant light disappeared and the black stone lay against my chest inanimate and cool to the touch as usual. Still shocked, I looked up to see my expression mirrored in the face of the handsome man with the bright green eyes. As I held his gaze, his mouth formed the words… “You are the one!”