I stood with my back to the wall and looked around at all of the people in those chairs. I remembered when we used to be called here to sit and listen to whatever announcement was being made. I never really paid attention anyway. Well, not until now.
In the far left corner of the auditorium, a man stood up. I watched him point at something but he didn’t say a word. I followed his hand and my eyes widened. I felt my stomach twist unpleasantly as I looked up at the stage.
Tied to the rafters was a woman: brunette, half-clothed, and dead. Blood dripped down from the bullet wound in the middle of her forehead, her mouth open in a scream I’m sure she was never able to utter.
Something that truly terrified me were her eyes.
The sockets were empty.
My knees buckled and I fell, using my hands to brace myself so I didn’t hit the cold ground. I gasped for air, my mind filled with the image of the woman, and I shut my eyes tightly.
I heard the door open to my left and someone asked me a question.
“Are you ready to see the doctor? He’s waiting for you.”
I turned my head, my eyes on the woman who had spoken. She was dressed in a nurses uniform and holding a clipboard. I dared a glance back at the others in the room and felt the bile rise in my throat at what I saw.
Some were lying in the middle of the aisle, some were draped off the backs of the chairs, and some were spread across the stage. But they all had one thing in common; each looked like the hanging ornament with hole above.
“Emmy?” the nurse muttered. She crouched down and touched my shoulder. When I didn’t reply, she hoisted me up and led me out into the lobby.
Only it wasn’t the lobby I had known when I was younger. It wasn’t a lobby at all. It was a long, white hallway.
“You told me you were ready,” the woman replied before I could say anything. “It will be all right. I promise.”
Not far down the hall there was a room, which she led me into without discussion. She instructed me to sit on the bed. As I laid my head back against the pillow, I watched her face turn grim.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, “but this is for your own good.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, my voice barely steady. My heart slammed against my chest at the sight of the needle she held.
“Please,” she murmured soothingly. She lowered her hand. “It’s the only way.”
Her free hand touched my face, then, cold fingers caressing, reassuring. When she turned away, I felt relief wash over me. But the feeling was short-lived as she went to the door and opened it, revealing another person beyond it.
It was a man, the doctor I presumed. He came toward me and put a hand on my arm. He smiled down at me; his blue eyes cool as he spoke.
“Do you feel better since they’re dead?”
“Who?” I blinked, watching him carefully. Panic slipped into my body and I felt a wave of nausea hit me.
He chuckled and sat in the chair beside the bed. “Those people. All of them.”
“The people in the auditorium?” My throat tightened. “Why would I be happy that they’re all mangled and bloody? What the fuck is going on?”
“I’ll ask you to watch your language, Emily.”
My head was spinning. “How do you know my name?”
“Oh, I know quite a bit about you,” he said, flashing a smile. He ran a hand through his brown hair and shrugged. “You can’t hide anything from me.”
“Please.” I sat up but he touched a hand to my face and slammed me down. As he spread his fingers so they were across my cheeks, but kept clear of my nose, his own facial features changed.
“No more,” he hissed. I watched as he beckoned the nurse over and grabbed the needle from her hand. “I cannot allow this horror to continue.”
I felt something slid around my wrists, binding them to the bars attached to the bed. It took me half a second to realize they had been there the whole time. I had been so frantic to figure things out that I didn’t notice.
As the nurse stepped away from my left side, she shook her head sadly. I looked at the doctor as he secured the second set of straps. Then he slid his other hand over my mouth and pressed down. I thought he was going to suffocate me. I shut my eyes.
As I brought my legs up to fight, he climbed on top of me, his weight enough to hold me down. I continued to struggle, refusing to die like this. A muffled cry erupted from my throat but it died in his warm, sweaty palm.
He brought his unoccupied hand up and the tip of the needle gleamed as it hovered over me. Another hand gripped my face, gripped my eye, forcing it open. Terrified, I cried into his hand again, the tears welling up as the tip of the instrument penetrated.
The scream I heard was horrible. It echoed in the dark as I shot up and listened, my breathing ragged. It wasn’t until I finally stopped shaking, sometime later, did I realize the sound had come from my own throat.
I was covered in sweat, drenched, my body aching as if I had run a long distance. Terrified but not willing to allow this nightmare to consume me, I slid out of bed and doubled over.
“Shit,” I whispered into the blackness.
Trembling and nauseous, I was finally able to regain my balance. I trudged to the bathroom, flicked on the light and winced. I hesitated as I looked at the mirror above the sink. My heart hammered in my chest, so hard that I thought it would break through.
“It was just a dream,” I whispered. God, my voice sounded pathetic. “You’re okay. Just go over there and look or you’ll never go back to bed.”
I had to coax myself like this a lot. This nightmare wasn’t the first. The very first was one I never liked to think about. This current one was tame compared to the others.
Taking a breath, I stepped up to the mirror and looked in; my red hair was knotted and messy, my skin pale, and my lips cut from where I had obviously bit into them at some point during the night.
That’s not what bothered me, what terrified me. It was this:
There was discoloration and a mark under my left eye.
It looked like a thumbprint.
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