Cole, Matt and I are out behind the building. We’re tossing an old tatty basketball among ourselves and shooting for the rusty hoop. “What was that about, what went down between you and Lenny?” Matt asks.
I sigh as I toss the ball to him. “It was nothing. We’ve sorted it out, we’re okay now.”
Matt nods. “I heard Marc came down pretty hard on you.”
I catch the ball in the palm of my good arm and fling it in Cole’s direction. “Yeah, I’ll be helping cook dinner tonight and tomorrow. I’ve got cleaning duties too, and my visits for the next two days are revoked.”
A scowl is spreading across Cole’s face. “I swear, sometimes, Marc thinks he works in a prison, not a mental institution.”
“I know,” I say. “I hate him. But, he had more severe plans in mind. I managed to convince him to make it a bit less harsh.”
“How?” Matt asks.
“Just a little bit of simple negotiation,” I smirk.
Okay. That was a lie, admittedly. I did kind of threaten him into lessening the punishment, but I don’t regret it. It did Marc no harm to meet his match. And hopefully, I reinforced the vibe that he’s not going to intimidate me, like he does with the majority of the other patients. He’s such an asshole to Matt too, and if he continues, I’ll continue to use my dad as a way to keep off all our backs. By what Cole has told me about him, he’s gotten away with far too much reprehensible behavior for far too long.
Cole clears his throat and chuckles. “Yeah, right. Thomas must be some kind of wizard. What spell do you have him under, because he comes down on everybody who breaks the rules like a ton of bricks. What’s your trick?”
I smile coyly at him and turn my focus to the hoop. For the entire time we’ve been out here, I haven’t managed to score one hoop. That’s probably owing to the fact that I can’t use my right arm. I narrow my eyes as I launch it through the air with a flick of my wrist. It skims along the edge of the hoop and bounces off the backboard. It rebounds and falls to the ground. I still haven’t gotten it, but I was close enough this time.
Cole sighs as he realizes I’m not going to answer his question. “Well, whatever you did, I’m glad of, because Marc wasn’t wearing his usual sneer this morning after breakfast. It took about an hour for it to come back. Maybe you could try it more often.”
“Yeah,” I sigh. “Maybe.”
One thought I still haven’t managed to shake from my head is the whole prospect of Lenny’s assailant not bearing the same identity as mine. I guess I’m still trying to figure how that can be. I’m beginning to entertain the possibility that maybe this whole thing was just a nightmare. Maybe my parents are right. Maybe I am losing it and just imagined my encounter with the Reaper.
Social Hour is almost over. Next, I have my therapy session with Owen. I know we’re only throwing a ball around, but I don’t want to leave this. If I had a choice, I’d hang around with Cole and Matt all day. As cringe worthy as it sounds, given that I’ve known them little over a day, I feel like they’re making staying in this place at least bearable.
Cole chucks the ball to Matt and as he looks at me, I can feel my awareness of my surroundings beginning to dwindle. “Thomas,” I can hear. A low voice that’s really familiar to me. “Help me, please.”
“Thomas,” Cole says. “You okay?”
I look up at him. His face is fizzling out of my sight and is replaced by a different setting all together. I’m standing in the center of a kitchen. It looks familiar to me. I gasp when I realize why. It’s the same kitchen I saw Mr Blanchard roaming about, the night the Reaper showed me him on his laptop. Mr Blanchard is sitting on his kitchen chair, begging for mercy as the Reaper presses a large knife to his throat. “Thomas, please help me.”
The Reaper looks me in the eye. Except it’s not the Reaper. It’s the same guy I encountered before, the one with the piercing blue eyes, but it’s not the Reaper. “Thomas,” he says. “You can still save him. You can change your mind. It’s not Halloween night. Hand over Lucy or Annabelle and I’ll release him.”
I blink away tears as Mr Blanchard looks to me with pleading desperation. “Don’t hurt him,” I say. “Please.”
“Are you going to sacrifice one of the others?”
“I’m so sorry, Mr Blanchard.”
Mr Blanchard’s cries are cut short following the slicing sound of the blade against his skin. I sob as everything falls silent. “Thomas,” Cole shouts. I open my eyes and face him, the familiar sense of terror seeping through every fiber of my being. He has his hands planted firmly on my shoulders. My entire body is trembling, my clothes yet again soaked in my own sweat. I dart my eyes around the yard as he eyes me with concern. “Here, sit down,” he says, guiding me to the bench. He whips his head around to face Matt. “Go get him some water. And find Doctor Franklin.”
Matt nods and rushes inside. “Thomas,” Cole utters. “Talk to me, what happened?”
“I don’t know,” I tremble. “I don’t know what’s happening to me, Cole.”
Cole pulls me closer to him and wraps his arms around me. “Here, your doctor’s coming. You’re going to be okay.”
“Thomas,” Owen says. “Are you alright?”
“No,” I cry.
He nods. “Would you two mind if I speak to Thomas privately?”
Cole takes Matt by the arm and they proceed inside together. Owen takes a seat beside me. “Talk to me Thomas. What happened?”
I look to him with tears in my eyes. “I think my parents are right. I think I’ve lost it. I don’t know what’s happening. And I don’t know how to make it go away. Please help me.”
Owen nods. “Come inside with me. We’ll have your appointment a few minutes early this morning.”
I nod shakily and rise from the bench. My breaths still uneven, I shuffle towards the door. Owen follows me inside and closes the door over.