Cassandra Blakely was fifteen-years-old when she ran away. At the age of twenty-three she was still running, not from a person or a place but from something that had been with her for as long as she could remember; something she had no hope of ever escaping.
Jasper entered her small, cardboard home and curled up purring next to her. She stroked his long, matted coat and his purr grew louder. The scrawny, ginger and white cat had been her constant companion ever since she had found him scavenging for food along one of the many small backstreets of Eastlake’s town centre not long after she had arrived. Sometimes she thought he was the only thing keeping her sane. She laughed at the thought.
Her stomach grumbled. It felt like it was being crushed by an invisible vice. She savoured the pain which had come from two days without food. She knew that as long as it persisted she would remain awake.
Her thoughts turned to the things she longed for, the sort of things most people took for granted; a home, warm food, maybe even someone to love – it didn’t matter whether man or woman so long as they loved her in return. With sadness, she realized that none of this would ever come to her, not as long as she was constantly forced to move on.
Cassandra’s eyelids grew heavy.
Stay awake! Don’t let them in!
The words hammered in her mind as she tried to fight against the oncoming vision.
Jasper moved away from her and hissed but both the cat and her warm, cardboard box seemed so distant to her now.
Fight it. Open your eyes for god’s sake.
When she opened her eyes she was surrounded by tall trees and the ground was covered in a carpet of autumn leaves and deep undergrowth. Cassandra floated above it all as she made her way to a part of the woods where the trees started to thin out and gave way to the moonlit clearing where the young girl lay on her back on the damp earth, her vacant gaze was fixed firmly to the heavens. The night sky was crystal clear and filled with thousands of tiny stars that looked nothing more than specks of dust. But none of that beauty made the slightest impression on the girl’s sightless eyes.
While Cassandra hovered over the scene a solitary, figure dressed from head to toe in dark clothing emerged from the trees and advanced on the girl. Gloved hands took hold of each small ankle, her slight frame making it easy for the shadowy figure to tow her body to the shallow grave that awaited her in the cover of the trees.
Cassandra watched helplessly as the figure covered the little corpse, leaving only a mound of earth before quietly stalking back the way it had come.
Cassandra closed her eyes to block out the sight of what she had just witnessed. The sudden thunder clap made her snap them open again. She was back in her small room made of boxes, alone. Even Jasper had deserted her now preferring to take refuge in the oncoming storm.