Our conversation had trailed off and the dull noise of the train on the tracks was slowly lulling me to sleep. I leaned my bobbing head against the window and allowed myself to relax. I generally do not sleep around other people. For as long as I can remember, I have suffered from terrible nightmares. They ranged from disasters I knew nothing of to premonitions of what was about to befall my life. I refuse to let anyone see that as a weakness and use it against me. My legs moved in a slow but rhythmic pace to help keep me focused. I needed to stay awake at least until Polly drifted off. All of the moving in the world couldn’t have stopped it. I eased off into a gentle sleep, believing for once that I wouldn’t fall in deep enough to dream.
The nightmares began happening around the time I turned thirteen-years-old. Around the same time, I began realizing I was different from all of my other siblings. My hair and other features were quite a bit darker than theirs and even my build was different. My younger siblings were all fair-skinned and stocky compared to my dark complexion and slender figure. For awhile, I made myself believe I looked more like our father than who I thought was my mother.
Along with the nightmares, other unexplainable things began happening to me. I broke objects without touching them, noticed things that most people did not, and the supernatural stuck out like a sore thumb. When they wouldn’t stop happening, my father began letting bits of the truth out. I never could get the full story but the disdain my step-mother had for me had finally become very clear to me. Anytime I tried to get more of the truth or any answers for that matter, a slap across the face became a reminder that I wasn’t to ask questions. Much of my existence was still a mystery to me and I had the hunger to reveal it all.
I felt my dream enveloping me from all around. The darkness spread and so did my fear. It became cold, so cold I could see my breath in front of me. I wasn’t sure where I was. I had never seen this place before, but, I had seen that face before. I panicked. The feeling of sudden uneasiness surrounded me. I needed to leave this place and these feelings. I began to run as fast I as I could, unsure where to go to be able to find a way out for myself. My feet knew where to lead me though.
I could feel the sweat dripping down my face as the intense fear of losing control overtook me. All I could think was, “No, no, no, not this right now.” I scrambled, trying to get as far away from the stranger as possible. He wasn’t just a human being though. His face kept changing, varying between that of a man and an animal. The only explanation I had was he was a shape-shifter. I had no experience fighting one. I had never encountered one in real life. The only knowledge I had of shape-shifters came from a tattered book that had belonged to my mother. I had to get as far as possible from him, it wasn’t safe.
My heart raced and the pounding in my head wouldn’t stop. My hands were trembling so fiercely I could barely pull myself off the floor as I tripped. He was right on my heels. Damn. I could feel my chest tighten; it felt like a five hundred pound buffalo was standing on my chest. I tried calling out for help. There was no answer, and the pit in my stomach grew.
The house had that old musty, unlived in smell to it. Mildew and mold covered the walls. The floors creaked with every hard footfall. Dust covered the long forgot about furniture. I brushed cobwebs away from my sweat covered face as ran down the main staircase.
My breath became short as I made my way out of the house; hoping that putting myself out in the open wouldn’t make me end up like Polly. The pit in my stomach turned into nausea as I thought about what had happened to Polly; it was going to be a long night.
The more worked up I became and harder I tried to escape, and the worse I felt. Before I could even begin to hyperventilate, which I knew was coming; I sank to the cold hard ground, defeated, the sobs getting stuck in my throat. I felt his clammy hand grab at the base of my neck, unless someone came to my aid and quickly, there would be no saving me. I screamed at the top of my lungs.
He pulled his hand away almost as fast as he caught up with me. Something was preventing him from harming me. Was it the silver in my pocket? My Mohawk blood? Or was it something entirely different? I prayed as hard as I could, thanking the gods for sparing my life just this once. The dream starts to fade out and I began to wake.
The sweat was pouring off of me as I shivered in my seat. My body temperature refused to level itself to normal, I was still freezing. The day had started hot and muggy but any August morning started like that in Dodge City. I shouldn’t have been cold. I tried to open my eyes but the outside light was too harsh.
There was a gently knocking, I can’t place where it’s coming from as I come out of my stupor. Polly mumbled something, I could barely make it out.
“No sir, everything is fine here,” she explained. “My travel companion seems to have had a nightmare. Thank you for checking on us.” I heard the door slide closed. I fluttered my eyes open but everything was blurred over. “Well then, I sure do hope you are okay. You gave me such a fright.” She added. I nodded my head at her.
“Besides a headache and the strange feeling that I startled everyone on the train, I’m fine.” I tried recalling my dream but everything was blank. I could remember the horror I had felt and the pain of gasping for air. I could see Polly’s mangled body as well. I shuddered. “I wish I could figure out what caused that nightmare.” Polly shook her head at me. I wish someone could understand that there is no fixing what I am or who I am. It was going to be a long four days to Sheridan for Polly and me.
I palmed the stone at my neck again. There had been something strange about that dream but I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what. I placed my hand on my shoulder where I could feel a slight stinging sensation. I could feel three long scratches. They were starting to swell.
“What in the world happened?” Polly’s face was washed in horror as she realized what I was touching.
“I honestly don’t know,” I answered. I was just as perplexed as she was. As far as I knew we had been the only ones in the compartment and she hadn’t moved from her seat. The only thing that made any sense to me was that it had happened in my dream.
“That looks like it really hurts. Did you rub the wrong way against something?”
“I didn’t have it before I fell asleep.” Polly stared at me. Well, there went the opportunity to become friends with someone on my fresh start. “I don’t mean to scare you but sometimes things I can’t explain happen.” Polly edged further away from me on the worn red bench.
Another knock at the door brought me to my sense all the way. The stranger that attempted to pickpocket me opened the door. I glared at him. There was something different about him though, something I hadn’t noticed before. What was it though?
“I’m sorry to intrude, ladies,” he began. “I was sitting elsewhere but it seems my company is no longer wanted. May I join you?”
“Maybe if you weren’t a thief, people would enjoy your company better.” I spat in his direction. The stone that hung around my neck was back between my fingers. There was nothing special about it. It was a chunk of turquoise I found after I started working at the saloon. I had kept it as a way to ground myself when things seemed overwhelming.
The thief looked taken aback by my statement. Almost as though he thought I wouldn’t remember our encounter earlier in the day. I scoffed at him.
“I take it I’m missing something important,” Polly chimed in. “I’m Polly and this is Florence.” She pointed in my direction. “I’m sure if you gave us a proper introduction there will be no problem in you joining us.”
“Please forgive me, my name is Lawrence Cole.” He stated as his lifted his top hat and bowed. “It is lovely to meet you, ladies.” Lawrence sat down beside me, his hands reaching too close to the straps on my carpet bag. I yanked it away and stood to place it on the shelf above the bench seat.
“Let me move that out of your reach, pardon me, I mean way,” I said rudely. Polly gaped at me. “Forgive me Polly, but Mr. Cole tried to relieve me of my purse a few short hours ago. Certain transgressions cannot be ignored.” My attitude turned snarky. I sat back down and looked out the window at the rolling landscape and sun sitting high in the sky. It was a far cry from the cityscape I was used to.
“Florence, is it?” Lawrence asked. “I am sorry that you were the person I decided to steal from. I did, however, need money to leave that god-awful city behind me.” He was looking for my understanding and that was something I was not going to give him.
“Well Lawrence, why don’t you tell us about yourself,” Polly gushed.
“He gropes and catcalls women,” I added disgustedly. Lawrence flushed red, smirking slightly with embarrassment.
“I usually don’t make a habit of doing that,” Lawrence stuttered. “I thought because you were a working girl, it wouldn’t bother you.” He trailed off as I glared at him. The angry flashed through my eyes.
“Don’t ever think that is okay, no matter the woman,” I snapped.
“I’m sure Lawrence has learned his lesson,” Polly said. She was batting her eyes at him. She was completely consumed by him. I faked gagging myself and turned my eyes on the rolling hills and hardwoods outside.
Polly was making me want to vomit. She had gone and gotten herself caught up into his whole tall, dark and handsome routine. Someone was going to have to teach that girl that not everything was all fairy tales and gum drops. She was going to end up heartbroken. I hoped I wouldn’t be around long enough to see that happen.
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