Kate turned on the TV and sank into the couch. She was mentally exhausted. Her first day in college was turbulent. She had managed to become the target of mockery and bumped into a guy who took care of her and pestered her for the rest of the day. What would be the real reason for the sudden interest he showed in her? Maybe he had noticed something unusual and strange with her. Perhaps Jake was also interested in bizarre things. After watching her favorite sitcom, Kate thought of going for a stroll in the mall in the city to canvas the prices of handbags. She urgently needed to buy a new backpack but before doing so, she had to make sure she could even entertain the idea. With the absurd allowance she was receiving, it was likely that she could only buy a recyclable bag. Instead of going straight to the mall, she decided to look around a thrift store which was located next to a grocery store near her house. Surely it would be more feasible as the price of the bag would fit her budget. She would also take advantage of a stroll through the city as she had only lived in Alcantes for a week.
When her parents said that they were moving to this area, she found it strange that it had a university. Alcantes was no metropolis. It was just an average town situated in a populous country in South America called Viliena. Its entertainment options were in the question. There were three theaters, two malls, a large park, two lively nightclubs, and an old abandoned airport which served as a refuge for young people who got drunk and stayed in secret. However, what caught her attention was not only the fact that there was a university in this city, but the time was awkward. The macabre and cloudy sky of Alcantes was really scary.
After reﬂecting on such things, she ended up giving up. Kate grabbed her backpack and went to her room. She was starting to get used to the new house. It was not very big; it was simple but a looker. Her mother had always been very capricious. When she was not away at work, was always engaged in the organization and decoration of the house.
She put her bag on the bed and searched for something comfortable to wear. Kate rolled out a drawer and took out an old coat. She fixed her hair in a ponytail and before she left, she took a deep breath and stared at her old backpack. Wasting no time, took the didactic material inside it and placed these on the bed. The articles and magazines about extraterrestrials and paranormal people went straight to a trash bin in the corner of the room. She had enough of all that paranoia. So what if her legitimate parents had been abducted and she was really an alien baby dropped in an orphanage? There are other worse things in this world! She could not help but laugh at this absurd idea and left the room in search of something to eat. When opened the fridge, she noticed that there were only leftovers. Her parents worked all day and it was she who prepared their meals. With this new change, Kate was not at the peak of her culinary inspirations. She took what she saw - a leftover slice of pizza from the night before and the last can of Coca-Cola, hidden behind a cabbage. She was sure her father had hidden it as he loved soda. After gathering everything she got from the fridge, returned to her room.
She ate her meal and picked up the book she started reading last night. She loved to read, especially novels, and liked diving into the stories. This was her only way to escape real life and live in a world filled with fantasies where she could be anybody she wanted to be without fear of the creatures and the incessant nightmares. Kate had a fair amount of books. She was an organized girl and always liked to keep her room tidy. There was not much in her room. There was just a single bed, a small closet, a bookshelf, and a desk that was falling apart as a result of the various changes made in the course of recent years. It also had a mural with pictures. She collected photos of all the places they had lived in and marked an “X” on pictures of places they were. Kate had the impression they were always running away from something. When she asked questions about it to her parents, they always came with the same excuse as always, work.
The night soon arrived. She was so deep into reading that she did not notice the hours that passed. She heard a knock on the door and when she opened it, she received a loving smile from her adoptive mother, Rosalia. She was a beautiful and captivating woman with a medium height and copper hair which stopped at her shoulders. Her eyes were honey brown. Before Kate could even say “Hi, Mom,” her mother began to bombard her with questions.
“Hi, my dear! How was your first day at college? Did you make any friends?” She gave Kate an inquisitive look. “Did you meet any interesting boys?
Playing the good mother, she just gave Kate a knowing smile. She knew what her goal was. She wanted her daughter to feel loved. They had talked several times about the way she felt strange, the tragedies that happened in the past, and the ghosts Kate has had since childhood. “Where’s Daddy? Did he not come home with you?” Kate asked anxiously.
“Your father has to work overtime. I was thinking of watching a comedy or romantic movie and order a pizza for us both. What do you say?” Rosalia asked her daughter.
“That would be great! We haven’t eaten pizza in a while,” Kate said with a triumphant smile. She mocked her mother as last week, they ate pizza every night. Rosalia left smiling and closed the bedroom door.
After eating pizza and watching a movie, Kate went to her room to prepare for bed. She had a habit of going to bed early. When went to bed, she dreamt.
“Help!” Kate screamed and ran into the midst of darkness. She could not see anything, just felt an enormous heat and when she looked up, the only thing could see was fire. There was a lot of fire. “Please stop! Do not kill me, I beg you!” Kate ran as if her life depended on it. The fire began to reach her, scorching parts of her body. Later on, a few feet away she saw a light. Kate was not sure what it was but just knew that she needed to go towards it. When was almost there, she felt a sword cut deep into her throat. The blood bathed her whole body and the ﬂames consumed her whole.
Kate woke up screaming, all sweaty and wrapped in sheets. Tears streamed across her face; she felt dizzy and short of breath. She always dreamed that she was being murdered. She never escaped alive. Like her previous dreams, the fire had consumed her body. When thinking of fire, she always remembered that memorable episode she was in the library. Kate always liked to be in a private reading corner and that day, she was exhausted. She was up the whole night due to a horrifying marathon of nightmares. These came inevitably. Just as she would doze off, her marathon of nightmares returned. She woke up screaming and crying aloud, “Fire! Fire!” What she had witnessed she would never forget. It was the largest pandemonium. All she could see were tables, chairs, and books ﬂying everywhere. Students ran desperately out the hallway screaming “Fire!” There was even an imbecile that triggered the fire alarm. Kate could not believe what had just caused it. She ﬂed to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. She whispered against her reﬂection. “Yikes! What was that? What if it happened in a public library? I would be accused of terrorism at least!” That was the first time she moved from one school without moving to another city. Kate never went to the library again.
“Honey, are you okay?” asked her father while drying her tears.
“Yes Dad, I am. Only this time, the dream was very real.” She looked at her father’s face and noticed the gray circles under his eyes. He should also be tired of witnessing all that horror which occurred almost nightly.
He said, stroking her hair, “You’re tense and very warm.” He offered her a forced smile. “Do not worry my dear, I promise this will soon pass.”
Joseph was a helpful and caring father. He was concerned primarily with the welfare of his child. He was a man of medium height and youthful, with clear brown hair and an affectionate gaze that exuded pure goodness. When Kate was adopted, she was eight. Kate always wondered why her parents had never admitted her to a psychiatric hospital. There was never an appointment with a psychologist. They just said that none of it was real and one day, she would understand this. The worst and most intriguing of all was even if they knew the past tragedies that involved her life, they still wanted to adopt her. She knew who the real killers were, however no one ever believed the stories of a child her age. That bogeyman was responsible for the atrocities and killed her preceding families. Kate would never forget the strong odor that creatures cast out every time. This was the only memory she had from the night of the murders.
Once he had calmed his daughter down, Joseph returned to his bedroom and woke his wife. She was a heavy sleeper. “Rosalia, wake up!”
“What is it? Did something happen to Kate? Did she have another nightmare?” she asked.
“What do you think?” Joseph said, tired.
She sat up in bed and lit the lamp. “It’s getting worse, isn’t it? They were right,” sighed Rosalia. “We need to be more cautious as they will not give up.”
“More cautious? My God, Rosalia! We have just moved to Alcantes!” He looked at his wife through the half light that covered the room. “We did everything as ordered, including enrolling her in this university which is protected by Guardians!”
She replied, “I know! I just don’t understand. Why is there such a delay? Why are they are having difficulty getting to find her? It makes no sense! ” she said, a little scared. “However, this stormy weather only contradicts my theories. Have you ever stopped to observe the sky? I am afraid, Joseph. Portals will soon come into great activity and we will have nowhere else to go. This is the end of the line. All indications show that they will come back and not give up.”
Joseph answered, “No, my love. I know it will not happen. I think it is unlikely. Also, the weather does not specifically indicate that they are behind it. You know that portals exist and are frequent. The creatures that are constantly crossing do not have any interest in our daughter.” He squeezed his wife’s hand. “I hope they will never find her. I pray every day that they will never locate our whereabouts. I cannot stand so many changes. You’re right, we have come to the end.” He cast a sad look at his wife. “Even if she is found in this city, at least she’ll be safe.”
Rosalia said, “I know, dear. What about us? You know that the shield, the Ashes Magic, does not apply to guards, but, only in Kate.”
Joseph hugged his wife and gave her a tender kiss. “Do not worry, dear. We’ll find a way and all will be well. If the worst happens, you should never forget the choice we made and the most important reason why we are here,” he said as tears ﬂooded his eyes. “We have fulfilled our duty and we will be together forever. I have never regretted choosing this path.”
“Me, too. I have never looked back!”