I’m running through the dark midnight forest.
The night-cloaked trees cluster around me like the walls of a gloomy maze, but I won’t get lost.
I know the way. He’s calling me. The one I love.
I glide over small streams, hollow moss-encrusted tree trunks, a sea of ferns. From time to time I look up. Stars wheel through the patches of black sky peeking through the forest canopy overhead. As I run, the sky lightens to a deep royal blue, paling to lilac speckled with the ghosts of the fading stars.
Day is coming.
I have to hurry.
I’m almost there, but I won’t reach him in time.
So I call his name, hoping he’ll hear me.
But no sound comes out. I’ve forgotten his name. In fact, I’ve forgotten his face, my face, my name, everything.
How am I supposed to find him again if I can’t even remember what he looks like?
The gurgling melody of water rushing over stones rings through the trees. I run towards the sound, deeper and deeper into the forest. I come to the edge of a babbling brook. Something is pulling me, and I walk along its edge, picking my way over mossy emerald boulders. I stop when I reach a small, still pool, shining silver as a bright mirror embedded in the forest floor.
Tiny green and turquoise dragonflies dance above the water’s surface, their jeweled armor glinting in the dim starlight.
I crouch down and lean over the pool’s edge to look at my reflection.
I’m met with an unfamiliar face.
Long wavy hair as white as new-fallen snow.
And eyes that for some reason I’m sure should be pale green, but are bright silver instead, like molten metal gleaming beneath dark lashes.
The way I’m dressed is just as peculiar. I look down and see that I’m wearing a gossamer gown made of some diaphanous material; a sheath of silvery spider silk dotted with tiny pearls, light as sea foam, hanging on the air.
Is this me? Has this always been me? I must be dr–
A movement in the forest interrupts my thoughts. A dark shape takes form several feet away, unfurling from the ground like a column of black smoke. The shadow moves towards me.
I claw at my chest as a sharp pain stabs my heart.
Beloved. My beloved. Her voice is waves crashing against rocks, the rustling of leaves on a tree, the wind whistling through mountain valleys.
She sends out tendrils of darkness, reaching to me across the silver water, and in that moment I know.
She’s hunted me for a thousand years.
She’ll never stop.
All I can do is run.
So I sprint through the forest, away from the pool, away from her. Fingers of smoke claw at the air behind me, but I’m one step ahead. I race towards a distant light, until I break into the clearing.
A wooden cabin sits in the centre of a wide glade. I’m no longer running – I fly through the air, pulled by invisible strings.
Below me, a neatly laid-out vegetable patch drinks in the pooling sunbeams of the newborn day, lettuces reaching upwards drunk with starfire.
And above me, the sky is all aflutter, a bright blur of stars drowning in a sea of dawn, sucked beneath the radiant waves of the inevitable morning.
I have to hurry. Before the day breaks.
The shadow behind me closes in, tearing at the fronds of my silken dress.
I reach the cabin, fly through the front door, up the stairs, into the small room at the end of the corridor.
A girl lies sleeping on a bed next to the window, her pale blonde hair in disarray as she twists and turns against the pillow, fleeing from some nightmare.
Shadows darken the doorway behind me.
The darkness races across the room towards me as I take the girl by the shoulders.
I shake her, screaming.
I wake up with a start.
The details of the dream fade away as I sit up in bed, rubbing the sore spot just below my left breast.
There was lots of running, and someone chasing me. And I was flying. I remember drifting over Kitty’s vegetable garden, into this very room.
Yawning, I swing my legs over the side of the bed. I pick up the red and green tartan blanket draped over the duvet, wrapping it around myself.
Treading lightly over the wooden floor, I unlock my door and head out along the corridor, then down the narrow winding spiral staircase. The kitchen is empty.
Good. The boys are still asleep.
I tiptoe to the front door, turning the handle as quietly as possible.
Stepping onto the front porch, I take in the pale sunlight tinged with starlight as it streams through the meadow, chasing the fleeing night. It’s not quite daybreak, but seconds before. Those magical, special moments of morning twilight just before the birth of a new day.
I watch the sky fade from speckled lilac into a soft blue in the east.
Wrapping the shawl tighter around me, I sit down at the top of the steps, under the overhanging red roses.
The vegetable garden is just a few feet from the bottom step, to the left of the house. It’s just as beautiful in real life as it was in the dream.
Rows of lettuces are interspersed with marigolds, tomatoes, strawberries and fat purple cabbages.
It’s a miracle really that the plants are in such good condition, after so many years of neglect.
Kitty found the remnants of the vegetable patch hidden under a huge clump of bramble a few days ago. She says she was bored, what with myself and the boys being busy in the basement all day every day recording music. She noticed the top of a stone birdbath sticking out of the brambles, so she found a pair of garden shears in the shed next to cabin and went wild. The last thing she expected was to find a veggie patch under all that mess.
Despite being buried under at least a meter of thick thorny stems and leaves, the plants seem to have thrived on whatever sunlight was getting through to them.
I would never have expected Kitty, with her designer handbags obsession and girly personality, to have green thumbs. But over the last few days she’s spent every daylight hour out in her little garden, pulling out weeds and peeling slugs off her kale with the ferocity of a mother bear guarding her cubs.
She says it helps take her mind off that night.
Almost two weeks has passed since we saw the strange silver light in the forest. The boys are still convinced it was someone playing a trick with a hologram.
Nothing has happened since then – no weird lights, no eerie music or silver snakes floating in the trees – so they’ve been happy to write it off as a freak occurrence, some random prank that probably wasn’t even intended for us.
They’re wrong though.
The scar on my rib cage throbs slightly as I think about how the silver serpent darted through the air towards me, hitting my chest directly over my heart.
Exactly over my scar.
I first noticed a slight bruise around it a few days afterwards. Lavender, with patches of yellow.
Over the next few days it darkened to an angry violet, growing more and more painful, more and more tender. Now, I push aside the tartan blanket and reach up below my left breast, touching the sore area through the thin cotton of my camisole.
Part of me thinks I should go to a doctor. But I’m not sure what I’d tell them exactly.
So basically, I was out in the woods with a world-famous rock band, when this flying singing snake flew at me through the trees…
Sure. Great idea.
But still, the worry tugs at me, making me wonder if it could be some sort of delayed complication from the event that earned me the scar in the first place – getting stabbed through the ribs by a massive shard of glass as Evan sent me to safety through the back window of the bus.
That was almost two years ago. There’s no way it’s related.
Anyway, the bruise is the least of my worries. Something’s changed since that night. Elliot, Ben and Lyall are the same as always, but both Felix and Alastaire have been avoiding me like the plague.
That’s not exactly easy to do, what with us all living together in the cabin and spending all day together in the recording studio – but it’s obvious, and totally awkward.
Felix doesn’t spend any more time with me than he needs to. He hasn’t once said anything about what happened in my bedroom that night, as if it never happened.
And Alastaire’s flirtatious, innuendo-laden banter is nowhere to be found. When he does talk to me, he’s super polite and civil, as if I’m sort of coworker, or a distant acquaintance. He’s perfectly nice, but strangely formal and distant.
On top of that, Alix is mad with me. I phoned Micah, Wild Blue Yonder’s bassist, about a week ago to tell him that I wouldn’t be able to make band practice for the rest of the summer.
Admittedly, I called him because I knew how Alix would react, and I didn’t feel like dealing with that directly.
Even though I couldn’t tell him my reasons for the break, Micah was totally cool about it. Like Alix, he’ll be going to college locally next year, so it’s not like this is the last chance we have to play together as a band. He just said it was ok, and we’ll pick it up again when I’m ready.
Alix didn’t take the news quite as well.
A few minutes after I got off the call from Micah, I got a text from Zee.
I just heard my brother yelling at Micah on the phone. Then he smashed something up in his room. I think he’s mad at you. What happened?
I’ll have to wait until the recording business with Fable is over before I can set things straight with my own band. Elliot says we should be done recording in under a week, and secretly, I’m glad.
Between Felix ignoring me, Alastaire’s aloof attitude, and the strange things that seem to happen to me every time I step into the woods, I’m ready to go home.
And stupidly enough, I actually miss my mom and dad. Even though I call my mom every morning – her idea, probably so that she knows I survived the night – in the past few days I’ve felt this strange pang. Like loneliness, heartache and nostalgia all rolled up into one.
A feeling that only family can dispel.
I remember when I was on the bus. As we were sinking, amid the screams I heard a boy crying for his mother.
A keening, sorrowful sound. The sound you make when you know you’re going to die, and you realize that the only time you’ve ever felt truly safe, totally protected from all harm, was when you were a child, in the loving arms of your mother.
Right now I feel like I’m a little girl again, lost and alone.
I want my mom. God, I’m so patheti -
“Looking good, right? Those strawberries should be ripe in a few days.”
My thoughts are interrupted by Kitty’s chirpy voice as she sits down beside me on the step, clutching a steaming mug of coffee. She’s dressed in black leather leggings, with kitten heels and a creamy white blouse.
“Morning,” I say. “Those don’t look like gardening clothes. Are you going out?”
“Yeah,” she says, sending clouds of steam into the air as she blows on her coffee. “We’re running low on some staples. It’s time for me to do a grocery run. Hopefully the boys can make it last until we leave. I’ve already broken two nails carrying shopping bags, and I’m not losing any more. In London we have a shopper whose job it is to...”
London. Soon they’ll be back in London, and I’ll still be here. If that’s what I want, if I really am I ok with it, then why do I feel so cold all over? Why does the thought of parting ways with them make me feel like I’m drowning, being sucked beneath the icy water, all over again?
“Hey, space cadet,” Kitty says, clicking her fingers in front of my face. “You’re drifting off again. Anyway, I know exactly what you need.”
“What I need?” I repeat after her.
“Yes,” she says. “You need to get out of here for a while. Come into town with me. There’s a slice of chocolate cake out there with your name written on it.”
“But we start at nine every morning,” I say. “Felix will-”
“Felix will understand,” Kitty says. “Now go put on something cute. We’re going shopping.”