1: The Ghost in the Halls
Never before have walls spoken so loudly,
or ceiling tiles moved so fast.
Never before have I worried so soundly
that the next breath I draw could be my last.
As the shadows dance their nightly waltz
with the moonlit windows across the halls,
my footfalls fall a bit too fast
in light of what has come to pass.
Silent, stalks the hourglass,
ever on the prowl;
never quite so pressing as it presses me right now.
It’s never been so vexing not to know where I am bound,
than now I’m bound by this forsaken place
they’ve placed me in for now.
But now I’ve found its hallowed halls
are hollow words meant to appease,
as made quite clear by this abysmal race
I face with the deceased.
With nowhere left to turn,
I turn around and make my peace.
If I’m lucky, maybe death will claim this final piece of me
that clings to life as though believing that it has a life to live.
In truth, this life has taken everything and more that I could give.
As the spectral shade approaches,
I encroach upon my fate.
I prepare myself for what’s to come;
I prepare myself to fade.
And then, she speaks…
I jolt upright in my bed. A film of cold sweat coats my body, causing my t-shirt to cling to it in awkward and uncomfortable places. This is the third night this week that this recurring nightmare has woken me from my sleep. Every night, I find myself running through the halls of this very shelter, trying to escape from the same ghostly stalker, only to end up with nowhere left to go. Every night, I turn around, ready to accept my fate, only to be faced with the same exact question.
Every night, the ghost simply asks me, “why didn’t you save me, Jaden?”
Every night, I can only ever find four words to speak in reply.
“I don’t know, Mom.”
Then, I wake up. It’s always the same. Ever since my mother died during the last raid of our village, the dream seems inescapable. It haunts me as though it were an actual honest-to-cloud restless spirit. Consequently, I now find myself restless. There’s no possible way that I’m going to get back to sleep tonight, so I instead untangle myself from my thin sheets, and stumble haphazardly from what I can only loosely refer to as a bed, landing on a creaking floorboard as I do so. I rub the bridge of my nose between my thumb and forefinger.
“I need a drink,” I mutter aloud.
“Thanks for the update, spaz,” one of my bunkmates grumbles.“Bite me,” I growl back as I begin on my way toward the kitchen.