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Chapter 1

Darkness

Gasping, Eva felt the coolness of the blade as it sliced through her skin. She clutched her now oozing side and opened her eyes to darkness. She frantically looked around. Her heart pounded against her ribs as if trying to break free. Her face dripped with sweat. Where was she? What was going on?

Feeling a sticky warmth on her hands, Eva looked down. Her hands still clutched her side. In the trickle of moonlight that filtered through the window, she could see blood. Her blood.

Eva scanned her surroundings. The darkness that faced her now was just that, darkness. A lack of light. Nothing more. As her eyes began to adjust, Eva saw a vintage white, wooden dresser along the wall across from her and the outline of a door. She was sitting up in a bed, a bed that wasn’t hers. Looking to her side, she saw a matching vintage white nightstand with the red digital numbers, 3:12, staring back at her from an alarm clock. Next to it was a gardenia flower, tinged red from the light of the clock. Eva’s hand automatically reached for the gardenia pendant hanging at her chest, a gift from her grandmother. Her parents’ divorce, the move, everything came flooding back to her and she knew where she was. She was at her grandma’s house. What had happened in her dream was also clear in her mind, as if it was still happening.

She had been running; running from something or someone. Who? She didn’t know. It was too dark to see. She just knew she had to get away. Her life depended on it. Looking back had been a mistake. The ground was uneven and she had tripped. She remembered landing on something soft. Soft, yet crunchy, with a slight moldy smell. Then he, if you could call it a he, was there. Wrapped in darkness, a hooded figure stood over her. Before she could scream, he had plunged the knife into her. How he had missed his mark, she didn’t know. Instinctively, she knew he had aimed for her heart, yet the blade had gone into and through her side. Now she was here and he was gone.

It must have been a dream—just a dream, a horrible dream. Taking a deep breath to calm herself, Eva felt a stabbing pain in her side. Looking down again, Eva saw the blood was still there. It was seeping through her pajamas onto her sheets and her hands, which were still holding her oozing side. Her hands were covered in blood. How could she still be bleeding if it was only a dream?

Eva stared at her side, trying to make sense of everything. As she did, she saw the blood begin to slow. Her mouth fell open as the blood not only slowed but stopped pulsing from her body. She tore the sheets away and pulled her pajama shirt up. The blood had definitely stopped. As she looked, the deep gash slowly came together. The wound became smaller and smaller until it was a line across her skin. Then it faded into nothing and her skin was perfect. How could a gash that deep heal so quickly? Eva looked at the alarm clock. The red numbers read 3:17. Only five minutes had passed.

Eva thought she must still be dreaming. That made sense. Sure she could make sense of everything in the morning, she placed her head back on the pillow and fell into a fitful sleep. Not really sleeping at all, she remained on the verge of sleep and wakefulness.

When her alarm clock went off for 7:00 o’clock in the morning, Eva woke feeling as if she hadn’t slept at all. She rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. She was so tired. She pulled at the sheets as she rolled away from the window to block out the morning light and froze. Her hands were closed around a stiff section of the sheets. Eva opened her eyes as she slowly opened her hand. She stared down at some rather large crusted, dark brown splotches on her sheet.

“Eva, time to get up,” her mom called, knocking on her door.

As the doorknob began to turn, Eva sat bolt upright and said a little louder than she meant to, “OK, OK. I’m up. I’ll be right down.” She was rigid, staring at the door.

“Everything OK?” her mom asked.

Eva took a quick breath trying to calm her voice. “Yeah, just first day jitters at a new school is all. Be right down.”

“If you say so, I’ll go and get breakfast ready,” her mom said.

Eva let out a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding when her mom’s footsteps retreated downstairs.

Then she looked down at her pajamas and saw more dried blood. Could that really be what it was? A slash right in the middle of the stain, in the side of my shirt, right where I’d been stabbed in my dream. My skin is fine though. No mark. Nothing. What happened? It’s not that time of the month. There’s no logical explanation for all the blood. It couldn’t have been a dream though if my shirt was ripped and dried blood is everywhere. Unless I’m still dreaming. That has to be it. I’m still dreaming. Aren’t I? Eva pinched herself. Nope. Not dreaming right now.

Eva did know one thing. Unless she wanted to tell her mom or grandma what had happened and have them look at her as if she were crazy, she needed to get the sheets to the laundry without them knowing. She didn’t have time now though so bunched them up and threw her blanket over them in case her grandma decided to come in and replace the gardenia with a fresh one, and got ready for school. As she walked downstairs, Eva hoped whatever had happened was a weird fluke, a one-time thing. Deep down though, she knew it was more than that. A tiny shiver crept up her spine as she realized she was about to face another nightmare, eighth grade at a new school, part way through the year.

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