The cold night air combed through his hair as Kleo stood in the middle of the street. All the shops along main were dead with their lights off, and storefronts vacant. The air was stale and it felt as if all life had been drained from the town. Goosebumps formed among his exposed skin and his heart pounded. He wasn’t alone but he didn’t know what was out there, hidden in the shadows. He felt a presence behind him, but no matter where he looked, he was met with the same emptiness. His feet began to run and carried him down the street towards his home. He had to get away, he just didn’t know what from. He could feel a hot breath at the back of his neck and panic within his chest. He couldn’t get away, not fast enough. The edges of his vision became jagged as if long, slender black fingers were beginning to cover his sight. He closed his eyes and the world stopped. All was dark and the only sound was that of his own, rampant heart. He woke with a gasp, just as red eyes appeared in his mind.
A cold sweat layered his face as he caught his breath and took a look around. All eyes were on him as he steadied himself within his seat. His biology professor cleared her throat from where she stood at the front of the auditorium class. A look of concern with a sprinkle of annoyance played on her face as she watched him.
“Everything alright, Mr. Amastacia?”
Kleo rubbed the back of his neck as he sat a bit lower in his seat, wishing he could somehow hide within himself.
“Yeah… sorry,” he said sheepishly and fortunately, the professor nodded and continued on with the lesson.
His nightmares were bad enough, he didn’t need the extra embarrassment of putting them on full display for the entirety of his freshman biology class. His phone lit up from where it sat on his desk and he took a look at what it could be. He swiped it open to find a message from Sean:
Meet me in my office after class.
Kleo responded with a quick affirmation and pulled his hood up over his head as he waited for class to be over.
Kleo woke to the sound of a familiar voice. Certainly, he hadn’t meant to fall asleep in class again, but he was admittedly more tired than what he was used to. He rubbed his eyes and lifted his head to see Alexei sitting on top of the long desk. Kleo was still getting used to the lavender locks his best friend now sported. Long bangs framed the side of his face as the rest was tucked behind the opposite ear. Alexei pushed a cup of iced coffee towards him. “What is it? Not sleeping well in that comfy, new bed of yours?”
Kleo groaned slightly in response and rubbed his eyes. “No, I guess not.” He sat up and realized that the lecture hall was now empty, save for the two of them. He looked at the coffee then back to Alexei. “You TA this class, where did you even get that?”
“I have my ways,” Alexei shrugged. “Now drink it and wake up,” he pressed further, moving the coffee to be directly in front of him. Deciding that he was too tired to care where and how he got this coffee, Kleo listened and took a sip from the life-giving drink before packing up his belongings.
Kleo stretched his arms and let out a yawn as the two of them made their way out of the science building, “I don’t know what’s up with these nightmares dude.”
Alexei took the coffee him to take a sip before speaking up, “Is it just the same nightmare?”
“Yeah," Kleo sighed. "It’s always the same thing: I’m always in town, it’s always creepy, and I always wake up right before I can even see what the thing that’s chasing me is," he explained. "I don’t know why I keep having them or what they could even mean.”
The two of them walked in silence for a minute more before Alexei suddenly stopped walking, “I got it!” He turned to Kleo with a look on his face that made him believe he had somehow managed to solve all the world’s problems with just a single thought. “I’ll just move in.”
“No.” Kleo deadpanned without missing a beat and Alexei instantly began to pout. “Dude, it’s literally been what, two months since you moved in? Plus, you were the one who decided to live in the dorms.”
“I know, but,” he almost whined, “I didn’t know just how shitty they’d be? Besides, my position pays for it. I wasn’t really thinking when I said yes.”
“Wow, that really sounds like a personal problem.”
“Come on, Kleo! Plus, I didn’t know Dr. Lake was going to redo your old place.”
“Yeah, well, neither did I,” Kleo said. “He surprised me with that, saying he thought it would be nice for me to live closer to campus.”
“Well, maybe that has something to do with the nightmares? I mean, the place doesn’t look exactly the way it did before but it’s been years since you stayed there,” Alexei explained and Kleo mulled it over. Maybe Alexei had a point? When Kleo was younger, he lived with his mother in the home that rested above her shop. All of his memories about his mother and growing up were there. Ever since the fire, the top part had just been closed off. Even the shop was closed for a few years before Sean reopened it, saying something about letting Kleo’s mother’s legacy live on. Technically, Kleo owned the Apothecary since his mother left it in his name, but, he was too young to really make any decisions for it. Honestly, he didn’t really want to at the time. It still held a lot of memories for him and reminded him so strongly of her.
Sean hired someone to help manage the store and they had a few employees, including Kleo himself who worked there part-time.
When Sean told him his plans of letting Kleo live there again… Kleo didn’t know what to think. Sure, living on his own was fun and all, but Alexei definitely had a point. Those nightmares did start up shortly after he moved in…
“See,” Alexei said, bringing Kleo out of his own head. “Maybe it would be nice to have another person there, hm?” He really wasn’t letting this go.
“We’re best friends, aren’t we?”
“Are you going to pay rent?” Kleo asked and Alexei immediately shut up. Kleo knew his money was tied up a bit since the school didn't pay him extremely well due to the fact that they gave him housing for free.
“I can help in other ways,” Alexei offered and Kleo sighed. A grin formed on Alexei’s lips as if he knew Kleo simply couldn’t say no to him. He had him wrapped around his finger.
“Okay, fine!” Kleo groaned and Alexei punched the air in success. “But! You’re going to have to pull some shifts at the shop, ok?”
“Deal! You won’t regret it, you know it!” Alexei said, stewing in his own excitement.
“Yeah, yeah. Let’s talk about the rest of the details later. I need to go meet Sean,” he explained.
“Okay! I’ve got another class anyway. Meet you at your place later for a movie night? Or should I say, our place?” He grinned, “My treat for the birthday boy.”
Kleo waved him off with a chuckle and headed towards the hall where Sean’s office was, “Sure, sounds like a plan!”