A tiny burst of orange and red in the distance, gone before I could take a better look.
The darkness closes in, and I break into a run, searching for it. It flickers again, and I reach my hand out.
I can feel its warmth. Always out of reach. It’s gone again.
I cry out, my voice silent but my mind roars. So close, I can almost feel it against my fingertips.
Just a little closer—
I blink and the classroom fades back into view. There are a few lingering students still at their desks trying to finish their work before their next class.
The professor is busy chatting with one of them. I haven’t been out for too long, then.
I turn to my right, seeing Josh stare at me, chin propped up by his hand and a pout on his lips. “You’re daydreaming again.”
I wave my bad habit off. “Sorry. What did you say?”
His dark eyes twinkle, his face splitting into a wide grin. I move to poke his right dimple but he immediately swats me away, too used to my antics.
“I got two tickets to the aquarium! I figured we could go together.”
“Aquarium?” I repeat, excited at the thought. “You know me too well.”
“Of course!” He throws his arms up, knee bouncing against the desk. I’ve learned to tune it out. “So how about this Saturday? Let’s meet at nine?”
“Sure,” I can’t help the giddiness when I take the ticket he hands me and slip it into my bag, the laminated blue paper cool to the touch. “Oh, I can’t wait! I haven’t been to one in forever.”
“Don’t be late, or I won’t wait for you!” He taps my desk with his knuckles. “Come on! It’s getting late.” I nod, swinging my bag over my shoulder as I rise from my seat.
I follow Josh out the door to the busy halls of the college. The white walls are covered in posters of clubs and friendly reminders, like remembering to sleep or eat and not to skip class. It’s college though.
Students are packing up and leaving for the day or lazing around for their next class, loud chatter filling the air as Josh and I push through to exit. Some seniors are complaining about their senior project, fingers flying over keyboards.
A little ways from the front gate is the bus stop. The bus is already there as the last few people in line file on.
Since the bus is my ride home—I don’t drive, and can’t afford a taxi being the poor college student that I am—I sputter a quick good-bye to Josh before I dash over.
I flail my arms in hopes the driver might wait for me, hearing Josh’s boisterous laughter behind me. Most drivers are nice since it’s a pretty small town, but there are a few jerks that like to see me suffer.
I breathe out as I successfully get on, finding a seat near the back, the front already packed, as usual, filled with people getting off work.
It’s an inconvenient class time, but then again, I’d take this time slot over evening classes that run well into the night any day.
Josh is standing at the bus stop, waving at me. He hooks his fingers to the corners of his mouth and pulls, crossing his eyes.
I stick out my tongue and scrunch my nose, mocking him. I can hear his laughter through the window before he runs off. Lucky him to live within walking distance.
The bus rumbles and begins moving. I rummage my bag for my earphones, plugging them in and letting the music drown out the rest of the world.
My eyes are already beginning to droop; I haven’t exactly taken the college ‘friendly reminders’ to heart. My head falls to the window, watching the scenery outside pass in a blur.
Trees, so many trees. At least the air is fresher here than the big cities.
My body relaxes as I start to doze off, spots of orange and red filling my vision again. What do I even call it? A daydream? A vision? I’ve been seeing the same thing lately, and it’s really starting to irk me.
The ride is relatively short, about fifteen minutes. It would take me longer to walk home, despite it being a single stop away.
I'm glad I managed to catch the bus, walking home after a long day of classes is the worst. Trees, sometimes they inconvenience me. Bus stops are much closer to each other in the cities, I think.
I get off—correctly, for once—breathing in the fresh air. My home is small, humble and old—comfortable. Dad always says it’s been around for hundreds of years, which is likely to be an exaggeration, though it does have a very grandpa feel to it.
It’s warm and welcoming, a place I’ve lived all my life; a constant. Even as I went to college, I wanted to stay close. I didn’t want dad to feel lonely—though he insists otherwise—so I didn’t choose to live in the dorms either.
I would’ve hated roommates anyways.
“I’m home!” I call as I push open the door, hearing it creak from age. I wonder when it’ll just fall off its hinges. I kick off my shoes, throwing my bag on one of the wooden chairs surrounding the dining table.
Dad pokes his head out from his study, his smile wide and eyes crinkling when he sees me.
“Welcome home, sweetie.” He greets me warmly, his old glasses almost slipping off his nose until he pushes it back up with his finger. I chuckle, planting a kiss against his cheek like always.
“By the way,” I say as I make my way upstairs to my room. “I have to go out this Saturday.”
“For what?” He asks with a raised bushy brow.
“I’m going to the aquarium with Josh,” I can’t keep the excitement from my voice as I call out, entering my room and quickly shimmying out of my outside-clothes into a more comfy t-shirt and sweatpants.
“Josh?” His grey-blue eyes light up. “For a date?”
I laugh as I reenter the living room, tying up my ginger hair into a messy ponytail. “It’s not a date, Dad.”
His face drops. “Why not?”
I grimace. “We’re friends, Dad.”
“Plenty of childhood friends end up together,” he shakes a finger at me. “You can’t cling to an old man like me forever, ya know? It’d be nice if you brought home a boyfriend for once.”
“Nu-uh.” I throw myself on his back, startling him. “I’m gonna stick to you forever and there’s nothing you can do about it!” He laughs, trying to shake me off.
“You’re too heavy for this now!” He exclaims, pealing my stubborn hands off of him. “Alright, alright. When you see Josh, tell him to come over for dinner, okay?”
I finally let go of him, allowing him to go back into his study. “I’ll make his favorite macaroni and cheese.”
“Mmkay!” I call after him, taking a seat at the round coffee table. I take out my folders from school, preparing for a night of studying. I know no sleep, especially not as a psychology student.
I sigh, staring at the gibberish notes I’ve taken, blaming the daydreams—visions? Whatever—for interfering with my note taking. It’s definitely not because I nap in class. Why do exams even exist?
It hasn’t been an hour of ‘studying’ (I’ve been re-reading the same sentence over and over) before there’s a knock at the door.
Dad calls from the kitchen as he prepares for dinner, “Kay! Can you get the door for me? I don’t want this to burn.”
“Okay.” I jump at the opportunity of a justified break. Looking out the peephole, I ask, “Who is it?” There shouldn’t be anyone knocking at the door at this hour.
There’s a strangled, pained “help” that answers.
Alert now, I open the door to reveal a small child, his dark brown hair matted against his forehead, shoulder covered in blood, breathing heavily. His face deathly pale. The t-shirt he wears is torn, his brown eyes looking at me with so much fear.
“Oh my goodness.” My breath hitches, never having expected this sight. Panic begins to course through my veins as I kneel to inspect the child with a closer eye.
“Oh no. We need to get you to the hospital!” I hurry to get dad, but the child grabs onto my pants, forcing me to stay.
His strangled voice croaks, “It hurts, it hurts so much.”
“It’s going to be okay.” I try my best to reassure the little boy whose face is twisted in agony, sweat caked on his skin. “You’re going to be okay.”
I yell for dad. “Dad! There’s a bleeding child and we need to get him to the hospital, now!”
“What?” He comes rushing out, spatula in hand. His eyes widen on the child. “What on Earth—”
“Hurry!” I hiss, picking the child up and preparing to leave, hearing his soft voice ask, “Where are you going?”
“Taking you to the hospital.” I answer, already putting on my shoes.
“Where are you going?”
My whole body locks up, as I stare at the child in my arms. His eyes are wide and unthreatening, but the voice that just left his mouth was not of a child’s. It was deep, laced with venom, and a chill goes down my spine.
My heart pounds loud in my ears like a warning. “Wha—”
The corners of the child’s mouth twists upwards into a grin, his hazel eyes slowly turning into an endless black. He lunges for me, his hands around my throat in a strong vice-like grip, choking the air out of my lungs.
“Kay!” Dad screams, tackling the child to get him away from me. I gasp when his hands release me, but I watch in horror as the child starts to shift.
Black liquid oozes out from the pores of his skin, the shape of the child melting away like a balloon rid of air. The black liquid gathers, meeting in the middle and building atop of itself until it’s as tall as the ceiling.
It doesn’t seem to have an exact shape, constantly shifting. Eyes appear, gleaming scarlet, and a crazed smile grows as it speaks in a voice laced with different pitches, as if a thousand people are talking at once. “How lucky to find a Faery here!”
“Oh no,” dad’s eyes widen in absolute horror—a look I’ve never seen on him before—turning to me with great urgency. “Run, Kay. Run!”
“Dad?” I squeak out, fighting him as he tries to push me away. The dark creature grabs dad’s arm, pulling him out the way and aiming for me.
My eyes are trained on dad’s figure, him being the only thing I can see as tears blur out the rest of the world. I can’t think; everything feels so unreal and my mind is a jumbled mess.
I don’t know what to do. It almost doesn’t register when dad pushes me again just as the black thing reaches for me.
“Run!” Dad cries, his face so incredibly pale.
“No, I can’t.” I manage to sob out, tears streaming down my face as fear paralyzes me. I grab for his hands, trying to keep him from being swallowed by the blackness. “I can’t leave you!”
“Forget me!” He demands, trying to pry my fingers from his, but I keep hold like my life depends on it. It probably does. If I let go now, I might never see him again. I can’t bear the thought of losing him.