Untitled right now...
They said the world would end when morning came.
For weeks the scaremongering covered us like a disease-ridden blanket. Trolls emerged from under their bridges to fan the flames of eventual chaos; they didn’t know what they were getting themselves into.
At first I didn’t put much stock in it, brushing it aside as if it were nothing more than a stupid hoax getting out of hand. But then it started; it was a gradual build up, nothing out of the ordinary. People started to disappear. Every so often, a missing person’s flyer would find its way to a streetlamp or a tree. I didn’t notice it much in the beginning, but then they started to appear more often. I remember trying not to think too much of it, putting it down to teenage runaways from ‘abusive’ families and addicts who couldn’t pay their way. Some of the missing people would be found, their bodies mutilated beyond recognition, others never resurfaced.
For months the police scoured the country for a serial killer but, as there were never any survivors, they had no description to go on, chasing nothing but ghosts. There were quite a few theories floating around about what was happening, some crazier than others: some said the aliens had finally found us and were harvesting our organs; others said that the Day of Reckoning had come, and God was testing those who were ‘unfaithful’; others even swore they had seen the earth fighting back against humanity, sending in unknown creatures to do their bidding. No-one knew the truth until it was too late. By that time, half the world had already been plunged into darkness and fear. There was nothing anyone could have done.
Now we live in fear of the Dark Ones, beings that had destroyed and taken over our world as we knew it. Praying we would not be the next to disappear as the others so often did. Unfortunately, there was never anyone to answer them.
“Alison! Hey, Ali!” I turned to see Hannah practically skipping towards me. Her light purple skirt accentuated the length of her legs as it fluttered around her knees in the light morning breeze. The excitement alight in the deep blue of her eyes made me nervous as hell. She only had a look like that when there was something dangerously exciting she wanted to drag me into with her. I’ll never forget the last time. We’d ‘accidentally’ found ourselves in a stolen school bus full of other wasted teens. When it got stopped by the cops, she just batted her eyelashes at them and promised we’d stay out of trouble. The perks of being 18, and having a hot best friend.
“If you have another crazy idea, I don’t want to hear it! We were lucky not to get arrested last time,” I said as she caught up me.
“Oh please, we were never getting arrested. It would’ve screwed up their chances with me,” she winked. I smirked, remembering the cop drooling over her. We headed towards the local cafe.
“So, what is on the agenda for today for the beautiful Miss Woods?” I asked as we sat down.
“Well!” She looked around dramatically to make sure we weren’t being overheard and leaned in. “I’m going to this building where there are thousands of different sections inside it. I hear they let you exchange money for items that you really want!” She laughed as she saw the curiosity in my face drop.
“See? I can be normal too,” she smiled innocently at me as the waitress gave us our orders.
“Seriously though, I need to get an outfit for tonight. It’s been six months since I last saw Zander and I’ll be damned if I don’t look hot as hell. I want to remind him what he’s missing out on.” Zander Morecambe was Hannah’s ex-boyfriend. He was quite possibly the most disgusting human being I had ever had the displeasure of meeting.
“For God’s sake, Hannah! How many times do I have to say this: stop wasting your time with him! He truly is not worth it!” While they were together, he hit on pretty much anything with a pulse, including me. At first she didn’t believe it; she was so hopelessly head over heels for the toad.
“I don’t want him back!” I raised my eyebrow, questioning her motives.
“Tell me, then, why you’re even bothering to get his attention?”
“I just want to make him a little bit jealous! After everything he did, don’t I get a little bit of justice?” I could see the hurt in her eyes as she said that. She really did love him, and he treated her like shit. I sighed.
“Well, if you’re doing this I better come along. You’re going to need a wing-woman,” she fist pumped the air and did a little celebratory dance. I couldn’t help but laugh. “But I have one condition. You’re not setting me up with anyone. I mean it this time!” I warned, pointing a finger at her. She pouted at me playfully, and dug into her chips.
“What about this?” Hannah held up a cream translucent blouse, it wasn’t something she would normally choose.
“Cute,” I replied. “What would you wear with it? Jeans, shorts or a skirt?” I asked. She looked at me quizzically.
“What? I’m on about just this.” I looked at it again.
“It barely covers your arse!”
“So?” she said, shrugging mischievously. I snorted and shook my head in disapproval. That was more like it, I thought. I ran my hand along a reduced rail, paying no attention to what I was looking at. That was when I felt it. It was only a split second, but it felt like a lifetime. A pain shot through my head so fast it felt like I had been hit by lightning.
“AARRGGHH!!!!” I grabbed my head and dropped to the floor in agony, pulling the rail with me. It made an almighty noise as metal met the floor, and Hannah ran towards me.
“Alison!! Are you OK? What the hell just happened!?” she crouched down beside me, panic strewn across her face.
“I have no idea, it’s gone now.” I slowly got up, embarrassed as people looked over whispering behind cupped hands. An overly made up assistant came over, clearly trying to hide her annoyance of the mess I made.
“Are you alright? Do you need any first aid at all?” she asked, clearly not interested in whether I was hurt or not; I gingerly shook my head.
“No thanks, I think I’ll be OK.” She walked off muttering under her breath about an early finish. Hannah didn’t take her eyes off me.
“Are you sure you’re OK? Did you want to get a drink or something?”
“I’ll be fine,” I lied. “Come on, let’s find you something to wear,” and I grabbed her arm and walked her out of the store. I didn’t dare tell her what I saw, not yet anyway. I didn’t know if it was even real at the time. I just wanted to get away from everyone looking at us, at me.
We stopped outside a vending machine as Hannah got out some change for a bottle of water. I leant against it with my eyes closed, rubbing my temples. She stared at me as if I was about to burst into flame.
“Please stop, I promise I’m fine. Do you want to find this outfit or not?” I could feel myself getting annoyed. I realised she noticed the change of tone in my voice after I said that as she quickly perked up.
“Yes, let’s do this!” and she strode off towards Hollister. I watched after her, regretting my tone, knowing she was just worried about me. But what I saw would have terrified her, as it did me. I passed it off as dehydration, and joined Hannah in her hunt.
The party was in full swing by the time I turned up. I saw Hannah across the room in her ‘get back at Zander’ outfit. I caught her eye, and she winked at me, tilting her head to get me to come over. I pulled at the skirt of my dress nervously, and made my way through the drunken crowd.
“It’s about time!” Hannah pulled me into a hug, swaying slightly. The dress she ended up choosing was so revealing she may as well had not bothered wearing anything. A little black backless number with the deepest plunge I think I had ever seen. Choosing to wear a push up bra, her breasts looked like they were about to abandon ship at any moment. Her platinum blonde hair neatly pinned back in a high-top bun, held in place with copious amounts of hairspray, her make-up flawless. I felt slightly embarrassed standing next to her in my deep blue skater dress, black converse all-stars and black cardi. But that was the great thing about Hannah; she didn’t care what you wore, as long as you made it to the event.
“Look,” she motioned over to the doorway to the kitchen. Zander was standing just outside the door, occasionally glancing over at Hannah with a deep longing. “I knew this was the right choice!” she grinned triumphantly. I smiled in his direction to make sure he knew we could see him. His eyes widened and he stepped into the kitchen out of sight; I laughed.
“So,” Hannah started.
“No! I told you no more blind dates!” I said. She chuckled.
“This isn’t a blind date! I promise, there’s just someone I want you to meet,” she smiled wickedly. She grabbed my hand and led me through to the living room. It was a large space, filled with deep red, plush sofas that you could sink into nicely. The fireplace looked inviting, even without being lit. Lavish photo frames sat on the mantel piece above it; faces of smiling children staring outward gradually turning into young adults.
A handful of people were standing in the corner drinking surreptitiously; it looked like they didn’t want to be disturbed. I tugged Hannah back, she turned round and I signalled back toward the door, hoping she would get the hint. She shook her head and dragged me forward.
“Ethan!” Hannah called out. Quite possibly the most beautiful human being I had ever laid eyes on turned around to answer her call. A guy who could easily have been 6”5 turned back to his friends, muttered something and began to walk towards us. “Ethan, this is my best friend Alison Willows; Alison, this is Ethan Storm,” she said impressively. And boy did she have it right. His strawberry blonde hair swept across his forehead, forcing him to brush it out of his astonishingly green eyes. They seemed to penetrate my very soul, sending a shiver down my spine. His every movement was so graceful as he walked toward us, it was as if he were floating. He stopped in front of me. Aware that my mouth was hanging slightly open, I quickly shut it and smiled holding out my hand. He smiled sweetly and shook it.
“It’s nice to meet you, Alison. Hannah has told me a lot of good things,” he said in a deep voice. I looked at Hannah and she gave me a sly smile; I knew she wouldn’t be able to resist.
“Really?” I asked. “Unfortunately she hasn’t told me anything about you.” I cut her a stare that I hoped signaled my annoyance for not giving me any warning; she shrugged angelically and swanned off toward the group of drinkers.
“Maybe we can change that,” Ethan smiled at me. I felt my stomach flutter at the sight of it, and tried to shake it off. “Would you like to grab a drink?” he asked, and motioned toward the table laden with alcohol.
“Sure, why not.” I grabbed a glass and scoured the table until I found the southern comfort. Filling it half way, I topped it up with lemonade.
“A girl who can handle her drink, I’m impressed,” he raised his glass to me. I smiled sheepishly and drank.
“So tell me,” I said, trying to sound casual. “What brings you to this neck of the woods? The free booze? The drunk girls?” He laughed.
“Actually this is my friend’s house; he invited me.” Realising I had no idea who lived here, I glanced around, hoping he would magically materialise in front of us and introduce himself.
“Oh yeah?” I asked casually. “Great guy, great guy.” He stared at me as I took a sip of my drink, looking back at him innocently.
“You have no idea who lives here, do you?” he asked, smirking. I looked at him feigning shock.
“Of course I do!” I lied. “It’s, you know...Tony’s house.” He looked at me again. “James’ house? Nick’s?”
“Try Blake’s house,” he laughed.
“Blake! That was my next guess,” I grinned. “The only reason I’m here is to keep an eye on Hannah. I would much rather be anywhere than here right now,” I said staring around.
“I’ll try not to take too much offense to that,” Ethan said as he sipped his drink. Idiot Alison! I thought.
“That’s not what I meant!” I started. He glanced at me.
“It’s OK,” he said, smiling. “I was just kidding. So what’s Hannah doing that needs supervision?” he asked, casting a look towards the group in the corner.
“Girl stuff; it’s a long story,” he raised his eyebrow at me. The crowd in the kitchen gave a loud cheer; evidently someone had just downed a dirty pint.
“So how do you know Hannah then? Unfortunately I wasn’t kidding when I said she hadn’t mentioned you,” I said apologetically. He looked a little surprised but I could tell he was trying not to let it show.
“We’ve bumped into each other a few times at a couple of parties. I’m surprised she hasn’t brought you to any of them before now,” he said. I was never much of a ‘party girl’, that was always Hannah’s area of expertise. I was happy to be in a coffee shop somewhere lost in a good book. Every now and then I would be dragged to one of these gatherings and, every time without fail, I would be set up with someone.
“You’ll like this one,” she would say. “He loved those films with Tom Hanks in.”
“What, Toy Story?” I would joke. She would just scowl at me and tell me to try and enjoy myself. I’d play along for the evening and tell her I wasn’t interested the next day. I never saw myself as one to be in a relationship; I’d always been a lone wolf, why stop now?
“I don’t do big crowds,” I explained. “Especially drunken teenage ones.” Ethan smiled. At that moment, the lights began to flicker. The music cut out, and the room went black. I looked round, searching for a source of light. I grabbed my bag and got my phone out. As I went to turn on the flashlight on it, a bolt of pain shot through my head like a bullet, causing me to collapse. People started panicking, pushing others to get out. I felt hands grip me under my arms and pull me up.
“Hannah....Hannah!!” I murmured, but no reply came. She’s fine, I thought. She’ll be outside; you’ll see her in a minute.
“What did you see?” Who said that? Was that to me? “What did you see, Willows?” urged the voice. I realised then it was Ethan speaking. At this point, we were outside. He propped me up against a tree, the streetlights spilling out across the road, apparently the lights were back on.
“Alison... Alison look at me.” He held my head up, getting me to focus on his face. “What did you see?” he asked. I stared at him in shock. How could he know?
“Death; I saw death.”
I woke the next day; my head felt like it had cracked in two. I sat up slowly, clutching my head in my hands. I heard the door to my room open and shut, footsteps made their way towards the bed.
“Take these, trust me, you’ll need them.” Ethan handed me paracetamol and a glass of water. I took them gratefully, and chugged them down. It took me a moment to realise that Ethan was actually in front of me, in my room, and I was partially clothed. I seized the blanket and yanked it up toward my chin. He laughed. “You don’t have to worry, Hannah saw you to bed,” he explained that I passed out soon after he got me out of the house party, and he drove us both home. Then it all came flooding back to me: the lights, the vision. The vision. I backed away to the edge of the bed glaring at Ethan. “Now, Alison, calm down. I’m only here to help you,” he said, making his way slowly to the bed.
“Who are you? How did you know?” I kept my eyes on him, still backing away. My eyes darted towards the door and back to Ethan. I had to try and get out, I had no idea who this guy was.
“Let me try and explain,” he started. I leapt out of the bed towards the door. Ethan grabbed me mid-air and threw me back onto the bed. He turned toward the door and leant against it. “For God’s sake Alison, I’m here to fucking help!” he shouted, punching the door.
“How the hell do I know that!?” I yelled. “How long have you known? Because I’ve only known for a day!” Confusion spread across his face.
“What do you mean, a day? This hasn’t happened before?” He looked genuinely lost.
“No,” I answered. I felt almost embarrassed, at what I had no idea. But he obviously thought I had kept this secret for a lot longer. He sat down on the edge of the bed, and put his head in his hands. I backed away again, but felt less cautious.
“Have you told anyone else about this?” he asked, still holding his head.
“What? No of course not. Who would believe me if I did?” He stood up, grabbed the chair from my desk and sat down opposite me. The way he stared at me made me feel nervous. It was like he was trying to read my mind. Finally, he broke eye contact and rifled through his jacket pocket, producing a number of screwed up bits of paper. I craned my neck to try and get a better look as he smoothed out the sheets, placing them on the bed in front of me. At first, I didn’t know what I was looking at. Then it all seemed to fit together.
“These are those missing people.” I said, reaching out to pick up the closest one. A woman in her late 20s smiled back at me, her brown hair cupping her face in a short bob. “That is Alyssa Monroe. She went missing 2 months ago,” Ethan said. “Authorities have been looking for her with no luck so far.” He grabbed it from me and handed me another photo, this one of a man in his mid 50s. Even in the black and white newspaper clipping, I could tell his eyes were bright and lively. “He disappeared about 4 months ago, no trace of him.” Ethan said.
“Why are you showing me these?” I asked, starting to feel worried.
“All of these people had the same ‘symptoms’ as you before they disappeared. They felt a sharp pain in their heads, had some visions and then disappeared.” Ethan explained. “We think you might be next.”
I stared at the pictures for what felt like an eternity. All those people had vanished into thin air. I still didn’t understand how Ethan found me; this had only happened to me twice now, but he made it sound like he had been watching me for some time.
“I still don’t understand how you knew about me,” I muttered. Ethan looked up at me from his seat. He opened his mouth, ready to tell me, then shut it.
“I’m not sure I’m the right person to tell you that,” he said. “You’ll find out soon enough.” With that, he pushed the chair back under the desk and made to leave. Stopping at the door, he glanced over his shoulder “get dressed, we need to leave soon.” He turned to look at me. “You can trust me, I promise,” and shut the door behind him.
What the fuck is happening? I looked around the room. This can’t be real, it’s all a dream, I’ll wake up in a minute. I pinched myself to see if it was real, and took a sharp breath as I felt the inevitable sting. Shit. I got out of bed and made my way over to the cupboard. Ethan’s words ricocheted around my head as I grabbed a pair of dark denim jeans. Missing for four months...police had no luck so far...same symptoms as you. Symptoms. If he thinks he can pass this off as some stupid disease he has another thing coming. I took out a plain white t-shirt and a black hoodie, and slipped on my trusty converse. I opened the door to the hallway and made my way towards the stairs. Just as I reached the top, I heard voices in the kitchen.
“What do you mean you didn’t tell her!? She needs to know!” It was a familiar female voice, but couldn’t quite make out who it was.
“No, she isn’t ready. It would send her into a panic, and that’s the last thing we need. Remember what happened with Thatcher? Do you really want that to happen again?” Ethan hissed.
“Thatcher was a liability and you know it! The only reason he disappeared was because he didn’t follow protocol,” she retorted.
“What makes you think Willows will?”
“Because I know her,” she replied. Great, I thought. Who the hell were these people? I crept down the stairs as quietly as I could, and craned my neck over the banister to try and get a good look at the woman. Her back was turned, facing the dining table. Her hair was a fiery red, and cascaded down her back like a waterfall of molten lava. Who the hell is that? How does she know me? I crept down a few more stairs, Ethan came into view and he was looking right at me.
“Alison!” he said, voice raised. That ended the conversation quickly. I forced a smile and walked into the kitchen.
“I don’t mean to sound rude,” I said, “but who the hell are you people?” I turned to face the woman. She looked so familiar but I couldn’t work out why. Her bright green eyes shone at me with a strange sense of admiration and love. It was odd to have such emotions come from a complete stranger.
“Alison, it’s been such a long time. Look at how you’ve grown.” She moved towards me and I instinctively took a step back. She stopped. “Alison, I mean you no harm. We’re here to help you, to protect you.”
“Yeah, that’s getting very repetitive,” I said. “I’ll ask again: who are you?” She glanced at Ethan, he nodded at her giving her the green light.
“Alison, I’m your aunt. Your dad’s sister. My name is Piper, Piper Willows.” I stared at her.
“No, that’s not possible. My dad doesn’t have any siblings; he’s an only child.” I stepped back again, hoping they didn’t notice my motives.
“I swear it’s true. You were only a baby when I got promoted. I had to give up everything I knew, even my family.” She edged towards me slowly, I could see her eyes beginning to mist over.
“Why didn’t they tell me about you? A picture? A home video with you in it?” My hand inched up the counter towards the knife block, my fingers curled around the handle of the butcher’s knife.
“I couldn’t risk it. If I ever got taken prisoner, they would find you all, and I couldn’t let that happen. I wouldn’t.” She shot a look at Ethan, and he made his way towards me.
“Get back!” I shouted, and swung the knife in front of me. He stopped with his hands up.
“Now, Alison, don’t be stupid. We’ve told you, we’re here to help.” Ethan risked a step towards me.
“Don’t! I swear I’ll use it!” I could feel the emotions building up in my chest: fear, anger, excitement. It was all so overwhelming, they wanted me to trust them but I have no idea who they are. And this woman comes in claiming she’s my long lost aunt who I’ve never heard of. All seems a bit far-fetched. And yet, I couldn’t help but feel I needed to go with them. As this was all swirling in my head, Piper rolled her eyes.
“We don’t have time for this.” She pointed what looked like a gun at me and pulled the trigger.
I woke up in darkness. Did I black out again? No, that bitch shot me with something. Must have been some sort of tranquilizer. I tried to push myself upright, and felt a sharp pain shoot up my left arm. I fell back, a small yelp escaped me. What the fuck!? It doesn’t feel broken, so I guess they must have been oh so gentle when moving me. Moving me where? I looked around the room, or wherever it was I found myself. There were no windows, just a small strip light that was so dim it might as well be turned off. A massive door stood at the end of the room. There was no handle on the inside; wherever I was, I wasn’t meant to get out. I made my way over, putting my ear against the cold metal. There was movement, an almost soundless shuffling just outside, maybe a guard? I listened closer. The guard’s breathing was deep, as if he were sleeping. Wakey wakey! I thought, and slammed my good hand against the metal.
“Shit!” came from the other side. It sounded as if he fell off his chair; I would have laughed had the situation been different.
“Let me out!!” I shouted, trying not to let the fear through. I heard metal scrape against the floor as the guard, I imagine, repositioned his chair.
“No can do, little lady”, came a strong Texan accent. “Under orders to keep you here until further notice.” He sniffed deeply, bringing up what I could only imagine to be an obscene amount of phlegm and spat it out. I retched at the sound, feeling the build-up of saliva in my mouth. Gathering myself, I banged on the door again.
“I want to talk to Piper. Piper or Ethan!” I shouted. I heard him settle back into the chair.
“They ain’t here right now, but I’ll be sure to let them know you’re lookin’ for them,” he chuckled to himself. I imagined him pulling a cowboy hat down over his eyes as he fell back to sleep, which annoyed me even more. I thumped on the door, but there was no answer this time. Brilliant, I thought. I slumped against the door and slid down to the floor. How’re you getting out of this then? I said to myself. I glanced around the room, the dim light casting long shadows into the corners. For the first time since everything happened, I felt absolutely terrified. How did I get sucked into all this? I don’t even know what’s going on. I wished I’d never had those visions. I don’t even know why this was all happening. I felt warm tears splash onto my cradled arm, the contact making my hair stand on end. Only a few days ago I was at a house party being chatted up by the most gorgeous person I’d ever seen, and now I’m sat in a locked room as what can only be described as his prisoner.
I wiped the tears away with the sleeve of my hoodie and took a deep breath. The only positive I could take away from this was that Piper, even though she shot me, is family. Family I’d never heard of or had any contact with, but still family. It was then that I realised; my parents must be worried sick! I have to get out, I have to find them. I got up and started banging on the door again.
“Hey!!” I shouted. No response. I hit the door with everything I had. “Hey, dipshit!!”
“Listen, ain’t nobody lettin’ you outta here unless the big dogs say so. So I suggest you shut that pretty mouth up before I come in there and do it for you,” growled the voice.
“That won’t be necessary, Clay,” came Ethan’s voice. A number of footsteps followed his voice down the hall, maybe two or three people with him. Clay cleared his throat.
“Sir I was trying to keep the subject calm, she was drawing attention,” he stammered.
“Drawing attention? To whom? We’re the only ones in here,” Ethan laughed. “Open the door.”
“Sir.” A jingling of keys came from the other side, and within a few seconds, the door was opened. I was instantly blinded by sunlight bouncing off snow. I turned back into the room rubbing my eyes.
“Jesus Christ! Warning would have been nice!” I yelled. As my eyes focused, I saw the outline of possibly the most enormous person I had ever seen. He was wearing an all-black commando outfit with what I guessed was a rifle slung across his back. A huge scar snaked down from his right ear and disappeared into his beard. Ethan stood behind him with a warm smile on his face; the complete opposite to this towering goliath stood in front of me. His eyes were cold, no smile formed on this man’s menacing face.
“Clay, I presume,” I said, instantly regretting calling him a dipshit through the door. He grunted at me in a way of confirmation, and turned to face Ethan.
“That will be all, thank you.” Clay was dismissed. He saluted, cut me a look that said until next time, and stalked off down the hall. I stared after him, and heard Ethan chuckle. “You’ve made quite an impression on our friend there,” he stated. I glared at him. He started walking in the same direction as Clay, turning back to face me he asked “coming?” and turned back towards the hall.
I stood staring at the view out of the window: we were completely surrounded by snow-capped mountains, the clouds drifting lazily above and, to my surprise, I realised next to us. We must have been quite high up, I thought, and jogged down the hall to catch up with Ethan. He was flanked by three other men in the same outfit as Clay, each carrying their own rifle.
“Where are we? Why did you bring me here?” I demanded as I caught up with the group. Ethan turned to look at me with a raised eyebrow.
“Unfortunately, I can’t tell you our location, its classified info. But I can tell you that we brought you here to protect you.” We came to a huge door with what looked like a fingerprint machine. Ethan placed his hand in, a blue light scanning for verification. A small door opened on the wall above the scanner, and an even smaller keypad shot out of it. While Ethan keyed in the passcode, I wondered what would be on the other side of the door. What would need to be protected this much, to be hidden away in mountains and still need passcodes to enter? The keypad made a small beeping noise, indicating the passcode was correct, and disappeared back behind its small door. There was a loud hissing noise as the door began releasing its locks, and it pulled away into the wall to reveal a huge oval room. Plush purple armchairs surrounded a circular table in the centre, sheets of paper and photographs scattered all over the table. Potted plants dotted the room. I turned to see more photographs stuck on the wall, some of them of people I had seen in the photos Ethan showed me a few days ago. It was like they were stalking them, some looked as if they had really zoomed in, some looked as if they were taken from behind buildings and bushes. There were others of people I had never seen before, then I saw someone I recognised.
“But…that’s me.” I said, walking towards the photos. I stood, open mouthed, as I saw the amount they had; some with me and my parents, some on my own on the phone or just walking. There was even one of me with Hannah on the bus on our way to school, and it was recent. “What the fuck!?” I ripped them off the wall, screwing them into a ball. I swung round to face Ethan as Piper walked through the same door we came through, and she wasn’t alone.
“Mum? Dad? What the hell are you doing here? What are they doing here!?” I shouted. Piper glanced at them, wondering how to attack the situation. Dad was the first to talk.
“Piper brought us, said she was keeping you safe until everything is put back to normal.” He walked towards me, I backed away slowly.
“So it’s true. She is your sister? Why didn’t you tell me? After all these years!” I felt tears prick the back of my eyes. Don’t do it, not now I thought. “And what do you mean ‘put back to normal’? What the fuck is going on here?”
“Now, Ali, calm down. We’re here to-”
“To help, everyone is here to help. Well help me to understand what the fuck is going on!!” I yelled at them.
“Alison, that is enough.” It was mum who spoke this time. She was always the more authoritative parent, Dad would let me get away with murder most times. She gestured towards the chairs. “Sit down, and we’ll discuss this properly. No more secrets, no more lies.” She walked over, pulled out a chair and sat down; everyone followed suit except me. Mum looked at me with her best no nonsense face, and gestured to the chair again. I walked over slowly, pulled it out and sat on the edge, just in case.
“When you were young, you would tell us about these dreams you had,” Mum started. She began twisting her wedding ring slowly around her finger, she was getting nervous. “They were more nightmares really, they were truly horrific. You’d describe all these awful scenes of people dying, the sun being blocked out by a big red cloud. And these shadows. Shadows that took people away and never brought them back.” She looked at Piper and dad, they both nodded at her to go on. Mum didn’t look at me, just gazed at the floor as she recounted my childhood. “You would wake up screaming, covered in sweat. This happened every night for about 3 months.”
“What? Why? How? How do I not remember this?” I interrupted, but mum just put her hand up to stop me and carried on.
“We tried taking you to a therapist to see if it would help. Maybe if you talked about them it would stop. But it just made the nightmares worse, it was like they were getting clearer, more vivid for you. That was when we turned to Piper.” She finally looked up, I could see tears welling up in her bright blue eyes; they traced their way down her face as she turned to pass the baton on to Piper.
“Your parents described to me the nightmares you were having, and I instantly recognised them. I came over as soon as I could.” She smiled sympathetically at my parents, who were clutching each other’s hands in support.
“Wait. So this has happened before?” I was so confused. I didn’t remember anything they were telling me. Piper nodded.
“You were very young, only four or five at the time. It’s not your fault you don’t remember, I had a big part in that. It was to protect you, you must understand.” She said quickly as she saw my reaction. I could feel the anger bubbling just below the surface. All the lies, all the hiding. I composed myself as best I could, and nodded curtly to continue the story. “I came over and I asked you to tell me about your dreams, your visions. You said to me that you weren’t allowed to tell me. ‘The shadows will come and get me’ you said. So I asked you to draw something from your vision for me.” Piper pulled out rolls of paper held together with an elastic band and handed them over to me. “This is what you drew.”
I slowly took off the band and unrolled the drawings. There, on paper, were the visions I had. A blood red sky cast the world I had drawn into darkness, clouds even darker still were viciously carved into the paper. Black silhouettes dragging people into an abyss, never to be seen again, while body parts lay scattered across the floor. I gasped and dropped the papers. Ethan rose instantly and gathered them, rolling them back up and securing the band once more. I stared at Piper.
“How can I not remember this?” I whispered, tears blurring my vision. Dad silently moved over to the chair next to me and laid his hand over mine, grasping it tightly.
“I had to make you forget, I had to protect you. You were my family.” She corrected herself. “You are my family.” I closed my eyes, and the tears fell like waterfalls. Mum ran over and embraced me.
“It’s ok, darling. It’s ok.” She stroked my hair while dad gripped my hand supportively. I pulled away, wiping my eyes with my already tear-stained sleeve. I breathed deeply to compose myself again and opened my eyes to see Piper discreetly wiping away her own tears.
“How did you do it? How did you make me forget?” I croaked. Piper cleared her throat before answering.
“It was a mixture of things, hypnosis seemed to work best for you. I’m not surprised. The brain is a marvellous thing, after all.” She smiled at me affectionately. Mum sat up on the other side of me next to Ethan, holding on to my other hand.
“So all of this, all of these visions, have been locked away somewhere in my mind? Why are they suddenly coming back now?” I asked. I looked around the table. Piper and Ethan exchanged glances, and Piper gave him the slightest of nods. He leaned forward in his chair, interlaced his fingers and rested his arms on his knees.
“The shadows you saw in your visions, in your nightmares. We believe they are real, and they are getting stronger.” I took in their expressions. I would have laughed if they didn’t all look deadly serious.
“Well, that’s ridiculous. I mean they were just dreams, a kid’s bad dreams.” I think I was trying to convince myself more than them. They all swapped concerned looks and Ethan spoke again.
“Alison, do you remember the photos of those people I showed you before? The ones of those who went missing? I said to you they had the visions too, remember? These visions were no dreams.” He paused as he unravelled the drawing again. “Each of those people described this, exactly this. It’s a glimpse into our future if we don’t act now.” He rolled it back up and sat back. The room was silent.
This is insane, I thought. How could this possibly be happening? I don’t even think I understand fully what it is that is happening. I got up from the chair, mum and dad releasing me from their grip. I walked around the back of the chair and gripped the arms. I stared at Piper, dragged my gaze over to Ethan, then back to Piper.
“So, if you’re here to protect me, who are you?” I asked. They looked at each other. “You must be working for a company, or an organisation, something to do with the government no doubt. Who are you? Who do you work for?” Ethan went to speak, but Piper took the lead.
“We’re a private organisation, mostly military based as I imagine you already worked out from Clay and the other sentries you’ve seen. I can’t tell you the name of the organisation, it’s classified,” she gave me sheepish smile. “But I can tell you we’re the Alpha team leading the operation, nobody but the best on my team, so you’re safe here.” She made to leave. “Make yourselves at home, there are rooms down the hall, bathrooms as well. Dinner will be served in the mess hall at six. I’d make sure you’re on time too, Clay eats like a horse.”
Mum and dad got up and pulled me into a hug. I breathed in their scents (dad stale cigarettes and soap, mum coffee and perfume) and gave them a reassuring smile. They followed Piper to the door and disappeared down the hall. Ethan stood up and smiled at me.
“So, shall I show you your room?”