Nowhere

She is hanging below me, clinging to a loose rope. I reach out. She’s too far away. She is too afraid to let go, and I am too afraid to lean out any further.
She’s helpless.
The rope creaked ominously. I look up instinctively, and in that second I see the rope snap high above us. My head snaps down in an instant. Just quick enough to see her fall.
I hear my own screams mixed in with hers.
“Megan…!”
***

Lauren's friend, Megan, died five years ago and Lauren has never really gottten over it. Finally she decides that it's time for her to face her fears. She goes back to the place Megan died, hoping to find it in herslef to move on. What she doesn't bargin on is what she discovers about her death. What really happened? And what has it got to do with Lauren? All the while she finds herself falling for boy she'd have ben better off running far away from...

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17. Ashes

  The next morning, Luna drags me out of bed at some ungodly hour. When I asked why the hell she was getting me up so early, she replied, “We’re going to have some girl time.” I leave a note for Tyler, knowing he’d be worried about me when he got up and follow Luna out of the apartment to her bright blue mini, which I already adore.

  She takes me to a huge shopping complex she claims is the largest in the country. It wouldn’t be hard to believe. We’re in and out of endless shops, some of them main street, some of them dainty little shops with the cutest jewellery that we fawn over.

  I haven’t got any money for clothes, but Luna insists she buys me some clothes, which very reluctantly, I agree to, but on the condition that I can pick out my own clothes. Whereas Luna goes straight to the quirkiest pieces, I stick to jeans and t-shirts. My confidence is so low, I don’t think I could pull anything else off, but I do help Luna look for shirts and whatever else she wants.

  The trip is obviously mean to take my mind off the wait for the file, and it succeeds and for a few hours. I laugh with Luna and wonder wistfully if this is what it would be like to have a big sister. If it is, then I hate being an only child. She’s like the sister I never had.

  We get sandwiches from a supermarket and take them down to a park for lunch. Right in the heart of the park, you can barely hear the traffic, and, although I can’t breathe the same fresh air, I feel vaguely like I’m back in the countryside. Luna and I just talk about meaningless things, but it’s a relief to feel almost normal.

  Laden with bags, mostly Luna’s, we arrive back at her apartment. Tyler looks up when he sees us coming in, smiling, then he returns to his book. Luna rolls her eyes at me and shows me to a room I haven’t been in yet – her bedroom. The walls are painted a light mint green with brightly patterned curtains and duvet covers. It’s not much larger that the bedroom Tyler and I are sharing, but it seems double the size because of the huge mirrored wardrobe covering one wall, reflecting the furniture and the view out of the window opposite.

  “Just dump your bags in the corner,” Luna motions vaguely to one side of the room, so I put my few bags next to the many of hers.

  She falls backwards, spread-eagled on her bed, sighing contentedly, “I really need a girl around more often.”

  I laugh lightly, making my way to examine the contents of the shelves over the headboard. “Whoa, are they all yours?” I point to a shelf with rows upon rows of ever colour nail varnish ever invented. “What did you do, buy the shop?”

  Luna sits up, laughing, to look at the multicoloured jars. “Yeah, I don’t know if you can tell, but Kind of like nail varnish.”

  “No kidding.”

  “Which one’s your favourite?”

  I take a minute to look through all of the colours, picking out a particular shade of blue. “Winter Blues,” I dictate from the label.

  “It matches your eyes,” Luna remarks, taking the tiny bottle off me and unscrewing the lid. Looking at the colour, I know she’s probably right. It’s an icy, cold blue – like me.

  We spend another hour in her room while she paints my nails in that blue, and then she paints her own a deep red which reminds me too much of blood; I look away, trying not to think about my own blood staining Alicia’s white covers the same red. Instead, Luna lets me look through an old, ornately carved box, which only contains a fraction of her jewellery.

  I empty the contents of the jewellery box onto the duvet, letting the beads and chains slide through my fingers. Luna, for once empty of her usual adornments, pauses mid brush stroke to look up at me and then back down at her hand. I pick through necklaces with beads, pendants similar to the one still around my neck, and chains with odd charms like a multicoloured parrot and an owl. There are big rings with dark jewels imbedded in the gold and some that only come up to the middle of my finger. A few cover more than one finger and most of them are so heavy I can’t imagine how she wears them. There aren’t quiet so many bracelets – most of them are on a stand on the dresser. A few woven friendship bracelets are scattered in the metal, but I pause when I come to a single thin, golden bangle. I slip it onto my wrist, examining it. On one side words are carved delicately into the gold and I have to angle the bangle towards the light to read see it properly.

  I realise that it’s actually just one word written in an elegant script; ‘nowhere’.

  My eyebrows furrow as I stare at the word. “Nowhere...” I don’t even realise I’ve spoken aloud until Luna looks up, smiling at the bangle. “Why would you have ‘Nowhere’ written on a bracelet?”

  For a second Luna just tilts her head to the side, considering me. Then she answers, “I think it depends on how you look at it.”

  I turn my head to face her, “What do you mean?” Her smile is infuriatingly smug, like she knows something about it that I don’t. “What?”

  She shakes her head. “You see what you want to see.” She sees my infuriated expression and adds, “You’ll figure it out. Keep the bracelet until you do.”

  I narrow my eyes, first at Luna, then at the writing, but however long I stare at it, I’m unable to draw anymore meaning from it.

  Eventually I just give up, piling the jewellery back into the box, but keeping the bangle.

  Lounging on the bed, I question Luna. “So, you’re a spy, right?”

  She laughs, finishing her last nail, “I was wondering when you were going to mention that. Everyone always does.”

  “Sorry,”

  “No, its fine, I can never tell anyone anyway.”

  My face drops in disappointment, “Oh right, no, I guess you can’t say anything.”

  “I didn’t mean you!” she smiles, blowing on her finger tips. “Lauren, you are already shit deep in this; I really don’t think it matters if I tell you any more.”

  I don’t know whether to feel comforted by that or not.

  “So what do you do then?”

  “I’m mostly doing field work, but it’s not that exciting,” She warns before I can say anything, “Believe me, it’s not all glamorous, actually, I don’t think it’s ever glamorous. It’s mostly observation work.”

  “Observing what?”

  She shrugs, “I could be anything; maybe following someone they need information on, or checking out somewhere a raid is going to take place, that sort of thing. I’ll go incognito; a reporter, a student, someone applying for a job, a taxi driver, a cleaner – I’ve done it all.”

  “Cool.”

  “It sounds better than it really is; it can get boring sometimes.” She pauses while I think that over; nothing is perfect, I realised that a long time ago, this is just another example. “Don’t get me wrong though, I do love my job.” I nod. “I’m just glad I don’t live on base.”

  “What do you mean?”

  “Just outside the city, there’s a big compound that looks just like any other area of London with offices and apartment blocks, only all of the buildings are part of the government; research labs, offices and housing for people that work there. It’s like a whole community.”

  I raise an eyebrow; it doesn’t sound that bad, if not like a glorified version of school. “So why are you glad you don’t live there?”

  Luna motions to her dresser across the room. “Get me my laptop and I’ll show you the pictures.”

  I comply and while she logs on, Luna explains, “See, it’s all very well, but you just don’t feel as if you’re normal. I want to mix with the people, go shopping, eat out, and see the sights, not live with government computer hackers and trained hit men.” Wanting to be normal – now that I can relate to.

  With one hand still waving through the air, the other one taps across the screen until she brings up a picture of, what looks like, just another part of London; skyscrapers, flats, expensive apartment buildings, huge shops and all.

  My eyes flick back to Luna’s face, “You mean that’s the compound?”

  “Yup, it doesn’t look like anything much, does it? There are roadblocks around the area so people can’t get in normally. Most people don’t think much of it, and those that do, well,” She shrugs, “There’s not much they can do.”

  I nod my understanding, and look back at the picture, concentrating on each other buildings to spot anything different about them. Luna’s right though, from thing, no one would ever suspect anything is different, even car parks look full, and I can see the corner of the police station. Then I see a blackened area on the picture – a patch of ground where there’s nothing but what looks like ashes. It looks out of place amongst the gleaming glass buildings.

  “Luna?”

  “Lu,” She corrects, “Yes?”

  “Look,” I point to the black dot. “What’s that there?”

  Turning the laptop towards her, she squints at the screen, before realisation comes to her face. “Oh, that’s where they had a fire years ago, before I joined – they still haven’t cleared the site.” I continue to stare at it, unable to tear my eyes from it. After a pause, Luna continues, “It was a science lab I think. Quite a big building, top secret of course, most of them are, but no one ever knew what went on in there – rumour had it that they were experimenting with babies, but I never believed that – why would the government want to experiment with babies?”

  A chill sweeps down my spine as she talks. What monsters would experiment with babies? Who would let there baby be experimented on? What would they ever be doing to them?

  Luna sees the expression on my face and adds, “Like I said, it was only a rumour, and everything was destroyed when it was burnt down, so whatever it was, they’re not doing it anymore.”

  To my surprise, I find myself whispering. “What happened to the people in the building?”

  Pause. Then, in a strained voice, “I- Well, it was terrible actually; not one person survived. It was one of the worst disasters they’ve ever had. Something like forty people died.”

  Again; a shiver. “What happened?”

  “Arson, they think.”

  My eyes widen, flashing from the picture on the screen to Luna and back again. “Who would kill all those people deliberately? Why would anyone do that?”

 Luna shrugs faintly. “People will go to great lengths to keep something a secret.”

 

*

 

  I sit bolt upright in bed, clutching at the duvet, my eyes wide and my breath coming in shallow gasps.

  I blink rapidly a few times before I realise that I’m still next to Tyler, who’s stirring feebly next to me, but he doesn’t wake.

  As I reply the scene in my head, my breathing hikes yet again and I scrunch my eyes in a useless attempt to block out the images.

  It wasn’t the same nightmare this time, which only adds to the fear mounting inside me. I never have any dreams apart from that same one – why this new one? Yet somehow, it all seemed so familiar, even though I can never remember it happening.

  The fire was all around me; one minute I was fine, the next the heat engulfed me and flames flew over my head and eat everything around me to ash. I’m not sure where I was or what exactly the flames were attacking, but all I could do was panic. I was struggling, but I couldn’t move, and the fire just kept becoming more intense, the screams of others surround me –

  No.

  I throw the duvet off me, welcoming the cool air on my skin compared to the heat of my dream. So as not to wake Tyler, I creep out of the room and go to stand by the huge window I always fin myself staring out of.

  I’ve never experienced a fire, so why was I suddenly dreaming about one now? Nothing could have-

  And then it clicks - the fire at the science lab. I pad across the wooden floor with bare feet until I reach a side table, gently lit by the moonlight. On it sits a print out of the photo of the ashes of the building.

  I don’t know why I insisted Luna print it out, but for some reason, it stuck in my brain. It wouldn’t leave, just like an unwanted guest in my own mind.

  Again I examine the picture and the familiarity of the dream.

  My brain, working remarkably slowly, finally picks out a memory from before – a memory of another dream I had only a week ago.

  I saw the same brief snapshot of flames and heard the screams, but only for a second before they dissolved into other pictures, but it was there. And that, I remind myself, was before Luna told me about the fire.

  So what? I dreamt about a fire twice, heard about a real life one, and all of a sudden, I have to panic about it? It was just a dream... a co-incidence.

  But why don’t I believe my own words?

  I don’t know how long it takes for the sun to rise, but I’m there, watching it, arguing with myself over the stupid dream. I hoped that with daylight, I would see that everything was fine, and my doubts would disappear with the dark, but they stay, branded into my head.

  Luna emerges from her room sometime later. “You’re up early.”

  For a second I don’t say anything, just continue to stare, but then I ask a question tugging at me and it just will not disappear until I’ve found out the answer, “When was the fire?”

  “When?” Luna looks surprised, “You’re still thinking about that?”

  When I don’t respond, I hear Luna sigh. “Let me think, I saw the date yesterday... it was the 12th September 1995.”

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