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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4. NIgthmares

I want to get a better look at her – it’s definitely a girl because I see a flash of pink t-shirt – but I don’t dare open the door any further in case I give myself away. So I stay hidden, trying to work out what she’s doing. I watch silently while she pulls out my suitcase and carefully searches through the clothes, so not as to unfold them.

  As she pushes the case back under the bed, she turns to sit on the bed, angling herself towards me. I gasp, and then instinctively slap my hand across my mouth, wanting to take back the sound, but it’s too late. Yasmin’s head shoots towards the bathroom door, and I quickly retreat into the bathroom, even though there’s no way she can see my through the miniscule gap I’d created. I back into the sink. I grasp onto the basin for support. Yasmin is in my room. She’s going through my stuff. And she just realised I was spying on her. I look around frantically, even though I have no idea what I’m looking for. A teleport device? Time-machine? They’d be helpful, but not easy to come by in a small bathroom. My gaze falls onto the taps on the sink and I get an idea. I turn on the taps full blast, and I start to hum tunelessly. If I can’t hide the fact I’m here, then I have to make it look like I hadn’t seen a thing. I grab my tooth brush, and start brushing loudly, hopefully loud enough for Yasmin to hear.

  I don’t know why I’m so desperate to hide the fact I was spying. What I really want to do is confront her; what is she doing here? Why is she searching through my clothes? What is she – jealous of my dress sense? She seems so nice, but... But what? I don’t even know. I only know that the second I saw the telltale black hair, fear shot through me. Not fear of being caught, or what she’d do if she knew I was spying, but it was fear of her. Fear of why Yasmin was here. I know that something isn’t right. However nice she is, the moment I saw her face, I knew that she meant trouble. I can’t put a finger on what it is. But it’s there; a change in how I see her.

  I feel a sharp pain in my gums, making me wince. I realise I’ve been brushing my teeth with such force that they’ve started to bleed. I spit out the toothpaste in my mouth and quickly look away at the sight of the blood. I’ve not liked blood since Megan. I gurgle water, deliberately loudly so Yasmin will hear, then wipe my mouth with a fresh towel. I look up at my reflection in the mirror, I look scared. Don’t be stupid, I tell myself, why should I be scared? It’s only Yasmin. I force a smile onto my face, trying to make myself look as natural as possible, as if I’d just stepped out of the shower. It might have worked if my eyes hadn’t given my away. Damned blue.

  I take a breath and walk out of the bathroom. I spot Yasmin immediately, sitting up with a straight back on my bed, eyeing the bathroom door, waiting for me to emerge. When I see I her I plaster a fake look of surprise on my face. “Yasmin? What are you doing here?”

  She narrows her eyes for a millisecond and I can tell my acting isn’t all it’s cut out to be. Then she smiles, but not the beaming smile I’m already used to seeing, but small and knowing. “Chloe told me you were upset, so I thought I’d check on you.” Thought you’d snoop through my things more like. Her words suggest she was worried about me, but her expression stays calculating, looking me over.

  “Er, okay. I’m fine thanks, I just needed a shower.”

  She nods like she understands, but she doesn’t say anything else. I stand there awkwardly, hovering in the middle of the room, unsure of what to do. Yasmin isn’t acting anything like she normally does. What’s wrong with her? I sit down on Chloe’s bed, facing her, determined not to show her I suspect anything. I start rubbing my hair dry with the towel in my head. My hair a shade darker than Yasmin’s; Megan used to tell me that it was like snow white’s hair.

  Suddenly Yasmin stands up, breaking my out of my thoughts. “Oh, I thought I’d tell you that you’re doing the high ropes course tomorrow morning. With Tyler and Finn’s group again.”

  I freeze. My grip on the towel loosens and it falls out of my grasp and onto the floor. No, not the high ropes. Not already. No. I’m not ready, I can’t do it yet. I look up at Yasmin. I find her watching me with a smug look, like she knew her words would have this effect on me. My breathing hikes; No, she can’t know. No-body here knows... right? I don’t know anymore, but the glint in her dark eyes tells me that she knows. Yasmin and I stare at each other; me with fear in my eyes, but hers declared victory. No, no, no...

  The door bursts open and in storms Chloe. As if snapping out of a trance, Yasmin snaps her head to the door, and beams; the smile I thought was the only one she had. She skips over to Chloe’s side. “Hey Chloe!” Even I can tell her voice is far too cheerful, but Chloe doesn’t pick up on it.

  “Hey Yasmin. What you doing?”

  “Oh, I was just telling Lauren that you’re doing the high ropes tomorrow.”

  Chloe moans, closing her eyes dramatically, “You know I hate heights.”

  Yasmin laughs, “Aw, don’t worry. And anyway,” She giggles and nudges Chloe with her elbow, “you’re with Finn’s group again.”

  Chloe’s eyes flash open and she grins, “Yey!” She throws her arms around Yasmin’s neck, “You’re the best Yaz!”

  Yasmin rolls her eyes, “I know right.” Then she pulls away. “I better go, bye Chloe. Lauren.” She smiles briefly at me, before skipping from the room.

  I sit in shock. What happened? I groan internally; how many times am I going to ask myself that today? Yasmin changed in the blink of an eye. I’m starting to believe I imagined her in here just a few minutes ago. It doesn’t seem possible that both Yasmin’s are the same person, they’re so different. That girl can act alright. She should get an Oscar.

  I snap myself out of whatever trance I was in when Chloe throws me a quizzical look. I pick up my towel and start drying my hair again, “What did Finn say?”

  Chloe laughs, “Straight to the point aren’t you?”

  “Yep.” I say, popping the ‘p’. I feel falsely cheerful, but without Yasmin’s off-putting behaviour, it’s easier to act happier than I feel.

  “Well, Flynn said that Tyler was in a really bad mood before, he just ignored him, storming into the bathroom. He was in there for ages apparently. Flynn was moaning about not getting his shower and-”

  “Chloe.”

  “Oh, right yeah. Tyler. Sorry, I got distracted.” She giggles, I laugh too, but it sounds hollow. “He came out of the bathroom after a bit and was all moody, but he apologised and just walked out. Finn doesn’t know where he went.”

  “Oh.” I don’t know what to think. There’s too much going round my head. I’d almost forgotten how annoyed I am at Tyler. A sharp pain shoots through my head. Oh no. I feel one of those migraines coming on. I sink down onto my bed and bury my head in my pillow.

  Chloe giggles, “You’re that upset about Tyler?”

  “No.” I say, but it’s muffled by the pillow. “I’ve got a migraine.”

  “Huh?”

  I lift my face out of the pillow and repeat myself, “Migraine.”

  “Oh, okay. Are you coming to dinner?”

  Do I want to go and sit opposite Tyler while he either ignores me, or tells me to get lost, listen to Chloe’s flirting and get death glares from Tori from across the room? “No.” I mumble.

  She shrugs, “Okay, I’ll bring you something back.”

  “Thanks Chloe.” I say, dropping my head back into my pillow.

  “S’okay.” She replies and I hear her leave the room, closing the door loudly behind her. I wince. “Sorreee!” She calls through the door.

  My head pounds; I reach up and rub a spot at the back of my head. Always the same place. I’ve looked up the symptoms of migraines enough times to know that I haven’t got a migraine. But I just get this horrible, throbbing pain on my skull – same place every time – and there’s nothing I can do to get rid of it. Painkillers, Paracetamol, cough drops; I have tried everything I can find, but none of it makes a difference. I’m getting them more and more often. Sometimes they’re so bad I can’t face school. It worries Mum and Dad, but I just can’t face the noise.

  I bury my face further into my pillow, but the pain stays unwavering at the back of my head, occasionally throwing daggers into my skull. I resist the urge to cry, bunching my fists into my duvet. Eventually, after what feels like days, but can only have been half an hour, the pain lessens slightly, enough to send my into a fitful sleep.

 

*

 

A scream rings out behind me, I freeze; it’s a familiar scream. No, no, it can’t be - I turn quickly on my heel.

  Behind me is the platform, built around a tree, high off the ground. The ropes keeping us in place hanging from a wire above us. In front of me a harness hangs limply, where just two minutes ago, she had been.

  I gasp, choking in horror, and run the short distance across the wooden platform, I hear the people behind me, unfreeze and a voice calls me back, but I take no notice. I drop to my knees and lean as far out as I dare.

  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.

  I was 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…!”

  Her body lies beneath me, broken, twisted out at odd angles. She falls silent, but I scream enough for the both of us. I cry my name over and over again. No, this can’t be happening. It must be a nightmare, she can’t die, not Megan. Her blond hair spreads out around her, her blue eyes, usually laughing, were wide and lifeless. I can see them as if I am right next to her, but I’m still too far away to see help her. I scream. No, no, no. “MEGAN! HOLD ON!” Tears stream down my face, uncontrollable. They should make everything seem blurry, but somehow they make everything seem crystal clear. I spot someone near Megan’s body down below. Tori kneels next to the body and I hear a laugh echo up through the trees. I realise the woods has fallen silent. The wind is still. The birds are quiet.

  Slowly Tori stands up, sneering up at me. She snakes her arm around the waist of the boy next to her. I force my eyes away from Tori and look at the boy. Tyler. I wince at the sight of them together. No, he’s mine. That should be me. Tori can’t have him.

  But she does have him. He’s there with her and not next to me. “I told you he was mine.” Her voice calls up to me.

  I look into Tyler’s eyes, my expression begging him to deny it. He just shakes his head at me angrily.

  Suddenly images flash before my eyes: peoples faces, like mug shots; endless documents, words spilling over the pages, they look blurry and out of focus; detailed lines make up a blue print, but I can’t make out what the picture is; images of people leaning over me; a bomb blast, the shock rippling through my body; fire swallowing me up, eating everything around me.

  I blink with teary eyes and find myself back in the forest, clutching the wood of the platform. I can barely breathe, as if I'm still in the burning room, smoke filling my lungs. Tyler stands far below me, but when he speaks I feel like I'm standing right next to him, chocolate eyes drilling into mine. “You should have left Lauren. I told you to leave.”

  What was he saying? That it’s... it’s... it’s my fault? A loud cry echoes around the clearing. I recognise it as my own, but I feel distant from my body.

  Yes. It was my fault. I should have caught her. It’s my fault.

  I turn around to look behind me. The crowd of people behind me look disapprovingly down at me. All of the faces are familiar. Some of them are old school friends, some of the from this years camp, some from previous ones. Other faces are older. People from the flashes of images, the ones that were leaning over me are wearing doctors’ coats. I see my parents hanging back, shaking their heads in disappointment. Near the very front are Megan’s parents; her mother crying uncontrollably and her father shouting things at me, but I can’t hear any of them. I reach out a hand to them, tears trickling down my cheeks. I hurt them. I took away their daughter.

  But at the very front of the crowd a  boy stands, and I instantly recognise him as a younger version of Tyler. He glares at me with an expression of obvious hatred on his face. “You killed Megan.”

  Suddenly, all the voices behind him joined in.

  “It was you-”

  “Why did you do it-”

  “That was my daughter-”

  “She’s dead-”

  “You can’t save her-”

  I clap my hands over my ears and squeeze my eyes shut. “I know, I know!”

  “Lauren.” Yasmin appears in front of me as my eyes flash open at my name. Her expression is lethal, venom dripping off every word. “You’re next Lauren. You’re next.”

  She reaches out a hand and places it right over my heart. I can’t move. “It’s over Lauren.” And then she pushes me.

  I tip over the edge of the platform. The harness is gone and I'm free falling through the air...

 

*

 

“Lauren! Lauren wake up!”

Instantly my eyes flash open. The first thing I register is Chloe’s wide eyes, looking down at me; they look scared. As soon as she sees my eyes open, she pulls pack, putting a hand to here heart. “Oh my god, you scared the hell out of me. Never do that again.”

I sit up, pushing my tangled mane out of my face. My breathing is hap hazardous and I feel tears still pouring down my cheeks. It’s never been like that before. Never. I’ve had the same nightmare, over and over again, but every time I woke up when Megan hit the ground. What was happening to me? It must be coming back here. It brings back too many memories, contorts them, gives me nightmares. I shiver at the thought. I can’t let them get to me.

I look around and lean back into my bed when I see it’s just my room. I take a few deep breaths and eventually my breathing slows and the tears slow until they stop altogether. Just a dream, just a dream. I try to calm myself, but every time I think back to the dream I feel my heart lurch and tears threaten to spill again. I prop myself up on one elbow and look at Chloe, sitting at the end of the bed in a rumpled over-sized t-shirt, she sits there, studying me quietly, which is unusually for her. Finally she breaks the silence. “Nightmare?”

I nod. “I’m so sorry, did I-”

“Nah, it’s okay, I wasn’t asleep anyways.” She tries to smile. “God, you’re such hard to wake up.”

I try to smile, but as soon as the corners of my mouth lift up, they fall again. I sigh. “Sorry.”

“S’okay. Just scared me, that’s all. I thought it was one of the boys playing a trick.”

I don’t know what to say, so I stay quiet.

“I better get to bed, I’m knackered.”

All I can manage is an, “Okay.”

She gets into bed and turns off her bedside light which I realise is what’s lighting the room. We’re plunged into darkness. “Sweet dreams.”

I shiver. “You too.”

Then I am left alone in the darkness with just my thoughts for company. Even if Chloe is only a two metres away, it may as well be miles, I feel so trapped.

  I can’t let myself fall asleep. I force my eyes to stay open, refusing to let them that me back into the nightmare filled sleep.

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