I approached carefully, trying to not let my excitement get the better of me. A familiar face was all I needed to spur me on. I shook the dream from my head and walked up the steps. Little circles had formed in the wood of the stairs where I had bled. Taking a deep breath. I knocked on the door. There was no answer not even a stir.
“Tiger?” I called out. “Vespa, Noah. It's Cassie. Are you there?” I said. Nothing. In the sky above a crack of thunder sent the house into a shudder. Rain as cold as blades sliced through the leaves and attacked the forest. Lightening hit a tree near by and an almighty crack sounded through the air. I pulled the door open and sprinted into the house. A foul smell wafted through the wooden structure. I held my hand against my nose. As I walked around my foot hit something small on the floor. I bent to pick up the ball of crumpled paper, without opening it I knew what it was the letter we had written from Tiger all those days ago. Back then I had been a completely different person and that scared me. I unfurled it and sure enough my messy writing littered the page. I wondered why he had screwed it up. Had we hurt him by leaving.
“Hello?” I called out, hearing a sound. Cautiously I moved to the bathroom, where the sound had come from. I mumbled a message of bravery to myself and kicked the door open. An owl flew at me and with a scream and banged the door shut. My heart practically hummed as I held the door shut, trying to calm myself down. Why was the owl even in there? I knew something wasn't right, the crumpled up note, the smell and the animal room mate. I moved the Tiger's room and opened the slowly. Nothing stirred. I moved over to the bedside table and looked at the cup. The top was covered in a mold like scum, putting my hand to the side of the cup I realized it was freezing. It was the tea we had bought him. The notebook was left on the side a jagged line where our note had been. I sank onto the bed and held my head in my hands. My weight caused the mattress to go down a little and something had sunk hitting my back. I got up my eyes wide. Slowly I moved the sheet away from the bed.
I jumped back from the bed, hitting my head on the floor. An animal like sound escaped my mouth. I crawled back to the side of the wall unable to move any further or even process what I had seen. His mouth open, his body stiff and a bloody wound in the middle of his forehead. I covered my eyes in my hands and tried to slow my breaths. I got up slowly, my vision spinning. I fell to the side and emptied my stomach in the corner of the room. It was acidic and scarce of food. I wiped away the mix of sweat and tears from my face. Tiger was dead. His body left where nobody could find it. The world had just carried on without him. Everything seemed wrong, I hadn’t even felt his passing. The worse was knowing that he had been killed not long after we had left. It was our fault he was dead. Choking back tears I moved to put the cover back of his body. His eyes stared blankly at the ceiling, I pulled the sheet over his face and collapsed. The first person in ten years of imprisonment to show us a kindness. I punched at the floor. We had killed him, Lillian and Flynn had been shot all because of us. We were a curse. Perhaps that was why we had been locked up because we brought misery and death where ever we went. I screamed into the silent air. The owl moved around in the bathroom.
The front door creaked open and footsteps sounded through the first part of the house. I froze my hand over my mouth to be quiet. The footsteps were heavy, they couldn't have been Noah's or Vespa's.
“Cassie?” Called a voice, my name stretched and taunting. Spencer. My body tensed as he moved around the house. He would be in the bedroom at any moment. Silently I crawled under the bed, my heart drumming against my rib cage. It to was frightened and it acted as though it wanted to break from my chest and run away too. I forced myself to keep my breaths quiet and even. His shadow lingered by the door as he walked into the bathroom. He stumbled back seeing the angry owl and cursed loudly. He stood in the doorway of the bedroom. His eyes searching. His gun glinted in his hand. He moved out of my vision. I closed my eyes and hoped he would find me. The time I spent under the bed felt like an eternity. I could hear his footsteps travel across the room. He looked in the wardrobe and slammed it shut. I flinched every time something loud sounded. He jumped on the bed and I bit my lip hard in an effort not to scream and give away my hiding position. He was sitting on the bed next to a dead man. Spencer was mad. He moved off the bed quickly and walked to the bed side cabinet. His feet were inches from my face. They remained still for quite sometime. A smash echoed through the room and the tea from Tiger's cup spilled on the floor. A squeak slipped from my mouth. Spencer laughed.
“Cassie.” He said looking under the bed. I backed away from him slowly. He grabbed my arm and yanked me out from under the bed.
“Get off.” I shouted. He slipped his hand round my waist and dragged me through the house. I convulsed under his touch, trying to get away. His grip was that of a snakes, strong and unbreakable. I screeched at the top of my lungs. He pushed my body towards the door. I kicked my legs against the wall and pushed the two of us back. For a second Spencer's grip weakened and I broke free. In the rush my limbs took control. My body moved quickly, kneeing him in the groin and when he bent in pain. I kicked him in the side of the head. He dropped with a groan. Seizing my chance I grabbed his gun and ran. In a panic I sprinted through the trees, tripping over roots and rocks. A twig scratched at my face and blood trickled down my cheek. I wanted to scream for Noah and Vespa but Spencer's presence lingered on me. I was worried that if they were still alive I would lead him to them. I could here him not far behind me.
“Cassie.” He screamed. I darted through the trees changing direction as often as I could to shake him off. My feet bleed and every step was painful. I didn't care though I had to escape. I wouldn’t let him take me back there, I would sooner die.
My legs had been scratched beyond recognition, every breath I took let out a ragged wheeze. My running had dwindled to a confused walk. Images of dead bodies and bullet wounds replaced my vision. My body was giving up. I couldn’t walk or run any further. The gun kept slipping from my grip and I ended up using it as a walking stick. Spencer was no where to be seen and I counted myself lucky. I was sure that a day had to of passed. I stopped by a tree and climbed into its alluring branches, seeking the comfort of them. I buried myself in the wood, pulling my body in around me. I wanted to go on. I wanted to know that they were safe. My stomach grumbled but Tiger's body had been burned into my vision stopping me from wanting food of any sort. My head pounded. The silence was too loud for me to comprehend. Everything seemed to push on my skull, it buckled under the weight and I closed my eyes tired of living in fear of death.
“Alice.” Said a sweet voice. I looked up from my doll into my mother's eyes.
“Mummy. I missed you.” I squealed, wrapping my arms around her waist. I hadn't seen her face in what felt like forever. My mum was an actress a very popular one and she was always away filming.
“Oh me too. Come on, me, you and daddy or going to the beach.” She held out her hand to me and I took it, laughing with delight, I loved the beach.
“Cassie!” I shook awake, nearly falling from the tree. I looked down to find Noah and Vespa staring at me, as dirty and beaten as I felt. They stared back, Vespa with tears in her eyes. I jumped from the tree and landed in their eyes, instantly bursting into tears.
“I thought you were dead.” I cried.
“Nearly.” Said Vespa laughing through the tears.
“Why did you run into the woods that's the most stupid thing...” I couldn't finish tears of relief flooded my eyes and I could barely think let alone think.
“Spencer wasn't alone.” Said Noah, touching my cheek were it had been cut. I wiped my eyes and hugged them. “They killed Tiger.” I breathed, sending myself into another bout of tears.
“They killed him, he was shot. I found his body in his room, they got him before he'd even got up that morning. And Spencer found me in the house and I thought I was going to have to go back there. I thought you were dead. And I kept dreaming that they were killing all of you.”
Noah smiled sadly and brushed my tears away. “We've got to keep moving, otherwise they'll track us down.” I nodded and we began walking through the forest. I clung to each of them not wanting to let them go again. Vespa looked at my feet.
“Trust you to not be wearing any shoes.” She sighed. I managed a giggle but began coughing violently again. A bent double dry heaving. Vespa patted my back.
“Ssh, it's ok.” Noah said, keeping my hair out my face. Once again I was the baby of the group but I didn't mind, I was just relieved to see them by me. My breaths slowed and we began walking again.
Vespa lent against a tree, pulling off her shoes, her feet bloody and blistered. She winced painfully.
“Come on V we have to keep going.” Said Noah, taking her arm. She pulled away.
“I can't.” She moaned.
“I'll carry you.” Said Noah, eagerly obviously wanting for us to keep moving.
“We've lost them Noah, we can rest for a bit.”
Noah sighed. “No, if we keep going we can get out of here quickly.”
“Noah. I can't.” Vespa said angrily shooting Noah a nasty look. I gazed at the two of them.
“Vespa would you stop being so difficult being out here endangers all of us.”
It's funny how fragile we are as humans. How life can be ripped away with objects smaller than a finger nail. Freddie once said that loads of people would say YOLO, the abbreviation of you only live once. The phrase in its abbreviated form in really stupid but the saying is true. There is no do over in life, we get one chance and so long as time machines don't exist we can only go one way. I couldn't help but feel that if I had taken the chance of leaving then none of this would've happened. They wouldn't be gone.
I stared at Noah, I stared at Vespa. Her face crumbled as she stared at Noah. She dropped to the floor, her screams caught in her throat. Noah put his hand to his chest, in the exact place the bullet had gone through Vespa's heart. I ran to her side, grasping her hand.
“Noah, do something.” I wailed, unable to comprehend losing her. Noah didn't move. She trembled in my arms. Her eyes blinking quickly, she smiled at me. “Don't cry.” She murmured stroking my cheek.
“You can't die.” I breathed, trying not to cry under her instruction. Even though my world was falling apart. “Your t-shirt says 'Cool Kids Can't Die'” I said, trying to be lighthearted.
“It doesn't mean literally stupid.” He mused.
“Noah.” I called. He wouldn't move he was transfixed, his hand on his chest, his eyes unseeing. Vespa groaned.
“Cassie.” She murmured.”
“Yeah.” I said, giving her my full attention.
“The Darlington pileup.” She murmured her eyes closing slightly.
I shook her slightly and her eyes opened a little. “What?” I said confused.
“The Darlington pileup.” She mumbled a small smile on her face. I put my hands on each side of her face. “Wake up.” I shouted.
“Ssh. Don't forget me ok.” She mused, closing her eyes. A second past, the silence deafening. I touched her cheek softly, she didn't stir. I turned to Noah.
“She's gone.” I shouted, getting up and moving to him. “and you did nothing.” I screamed pounding my fists into his chest.
“Stop it.” She roared grabbing my wrists. “This is you're fault we wanted to leave and you said it would be safe. If we'd have left then she wouldn't be gone.” I pulled away from his grasp, tears rolling down my cheeks.
“It's my fault.” I stuttered, hurt beyond repair. Did he think I didn't know that. But I didn't know that my actions would turn to this. He hadn't even said goodbye to her.”
“I'm sorry.” He murmured, walking off.
“Where are you going?” I demanded.
“To find the asshole that killed her.”
“What.” I screamed, moving so I was in front of him. “Are you crazy, they'll kill you too.”
“Whats the point in being alive when she isn't.”he muttered sidestepping me.
“Noah you cant leave me.” I said grabbing his arm.
“Watch me.” He pushed me off of him and stormed off leaving me completely alone in the woods. I screamed after him over and over. I looked at Vespa's body and moved away, wiping away my tears. Everything inside me hurt. It was as though my heart had been scratched as much as my legs. My legs trembled beneath me and I fell. I knelt into the leaves begging for comfort I knew wouldn't be returned.
Footsteps greeted me and I turned to see Spencer standing not to far from me. “Alice.” I furrowed my brow unaware whether it was a dream or real. “Am I dreaming.” I murmured.
“No.” Said Spencer moving closer.
I got up on my shaking legs. “Then why are you calling me Alice, Hatter.” I laughed. It clicked into place. “That's my real name isn't it, that was my name before I was admitted to the hospital.” I tossed Vespa's words over in my head. I blinked, my eyes widening. “You stole us from the Darlington pile-up.” I murmured. Spencer approached.
“You killed my best friend.” I said slowly.
Spencer walked closer, I stepped back. “You killed my best friend.” I repeated. Without thinking I lept at him, punching, kicking. Doing anything I could to hurt him. I grabbed my wrists and stared me right in the eye.
“How could I? You took my gun.” He whispered. I tried to hit him again but he stopped me. Tears ran down my eyes and I collapsed into him. “She's dead.” I screaming, crying uncontrollably.
“Ssh, it's ok.” He murmured.
“It's all my fault.” I wailed.
“No it's not.”
I looked at him. “You're right. It's your fault.” I said my voice growing louder.
I yanked my wrists from him. “Get off of me.”
“Alice. Calm down.”
“Get off of me. Get off, get off, get off.” I shrieked, kicking at him. I scuttled across the forest floor, throwing sticks and rocks at him in an attempt to be left alone.
“Leave me alone.”
Spencer crouched on the ground and picked up a rock.
“What are you doing?” I whispered. Spencer eyed me carefully, rolling the rock in his hand over and over. He jumped down on my and tried to hit me with the stone. I screamed turning my head out of his way.
“I'm sorry.” he said softly, clutching my throat and pinning me to the ground. He held the rock up ready to hit.
“How could you.” I spat. “How could you know my parents, let them take me away and go to my funeral saying how sorry you were for them. To comfort them over their lost daughter. To tell them their daughter had gone to a better place. The better place that had me looked up in a single room for years. The better place that made me think I was crazy and that I'd killed my parents. The better place that made me suffer for the last ten years.” His face transformed before me, his eyes went glassy.
“Let me go back to them.” I begged.
Spencer's face went back to normal, he let out a crass laugh. “They think you're dead, are you really going to turn up on their doorstep.”
“There are conspiracy theories.” I argued, he sighed loudly, before picking up the rock and hitting my temple hard. My vision blurred, I blinked slowly. He hit again, and again and again until I could no longer stay awake. In my stupor I felt him pick up limp body as if it were no more than a tenuous flower.