I stare at the bare walls of my room listening to the ticking of my clock. For the past week these nightmares have begun to digest though my entire body making sleep miserably unbearable. But why did these nightmares have to begin now? I clench my fists and sadly remind myself that the exams I once thought that nothing could go wrong with, I was about to fail tomorrow. It's not like I can miraculously regain my energy from not sleeping for an entire week.
Slowly I prop myself up and make a silent note that if I have 10 hours extra to spare then I may as well be useful. Shuffling through the draws in my bedside table, I unveil a sketchbook. I open it with my chewed fingernails. I try to be gentle because it is the only object of my mother that survived the fire.
I sigh deeply and stroke the soft leather binding while tracing the letters which had smudged long ago: Layla White. Inside are many drawings first of my mothers and now of mine. Slowly I open the book onto a clean page and begin with a pencil, sketching the first thing in my mind. It begins as a dark figure in a blood red cloak then a face smirking at me with arched eyebrows and proud eyes. I scream silently. The dark silhouette is the very thing that haunts me every night.
Quickly, I thrust the pencil and sketchbook onto the floorboards, scared that the figure might leave its paper and join me in this world. I tell myself to calm down because it is only a paper and is not real, but the words do not reassure my startled mind. I breathe deeply in and out. Scanning myself, I see I am wearing an enormous t-shirt (that once belonged to my mother) and a pair of black leggings.
A cold breeze bites at my bare skin through the draught in the window making me shiver uncontrollably. Or maybe I shivered because of the fact that everything was strangely quiet. Too quiet.
I drag the door open and expect myself to be greeted by the lobby of my house. I remind myself that since the fire last month in which my mother perished I have been living with my aunt. To be fair I never knew that dad (who had died years ago) had a sister but I guess mum never told me because of well her. My aunt is a good for nothing person who has no idea how to look after a phone let alone a 13 year old girl.
My feet begin to drag myself into her room sensing something is wrong. I am greeted by mountains of clothes, open wardrobes and most importantly no-one in bed. Heart racing, I run over to the sheets to clarify what I have just seen. I am right. No-one.
Starting to panic, I tell myself to think rationally- where my irresponsible aunt would go at this time of the night. In the furthest corner of my eye I notice a green note attached to the bed frame. I open it and scan something in scruffy writing: Gone to the shops heard they have a sale on today will be back about 12.
Anger starts to fill me and brings energy to my otherwise shrivelled up heart. Next thing I know I have a coat on my body and scarf around my neck. I am running down the dark streets letting out all my anger that had been seething inside me for so long. I run with all my strength through the winter night sky past towering streetlights and the quiet bedrooms of sleeping children.
No person in their right minds would be out in such cold weather. No-one but me. Snow begins to pirouette down to the ground covering the whole world in a pure white sheet. It is almost as if everything, is starting afresh by being washed by the delicate pureness of it. The snow begins to be getting heavier now, swirling down in great flurries. In the late night of November naked trees are dotted against the horizon groaning from the burden of innocent snow on their branches, whispering to each other about secrets never to be told. The sigh of the wind catches my scarf and begins to tickle my bare neck. I should feel cold but it feels to me that I was meant for the frozen world of November nights. The cold is not affecting me rather its making my heart feel warmer, so I throw my coat off my body and embrace the silent frost that surrounds me.
Suddenly I stop and realize I have arrived. I look around and take in the magnificent scene. It is a vast forest and something that I never knew about but was so close to home. Something rather familiar. I look at the trees around me, savour the earthy smell of beginnings and endings and listen to the crackling of my footsteps.
My mind goes into overdrive. I know there is something that I am forgetting, something about these trees and something about the glistening snow. Oh. Fear begins to invade my veins and control my heart. I stifle a sob. This is the very place were the man in the red cloak finds me every time. This is my nightmare.
Something brushes over my shoulder. I gulp. Twisting my body around in a quick move, I let out a sigh of relief. I begin to stare at this little girl (maybe 5?) who is looking at me with these wide blue eyes and deep sense of anxiety that shouldn't really be inside a person who is so young. While her eyes attracts my attention so does her clothes. She is wearing a red velvet frock that probably used to look beautiful but now is torn with claw marks and draped in a layer of mud. The girl’s hair is a stunning shade between white and blonde almost unnatural put up in a messy pony-tail and skin a pale white. Her eyes touch the chords of my heart and plead for help. My thoughts begin to wander and before I know I am imagining what terrifying creature could have done this to such a vulnerable girl.
She looks at me again with wide eyes and whimpers quietly. I know I should say something but I never have been a people person. In school ever since the fire everyone seemed so irritating and I began to spend most school days staying silent where I could. Eventually everyone started to stay away from me so I just stayed away from them. I decided that my pencil and paper were better then people in school. I settle with silence.
The little girl sniffs and stammers, “Forest ... my brother he needs help.”
I look at those persuasive eyes and say without a second thought, “Where is he?”
Suddenly I realize that I shouldn't be doing this, I shouldn't even be in this forest in the peak of night but I don't care. I don’t care if I’m not doing what I should be doing because it seems to me this is worth bending the rules.
Starting to walk with the girl, I realize we are going deeper into this frozen forest. My nightmare returns to me but I shake all of its memories from my head and focus on helping this girl. The nightmares aren't real. Again my reassurances have no affect on me because somewhere inside I just no they aren't a play my mind has put on for me but real.True.
I watch three elegant white birds take flight. A soft feather strokes across my cheek. It looks unnaturally perfect and pure just like all the other things about this forest. Gently, I place it into my palm and return to listening to the crunch of the snow and admiring the view of nature at its best.
Suddenly I have a boost of confidence and I ask, “My name is Layla, what is yours?”
She turns round her distressed face. I shift uncomfortably at the fact that she is examining me with her wide blue eyes probably thinking if it was wise to give your name to someone you found on the street. Finally she says, “I’m Sky.”
Somehow immediately I turn towards the sky and see that dawn is approaching. What will your poor auntie say when she sees you have disappeared, says a little voice inside my head. But I still have enough anger that had been crammed inside me to replace this voice with fury at everything that had happened. It was her fault.
I truly don’t know what I am expecting to find – maybe a little boy stuck up a tree? I am wrong. This isn't a little boy but rather a ‘big’ boy (my age?) with the same unnatural shade of white hair and pale skin as his sister. He wears a belt across his shirt full of glowing swords and an oak bow behind his back. He has olive green eyes that aren't as wide and innocent as Sky’s but beautiful in his own way.Everyone is silent. I see him snap a fiery glare at his sister. I feel uncomfortable and pretend to be interested in a towering tree above me.
“Forest what’s wrong?” asks Sky. I looked at his olive eyes and see they suit the name Forest.
“What’s wrong?” mocks Forest his cheeks growing redder, “She is a human. How did she get here? You brought her didn't you? For god’s sake Sky not only is she no help, it’s against the law to do that.”
“No she’s one of us I can feel it,” replies Sky with cheeks flushing a deep crimson, “anyway it's not like I brought her here. Actually I found her in the forest walking around.”
I make a start in the opposite direction not wanting to be part of this crazy sibling fight. Something tells me to look behind one last time before I leave. I gulp. This is not a dream it is a nightmare.
Behind Forest stands ... something. It rises into nothing but darkness. It casts no shadow, no light and no noise. As silent as the grave. It hovers over Forest who remains uniformed of the situation. I try to scream a warning but nothing comes out. I try to move my legs but I am in shock. I am too late. As quick as a cheetah it pounces. Forest throws his sword in my direction and Sky takes his bow. I stare at Forest who is now slumped on the ground, blood seeping out onto the white snow.
My fingers brush against the metal as glints underneath the sunlight. I hold it in my hand as if it is a normal thing a 13 year old should be doing. The black cloak sees me and starts to approach. I try to stop the fear controlling my heart and rid my mind of clouds for a clear day. Tightening my grip I slash the sword out into the monster. It feels as if I hit thin air but the thing disappears and leaves no trace but a bleeding Forest of its doings. I killed it.