The sun is hot up above my head as I step into the meadow and glance around. For once, there is no Watchers in sight and I’m free to be myself. I relax a little and take a deep breath in. I close my eyes and let the wind gently tug playfully at my clothes and hair, rocking me into a quiet peace.
Out here in the meadows, I’m free to be myself. I don’t have to be brave or quiet or stick to the shadows, I can just step out into the meadow and be able to make as much noise as I can without being told off or Caleb scowling me for drawing attention to myself. Out here, I can be free.
I can’t help but listen to the gentle humming of the honey bees as they float around the meadow, pollinating the beautiful, white Daisies around me. I can sense the flowers swaying in the breeze and brushing along my leg every time the wind gets too strong for them to keep their own heads up but I don’t mind it. In fact, I love it. It shows me that I’m not alone in this strange Meadow. It shows me that I’m not the only person who falls down at times and needs help getting back up; I’m not the only one who needs help.
Finally, I open my eyes again and take in the Meadow with sight instead of hearing and feeling. With my eyes open, I can see the flowers happily swaying like I thought and the Honey bees floating around, taking their time to pollinate the pretty flowers.
The birds sing in the nearby trees and a baby bunny hops behind a blackberry bush. I grin at it and turn round to face the rest of the Meadow. I’m about to continue forwards without worrying when my eyes rest on something in the middle of the meadow. I can’t breathe as I spot someone standing there, staring out into the forest in front of us, arm outstretched, bare back facing me.
I breathe in sharply as I take in the young boy. He’s probably older than me but I can’t tell because he isn’t facing me. His back is tanned and rippled with muscles but that isn’t what I’m staring at. My eyes are caught on the tattoo on his back …
A Raven with big, beautiful black feathers take flight on his back, the tip of the wings brushing the boys shoulder blades, his feet made to look like it’s resting on the back of his trousers. The bird is … is … it’s breathe taking … but kind of scary. With so much detail, it looks like it’s just going to rip out of his skin and swoop at me. I flinch but I’m not intimidated by it.
I step forwards, interested in this strangers tattoo. The bird looks like it’s staring at me, its beak slightly open like it’s trying to talk to me. I step closer … and closer … and closer …
I’m so close that if I just reach out, I can run my fingers over the Raven. If I just reach out, I will be able to feel the soft, black feathers of the Raven. If I reach out, I will be able to stop the Raven from looking at me like I’m food.
It’s too tempting. I reach out to touch the bird, slow and nervous.
My finger doesn’t even brush against the boys back before a sudden screech comes from out right. I stumble back as the boys head snaps towards it but it’s too quick. The bird swoops at me and I scream as its feet connect with my face. I hit the floor only to sit up and scramble backwards. My cheek stings and when I raise a hand to it, I feel the warm, watery feeling of blood. I feel sick.
The boy turns and then stares at me. His face is blank but his eyes are angered. I hold back a sob as the Raven hops backwards and cocks its head at me, looking like it would easily throw himself back at me and rip off the rest of my face. I swallow hard.
“I’m … I’m so sorry …” I whisper but the boy glares harder. Suddenly, he lifts an arm. I wince and turn my head, waiting to feel the force of his hand against my face but nothing happens. I look up slowly and watch as the bird flies up gracefully and onto the boys arm. They both glare at me and I find myself slowly standing up. Then something snaps inside of me.
I stand up straighter, suddenly furious. They can’t make me feel intimidated. They can’t be angry at me. This is my dream! This is my place! How dare they attack me in my own dream?
“Who do you think you are letting that beast run wild? He could have killed me!” I yell. The boys eyes look surprised for a few seconds before they cloud over with a blank expression.
“Unfortunately he didn’t.” The boy snarls. I’m taken aback by this remark and stare, surprised. I narrow my eyes suddenly.
“Excuse me?” I step closer to him, warning him with my eyes not to try anything. “This is my dream. My dream! So why don’t you and your little freak show over here go and ruin someone else’s dream, got it? Because I don’t like it when you come and ruin what started out to be a really good dream and then send that mad creature on me!” He looks angry, suddenly.
“My bird is not a mad creature.” He whispers but I narrow my eyes.
“I don’t think the bird is the mad one.” We stand there glaring for a few seconds before he finally stands back, expressionless again.
“Fine.” He finally spits. “Fine. You won’t see us again.” Won’t see us again? What does that mean? They’re only a figment of my imagination! Of course I won’t see them again!
He turns and walks away but I’m still steaming, wanting to say something that will really hurt this part of my mind. I want to say something … Anything.
“Good! Leave! I never want to see you again you … you … you jerk!” Jerk? That’s the best I can do? I scowl myself as he disappears into the other side of the forest, laughing at my feeble attempt to make him feel small.
I stand there, watching him, fists clenched, trying not to let the anger explode inside of me, face bright red, before I finally turn and storm through the daisies and back to the forest. I want to wake up now. I don’t want to keep dreaming. I don’t like this dream.
Just as I reach the end of the Meadow, there is a yell for help and then the sound of fighting. I freeze, one foot out of the daisies and on the soft bed of pinecones, the other still hovering over squished flowers. I can’t breathe as I hear Raven Boy fighting and then there is a loud grunt. I turn round just as a Watcher pulls him onto his knees and forces him to look at him. I watch, unable to move as the Raven Boy struggles.
“Say goodbye … Demon.” Then he shoots. I gasp loudly as the tattooed boy hits the ground. I can’t do anything. I’m paralyzed to the spot as the Watcher chuckles evilly and blows on the end of his gun. He slots it back into his belt and steps back, admiring what he’s done. I can’t breathe. Can’t help. Can’t see anything but stars. That’s when I realise something cold is pressed against the back of my neck. There is another chuckle, this one rougher and more entertained.
“Hands up.” He commands. My eyes stay on the Raven Boy as the other Watcher looks up confused and then, grins. I raise my hands slowly and he digs the gun further into my neck. I wince.
“Two in the same spot? That’s a first …” His smirk makes my blood turn cold. I hold my breath as the Watcher takes three long strides towards me and then stops. He lifts the gun and grins. My eyes are still stuck on the Raven Boy as his hand suddenly twitches. I don’t say anything as he looks up slowly and looks straight at me.
Don’t. Say. A. Word. I jump. The Watcher’s grip on the gun tightens.
“Don’t make any sudden movements or I’ll shoot!”
I heard his voice … I … I heard his voice … In my head … I heard his … In my … In ... In my head? What the hell?
I don’t know how I keep the calm expression on my face even as I hear the bullet slipping into the gun behind me. I hold my breath as the Watcher grins.
“Say goodbye you useless piece of-“ The boy jumps to his feet and lunges at the Watcher with the gun. My instincts kick into action and I turn in seconds. I lift my arm up and elbow the Watcher behind me hard in the face. He stumbles, lowering the gun and blindly trying to stay on his feet. I step closer and grab his wrist with the gun. I twist it away from my body and towards his chest. My finger slides over his and before I know what I’m doing, I jam it down on the trigger, hard. The gun echoes through my mind as it connects with his body. I stare into his eyes, watching as they go wide and then fade, quickly. My chest is tight as they start to mist over. They’re still wide by the time another gunshot goes off but I know it isn’t Raven Boy who was shot. It was the other Watcher.
The man in front of me slumps onto the ground and I stare at him, watching as his blood turns the Daisies red. The knot in my stomach tightens as I bend down and pry his fingers off the gun. I lift it up and stand up again. I turn round, slowly and stare at Raven boy. He has a small smirk on his lips, an eyebrow raised as I look back down at the gun and then at him. I have the sudden urge to shoot him and run but I don’t. I stay put, slipping the gun into my trouser pocket.
“I honestly didn’t think you’d do it.” He admits sheepishly. “I thought you’d wimp out and I’d have to come and save you.” I hear the cruel laugh escape my lips but it doesn’t feel like I’m saying it.
“Wow. Thanks.” I snap sarcastically. “Good to know you have faith in me, stranger.” He grins and holds out his hand.
“Jack.” He says and I nod.
“Louise.” I take his hand. It’s strong. Firm. Trustworthy.
He looks into my eyes for a few seconds before he nods and releases my grip. I pull my hand away quickly and jam it into my hoodies’ pocket. Through the thin material, I feel the gun’s cool surface brush against my fingers, reminding me of the life I just took. I shiver inside but outside, I just stand there and bite my lip, awkwardly. Finally, he looks down at the Watcher’s dead bodies and back at me.
“We’ll see you around then, yeah?” He asks and I nod.
“Yeah.” I mumble. “See you.” He grins and then he lifts his arm up again. The Raven flies down and perches on his arm, quickly. I’m stunned inside as I suddenly realise the Raven has been watching this whole time. Why didn’t the bird help us? Why didn’t he attack when his owner was being attacked? Why did he just watch?
But all I do is nod at the boy as he steps back and then grins at me.
“See you, Small.” He says and then he vanishes. Just like that. No smoke, no sound effects; just. Like. That.
I wince and then turn back to the Daisies. They’re slowly turning red from the blood battle so I do the only thing I want to do; I run back into the forest to wake up and tell Caleb everything that just happened.