There was a dark figure standing at Lukas' feet when I woke up from another nightmare in the very early hours of the morning. The night-time sky was a blanket obscuring my vision but the snow white glow of the moon illuminated the spacious room in an unearthly glow.
I lifted my head slowly, only a few centimeters off of my rucksack which I had been using as a pillow and craned my neck to peer at the figure.
Female. Slightly over five feet tall. Childlike build. Long pale hair. Dirty skin. Simple black clothing. Although she wasn't facing me, I sensed that her eyes would be as black and her lips would be red like the setting sun. She was one of them.
In his sleep, Lukas began to stir uncomfortably and one section from Corey's page on the demons crept into my brain.
These demons possess human life while the Life in asleep or in a form of unconsciousness. They will wait beside the Life, weaving into the unconscious mind.
Cautiously, I reached beneath my head to grasp my stone heavy rucksack in one hand and began shuffling silently into a sitting position before raising myself gradually to my feet. She didn't appear to notice, unless she was waiting for the perfect moment to attack. Step by step, I eased myself across the hole-covered floor until I was standing about a meter behind me. I was about to take another step forward but the unthinkable happened.
The floorboard creaked.
Her head whipped round, lips pulled back to reveal her pointed teeth positioned in a deadly snarl. I grabbed a fistful of her long hair in one hand, twisting it for a decent grip, and slammed the rucksack across her face. Hard.
A little harder next time, Laure, a voice taunted. If it was a human, I could imagine it sitting on the sofa, rubbing its hands together in glee with a menacing grin.
As she fell to the floor, I kept hold of her hair, using it to smash her head onto the floor while she hissed and writhed, attempting to claw me with her sharp fingernails. A flailing leg caught a blow to my stomach but my grip tightened, slamming my fist down one final time before her body became still and she stopped struggling.
Although I would like to deny it, she wasn't the first person that I had murdered.
“Lukas? Lukas! Please wake up!”
I had been knelt on the floor beside the sofa he was on, his body unmoving apart from the unnoticeable rise and fall of his chest, clad with his filthy orange t-shirt. His feathery hair fell back off of his forehead for what seemed like the first time in forever and onto the arm of the sofa.
My voice cracked and I felt tears leak down my cheeks, probably leaving trails of flesh in the layer of dust which coated my face. That was the moment when I realized I could have been too late. She had got to him, the she whose dead body I had dragged out onto the platform outside an hour earlier.
I sat on the floor with my back against the sofa, Lukas' limp hand cradled in mine, miserable tears failing to stop. The sun was coming up. I remembered laying in my bed at the hospital to see Lukas waking up early each morning and standing on the frame of his own bed to catch a glimpse of the sun rising through our tiny window. He once told me that watching dawn arrive was peaceful. It reminded him of home. I knew he had never missed a sunrise since he came to the hospital, except the one where I saw the demon man...
“Lukas? The sun is coming up now,” I started hesitantly, feeling as if I was speaking to an empty room. Turning my head, a seized the image of the sun rising over the lake captured in my mind as I began to describe the scene.
“It's rising from the other side of the lake so it looks like a shattered mirror, the light filling in the gaps between the broken glass. It's so bright it hurts your eyes to look at but it's beautiful all the same. We didn't notice yesterday but the lake is huge, stretching out in all directions. You can see little glimpses of blues and pinks in the sky, melting away the black. All the colors are pale and pastel and blended together, like when you put paint into clear water...”
My voice trailed off as I realized how stupid I sounded. Sat on the floor in a derelict building, a dead body outside and a clasping the hand of possibly another one.
“Lukas,” I mumbled one final time, feeling exhausted from a surge of emotions. “Wake up. I need you.”
I was alone when I awoke around midday, sun beaming through the broken window and slicing across my arms with swords of light. My stomach screamed to be fed as I rolled over sleepily on the uncomfortable surface.
He was gone. After a quick check, so was the body of the dead girl.
At that moment, I didn't cry. I didn't scream. I simply walked across the room, stood in front of a cracked mirror which had been revealed in the sunlight and felt as if all emotions had been drained from my body. Was I being strong? No. Was I being brave? No. I was completely empty, a shell of a human being.
Looking in the mirror, my appearance didn't seem to match up to my age of fourteen years old. My body was stick thin, no curves and completely flat chested, like the figure of a young boy. With round gray eyes, a small nose, pointed chin and pouted lips, I had a baby face framed by naturally dark waves, almost brushing my narrow shoulders now. My paper white skin was dirty and cut and my small hands and feet with slender fingers and toes were equally grubby.
I knew I wasn't ugly, but I wasn't the prettiest person in the world. I was the type of person which anyone might glance over but generally ignore since I considered my appearance to be average.
I stood for a while in front of the mirror, absorbing my appearance since I wouldn't see it for a while, noting the changes between now and the last time I was 'safe' at the hospital. Back then, every girl had her hair cut so it was between her shoulders and chin. Our clothes were neat and uncreased and skin was spotless. We were fed well and there was a little more meat on my birdlike frame.
Laure, turn around.
I froze, refusing to allow my body to move. The voices only came when I was in danger, or when they were sick of me trying to be normal. Since the hospital experience, where they first told me to run and not look at the man before telling me I was going to die, I decided to trust my instinct. I stayed facing the mirror, the reflective shards giving me a view of the room behind me.
Turn around, Laure.
I didn't turn.
I didn't see it coming.
A hand clamped over my mouth and pushed me face first onto the floor, keeping me trapped beneath their body. Ragged, gasping breaths (clearly male) filled my ears and the musky scent of his body kissed my nostrils every time I struck out, trying to release myself from his grasps. Once, I hit him in the shoulder and he pulled his hand away from my mouth, giving me the chance to scream.
“Ah! Get off of me!”
He dropped his guard as he tried to nurse an aching shoulder and I wrestled myself away from him.
“Laure! Shut up!”
I rolled over to face him, staying quiet although I was desperate to speak to him. He was knelt down, one hand on his knees, the other rubbing at his shoulders. His face was calm and his hair resembled a blonde bird nest. He used his spare hand to gesture to the broken window by the door. Turning onto my front, I crawled quickly across the floor and rested my hands on the window ledge, kneeling up so I could peer outside.
The lake looked like it had been a war zone. Once perfectly clear, the water was thick with blood. And bodies. Oh, so many bodies. It was like a graveyard in water.
“Lukas, what happened?” I murmured, my voice barely above a whisper in disbelief.
He pulled me to my feet and we exited through the door to sit on the platform. The smell of death was overwhelming.
“I don't know what happened.”
We sat in a shocked silence, looking over what I had begun to nickname Death Lake. It stretched as far as I could see, like the ocean, but the surface was coated with bodies. I shuddered, thinking about the numbers. Thousands, possibly millions, if each fresh corpse was as closely packed at the other side of the lake as it was here.
I felt my eyes drift across the bodies, looking for nothing in particular, just simply observing and memorizing the similarities. Loose hair. Pale skin. Red lips, as if they were stained with blood. Black clothing. They were just simple things, like how a majority of them were young teenagers, aged between what I made out to be ten and sixteen.
Briefly, I saw Lukas leave my side then swiftly return, the rucksacks tucked between one of his arms and his body and a bread roll in his hand.
“Hungry?” he asked as he offered me the bread roll. I held it in both of my hands, nodding my head in a way which I told myself meant 'thanks'. He placed my rucksack beside me but stayed standing, looking out across the plains we would have to walk across to reach the next safe house by that night. I didn't notice him watching me in the corner of his eye.
“Are you not going to eat that?”
I looked down at the bread roll which I had been passing from hand to hand before tucking it into my rucksack and standing up. “I'm not hungry. Not anymore.”
The abandoned railway Corey told us to follow towards Korehtz hadn't been touched ever since the War. Everyone evacuated to Velsann, Korehtz or Roscoff but those who didn't make it before the city gates were shut and locked forever were left to fend for themselves in the wild. Any transport which occurred between the two big cities (sometimes Roscoff) happened via the air. Nobody wanted to risk touching the ground outside the safety of the cities, fearing that an unknown terror would strike down on them.
We were making great progress, the flatness of the plains and level railway making it easier for us to decrease the distance left to our destination. The journey was meant to take six hours to reach the next safe house, but, since we had a couple of days until the attack was planned on Korehtz, we had decided to make a camp at the halfway point.
And that was how, a few hours after we arrived at the edge of the woods and set up a miniature camp at the foot of a tree, I felt as if my world had shattered around me.
*An extract from the book of Lukas Rosser*
Two-day, 22, April
It has been two days since we (Laure and I) left Roscoff to reach Korehtz. I've been writing in this book ever since the therapist suggested it a few months ago 'to express me feelings' and that's exactly what I'm going to do. There are some things that I can't talk about with Laure.
First. We are currently somewhere which is approximately five hours away from Korehtz, a three hour long trek North-West from the mountains. We are sat at the foot of a tree at the border of the forest. Laure is picking at a bread roll: she's lost her appetite from our experiences of the past few days. I don't blame her. I'm trying to write quickly before the rest of the natural light fades away. We don't want to use any of the matches we packed for the journey.
Second. I feel like something bad is going to happen. I just have this feeling, this premonition, but I'm so uncertain about it that I don't want to bother Laure. I simply have a feeling that something will go wrong.
Third. This is about Laure. If she reads this, we will never get along the same again. We seem to have a natural connection, we can talk about any random topic for hours and not be bored or we can be completely comfortable in each other’s silence. She is great company, something I would never have expected from the girl who blocked everyone out ever since she arrived at the hospital. I wish I knew what for...
I don't want anything to happen to her. I just want her to be safe and I'm willing to do a lot to protect her from whatever those demons want her for. I'm just so confused about all of this but it'll be best if I can get some sleep.
We are keeping watches tonight after what happened yesterday (I still need to talk to Laure about it). I'm going second in the later hours of night and the earlier hours of morning. I guess I'll fill in this book whenever I have the chance. If we can get through all of this, I want to keep the memories to share this story. It would be a great one to tell any future family. Or my own existing family if I ever see them again.