2. Conception: The House

I found myself in a dark void. As I strained to see, an image manifested itself out from the darkness. It appeared to be an old abandoned house. It looked like it hadn’t been occupied in years, rotting from the inside out. Suddenly a soft, chilling breeze swept its way across the back of my neck. I slowly turned around to face the breeze, but instead I faced that same girl, the one who was attacked the other night. There was a heavy weight in my stomach. The red stain on her dress was illuminated like a ruby in front of a candle. Then she spoke to me, “Help me Anthony. Help me.” Then it was over. I awoke trembling.  I laid there with my eyes wide open, and didn’t fall asleep for the rest of the night.

Days went by and passed into nights, only for this dream to reoccur, each one more vivid than the last. And each day I would try to block it from my mind, be it by focusing on school work, practice, or simply hitting on this Polish girl who sat next to me in chemistry. But all I could think about were these dreams, and how our friend Cynthia and her family must be going through hell over her missing sister. And I saw it all happen, I kept thinking to myself. And I did nothing. Despite Cynthia’s agony, I never told her what I saw, nor did I go to the police; but the thought was constant and always shot down by my cynicism, an attitude that affected much of this city’s residents. Yet deep down I knew my cynicism was just a mascaraed for fear. Deep down I hated myself. And always, the vision of this poor girl from that night continued to roam my thoughts.

About two weeks had past since Chris’ band performed and he had managed to go on two formal dates with Elizabeth since then. We also managed to finish the project with a few days to spare. That night at about 9:15, we were lounging in my basement and sampling a few drinks from my dad’s bar, relieved that we finally got our work done. “So do you plan on takin’ Liz out for another date?” I asked Chris.

“I don’t know, man,” he replied, “I mean, she’s a really nice girl and all, but– Justin.”

“What about him?” I asked

“I don’t think he’ll take too kindly with me going out with her,” explained Chris. “I still see him talking with her, like he’s tryin’ to patch things up or somethin’. What if he finds out I’m dealin‘ with her? Or what if we bump into him and his boys while we’re on a date. Man, I’d hate to piss a guy like him off. Or worse, he might hurt Liz. That’s the last thing I want.”

“So what, your just gonna stop dating her because you’re afraid of Justin?” I asked. “Man, what’s wrong with you? That’s not the Chris I know.”

“I’m not afraid of Justin,” he retorted.

“Yeah you are. Why else would we be having this conversation?” I asked.

“Hey, you’re the one who brought it up,” said Chris.

“Yeah but you just implied that you are afraid of Justin.”

“You don’t even know why she left him.”

“Please, fill us in,” I said.

“Dude, that guy was an animal,” said Chris. “All those roids he’s probably takin’. The smallest things he’d lose his temper over. Liz even told me there were times when he’d hit her, or worse.”

“Shit…” I expressed, taking a sip of Hennessy.

“Eh, man,”  interjected Al, “don’t let Justin get between you and Liz. Stand up for yourself. Besides, we got your back.”

“Hey, I ain’t afraid of Justin, all right? And I can watch my own back. I’ll keep datin’ Liz, right in front of Justin’s acne covered face. You just watch. And if he tries to fuck with me, I’ll beat all those protein supplements right out of him.”

“Okay, now you’re just talkin’ shit,” I said. “But that’s the spirit, though. Keep it up.”

“Yeah never let a wolf steal any of your sheep,” advised Al.

“Don’t talk like that,” Chris said. “I really like that girl.”

“Then don’t lose this one,” I said. “Who knows, maybe you could even take her to the prom.”

“Anything’s possible,” said Chris, taking a sip from his whiskey. There was a long pause, it must of lasted sixty seconds. In a desperate attempt to kill the silence, Al sprang up, went over to the stereo, and began blasting some music.

We jammed to the music for a while, bobbing our heads in unison. Chris sprang up and attempted an amateur free-style, but Al represented and showed him how it was done. I wanted to get up and breakout a few lyrics myself, but out of nowhere my head started to throb. Feeling nauseous and tired, I stood up. “Where ya going,” asked Chris.

“Gotta go take a piss,” I replied.

“Just don’t trip on your way up!” shouted Al. I made my way down the hall. The basement was massive, mind you, and my head was pounding. Each step took every ounce of effort. I was hardly able to keep my balance. Finally I made it to one of the basement washrooms. I leaned over the sink and puked my guts out, but that was little help. I stayed there, continuing to loose my dinner until I felt human again.

When I was finally able to lift my head, I went back down the hall to a near by empty room, a guest bedroom. I flopped on to the bed and totally forgot about my friends who were still in the other room. All I could think of was this splitting headache. A basement window was open in the room, allowing a cold winters chill to pour its way inside. I turned my head to a nightstand beside the bed. As my vision started to focus, I noticed something glimmering against the light. It was a small, gold, bracelet-like object. It didn’t take me long to realize that it was my Mother’s favourite watch. It had been resized to fit her small wrist, and the band was an intricately woven gold chain. It was designed like a locket and inside she kept baby pictures of both me and Jonathan. I remembered her grieving how she lost it. It was given to her from her Nona. She must have forgotten it in the room when she chose to sleep down there, probably after one of the many fights she would have with my dad. And now I found it. Not like it was any use to her, now that she was gone, but I began to value it nonetheless.

As I watched it tick-tick-tick away, all these memories of her came flooding back. Everything from the jokes she used to make to how she made sure to kiss both me and Jonathan good bye before we went to school. I scarcely thought I could hear her voice calling to me from some other room. But I realized it was just coming from inside my head. Her voice, her strong yet gentle voice momentarily eased the headache. I was in a trance. Then without warning, an owl flew in from the open window, landed on that same nightstand in front of me, snatched up that very watch, and flew back out the window. “NO!” I shouted. Putting aside my headache, I flew off the bed, and leaped up the wall to the window. I climbed out and staggered to my feet. I looked up in search of the owl. The night sky was a deep dark blue. Infinite snow flakes rained down on my face. I strained my eyes against the darkness and falling snow. Suddenly I saw a silhouette of an owl against the moon light. I ignored the cold that was already biting away at my skin. I ignored the headache that was pounding away at my skull. The chase was on.

I followed the souring owl through the woods that surrounded my house. I staggered and stumbled like an old drunk. Not watching where I was going I tripped on a log. I fell face first into the snow. But I didn’t let that stop me. I had to get that watch back. I got back on my feet and continued the chase.

On and on I went, paying no attention to the cold or the headache, and my sore leg did nothing but slow me down. My socks had become wet from the snow and I could no longer feel my toes which were now frozen. All I was thinking was, I’m gonna get that watch. I’m gonna get that watch, non-stop. But as I pushed forward, the pain seemed to subside a little, making me feel at ease. It felt as if I was on the path to somewhere, and the closer I got, the less and less intense my headache became. I continued the chase, watching the owl over head. I wasn’t so much afraid of getting lost, however. Growing up on the island, I spent a lot of time exploring these back woods. I knew it almost as much as I knew my backyard. Finally, I came to a small open area. In the middle of this patch of frozen grass was an old abandoned house. I came to a complete stop and perused the area. In all my years of hiking through here, I had never seen this spot before in my life. At least I thought so. And at that point I was cold and tired. I could no longer fend off the outside world. But my headache was completely gone, and I was dying to go back inside. The only thing aching now was my heart for my mother’s watch as I gave up the chase and turned back. But as I proceeded back home, my head started throbbing again. As I walked farther away from the house, the pain became greater. I turned back to the house, and strangely enough the pain got weaker. I did the process again: turning away from the house and turning back to the house. I got the same results. Suddenly the owl appeared out of the darkness. It startled me, and with the watch still in its talons it flew into the house through a crack in the window. At that moment I realized something odd about this house, something familiar. As I looked closer at the house, I came to an alarming realization. This same house was in my dream! That old forsaken house that was in that reoccurring dream was disturbingly identical to the one that stood before me. I was freaked out, yet somehow I was being drawn towards it. I had to check it out.

I approached the house with caution. I placed my hand on the ice-cold, rusted doorknob. I slowly twisted the knob, and gently pushed against the old wooden door. It wasn’t even locked. It opened with a blood-scrawling screech. I slowly poked my head inside, and cautiously proceeded in. As soon as I entered, a stench that could choke a worm hit me across the nose. It smelt like a million rats were exterminated and left here to rot. It smelt like the very sewers of Lucicrescens had puked up all its contents into this one bungalow. I felt like I too was about lose my stomach contents, and I immediately turned back. But when I did so, my head started throbbing again. This time it was worse than ever. It was as if the pain had gone away and came back with a steam drill, and was using it to bore a hole through my head. Then I had to decide: go all the way back with this nuclear powered migraine, or hold my breath and go in and find that watch. I don’t know what it was, but some inner urge was enticing me to venture in and finish the hunt. I gave in to this urge and just as I thought, the headache ceased. I slowly moved forward. The place was almost pitch black. All I had to see was the moon light the shone in through the broken windows. I went down a short narrow hall in front of me. The ancient floor cracked beneath my feet. The stench was now less powerful and I could breath with ease. I didn’t know where I was going. Suddenly, I heard the hooting of the owl. It was coming from a room at the other end of the dark hall. I followed it, allowing its call to guide me. Finally I reached the other end. I appeared to be in some kind of an old kitchen. The only thing in it, however, was a small table and a simple gas stove which by the looks of it wouldn’t work. To my left, the hall led to another room. It had large windows, fully allowing the soft cryptic blue light of the night to pour in. As I walked down the hall I noticed a dark figure. It was the silhouette of a man.

As I got closer, the figure got more sharp until I was able to make it out. It was an old man, at least he appeared to be. His back was turned. The man was balding with long grey hair growing from the back of his head from ear to ear and extending down past his shoulders. In one hand he was holding a pipe that he was smoking. His other hand was out stretched to the side. On it was perched the owl. It was a great horned. Its huge round eyes blazed at me like a pair of golden suns. I realized that the owl was perhaps this man’s pet, and I was certain that he had my mother’s watch. “You have something of mine,” I called out to the man. There was a brief period of silence, it was unsettling, but then he responded.

“Oh do I,” said the man with a hint of interest in his voice.

“That’s right,” I continued, “That flying rat of yours flew into my house and snatched up something of great value to me. I want it back!”

“What makes you so sure that I have it?” asked the man with his back still turned.

“Because, I saw that same owl fly in here with it,” I informed.

“You mustn’t always trust what you see. For what you perceive may not be true,” said the old man as he turned around. He finally looked at me and I noticed he was of an oriental background, perhaps Japanese. He was wearing an old cotton robe that was as dusty as the few pieces of furniture that sat in the house. I couldn’t quite tell what colour his robe was in the dim light; it was grey perhaps.

“What are you talkin’ about?” I asked the man.

“You think I have what you want? Look again. Many people lash out at the world for things that they don’t realize they already have. You must search your own self, search your soul for what you really need.” There was a sinking feeling inside me. Then a thought flashed through my head in relation to what the man just said. I slowly pushed my hand into my pocket and began to feel around. I felt nothing. But I continued to search. Suddenly I felt something cold and hard. I grabbed it and pulled it out. And to my amazement, there it was lying in my hand. My Mother’s watch.

I looked at the man with suspicion. “Who are you?” I asked. The man began to walk around lighting candles after the owl flew off.

“Who am I you ask? What you really should be asking is who you are,” the old man suggested.

“I know exactly who I am, old man,” I said arrogantly.

“Do you?”

“What is this anyways!” I boomed at the man, “I end up in a place that smells like shit, and some crazy old Confucius wannabe thinks he could lecture me. Listen, I got what I want, and now I’m outta’ here. See you around, old man.” I turned around and began to leave.

“Such a wrestles young mind you are,” laughed the old man, “The young ones are always this way. I understand how you feel, boy. You are in a frustrating period of life. Yet you hide it with a dark cloak of confidence. I could already see you have much of your father in you.” At that moment I stopped in my tracks. I slowly turned my head and gave the old man a suspicious look.

“Who are you? And where do you come off pretending you know about my father?” I asked.

“I know many things, boy. Some of them aren’t yet ready for men to know. But for a select few, the time is just right.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Normally, if one were to see me, he would assume that I was nothing more than an old beggar, and he would walk away, the thought of my existence deserting his mind. But you- you are different. In your tracks you refused to leave and here you remain. Something is keeping you here, and it‘s certainly not me.” I didn’t know what to say or do, because in a way, the old man was right. I was drawn here, and something was keeping me from leaving. There was something about this man that interested me. I felt as if there was more to this man than met the eye. And I wanted to know what it was.

“There’s something you want to tell me, isn’t there?” I asked.

The man slowly walked towards me. He looked deep into my eyes and answered, “Indeed I do. But like I said before, some things are not yet ready for men to know. I am not sure if you can handle what I’m about to show you. So I must put you through a test.”

“A test?” I asked confused, “What kind of test?”

“A test of skill, a test of strength, but most all, it’s a test of will,” said the old man, “But first, you must be up to the task.”

I took time to think about the challenge. “All right, I’ll do it,” I said confidently.

The man grinned which smoothly developed into a giggle which then grew into a exuberant laugh. His laugh filled the entire house with a life that was otherwise absent. And he would have continued to laugh unless I hadn’t interrupted. “Hey! What’s so funny?” I asked.

“Congratulations,” laughed the old man, “You have passed the test.” This of course came as a surprise to me, seeing how I didn’t take any test at all.

“Are you crazy, old man? There wasn’t any test. What’s exactly in that pipe you’re smoking’?”

“Ahhh, but there was.” informed the old man, “Running here as fast as you could with an injured knee, wearing no shoes, in the blistering cold, after a speeding owl in the night sky. Not to mention, you had absolutely no idea where you were heading. Your mind was strongly set on retrieving your mother’s watch and nothing else. You have already proved your worthiness. And even after all that, when I introduced you to another test, you still had enough spirit left to continue and endure. You have proven yourself indeed, young one. I am truly amazed.”

I pondered on what he just said and it struck me like a revelation.

“There is more to you than you think, boy,” claimed the man, “And combined with what I am about to offer you, there will be much more.”

The man lit the remaining candles. I looked at him with reverence, fear, and doubt. Everything about the house was dark and cold. Even the man seemed lifeless. The warmth that was least bit noticeable came from either me, or the flickering candles. But their warmth and radiance was quickly devoured by the dark abyss that dwelled in this old rotting home.

I just stood there watching him float between the last few candles, and watching the shadows dance around on the walls, and paying no mind to the world outside. The man then broke the silence. “Come, sit,” said the man showing me to an open and dusty area on the floor.

“No thanks. I’d prefer to stand,” I said.

“As you wish,” responded the man as he sat himself down, cross-legged. “Now, tell me, what do you think about the world you live in?”

“The world?” I asked.

“Yes, the world.”

“Well, I think it sucks,” I answered.

“Why? Why must you feel such disappointment?” asked the man with a touch of concern.

“I don’t know, really. Call it teen angst or apathy. I guess it’s that there’s so much shit going on in this world, let alone my own life,” I confessed.

“Your life. What do you mean,” asked the old man.

“Why are you asking? Don’t you know already? You seem to know more about me than I do.”

“Indeed there is much about you that I know. But self-expression is one of the first steps to freedom. So tell me.”

“Well, I don’t know where to begin. I guess I could start by saying that I was born into what some might call an empire, a- a corporate empire. But am I heir to my father’s throne? I have no clue. My dad sent me to some prep-school for a while, you know, just to make sure that I stay on the rich-white-boy’s path. But for some reason I didn’t fit in with all those preppies. To me it was like their parents were keeping them on a leash, not giving them much freedom to say or do what they wanted. Many of them were set on a direct course, and they didn’t have any say in it. They were so fake. I didn’t want that. I mean I wanted to be successful, of course. But I wanted to make it on my own. Plus I wanted to be somewhere that had different people, where everyone didn’t have the same future. And on top of that, it wasn’t like my dad was ever there for me anyways. So when I finished elementary I went to a public high school, and I actually made friends with people I actually like, not with those guys who’s parents probably have more skeletons in their closet than a mortician.”

“What makes you think your own father is any different,” asked the old man.

“Because, I know my father and who are you to say otherwise.”

“If you say so,” said the old man, “And your brother…”

“I never told you I had a brother,” I said surprised.

The man just smiled at me.

“Well, he goes to a private school like the one that I went to,” I answered, “It was actually my Mother’s idea that I go to a public school, but Jonathan, my brother, wasn’t so lucky.”

“What else troubles you,” asked the man.

“Well, I look at myself and see someone who has so much, than I look at a friend of mine, Al, who has so little. Financially he’s the complete opposite of me. His family’s struggling, they can barely keep their house. He tells me that they’re gonna have to sell it and move into an apartment. So he’s been working. But don’t get me wrong, they’re no charity case; they’re getting by.

The old man stroked his long silvery beard as if reflecting on what I was saying. “Just the other day you saw something that opened your eyes,” he said. “Didn’t you?”

For a second I remained silent. I knew what this man was getting at but I refused to believe it. I refused to think about it. The amount of things that he knew was beginning to scare me. I doubted that this whole experience was even real and waited for myself to wake up. “Yeah,” I finally answered solemnly.

“What did you see?” he interrogated.

I hesitated for a moment. “I witnessed a crime… involving a girl. And she was being attacked. Maybe even assaulted, sexually.”

“And did you act,” the man questioned.

“No,” I confessed, as if I was guilty.

“And why didn’t you?” continued the old man.

“In my heart I did want to do something about it,” I said, “but these things are so common in this city– in this world. What difference would I have made? Crime, corruption, all that shit will always exist in this world, and there isn’t a damn thing that anyone can do about it. Not me, not you, not anybody!” I ranted.

“Such anger. And so quick to jump to conclusions,” whispered the man as he shook his head. I felt like shit after that, knowing that I was responsible for that girl. I was reminded of that old philosophy, The only way for evil to exist is if good men do nothing.

We continued to talk long into the night. I did most of the talking though. I had so much on my mind. Eventually I remembered my two friends that I left behind at my house. At that point I was quickly on my way home. “You’re leaving?” asked the old man.

“Sorry, but it’s getting late,” I said. “I’m cold and tired, I had two friends at my place who probably left by now, and I have no idea who the hell you are. So I bid you adieu cuz I best be on my way.”

“Wait!” called out the old man as if he had something urgent to say, “You haven’t seen what I wanted to show you.”

“No thanks. I don’t think you’d have anything I want, old man. See ya.”

“Just open your mind for just a second, child.”

“Fine, what is it and make it quick.”

“All this confusion in life that has you enraged and frustrated. What would you think if I said that I can make you an offer that will allow you to change all that.”

“I’d think you were crazy. Oh, wait a minute, I already do. Good bye!”

“No, wait! I’m serious, boy. This is a once in a life time offer that most people aren’t given. You turn away now, boy, and you will never get a chance,” warned the old man.

“Okay,” I sighed. “What do you got?”

“I am here to offer you a new destiny. One in exchange for your life of luxury and affluence. Your destiny holds not riches and treasures such as your current one, but a gift beyond your wildest dreams. Listen carefully as I tell you this: you will have the power to save the world as you now it.”

Of course what I was hearing sounded like bullshit to my ears. But seeing how he knew so much about me and my life, I believed that there had to be some shed of truth to what this ancient man was preaching. “You’re kidding, right? I mean – do know how crazy that sounds?”

“Never limit your mind to the possibilities, young one,” advised the old man. “Those who embrace the impossible are the ones who shape the future.”

“All right. Show me. Give me the knowledge. Give me the power,” I mocked and provoked, waving my arms in the air like a pastor. The old man gave me a dead serious look that could have turned a man into stone.

“Listen to me, young Apollo. Listen well. Before you make your decision and accept my offer, you must think hard. Think in terms of the future. Close your eyes and look inside your heart to find the answer. I will ask you if you accept or not. And when you’ve decided, you will answer in a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ replay. Understand?”

I nodded my head.

“Good. Do – you – accept?”

Like the old man instructed, I closed my eyes and thought well about his offer. But doubts in my mind still roamed, and disbelief still persisted. But how did he possess such vast knowledge of who I was, both outside and within. I continued to think. It must have took me ten minutes to decide and think of all the outcomes. If this man was just another fake fortune teller, it wouldn’t really matter. But then how would I explain the headache that seemed to led me here. So what if he was the real deal. I had to check it out.

Finally, I came to a decision. I gathered all my thoughts and put them away. I took a deep breath of the stale air, and letting it out with my life on my mind, I gave my answer.

“Yes. I accept.” The feeling that I just sold my soul was present in my heart.

“Very well. You have made your choice. You have set your life on an alternate path. But take heed and remember this: when ever you encounter an obstacle that seems unconquerable, in all your moments of defeat, in all your times of weakness, just remember- your will is your strength.”

“Yeah, sure thing, old man,” I answered sarcastically as I lifted my head. But when I opened my eyes, the old man was gone, like a match flame in the wind. I turned my head in every direction. The old man was nowhere to be seen, and I alone remained. “Bullshit,” I said to myself. “Waste of my damn time.” I turned around in a haste to leave. But as soon as I did so, right then and there in front of me stood a brick wall which blocked the way I came. It appeared out of nowhere for it wasn’t there before. But it seemed to be as old as the house itself for it was covered in vines and was slowly crumbling. I could have sworn that there was another room there, the kitchen! This wall was not here when I came in. Otherwise how would have I gotten in. I knew I was right, I knew I wasn’t dreaming.

Suddenly a soft breeze began to blow across the back of my neck, just like in that reoccurring dream. I was afraid to turn around, fearing that the girl would be standing behind me. But I couldn’t resist. I turned my head- no one. It was just an open window. Where the hell did that old man go, I thought to myself, “Fuck this.” I went up to the window in an attempt to climb out. I grabbed on to the sides and lifted my foot on to the ledge. But as I did that I paused for moment. I looked up to the night sky which was raining down its indigo light upon me. Suddenly a feeling began to grow inside me, the feeling that warns you that you’re not alone. I looked back. The place was like a tomb. Yet I felt as if I was in the presence of a million souls, and they were all circling around me. I couldn’t see them, but I could feel them. I quickly turned my head back to the window so I could get the hell out. And as soon as I did that, a sudden flash of light exploded out of the sky, knocking me off my feet. But the weird thing is that I didn’t hit the ground. It was as if I was levitating, defying the laws of physics. What immediately followed I don’t quite understand. I remember being in some sort of trance, having spasms and convulsions. I was conscience yet it felt like I was dreaming. I had no idea what was going on. Suddenly, all those souls that surrounded me seemed to manifest themselves and appear all around me. They instantly began to swirl in all directions as my mindless body floated to the centre of the room. There, I remember seeing what the room then looked like. It was illuminated with immense light and it even seemed rejuvenated with a beautiful carpet over the floor, good furniture, and wall-to-wall bookshelves. It was as if time had stopped and reversed a hundred years. I could actually feel the light energy on my skin. The light was so intense, yet somehow it didn’t hurt my eyes. Then suddenly, all those souls dived into me like seals into water, swirling all around and moving hundreds of miles an hour. As they did that, the room became ten times brighter, it shone like a white dwarf star. It was like nothing I ever felt before. I could feel the energy coursing through every cell in my body, infusing each and every molecule. I felt as if I was going to explode! The sensation was excruciating, yet orgasmic. It was like the ultimate high. My whole life was flashing before my eyes: things that happened, even things that were yet to come. And as soon as it began, it was over.

Blackness, utter blackness. That was all I remembered seeing after the incident. As I came to, I was hearing vague voices. Once again my mother was calling to me from some distant place. I could once again feel the warmth of my home and the cushioning of the carpet underneath me. My eyes slowly began to open. My vision was blurry but slowly began to restore itself. And to my amazement, I realized that I was back in the guest bedroom of my basement. How I got back there, I didn’t know. Was it all just a lucid dream? Was it only an illusion? But it seemed so real: the owl, the cold, the house, the old man, everything. Even the length of time that I was gone, and the long conversations seemed convincing. But then I looked at the clock on the wall. It was only 9:23. What seemed like hours was only a few minutes. It must have been a dream. I then felt something cold and hard in my hand. I relaxed my clenched fingers to discover my mother’s watch.

I could hear the voices of Al and Chris as they approached the room. You could just imagine how I felt when they found me laid drunkenly on the floor. “There you are. What the fuck happened to you?” burst Al. I was so woozy I didn’t bother to answer.

Chris shortly followed, “Anthony?” he asked as he entered. “Hey, Anthony. You in here? Man, what happened to you? You had too much to drink or something?”

My body winced about on the floor. I felt bizarre, like electricity surging through my muscles. I attempted to make some kind of response to let my friends know I was okay. “Ugh,” I said, trying to gather myself, “I’m- I’m okay,” I said struggling to my feet.

“Anthony, are you all right?” asked Al as he helped me up.

“Yeah, yeah I’m fine,” I said.

“What were you doing, man?” asked Chris.

I didn’t know what to say, seeing how I myself was confused. I simply told them what they’d understand. “I don’t know, I just got this headache and I needed to lie down for a minute.”

“Yeah, on the floor?” asked Chris.

“Maybe I rolled off the bed or somethin’,” I said.

“Well, anyways–” Al was interrupted by the ringing of his cell phone, “Who the fuck…” He said a dozen or so words into the phone, a brief conversation.  “Yo, man,” Al said to me. “I’m gonna have to make a move down to North Woodbine. I forgot I was supposed to meet this girl there. I’ll catch you guys later, awright. Anthony, you sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah I’m fine,” I said.

“Cool. Um’ out.” Al and I slapped hands and he was on his way to the stairs.

“Yo Al wait up, I’m gonna head out too!” shouted Chris, “Later, Anthony. And don’t drink so much before we come over next time. Save some for us.”

“Later, man,” I chuckled.

After that, I felt rather normal. No headaches, no unusual pains or irritations. I felt fine. I came to the conclusion that everything was as it should then went to bed. When my eyes closed they soon reopened, and I found myself in that same dream once more. I was running down a dark alley this time, and as I ran nearer to the opening, it seemed to move farther and farther away. I gave up. I bent down with my hands on my knees to catch my breath. Then slowly, a soft cold breeze gently swept by, massaging my skin. I closed my eyes to enjoy the relief. A light began to shine. I raised my head to see what it was. And there she was… the girl, standing there, looking right at me, her blood red hot. Then she spoke. “Help me, Anthony. Help me.” And It was over. I awoke with my soul screaming. I jumped out of bed and scrambled to the bathroom. I turned on the tap- cold water, and immediately threw water on my face. I took time to gather myself, took time to breath. But as the water drained away, there was something odd about it, something weird. The water, as it spiraled down the drain, seemed to be glistening. But there was no light. I never turned on the bathroom light. Suddenly, I had a spooked out thought, a disturbing suspicion. I slowly began to raise my head to look at myself in the mirror. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. My heart started throwing itself against my chest as my lungs started heaving with heavy breaths. My eyes- they were glowing! They were luminous with a radiant white light. I was so freaked out that my mind couldn’t handle it and immediately shut down. I passed out. And once again, all I could see was blackness, utter blackness.

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