Warning: do not read this at night with the lights turned out if you have a very neverous disposition (it's probably not that scary but you can never be too careful
Chapter 20: Cole I wake up to find Nina staring right at me, her face inches from mine. I nearly jump ten feet in the air.
"Nina, don't do…"
"There's something in the trees" she whispers fearfully. Within seconds I'm on my feet, sword drawn, looking into the darkness above.
"What kind of something?" May, our ally asks wearily.
"They're not animals; there not tributes either. They're…some kind of monsters! Can't you hear them?!" Nina replies, sounding more distressed with every passing second. We stand incredibly still, listening to the wind blow snow off the branches. Then we all hear it, a low hissing sound accompanied by the light scratching of claws against wood. We look at one another, fear building within us. Whatever they are, they're getting closer. Suddenly a terrible, unearthly screech is unleashed directly above us!
"RUN!!" I shout.
Despite the 4 inch snow the three of us run as fast as we would if we were running on hot coals. But the mutations are right behind us! When I look behind me I can only see the snow fall off the branches as they land on them. Hear their blood curdling howls as the close in on us! After about five minutes of being chased by these creatures we're losing speed; in a few moments they'll have us! I skid to halt.
"Cole, what are you doing?!" May screams. I left up my sword and turn around.
"Get Nina out of here! We can't out run them so we'll have to fight them!" I brace myself as the things gather in the trees around me. Nothing happens.
"Come on! Show yourselves!" I yell into the night.
Suddenly something leaps out of the trees! I catch it with my sword on the way down. It screeches as it slides across the snow, its blood dying the ground red. The creature lying in front of me is the single most terrifying thing I have ever seen. It's shaped like a human but its skin is as black as coal and its has claws and teeth which look as fierce as a wolf's. But it's the eyes that scare me. Those bottomless, Scarlett eyes that seem to hold all the evil in the world within them.
"LOOK OUT!!" Nina shrieks as more jump towards me! I fend them off with my blade, every screech sounding more horrible than the last. May takes down a few with her bow and arrows.
"I said get out of here!"
"No way! We're not leaving you alone with these things!" Nina yells back defiantly as she throws a knife into one of the monsters.
The attacks seems endless as more and more throw themselves at us, claws out, ready to kill.
Then I hear a different but very familiar voice.
"DAD!" Jed calls through the forest.
"Dad, what's going on?" He crashes through the trees seeming oblivious to the things that are lying in wait above him.
"No! Don't come any closer..." But it's too late. The creatures land on him, forcing him to the ground. He screams as their claws tare at his clothes, trying to reach the flesh underneath. I run to him but when a reach him something blocks my way. I slash at the invisible wall, trying to break it, but it's no use. All I can do is watch as his cries become fainter and fainter.
Dad!! Dad! Dad..."
"Dad! Wake up!" A firm but gentle hand grabs my shoulder, pulling me out of my nightmare.
"Erin?" I ask desperately as I open my eyes, seeking the comfort only she can give me.
"No, it's me, Jed. Mum's not here." He says, attempting to mimic her soothing tone.
As everything comes into focus I see I'm standing in the dining room. The corridor to the elevator lies behind me in chaos. Vases are in pieces on the floor, small tables are over turned and a portrait has been knocked off the wall. I have been responsible for many messes like this during my sleepwalks, when I act out the memories of the arena. I start shaking uncontrollably.
“It’s OK. They can’t hurt you now and you can’t hurt them.” Jed quotes Erin’s words perfectly, how many times has he heard her say them? Then I see her.
Stella stands in front of me, looking shocked, confused and concerned all at the same time. I hold a invisible sword a few centimetres in front of her, my hand still stuck in my dream.
“How much did you two see?” I asked, my voice quivering.
“You woke us up when you smashed one of the vases and shouted “run”. You were moving around so much it took Jed a while to get hold of you.” She says. At this point Torey appears with a mug of something green and steaming.
“Sorry I didn’t come sooner. It’s dangerous to wake a sleepwalker.” She says, her calm control feeling comforting. It’s strange to see her strawberry blonde hair around her shoulders instead of in her usual tight bun.
“It’s OK. I’m hazardous to be around when I’m sleeping walking.” I say, trying to dispel my shaken tone. She spots the wreckage in the corridor.
“So I see. Here take this, its pine needle tea. My mother used to make it when I had nightmares.” She says, sounding a bit sad as she hands me the mug. The tea smells of home and starts to warm me up as she places it in my hands. She turns to Jed whose hand still rests on my shoulder. “You’ve done a good job, Jed. Not many people would approach someone in that stare. But I’ll take it from here.” He looks at her disapprovingly. “You need your rest, the private sessions are tomorrow.” She adds before he can protest. He mutters something under his breath as he reluctantly lets go. Torey holds out her hand. “Come with me.”
“No, I’m fine now. I’ll just go to bed…” I start to make my way to my room but she blocks my way.
“You’re not OK. You still look shaken up. We don’t have to talk or anything, just sit with me in my room and drink your tea.” She gently orders me. Feeling too tired to fight I nod and follow her. As we make our way across the room I nearly step on one of the disks that are strewn across the floor. It reads “The 44th Hunger Games”. I think nothing of it until we turn the corner and I catch a glimpse of Stella leaning over to pick it up, a curious look in her eyes.