|Author: Alruna Zelenia||Original Source: Re:Library|
~Chapter 8: The Things of Nightmares~
I opened my eyes in alarm, my instinct was screaming at me that I was in danger. I could see the same familiar ceiling I had seen for the past year and a half and lying in the same bed I had slept on for just as long since I moved into this apartment. I was tucked snugly in my bed but I did not feel safe. I recalled that Avery and Haydn were supposed to still be in the apartment.
I was expecting Avery to be sharing my bed but she was not anywhere in sight and I could not hear water running in the bathroom. Maybe she was having a bath. I got up and walked outside of my bedroom to the first door on the right, the bathroom door. I knocked and called out for Avery. When I did not get a response, I opened the door to find that it’s empty.
I searched my entire apartment, there was no one except for myself. I found it unlikely that Avery would have left me after the night we had; Haydn, not so much, I hardly knew him, there was no reason for him to stay for me. But I just could not get my head around why Avery would have chosen to go home. I felt abandoned and frightened thinking back on what happened last night.
I sighed and figured that I might as well get on with it. I would just have to send a text message to Avery after breakfast to ask if she was alright. I almost laughed at the ridiculousness of it all, of course, she would be fine, she was a freaking almost indestructible zombie.
Then again, was last night even real? Or maybe it had all just been an elaborate surreal dream from watching too many supernatural TV shows. After all, my apartment was impeccable, no window was broken and everything looked as it should be. I briefly recalled about how I had thought that even in my wildest dreams, I wouldn’t be able to make up such a different world in my head. Obviously, I had been wrong because I was sure that it really was just a dream. I chuckled as I went through all the absurd details of my dream and shook my head at my own silliness. Some dreams were just so vivid that you woke up thinking they were real until you sorted out the impossibility of it.
I made myself a simple breakfast of scrambled eggs with mushroom and toast. I could tell that it was delicious but somehow, I couldn’t actually taste it and hunger was practically nonexistent. More surprisingly, I did not feel hungover like I expected myself to after a night of heavy drinking with Avery. I made myself finish eating anyway because I knew the importance of breakfast and the need for energy.
After cleaning up and getting ready, I changed into my running gear as I usually did every weekend morning. The moment I opened my apartment door, I knew something was not right.
It did look somewhat like the corridor of my apartment complex but everything was contorted. This weird perception of the corridor felt exactly like looking at ‘The Scream’ painting by Edvard Munch – art was one of those things I would never understand in life. The floor was bumpy, the walls were curved wildly in every direction, the ceiling was the most normal of all. I looked up and down the corridor, unsure which way I should go and whether it would be safe for me to leave my room.
As I took a step back, I felt my foot sink slightly into the floor. I stared mutely as my foot was slowly sinking into a black liquid, I quickly pulled it back out and rushed into the corridor. Only then did I look back into my room which was now a tortured space – I sighted a few hands and even a head of hair with both arms in the air as they tried to grab for safety. Above the inky black liquid was what looked like the sky during a sunset, oranges and reds illuminated the space, there was no end to the black sea that I could see.
My back touched the curved wall behind me, I tried to flatten myself against it. I wished I could slide onto the floor, hug my knees and sway back and forth until Avery came to save me. I regretted forgoing to text Avery before I left my room just now. Only then did I remember that I no longer had a phone if last night was real. I had the overwhelming urge to cry but I knew that if not me, who else could save me? I had to stay strong even if my adversaries were non-humans.
There was, however, one thing that confounded me – if last night had been real, then where was that warm and fuzzy black-pink essence that was supposed to have claimed me? Could it be that the claimer had withdrawn their claim overnight while I slept? The more I thought about it, the more it seemed feasible. I mean, why would anyone want to claim a human who kept getting into trouble?
Those minutes spent thinking with nothing else unnatural happening had started to relax my body. Then, it happened – I felt hands grabbing at me. With a feat of strength, agility and pure fright, I flung myself away from the wall. On the wall, there were hands reaching out to grab me. I took another long look down both sides of the corridor, more hands were emerging from the walls, narrowing the corridor as they extended further into the space.
I didn’t waste another precious second and took off to where I knew was the way out of the complex. I pressed the elevator button to go down. While I waited for the elevator cabin to reach my floor, the hands were almost upon me, yet the cabin was nowhere near my floor. In the end, I had to give up on the elevator and ran off in the direction of the stairs. Thirteen floors… I could easily run down from here.
I reached the door to the stairs just at the nick of time, I could feel the fingernails of the hands scraping me already. I nearly broke the hinges of the door with how hard I threw it open. I pushed my way in, slammed the door shut and was finally safe from the grabbing hands. I sighed in relief and took a few calming breaths.
Before I could even calm down, the light overhead flickered and I glimpsed a shadow down the first flight of stairs from me. My heart stopped for a moment, I wished so hard for me to only be dreaming right now and if I was, please let me wake up. The shadow was gone as soon as the light stopped flickering and I pleaded with any stronger powers out there, to let it just be a figment of my imagination from my overly active mind right now.
My hopes and dreams were dashed when the light flickered again, I couldn’t even make out the outline of the shadow but it was closer to me than it was just now. I didn’t know what I could do – Running back into the corridor and get caught by the hands, stay here and face this shadow, or… run all the way to the rooftop?
None of them was a good option but time was of the essence, I did not have any time left to consider. I dashed up the stairs faster than I had ever run before with my heart in my throat and adrenaline in my veins. I did not know how long I had been running but it had certainly felt like forever and for every few moments, the lights would flicker, my poor heart would scream. My lungs were burning as if dozens of knives were continuously stabbing into them. I could no longer feel my legs and I was gasping for breath that wouldn’t enter my body quickly enough. I knew my apartment complex to be huge, consisting of 35 floors; I just never knew how hard it would be to run 22 floors of stairs all the way up to the rooftop. I was now thankful for the cardio I did in the gym and the active lifestyle I led.
A glimpse of hope blossomed inside my chest and I felt my whole world brighten because I could finally see the rooftop access door a few steps ahead of me. I could almost cry out in joy but then I remembered that if I got to the rooftop, I had no other ways of escape unless my pursuer had finally given up on the chase.
Thinking that the door was unlocked, I ran right into the door with a loud bang and it hurt a damn hell of a lot. I tried pushing, pulling, sliding, pounding and dragging the door to open it to no avail. Even when I knew all was hopeless, I still tried for the dying hope that it would suddenly take me to freedom. The light above the door flickered – a telltale sign that the shadow was still on my tail. And if Avery was to be believed, supernaturals were super-natural, they were superior in many ways over a human. Even if I were to break the human record for my escape up the stairs, the shadow would have caught up to me if it had so wanted to. The fact that it did not could only mean that it was toying with me before it ultimately ended my life.
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I wasn’t sure if I wanted the shadow to be the last thing I saw, or die facing the door – this stupid plain old door that had betrayed me. However, the choice was taken away from me when I felt something compelling me to turn away from the door and I did, fighting futilely against the command, my body turned in place. The light flickered once more and the shadow was only a few steps below where I stood.
I held my breath, my life flashed before my eyes – I saw my parents, my idiot of a brother pulling my hair as a child, my friends no longer close to me as we all made our own way in the world, Avery, the dreamy Haydn but mostly I saw her, Perse Enfer… Beautiful Perse. How I wished I could see her just once more before I died.
The image of Perse’s smile faded from my vision at the same time the light flickered once more. The shadow had finally taken form right in front of me. My heart stopped then jump-started, the breath I held came out as the highest-pitched scream I had ever vocalized. The image of this creature, the last thing I would see burned into my brain, it was hideous and more than monstrous.
It was mostly red with traces of black. It stood on three black legs with nine wickedly curved talons, each six inches long and blood flowed freely from the base of the talons to the tip. Where it stood in front of me, it came up to just a few inches taller than me. Its legs thick as stumps, connected to a red canine body that looked like it had been freshly bathed in blood that was still dripping freely from its spike-like hairs. Its huge red head, the most terrifying thing I had ever seen with beady black eyes and red pupils that looked darker than hell if hell had a colour. Its mouth stretched almost all the way to the back of its head, full of yellowed fangs, so long and sharp that even when its mouth was closed, the tusk-like fangs jutted wildly out from their confinement. It was even worse when the creature smiled at me, I felt my blood freeze over. It opened its mouth wide, ready to devour me. Its breath that stunk like decaying corpses invaded my nose even as I continued screaming my lungs out.
Just as the mouth was closing down on me, the door behind me was pulled open and an arm wrapped around my waist pulled me to safety. I had stopped screaming and my throat felt raw from all the screaming. The person who I could now determine was male carried me in a fireman’s carry. He ran in lighting fast speed, leaping from building rooftops to rooftops. I lifted my head and confirmed that the creature of nightmares was now earnestly chasing us but we were quickly losing it.
I felt myself pass through a bubble-like wall and a flash of light blinded me.
When Evelyn could finally open her eyes again, she was lying on a wet spot of her own sweat on her bed. She realized that the man who had rescued her once again was Haydn who was currently seated akimbo beside her on the bed. His eyes flew open and he immediately jumped off the bed. He flipped out a metal quarterstaff from out of thin air and changed his stance, with his staff in front of him defensively.
Avery was holding a giant sword that must have weighed more than 50kg in one hand, it had a black handle of about ten inches long and a shimmering blade that was about six-foot-long, two inches thick and seven inches wide. It was more than a little impressive, it resembled a buster sword seen in many video games. She was standing in a defensive stance in front of the bed beside Haydn.
Soon enough, another flash blinded them momentarily and the nightmarish creature materialized in the middle of Evelyn’s bedroom. The human’s heart leapt into her throat and she nearly screamed again. She bit her tongue just in time to stop herself but she had bitten it so hard that she could taste the iron.
Haydn and Avery leapt into combat at the same time the creature pounced at them. Haydn and Avery did not fight well alongside each other at all, they were not familiar with each other’s fighting style. Plus, neither trusted the other to protect their backs and it showed in the battle. Avery’s first jump strike to attack the creature from the top missed when it dodged to the left and instead, her powerful blow connected with Haydn’s staff that was being swept to the left to hit the monster. Both of them nearly lost their grips on their weapons from the hard impact of the collision. The Faerie glared at the zombie and she gave one just as murderous.
Evelyn could see the monstrous creature smile as it too noticed their incompatibility. The monster kept dancing around their attacks that had their weapons striking each other’s about 80% of the time rather than the monster. The human could see, as well as the creature, that they were soon tiring and frustrated with the other. One of them was going to have to snap soon.
Evelyn wished that she could help them in some ways but she knew that she would only drag them down, seeing as she had no martial arts skills or fighting experience to speak of. All the blonde could do was sit on the bed and pray for them, she couldn’t help but feel hopeless and dependent. It was not a good feeling to have for her, she had not depended on anyone for her livelihood since the day she moved out of my parents’ home for college with a full scholarship.
After one too many missed attacks, Haydn yelled at Avery, “I can do this better by myself. Step out of this, zombie!”
“I can say the same about you, faerie!” The way they called each other by their species identity sounded more like filthy insults than what it really represented. The animosity that had intensified between them was detected by the beast and it confidently changed its evasive manoeuvre into offense.
When it threw its body thoughtlessly towards Haydn, he smirked at the poorly executed move. He brought one end of his staff up and the end was immediately covered and sharpened with ice. He charged at the monster with his pointed staff aiming at its heart like a Roman cavalry charging with a lance. When it looked like Haydn had almost had the monster, it brought one of its hind legs up and swatted the staff down. Then, with one of its front legs pushing off of Haydn’s head and back leg pushing off the staff, it hopped over Haydn’s body like a hurdle.
Haydn tucked his head in and rolled his body forward with the momentum instead of falling on his face. He jumped up and faced the monster again, which was now in between Haydn and Avery. His upper back and nape of his neck were scratched by the talons and bleeding profusely. The Fae sneered as if chiding himself for having fallen for such a simple trick.
Avery looked even more determined to defeat the creature now that she was the only obstacle standing between the human and the monster. Instead of charging for an attack, she resumed a defensive stance and waited for the monster to make the first move. When it did strike, she did everything she could to block and parry its every attack instead of dodging a few as she did before, she couldn’t risk the monster getting past her. Even with the Fae attacking it from the back, they couldn’t even get a scratch in.
Avery was now huffing and puffing in exhaustion. “ꜰᴜᴄᴋ you, faerie. I won’t let this stupid child of the nightmare defeat me in this lifetime. If I can trust you to watch my back in this one fight, you could do the same for me too. Truce?” Avery grumbled in between quick breaths.
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“Truce.” Haydn gave Avery a glimpse and nodded imperceptibly. When they jumped in again this time, their fighting style was significantly altered. They started watching each other’s movements to understand what the other was going to do. In blurs of movements, Haydn had outsmarted the beast and manoeuvred his way back to between Evelyn and the monster.
The results of their teamwork were hardly discernible since the monster was already drenched in blood naturally. Any cuts they made on the creature remained unseen and healed over almost instantly. Sooner or later though, the monster became sluggish enough that it gave them an opening. It made a desperate pounce at Avery but she had already raised her sword in a two-handed grip as she slashed the creature from its shoulder all the way across its abdomen to its deformed hip. The powerful slash she made hardly cut a few inches into the creature but it created an opening that would close up in a few seconds if given the chance. Thus, as soon as the cut had been made, Haydn moved right in, the ice-sharpened end of his staff was stabbed into the heart of the monster.
It roared in an ear-splitting noise of grinding metal that became muted when Avery stabbed her sword into its gigantic head, cleanly cutting its brain in half. It burst into millions of dark particles and vanished into thin air. It did not leave any ashes behind like the vampires did.
A reverberating angry male voice screamed out from everywhere and nowhere at once, “My poor baby!” Evelyn had almost expected something else to happen but when nothing did, she finally released the breath she did not know she had been holding. When the pair of supernaturals lowered their weapons decisively, they both dropped their weapons that somehow just vanished into thin air.