“Logan? Are you okay?”
I didn’t answer, determined to pretend I was asleep so Alli would leave me alone. I’d been lying down for hours, avoiding my best friend and her family in hopes of getting some much-needed rest. Even after giving up on sleep, I decided to fake it. That way, I could at least have some time to myself.
But now as Alli knocked on my bedroom door for the trillionth time in an hour, that seemed as unlikely as sleep.
Damn it. Why did she have to sound so worried? She knew I couldn’t stand it when people worried about me. Things like that drove me crazy, especially when it was my BFF wasting her energy on me.
Sighing, I dragged myself out of bed and over to the door, unlocking it with a loud click to face Allison Montgomery, my oldest and dearest friend. I can’t remember not knowing her. We met at a Halloween party at age three when we both hid in the bathroom from a “scary monster” (AKA my father) and had been inseparable from that point on. It distressed me to see her terminally perky face so distorted by concern.
She brightened right up when I opened the door, even forcing a small smile for the effect. “Hey. How are you holding up?” I shrugged, not because I didn’t know what to say, but because I truly didn’t know. Obviously I was no longer tweaking on adrenaline, but the fear remained under my calm but solemn exterior. To be honest, I’d been inwardly freaking out ever since Alli and I had witnessed that slaughter back in Chicago, but this episode at Wal-Mart had shaken me up even more, like shaking up a bottle of Coke and then dropping a package of Mentos in. Sooner or later, I was going to explode. I figured if I could be alone, I could sort out my thoughts and feelings and then everything would be just fine, at least for a while.
But I couldn’t sort out my thoughts and feelings; I couldn’t even sleep. All I could do was secretly fall to pieces while acting strong for Allison. Sounds great, huh?
“Can’t sleep?” I shook my head, and her smile turned just the slightest bit downward. “Me neither. Want to watch some TV?” I nodded this time, thankful for all the yes-or-no questions. I wasn’t up for a real conversation yet.
We entered her room — our rooms were adjoined by a doorway, like those double suites in hotels — and got some snacks and drinks from the mini fridge, plus the chips on top of it. I didn’t want to watch Buffy or Harry Potter, not after what I went through trying to get them. (We had Alli’s uncle Todd go back to Wal-Mart to recover the contents of our abandoned cart since neither of us wanted to risk returning.) In the end, we settled on watching some mindless Adult Swim animations, namely Family Guy and American Dad. For once, I appreciated the lack of plot and intense action. To say the least, I’d had enough of it for one day.
By some miracle, Alli managed to fall asleep before eleven o’clock. Knowing I couldn’t possibly do the same, I turned off the television, stole another Dr. Pepper from the fridge, and went back to my room to read. But even escaping into a different world through the written word couldn’t keep my mind off of what had happened. No matter what I did, I couldn’t shake the feeling of those hands on me, that aura calling to me. The details of my stalkers features were etched into my memory, tattooed on the inside of my eyelids. After several futile attempts to distract myself, I gave up reading and took to listening to my iPod, focusing on the music. Music always helped me sleep, and maybe it would prevent me from dreaming about anything unpleasant, like say, an encounter with inhuman creepers.
The song blaring in my ears offered some comfort, and the warmth of my special childhood blanket introduced drowsiness to my mind. At long last, I drifted down the murky river of sleep.
You know how I hoped and prayed I wouldn’t have any nightmares about the events of that day?
Yeah, well, it didn’t pay off. It never does.
I jerked myself awake sometime later. I’ve always had a tendency to toss and turn, especially during nightmares. That night, in accordance with my horrifying dream, I’d been unusuually violent; I’d ripped my earbuds out and thrown my covers halfway across the room. The gentle buzz of my music played in the background as I sat up, rubbing the sleepies out of my eyes.
When I looked up, I almost screamed.
The older man from the parking lot stood in the middle of my room.
I felt the blood rush from my face. My body was frozen out of sheer terror; my vocal chords refused to make a sound. I went rigid, just like I did in Chicago. Panic held my muscles in place and increased my heart rate tenfold. The beats of my core echoed in my ears, thudded in my temples, so loud I could barely hear my own labored breathing.
“No need to fear,” said the man. “I’m not here to harm you or your friend. I’d just like to have a nice chat with you both. Can you come here?”
I began to move forward for reasons beyond my knowledge. No! my mind shouted. My own body had betrayed me! What the hell was going on?
“Well, aren’t you a lovely girl. No resistance at all. Unfortunately, Miss Montgomery wasn’t quite as cooperative. We had to put her to sleep for a while. If you continue to be this understanding, we’ll have you back in no time.” My legs stopped moving with I stood less than a foot away from the man. He put one strong hand on my shoulder. If I hadn’t been immobilized by some invisible force, I would’ve winced. My primal instincts started screaming bloody murder as soon as he touched me. Something was seriously wrong with this guy.
“Now, Miss Vale, I’m afraid I can’t allow you to see where I’m taking you, so you’ll have to go to sleep as well. Can you do that?” Against every fiber of will in my body, I nodded. The “man” smiled, but under the circumstances it looked more like a smirk. He patted my mussed blonde hair and I felt sleep luring me back into its deceitful clutches.
No, dammit, I begged, tears gathering in my eyes, Please no…
“Good girl,” he murmured, and I descended into the darkness.