“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.