Chapter 4 - Danai

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Danai's stomach settled as she made her way to the nurse's office. Now that the second bell had sounded, the hallways had mostly cleared out and she could breathe. The emotional flooding plan had been stupid. She should have known better. Her head was pounding, and the boy leaning against his locker tapping something into his phone had a yellowish-green shimmer around him. Joy. Hopefully, if she laid down in the dark for the rest of the lunch period, she'd be able to fend off a migraine.

When she reached the nurse's office, the door was open a crack. She knocked. "Nurse Gable?"

Someone groaned.

Whoever it was sounded sick. Slowly, Danai opened the door slowly so as not to disturb them. The thick, flower printed curtains were drawn, swathing the room in shadow. "Excuse me," Danai whispered, just in case whoever it was also getting a migraine. But the one bed across from the window was empty, as were all of the chairs.

By the bathroom, a thin feminine figure stood over one of the filing cabinet drawers. "Office is closed," she said. "Come back later."

Danai felt along the wall to turn on the light. It flickered for a second and then died.

Another groan. The sound came further back in the room, behind the filing cabinet. Was that a foot, sticking out from the bathroom door?

Danai grabbed a first aid kit from the counter beside her. It was in a metal briefcase, a white sticker on each face with a red cross in the center.

Goosebumps rose on Danai's skin. She pushed her glasses to the top of her head so she could see. As soon as she'd taken off the glasses, the room grew darker. Shadows crept along the walls, fluttering like leaves through a translucent shade. The shadows grew thicker and darker towards the stranger.

For a moment, Danai was back there, under the limp body of her mother as that thing crouched over them and fed.

No! It isn't real.

It wasn't real. The monster was her mind's interpretation of traumatic events. Instead of the pills they'd taken together as a part of their suicide pact, she remembered the hotel conference room filling with shadows. Instead of her mom and the rest flopping around, mouths foaming as the drugs washed through them, she imagined a monster. She'd been a child. Her memories couldn't be trusted. She could barely remember her mother's face, what it had looked like outside of the photographs in her aunt's house, now fading and a bit orange.

Whatever this woman was doing, Danai needed to handle it like an adult. "You're not supposed to be here," she said. "I'm getting the Principal."

The stranger looked up, their eyes met. It was emptiness. Darkness worse than shadows, sucking Danai down, down, down.

"Oh, this makes things much easier," the stranger said. "You are unique, aren't you, little bird."

Unique.

Danai shivered. It had to be a coincidence. But twice in ten minutes? How many people were looking for her? And why?

And then the stranger came at her, an angel of darkness.

"Help!" Danai screamed at the top of her lungs. "Someone help!"

The girl looked up and smiled. Each of her teeth had been sharpened to bloody points.

Danai backed away. The door had shut behind her, and she felt for the handle with one hand while with the other holding the first aid kit in front of her like a shield.

It's not real. Just your brain interpreting stress into fantasies. This isn't real!

But she couldn't believe herself. Her brain wasn't this creative. Not even when she was story-boarding out a strip for the web-comic.

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