The Reaping Chapter Four

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A few years ago, I drank too much cherry wine at a Winter Solstice party. The next morning, my head barely lifted from the pillow. The room spun, and my queasy stomach made me heave for hours. I never thought I would feel the same way again.

Lying in a very comfortable bed didn't stop the pounding in my head, the nausea, or my throbbing wrists and face. At that moment, death would have been preferable over the way I felt. But, I was still alive.

My eyes stung as I opened them. The woods and the blazing red eyes and the body of Gilbert Mason were gone, replaced with a cave and no other recognizable noise except for my breathing and the sound of rushing water. Light flickered off the cavern walls. My eyes were dry like my mouth. The craving for water motivated me to move.

My whole body trembled, and the room spun as I balanced on my arms. My wrists, up to my elbows, were wrapped in white bandages. I fell back on my side and took deep breaths, noticing the few spots of blood had seeped through them. This morning's breakfast and lunch edged upward until I purged every single morsel over the side of the bed. When my stomach stopped convulsing, I lay moaning, wishing the mist had killed me back in the forest.

Why hadn't it killed me? How did I get here?

When my stomach settled, I opened my eyes and wiped my mouth with the back of my hand. Blood came away. My bottom lip throbbed, and my right cheek stung. I was covered with blankets and surrounded by pillows in someone's house or shelter. My head continued to throb in confusion at seeing a rocky ceiling over my head.

My groans reminded me of the cries of a dying goat being slaughtered. With trembling hands, I held my head until the room stopped spinning. The need to vomit rose again, brought on by my aching body. My hands shook as I pushed my messy, knotted hair away from my face.

Inhaling deeply, I focused on my surroundings. The room appeared long and wide, filled with antique dressers and chairs. Trunks lined up against the walls, and an open crate with colorful dresses and shoes stood in the corner near the bed. Jewelry sparkled among the clothes. Tossing the comforter aside, I considered my lovely dress Nonnie made, now a wrinkled mess stained with dirt and blood.

My chin trembled. Thoughts of my grandmother gave me the will to leave the bed. The room spun again, and I grabbed the brass headboard to stand. The smell of my vomit drifted up toward my nose. Stepping away on unsteady feet, I swallowed a few times and covered my mouth, longing for a glass of water.

My mind must have been playing tricks on me again as a strange dripping noise met my ears. An opening beckoned off to the far right. The fear of something unknown possibly lurking outside this room almost stopped me from moving forward.

On weakened legs, I stumbled to the opening and gawked down at the enormous room below.

The cavern was so high and wide you could fit my whole house in here and still have room for another. Lights flickered and shadows danced across the walls. A huge waterfall poured into a pool in the middle of the room. A stone staircase led up to another level. Tables, chairs and furniture you could find in someone's home covered every corner. In the front, or perhaps it was the back, facing the waterfall pool, were two stone structures surveying everything. They stood in the shape of two large dogs with eyes filled with sparkling red stones, much like the color glowing from the animals' eyes at night. The harsh echo of the whistling wind came and went. My hair stood on end at the sound.

I stood there full of mixed emotions ranging from fear to surprise and finally shock. This place of wonder left me with my mouth gaping open. When my legs felt steadier and my stomach stopped cramping, I walked down the stairs.

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