Chapter 20: He's Broken, So Broken

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[Songs for the chapter:
- Mayday Parade // The Memory
- Strays Don't Sleep - For Blue Skies]

It was getting bad - really, really bad.

Last night I woke up shrieking for my father, tearing at my throat and clawing at my skin, trying my absolute hardest to get my voice to him but the flames got there before I did. They devoured him, licking his skin before taking mammoth bites out of his flesh, leaving smouldering black holes where they had taken hungry mouthfuls.

But there was something far worse about that particular nightmare. Another voice was screaming too. She had a high-pitched, soul-racking scream that was heavily coated with sheer terror and even though it took me a while to locate the source of the voice, I found her.

Albeit it was too late.

An ashen mess remained of her blonde hair and her dewy, tanned skin was pocketed with gaping holes that were a mixture of oozing flesh, blood and bone. One particular hole in her cheek revealed her immaculate set of teeth, except now they were blackened from the smouldering fire that had victimised her. Retching violently, my stomach projectile vomited my dinner before I collapsed beside her, stroking the brittle hairs that crumbled into fine ash beneath my fingertips.

I hadn't realised how loud my cries were until I was being brutally shaken awake. Fingernails dug into my shoulders as they were jerked me back and forth so viciously I thought my head was going to detach itself and roll onto the floor.

"Wake up! Ashley!" Mom yelled, aggressively yanking me into a sitting position.

My eyes flung open and suddenly the vivid, fiery light was replaced with the darkness of my room. An aching throb in my chest chased away the terror whilst an overwhelming dizziness crept up on me.

"M-Mom?" I choked, failing to swallow back down the acidic bile that rapidly raced up my oesophagus.

"Sweetheart, don't you ever scare me like that again!" She whispered fiercely, pulling me into a tight hug as convulsive sobs racked through me.

The bile was in my mouth and suddenly my stomach churned harshly. Feeling disorientated, I tried to feebly push myself away from my mom's chest but her hold only tightened.

"M-mom, I'm gonna be-" I was cut off when my body jerked forward and I hacked up my dinner for the second time tonight, except this time it was in reality.

She let out a shriek and clasped her hand over her mouth before looking at me with a sympathetic expression. Wisps of blonde hair fell into her face as she shook her head sadly. As much as she was grossed out, her hands remained tangled in my curls as she stroked my hair and rubbed my shoulders whilst I whimpered into her chest.

It felt like there was a boulder lodged inside my chest and was being forced to rise up my throat. Excruciating terror emitted from each and every sob whilst I clung to her gown and clawed at her shoulders, trying my hardest to keep my lids open. I knew that if I shut them I would see my best friend's ashen blonde hair again and that gaping burn hole in her face.

After five minutes, my eyes were stinging and my throat felt like sandpaper. We just sat there in each other's arm for a couple more moments before I pulled away.

Mom lifted a hand to my cheek and forced me to face her. Blue eyes searched mine in the dim light that was pouring in from the ajar bedroom door that she had slammed open earlier.

"Was it that bad?" Her voice was hesitant as if she thought it was too soon for her to start bombarding me with questions.

Catching on what she was talking about, I briefly nodded and swiped my sleeve over my mouth when she cautiously stood up, trying not to get my puke all over the carpet.

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