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Some say dreams are visions from God. Others say they're neurons firing in our brains. I say they're both.
The question is—where do nightmares come from?
I hold my hands in front of me, the fog swarming around them, tightening around them and my throat. Ten fingers though.
So this is real.
I can't see the sun, only a silvery sheen. My hand brushes through the fog, trying to push it away, but it doesn't comply. A few rain drops trickle down my face. I brush them away, along with a few tears. The day I start working with my father, a day I've been waiting for for fifteen years, seems intent on not being perfect.
My family has one car, which means my father walks, which means I walk— in the rain. My mom uses the car for errands. At least he finds having a car for her necessary. I don't know what he does. He signed his name on a contract. A piece of paper that says I can't know. So in my mind, he has to be a government official.
But walking is okay. I don't get much of it anymore since the rate of disappearances has gone up.
Goosebumps spread over my arms, and my stomach clenches. "I think so."
All the houses in my neighborhood look alike— cream colored walls with brown roofs. I'm still amazed I can find my house when walking home from school. I duck my head and hurry to keep pace with my father, who's already at the end of the driveway.
This day could be better, but I can see the potential for great mornings in the future. Okay, maybe not. Spring is usually my favorite time of year. Except for yesterday which was birthday number fifteen for me. People think having my birthday on April Fools is great.
Creatures in birthday cakes and pranks disguised as presents do not make for a great birthday. And I repeat, do not.
After passing the library, the coffee shop which we stop at, and then the café, my father veers off the sidewalk. I stop, scrunching my face up. He works in the middle of nowhere? What kind of government baloney is this? Opposed to walking through the mud, I take care to step in his tracks. He continues walking, not even bothering to check to make sure I'm still following. The ground slopes upward and my shoulders slag.
A hill? Really?
I thank the Lord I wore decent shoes, because if I hadn't, I probably wouldn't have any feet left. When the ground levels, we're faced with the edge of a forest.
I think my father is lost.
Or has lost it.
"Are we almost there?" I ask, gasping in the sticky, thick air.
We enter the woods, hiking over twigs, branches, stumps, and roots. Twigs, branches, stumps, and roots. Twigs, branches—
What the heck am I doing?
I'm losing it too.
Shaking my head, I ask, "So what am I going to do?" I balance on a thick root, before hopping off.
"You'll see, Nora."
I fight the urge to roll my eyes. "Do I get breaks?"
A smile spreads across his face. It's such a rare phenomenon that it scares me. "Well, you'll have a lot of time to rest."
The only light comes from lines of sunlight breaking through gaps in the closely sewn leaves. Everything looks the same until my foot catches on a branch, and dirt, some bugs . . . and worms splash against my face. My body tenses, and my father pulls me up. He's not frowning. Instead, his mouth is set in a straight line, and he sighs.
The forest at last parts, and I can just make out the enormous building looming over me— at least seven stories tall and a perfect cube. Yes, just. The building is camouflaged by the woods, seemingly blending into the thick vegetation. Honestly, it looks like a continuation of the forest. If I wasn't looking, I probably wouldn't have noticed the building until I ran into it.
"Is this it?" I whisper, scared the slightest noise will make it vanish.
I've been waiting for this moment all my life and here it is. I walk faster, but my father doesn't. That doesn't stop me, and I don't until I'm at the building. He catches up to me and smiles again, the expression so foreign, my stomach twists into knots at the sight of it twice in the space of ten minutes. Behind us, Aaron and his father approach. Aaron who I've had a crush on since the beginning of the school year. He's got the stereotypical blond hair and blue eyes that you can't help but stare at. Embarrassing but true. This morning we messaged each other about working with our dads, and then, of course, about Pericula declaring war. Aaron grins and waves. I raise my hand up.
"Isn't this amazing?" Aaron bounces as he walks.
"The mystery's finally going to be solved."
Our fathers trade looks, and while I don't know what that was for, I'm not feeling good about it or any of this really. After my mother standing up to my father and crying, Kandice, my sister, giving me her doll, and then Keagan, my brother, actually saying goodbye, I'm not sure I really want to discover what their jobs are.
This is the first novel I ever wrote and is what inspired my love of writing. This story has come a long way since its first draft and has been rewritten. It has even won some awards. I'll be posting on Saturdays, and the entire novel is on my computer so don't worry about me not updating. I'll be posting two more chapters over the next couple of days.
~Count those fingers (this will make sense later on), Mikaela
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