BOOK 2 // SEVEN: Living Nightmare

11.6K 885 115

            Here in Birmingham, I dreamed for the first time in my life.

I'd never experienced it before. For some, that might've seemed weird, but I couldn't truly feel the absence of something that had never been there in the first place. I presumed it was an effect of modification. The brain was complex, after all; even the smartest scientist in the world didn't fully understand how it worked. It seemed apt that dreams would be a phenomenon that escaped the grasp of human understanding, slipping through the fingers like a wisp of smoke. For a long time, I'd assumed that the extra genes inserted into my DNA had simply interrupted what was needed to dream.

Until now.

I wasn't sure they could even be counted as dreams. I wasn't familiar with the process, in the dark about what they were supposed to feel like, but the visions felt far too vivid for comfort. Each one consisted of darkness, but of a thick consistency that seemed to consume anything and everything with no escape. I would try desperately to fight my way through, but doing so was like wading through treacle: exhausting and utterly pointless. Then it would force its way into my lungs, unrelenting, like toxic smoke, leaving me gasping for a breath I could never find.

Sometimes, I would hear voices. Always breathy, like a whisper carried away by the wind, gone too quickly to hold onto individual words. I didn't know who they belonged to – nor whether I was supposed to be running toward or away from them.

Tonight was exceptionally bad. The voices were louder than ever, and I was sure I recognised them – or at least one amongst the rest. It was too familiar to ignore, too insistent to walk away from. I had no choice but to walk straight into the darkness, hoping it wouldn't consume me as I did.

"Astrid..."

I definitely recognised it. My heart pounded, and I could hear the blood rushing in my ears. It was a male voice, morphed and twisted and completely distressed – but one I knew belonged to Jace.

Was this it? Was this finally him asking for help, ready to open up and let me in? I knew I had to follow, but that was easier said than done when blackness obscured all sense of direction.

I tried to call out, but as soon as I opened my mouth the darkness forced its way down my throat, and I ended up doubled over and spluttering. My eyes streamed as I tried desperately to force some air in my lungs. If I didn't manage it soon, I would choke to death.

"I knew it... you're going to leave me like this... I knew I couldn't trust you..."

You can trust me, I wanted to cry out. Throughout this whole ordeal, the idea of betraying him hadn't even crossed my mind. There'd been too much at stake, too much to lose. I never would have thrown that away.

"I knew it," the voice said again, in the absence of my response. "And now I'm going to make you pay..."

Something was coming for me. I could see the tiny speck of light in the distance, starting off small, but growing larger every second. What was it? I found myself desperately searching for a clue in its shape, its colour, its speed – anything that might prepare me. And yet there was nothing. All I knew was that it was growing larger, and as the light expanded and I found myself squinting, it became harder and harder to see.

Then, something slammed into me, the impact knocking me off my feet.

Amidst the dark and the chaos, I could see nothing. There was a pressure on my chest, the weight of something pinning me to the ground, and I scrambled to fight it off. Were those claws, ripping so deep into my flesh it seemed like the pain would split me in half? It didn't seem possible, and yet there could surely be no other explanation for the searing agony in my chest.

Human ErrorRead this story for FREE!