Four

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I tossed and turned that night. My mind was flooded with images of Ariana. I could hear her voice, her laughter, and even smell her favorite perfume. Things I hadn't thought about in years rushed my mind now as though it had all happened yesterday, rather than years ago.

The funeral entered my dreams, exaggerated in my mind to become a nightmarish mix of the actual funeral and the haunted funhouse we had experienced years ago. In my nightmare, Ariana was inside one of the wooden caskets from the ride that stood upright. As the funeral began, everyone sat in complete silence, staring straight ahead. A devilish figure stood at a podium, orange and red flames rising up from behind him. I could feel the heat growing heavier.

Ariana popped out of her casket, stuck on metal springs that protruded from her back. She bounced back and forth, a look of sheer terror on her face. I looked around in horror, but no one seemed to notice.

Ariana's eyes were pitch black. Her skin was ashen, a mixture of gray and pale white. Her hair hung in stringy clumps down the front of her chest. She opened her mouth as if to scream, but no sound came out. Instead, her mouth just remained opened wide. I tried to get up, wanting to run to her to cut her loose from the casket she was in, but I couldn't move.

I awoke covered in sweat. It took me a while to catch my breath and remind myself it had been a nightmare. I couldn't get the image of her out of my head though. For what felt like hours, I tossed and turned before finally falling back asleep. I was prone to nightmares, but this had been something else entirely. This felt so...real. The details in Ariana's face, I couldn't put my finger on it.

First I heard her laughter so clearly while in the bath. And now I had nightmares of her? My mind was my worst enemy, I thought.

I woke the next morning from the aroma of scrambled eggs and bacon. After I'd gotten dressed, I went downstairs and walked into the kitchen to see my mom cooking breakfast.

"Hey, honey!" she smiled. "I startled you! Oh, I'm sorry!"

I hadn't expected to see her, or anyone, in the kitchen. Usually I was alone in the mornings, my dad having already left for work and my mom at the gym.

"No gym today?" I asked as she handed me a plate of eggs and bacon.

My mom didn't answer right away, but I could read her expression. Ariana had gotten her driver's license over a year ago and had picked me up every morning for school. Even though we both lived close enough to the school to walk there, Ariana took every opportunity to drive her new car that she could.

Now that it was summer, I had expected to be spending my days with her. There was a long list of things we had wanted to do this summer. My mom must have wanted to make sure I was doing okay.

For her fifteenth birthday, Ariana's parents bought her a brand new convertible VW in baby blue. They said they wanted her to learn on the car she'd be driving once she got her license, hence the car when she was fifteen instead of sixteen.

I stared blankly at my mom.

"I'm probably just gonna hang out here today," I told her.

"Yeah, me too," she smiled at me.

We had lived in our same house ever since we first moved to this town years ago. My parents loved it here. To me, it was a nice place to grow up but lacked any major excitement. There was barely any crime, but I honestly think that's because everyone knows each other.

The things I complained about in our town were the same things that made it so appealing to other people. Fairhollow was a picturesque place with its hills full of trees that changed color with the seasons. In the middle sat a small pond that was turned into an ice skating rink as soon as it froze during the winter. Surrounding the pond were tons of narrow streets which were home to mom-and-pop shops and eateries. This area was our Town Square and was easily the most popular place to hang out, mostly because there wasn't anywhere else close by to go.

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