2. Night Terrors

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Pictured: Salem

I slap low-hanging limbs away from my face as my feet move faster than I ever thought possible. My chest heaves as my breathing comes in ragged gasps for air. I feel as though my heart is about to pop out of my chest from the way it's pounding. I have been running deeper and deeper into the forest filled with twisted, black, trees for what feels like hours.

"Who are you?" I scream, tears flowing down my face. It's the same question that I cry every time I have this dream. "Leave me alone!"

I never know who is chasing me, but the vibe that this person gives off is a bone-chilling, terrifying, feeling. For years I have ran through these trees, too scared to look back.

I come to the part of the dream where the forest cuts away with the rest of the earth. I collapse at the edge of a cliff and stare down at a bottomless pit, filled with nothing but darkness and gray fog.

The footsteps behind me slow to a stop, and I can feel the presence of a person standing right behind me. Usually, this is the part of the dream where I would throw myself off of the cliff and then wake up, screaming, but instead, I find myself frozen on the ground. Words leave my mouth before I realize that I am even speaking. "Why are you chasing me?" I ask, breathing heavily.

The sound of my own voice rings in my ears, sounding foreign, and the world falls silent.

Moments pass and my anxiety begins to grow from my inability to move, but finally, for the first time in my life, the being speaks to me. His voice is deep and gravely, and as he talks, I feel his lips graze the nape of my neck with every word that he whispers. "I am chasing you because you will soon be mine, Love. Stop running. I own you."

As soon as he speaks, I jolt up into a standing position, ready to turn around and face the man that has terrorized me in my dreams since the night I turned sixteen, but before I can get even the slightest glimpse of him, the dream world sinks away, and my eyes fly open, staring up at the white ceiling of my apartment.

My best friend, Jade, bursts through the door, wide-eyed. "Salem, are you OK? You were yelling in your sleep again."

I slowly pull myself up from the pillow. "Yea, I'm fine," I sigh. "Just another night terror. Must suck having me as a roommate, right?"

She laughs and shakes her head. "No way. You know I love living together."

I give her a sleepy smile. "Well, good, because no one else would ever put up with me. What time is it?"

She reaches for her cell phone in the pocket of her pajama pants, and then glances at the screen. "It's 6:50 am."

"Why are you up this early?" I exclaim.

She grins, sheepishly. "Rory sort of came over really early, again, and he brought me breakfast," she says, referring to her boyfriend that I'm not exactly too fond of. At least she has someone though. I wish I had someone to bring me breakfast.

"That was sweet of him," I reply. "Is he still here, or can I get up now?"

Jade rolls her eyes at me with a smirk on her face. She knows I don't like being around him. He gives me the creeps. "Yes, he left about half an hour ago. Get up. We have a big day ahead of us!"

I frown. "Please no."

"Yes," she says firmly. "Tomorrow is your twentieth birthday, and we are celebrating our asses off."

"Yea," I reply, bitterly. "And it's also the ten year anniversary of my mom and dad's death."

A soft smile appears on her face. "I know, Babe. That's why we need to go out tonight and celebrate, though. We can start the day off having fun and get your mind off of all of the sadness. Please?" She pleas, pouting. "I want to do this for you."

I try to hold a straight face, but I can't help but smile. She's such a good friend to me. "Fine," I agree with a strong eye roll. "I'll go. I'm picking out my own clothes, though. You're not dressing me up like a damn hooker like you did last year!"

She throws her head back, cackling. "We'll see!"

Around 10:30 at night, we hop into Jade's car and pull out of the driveway. "I can't believe I let you dress me," I grumble, arms crossed over my chest.

She grins over to me. "I can, because we both know that I have great taste in clothes."

I scoff. "I guess. I don't know why you have to dress me in such short shorts every time, though."

"It's hot outside!" She exclaims. "We are going to be dancing around a bunch of people. You would have burnt up in regular pants."

Sighing, I smile over at her. "I guess you're right."

She winks at me and presses the accelerator, launching the car forward faster as we hit the freeway. "Of course I am, Babe."

I'm not surprised that Jade didn't tell me when we left the house, but as we pull into the lot outside of the club, Jade runs into Rory's arms, hugging him tightly.

"You didn't tell me that Rory was going to be here," I say, eyeing them with an uncomfortable smile.

Jade turns her head to me, giving me an apologetic grin. "Sorry. Must have forgot."

Forgot my ass. Oh well. I'll just have to try my best to enjoy the night and keep my distance from him.

The three of us enter the club right after I nervously flash my fake I.D. to the bouncer. Strobe lights and fog machines set the ambiance as the vibrations from the music flows through me. I have to shout for Jade to hear me. "Hey, I'm going to grab a drink, OK?"

Jade nods. "Alright, I'm going to go dance! Find me when you're ready!"

I turn and make my way to the bar, shoving through the crowd of people. Clubs really aren't my thing. Neither is dancing. I know Jade tries to cheer me up, but I'd be much happier at home watching a movie or something. This is more Jade's scene.

"What can I get for you?" A tall, blonde woman from behind the bar asks me.

"Three shots of whatever," I shout back.

She grins. "Comin' right up, Sweetie!"

A moment later, she comes back with three shots of vodka. I thank her and give her the money and a tip, and then I pound all three shots. I'm going to have to be pretty drunk to put up with being the third wheel on my birthday.

I pull my phone out and check the time. It reads 11:52 pm. Just eight minutes until my birthday.

I really don't want to spend it sitting at the bar alone, so I stand and make my way over to the staircase, pushing past even more people. After climbing the stairs, I exit onto the roof. I tell Jade that this is my favorite club because of the music they play, but honestly, it's because of this little space. The club has a flat roof that you can come up to and sit. The view of the city is amazing, and nobody really hangs out here. It's a place where I can be alone for a moment before having to go back down and pretend to enjoy myself.

I stare up at the stars, taking a deep breath, and a smile crosses my face. It's a peaceful smile. Sounds of the city buzz below me. Even at midnight, the city is still so alive. I love it.

I reach for my phone in my pocket, and as soon as I glance down to check the time, the numbers flash from 11:59 pm to 12:00 am.

I slide my phone back into my pocket and let out a breathy laugh. "Happy Birthday to me," I mumble to myself, staring at the bright lights and moving cars from below.

A thought occurs to me. Jade will probably come looking for me soon, and she will freak out if she can't find me. I am about to turn and go inside, but just before I can, I hear a familiar, deep and gravely voice speak from behind me. "Happy Birthday to you, Love." As soon as the words leave his mouth, I freeze, recognizing the voice. It's so distinct that there is no mistaking it. It's the man from my dream.

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