Light in the Dark

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Abigail's dreams took an eccentric turn that night when she found herself seated at a table in a tea shop surrounded by gossipy old women. The handful of chatting ladies paid her seemingly no attention as they went on and on about the quality of their treats.

"I must say, this Earl Grey tea is positively scintillating!" exclaimed one of the elderly women.

"'Positively scintillating'?" Abigail dryly thought as the inane talk went on.

"And oh my, Janet, these blueberry scones are to die for!" said another one, reaching for an admittedly appealing scone from the platter before them.

The one named Janet clucked disapprovingly and muttered, "Mm, no, Dorothy dear, they're a bit too dry for my taste. But what do you think, Eleanor?"

Eleanor sighed contentedly and told them, "I could stay here for days, darlings! This is a wonderful smattering of goodies!"

She turned to Abigail, who was still eyeing the elderly women in confusion, and said to her, "But Abigail, you haven't touched anything here! Are you not feeling well?"

Together, Janet, Dorothy, and Eleanor stared Abigail down, leaving her fidgeting nervously in her chair as she tried to understand why her dreaming mind had placed her at a tea party. While it was a breath of fresh air after being haunted by that gloomy bathroom vision for weeks, she was dumbfounded as to what the scene before her had to do with anything.

"Um..." Abigail mumbled awkwardly, "I'm not interested in tea or scones right now."

"Why ever not, dear?" Janet asked worriedly, leaning forward to inspect her more closely. "You look like your mind is stuck on something. Whatever it is, don't let it stop you from enjoying these delightful treats!"

"What seems to be the issue, sweetie?" Eleanor inquired. "Don't be shy now, you can tell us anything."

"After all," Dorothy said to her with a sly wink, "with all of the years under our belts, we're bound to have an answer to whatever problem's ailing you."

"This is just a dream, right? Is there really any use in trying to ask one of these strange old ladies for advice about what I've been learning? I mean, heck, I guess there's only one way to find out..."

Abigail squirmed in her chair, and made herself tell them, "I can't get my mind off of Jessica Anderson."

Her words sank in, and the three women's whimsical smiles unanimously transformed into ominous scowls. Abigail shrank back in alarm as she watched her tea party partners snarl and scowl at each other, spouting harsh words against the elder Anderson sister.

"That abomination got what she deserved!" Dorothy spat, and her elderly cohorts nodded in stern agreement.

Janet reached across the café table, squeezed Abigail's hand, and told her, "Don't pity that wench for what she's suffering in the psych ward, Abigail. Jessica Anderson brought this upon herself, and at this very moment, she's far more isolated than she ever tried to make Nadia feel."

Eleanor hissed, "And we all know that no matter how much time passes, Jessica will never admit that she was wrong for the horrific things she put that poor girl through."

"Hold on, are you guys telling me that those rumors about Jessica being in Bellview Psych are true?" Abigail asked eagerly.

"More than true, my dear," Janet answered, letting go of Abigail's hand. "Including the part about her...visitors."

Abigail felt nauseous as she watched the three kind faces before her malform into sadistic grins, and knew that the troubling whispers were true indeed. Her dream friends had confirmed that for all intents and purposes, Jessica Anderson was indeed "surrounded by demons" in Bellview Psychiatry.

"Do you think it's possible for me to go there? To check it out for myself?" Abigail asked them.

The elderly women looked at each other warily, then faced her together, somber and quiet.

"Yes, but Abigail, be forewarned: it's not a pretty sight, what's happening to Jessica Anderson," Janet answered.

"Four years 'til now, she's suffered the same endless torment for the malice she brazenly unleashed," Dorothy mused. "Four years of punishment, yet she still won't acknowledge her own sins."

Eleanor whispered cautiously to Abigail, "We understand your noble intentions, child, but you must be absolutely certain that you can handle this before you depart. Are you positive beyond any doubt that you won't be left paralyzed with horror at what you see in Jessica's ward?"

Abigail grimaced unceasingly, and answered, "Yes. I mean, it can't be that bad, right?"

The three women before her stood up in unison, beckoned to the café door, and said in unison, "Then tread cautiously down those shadowy halls."

"Shadowy halls?"

Abigail stood up and left the table, heading for the exit with a growing sense of paranoia. Whoever the women were, they knew too much to simply be random Bellview citizens. It would've come as no surprise to Abigail whatsoever if they were somehow in league with the Secretary.

When she exited the café, Abigail came out onto an empty, dark street somewhere in the outskirts of Bellview, lit only by a sprinkling of streetlights. She turned around and balked at the sight of the deserted, decrepit building behind her. The cheery café she had visited only moments before had entirely disappeared.

"Even for a dream, this is too creepy. What's going on?"

With no other options, Abigail traversed the lonely street, unable to discern where exactly she was thanks to the blanketing darkness covering her surroundings. Her footsteps echoed everywhere with every paranoid step she took, without knowing exactly where she was heading. It was all Abigail could do to fight of the rising, desperate desire to wake up before whatever lurked in the shadowed city could terrify her.

On the low wind passing through the dark version of Bellview, a low, mournful sigh resounded. Abigail paused warily and squinted, trying to make out the person coming into visibility several feet ahead in the void. A tall, slender girl stood with her head down, looking distraught and broken. Whoever the girl was, Abigail had the creeping sensation that she had seen her somewhere else.

Carried on the wind passing towards her, Abigail heard the sorrowful girl whisper, "This is a town filled with lies, corruption, and prejudice...so much prejudice..."

Abigail gawked in recognition, and muttered, "Wait...Nadia?!"

At that, Nadia turned and fled down the shadowed street, leaving Abigail to chase desperately after her, the mournful train horn echoing in the distance. It was all she could do to keep up with the wayward girl as Nadia led her towards a massive gray building looming up ahead, peeking out of the darkness like a decayed skeleton. As she watched Nadia turn right and flee towards the front entrance of the building, Abigail took a glance at the massive wooden sign standing in front.

-WELCOME TO BELLVIEW PSYCHIATRY-

-Founded in 1922-

The sound of massive doors opening and closing let out a screeching clang over the area. Abigail passed the sign and sped right, seeing the bronze doors of the mental hospital standing before her. Aching to know more about the strange girl who had sent her that dream letter, Abigail bounded towards the handle and yanked the door open, stepping inside to a gloomy lobby as the train's call faded away.

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