Elena gulped cold air and blinked slowly. A shudder ran through her, a sense of foreboding engulfing her mind. Every night she had dreams – more like nightmares. She never remembered them, but the all-encompassing fear was undeniable when she awoke.
She moved her eyes, trailing the dark landscape. She kept silently reminding herself it was all in her mind. Her trembling hands were just another aspect of her imagination. She drew in another breath, goosebumps rising at how cold it was. She felt a moment of hesitation before taking a step forward. She held out a hand, searching for a solid surface. All she that met her touch was the heavy brush of dense fog. She walked forward, feeling as if every step was an impossible effort, but she couldn't stay where she was. The dark was dangerous, she knew it on some instinctive level. As if responding to her direct thoughts, the sound of a low growl echoed towards her. Her breathing hitched and she quickened her pace. She squeezed her eyes shut, seeing more blackness. She drew in calm, slow breaths, forcing herself to calm down.
It's all in your head. It's all just your imagination. None of this is rea-.
“Oh honey, it is completely real,” a woman drawled. Elena's eyes snapped open. She shut them instantly, wincing at the sudden invasion of light. She opened them slowly, adjusting to her new surroundings. The darkness was gone, but what she could see didn't make her feel any more hope. The land was dry and cracked, barren of life - apart from her and the stranger. A strong gust of wind blew heated and humid over her skin. The dusty air hanging uncomfortably in her throat as she breathed.
She looked away from the depressingly dead desert, concentrating on the voice's source. She blinked, trying to register what she was seeing. The woman could've been a carbon copy of Elena, except she was wearing ripped jeans, and a shirt that was more torn cloth than usable material. Elena would've been embarrassed on her behalf, but clearly they were alone. A quick glance downwards told Elena she was dressed in her usual jeans and t-shirt. The woman was leaning against an old, wooden fence, smirking at her surprise.
“You never remember our conversations, do you?” she asked, tilting her head to the side. Another gust of wind blew past them, sending her dirty, dull hair rippling softly. “No wonder Jacky's getting so annoyed at you,” she added. Elena felt a frown form at the name, unable to draw any familiar connections to it.
“Who are you?” Elena asked, unable to hide the waver in her voice.
“You of course. Though you'd never dare acknowledge me,” she replied, pushing away from the fence and walking closer. Her flimsy brown shoes sending brittle dirt into the air as she walked. Elena stared at her, lips parting slightly.
“That's not possible,” she finally said. The woman made a 'titch' sound, the smirk back on her cracked lips.
“We have this conversation everytime,” she murmured, laughing softly at Elena. She felt a wave of indignation at her tone. She was acting as if she were some ignorant child.
“Tell me where I am and what you are doing here,” she demanded, crossing her arms and meeting the other her's eyes with her own.
“You're in the process of having a reality check, dear,” she replied, matching her tone. The amusement had left her face, replaced by grim determination.
“Excuse me?” Elena half-laughed. “I don't need anything from some soiled copy of me!” she yelled, pouring the frustration from the last few weeks into the words. She could feel her palms complain at how tightly she was clenching her fists, her nails digging into the soft skin. Anger flared in the stranger's eyes and Elena felt the world around her shift. The sky darkened and the fog returned, making her body tremble uncontrollably.
“I may be all the parts of yourself you hate, but at least I want to help you. Trust me when I say the others will be less forgiving,” she said, her voice void of emotion as she watched her. The anger had left, diminished by an expectant sadness.
“Others? I thought you said I'd been here before,” Elena said, confused. She felt other words and questions freeze in her throat as the light continued to fade. The woman dressed in rags watched her with sad, dark pools for eyes.
“You have. But I've used up what time I had. He won't let you keep doing this Elena. You can't keep running forever,” she said, her voice sounding faraway. The darkness continued to grow. Her image began to fade before Elena's eyes, like an old black and white photo.
“Wait! Don't leave me!” she yelled, rushing forward to where she was standing. The darkness fell with an audible snap and she was alone again. Her hands didn't meet wood though, instead she could feel the rough, gritty surface of brick. She let out a cry, pressing herself against the wall. Her body shaking as she fought a silent wave of tears. She could feel her throat closing up, and wondered if she was mentally suffocating herself with her hyperventilation. What had she just done?
She cut her sobs off, her body freezing as a familiar growl reached her. She took a steadying breath and looked over her shoulder, and somehow, despite the darkness – she saw the monster before her. The Jackal watched her with unfathomable, black eyes, a glint of light shining in their depths being the only evidence they were there. Elan could feel the blood pounding through her body. She raised a sweaty palm to the brick's surface, using it as an anchor. She began to turn until she facing the creature with wide eyes. Her t-shirt clinging to her body as she continued to sweat. The creature took a step closer and the dank smell of wet fur met her nose.
Oh god, it's going to kill me.
The lights snapped on again. A yep escaped her lips. She opened her eyes slowly, blinking. She stood up straight, eyes alert for any signs of the Jackal, but it was gone. She felt her whole body quiver with relief and leaned against the brick wall, sliding down it's surface to curl into a ball on the floor. She leaned forward, burying her head in her hands, refusing to acknowledge her new surroundings, or whoever was undoubtedly nearby.
What is that thing? And what does it want with me?