I had a dream that I was swimming through black water, so cold I was numb, so dark that my arms were stark white against the surface. I was swimming for something, towards someplace, where I did not know. I just knew that if I stopped to rest my aching limbs, I would lose any chance of getting there. And it was so important… I struck out and strained my eyes into the darkness, looking for a shore. I was visited by the sudden realisation that I wasn’t moving. There was no light to reflect off the water, and I couldn’t tell how vast this stretch of water was, or how deep. I was going to be stranded here forever. As I had this chilling thought, two pinpricks of light appeared beneath me underwater. They rose towards the surface, towards me. Two golden eyes, cold with malice. When they reached me, I knew that I was going to die.
I woke up to find my legs tangled in the duvet on my bed, and the panic resided as I realised it was just a dream. A nightmare… I hadn’t had one since I was about seven years old.
I must have flung out an arm, because the alarm clock was on the floor. Obviously alerted by the noise, the door opened and my mother came in. Her face was drawn and pale, contrasting against her startlingly bright hair.
I suddenly remembered that I didn’t know how I got to my room.
“What happened?” I groaned, feeling a tender spot on the back of my head as I searched for injuries.
“You must have got lost in the dark and tripped,” she explained, sitting anxiously on the end of the bed. “Luckily you were only down the road… You were freezing when I found you. The doctor said you could have got hypothermia… I shouldn’t have let you go off on your own, what was I thinking?”
“Mum…” I said awkwardly. I was a bit embarrassed that I had already managed to knock myself out on my third evening in Slake, especially that a doctor had been to check on me. I hated people making a fuss. “It’s okay.”
“What would your dad say?” she mumbled into her hands, which were covering her face. She was almost distraught.
“Mum! I hit my head, big deal, you know it could have been worse!”
“Exactly, Ruby. You don’t know how much worse. Anything could have happened.”
Her lip trembling, she stood up and went to the door.
“Come downstairs when you want anything. I have to ring your dad and tell him…”
I sat up quickly, alarmed, and regretted it. I felt instantly woozy and flopped back onto the pillows, any protestations I had been about to make wiped from my mind. I heard the door snap shut and wondered what time it was. I picked up the slightly dented digital clock and saw that it was half past ten at night. I should be all right for school the next morning, so I switched off the lamp and went back to sleep, feeling suddenly exhausted.