“Arielle? Is that you?”
I came into the apartment to find my mom in the living room, curled up on the couch with the latest mystery novel.
Who else, I thought to myself, but to my mother, I said, “Yeah, it’s me. What’s up?”
Considering my mother’s euphoric mood when she’d called not three hours earlier, she seemed especially down.
She let out a dramatic sigh. “Oh, it’s nothing,” she mumbled. “How’re you and Griffin?”
“We worked through everything,” I told her, “just like you said we would.”
She nodded. “He seems nice. A little different, but perfect for you.”
I flashed another smile at her before excusing myself.
As soon as I reached my room, I decided that it would probably be a good idea to work on my homework. The teachers at Billiards hadn’t been giving us much lately, so it was only fair that we’d been assigned an entire report for American History, due Monday. Five-hundred words.
I reached into my school bag and pulled out my history book, flipping through it quickly and looking for something that seemed interesting enough to write up a five-hundred word report on. Nothing stood out.
I only half-watched as the illustrations flashed up the history of the development of America, looking for something but not really looking. Revolutionary war, Civil war, World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, the Civil Rights Movement, the Cold War, and finally, September Eleventh.
I let out a sigh. I couldn’t help but wonder what Griffin was doing his report on. He was probably done already. And it was probably worthy of a literary award.
I finally settled on Nine-Eleven, because at least I’d been alive for that, and that was as far as I got in my report. I had all week, and besides, all the stress with Griffin had worn me out.
I went through the usual bed-time process, brushing my teeth, combing out my hair, and scrubbing off my make-up. And the second my head hit the pillow, I was asleep.
He is dying. The blood slowly pouring from his delicate wrists. His face grows paler and his beautiful eyes, those green eyes I love, no longer look at me. They look away from me, so far away that it is another world they see. One I can’t see. I can feel the scream in my throat but I can’t hear it through the sobs that wretch from my chest as I pull his crumpled body to mine. The warmth fades slowly, his forehead, his lips grow cold under my lips. His face is wet with my tears and my hands are wet with his blood. I want to slap him, kiss him and bring him back to me all at once. How dare he die, how dare he leave me alone in my world of darkness, which grows darker and more lifeless by the second?
I think am dead too. Except I am still breathing. But all that was alive in my heart has ceased to beat, to breathe, to be. The Arielle that Griffin loved and brought to life is now gone. Forever.
I awoke with a start, the scream I’d been unable to produce in my dream ripping from me, piercing the air throughout my bedroom.
As soon as I came to terms with the fact that I was no longer dreaming, that this was reality, I stopped short. There was no need to wake my parents. It had only been a dream.
But I had to be sure.
Even as I reached for my phone, I could see perfectly the images of Griffin’s lifeless body, the final glow faded from his bright green eyes. With a shaky hand, I dialed Griffin’s cell number.
By the third ring, I was all but convulsing. I threw back the covers with every intention of going to him then and there, when he answered.
“Arielle? What’s the matter?” His voice was sleep-filled, but there was also panic in it. Terror. As if he was the one freaking out over my death.
“I needed to make sure you were okay,” I told him. Then, realizing how pathetic that sounded, I back-tracked. “I had a nightmare.”
I longed to see Griffin’s perfect face, to read his expression. Instead I was stuck with my imagination.
Finally, he spoke again. “Tell me,” he whispered.
And so I did. Every little detail, every tiny element; I left nothing out. By the end, I was sobbing into the phone, and Griffin was silent once again.
“It’s alright Arielle,” he murmured when I continued to bawl. “I’m okay.”
I let another sob out. “That’s not even it, though, Griffin,” I choked out. “I’ve been dreaming about my own death for months. Since before I even met you. I dream of screaming, flashing lights, someone pulling me into their arms, hospitals. The only common factor seems to be that it’s me that’s dying.”
I took an unsteady breath, realizing that I’d just shared my deepest, darkest secret with him. I’d never told a soul before, and here I’d blurted it all out instantaneously, without thought.
Griffin made no comment; he was probably still processing all the information I’d just thrown at him. I held my breath as I waited for him to say something, anything.
And when he did, it was the last thing I’d expected him to say.
“It was you.”
I didn’t have the slightest idea how to reply to that one. Instead of trying, I simply sat in the silence, in the dark. I checked my clock while I waited for him to elaborate that thought. The reddish glow that splashed across my walls like the blood that saturated my subconscious mind told me that it was barely two a.m.
“Arielle, remember the first picture you ever saw me drawing? Of the angel in the hospital bed? The one I dreamt of? I- I think she was you.”
His suggestion hit me like a bullet to the heart. He’d been dreaming of that angel long before I’d met him. And he thought that was me? Was he saying that there was some super-natural pull, forcing us together?
The thoughts all swarmed together in my head as a wave of nausea and exhaustion swept over me. I stopped trying to make sense of them all, letting them flow together into one big, pulsing headache.
“But that’s crazy, right?” He said, trying to reason with himself, no longer talking to me. “It’s impossible. I didn’t even know you when I began dreaming of her.”
A new thought crossed my mind- or a memory, rather, of a specific dream. It was one I’d had right after Griffin and I had really talked, right after we’d ever gotten to know each other. It had been a particularly vivid dream, so realistic it had practically caused me physical pain.
But there had been someone- a male, I remembered now. And he had pulled me close, cradled me against him, telling me over and over to stay awake.
Had that been Griffin? Had I too been dreaming of him without even knowing it?
This new idea filled me with a sudden adrenaline rush- and a little fear. What other-worldly force was at work here, pulling us towards each other? I told Griffin of the dream.
“We can make sense of it all tomorrow, love. For now, we should sleep.”
He remained on the phone, singing to me, until I drifted into a- for once- dreamless sleep.
I knew that I was right, and that was possibly the worst part of all.
I had spent countless nights dreaming of that angel, that raven-winged angel who was dying before my very eyes. Night after night I had watched her wither away until the last traces of the ethereal glow had vanished from her and left her nothing but a vacant corpse, no different than any mortal. Countless nights twisting in agony as I tried to find her identity.
Now I knew, and I would’ve traded the world to have that ignorant bliss once again.
If the angel was truly Arielle, then what I’d thought all along was true. She was dying. Maybe not physically- maybe not yet- but within the fragile body that held such a wonderful soul, she was withering away.
How many people would I be responsible for killing?
Long after Arielle had fallen back into her slumber I sat awake. So vicious were my thoughts I couldn’t even bear to draw the feelings away. Nothing could chase this paranoia from me. Nothing could comfort me now.
I knew that there had to be a way to save her, even if she had been marked by Death. God himself, in all his malicious cruelty and ironic games of torture, would not have revealed to us these visions if he did not wish for us to change them. There was no set path. The train could always be derailed.
It was only a matter of time. I could feel that now. Deep inside that charred place where my soul should have been, that place that had been burned and bled right out of my skin, I could feel it.
Something was coming. Something very, very bad.