Awake

 

Helena awoke to the smell of smoke. It started out faint and grew stronger rapidly until she was coughing and gasping for breath. Finally, she opened her eyes to face a burning living room. She stood in the center, watching as flames licked the whole perimeter, burning the curtains, the couch, the piano, the door and even the walls themselves. Desperate for escape, Helena ran to the curtains and, ignoring the fire, threw them open. Nothing, no window, just a continuation of the white plaster wall. Turning on a heel, she dashed for the burning door. She reached out for the doorknob and stopped. Not because she knew it would burn her hand but because she could hear something over the roar of the fire. A voice crying out in pain joined by several others all dwarfed by a manic laugh, the crazed howl of a mad man, a monster. She grabbed the doorknob threw open the flaming door. This time, she would not fail.

Helena sat bolt upright on a white and red striped couch. She looked around wildly, examining her surrounding for any hint of danger. The room was eerily similar to the one in her dream. It was a living room painted a cheery light blue. It had a window on one wall and a door on the opposite wall. A dusty old piano sat in the corner by the window, clearly neglected. The couch sat squarely between the door and window with an empty fireplace across from it. Two matching armchairs stood guard in front of it. The only light in the room came from a dim glass chandelier that was more decorative than functional. Upon first glance, none of this seemed threatening to Helena until she noticed, with a start, that one of the armchairs was occupied.

"You're awake," the boy in the chair said, more surprised to see her than she was to see him.

Helena glanced around the room again, wildly. None of this was possible.

"Am I dead?" she asked seriously, almost scared.

"Not anymore than I am," he said and, when the look of frightened confusion didn't leave her face he added, "And I'm not."

"That's impossible," she said coldly, ruthlessly, "I should have died and you probably should have too. I remember . . . I remember . . ."

She trailed off, unable to finish her statement because she was unsure of what she remembered. Something had happened. Something had driven her out into that icy wilderness to die at the fangs of those werewolves. Something had brought her there, to save him from a danger no one else could. Helena drew up her knees and put her head down on them. She couldn't remember why she had felt the need to save him but there was something.

"Listen," he said in a shaky voice, "You know something about those . . . things out there. You knew how to kill them. You must know more about this than I do. What happened last night?"

"Those things were Great Northeastern Werewolves. They're common to these parts. That's all I can tell you. I don't know what happened to me. It was like I was possessed."

She kept her head down as she spoke and Tyler couldn't see her eyes. Her black hair formed a curtain around her and he could barely hear her voice through it. For a moment, Tyler couldn't move or react at all.

"You're trying to tell me that we were almost killed by werewolves last night."

"No," she said calmly, raising her head and meeting his eyes for the first time, "I'm telling you that I was killed by werewolves last night. You probably died of hypothermia."

She eyed his hands and feet suspiciously at this, as though she secretly believed he no longer had fingers or toes.

"Then, are we both dead?" he asked with horror.

"I certainly hope not," she said, "Death shouldn't hurt this much."

It was true that Helena was in a substantial amount of pain and had been since she woke up. Her injuries may have been healed but a deep ache seemed to throb from her very bones and pain shot through her whenever she moved.

"What's wrong? Where do you hurt?" As he asked he made a motion as if he wanted to help but then realized there was nothing he could do and sat anxiously.

"I'm fine"

"Are you sure?"

"I'm fine," she said, forcefully this time. This was not the worst pain she had suffered.

There was a short, tense pause as they each drifted off on separate trains of thought. Tyler was the first to break the silence, "This can't be real. There's no way. Maybe I did die of hypothermia."

A harsh chuckle escaped the girl who's head was resting on her knees again but there was no humor in it; just a cold, hallow sound, "And thus we've come full circle."

"How can any of this be?" Tyler asked no one in particular.

"How could it not be?" Helena mused.

"Tyler! Dinner!" a woman's voice sounded from the kitchen. It was a comfortable sounding voice, warm and sweet in a way that was distantly recognizable to Helena, like a voice from the past, from memory itself, echoing down the dark and destroyed corridors of her mind. She stuttered, unwilling to recall but unable to forget.

"Do you want something to eat?" he asked, then quickly scolded himself, "That was a stupid question. You're probably starving; you've been out all day."

"No," Helena said dreamily, "I'm not hungry, I need to sleep." Without another word, she laid back down on the couch with her back to him and pulled the blanket over herself. She listened as he hesitated for a moment, then got up and left. Relieved to be alone again, Helena found herself thinking back to a time when she had had a normal life too, something she rarely did voluntary. The thought left a bitter taste in her mouth, a reminder of why she had become the killer she was. As her heart wretched and threatened to break, she turned her thoughts to what had just happened. There was no explanation for it; she and that boy should have died. A cold shiver passed through her, igniting a throb in her right hand. Pulling it into her line of sight, Helena saw the most extraordinary thing. On the back of her hand there was a mark burned in black, of a circle with two crossing lightning bolts inside. Strange, Helena thought drowsily, losing consciousness, that wasn't there before. But the symbol, it was vaguely familiar. Where . . . Her mind was starting to overload, too many things reminded her of the past. She would need to leave as soon as possible, at first light maybe. She was almost asleep but she knew the nightmares would come worst than ever that night. Memories were dangerous things.

 

 

The End

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