Chapter I: The Headless Cross, page 8Mature

She couldn't sleep that night. Even tucked warmly under three layers of blankets, she felt eerily cold, like when she was sick, except she had no fever. A strange sensation. Restless. She kept her eyes wide open in the dark, unable to shut them, and listened to the rain rattling against her window. Usually, the rain would lull her to sleep, but not this time. She didn't want to sleep, she wanted to do something, anything, she felt compelled to go outside, to just move, as if driven by some unknown force...

Eventually, she reached under her bed for her little treasure, which she had carefully hidden in her bag. She took it with and sat up in her bed to look at it. Somehow, it still seemed to be reflecting a light that wasn't there, and it was still as warm and heavy, no, maybe even warmer and heavier. What was it? It was just a cross, something that must've been a church ornament, blown away by a bomb and buried someplace else, in the hole where she found it. Just that, just a stupid piece of metal, so why was it mesmerizing her like this? She couldn't help looking at it, terrified and attracted, like a caveman who saw fire for the very first time. Fire! She startled. At the very thought of that word, something had popped up in her mind, something indescribable, like a nightmare that came to her while she was still awake, and that somehow had seemed to last for hours, even though she had only been looking at the cross for two minutes. Fire. Blood. Death. Meaningless images that had burned in her mind, images more vivid than any horror movie she had ever seen, and yet, she couldn't remember anything but the feeling of dread it had given her. She felt as though the cross was vibrating in her hands, and then she realized it was her own arms, shaking out of control.

A loud, resonating detonation broke the spell, and she screamed in terror as she dropped the cross. What happened? What was that? It wasn't coming from the room, was it... the door slammed open and her mother appeared on the threshold, still dressed in her nurse uniform. She must have just come home from work.

"What's going on, honey? Are you okay?" she asked, worried.

"Mum!" the girl panted. "What was that? That noise?"

"Honey, it's just the thunder. There's a storm outside, don't you see?"

She pointed to the window and the girl could see a flash of lightning, followed a few seconds later by another detonation.

"Oh... okay..." she said as she tried to catch up her breath, realizing she was drenched in cold sweat from the terror that had taken over her. Her mum came to sit on the bed beside her, and somehow, in her fear, the girl still had the wits to throw a blanket over the cross to hide it.

"Will you be okay, hon?" the mother asked as she softly stroked her daughter's hair. "You want to sleep with Mummy and Daddy tonight?"

"Mum!" Rebecca answered, giggling with amused embarrassment. "I'm not five anymore, I'm fourteen, remember?"

Her mum giggled back and said she liked it better when she smiled. "Now," she added, "try to get some sleep, you still have four hours before breakfast. Good night, sweetie."

 Rebecca tried to keep calm until her mother was gone, but her last words had sent a shiver down her spine. Four hours left until breakfast... she looked at her clock and, for sure, it was half past three. Meaning she had been staring at the cross for three hours straight. She took it from under the blanket to examine it once more. And she didn't know why, she felt compelled to do something she had not done in years. She lay the cross on the bed, knelt in front of it, and joined her hands together. She couldn't tell why she was doing it, after all, her family was Protestant but not particularly religious. But she felt she had to do it, so she closed her eyes and murmured these words:

Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord my soul to keep.

And if I die before I wake,

I pray the Lord my soul to take.

Amen.

She slept like a baby until breakfast.

The End

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