Outside, all was peaceful. To someone looking in, it would have seemed like any other night in Hollowsfall, West Virginia. The night air was cool, the ground kissed by a thin fog, the world covered in black like it had been hidden beneath a blanket of black snow.
It was on the inside of the house, however, where things were not so quiet. The echo of a little girl's shriek, only moments old, still rang through the halls as her father rose half-asleep from bed. It was just another nightmare, he knew. A glass of water, a hug and a kiss on the top of her head, then it'd be back to sleep for the both of them.
You see, Delilah Maybourne had dreams of falling. Every night. Off a bridge, chased over a cliff, sitting in the family car as it plunged off a mountain, those were just the common ones. She attributed this to a trip to her uncle's cabin in the mountains when she was barely three. She was playing in the surrounding woods with her three and five year old cousins, unsupervised. Her two cousins did this often and so knew the area well - though more so the five year old than her brother - however, Delilah obviously did not.
The memories were a little fuzzy to her, but she remembered getting separated from them. She was playing tag, and Sammy was it. She was running and running and running, then she noticed that something didn't quite line up right. She decided to stop and look; after all, she hadn't heard Sammy in a while. Turns out, it was a very good thing she had, as she was only three of her small steps from the side of a cliff. She could literally look over the edge and see that the ground curved in beneath her. The part she was standing on was not as thick as her arm was long.
It had been a traumatic experience, as one could imagine. But four years later, the dreams still plagued her every night. That is of course, until the stormy night after her eighth birthday. She laid asleep in her room as the thunder shook the ground, tossing and turning beneath her sheets.
The nightmare started like most any other. She was being chased through a forest, by what she couldn't be certain. She just knew it was dangerous, and right behind her. She ran as fast as she could, but she could still hear it breaking through the trees right behind her. She knew what was coming before it even happened.
The trees stopped suddenly, and in front of her, too late to stop or turn or do anything at all, was a cliff. But that's where the similarities ended.
As she came to the end, her throat clenched tight from fear and sucking in breath after breath, she coiled her legs under herself and leaped over the edge. Whatever was behind her had stopped giving chase, and she braced herself for the fall that was sure to follow. The thing was, it never came.
The wind blew lazily past her cheeks, her hair was thrown behind her, but when she looked down she'd expected the ground to be rising toward her like a speeding train. In truth, it wasn't really moving at all. She was still falling, but hardly. Staring in wonder, she stretched her arms out wide by her sides and let a laugh escape. Everything around her came into sharper focus at a leisurely pace before she gently touched ground. She could sense her pursuer on the cliff, and she knew it would be even more angry at her now. But she also knew it could never climb down and catch her before she got away.
That night, for the first time in nearly five years, she slept without waking once.