In hindsight, maybe stalking the guy who followed you to your house wasn't the best idea.
At first, I figured, what if he was dangerous? What if he wanted to hurt Mom or Dad or Robbie? I couldn't let him just fade into the shadows and strike when we least expect it, so the responsibility of being an awesome and selfless daughter and sister fell upon my shoulders. I, Misty Greenberg, would track this guy down and demand answers.
Plus, he'd been following me first. Don't you pretty much surrender your right to privacy when you invade someone else's? Exactly.
He's not even trying to be sneaky or anything. Though he does have the classic dark stalker hoodie on, he's just walking through town like he's lived here for years. The issue is that he hasn't lived here. Everyone knows each other in this town. Everyone I know is where they're supposed to be, so who is this?
I sigh. This is underwhelming. I dunno, I expected this to be a bit more... exciting? I guess I should be happy that we're not going to some seedy underground hideout.
At the same time, I was hoping for a bit more adventure. Nothing has happened in months; it's been a little too perfect. I feel antsy. My life is too calm. I should be doing something, something critical. Something that'll save everyone.
Wait, what am I saying? I'm fine, I'm safe, I'm happy. My life is perfect. I should stop and turn around, go back home. This guy isn't worth the trouble.
Only... he is. I can't explain it. He's important somehow. I need to know where he's going.
We walk past my high school, and then the park, and then a gas station. A wind blows through the air. I inhale the smell of spring and smile. This is my favorite kind of weather. It's a beautiful day, and everyone's outside chilling and having fun. It's kinda weird, that this is how the weather's been for the past five and a half months, especially because I live in Oregon, but I'm not going to complain.
'We miss you... you're so strong... please come back...' The Cookies' whispers overlap in my head. Of course I can't catch a break from them.
I've been hearing them on and off for months now. Named for what I was doing when I first heard them, they showed up around the same time as the headaches and nightmares, and they're always whispering weird encouragements and talking about missing me.
They are irrelevant. I should ignore them. I ignore them.
But I don't ignore them. They feel familiar, they feel like home. More so than my actual home.
Ugh. I sound like a lunatic. This is why I don't tell anyone. There are rational explanations, I just don't know them all. The headaches are likely stress-related, for example, probably because it's senior year and pressure is high. The nightmares are probably manifestations of my random worries. Nothing to worry about. I'm fine, I'm safe, I'm happy. My life is perfect.
The guy glances around casually. His face—
Vices around my wrists. Cold gray walls. Yells, at me. Blow after blow. I stare at them and grin.
I gasp, clutching my head. What in the world was that?!
OK, now I have a more legitimate reason to follow this guy. The only thing I ever remember after waking up from one of my nightmares is the heart-stopping sense of absolute terror. But just one glance at this guy, and I'm having a flashback? There's no way that was a stress headache, and I get the sinking feeling that none of the headaches I've had in the past few months are. Something more is going on here. I need answers.
'Come on... You can do it... Don't let them win...' I really wish they would just shut up. They're not helping. I'm fine, I'm safe, I'm happy. My life is perfect. I don't need to listen to them. Right?
While I was having my little "episode," Mystery Dude got a bit far ahead of me. I quicken my pace to catch up, just as he's crossing the street towards the town library's huge ornate doors.
I look around. How did no one else see this random dude pull some Podunk Platform Nine and Three-Quarters magic and walk into the doors? Not around them, like you normally expect a human being to interact with a door. Into them.
To be honest, I'm not sure what just happened. So, of course, I do the logical thing and follow him inside.
I haven't been inside the library since I was two. I'm not much of a reader, after all, and I do all of my research on my laptop. That being said, I'm pretty sure it's supposed to have, you know, books.
Instead, I'm in a classroom-sized room. The walls are a cold-stone gray with shackles attached to them, and the floor has mysterious dark stains.
I've been here.
'YOU'RE ALMOST THERE... WE FINISHED THE MISSION... BUT WE NEED YOU...'
The guy that I've been following has his forearm braced against a wall. His head is bent, and he's biting the thumb of his other hand. When I walk in, he looks up.
I know that face.
He walks closer, furiously rubs a sleeve over puffy eyes to dry his face. "Misty?"
I back away. Panic grips my heart like a vice. The headache has come back full-force, and I think I may be breathing a bit too fast. This is familiar, too familiar. I'm fine, I'm safe, I'm happy. My life is perfect. I shouldn't be here, I should—
No. Don't listen to him.
"Misty, can you see me?"
You're happy here. Aren't you happy here? You're fine. You're safe. You're happy.
'MISTY, PLEASE... WE'RE SO CLOSE TO BEATING THEM... FIGHT IT...'
"Misty, look at me, please. You're my big sister, aren't you supposed to be taking care of me?"
That makes me look up. Robbie. The guy is Robbie.
The headache fights to scramble my thoughts. This isn't Robbie, Robbie's at home. You should go home, too. Robbie's fine. He's safe. He's...
He's not. He's right in front of me, looking like he's scared to touch me. Why is he scared? I messed up, it's my job to take care of him.
Protect him. That's what I did. That's why I was here, instead of him, so he could get away and fight on.
"Misty. Listen to me." Robbie's in front of me now, his eyes glittering with more tears. "They caught you, but we finished the mission and then we came and got you. They stuck you in your head."
He steps forward and grips my arms, pleading.
"We all visit every day, and talk to you, but there's work to do. We need you to help finish the fight. You need to wake up."
'WAKE UP... WAKE UP... WAKE UP...'
I sit up from the MedBay bed with a gasp.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.