A white flash exploded.
Her eyes shot open, and her breath came out in giant heaps.
She trembled, her body frozen, trapped for days in the deepest abyss.
A bitter smell clung to the air.
She raised a shaky hand to rub the gloom out of her eyes. Her eyelids fluttered as she tried to grasp her surroundings. Darkness was all around, terrifying.
The girl tried to rise, but she hit her head on something hard. She groaned, pulling back in pain. Her hands met the same hard walls on her sides. Gently, she touched the surface. It seemed like wood.
An invisible claw crawled its way toward her heart as a claustrophobic sentiment crept inside her chest. She tried to push the wooden surface above her, wincing from the pain caused by the numbness inside her body. With each gasp she took, the air turned harder and harder to breathe.
“Hello?” she cried with a feeble voice. She was scared, more scared than she had ever been.
Shhh … go back to sleep.
A flash filled the darkness. She found herself transported in a silver room where the image of a little girl filled a giant screen. The young girl was no older than five. She sat on a stool and stared right back at her from inside the screen. A red ribbon was tied in her hair and a small porcelain doll sat on her lap. Eerie, creepy eyes, the girl had.
The room echoed with the creak of rusty cradles and laughter of small children, faint and distant at first, then closer and louder. She shivered, the hair on the back of her neck raising.
“I know you,” the girl said to the image on the screen.
The young girl’s lips twisted in an ugly grin. She grabbed the doll and kissed its cheeks. When she raised her head again to glare at the older girl, a tear trailed down her small cheek. A red tear, made of blood. With a vicious snarl, the little girl ripped the doll’s head and threw it through the screen. “Murderer!” she cried.
The girl screamed and raised her arms to protect herself, but she was no longer in the silver room and her hands hit wood again.
Back in the dark place.
She tried to stretch her legs, but they both hit wooden boards on each side.
A ghostly swish resounded like the wind that slithers through the crevices of old houses. It was getting colder.
From the darkness, a gentle voice murmured, “Sleep”.
The flash returned, and with it the girl found herself back in the silver room. There was a new image on the screen. The little girl with the ribbon in her hair was older now. She carried a yellow backpack in the halls of the school. An older girl passed by, holding a daffodil, and gave it to her, smiling.
“Sacha,” the girl gasped. She ran towards the image, but it faded away as she reached it.
A wolf’s howl rang inside the silver room, making the water of a lake that had just appeared on the screen, ripple. It was a secret lake placed deep in the mountain forest, enveloped in mist and, on the shore of the lake, two girls were kissing.
Sleep … said the eerie voice again.
“Sacha,” the girl cried. “Sacha!”
The darkness returned.
“Sleep, baby, sleep,” the gentle voice hummed. She did feel tired, and all this darkness around grew so heavy on her eyelids.
What a soothing voice, she thought.
“Yes,” she yawned. “I must sleep.” Soon it would be morning.
From the darkness, the smallest light glimmered like a firefly lost in the night. It came toward her, growing, moving in small hypnotic circles. “Hush, baby, sleep,” the firefly sang. She smiled and closed her eyelids. The song was familiar.
Her breath became shallow.
The tune of a lullaby grew clearer. “Sleep, baby, sleep. Hush, baby, sleep, shadows are touching your body meek,” the firefly hummed.
Her mother used to sing that song. But her mother was dead … dead from cancer five years ago.
“Mom?” she asked, feeling drowsy. The tune went on.
Her eyelids dropped over her eyes. She was too tired. What if she slept? What harm could there be…
No harm to wish to sleep.
“No! Stay awake!” screamed another voice, covering the other. The girl flinched and her heart jumped.
“But I must…” she whispered. “The firefly asked me to…”
“Don’t!” the voice said, sharply. “If you sleep, you’ll die for ever!”
Another white light blasted, but this time she no longer went to the silver room. The image appeared inside the darkness, surrounding her all around. The girl was in her bedroom, crying. An empty sleeping pill container was lying on her lap. A note was at her side, written by her hand.
The images changed faster and became fiercer, records of all the mistakes she had made in her lifetime.
The last image was of an accident – two people in the car crashed in a tree. The girl was in the driving seat and Sacha, her love, lay dead next to her, struck through the chest by a branch.
It was supposed to be their first Valentines date.
“No! No! No!” she screamed, grabbing her head in her hands. Suddenly, she realized where she was; the lack of air, the darkness, the wooden walls. She gasped in shock.
“Get out of there!” Sacha’s voice shouted.
“Noooo,” the girl cried in panic, scratching at the coffin. She kicked with her feet, clobbered with her hands.
“Break the wood!” Sacha’s shrill voice ordered. “You can do it.”
The girl turned and kicked with all her power at the lid. Soon, a crack appeared. Then another.
“Harder!” Sacha cried.
She did. She hit, and hit, and hit until the wood gave in. She tore at the splinters, scratching her hands. Earth entered the coffin, falling all over her in avalanches. She pushed it away and dug her fingers in the earthen wall. The lack of air was choking her.
“Push it, Adele!”
She gathered all her force and pushed the soil away. A small hole appeared, and a faint light entered inside the darkness of the coffin. She pushed again, and again, until a tunnel formed through which she could crawl. And crawl she did. She dragged her body out of the darkness with all her power.
She fell from above into a puddle, soaking her white dress. Outside it was raining. Dizzy, she raised her head to glance at the surroundings. She was covered in mud and the ground was slippery from the rain. How did she get there? Where was the tunnel she had dug? Where was the grave?
Her body was weak, barely listening to her, but she managed to pull herself on hands and knees to the grass patch in front of her.
It was silent outside; only the raindrops falling on the earth could be heard.
A few steps away, the translucent shape of a teenage girl crouched on a tombstone, watching her with bright golden eyes. Her body was no more than a shadow but she could see the smile on her pale face and the bat wings protruding from her back.
“Sacha…” Confused and tired, the girl fell on her hands. It was too much for her to bear, too much for her to see the face of the girl she loved. The girl she had killed in the accident.
“Forgive me, Sacha,” she said, her voice only a whisper. She extended her arm to touch her beloved.
Sacha’s lips curled. She jumped from the tombstone and sauntered like a panther on the grass. Reaching Adele, she took her hand.
“I’ve been waiting for you to wake up,” she said.
“What?” Adele asked confused.
“If you fell asleep again, it was over. You would have lost your memories and you would have drifted away like an empty vessel, never to be born again. We would have never found each other.”
Sacha helped her rise. As she held her hand, Adele realized the translucent texture of their skin. She snapped her head toward the puddle to see her reflection. Her yellow shimmering eyes stared back at her. There were featherless grey wings piercing through her back.
“But you are dead,” Adele whispered.
“Yes,” Sacha said. “And so are you.”
The memory of the empty sleeping pill container came back to her. “I killed myself,” she gasped.
“Only your body.”
“Then why was I in that coffin?” she asked. “Why did I feel I was choking from the lack of air? Why did I saw all my memories in there?”
“Adele, you have been dead for three years. What you experienced today, you have been experiencing over and over for the last three years. As you committed suicide, the coffin was your purgatory and you kept suffocating inside until you were ready to move on. I couldn’t get close to you.”
Sacha cupped her chin with her hands. “Don’t be afraid, baby. There is no such thing as Hell.” She lowered her head to kiss Adele, the same sweet kiss as she did when she was alive. “Happy Valentines day. You’re finally in my arms.”
Behind them, two cold graves stood covered in daffodils. A shared tombstone read:
Rest in peace- Sacha Grath- 1998- 2015.
Rest in peace- Adele S. Bronson- 1999- 2015.
Vinco Vici Victum Letum
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