I don’t sleep much. An hour here. Two hours there. Chronic insomnia, it’s one of my more tolerable lightning strike aftereffects. Not as bad as the veiny red scars that cover me from neck to toes, or the burning in my chest that flares hotter when I get a little emotional. Insomnia? Eh. It could be worse (and usually is). Most people wish they had more hours in the day. I keep almost the full twenty-four.
When I go to bed at night, it’s not with the intention to sleep. If sleep happens, great. If it doesn’t, well, that’s something I’ve gotten used to.
So when I opened my eyes and saw a guy standing over my bed, I had to assume I’d finally fallen asleep. And when I noticed the shiny silver knife gripped in his hand—the kind of pretty, decorative blade that has no practical application but murder—I decided this was not a dream I wanted to see through to the end. It would have been nice to stay asleep a bit longer, but now I was going to have to wake myself before Nightmare Boy used his knife to gut me.
“Wake up, Mia,” I told myself in a voice that came out hoarse and scratchy, like it would have if I’d actually awakened.
The guy startled back from my bed. He dropped the knife and it fell straight down and stuck in the wood floor with a thunk. Must be sharp. He scrambled to yank it free, but looked unsure what to do with it after that. His face was in shadow, but his wide, white eyes and jerky movements told me he was as scared as I was supposed to be. As far as nightmares went, he wasn’t too bad. I decided to stay asleep.
I closed my eyes, hoping I’d open them to a new dream.
But there were no more dreams that night, only Nightmare Boy’s soft, retreating footsteps.
When I opened my eyes again, feeling as though I hadn’t slept at all, it was the morning I’d been dreading. The morning when my brother, Parker, and I would return to school for the first time since the quake.
We had a dream dictionary kicking around the house somewhere. If I consulted it, I was pretty sure it would confirm my suspicion that a knife in your dream was a bad omen. Not that I needed an omen to give me the heads-up that this day was going to suck.
As I dragged myself out of bed, I noticed a small split in the floor, right about where Nightmare Boy’s knife had lodged itself in the floorboards. Strange. Then again, there were plenty of other little cracks and splits on the old floor of my restored attic bedroom.
I put thoughts of the dream away. I had bigger problems—real problems—to worry about. I didn’t know what to expect back at school, but if the changes that had taken root throughout the rest of the city were any indication, I should probably give in and expect the worst, as usual.
Thanks for the warning, Nightmare Boy. Not that it’ll do me any good.
Copyright © 2012 by Jennifer Bosworth