To Dream is to Die – Chapter Two Excerpt
Fantastic. To my utter delight, the voices from the doorway were still in the back of my mind when I woke up. They were slightly quieter but nonetheless, still there. Just what I needed, another strange quirk in my life. I was beginning to hear strange voices. That one would be fun to explain to my future therapists.
The dreaded scent of the aftermath of Erica’s night greeted me as I woke up. Even through the smell, she was still passed out. From the wet hair and the change of clothes, I could only assume she had made some attempt to clean herself up, just not the mess she made in the trash can. Not willing to live with the putrid smell, I hopped out of bed, grabbed the trashcan, and took it to the community shower to try and wash it out.
“I see you had a fun night.”
I turned to see a tall pale girl with long red hair standing behind me in a towel and her shower gear in hand.
“I wish it was. No, this is my roommate’s. She’s still passed out, but I didn’t want this smell in the room anymore.”
She cringed. “How could you even sleep with that smell?”
“I’m a heavy sleeper,” I said with a shrug. “I never even heard her get sick. All I know is I woke up to it. I’m Brenna in 434. Who’re you?”
“Aeria, I’m your neighbor in 432. Well, you have fun cleaning that up, and it’s nice to meet you.” She said as she passed to enter the showers.
I nodded. “Yeah, ditto.”
She walked into the shower at the far end, I assumed, to get away from the smell. Luckily for me, the cleaning ladies didn’t make their appearance as I left with the now clean trashcan. I tried my best to get all of the puke out of the shower and down the drain, but I know I did a half-assed job. And there was no way I was going to touch the used condom underneath the showerhead.
Back in the room, Erica was starting to wake up. “What time is it?”
“It’s almost eight. Are you feeling any better?” I asked.
She groaned and rolled over. “I’m going back to sleep. Shut the blinds.”
Well, you’re welcome for putting sheets on your bed and cleaning up your nasty ass throw up. Wanting my annoyance to be known, I slammed Erica’s trashcan back beside her bed before moving to my desk to turn on my computer. For a few minutes, I merely scrolled through Facebook before getting bored. Throwing on some jeans and a black tank top, I decided to go to the dining hall for some breakfast.
As I walked to the cafeteria, the image of the guy from last night staring at me entered my mind. My stomach was in knots with nerves. I was fairly certain he was looking right at me—not through me. And if he did see me, would he tell anyone? Or would he just think it was a coincidence that a spirit happened to look like me? Probably not, knowing my luck.
Suddenly, a voice from behind called, causing me to nearly jump. “Brenna! Hey, wait up!”
As I turned, I saw the same red-haired girl from the bathroom. “I thought you were in the shower.”
“I take quick showers. I saw you leaving, so I got dressed and ran to catch up with you. Mind if I get breakfast with you?” She said as she caught up.
“Well that doesn’t sound creeper-ish. Do you know what they have for breakfast?” It was the only thing I could think of to keep the conversation going. This was the first time in a while that someone had gone out of their way to hang out with me. Sure, Erica had offered, but I wondered if she’d really meant it or if she was just being polite.
Aeria laughed. “I didn’t mean to make it sound like that. I’m not sure; I heard they have a guy who’ll make omelets for you, a lot of other random hot food, and a cereal bar.”
“This sounds like it’s going to be a nutritious year.” I commented, my expectations still low.
Luckily, it was late enough—or early enough—that there weren’t a lot of people in the dining hall. We showed our IDs, then set our stuff down at an empty table before going to grab some food. Everything looked so greasy that all I could stomach to eat was some Fruity Pebbles from the cereal bar. At least they had a lot of choices for cereal, and it had been a difficult decision between the Fruity Pebbles and Cocoa Puffs.
“So, how are you enjoying living with Erica?” Aeria asked as she sat down across from me. When she said Erica’s name, I could practically hear the acid.
That question caught me off guard. “How do you know Erica?”
She gave me a half smile. “She was in my orientation group. She was quite the popular girl. All she would talk about was her life in California and how much of a party girl she was.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard that story. When we moved in yesterday, she wouldn’t shut up about gluten and Ferraris. I came back from a walk last night and she was passed out on my bed. It wasn’t easy to toss her onto her side of the room,” I said before shoving a spoonful of sugary deliciousness into my mouth.
“You should’ve just shoved her onto the floor. She’s used to being spoiled, and from what I hear, you aren’t helping the situation.” She said, pointing her fork full of eggs at me.
I think I’m going to like this girl. Rolling my eyes, I just shook my head. “I don’t plan on catering to her all the time. I only did it last night so I could get some sleep. She sprawled out on my bed while I was out.”
“I can understand that. Although I’m telling you, if I was her roommate, I would have just shoved her onto the floor. Then again, I’m probably meaner than you.” She said as she shoved eggs into her mouth.
I couldn’t help but laugh. “I highly doubt that. Let’s see how long you’ll stick around when I don’t attempt to have a filter. Anyway, where are you from?”
“Maryland. I wanted to go to a small college away from home–at least five hours away. My parents were driving me crazy with the strict schedule they had me on. I hate those damn curfews. At least while I’m here, I can be out as late as I want and nobody cares. What about you? Where are you from?”
Before I could even begin to answer another voice sounded behind me. “Hey Aeria, mind if I join?”
Although her voice sounded annoyed, her grin told me otherwise. “Sure Damon, pull up a seat.”
She was just about to introduce the two of us, but no introductions were needed. He was the same guy who waited for Erica last night and the same guy who saw me in spirit form. She noticed my glare and her mouth snapped shut.
He decided to initiate conversation as he sat down next to Aeria. “Hello again, Brenna. Are you actually going to talk to me this time or completely ignore me?”
His smug grin pissed me off. It felt like he was attempting to play a game with me. Fine, let’s play. “I haven’t decided yet.”
Aeria was totally lost in this entire glare-fest. “Am I missing something here?”
This time I jumped in before he could. “He decided to drop by my dorm room last night and annoy me while he waited for Erica to come back.”
She shot a shocked glance towards him, but he simply shrugged before flashing that stupid grin of his. “Why were you looking for her? You know how annoying she is.”
“Maybe so, but she knows where all the good parties are.” He said defensively.
I was watching him carefully, and he knew it. When Aeria berated him again for going to talk to Erica, he glanced at me with an eyebrow raised. Finally, he turned to face me again. “So Brenna, what were you doing outside at five in the morning?”
Shit. He did see me… that could be a big problem.
“What were you doing outside that early?” I had hoped that if I threw the question back in his face, he’d just give a smug grin and then laugh. I wasn’t that lucky.
“I had just finished partying and decided to smoke some pot in the woods.”
Before I could even respond, Aeria jumped in. “Smoking pot? Come on, are you really that much of a loser, you pothead?”
“Hey, to each his own. I like pot, and apparently Brenna likes wandering in the woods in the middle of the night all by herself.”
“What the hell do you know?!” Damn it. I didn’t want to even give him the time of day, let alone snap at him.
He knew he had gotten to me, which made it worse. “Well, from the way you shooed me out of your room last night, I assumed you were going to go to bed or something. But to my surprise, I saw you with some other potheads, and then you just vanished into the woods when you saw me.” He said as he leaned back, his arms folded.
“I didn’t run away if that’s what you mean. And I wasn’t smoking pot. I was exploring the woods, and when I saw you I was already heading back to the dorm,” I retorted. I knew I was lying. He knew I was lying. This little game of pretense was for his amusement, and a way to keep Aeria in the dark. I was irritated, but grateful at the same time.
Unfortunately, Aeria was beginning to see through my story and all of its holes. “You were exploring the woods… all night?”
This was bad. Nobody had ever seen me before, and I wasn’t about to let him blow it for me. “Yes, I woke up early to the smell of Erica’s mess and her snoring. I didn’t want to stick around. So, I figured some fresh air would be good. I just lost track of time.”
Although she still eyed me curiously, she decided to let it go. Damon, however, was not as willing. “Do you really expect me to believe that?”
My brows creased together and beads of sweat began to form on the back of my neck. The urge to run started to override any potential argument I could come up with.
“What does it matter to you anyway, Damon? Since when is my life any of your business? We’ve only known each other for a day, you don’t need to know everything about me. I’ve already learned what I needed to know about you: pothead and douchebag. So I think that’s all we need to talk about.” I stood up so fast that I almost knocked over my bowl. “Aeria, I’m going back to the dorms. I’ll talk to you later.”
Even though I was storming off, I could hear her scolding him. “What’d you do that for? She’s a nice person and you had to go and be an idiot!” Although I didn’t hear him say anything, I could feel his eyes boring into my back.
By the time I got back to the dorm, Erica was finally conscious. She turned quickly from the small mirror and makeup on her desk to see me walking in. Her eyes widened, surprised to see me, but she smiled in an attempt to hide her shock. “Where’d you go? I was going to see if you wanted to get something to eat with me and my friends.”
For a girl who got away with a lot at home, she sure sucked at lying. “I already went out,” I said. “I knew you wanted to sleep in silence so I decided it was best for me to leave and go ahead and get something to eat.”
Her mouth dropped in surprise and she cleared her throat before speaking again. “Oh, well thanks, but you didn’t have to do that. Anyway, I’m going out to some more parties tonight, did you want to come?”
I shook my head. “No, I’m good. I’m just going to relax tonight and work on some stuff. But you have fun—just don’t get as crazy as you did last night. You barfed all over that trash can.”
Erica chuckled as she stood up to grab her wallet. “Yeah, I’m sorry about that. It happens whenever alcohol is involved, what can I say? All right, I’ll see you later.”
She rushed out the door. Apparently, Erica knew we weren’t going to be the best of friends. It wouldn’t surprise me if she moved in with someone else before the semester ended. Looking at her side of the room, I noticed she still hadn’t made much progress on unpacking. There were some clothes stuffed in her dresser, so a little progress had been made.
The one useful thing she had unpacked–other than her make-up–was her full-length mirror that was now on the back of the door. Probably used only for her vanity, but it was useful for me as well. Standing in front it, I took off my tank top, leaving my sports bra on, and peeked at my back. The scars from the accident were still there and very noticeable. One large scar scaled from the left side of my hip, to my midsection, crossing my spine. But there were also a lot of smaller ones that surrounded it. Even on my stomach, some cuts had turned into faded dark scars, no matter how much medicine I used.
Part of my punishment, I assumed. Nobody was supposed to die and come back. Although it happened all the time in hospitals, I knew I wasn’t supposed to have come back. I wished I could remember what had happened during those minutes but nothing came to me. All I knew was that one minute I felt a sharp pain, and the next I felt numb and was surrounded by the smell of medicine. The accident had even caused the memories I had acquired before then to be weaker and harder to recall.
The memory of the hospital caused me to flinch. Changing into my pajama pants and another tank top, I turned the TV on, and decided to get on my computer to waste time. Opening Oblivion, I wanted to get lost in the world of Tamriel for a while. At least in there, I could try and forget about the awkward fight that had just occurred in front of my new friend. Chances were, Aeria probably wouldn’t want to be my friend anymore. My temper had reared its ugly head.
Unfortunately, no matter how many goblins I killed, my head kept traveling back to the argument in the cafeteria. Although I felt that my irritation was justified, to Aeria, it must have seemed out of the left field. If Damon had seen me, then he was probably whatever a “Watcher” was. Someone who could see the dead. I always thought the term was shaman, or spiritually inclined. Either way, he knew what he saw, and he wasn’t going to let it go.
If he really was one of those people and he knew what I could do, then that could cause serious problems. I was already enough of a freak. In high school, I was the outcast with tons of rumors about my sudden behavioral change. Rumors I could handle. I just wished that college would be different. For once, I wanted to have fun without worry.
After a little while I heard knocking at the door. “Come in.”
Aeria walked in. “What happened at breakfast? You and Damon seem like you have some major issues for only knowing each other for two days.”
Slightly surprised by her arrival, it took me a half second to hide my surprise and answer her with a casual shrug. “His attitude just irritates me. I can’t help it. He seems to enjoy tormenting me anyway.”
“He does have an attitude, but you get used to it.” She said with a hint of a smile.
“I don’t want to get used to it, I just want him to leave me alone.” I said, moving my attention back to the computer screen.
“Oh, come on! Please try to get along with him!” She whined.
Aeria seemed a little more than persistent that I get along with him. I paused my game, and slowly spun towards her with an eyebrow up. “You want to date him, don’t you?”
It was obvious. Her face immediately turned red, nearly matching her hair. “I don’t know! It’s just something I’m considering. I don’t know if anything is going to happen, but can’t you at least try to be civil?”
Before my character ended up dying thanks to my negligence, I sighed and quit the game. As I turned back towards her, a thought entered my head. “Why do you care what I think of him anyway? We just met.”
She seemed taken off guard by the question. “That’s true. But you seem like a really honest person, like, the first honest person I’ve met here who’s willing to speak her mind. Why do you think I’m following you around? I was starting to go nuts being around so many passive aggressive people.”
No sound or words escaped my lips. The shock was written all over my face. No one had ever commented on my bluntness being a positive trait. Instead of staying on the topic, I decided to move on. “Fine, I’ll try to get along with him.”
Aeria grinned. “Thanks.”
Attempting to fight off my embarrassment, I simply rolled my eyes. “Yeah whatever. Don’t worry; I’ll do my best not to continue fighting. Maybe if I’m lucky he’ll stop being a wise-ass.”
“He isn’t like that all the time,” Aeria laughed. “I promise. Sometimes he can be really sweet and funny.”
“You don’t need to justify your choices to me, however lousy they may be. I won’t stand in the way of true love or anything,” I said, my voice full of sarcasm.
“Oh, come on, its not true love. I just hope that maybe something can happen. Dating, sex, whatever. I would like to start some sort of relationship with him, though. We just have to see.” She said casually.
I didn’t have anything else to say, so I turned back around, reopened my game, and continued my way through a necromancer cave. She moved away from my door and jumped on my bed and started to watch TV. The instant comfort—even in silence—confused me, but I liked it. Hell, I was just happy she was still willing to be my friend after that little episode in the cafeteria.
Only ten minutes went by before Erica decided to crash our quiet little party by walking in. “Hey Brenna, what are you–” She stopped for a second to register Aeria in the room, but only for a moment before continuing, “–doing right now? Want to come with me to the store? Your friend can come too. I’m going to stock up on some groceries for our room.”
Once again, I quit the game to avoid finding my character dead. “No thanks, I’m good. Shouldn’t you unpack your things first? You won’t even know if you have any room for food if you don’t unpack.”
Erica let out a strange laugh, as if annoyed by the idea of unpacking. “I’ll do that later. I want to get some food to snack on.”
I was going to let it be, but apparently Aeria couldn’t stop herself. “I think Brenna is right. You should unpack first because if you come back with a lot of food and then unpack, you’ll have no room to put anything. Besides, you’re being rude. How can Brenna relax if your shit is everywhere?”
Erica and I jerked our heads to look at her. My face was blank, unable to form an emotion from shock, and Erica’s exuded disgust. I waited for Erica’s head to explode when her face turned bright red, but I couldn’t contain it anymore. My shock dissipated into laugher. It was the first time someone had stood up for me, and it was over something as little as unpacking. All Erica could do was stare angrily at us before storming out.
Aeria couldn’t figure out why I was laughing so hard. “What’s so funny? It is rude! She shouldn’t think it’s okay to leave boxes and suitcases everywhere.”
I had to make her wait a second so I could breathe again. “I couldn’t help it. Your reaction and her face just pulled the laugh right out of me. Plus a few other things, but they don’t matter.”
“Well, at least I know you can actually laugh now. I figured it was impossible for you to actually show happiness.” She commented.
I could only look at her. The only other person who knew me and my secret was my childhood friend who I hadn’t seen since I moved up here. Opening up to anyone was something I wasn’t used to. It took me a minute to try and figure out a way to explain my odd behavior. In the end, I couldn’t come up with anything that didn’t involve talking about the dead. So I kept it short.
“I’ll admit I’m closed off, but I have my reasons. They don’t always stop me from having a good time, though. Thanks for sticking up for me, by the way.”
This time she laughed, too. “No biggie. She was driving me crazy with her stuck-up attitude. Despite the offer you just declined, I was actually thinking about going to the store. I have my car here; do you want to go to Wally World with me?”
It probably wouldn’t hurt for me to at least have one friend here, I guess. “Sure, just give me a couple of minutes to get ready.”
Aeria jumped off my bed and headed towards the door. “Sure, I’ll come knocking on your door in a few.”
As soon as she shut the door, I threw on my sweatshirt and put my Converse shoes on. I didn’t really need any time to get ready, but I was curious as to where Erica had stormed off to. It would be interesting to see if she really cared about what Aeria had said.
I jumped onto my bed and forced myself to fall asleep. It wasn’t something I could do often, but sometimes sleep would win. Erica’s energy was easy to trace. It turned out she had just gone down to the end of the hall to another girl’s room.
“Geez Erica, how can you stand living nearby her? She is such a…a… I don’t even know! There isn’t a word for it. I need something worse than bitch.” One of Erica’s friends said.
Erica shook her head as she ran her fingers through her black curls. “I know. It’s awful. But what makes it worse is she’s already turning my roommate against me. Brenna isn’t awful, but she’s already given me a bit of an attitude, like just now. I asked her if she wanted to go with us, but she refused and then told me to unpack. Aeria snapped at me and Brenna just laughed. I don’t know how, but Aeria is already making things awful. First with Damon, now this!”
A small twinge of guilt tugged at me as I listened to her vent. I was going to stay and listen a little more, but I heard Aeria banging on my door asking if I was ready to go. Rushing back to my body, I felt a little sick. Sometimes when I came out of my body too fast and in the daytime, I felt weaker. Apparently, there was a reason spirits only came out at night or in the evening. During the day, it felt as if your energy didn’t exist. When I looked down at my hands, I couldn’t even see them. It felt as though the sun was erasing any semblance of energy I had outside of my body, rendering my spirit weak and invisible even to myself.
But there was something else in the air that tugged at me, something else was out when it wasn’t supposed to be. As I floated past Aeria, I saw a small, graying creature: a demon. It didn’t seem to mind me at all, but just seeing it bothered me. It looked extremely weak, as if it’s only chance of survival was clinging to Aeria’s energy source. What was it doing?
“Brenna! Come on! How long does it take to get ready for the store?” Aeria yelled.
I opened the door quickly. “Sorry, I couldn’t get my shoes on. Let’s go.” I walked behind her, staring at her back. As expected, I couldn’t see the demon while inside my body. But just knowing it was there made me feel extremely uneasy. I had never seen one of them out in daylight, let alone not during a full moon.