Chapter eight - Reality

~*~

4:45 A.M.

Thirty minutes passed. Aaron's leg had been wrapped and bandaged, Efad had washed the blood off of her face, and the bodies had been left in their heap in the living room. The two remaining teenagers sat in the computer room in silence for the longest time, until Aaron finally cleared his throat and spoke.

"It's, ah... almost five," he said quietly. "Are you tired?"

Efad, who was cradling her head in the palm of her hand, nodded drearily. "I'm exhausted... but what are we gonna do? We can't sleep - the killer will come in and get us if we're not watching..."

He grunted. "He's still outside. He could just as well shoot us through the window and be rid of us. Why's he playing around with us? It would make more sense to kill us while we're here."

"Good point, but don't tell him. It may give him an idea. And he's out there, then..." she trailed off and gently shook her head to clear her thoughts. "...what was I saying?" She asked after a moment.

Aaron laughed. "You're too tired to think straight. Get some sleep, I can keep watch."

Efad shook her head and tried to manage a serious glance towards him. "No, I couldn't... if you were to be injured again, I-"

"No arguments. I brought our sleeping bags in here; you should get in yours and rest." At her hesitation, he let out a sigh. "I can't depend on you keeping watch in your state, you'd probably fall asleep and leave us both unguarded! ...okay, I'll wake you in an hour. How's that?"

The girl nodded and silently set up her sleeping bag in the corner of the room, coincidentally near where Aaron was sitting. After laying down with her back to him for a few minutes, she rolled over and watched him. He sat on the floor, facing away from her, with his knees pulled up to his chest and leaning his shoulder against a desk.

"...Go to sleep," he finally commanded after a moment. Efad jumped and stared at him. He hadn't even turned around... how... ah, it wasn't important.

Secretly, she was too worried about the boy to sleep, even in her dead-tired state. But obeying her friend, she sighed heavily and began to drift off...

~*~

10:45 P.M.

"Efad... hey, wake up..."

Efad opened her eyes slowly and moaned. "Ai... my head... wha? What's wrong?"

Aaron's voice laughed softly. "Nothing, only you've been out for over two hours." The girl finally noticed that she was now in the living room, laying on the couch with a blanket draped over her. The electricity was also on. 'Wasn't I just in the computer room?' she wondered.

"Hey Aaron, is she conscious yet?" A voice called from the kitchen. The color drained from Efad's face as Christien came into the room, his hands shoved deep in his pockets.

Aaron gave her a weird glance before replying to Christien. "Yeah, she's alright... I think. What's the matter with you, E? You look like you've seen a ghost!"

"Chris... you-you're alive?!" She gasped, ignoring Aaron's question.

The older boy grunted. "Must be seeing SOMEthing, if not ghosts... Is there some piece of information I'm missing here?"

Christien blinked a couple of times, utterly confused. "I don't know... am I supposed to be dead?"

"YES!" Efad blurted out. "You were injected with cyanide! You quoted Shakespeare, and... does this mean everyone else is alright, too...?" She asked slowly, reaching for her hat, which happened to be on the endtable next to her head.

Both boys exchanged wide-eyed glances. "Everyone 'cept you," Aaron replied, keeping his expression. "When you slipped in the hallway, you must've hit your head harder than we thought..."

"Much harder," Christien echoed.

The girl jumped off of the couch and raced into the kitchen, where she saw Suzanne, Lizzy, Caitlin and ET sitting at a card table playing one card game or another. Efad cried out in joy and fell backwards from a sudden weakness in her knees. Luckily, Aaron was a step behind to catch and steady her.

"What're you on, Efad?" He asked in a wary tone. She only laughed and stood upright, running a hand over the crown of her hat.

Suzanne glanced up from the cards in her hand at her. "I thought we'd agreed that she'd lost it a long time ago...?"

"Nah," ET objected. "You can't lose what you didn't have."

"True..." Lizzy set two down two sets of three next to various other piles of cards and discarded the final card in her hand with a triumphant grin on her face. "I'm out! Now who had those Aces?"

Caitlin groaned. "I did... Lizzy, you're fired. You can't play Rummy any more if you're going to keep winning!"

Efad stumbled back into the living room, totally ecstatic. "It was all a dream... no one died! It was all just a very...disgustingly horrific dream!"

"Aha. Was it THAT bad?" Aaron asked, cocking an eyebrow again.

She blushed, remembering the parts of the dream where he held her close to him... "Oh, not all of it..." Still blushing, she turned to face him. "You played a very big part in my dream, actually."

A lopsided grin crept up the sides of his mouth. "Really? Well, I AM the kind of guy who girls dream about..." he rubbed his fingernails on his shirt and looked at them, trying to appear prideful. "...ALL the time," he finished dramatically.

"What if I told you that you were the killer?" Efad asked scornfully, raising an eyebrow.

Aaron's grin faded slightly. "You're bluffing," he protested.

A laugh escaped the girl. "Ok, I am. But...in my dream, you were there for me when everyone around me was falling...when my whole world was falling apart." She paused, trying to think. "I-I don't know how to explain it exactly."

"Hey, as long as I didn't kill anybody, I'd say that was good enough..."

Efad grasped her hands tightly behind her back, fidgeting as she spoke. "I, eh...want to thank you. Even if it was only a dream, I still think it means that you're a close enough friend to help me through anything." She took a step towards him and, closing her eyes, gently pecked him on the cheek before he could do otherwise.

When she had stepped back (blushing a vibrant shade of red), Aaron gave her a grin and scratched the back of his neck nervously. "You're that sure, huh?" He asked slowly, chuckling to himself. "Wow... Efad, you never cease to amaze me."

Kevin poked his head through the kitchen pass-through to the dining room and grinned. "Hey you two, guess what! The guy who broke out of jail was just caught a few minutes ago. The news said they're bringing him back to custody tonight."

"Great!" Efad grinned and cocked her head to one side. "Where'd they catch him?"

"The Wal-Mart parking lot. C'mon, Aaron, I need someone to beat in foosball."

Aaron cackled. "Oh, you're SO goin' down, boy!" With that, he left the room to battle Kevin, leaving Efad alone to walk on cloud nine. The murders had never happened. The killer had been arrested before he could do any harm. All her friends were safe and sound...

The sound of two boys arguing reached her ears. She could tell it was Justin and Brian, probably off in the T.V. room.

"I DARE you!" Brian declared, crossing his arms.

Justin shook his head. "No way, man! I'm not stupid enough to get on the roof!"

"What's the matter?" His cousin asked slyly. "Are you-"

Efad cried out. "NO!" Both boys looked at her warily. "I... ah... just don't do it. Trust me." She moaned and fell back onto the couch, covering her face with her hands. "Don't EVER do anything like that again..."