It was the first time in three nights I'd actually managed to have a decent night's sleep. The mattress was pleasantly soft and spongy underneath me and the fleecy blanket and smooth cotton texture of the bed sheets made me feel warm and secure. They were coarse and scratchy like the bed sheets at the boarding school. No, these blankets reminded me of home. I had one hundred and one theories about what might've happened to my home buzzing around like bolts of electricity in my head. It's no wonder my dreams were so full of confusion and uncertainty.
My subconscious played with the thoughts buzzing around in my mind and transformed them into twisted scenarios. I saw guns being fired aimlessly and buildings smothered in orange flames, burning to the ground. The town was being reduced to nothing but ruins. Everyone was either hiding, screaming or running frantically. I knew it was all a dream, a fake reality inside my head, but deep down I had this awful feeling that all these images were real, that these events had really occurred. I tossed and turned violently in my sleep, longing to wake up from this terrifying nightmare, but at the same time, I was curious. It was like wanting to see the end of a movie, or read the end of a book.
Suddenly, a loud, droning noise echoed through my dream, sending a shiver of nervousness through my body. The noise was far too loud to be a part of my dreaded nightmare. It was real.
"Anna!" I heard someone whisper harshly. "Anna, wake up!"
My eyes snapped open instantly. White beams of blinding light shone through the windows into the room. I gasped, taking a deep breath, about to let out a scream. Before I could make a sound, someone clamped their coarse hand over my mouth. Terrified, I kicked and struggled, trying to break free of the person's iron grasp. Finally, as my vision started to clear, I realised who the person was.
"Kieran," I said, my voice muffled by his hand still covering my mouth.
"Sssh! Don't talk, don't move," he ordered, his eyes intensely focussed on the window. We lay there in dead silence until the beams of light and loud roaring sound vanished, allowing the darkness to consume the room once more.
"What was that?" I asked, my weariness still lingering, affecting my ability to process what had just happened.
"Helicopter," Kieran replied solemnly, peering through the closed curtains into the darkness outside.
Kieran's one word response caused a thousand questions to swarm into my head. Where did the helicopter come from? What were they doing? Who was flying the helicopter? Were they looking for someone? Who were they looking for? Why were the here?
Kieran offered to keep watch while I slept, but I was far too anxious to sleep. This strange tingling sensation had taken over my whole body. Whenever I closed my eyes, images from my nightmare returned. I couldn't shut them out. I lay curled up in a foetal position under the blankets, my arms and legs trembling. My lungs felt like they were being crushed, like I was suffocating.
"You're safe, Annaleise. Just close your eyes and go to sleep," I repeated Kieran's words of assurance to myself.
I must have eventually dozed off, only to wake up to the sound of the fire alarm beeping and Kieran swearing furiously. I trudged sleepily out into the kitchen. I could tell by the strong smell of burning, the hazy grey smoke filling the room and the various types of food spilled out over the kitchen bench and tiled floor that Kieran had been attempting to cook breakfast.
"I'm going out this morning," he informed me abruptly, without even saying "hello" or "good morning".
"Okay…" I said, sliding myself onto one of the polished wooden seats at the dining room table. "Where are you going?"
"I dunno," he shrugged. "Gonna look around a bit, see if I can figure out what the hell is going on around here."
"Can I come?" I said softly, not caring much about whether or not he actually heard me. Part of me was desperate to join Kieran on his adventure, but the other part of me was much too frightened.
Kieran took a temporary break from his cooking and cleaning, and came to sit at the table with me.
"It's not that I don't want you to come, Anna. It's just that…" His hazel eyes gazed off into the distance as he pondered over what to say next, how to phrase his explanation and how to do it all without making me angry or upset. "I just don't want to see you get hurt. You're smart Anna, but you're so easily frightened and caught off guard. If something bad is out there, I don't want to risk you getting hurt… or worse."
I nodded silently. What could I say? Yes, I was a little offended that Kieran viewed me as incapable, however, I knew deep down that he was right. I wondered if he really did care about my safety and wellbeing, or whether he just didn't want his highly irritating childhood best friend tagging along. Perhaps it was a mixture of both.
I sat on the veranda watching as a Kieran cautiously walked out into the distance. Despite my short-sightedness, I could see him gesturing to me to get back inside the house. A cold autumn breeze swept across the flat, dry land. Shivering, I pulled my navy blue jacket tighter around my body. I felt isolated. I'd always felt isolated growing up. I was very different from everyone else in my school and neighbourhood. However, this kind of isolated was different. It was like being dumped on a deserted island, not knowing if there was any kind of civilisation nearby, left alone with no one to converse with. Despite Kieran's orders, I spent a majority of the day sitting on the veranda. When I grew tired of simply daydreaming, I raided the house's marvellous book collection for something that would hold my attention.
The sky was darkening when Kieran eventually arrived back at the house. He had a serious, sombre look on his face, his hazel eyes staring aimlessly at the dry, rough grass that covered the ground.
"Get inside, Anna," he solemnly. "There's a lot I have to tell you."
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