The nightmare at the beginning of Saige Glade’s hallway was neither mirage nor dream. She waited for him to speak—give her any indication that he meant well—but the reassurance never came. He stood there and stared at her, motionless. When she took a step back, his eyes centered on her face.
Car horns and barking dogs pierced the silence between she and her intruder. She waited for him to make the first move. Was he there to kill her, or take her? She swallowed. How had they found her? She’d been careful to hiding her tracks. Why was he there?
She was so tense that her muscles started to ache with her lack of motion. A bead of sweat pooled on her temple and slid down her cheek. Finally he moved. More so, he took off in a sprint. She ran the opposite way. Her throat burned with the need to be used, though she wasn’t sure that her powers would work on the intruder. His glowing eyes had already indicated that he wasn’t human. She shrieked, her voice bubbling forth inside a cloud of pitches and tones.They didn’t affect the intruder in the slightest. His footsteps still echoed hers.
She was two steps from the corner when he reached her with his long strides. His hand closed around her arm and jerked, nearly dislocating her shoulder. He kept firm hold of her, still silent, and moved to grab a long black dagger from a pouch on his side.
She struggled in his grasp, and finally lashed out with her foot, aiming between his legs. He grunted, and his grip loosened enough for her to break free and bolt. She had two options: She could run out the backdoor, in plain sight, or duck into a bedroom and escape through a window. Either way he could find her, and both ways he could kill her.
There wasn’t enough time for her to figure it out, so she followed her instincts. She stopped and spun around to face her intruder. His heavy footsteps halted as he looked at her.
“Who are you,” she asked. “And what do you want from me?”
He didn’t respond, but moved toward her again. She rubbed her fingers together and held out a hand. A thin, translucent barrier spread between them. She let her voice bubble forth, a mix of otherworldly pitches and frequencies.
“You’re not going to hurt me.”
The man didn’t respond to her command in a positive or negative way.
“You’re going to turn around and leave the way you came. And you’re going to tell whoever you’re working for that you killed me. Do you understand?”
The light in his eyes flickered as he blinked. “I understand.”
He didn’t move, however, and she frowned. Then he spoke again. His voice was deep and smooth.
“I understand, but I cannot obey your commands. I have my orders and I will carry them out. If you comply, your death will be painless. If you resist, it will be the opposite. Which do you choose?”
Her heart stuttered. She’d been grasping at straws in hoping her voice would work on him. But his choices were unacceptable. She would not give in, and she would not fight only to be killed.
“You won’t touch me,” she said.
“Is that your final choice?”
“Please, this doesn’t need to happen—”
He charged at the barrier she’d erected between them. She threw up her other hand to thicken it. Though he bounced off, she was also pushed back. She added layers to the translucent shield, but her strength was already dying. Why had she ever stopped practicing? He charged the barrier again and again without losing steam, and finally he withdrew his dagger once again to slash at the shield. She couldn’t add layers quickly enough, and as a last resort, she threw its edges wide so they sealed the hallway between them. Then she ran.
In the first bedroom she could reach, she locked the door and sealed it multiple times over with the translucent barrier, then grabbed a chair to smash the window. It wasn’t long after that her attacker was breaking down the door and lunging at her. Instead of aiming for the window, she swung at his head, and the wooden chair made an audible crack as it hit the side of his skull. Something popped out of his ear: a small black plug. She stared at it. Was it the blessing she’d hoped for? The intruder started to pick himself up, but she kicked him again. He fell to the floor. It was worth a shot.
She took a deep breath and screamed as loud as she could.
When she’d exhausted all of her air, she kept her eyes shut, waiting for the final blow to hit and kill her. But it never came. Now she feared opening her eyes. She didn’t want to see the horrid aftermath of her cursed power. The scent of blood soon filled her nose, and her stomach rejected it. Minutes later she rested on all fours over a puddle of her own vomit, trembling and gasping for breath. After catching her breath, she stood and left the room, locking the door behind her.
She leaned against she wall beside the door for a few minutes, breathing in through her nose and out through her mouth in an attempt to calm herself. After a while, her former stoicism kicked in and the wetness in her eyes dried up. From there on out, she was on autopilot.
In her own bedroom, she changed out of her nightgown and into something travel-appropriate. She packed one outfit, her few legal documents and her photo album. Then she grabbed a box of matches and a small silver canister. As she left her room and walked down the stairs, she sprinkled silver flakes from the canister, leaving a path of the glitter-like substance. At the door, she lit one match and sighed, watching it flicker. It died with her exhalation. Then she lit another and knelt to set it carefully at the end of the silver trail.
The trail lit like a line of firecrackers, but the flames didn’t move in a straight line. Instead, they branched out in every direction, like a circuit board, and it wasn’t long until her furniture was ablaze. The fire moved into the kitchen and up the stairs, burning like the most beautiful pathway of fireworks, but she peeled her eyes away and turned to leave, locking the door behind her. Outside, she tossed her bag in her truck before climbing in herself and driving away.
She didn’t look back.