The dream detonated in her mind like a bomb. Heat. Pressure. The burning. A small room full of night closed in around her, a big window of light exposing a pregnant moon. Shadows hugged her, and Jenna was both repulsed and seduced by them. Part of her wanted to let go and stay shrouded in darkness, never to see the light again, but she also wanted to fight the emptiness before it took her away.
A gun exploded in the distance. Something moved outside the large window of her dreamscape, flittering in the moon light. Startled, she jumped, tripping, one foot entangling the other. It took a lot of effort to regain her balance. The silhouette of a creature came into creation on the floor like a painting brought to life with each new stroke of a brush.
Heartbeat loud in her ears, Jena stared as the monster grew to mammoth proportions: fuzzy, distorted, and utterly terrifying. She looked away, even if it meant her death. Nothing happened.
When she finally found the courage to return her gaze to the window, a large black crow perched on the windowsill, highlighted in the silver moonlight. No monster, just a bird. Yet, it stared at Jenna with wicked intent, cackling, like the three witches eyed Macbeth.
Crows don’t speak but Jenna was sure that this one could. “Eric.”
Upon hearing it, she jumped back, while the indifferent and unflustered crow took off causally into the night just as the voices erupted around her.
Jenna recognized one voice in the crowd.
“Eric!” Jenna screamed and started a desperate search for him.
The scenery shifted and he was in front of her.
Eric turned. His eyes were empty sockets, dripping maggots.
“Don’t you remember me?” he asked. “I haven’t forgotten you. I’ve come to be with you always. Why did you leave me?” Eric’s looked at Jenna, vacant sockets somehow finding her face.
In her dream, events from the past unfolded like a damp dish towel. After the world had ended, Jenna had joined up with Caleb, Eric and his twin Billy, and a group of survivors who had found a safe haven at the High Point Inn in Virginia, but even there, the group was never free of the undead.
Jenna stomach churned like she was on a carnival ride when the scene in her dream changed again. Eric and Billy squabbled loudly on a roof, looking young and innocent. When she had first joined up with the small band of survivors, Eric and Billy had been some of the youngest members at fifteen, and being twins, the only people with family still alive.
Fair-haired and optimistic, the twins formed a special bond with Jenna. She was happy to take on the role of big sister. The gangly twosome looked like they ought to be anywhere but in the middle of the apocalypse. The twins should have been driving a tractor on a farm in the mid-west with their freckled, homegrown, innocent faces. They were Jenna’s new family.
Again the landscape changed. An old fashion silent movie played. The twin’s heads bouncing in unison, Eric throwing pebbles from the roof, the boys trying to outdo each other at target practice, both getting into trouble. Billy telling stupid knock-knock jokes. Eric playing cards with Jenna and making her laugh when she had been mourning all she lost in her previous life.
Blurred images, chaotic and violent, erupted like a volcano. Eric in dirty overalls fighting the undead; Eric trying to rescue Victor, another member of the group, in a dilapidated movie theater; stalkers ambushing him; and finally, Caleb telling Jenna of Eric’s death.
Eric screamed in her dream and his body surged out of a mass of stalkers.
Someone followed behind him, walking out of the murkiness.
“Stop making so much noise,” Lilly murmured. “You don’t know what’s around. Try to think about getting out of here. We need you.”
Lilly reached out to touch Jenna, but Jenna moved away, and watched as Lilly’s skin beginning to decay. After the virus had hit and her family died, Jenna never thought she would be able to get close to anyone again. She tried so hard to remain distant, but the twins, Caleb, and then Lilly had found their way into Jenna’s heart. Lilly had been one of the last people to join the group. Already settled at the High Point Inn, Lilly had arrived with a group of strangers. Of all the new additions, Lilly, had become good friends with Jenna.
In the dream, Lilly beckoned for Jenna to follow. The movement caused a chunk of skin from Lilly’s arm to fall to the ground. From where the skin fell, the arm oozed black blood. Muscles and bone began to protrude. Lilly smiled, but her lips cracked.
“You have to find me and Eric or this is what we become,” Lilly said.
“Can you show me the way?” Jenna asked, wandering through the haze. Darkness fell and Jenna stopped. “I’m scared to follow.”
“You need to follow me.” Lilly beckoned her forward, but the fog and darkness deepened and Jenna briefly lost sight of Lilly. When Jenna found Lilly again, she grabbed her hand, determined to find a way out. It slithered against Jenna’s fingers.