Only the Beginning
I woke up suddenly to the sound of the doorbell ringing. I looked out the window and saw it was still dark. Glancing at the clock I saw it was midnight. Who would be ringing my doorbell at midnight? I thought. I made my way out of bed and stumbled down the stairs. As I opened the door, I saw someone running away. I looked down and saw a rose stem with a note attached to it. It said:
If you succeed…You will wake up.
I picked up the note cautiously and closed the door. I shrugged nonchalantly and headed back to bed. Just as I was about to step back in my bed, the doorbell rang again. A little aggravated, I sighed heavily and went back downstairs. I opened the door and saw a pajama-wearing, glasses-donning guy with a sleepy-looking face. He was also holding a note.
“Um…Hi…” I said, a little confused.
“Are you Amber?” the sleepy guy asked.
“Yes…Who are you?”
I waited for some kind of explanation. It never came.
“Why are you at my front door…at midnight?!” I asked, folding my arms. He shoved the note in my face and said,
“Did you get one of these?” I read it over.
If you succeed…You will wake up.
The note also had my address on it. “Are you the one that came to my front door and left the note here?” I asked, getting angrier and more tired by the second.
“No. I got this note a while ago – maybe two hours ago. I was trying to go back to sleep, but I’ve been watching my clock and the time hasn’t changed since I got it. I don’t-”
“Wait here,” I said and ran back up to my room. I looked at my clock. 12:00 AM…But that’s when I woke up! This had to have taken at least five minutes.
I came back downstairs and saw James sitting on my couch. He was dozing off.
“Hello?” I said, growing more annoyed by the millisecond (which didn’t really apply in this situation since there seemed to be no time at all…but whatever.) He jumped, obviously startled by my presence. He was half asleep but threw his arm in the air and handed me a note and a blue rose petal.
He slurred, “I think this is important.” At least, that’s what I think he said. I looked at the note carefully. It said:
Welcome to your worst nightmare. Your task is to find all of the petals to this rose stem. Then, you will wake up. If you do not collect all 5 of the rose petals by the time your clock reads 12:01 AM, you will be stuck in this nightmare forever.
“How do we know when it’s gonna be 12:01?” I asked. The noise that came out of James was not words of any kind, rather it was a large snore.
“James!” I yelled, exasperated.
“What? What? What is it?” He sounded annoyed now too.
“We’ve gotta figure this out. We have to collect a bunch of these petals by the time our clock reads 12:01.”
“That’s not very helpful. We don’t know when that’s going to happen.”
“I know! I didn’t make the rules here. Let’s just figure out how to get these petals. I’ll bet we have to go outside to find them. What do you think?”
“Okay, then outside it is,” I said. I grabbed my keys and went to wake up James when the doorbell rang. Startled, he stood up and opened his eyes.
“Larry’s got the cat in the freezer,” he proclaimed.
“Alright, sit back down, James. Try to wake up before we go anywhere.” I walked over to the door, feeling like nothing could possibly surprise me at this point. I opened the door. I was wrong.
I stood at the door, looking into my own pale blue eyes and seeing an evil smirk on my face. It wasn’t a mirror. It was a person, a version of myself that I never thought I would see. Next to me, well her, was James number 2. Although I knew that I was awake, someone else was definitely controlling my reality. I opened my mouth to say something, but then I felt something heavy hit my jaw. Amber 2 had punched me in the face.
“Get up, James!”
“Go!” I grabbed his hand and we ran out the back door of my house. We were being chased. The nightmare had begun.
“Hey, doesn’t that guy look a lot like me?” James’ query slowed him down.
“C’mon!” I said. “Get in the car!” My keys, which I had grabbed earlier, were still in my hands. I ran over to my dad’s truck and got in.
I put the keys in the ignition and the car made a sputtering sound. It wasn’t starting. James frantically pushed my hand away and tried to start it himself. The car started.
“How did you do that?”
“Well, you know, I am a man…” he stated, obviously proud of his testosterone.
“Okay, now shut up and just let me drive away from these freaks.”
“Well, technically they’re us…so…”
“Shut up!” I yelled as I stomped on the gas pedal.
“Whoa, whiplash!” James exclaimed. “Hey! This air freshener is really cool!”
James obviously has the attention span of a goldfish, I thought. “Why are you commenting on the air freshener? We’re being chased!” I glanced over at the rear view mirror and saw the “air freshener.” A blue petal and a note were dangling from the rear view mirror.
I hope you can swim.
“James what do you think this note-”
The car spun out of control. I was no longer steering it. Amber 2 and James 2 were lurking right outside my window. I looked out James’ window and saw a lake.
“We’re heading right for the-” Splash!
We were sinking and the car was filling up with water. James pounded on the window, trying to break it. I looked around hoping I would find something to get us out of the sinking car. I opened up the glove compartment and saw a dirty tissue, an old Lifesaver, a pack of gum, and a pen.
“James! Here!” I shoved the four items at him, “Use something to get us out of here!”
He looked at me sardonically and said, “Good idea. I’ll take this dirty tissue and rub it all over myself until I get sick and die. That way I’ll die faster!”
I rolled my eyes and grabbed what I had handed to him and said, “Oh, give me that! I bet something in here could save us!” I looked frantically through the four items, finally deciding to give the pen a shot. I thought quickly and remembered my Driver’s Ed class. The teacher had said if you are in a car underwater you can use a pen to get out. But how are you supposed to use it?
I tried using it as a crowbar to open the door. That did nothing. James looked over at me.
“This is ridiculous!” he yelled as he grabbed the pen from my hand and swung his arm back around himself, accidentally stabbing the window. The glass shattered. I thought about looking haughty but I figured I should wait until we were on land again. James swam through the window and I saw a trail of red coming from his stomach. I went through the small space as carefully as I could as to not touch the glass. James was looking around madly as I swam over to him. We didn’t know which way was up and which way was down. I just went with my instinct, hoping I was right, and James followed me. Both of us were running out of oxygen and we were praying that any minute we would reach the surface. Just as I thought I wasn’t going to make it I heard a splash and felt the wind on my face. James gasped for breath and made his way over to land, clutching his bleeding stomach.
After taking his shirt off and tying it around his stomach to help the bleeding, James said, “Do you have the petal?” I gasped in horror as I realized I had forgotten the petal. I went to jump back in the water but James laughed and said, “Just kidding! I have it!”
“How did you hold onto it that whole time?”
“I put it in my mouth so I couldn’t lose it when I was swimming.” Maybe I underestimated James. He was actually pretty smart. But then he put the sopping wet note and petal in my hand. I was hoping it was wet from the lake water but I knew it was really from his mouth.
“You’re welcome.” he said.
We looked around wondering what to do and where to go, when suddenly James grabbed my hand. “Run!” he screamed. I looked behind me and saw Amber 2 and James 2 again. We went running into the darkness of some creepy forest. Filled with overgrown roots, the forest was like an obstacle course. We just couldn’t avoid all of the tree branches and roots. I tripped over one big tree root, scraping the side of my face. James grabbed my hand and just as I was about to stand up, something caught my eye. It was a blue rose petal with a note attached to it. I grabbed it hurriedly and started running again.
The tree roots eventually disappeared and we were out of the forest. We looked behind us and saw Amber 2 and James 2 getting closer. I sprinted forward and just as James shouted, “Stop!” I realized that there was no longer ground beneath my feet. I was falling. I suddenly felt the cold, unforgiving ground against my back. I took a last breath and all I saw was black.
James: 12:00 Midnight
I screamed “Stop!” and saw that Amber had fallen off the edge of a cliff straight ahead. I looked back and saw that it was just James 2 chasing me. Over the cliff I saw a small ledge that I could stand on if I jumped. I was hoping if I made it look like I jumped off the cliff, James 2 would disappear like Amber 2 did. I jumped.
I landed on the ledge and stood as still as possible so James 2 would think I was dead. When I heard nothing but silence I looked down and saw a blue rose petal with a note attached to it. I picked it up carefully, slipped it in my mouth and started climbing up the cliff. I looked around. Amber was gone, and I had no idea what to do next. I read the note. It said:
Soon time will be ended, eternity’s near,
It is only a step to the grave;
God’s warnings are sounding, oh, will you not hear?
It is only a step to the grave.
I don’t like the sound of that, I thought. I turned around expecting to see the dark forest again, but what I saw was even eerier than that. It was an old abandoned church complete with haunting music playing. The stained glass windows were broken, and there were spiderwebs everywhere. The leaves beneath my feet crunched as I slowly made my way toward the church. I didn’t want to get any closer to it, but I knew I had to if I ever wanted to get out of this nightmare.
The church’s heavy wooden door had fallen off of the hinges and was situated like a barricade in front of the entrance. I couldn’t push it and I couldn’t climb over it. Near the leafless trees there were a few hymnals scattered around. It looked as though some sort of ghost choir had been there. I picked up the books and stacked them on top of each other in front of the door. Carefully, I stepped on top of the wobbly pile of books and attempted to climb over the door. I was about to step over the door when the books suddenly slid out from under me. I grabbed onto the door and pulled myself over it. As I climbed over the door I heard a crack. When I landed on the ground, in my hand was a huge chunk of splintered wood that had come off of the door. I decided to hold onto it for protection.
Gingerly, I stepped in the church expecting something horrendous to pop out at me. Nothing did. I looked down at all of the dusty pews in front of me and up at the alter. I was alone. CRACK! I spun around looking for the source of the noise, but it was just another piece of the door that had come crashing to the earth. I breathed a sigh of relief and turned back around.
I looked straight ahead. Six feet in front of me stood a living, breathing replica of myself. James 2 was back. He must have known I wasn’t really dead. I debated what I should do. I had never seen James 2 standing still before, and I realized that was even scarier than having him chase after me. I took a small step backward. He took a small step forward. I turned around and sprinted, forgetting about the door that lay in front of the church. I ran straight into it. James 2 was slowly walking toward me with a smile on his face. I stood up quickly and tried to think of what to do next. I realized I still had the chunk of wood from the door in my hand. James 2 was still a little ways away from me. I held my breath and threw the block of wood straight at James 2. He caught it.
All of a sudden, James 2 dove on top of me. His style of fighting was much more savage than I expected. He held me down and started biting my arm until it bled. As if he knew it was there, he took his fingernails and jabbed them into my stomach where my scar from the broken car window was. I was kicking him, trying to get him off, praying that all of those years of wrestling with my brothers would pay off right there.
They didn’t. I was pinned down and I had no fight left in me until I looked to my right and saw Amber 2 standing there. That’s when I knew that Amber must have still been alive. With new-found strength, I pushed James 2 off of me with a loud grunt. I went running toward the back of the church, because I knew Amber had to be there somewhere. There was a big hole in the back wall that led outside. I hoped I was right in thinking Amber would be out there. I ran through the hole and looked around. I was in a graveyard.
I heard James 2 and Amber 2 coming and I desperately started screaming, “Amber! AMBER!” I was running around with no clue where to go or what to do when I finally tripped over a grave stone. I glanced at it and started to get up. Wait a minute, I thought, what did that say? I looked back at the grave stone and it read: Amber Redding, Died in Her Dreams. Sitting next to the grave stone was a blue rose petal and a note.
Before I had a chance to even look at the note, James 2 and Amber 2 caught up to me. Slowly, they each placed their arms under my arms and all at once began to drag me away from the grave. I yelled and tried to wriggle my way out of their hold. Desperately, I dug my heels into the ground, hoping that would make it harder for them to drag me. They slowed down.
James 2 yanked on my arm as hard as he could but I wasn’t moving. He threw the chunk of wood he had caught from me earlier onto the ground and used both hands to pull me. I scrambled to get the block of wood close to me. I looked up and saw that the two clones were not looking at me. I used my feet to kick the wood up between my legs. I squeezed my legs together so that the wood was stuck there and I brought my feet up to my head. I was able to grab the chunk of wood with my hand. I decided to get rid of James 2 first. I stabbed him with the piece of wood in the stomach. He went flying backwards. I did the same thing to Amber 2 and she fell onto the ground. Amber 2 looked done for, but I had no idea if James 2 was down and out. It didn’t matter, though. I went running back to where Amber’s grave was and the realization that she was really dead hit me.
I looked down at her grave stone and slowly fell to my knees. I tried to tell myself, She’s just your neighbor who you don’t even really know! It didn’t matter. Soon, I was sitting in a puddle of my own tears. Amber always had ideas about what we should do. She was the one who was figuring this whole thing out. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.
Just as I started to think it was hopeless, I saw a small glint of light coming from behind me. Maybe it’s the sun rising, I thought. I turned around and standing before me was James 2 with a knife in his hand. As fast as I possibly could, I grabbed the block of wood next to me and hit him over the head with it. He was knocked out.
I turned back around to Amber’s grave and noticed the blue petal and note that I had forgotten about. I opened the note up and it said:
She’s just dying to see you.
What could that mean? Is Amber really dead? I thought. I looked down at her grave and finally understood. It’s a classic nightmare. She had been buried alive. There was a shovel resting on another grave stone and I ran over to get it. I started digging frantically, hoping that James 2 wouldn’t wake up while we were still there. I finally got six feet under to the coffin. I opened it up and there was Amber, living and breathing.
Amber: 12:00 Midnight
“James!” I sighed. “I can’t believe you found me! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” I stood up and gave him a hug.
“Ahem…yeah…yeah. No big deal…” I could see James’ face getting pink. “Alright, we have to get out of here before James 2 and Amber 2 wake up and see us and-”
“James! Wait! Did you get a petal when you came to my grave?”
“Yeah, why?” he asked. I held up four petals. “Four? How do you have four? I have one and you’re supposed to have three.”
“There was one in my coffin,” I said, smiling.
“What does it say?”
Goodnight. Sweet dreams.
I woke up with a start. I looked around. My window, my dresser, my bed, and my dog were all there. Maybe it was all a dream, I thought. I looked over at my night table and saw a blue rose. Maybe not…I heard something downstairs. It sounded like a snore. I quietly went down the stairs and into the family room. I looked around and, sound asleep on the couch, lightly clutching a blue rose in his hand, was James. I looked at the clock: 12:01 AM.