Part One- Victoria
I open my eyes.
And see darkness. I don’t see anything. I don’t hear anything. All I feel is the bitter coldness of the air and the dread sweeping through me.
“Dakota…” The whisper travels through the air.
I whirl around the face it, but no one is there. Arms wrap around my waist from behind and pull me towards whoever is there. My arms are at my sides. It feels like I’m being held gently, yet when I try to struggle or escape I am powerless.
I feel a warm breath on my ear.
“Kill for me,” breathes a sultry voice. “and I will set you free.”
A young man appears in front of me, hands bound behind his back and tape over his mouth. He’s struggling, and his eyes are wide and pleading for freedom.
The woman releases me, strolls past me, and stands behind the man. Her eyes meet mine, and her crimson lips stretch into a wide smile. She places her hand on top of the man’s head.
His back arches, and blood appears on his chest, then begins pouring down onto the ground. His flesh splits open, and his heart bursts from his chest with a sickening crack.
I wake with a gasp. Breathing heavily I lean forward and cover my face with my hands. This is the third time… Each time the dream has been a little different. But it’s always the same woman, and it always ends with someone losing their heart.
I feels someone stir beside me in bed.
“You alright, baby?” she murmurs.
“Yeah,” I reply, taking a deep breath.
“Bad dream again?” My girlfriend, Joane, pushes herself up and rests her head on her hands, still lying on her stomach. Her messy red hair tumbles over her shoulder.
“Yeah,” I say again.
“Wanna talk about it?”
I shake my head. “No, it’s nothing.”
She gazes intently at me, her icy blue eyes narrowed slightly. After a few moments, she sighs. “Ok.” She leans over and gently presses her lips against mine. “Let’s get up and get ready.”
I sit at my desk in the quiet library, scrolling through my emails and replying to them if need be. It’s a slow day, being a Tuesday during school hours. I work at a pretty small library, and most people prefer to go to other branches. But we do have a few regulars, all elderly, wandering and browsing books. On the uncommon occasion that someone needs help finding something, they generally seem to go to my co-worker, Arthur. He’s more approachable, I suppose.
Not that I’m complaining. No, definitely not. I prefer to be left alone, most of the time. Especially these past several days. I’ve been sleeping poorly and my dreams have been troubled, gruesome. I can’t get the images out of my head.
I close the tab I’m on and get up. There are books to be sorted and shelved. I make my way back to the process room and find it mostly empty. Other librarians here seem to be cleaning, shelving books, or in a meeting. There are a couple of people here who are peeling stickers off books that need to be re-categorized or processing books that have recently been returned.
‘Dakota, won’t you help me?’
I stiffen. No. Nononono. That’s the same voice from my dream. I look around, but there’s no sight of her.
‘Go away,’ I silently tell her.
‘But darling I need you,’ she says, her voice breathy and pleading. ‘I can set you free.’
‘Free from what?’ I think to her.
‘Everything. All that hurts you and traps you. I can show you true happiness.’
‘You aren’t real. You’re just a voice from a dream, a voice I’m hearing now because I’m so sleep deprived.’
A soft laugh. ‘Oh, darling. I assure you I am very much real.’
I have to ignore her. Shut her out. She’ll go away in time.
I look up and see Autumn, another co-worker of mine.
“You spaced out there, you alright?” she asks, tilting her head slightly, concern written across her features.
I force a small smile. “Yeah,” I say. “Just… tired.”
“Well, as always, there’s coffee in the break room if you need it.” She smiles at me, then walks away.
‘You can’t just shut me out, Dakota.’
I ignore her all day. Earlier she had realized that she hadn’t introduced herself. Her name is Victoria.
But it’s not, I tell myself, because she’s not. Real.
‘I feel very ignored right now, and I’m beginning to grow impatient. Should you continue to ignore me, I will hurt you however I can.’
I clench my jaw. She’s been tormenting me all day, her words seemingly sweet and caring, then turning angry and threatening. I’m not scheduled tomorrow, so I plan to stay in bed longer, catch up on sleep. That’s all she is. A result of sleep deprivation. That’s it.
Victoria whispers to me gruesome words, stories of death and plague and suffering, so horrific and odious that I can’t bring myself to eat lunch. Her gentle laughter fills my head.
Shut. Her. Out.
‘Kill for me.’