The sound of her feet pounding on an invisible floor, running. She never wanted to run, but she always was. She had been running this same path, as if she was stuck on a hamster wheel, for years. Always running through the darkness to nowhere. She couldn’t stop because something, someone was after her. Shadows leaped and jumped at her from all directions. Taking different shapes but never anything recognizable. Fear consumed her, she didn’t know what she was running from, but she knew she couldn’t stop. Stopping meant death, and there was no coming back from that. She didn’t believe a lot of things, but she did believe that if you died in a dream, you died in real life. This was her dream, her never ending dream of running through nothing. Being chased by an invisible force that scared her body into betraying her mind. She would tell herself over and over, it will be over soon. You will wake and be tucked away warm and comfy into your bed. She knew it was a dream, she would swear she wouldn’t move. She somehow ended up in this void, black as far as the eye could see. No matter how she tried to avoid it. No matter what kinky dream she’d been having. Here she would be, it was a warning she had come to believe, a warning that whatever was coming for her was close. A warning that it was time to leave.
She knew what was coming next, she would feel the icy grip soon enough and the floor would disappear beneath her. Like clockwork something leaped out at her, grabbing hold of her. And just as if on cue, the floor beneath her betrayed her and she fell. The darkness held tight and she dangled into nothingness. But it couldn’t hold for long, slowly it always let go. She could feel the desperation as it tried to hold her, tried to pull her towards it. The anger as it was forced to relinquish its prize. Finally, she fell, and the dreaded scream escaped, one that she tried every time not to let escape. A scream that no one would hear. She could feel something solid coming up behind her but never could see. With a hard thud her body hit the mattress of the twin sized bed in the hotel room located just off the freeway. The sheets settled around her, as if she had just leaped into bed. Sweat poured off her skin as her eyes jutted open from the same dream that has haunted her for as long as she can remember. Always starts the same, and she always seems to wake before she can figure out what is happening.
She lay there starring at the ceiling, the same old white popcorn ceiling every hotel room that she has been in has. This one with a few bare areas. The room was dark, and she was waiting patiently for her eyes to adjust. She had been in the room for the past three nights. Nothing has changed, and she was sure that would be confirmed when she could see it in its entirety. But something seemed off. The air seemed so much thicker and made it difficult for her to breath. Her lungs burned and tasted as if she’d been eating fire. Maybe it was the dream, maybe she was still dreaming. Either way she wasn’t going to chance it. She had been running from this invisible force since the moment she woke up in the hospital. How she had gotten there was a mystery. They had asked her so many questions, but never getting anywhere. Something had happened to her. It had to do with the dream. She knew it, but she could never get through the dream far enough to understand why she always had to run. It was a feeling that seeped into her soul and grabbed hold of her heart. It would not let go till she packed up and left. The further she got from her starting point the better she felt and the longer she had till the feeling returned. She had to hide, hide from herself and the world. Never in the same place twice and always with cash.
She took a deep steadying breath trying to calm her nerves. The heat of the night had seeped in and the window unit had somehow shut off. But fear kept her in bed, wide awake and yet pretending to be asleep. She felt sticky and oddly cold. Every inch of her skin was covered in goose bumps and the little hairs stood on end. She felt, knew she wasn’t alone. But what was in the room with her couldn’t be more than a ghost. But ghosts couldn’t hurt her, could they. At least that’s what the movies said. She slowly looked around the room. Each corner of the room seemed darker than it should of and if she gazed too long it seemed to move. The walls were lined with seventies style furniture and art deco paintings. The wall paper, yellowed and peeling, was clustered with a type of blue flower that seemed to have wilted and died as if picked from the ground itself and glued to the walls. Everything seemed to be in its place, the keys to the car that was parked at the other end of the lot and cash bag still on the nightstand where she laid them when she arrived. Her bag packed and waiting in the chair by the only entrance to the room. The bathroom door cracked, and the glow from the flood light she placed in there. Not enough light to prevent sleeping but enough to scare the shadows from her dreams.
She had memorized the entire room; she knew where everything was and if it had been moved. There was a mouse trap with moldy cheese still hiding under the corner of the dresser. Everything seemed to be in its place, but the feeling that something just was right wouldn’t leave her. Her heart continued to pound in her chest so much so that the only noise she could here was its “thud, thud, thud” against her rib cage echoing through her ear drums. She closed her eyes again to focus. Slowly the sounds of life kissed her ears. The cars on the nearby freeway passing, music from somewhere off in the distance and running water. Running water, she thought. It sounded so close, as if it was in the same room. But that couldn’t be, she was alone. It had to be in her head. She focused more, so that the water was the only thing that she could hear. As she listened a quickening began to build in her stomach and nausea threatened to take hold. Every cell in her body said to leave, but her mind tried to reason. It wasn’t real, she was still caught in the dream.
There couldn’t be anyone in the room with her. She came here alone, parked at the end of the lot and circled around the building to make sure she wasn’t being followed. She checked the locks on the windows and doors at least five times before she could even lay down in bed. This had to be from the dream. And as if it were magic, the water stopped. She slowly slid her hand under her pillow where she kept the red and blue bat. It wasn’t longer than a foot and was one of those bats they sold at the concession stand outside the ball field. The paint was faded and chipped, and the team was long gone but it comforted her to know that it was there. It would never be deadly as a gun, but it would do some damage if she needed to use it. Then, all the sound seemed to have been sucked out of the room. She couldn’t even hear her own breath or heartbeat.
Something definitely was wrong, if this was a dream she had to wake up. She opened her eyes and rested them on the door to the restroom. It was as she had left it. Opened exactly two inches from the frame. The mirror oddly glowing from the white light of the lamp casting shadows here and there. Though she could not see the entirety of the bathroom, the light was enough to confirm she had been utterly alone. But then something moved across the reflection of the mirror. Something that shouldn’t have been there, something that her mind refused to make out. A figure made of dark, a shadow. She tried to calm herself, she was frozen in bed as if she had been chained to it. A weight on her chest progressed and if she attempted to move she felt as if she would be trapped. She starred at the crack waiting for her mind to calm. For her to wake from this dream as she had woken from her dreams before. She waited for the bed to disappear, for the floor to fall out and for her to begin to tumble through the nothingness. Almost like Alice when she fell down the rabbit hole. But that moment never came.
She tried to convince herself that it was just her mind playing tricks on her, it was all in her head. But then the door began to move. Shock of the movement shot he adrenaline through her body and froze her to the bed. The sheets felt tighter, restricting, as if they were holding her down. Her head felt like it was going to explode with each millimeter the door opened. Light began to spill into the room. First the carpet and slowly up the wall opposite the door. She was trapped, her heart was racing, her mind spinning. How could this be, she had to be in a dream. She screamed, but nothing came out her mouth. “Come on, start to fall.” She begged, but nothing happened. If this was a dream, it had changed. She had to wake herself. But how could she do that if she couldn’t move. Hot steamy tears spilled from her eyes and a pain began to build from behind her eyes. She wanted to wake up. She wanted out. She squeezed her eyes shut and refused to let any more tears fall. She could feel the sheets beneath her begin to soak. She wasn’t going to go down like this. This was not her end.
Something cold and metal filled her right hand, her left felt heavy. She opened her eye to find herself standing in front of the door. Her bat, keys and cash bag tucked neatly into the pockets of her travel bag she held tightly in her left hand. A ringing began in her ears. She turned her head confused at how she could be standing there with no memory of ever leaving the bed. From the corner of her eye she saw the bathroom. No light came from the doorway, she could see nothing but a shadowy figure. Fear took hold of her, her hand twisted the knob as the figure ran towards her. Something grabbed her arm, pulling her back. The door to the room was wide open and the night air was just out of reach. Something was pulling her back into the room with a strength that she never felt before. Large hands gripped her wrist, nails digging into her skin. It yanked with such might that she nearly lost the grip on her bag that she gripped in the trapped hand. Her whole life was in that bag, not much but everything at the same time.
She planted her feet, grabbed the door frame and pulled with all she had, but she was stuck. Freedom in front of her, captivity behind her. She needed out. She wanted out, but she couldn’t escape whatever had a hold of her. One glance back brought the fear to a crushing halt over her heart. As if the life was being squeezed out of her. But there was nothing, nothing but swirling darkness. How could this be. Nothing made sense. She could feel the hand, and the nails ripping at the wrist. She could feel its strength as it slowly ripped her fingers from the frame. But nothing stared back at her. And if things couldn’t get worse the pain behind her eyes became so intense, she felt as if she were going to collapse.
Then came the noise, crackling and popping and high-pitched noises around. She wished she was anywhere but here. She wanted comfort and safety. She wanted to be somewhere familiar where no one would find her. But how could she escape the strong hand that clasped her. She was stuck, and then as if something solid hit her hard form behind, she felt the air being knocked from her lungs. A blinding white light stung at her eyes. The sound of an explosion so loud you’d think that a bomb went off. She couldn’t hear, she couldn’t see, she couldn’t feel. “This was the end” she thought, this was her death. This is what she’d been running from for so long. It had finally caught up to her as all things that you run from do.
Then the feeling of falling hit her stomach and her face hit something cold and hard. Pain rang through her temples and something warm and wet trickled from her nose. She opened her eyes to see what had happened. To see where she was. Her whole body ached, and she was laying with her nose smashed against bleached white tile floor. She turned her head into the warm liquid she soon discovered was her own blood. She did not recognize the room. Steal like cabinets on the far back wall. Metal tables evenly spaced beside her. How did she get here? What was going on. She tried to push herself off the floor, but her strength was gone. After several failed attempts she collapsed back to the floor in time to see a pair of shoes attached to brown dress pants walking towards her.
Fear overwhelmed her. She pushed herself away, sliding painfully slowly across the floor, from the shoes that stepped urgent towards her. A set of dark brown eyes met hers with the look of concern. She braced herself for more pain on one elbow. She moved her free armed, covered in her own blood protectively up. She had no weapons, no escape. What was she going to do? She stared at his eyes and watched as his mouth moved frantically. He reached for her, but when she flinched he drew back with his hands up. She tried to look around, to get her barring’s. But nothing was recognizable. She was just in the hotel room in a small town outside of san antonio. Where was her bag? Was she dreaming before or now? What the hell was going on? She looked back at the man now crouched in front of her. He looked panicked now. “I wish I knew what you were saying” then came the noise, so much noise her ears began to sting. She fell onto her shoulder and clasped her ears. A distorted voice found its way through the noise. “miss, miss. Are you ok, what happened. David, David I need you” she starred at him, hands clasping her ears. Confused, lost, nauseous. A set of double doors she hadn’t seen before opened behind him, then the world began to spin, and everything went dark.