Andrew regretted his actions almost as soon as they’d concluded. In an instant he knew that he’d screwed up, that he’d let his emotions get the better of him and hurt someone he cared about. He’d gone from being truly mad to being guilty and ashamed. The consequences from his teacher and parents were nothing compared to knowing that he’d betrayed a loyal friend.
There wasn’t anything to do now but sleep. It was still early in the evening and the dim amber rays of the setting sun still shone through the blinds of his window, but sleep was the only thing worth doing. He’d already been sent home and sentenced to a weekend alone in his room for the crime he’d committed. It was just as well, as Andrew wasn’t in the mood to do much else. Until he could make up with Samantha in some way, he wouldn’t have the heart to do anything that would make him happy. Perhaps he would call her tomorrow, if she’d even consent to speak to him.
The memory of Samantha’s stricken face persisted into his thoughts as he laid in bed trying to rest. It simply wouldn’t leave him alone, as if deliberately reinforcing his guilty feelings. As his mind grew more and more dim, that face continued to confront his mind’s eye until he was scarcely conscious of anything else.
“Samantha, I’m sorry,” he whispered aloud to no one before finally drifting off to sleep.
It was foggy and gray, with a chill breeze blowing like a distressed whisper through the trees. Clouds of mist unfurled from the low wooded landscape up the side of the hill where Andrew now stood. Everything was quiet, without a bird or cricket or chattering chipmunk to disturb the serenity. The wood was thick and the trees were tall and imposing, like silent guardians of a sacred wilderness. Traveling through the brush would be difficult, but at the very bottom of the hill there was a narrow path which Andrew began making his way toward.
Once beneath the canopy, there was little enough light to see the path at all. What small amount of sunlight that persisted through the clouds and trees was barely enough to illuminate the forest floor. Andrew walked slowly at first, taking his time in descrying the path ahead of him. After a time his eyes began to adjust and he was better able to see the scenery he was enveloped in.
The trail was narrow but it was exceptionally clear. Not a single fern, or weed, or sapling stood in his way. In contrast, the forest on either side of him was thick with weeds, grasses, bushes, and immense towering trees. Their branches often interleaved with one another overhead, creating a sheltered archway for Andrew to pass through, as if the forest itself was a sort of wooded palace. The deeper he journeyed, the taller and thicker the trees on either side became. As far he could tell, Andrew was the only creature passing through those words. There were no other sounds but his own footsteps and slow steady breathing.
In the gloom just ahead, Andrew perceived a doorway with a stone arch barely discernable in the dim light. It was only a few feet away by the time he noticed it. At first, it looked like a relatively small structure but upon arriving at its entrance, Andrew realized it was actually massive.
A fifty foot tall stone tower stood before him, surrounded on all sides by near impenetrable forest. It was soon apparent that there would be no going around it. The trail ended here and the surrounding forest was much too dense. The gray stone stood out so peculiarly from the environment, that Andrew couldn’t help but feel curious about its place here. Clearly this was where the path was meant to lead, but what purpose could an enormous tower have in the middle of a desolate and deserted wood like this? Guardedly, Andrew grasped the wooden handle of the door and pulled.
Andrew was taken aback by what he saw next. There was a stairway here as he might have expected, but instead of leading up the length of the tower it went straight down. Lit torches adorned the wall every few feet but the bottom was too far down yet to be seen. He knew instantly that wherever this path led, it had to be somewhere deep underground. It was uncanny, and its appearance did not inspire much confidence, but it was still the only way forward.
Andrew had only taken a few paces down the stairway before he heard to door slamming shut behind him with a bang. The torches flickered and the echo reverberated ominously through the deep passageway below. Andrew swallowed and steeled himself to go on. He told himself that it had only been the wind. He walked on, wondering as he did if it wouldn’t be wiser to turn back. He couldn’t say, but he couldn’t help himself from feeling curious either. He had to know what secrets this trail might lead to, wherever he ended up in the end.
Deeper and deeper her descended as the torches grew further and further apart. The air grew hotter and heavier until it was almost difficult to breathe. The moist aroma of earth enveloped him, assuring Andrew that he was indeed completely underground.
The descent was so long and the air so thick that before long Andrew could feel himself slowly giving in to panic. His pulse quickened and he began to step faster and faster down every stair. His vision grew hazy and the walls began to look as if they were closing in, as if the passage was constricting, getting smaller and smaller, and that they would surely suffocate him if he didn’t make it to the end soon. He flew down the stairs, jumping several steps at a time, desperately hoping to reach the bottom before something terrible happend. Then, slam! His feet hit solid and level ground, the stairway ended and he was staring straight through an open archway several feet ahead.
Cautiously, still catching his breath, Andrew proceeded through the stone portal to find himself in the most dazzling room he’d ever seen.
A wide open chamber lit with dazzling golden chandeliers opened up before him. It looked like a palace out of some fantasy novel. The floor was marble white, stone gothic columns adorned the walls on either side, and ahead of him was a magnificent jewel encrusted throne upon an ornately sculpted marble dais. The air was much easier to breath here, and Andrew found himself unable to do anything but marvel at his surroundings for several moments. It was like waking up into a beautiful new world, so staggeringly gorgeous that it was a wonder why such a place would be hidden so far underground.
He wandered awestruck down the hall between the columns as if he’d been enchanted. It may have been several minutes before he even realized that he was not alone. Sitting in the throne at the end of the hall was a person whose eyes had been silently watching him this whole time. Her face was stern, and by all appearances she wasn’t happy to see him. Andrew couldn’t believe his eyes, but here she was, the person he most needed to see.
“Samantha!” he yelled, urgently sprinting towards the throne.
“Shhhhhhhh!!!” Samantha hissed. She stood and held a finger to her lips, glaring at him warningly.
“Sam!” said Andrew, lowering his voice. He ran all the way to the foot of the dais and stopped. “Sam,… I’m so glad it’s you! Listen, I need to apologize – “
“Shut up!” Samantha hissed dramatically. “Andrew, not now! Please, don’t say anything about what happened! It doesn’t matter!”
“Yes it does,” said Andrew earnestly, hanging his head in shame. “It does matter Sam, I shouldn’t let my anger control me like that. You’ve never done anything but try to help me. You’re the last person I should take my anger out on.”
“It’s okay Andrew!” said Samantha impatiently. “It’s okay! Just stop talking or they’ll hear you!”
“Just let me say I’m sorry, okay?” Andrew begged. “If you don’t want to talk to me after that I understand. I’m sorry for losing my temper and I’m sorry for hitting you. It’s just I-”
There wasn’t time to say another word. Suddenly, from every corner of the room came shadows. Dark silhouettes that sped towards his position until Andrew was surrounded. For a brief moment he could see them clearly, human-like figures clothed in black but terrifyingly inhuman-like in their features. Their faces were exceptionally pale and wrinkled. Their eyelids were shut tight as if they’d been sewn together that way. Gray tufts of thinning hair hung limply from their scalps and long dripping fangs hung from their grimacing open mouths.
Andrew was encircled by the things. Helplessly, he turned to Samantha who only looked down at him pityingly. In the next instant the were on him, jabbing, biting, pulling, and ripping. Every angle of his body felt like it was being torn apart at the same time and the creatures that were devouring him were all that he could see.
“I’m sorry Andrew,” said Samantha, her voice sad and possibly teary. “I didn’t want this to happen,… I’m so, so, sorry,…”
The pain was excruciating. Andrew could barely believe it was really happening, but his flesh and blood were flying all around him. The creatures dove hungrily into his skin and pulled away grinning maliciously as they devoured him. Andrew screamed loud and piercingly, until quite suddenly he was silent. Before long not a trace of him remained to be seen but bloody stains on the marble floor.
Samantha woke shaking from her bed. She grabbed her pillow and wept into it bitterly while curling herself into a sad ball. She hadn’t meant for it to happen, it wasn’t fair, but there wasn’t anything she could’ve done to stop it.
Her cries must have alerted her mother, who appeared outside the doorway of her bedroom worriedly.
“Sammy,…” whispered her mother delicately. “What happened…? Did you do it again?”
Turning toward her mother, Samantha sat up straight and nodded sadly. With a sigh, her mother walked in and sat next to her on the bed.
“Who was it?”
“My friend Andrew,” said Samantha, gasping quietly through her tears.
Her mother nodded solemnly, holding back tears of her own.
“The one who hit you today?”
“Yeah,” gulped Samantha. “I must’ve,… I must’ve been thinking about him before I fell as-s-s-sleep. That’s why he -sob- I pulled him in with me.”
Her mother stroked her hair comfortingly wearing the bitterest look of sorrow that a mother could.
“Mom,” Samantha gasped. “I-I-I’m so sorry! I didn’t want to hurt him! I just couldn’t control myself! H-h-he apologized and they just ripped him to pieces once they knew what h-h-he’d done!”
“No one will ever know child,” her mother said somberly. “Know one will ever know.”
It was what she’d always said, the only thing she could ever think to say. Indeed, no one would ever think of tracing his death back to Samantha. No one could have suspected that she had anything to do with the deaths of all those that had wound up in her dreams. It didn’t take much, just a slight annoyance was enough to decide their fate if she couldn’t keep them out of her mind. She was a danger to anyone that crossed her, and nobody would ever suspect it.
“Go back to sleep dear,” said her mother consolingly. “What’s done is done. Try not to dwell too much on what can’t be fixed.”
“Okay,” said Samantha resignedly.
Samantha watched her mother get up and turn out her light. The scars on the back of her neck served as a constant reminder of what she was capable of. Even my own mother fears me, she thought depressingly. Anyone who cares about me is going to wind up dead!