I am walking down the hallway, carefree. There’s not a worry in the world I must deal with. Then I see him. The stranger.
He’s tall and dark and thin, and most girls in my class crowd up to him. I don’t know why I don’t, but there’s something… off, like a tree branch swaying on a seemingly windless day. I turn the corner, and he turns with me, staring hard. I look back into his eyes, and I am falling, falling into a hole of eternal darkness-
I snap awake. I don’t understand my dreams, the way they start normally, and then he shows up. But not always a he, no. Just someone who seems like the same person. Is the same person. I can’t explain it.
A loud bang sounds and the lights turn on. “Rise and shine!” my roommate yells. Sometimes I don’t know if Aubree knows what ‘Quiet’ means. A small bookshelf is now on its side. That explains the noise. I check my clock.
“Aubree, it’s 4:00.”
“Yup! Perfect time to get up!” She starts opening windows, revealing the moon that is still high in the sky.
“Aubree, it’s freezing! You don’t open windows in the middle of January! Also, 4:00-” I sigh. Abree is already halfway out the door. “Why did I get the least mature roommate possible?”
Her voice drifts through the door. “I heard that!”
Half an hour later, I am dressed, in the library, and studying for the calculus test this morning. I see movement out of the corner of my eye and turn around. A girl with hair dyed purple is walking towards me, and fast. But for her speed, she is making no sound whatsoever. I can’t even hear her breathing. I make eye contact and feel dizzy. My vision goes black. It’s the stranger. “Leave me alone!” I want to shout, but I can’t move, and I definitely can’t speak.
I’m confused. Am I dreaming? I heard you can’t feel pain asleep… I hear a clunk, and suddenly, my head hurts. I must have fallen. Well, I know I’m not dreaming, but then how…
I snap awake and hear beeping in the background. For a while, I don’t register where I am or what’s going on. Suddenly, I remember. Chaos explodes in my brain.
“She was here! Help! What is she doing? Help!”
A nurse approaches me. “She’s awake, but I think she has slight brain trauma,” she calls calmly. “Dr. Miller?” Then she turns to me. “You’re going to be all right. Can you tell me your name?”
“Brittney Owens, but I need help! The stranger… she’s here! Was here…”
The nurse turns around. “Hurry, please. She’s panicking. Look, Brittney, It’s going to be all right. No one’s here.”
I sigh. She’ll never get it. A doctor hurries towards me, and the nurse whispers something to him. He looks interested.
“Okay, Brittney, I’m going to have to do some tests. Just hold still.” He shines a light at me and looks in one eye. The second we make eye contact, I start to feel dizzy.
I only have time to yell, “What do you want from me?” before I pass out.
I wake up in a new room, this one full of more beeping equipment. The nurse is pushing me on some sort of cart.
“Hi, Brittney,” she says when she sees me wake up. “Don’t panic. We’re just running a CAT scan. Stay calm.”
I glare at her but don’t freak out. I don’t think the stranger is in the scanner. That would just be weird. As I am lowered into the scanner, the nurse tells me to look at the blue dot.
My eyes trail it, but slowly it morphs into something else. First, just two blue dots, then large blue circles with black dots, until finally, it becomes the one thing I don’t want it to; a pair of blue eyes. My vision fades to black.
I wake up back in the hospital room, hushed voices whispering next to me.
“No sign of trauma…”
“Some kind of dream or something…”
The nurse smiles at me. “Okay, Brittney, you can go now.” I run out of the hospital.
I hear the sound of my sneakers hitting the pavement the whole way to the pile of bricks that is my college. I bolt inside and slide into the calculus classroom. The bell rings.
Huh, I think. Adree did ONE good thing in making me wake up early. As if on cue, Aubree passes me a note.
Where WERE you? It said. I turned it over and wrote one word: Hospital. Aubree looks at me in surprise, and I mouth, ‘I’ll tell you later.’
The calculus professor hands out quizzes. “You have one hour to do this. Go!” I look down at my test.
One hour later, I turn it in. “Thank you,” The professor says, and looks me in the eye. I gasp, and my vision fails. I can still move, so I feel my way to my desk and slump into the chair. A loud, echoing voice sounds in my head.
“Good job, you have learned to resist. When you can completely, I might leave.”
I know it’s the stranger. D***, can’t I be done now? I think. No answer. My vision returns. I am somehow walking down the hallway, though I don’t remember leaving my desk. I step into the physics classroom.
The lesson goes by in a blur because I’m not even listening to the professor. I just keep thinking about the stranger.
The girl behind me taps me on the shoulder. I turn around and pass out.
I wake up to the bell. I look around, grab my book bag, and run out the door. Psychology class, I think. As I walk down the hallway, a boy stops me. I groan inwardly.
“Xander, just because you’re my brother, you can not break into my college!”
“No!” Xander says. “I have to give you this.” He hands me a piece of paper and leaves. I read it.
HOSPITAL BILL, it says in neat letters.
“Oh, s***!” I yell. Everyone stares at me. I look around and dart into the psychology classroom. Then it hit me. The stranger was in my head.
Well, I need to figure out what THAT’s about, I thought, and my hospital bill’s about to get a whole lot worse.