Chapter One …And then there were shadows. Everywhere there were shadows. I couldn’t run. I couldn’t scream. Some unknown force was splitting my soul in two. But I was content. I knew I couldn’t escape the inevitable chains that were pulling me down, so I decided I was to curl up and forever sleep in my bondage, never to escape. The last thing I heard was a sinister and powerful laugh chill me to the bone. And it was over. I gasped and awoke from my dream. It took me a few seconds in my dazed state to realize my body was back in reality, but my mind was still there; aware of the laugh. "It was a dream," I muttered to myself, still shaking to the core, "It was just a dream." But I knew how dead wrong I was. It wasn't just a dream. It was one of my "special" dreams. I never remember any of my normal, human dreams. My “special” dreams feel as if I’m actually there, feeling the pain, suffering, or even joy if it includes it. Unfortunately, I only remember a small part of those dreams. I tried with all my might to recall the entire dream. All I could grasp was the darkness, my helplessness, and the laugh. I sat up, putting aside my dream. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a shadow sprint across my window. My head unconsciously jerked toward the small, caged window. It was still dawn, so I disregarded the fact, assuming it was probably an annoying ally cat. I hated cats. I sprawled out of my bed and stepped into my bathroom. I stared at myself in the mirror as I splashed cold water on my face. The intensity of my "special" dreams usually always affected my mind. I didn't think this was healthy, but I was more concerned about the dream itself than me getting all bent-out-of-shape from them. I attempted to recall my life. It was happening again. My heart skipped a beat. Had I forgotten? Had I lost a bit of myself from my dream? I always had this problem, but this was far worse the ever. A few seconds passed by as I continued to stare at myself; they felt like a few hours. I was getting very worried. Who was I? My dreams seemed to temporarily erase my mind of my memories, even the memory of my name. Finally, it slowly crept into my mind. Relief flushed through me.
That was too long, way too long for comfort. "M…my name is Ethan Price," I stuttered to myself, trying to slowly recount my life, “I'm 19 years old, I work at Caties’s Grocery Store and live in this..." I paused and looked around my apartment before returning to the mirror. "...this stupid apartment." I sighed. It had to be just a dream. Suddenly, I remembered I lived in one of those dumpy little apartments in downtown Los Angeles. This meant my room, bathroom, and everything else you would find in a typical house, was connected into one room. The landlord said it was a "Buy-one-get-everything-else-free" deal. Maybe it was best to forget who I was and the rest of my life. I now regret my memories and life for returning. Maybe it was best to give up, like in my dream. Well, I’ll let you know a bit of my life, maybe you will understand. My life is pretty pathetic. I wish I could tell you I had these amazing parents who gave me anything I wanted, or I went to an expensive school and enjoyed every bit of it, or had the "in style" clothes, or even just something as simple as having a ton of friends. To tell the truth, I grew up as an orphan for as long as I could remember. The "Matron" at the orphanage said some man showed up one day and dropped me off with an envelope containing a necklace. What a loving father or mother, huh? Some of the orphan kids said I was found under a rock so that explained the reason I had no parents. But the necklace was proof that my parents, or maybe just one of them, cared for me. It served me as a token of remembrance. But that was many years ago... As for everything else, I slowly worked hard to the position I’m currently at, even if it doesn’t seem like much. I paid my bills on time, I worked diligently at work, I respected my neighbors, who blast their music until one in the morning, and sometimes I even donate blood every few months. I was also steadily collecting quite a portion of money to save up for college. However, I did this all alone. I never had many friends, even during my orphanage years. I didn’t even have my parents to look to for help. Recently, though, life seemed to smile upon me because I just befriended a co-worker at the grocery store. His name is Jared and it seems we have a bit in common. For instance, we both hate Catie, our boss, but he always seems so timid when he is around me or coworkers. As for my clothes, I still wear clothes from when I was fourteen. This is to say, I hadn’t grown much over that amount of time. I was a bit slender, but I could tell I was getting some muscle from all those midnight shifts I "volunteered" for at
the grocery store stocking, or rather, Jared volunteered me since he was always alone during midnight shifts. Jared is scared like that. He is always telling me "something", not "someone", will jump him one night. I laugh at his fantasies but he always seems so serious, so I end up agreeing to volunteer in the end. Finally, my mind seemed to be properly in place, so I continued with my morning. Still staring in the mirror, I noticed my untidy, disheveled, brown hair was in a mess from my wonderful night's sleep. I couldn’t afford it, but I needed a haircut. And to add to that, my head was beginning to stir up a slight migraine. This was going to be a long day. I noticed I was going to be late for work so I quickly showered and hastily dressed for work. I grabbed that last of my food from the cupboard, only a few granola bars, and decided to pick some food up after work. By the way, did I mention I hated my boss? I wasn’t really going to be late for work. I still had a half hour, and that was ten minutes before I was considered late, but that didn't stop my good 'ol boss Catie "The Hag” from claiming I was late. I swear she’s a devil spawn from hell. She hasn't promoted me from my "bag boy" position for three months and I've been working there for four. If there is something that goes wrong in the store she will find a way to put the hurt on me. I mean, how does a bag boy get blamed for customers not buying Jif's Creamy Peanut Butter on holidays? Yeah, I know, what a hag, huh? Before I closed and locked the door to my apartment, I hesitated for a moment. The dream was still swarming inside my head as I stood upon the threshold. I shifted my weight and leaned up next to the door. I had to let this dream nonsense go. “It’s just a dream,” I convinced myself. “I’m old enough to realize that these are just silly nightmares.” Unfortunately, my “special” dreams always came true; whether I wanted it to or not. But something else was nagging my brain, not my dream. It was a foreboding voice, warning me. I couldn’t distinguish who the voice belonged to, but it seemed familiar. This isn't a daily part of my life so it was frightening me a bit. I listened. "Ethan..." the small and almost undetectable voice whispered to me. Ok, now you are probably wondering that I must have some mental disorder or that I really am starting to lose my sanity. But I figured it was still a part of my dream and so I gently pressed my thumbs to my eyes. I needed to focus. Enough of this nonsense.
Today was going to be a long day and I was here feeling sorry about myself. However, I felt a click inside me, like inspiration. I seemed to understand the voice. Without thinking, I strode to my bedside, leaned down, and pulled a beat-up shoebox from under my bed. Inside the box is where I kept my most valuable possessions. It contained my lifesavings, which was close to nothing, some old pictures of the orphanage, and my most prized item, the necklace I was left with. The necklace was the size of a half dollar bill with a unique design. In the center was a sixteen-pointed, starburst symbol. It had a tiny hole in which the lace was looped through, creating a necklace. I never had a clue to what it meant, but it was priceless to me. The man, hopefully my father, who had left me at the orphanage, had also left this necklace sealed inside an envelope. So, in a sense, it was the closest thing to my family. I placed it around my head and tucked it beneath my shirt. I almost never wore it because it was almost an ancient artifact to me; not meant to be handled with. As it rubbed against my chest it felt warm, giving off a subtle whisk of calmness; though I had no idea why. I then grabbed most of the cash, about two hundred dollars, and pushed the box back under my bed. I walked to the door, closed it, and locked it securely. I didn't know why in the world I had done that, but I usually do things instinctively; without an explanation, usually. I just had this slight, but powerful feeling inside me that I should probably keep my possessions with me and not here under my bed. Just for today. Don't ask me why. I walked down the outside stairs, skipping two at a time, and was off to work without looking back. Little did I know that this would be the last time I ever set foot in my apartment again.
Chapter Two “You’re late,” a stern voice announced behind me. I spun around just as I closed my locker in the staff lounge. I knew exactly who the voice belonged to. It was Catie, my boss. She seemed rather young to be working as a manager at a local grocery store, but I didn’t let that fool me. Probably in her mid-thirties,
Catie is a broad woman with dirty blond hair that always tied in a bun, and dark brown eyes. She was tall and gracious in here step and would have been a pleasant women to get along with, but she wore a constant scowl, which ruined that idea of a “good” boss. “Get to work this instant. Do not let me catch you running late again or you will be bagging foods for the rest of your life,” she demanded. “Yes, Catie, I know. It won’t happen again,” I said without enthusiasm, knowing I was still fifteen minutes early. I figured I got off easy, but just as she was turning away I felt a tinge of bitterness. Who was she to always have an attitude with me? And why? I should have just started working, but I couldn’t handle this anymore. “You’re such a hag,” I muttered under my breath, but unfortunately, she was still close enough to catch all of it. “What was that?” she spat through her teeth. She spun around almost inhumanly possible and directed her brown eyes, almost black now, into mine. “Did you have something to say, dear? Did you want to speak up and say it more clearly?” Catie looked like she was going to have a seizure. Damn. What was I thinking? Catie never called us “dear” unless she was on the verge of killing all of us. This was my boss, how could I mess this up? I needed to fix this up immediately. “Um…I meant, you look great, Catie, honestly,” I pleaded. Being the world’s worst liar, she could almost smell me trembling. “Ok look, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to—” “I heard what you said, Ethan, and if you think for a second I don’t know what goes around in the workplace, think again. You’re lucky he…I mean, you’re lucky I don’t…ugh,” she sputtered at me. She was having trouble gathering her last few words out so I took advantage of the opportunity. “I understand, but I’m sorry. It won’t happen again!” I snapped. What was she saying? She seemed flustered. Catie continued to glare at me and straightened herself. She was at least three inches taller than me, but her form was anything but terrible. However, her murderous look spoiled everything, not like I had a “thing” for my boss, but I’m just saying. “You’re end is near, Ethan. I would advise you to get going with your worthless life,” she said, letting the steam ventilate with every proceeding word. The air around me seemed palpable with her rage. I still could still hear the acid in her words. “Yes, ma‘am,” I replied as I bolted for the door.
I didn’t even look back to the staff room as I ran to the furthest check stand. I glanced at one of the girls at the register and she threw a wink at me. I knew she had heard the whole scoop of what happened with Catie. Great, more work gossip. My body seemed to cool down with a huge sigh of relief. I then situated myself so I could see all the check stands and still handle the one I was currently at. A few minutes passed when I gently pressed my thumbs to my eyes. I needed to focus. Catie said my job here was ending soon. I needed to focus and get everything worked out. This was going to be a long day. Work dragged on slowly. I didn’t have much to do, but that didn’t make it any better. Finally, my break rolled around. I wasn’t hungry or anything, but I need a friend to talk to. Luckily, Jared was working today so he and I were able to meet in the work lounge for a few minutes and exchange a few conversations. “Hey, Jared, how are you doing?” I asked as I walked into the lounge. Jared had on the usual attire you would wear at Catie’s Grocery Store, a red apron with the name of the store stitched in gold, cursive lettering. He was an inch or two taller than I am, had blond, curly hair, and was one of the skinniest guys I’ve ever seen. Despite all that, he was my friend. “Ethan! I was looking for a chance to talk to you, but Catie had me all over the place today” Jared exclaimed, sitting up from his chair. He seemed nervous about something.