Fear. Helplessness—she feels it. That fact is all the more terrifying than what she is running from.
No! Her mind screams. She is built to take control of chaos. She will not be afraid.
Running. Pounding boots.
The blurry images flicker. Static, like an old TV screen.
Ragged breathes next to her. She turns to see her friend—
--something grabs her ankles. Panic. Time slows—she has half a second—
“Blair, run!!! They’re coming! They’re—“
—“It’s a beautiful day!/ooooh-oooh/Don’t let it slip away!/It’s a beautiful day...”
Sylver sat upright in her bed, heart pounding, everything in her body live-wired to spring. The light refreshing the bedroom was pale, gentle; the morning was still early. Silence. But the calm atmosphere did nothing to soothe her. She felt like she needed to scream, but didn’t know why.
What was that? Sylver rested her forehead on her palm, her silver hair cascading around her, giving her a physical moment to withdraw herself. I never dream… How…? Why--?
The alarm’s music stopped, cutting off Bono mid-sentence. Sylver felt warm fingertips trace her shoulder, exposed since her t-shirt nightgown had slipped halfway off in her nightmare’s fit.
“Babe, you ok? You’re shaking.”
The curtain of hair parted, and Sylver’s face was cupped in two gentle hands. She clasped the hand on her left cheek and opened her eyes to stare into the deep chocolate eyes she loved so much.
“I’ll be ok, Leia. Sorry to wake you up,” She said, placing a kiss on her forehead, amidst a mass of black curls, “Just a weird dream.”
Leia’s face twisted up in a configuration of disbelief and amusement. “You never dream, though. Which, frankly, has been nice, because then only one of us talks in their sleep.”
Sylver returned the bemused look and slipped out of bed, walking towards the closet on the opposite wall. Work wouldn’t wait for her. Maybe a distraction would be helpful. Maybe—
*static* Sylver dropped the white button-up she’d just grabbed. Her vision—it glitched! Like a bad computer screen. Like in her dream…
--“Sylver.” A hand on her back, feelings of comfort challenging the panic rising in her throat. “Maybe you just need a day to rest. You’ve been at the library every day.”
Sylver picked the shirt back up and started dressing. “No…I have to go. I…I want to.” She paused, working up a smile. Truly, she did want to go. Her job was peaceful, relaxing; everyone she worked with respected her and was kind. Why wouldn’t she want to go?
“Ok,” Leia surrendered, “As long as you feel up to it. Just make sure they let you out exactly on time today! I’ll kidnap you myself if your boss keeps us from our date. I’ve been looking forward to it all week.” She fake pouted. Sylver slipped on her slacks and black pumps, keeping eye-contact with Leia, who was going to be over-dramatic until assurances were made.
Sylver smiled, lazily tracing the dark brown freckles on Leia’s mocha cheek, before kissing it, “Promise. I’ll meet you in front of the candy shop. Then we can be irresponsible adults and go into a sugar-coma during the movie marathon.”
“Star Wars or Lord of the Rings?”
“That’s an unfair question,” Sylver laughed, before heading to the kitchen.
She packed up her briefcase and lunch, occasionally pausing to be distracted by Leia, who liked to hug her from behind and refuse to detach, even if Sylver had to drag her around the kitchen.
Sylver walked towards the door and grabbed her keys from the bowl near the door. The bowl…it was shaped like a corgi; Leia had bought it for her for the weekend they moved in together. Sylver smiled, walked through the door, and shouted a quick yet practiced “I love you!”
She looked out from the window that spanned the entire hallway to the elevator. The sun was just rising; everything was peaceful, beyond the window and behind it. Most people in their apartment high-rise were still sleeping.
Everything is perfect, Sylver asserted mentally. I’m happy…I have everything I want. She meant it, truly, but the mantra felt forced, like she was shoving something down, deep within her psyche. She’d lied to Leia; she’d had this edgy mental spasm, this twitch, for weeks. Every day when she woke up, she was consumed with panic, as if she was trapped behind glass…as if she was suffocating behind cellophane. But she would fight it; she had to. Everything she could see was perfect, and what she could see was real. She had a peaceful life, a good job, kind friends, and someone who loved her—Leia, most of all, helped fight back these irrational terrors.
The elevator door closed in front of her, and Sylver busied herself on her cellphone.
Panic. Someone’s watching. There was that feeling again—that panic. Sylver’s spine stiffened and her heartrate accelerated instantly.
No! No, no no—This isn’t real! These thoughts aren’t real. I’m fine. Everything’s perf—
Sylver looked up at the reflective elevator walls…and screamed.
Her face was looking back at her, contorted in fear, but half of it--! Half of it was exposed, the flesh torn away to reveal a metallic, cybernetic skull, and a blue glowing eye piercing her.
“No…no, NO!!!” Sylver covered her eyes with her hands. “You’re not real!! This isn’t real!!! I’M FINE!” She crumpled to the elevator floor, paralyzed, hands gripping her hair.
“First floor,” the automated voice chimed.
Sylver twitched as the doors opened, stumbling to her feet, afraid someone might see her. No one was outside the doors. She turned to look at the walls again. Nothing…just a normal, human face: no metal, no glowing eye.
Sylver’s receding panic, for a second, left her in an emotional void. She couldn’t look away from her reflection, scared that it might change.
Why is this getting worse? And what is THIS?! I should be fine…I AM fine. I have everything I want…Leia’s fine…I’m fine…Nothing’s wrong—
Her spiraling thoughts halted, and the numbness became rage. Sylver ran her hands through her hair, raggedly breathing. A terrible fear, the core of her night terrors and panicked itch—if everything changed, if her normal went away, horrible things would happen. She couldn’t explain it or reason why she felt it was true…but it made her angry.
“I won’t,” She quietly muttered, and then yelled, “I won’t lose this!” She slammed her fist into the wall, and gasped. She hadn’t hurt herself. Quite the opposite…she had left a deep crater in the metal, and her distorted, terrified reflection stared back.
So she ran, fast, into Paradise City. Everything would be fine…it had to be…
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