The sound gradually filtered into my consciousness. But the bright light was sudden, blinding, harsh and burning, all at once. It wasn’t anything like the fire but was so intense, I blinked. I blinked? Yes, I realized. I blinked! I could blink! And move my hands. And turn away from the blazing sun I had apparently been staring at.
The voice, clear and young like the woman’s jarred me back to my surroundings and terrified me at the same time. Lola was staring into my face, looking a bit worried.
“Well, it’s not everyday I get to see someone staring at the sun for two whole minutes without blinking. Everything alright?”
I glanced at the wall clock. She was right. Two whole minutes had passed since I had last checked the time before looking out the window, the boredom getting to me. Two whole minutes and I had been……had I dreamt it all along? I looked around. I was still in class and it was still nearly empty. There was a marked absence of darkness, fires or old women. So I had probably been daydreaming. But was two minutes enough to dream up all I had experienced? By my reckoning I had spent at least twenty minutes unable to move and in the presence of an apparently maniacal and possibly diabolical woman; the fear so real, I could smell it. Taste it. Practically feel it. But right here and now, none of that remained with with me…..except the fear. It wasn’t as intense as before but it was with me, thudding dully at the back of my head and making my heart race. There was nothing I could see to be afraid of….but I felt she was somewhere near….watching me.
“You look like you saw a ghost…..or Jeff.” Lola quipped. “What’s up?”
I shook my head and tried to smile but it came off as lopsided. I looked down at my desk so she wouldn’t see my face. It was several pages past where I had broken off to check the time. I shut the book and shoved it in my bag, unwilling to read any further. Truth be told, I really wanted to head home, get to bed and…..I wasn’t sure if I wanted to sleep. I didn’t want any more dreams….and I had been having so many of them lately. The daydream I just had was a first time occurrence, though.
“I feel a bit light headed”, I said, trying to sound normal and hide the tremor in my voice. I couldn’t explain it but…my fear was growing. From the light fear that came from my feeling of being watched, it had grown to a positive terror. It was so intense, so real, even worse than what I had felt while I was…..daydreaming? I gasped lightly as it reached choking levels, making it rather difficult for me to breathe and I felt I was going to pass out. In spite of that, I could still notice Lola staring at me intently, now obviously sure I wasn’t okay. I wasn’t. The feeling had grown to something manifest, something I could almost touch and hold like it was solid.
I mouthed the word but heard no sound following it right at the moment someone passed by where I was seated. In my terrified state I couldn’t tell enough about the person. But it was a girl, from her voice. She said hi as she passed but I heard it only faintly as, at this point, it felt like all my faculties were beginning to fail me. Just as went past my desk, I saw her stop, turn, then walk over to where I sat. My eyes began to swim.
I heard it, but it felt like it was from another world, another time. It echoed in my head and I was vaguely aware that it was probably my name. I could barely hear anything properly….but I could suddenly hear the girl clearly.
“Is she alright?”
“I don’t know.” Lola’s voice was extremely faint in comparison and I had to convince myself that I had truly heard it. “She was until about two minutes ago. She’s been looking pale ever since.”
Everything was a blur but I still saw the face that came to peer into mine and it wasn’t Lola’s. The hair was jet black and straight…..unlike anybody’s I knew personally. Or anyone else I knew in school. She was dark but her eyes were bright and as they came even closer to my face, I realized that they looked like…..I couldn’t remember. And in my state, it wasn’t my biggest worry what they reminded me of. I realized that i wanted to get away from her as quickly as possible. I also realized that….I couldn’t move…again.
“Must be a fever of some sort or something like that.” I heard her say. Her voice was rather dry and almost rasping, like she had a cough. It was very unlike the old, shaggy woman’s. If anything, it sounded like an old woman’s voice. Was she…
“Maybe we should go home,” I heard Lola say. “School’s over anyway. We can resume rehearsals tomorrow instead. You’re not looking very good.”
“Yes. Maybe you should. Get some rest.” the girl said, rubbing my arm. I couldn’t move but I felt my skin crawl, like it was being run over by a cockroach, an insect I hated worse than any living thing I knew. Then she headed off in the direction of the door, her black hair flowing behind her like a dark, silent waterfall. With each step she took away from me, I felt less and less choked, and by the time she was at the door, my vision had cleared….but I was panting heavily, like I had just run a marathon. I also noticed the beads of sweat cascading down the sides of my face. Lola was now clearly concerned.
“Who was that?” I gasped.
“The….the new girl…..” Lola responded slowly, turning to look at the departing girl, then back at me. “You are so not alright. Let’s get going home.”
I stared at the girl’s back as she walked while Lola stared at me. She was slim and graceful, like a lady from one of Lola’s books. She looked like she could easily be a model or something equally glamorous like that. And her hair….watching it swish around behind her as she walked was almost entrancing. I didn’t notice she had made it ll the way to the door till she got to it. Then she stopped, turned and looked at me and, for the first time, I saw her face clearly.
She was beautiful, by any standards. The straight dark hair seemed made to accentuate that beauty and, for a moment, I wondered if she was the person that had came up close to peer at me. I couldn’t have missed that face up close. She looked straight at me for a second that felt like forever and smiled. And as she smiled, the dwindling fear within me rose to a crescendo. I turned away to look at Lola, whose gaze was now very unsettling. By the time i turned back to the door, she was gone.
“Er, could we get going now?” Lola asked.
“What? Er…no..I…no…” I mumbled, the fear rapidly crashing. There was something about that girl that wasn’t right. The last thing I wanted was for what happened when she came close to happen again. I would probably collapse in the hallway. “No, lemme….lemme just make sure….” I started rooting around in my bag, looking for what I wasn’t sure of and probably wasn’t there. Anything to prevent me from having to run into the girl again.
“That girl…..is she in our class?” I asked.
“Er, yes.” Lola responded. “Weren’t you in class when Mrs Cole introduced her?”
Was I? I couldn’t remember. And I didn’t remember seeing her all day in class. And there was something I felt I was missing….a detail that my mind kept throwing at me but I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I would try to figure it out when I got home. I needed to get away from school…..and away from Lola who was now a visible mix of concern and curiosity. I didn’t want to explain anything to her just yet. I had to figure out some of what happened over the past few minutes on my own before asking her opinion.
“Okay, let’s go.” I said, getting up from my seat after adjudging that enough time had passed for us to get out without having to run into the new girl. Lola slowly got up, still staring at me but said nothing. I hurried to the door and just as I was about passing through the doorway, it hit me. I turned around slowly.
“Lola, did that new girl call me by my mum’s name?”