The She smiled comfortingly at him, “Listen, we have postponed unnecessary departures and have asked boats to check for stowaways. We have not found him yet, but Scotland Yard can't be brought into this unless there is more visible evidence of harm.”
“Hey!” A portly fellow called, rising from his cubicle, “I just heard from the coastguard, a Nikita Petrov sent a distress signal and is reporting human trafficking aboard the ship Westsea. Her Majesty's Coastguard has a ship readying for pursuit now now.”
First Evan felt a wave of relief sweep over him, then a feeling of panic. Human trafficking?! How did Aleksei get thrown in the middle of that?! “I'm going to the coastguard then!" Evan declared before sprinting out the door.
Aleksei, with the help of Lemuel and the other children, stacked up as many things on the bridge that they could against the door as a barricade, in case any of the crew decided to move.
The boy crouched next to Aleksei. “You’re an angel right?” he asked wide-eyed.
Aleksei was taken aback by the question. He tried to think of some explanation that would not confuse, frighten, or deceive the boy. He finally settled on a semi-explanatory statement, but the boy spoke up before him.
“Because, if you are, when you are done, can you look for my family and let them know I am safe. The last time they saw me, I was being taken away. I know heaven is a big place, so if you cannot find them it--.”
Aleksei tossed his sensible explanation aside and smiled. “Yes I will, but after we get out of this mess.” He assured him. It wasn’t entirely a lie, he would probably meet Lemuel’s family eventually, though perhaps not as soon as the boy would like. “How did you figure I was an angel?” he asked, trying to keep their minds off of the situation.
“Because we can all see the wings on your back.” The boy stated plainly. “They are hard to see, but we can see them.”
Aleksei peaked over his shoulder, but did not see anything. His confusion seemed to amuse some of the children, but he was soon distracted when he noticed that there was a narrow balcony around forward windows. They still have a way to get in here!
He stood up and cautiously looked out the window down on the deck. Most of the men had begun to stir. Help needed to arrive, and soon, as the dispatcher had assured him. He did not know how to tell the ship’s location, but he had to guess they could not be too far from port.
He turned his attention downwards just in time to see one of the crew run out and aim a shotgun toward him.
Aleksei fell back yelling, “Take cover!”
Glass shattered and fell down in small particles. The children screamed and huddled into the corners of the room. Aleksei crawled over to them.
“Lemuel, have everyone hide!”
The boy nodded, then relayed the order. The children scurried into the two tool closets and the smaller ones hid in the cabinets.
Aleksei knew he couldn’t get back up to see so he waved his hand and evaporated the rain which was now pouring down in torrents through the shattered window. He made a fog screen engulf the outside of the bridge. Now no one could make any accurate shots, however something else caused him to worry. Just outside the window he could feel that the walkway he saw earlier wrapped all the way around the second story of the bridge to a pair of ladders. All a person would have to do is walk along it and climb through the shattered front window.
His fears became reality when he felt the intrusion of two, no three people. He ground his teeth angrily. He then moved his body back, reaching out with his hands, tugged inwards then swung his arms out, making two streams of vapour curve around the corners to knock down the approaching men. However at the angle he couldn’t strike them. It was too awkward to make his streams turn so sharply and they lost most acceleration. He needed to make a more direct strike.
“Tch,” he hissed, stepping out on the narrow walk area. He swirled his arms and a snake of vapour formed between them. Then he stepped forward to hurl the roaring mass at the men, who he could hear gasp in fear at the now familiar sound. However he lost his footing on the slick balcony and tumbled over the low railing into the mist.
He fell out the bottom of the cloud and saw himself rapidly approaching not the deck of the ship but a green stone floor, hundreds of metres below him. He looked to his side and saw massive blue-green pillars lined up in front of windows that were still far below him. He let out a cry as he hurtled towards impact.
Sirens wailed their dirge as one of Her Majesty’s Coastguard's cruisers came alongside the barge, followed soon after a helicopter landing on the deck.
“Attention crew of the Westsea,” the district officer’s voice roared over the loudspeakers. “...Prepare to be boarded, offer no resistance.”
The officer’s commands might as well have been whispered. The majority of the crew was laying injured, unconscious or both all over the deck. The few that were still moving quickly surrendered, knowing they were done for as the coastguard boarded and surveyed the bizarre sight of the already defeated smugglers.
“What happened here?” an officer asked the row of captives.
“He attacked us.” one of them replied, nodding to the front of the cabin. “He is possessed! He tried to possess us all!”
The officer looked the direction indicated and spotted a brown haired youth sprawled on the deck. Three twisters of mist stood about him, guarding his prone body. Her eyes widened at the sight.
“Hey, MacAlister!” she barked,
“Yes?” A small, redheaded medic replied turning to her superior.
“Do you see that?”
“What?” the medic asked perplexed.
She looked back as the last traces of the mist unravelled, leaving, stray wisps as the only sign of the phenomenon.
“Nevermind, hurry up and tend to him.”
The medic nodded as she rushed to the young man. Immediately she saw the small puddle of blood below his head. She checked for vitals, her forehead wrinkling in concentration.
“Nikita!” Evan bellowed, running up the boarding ramp. When he saw Aleksei’s body lying motionless he stopped in his tracks. He wanted to run up to him, but he could not. The panic of finding out the worst hit him heavily in the gut. Not Aleksei, not him, he’s just a boy. Mashka… she’ll never--
“He’s alive,” MacAlister announced.
Those words broke the spell that held Evan in place. He shook his head and ran towards Aleksei.
“But he’s going to need an airlift,” she continued nodding towards her superior.
Evan nodded, getting out of the way of the other coast guards as they secured the smugglers, gathered the children and wrapped them in fresh blankets and plush animals, and administered first aid to Aleksei. The following hour was a blur for Evan, who was largely oblivious to what happened around him, his undivided attention was for any sign of movement behind Aleksei's eyelids. Now aboard a helicoptor Evan sat helpless next to his comatose charge.
Océane sat at her bedroom desk, the light of the late afternoon turning her room a shade of blush orange. She bobbed her head to the music through her ear-buds as she sketched and hummed the pop melody. This particular picture was a view looking up from the ground to her window. She had seen it a million times, but even she was surprised at how well she could recall it. As she finished the sketch up she opened the drawer to lay it atop the other architecture sketches she had done. However she halted when she noticed what was on the top of the stack.
It was also a view of the street in front of her house, facing south, the direction to her school. She picked it up and smiled proudly at how well she had reproduced it. Before she placed them both away, she looked at the next picture. It was set further down the street, and faced left, another part of her regular route. She turned the next page, and yet again it was part of the route, and in order.
“Odd,” she muttered, “I never intended to do that.”
She picked up the whole stack of sketches and began laying them down on the floor. Each sketch she put down she noticed how it was a guide home. “How fortunate, I have my finals' project done. I’ll call it, L'Itinéraire vers la Maison.” It remained the regular trip to school, until the tenth image, which did not turn south as she normally did, but continued on the street. She laid down the next page, and it was right next to a barber’s shop. The next picture only moved a mere few paces and made a diagonal view of an ally. A shiver ran down Océane’s spine, though she was uncertain why. The next image was facing the gaping alley. She noticed that her normally straight lines now were slightly jaggy, and the shading was unnatural, and overly dark, as if she had tried to make an impressionist feel. One particular shadow that sprayed across the wall set her on edge, but she couldn’t tell what it was by the shape. Furthermore, everything was disproportionately huge. She had no idea why she would have made such an obvious error.
The next page made her freeze. The woman, who she wept over in dreams, sitting limply against the wall. Her face contorted in agony, as if still gasping for one more breath. A chilling addition was the only colour in the image, she had taken red marker and made a trail, from the woman‘s heart, running down her clothes, and making a pool on the cobblestone.
Océane shook in fearful revulsion, her body unable to stop it’s shuddering.
“So you finally realise your potential.”
Océane looked over at the small mirror on her rarely-used vanity. The blonde young lady looked back at her, with a proud glint in her eye, as if the brunette before her had accomplished a great feat.
Océane scrambled up and slammed the mirror face down.
“I’m not going to be that easy to get rid of.” The girl replied from her seat on the bed, in full three-dimensional form.
“Who are you?” Océane demanded, edging closer to her bedroom door.
“Surely you would remember me?” the girl asked in mock indignation.
Océane’s back hit the wall. “No, I don’t!” Tears rolled down well-trodden paths on her cheeks as she held her head in her hands and slid down the wall.
“But you do!” the blonde insisted. “After all, you shared my dreams ever since we were little. I was part of everything you like, and everything you hate, all because once our minds were almost one, but only at night. You saw my nightmares, and I saw yours, and we..." the girl choked as her own eyes welled up in tears, "We were sisters, bound through dreams instead of parents, and together we become almost unified.”
“Stop!” Océane ordered, “stop talking like that, it’s frightening me!” She felt as if her tears would drown her, as she felt her soul slip into the hungry mire of insanity.
“Oh don’t do that, please.” the blonde pleaded. “I haven’t been pleading with you all this time to reminisce about the past. I want to discuss with you about what you are going to do with those.” she pointed at the papers lined up on the floor.
“I’m going throw them away!”
“No, you are going to find out why he did that to her.”
“He?” Océane looked back at the last sketch. She had never noticed it before, but at this distance she could make out clearly the shadow of the head and shoulders of a man towering over the dead woman. She cried out in shock and bit her lip to keep from sobbing and from alerting her already unsettled parents.
The blonde continued her explanation, “With what you have drawn, you have a map all the way back to where it happened. The reason you had these nightmares is because you can feel her blood crying out to you, from the dreams of another.”
“I don’t understand, the dreams of another?” Océane asked tremulously.
“Yes, you should have recognised that.” the blonde replied, “You see the dreams of people every day, even at this moment you are ignoring the..." she chucked mirthfully, "ninjas battle one another behind me, invaders from the mind of the sleeping boy the floor above you. That‘s your gift, what makes you special! You see the dreams of others. And that is exactly why you will be haunted by the woman, whoever she be, until you put the dreamer‘s mind to rest.”
Océane remained silent, reminding herself to not speak to someone no one else could see, 'No one is there. I am alone. No one is there. I am alone.' she chanted in her mind.
“I can tell by that look, you don‘t want to be involved in another‘s life again. I understand, it could be, and probably will be painful. So if not for righteous reasons, do what I say, put this dreamer to rest, and a good night's sleep will be yours.”
Océane stared the girl. The setting sun made her hair shine bright gold, and her white dress seemed fit for a bride. “Are you someone’s dream too?” she asked.
“What I am,” the blonde replied, “is something you will fully realise in time. But I will never be far away from you, just as you could always hear my heart when we were young.”
It was then, that Océane remembered, the blonde girl, dancing happily on the balcony, just like on the day she had seen her for the first time, outside of her dreams, eight years ago. “Claire…” she choked out, “You’re Claire…”
The blonde smiled at her and then said, “Tomorrow, tell the school you took a break day, then go on the journey you sketched. Only then will you find the path to end this terror you feel.”
She nodded in consent, “You promise? You’ll leave me alone?”
“Ma cherie, I don't want to cause you pain. But yes, I will be less intrusive, now that you have finally opened up to me again. Your parents love you, but they will never see what you can. So, will you set yourself free from nightmares, and go to the alley tomorrow?”
“Oui, I will.”
Claire smiled as she split into wisps of vapour and fluttered out the window.
Aleksei groaned as he pushed himself up from the blue-green floor which he had crashed into after his several-hundred-metre fall.
“I should be dead.” he said, groaning as his bones snapped back into joint inside him. “Where am I?” he asked as he rose, surprised his mangled body of seconds ago was once again whole and functional.
“Good for you to drop in.” a droll voice answered dripping with scarce concealed scorn.
Aleksei looked up to see a young woman, about his age, standing before him. Her wavy, raven black hair tumbled from her head onto her shoulders. Her skin was ghostly pale, and would have blended in with her white, high necked dress, if the collar, cuffs, and seams had not been bordered with a brilliant dark blue that matched her eyes. Starting at the waist, the white slowly faded into the same blue at the bottom of her ankle length skirt.
She saw Aleksei’s look of bewilderment and sighed, “So it’s true, you really did forget me.”
“Eh!?” he exclaimed. He didn’t understand the situation, but somehow it felt familiar.
Her face turned dark as she walked towards him. Aleksei wanted to back away, but found himself stuck in place. When her angry face was a hand breadth from his, her pupils suddenly shrank then each sprayed out to six points, mimicking a snowflake. A roaring sound filled the air and a river of mist flowed from behind her and snatched Aleksei into the flow, throwing him out of the majestic hall, and through one of the many vaulted windows into the air. The momentum of the vapour vanished and Aleksei screamed as he fell down into the mist which concealed a seemingly endless chasm.