Ever felt like you were being watched? People say it’s normal to have such feelings but what if they started to come to reality? Maybe I read too many books.

I pushed my shower curtain aside and stepped out onto the fluffy carpet just outside my bathtub before going to stand in front the mirror. Then I saw them, wet footprints. Not strange, I was barefoot and wet after all, but those prints were a few feet away from the bathtub and I only noticed because of the slight stain of dirt that made it visible. Now I just showered, so it definitely wasn’t me, was it? Maybe I was still tipsy from the wine I had had earlier. I glanced around the bathroom in slight wariness, I was alone but I didn’t feel like I was.

“Hello?” Silence, as expected. Cliché moment. I shrugged it off and took a breath before turning back to the mirror. My reflection was hanging off the ceiling, smiling. Just before I screamed, her hands had grabbed my shoulders and pulled me in. It felt like I was falling. And I tried to scream but I couldn’t move my lips. Suddenly I could see a forest below me, sharp tree branches, no leaves. Naked and haunted.

I fell, hitting every branch as I did, feeling the wood put splinters and cuts on my skin. I hit the ground, hard, my bones making a resounding crack and I felt myself die. Yes, sounds preposterous to any sane person and I don’t even want to think about how I knew I was dead.

I don’t know how long I died but I woke up, still in the dark forest, my body aching all over, head pounding furiously the same with my heart. I was still in my towel, still wet from my hair to my feet as though I had not just had the wind knocked out of me, bones still inside my body, not a single cut on my skin.

I noticed the silence immediately. Forests weren’t supposed to be so quiet; a bird here, a rustle there, but this had nothing. It was as dead as I had felt, as dead as the black withered trees. I could feel the cold seeping into my pores even though there was not a lick of wind or soft breeze in the air. Then I felt a tug on my waist, like a rope was pulling me in the direction where the forest looked more dense and I planted my feet to the floor trying to fight it. It tugged harder and I felt the burn of a rope I didn’t see. It pulled me, fast, the dead trees looking like a blur even as I was pulled through the forest, twigs hitting my body and breaking my skin. I was screaming, terrified. My eyes widened as I saw where I was being pulled into.

A tall building blazing with red hot flames. Smoke tinted the sky that seemed to appear from nowhere. Then I was inside. I looked at myself, now suddenly dressed in a used-to-be white lace dress that swept the dirty, smoggy floor. Smoke filled my lungs and I looked around, seeing no way out. Behind me there was fire so I climbed up a stairway that had picture frames with no pictures and found myself on a rooftop.

A large group of children passed me, bodies burnt horribly yet making their way back into the fire. There was revulsion and equal part fear as I stared at their burned bodies, flesh hanging off by a thread of skin. I tried to push pass them quicker but they kept coming, allowing me no personal space. Then they were staring at me as they passed, with haunting eyes and I couldn’t stop the panic I felt and I screamed “Get away from me!” They stopped moving then, red desolate eyes focused on me. Skin sticky with gooey flesh rubbed on my arms, I looked and saw blood. A patch of skin was stuck to my arm and I could feel the bile of vomit working up my throat. Suddenly they grabbed me, I couldn’t do anything but scream and struggle to be free.

I looked now and saw that their skins were normal, unburnt and I started to wonder if I hadn’t seen it a few moments ago. They sneered at me, and I imagined that’s what I looked like when I was trying to get past them – disgusted and sick to my stomach. As they pulled on my hands, my eyes caught my reflection on a large cracked mirrored window. I screamed, the sound shrill and utterly terrifying, as I saw my skin looking just like theirs had been. Hair singed to the scalp, inner flesh puckered and irritated, left side of my face worse than the right, showing a few inches of my skinless jaw, bone and teeth peeking out. It didn’t look like me but it was.

We were by the edge of the roof and I still struggled to no avail as they flung me over the side of the building that seemed to be twenty stories high, watching me fall. My scream seemed to be stuck in my throat again, my arms glued to my sides. I fell down the darkness and just before I felt my voice return, my head and back hit the floor. Skull shattering the same time with my spine. I could see myself laying down like a ragdoll, bones sticking out and body wrangled and bloody, almost like I was standing outside myself.

Then I gasped, stunned by the rush of hair into my lungs and I was in a white room with high vaulted walls and no windows. It was eerie. A clock ticked but I couldn’t see it. It chimed then, loudly. The sound burned my ears as it seemed to bounce off the walls. I crouched down, feeling the pain in my eyes and nose and head and that’s when I noticed the drops of blood. I touched my nose and found it wet with blood. The clock stopped chiming. Nothing was happening and I had a few seconds to think of the madness I was in before the chime sounded again with a vengeance. I screamed and fell to the ground, convulsions raked me. It was like my insides were being torn apart and put back together in all the wrong positions. Then I was off the floor, floating on air, still convulsing. My body slammed so hard into the wall, I felt my head snap back, throat pop out awkwardly, breath leaving my body.

Everything ached and I could hear myself crying and sniffling but it sounded odd like it wasn’t my voice even though I knew it was. The floor was pleasantly cooled where I lay but I could also feel the heat in the air. I refused to open my eyes.

I fell asleep there, I think, and woke up to see that I was on a wide plain with no beginning or end. I decided to walk. I walked and walked, without a sense of direction. Body aching, feet sore, wrecking hunger and thirst. It must have been days, I don’t know, but there was no sun or moon, just a dull light without a source. I was exhausted and I felt myself slipping to the floor.

The haze lifted off. My head lolled as I tried to come to consciousness. I sat in front of a fireplace, on a wooden chair, hands resting on the arms in the warmly lit room. Cinnamon rolls and sweet cakes and pudding and candied yams and baked chicken casserole seemed to assault my senses all at once and my mouth watered as I saw the buffet in front of me and the fireplace a few feet away. Water. I needed water. I got up and looked over the table, barely taking note of my Renaissance type gown as I stuffed my face with food and whatever it was I drank from the jug. I hadn’t tasted anything like that before but it was satisfying.

“Haven’t I told you not to touch my food, you pig?!” The shrill voice sounded like it was accompanied by a cough and startled, I dropped the small slice of cake I held and found myself being dragged by an invisible force back to the chair. I couldn’t move now, turning my head in every direction trying to see but the cozy fire suddenly gave very little light. She was tiny and old and had angry terrifying eyes that glowed in the semi darkness. “I’ve told you before! You dirty, dirty girl!” I was tugging against the invisible restraints as she screamed, body shaking with such a fervor it shouldn’t possess.

Suddenly she calmed and I blinked to see a beautiful woman with hair as black as midnight, blue eyes that shone with youth and vivacity. Her voice almost as beautiful as she was when she spoke, “Let me tell you a story, child. It’s about a girl.” She was suddenly sitting in front of me, a table separating us with an open book with blank pages and a pen on it. She picked it up and began to write.

“Once there was a girl who lived in the woods–” My arms itched and slowly started to burn. “–she was a very naughty little girl who never followed the rules.” I looked down to my arms which had begun to bleed. I whimpered, feeling the tears roll down my cheek but unable to make a sound. “A stubborn little girl with the mind of a fool!” Her eyes were hard, voice angry, gripping the pen so hard it began to crack. With each word she wrote, I bled, and the pages of the book began to soak in red. Now I was screaming, feeling my blood being sucked out of me and into the pages of the soggy book. It didn’t make sense, I shouldn’t feel it but I was and nothing made sense.

Her hands were coated with blood, covering the table and the floor like it was a fountain of thick cranberry juice. I choked, blood coming out of my mouth just as I felt the blade on my neck and felt the slice of the sharpness as it moved across my throat.

I wake up to see white walls and smell the familiar scent of antiseptic. A hospital.
My sister is beside me and she gasps and kisses my hand. “I’m so happy you’re awake. I was so scared when I came to your apartment and saw you laying on the bathroom floor.”
“Bathroom?” my thoughts are foggy, mouth dry.
“Yes. You hit your head, there was so much blood.” Did I ask out loud. I don’t… It didn’t make sense. I’d been dreaming?

But everything, I still feel everything even as I lay down looking up at my sisters worried face. I had felt the broken bones and snapped neck and the blade. I touch my neck and felt a small line of scarred skin I never had. Or did I?

A nurse walks in, her back to us as she pulls in a trolley.
“You’ll have to come back later, miss. It’s time for her medication.” I know the nurse but I’m getting a headache trying to place her voice. My sister nods and kisses my cheek.
“I’ll be back. Get some rest,” and she leaves.

I feel the blood drain from my face as the nurse turns around, a meek smile on her face, “Hello. Before I give you your medication, I hope you don’t mind listening to a story.” The blue eyes shine with excitement as she picks up a book and a pen. I’m shaking, my voice suddenly gone, a chill coming over me. “Once upon a time, there was a girl on a bed…”