I started awake with a hand touching my face. I blinked my eyes to see who was standing above me. The touch was tender, the hand was rough against my skin. Brown eyes stared back at me. I couldn’t in the darkness. Everything was blurred with sleep. The form bent closer and I caught the stagnant smell of cigarette smoke, covered with the smell of dirt. I knew it was patchouli oil but that is what it smells like and it always will. I almost wretched with the closeness of it. My stomach knotted and my heart beat fast as I tried to scramble backwards out of my sleeping bag. But I was bound with air. The face grew closer and the smile was stained yellow instead of the white it should be. I knew it should be white but why wasn’t it.
The eyes darkened into russet brown. I could see them clearly. I didn’t recognize the face. It was a mash of things from my dreams. My fears manifested in reality. I tried to move again, but I couldn’t. There were no bounds holding me down, I couldn’t move. Fear lanced through my veins like ice. I was shivering but I felt like I was burning up. The voice was ragged. “You are getting to close.”
It rushed me and I fell backwards and the next thing was darkness.
When I woke up there was a group of people standing around me. I started and pulled away from them all the memory of what had happened before still on the cusp of my memory. I looked around but didn’t see what or who it was. Had it been a dream?
Nate followed me across the expanse of dirt I had shimmied across in my haste to be away from people. He was smiling at me and saying something. I had to focus on his mouth to calm down enough to understand him. He’d said repeatedly, “You hit your head, let us finish. It’s not healing right.”
That was when the pain rushed into my senses. My body ached all over. My head hurt, my arms felt like lead hanging from a rag doll. I reached up and felt the blood at the back of my head. I tried to speak but my mouth was dry. Matt handed me a bottle of water and I smiled at him in thanks. The drink helped and I was able to ask, “How long have I been out?”
Dylan was standing a few yards away, “You weren’t up when I got up this morning. I figured you needed the sleep. I didn’t think anything was wrong until you didn’t wake up with the rest of them.”
Matt spoke softly, “I noticed the blood on the rock there. You weren’t in your bag anymore, but you had fallen asleep inside. I know you did.”
Trent asked from his perch on the log behind Dylan. “What happened, man? You work like a like every other day.”
I shook my head trying to remember, and I told them what I could. Told them about waking early. About the creature/thing/dream, whatever it was. And what it said. Everyone but Dylan was clueless, Matt might get some idea from the conversations the other day, but no one else knew what my nightmares were.
Trent sighed, “And I thought Bob, was a drama queen.” His grin was wide and toothy and he was trying really hard to make it come off as a joke.
I grinned back at him. “No one’s better at being a drama queen than me.”
That made Trent and Dylan both laugh and Trent took that moment to regale the boys of the time I kissed Dylan. Dylan left before I even got to kiss him. But he had been turning a nice shade of pink before he did. When Trent was done with his tale, I rolled my eyes at him. And Dylan called them over. Today was a busy day. We teach the boys all about compasses, direction, navigation by the night sky and the afternoon sun. It was going to be an info dump of the day but today was a crucial day. Today the boys would be set out on their own to walk an hour out then walk back to camp all by themselves.