Sage twisted over in her bed to face the window. Maybe looking at the stars would help. As she turned her eyes upward she was immediately disappointed. The moon was too bright for star gazing tonight. Sure there were stars out, but she knew from experience the bright light from the Full Moon never left her with enough of the tiny dots to really enjoy. Sighing heavily, she rolled over on her back and stared at the ceiling. Here we go again.

For years she’s dealt with the exhausting effects of re-occurring bouts of insomnia. Some nights she’ll toss and turn for hours trying to find that sweet spot with little success. When sleep finally does come, she wakes up five minutes later, realizing her eyes wouldn’t close again for another twenty four hours. Nights like these are becoming far to frequent for her taste. She couldn’t even remember the last time she’d had a dream.

After lying there for what felt like an eternity, she turned her head to look at the fountain her dad had brought over earlier in the week. Her stepmother had an antiquing addiction and she nearly always wound up bringing over one piece of crap or another.  This time though, the so-called ‘crap’ came from her dad. He’d bought it hoping it would help her get some rest. He knew better than anybody how long she’s been fighting this particular battle.

She propped up on her elbow, focused solely on object sitting on the desk. It was beautiful; she had to give him that. The fountain was about twelve inches tall and maybe as wide. Both the base and waterfall were made of sandstone. Six copper tiers were placed here and there to switch up the flow of the water. Each one was free to move either side to side; up or down. Though their movements either way was limited to centimeters.

Sage threw the covers back and walked to the desk, resolving to finally give it a try. Seventy plus hours without sleep was too much. She looked at it for a second, unsure of where the reservoir was. With a shrug she jammed the plug into the socket. If nothing else she’d know where not to pour the water in. As she turned her back to go into the kitchen she heard the distinctive sound of trickling water.

“Huh,” she said to herself, “problem solved.”

She crawled back into bed and watched the water roll off the copper tiers. Listening to the gentle flow was the most calming sound she’d heard in a long while. Not long after she pulled the covers up she began to feel her body relax. The warm feeling started in her feet and gradually spread throughout her body. Holding her eyes open had never been hard before, but now it was next to impossible.

Within thirty minutes she was asleep; sound asleep. A figure moved hesitantly from the shadows of the bedroom. As it approached her bed, the temperature in the room dropped considerably. Sage pulled the covers tighter. Every exhale was marked with a thick cloud of smoke. Despite the warmth the heavy down comforter provided goose bumps broke out all over her body.

The shadow reached out, placing an oversized hand on Sage’s head. His head fell forward as his free hand pressed down against her chest. He traced the side of her face with his thumb…Did he really want to do this? Did he really have a choice?

Sage’s body went rigid. There were hands wrapped around her neck. Big hands. Strong hands. No matter how hard she fought against them she couldn’t get loose. The more she squirmed, the tighter the hands gripped her throat. Her airway was closing fast. Panic ripped through her as she lost consciousness. No, not lost; nearly lost. Through the fog in her mind she could see a huge dark figure standing over her. She didn’t move. If he thought she was dead maybe he’d go away.

For a second it seemed to work. But then he went for a rope and yanked her feet towards him. He hadn’t been fooled. She kicked furiously, clawing at the mattress underneath her. If he wanted to tie her up he was going to have to fight her. Not that he had to fight much. Once he put his fist to the side of her head it took all of ten seconds to secure both her hands and feet.

“Didn’t think I’d find you, did you?” the man said. His tone was neither friendly nor reassuring. She tired to get a look at his face, but it was too dark. “Sure it took me months, but I here I am. You never should’ve run. A quick death is so much easier.”

“What do you want with me?” Sage asked quickly. “Why do you want to kill me? I don’t even know you!”

“Oh come on now, Russ,” the man chuckled. “Let’s not play these games. You know me as well as I know you. Well, you thought you knew me.” He pulled something shiny out of his boot, a satisfied smile settled on his face. Fear took hold when she realized the shiny object was a knife. “Now tell me son, what did you think you were going to gain by running from me?”

“Running from you? I don’t even know you!” Tears rolled down her cheeks.

She glanced frantically around the room looking for some way out. Some way to get help. Her search ended when she felt a blade slide deep into the lower portion of her calf. She screamed out as he sliced her leg open all the way up to her knee. She could feel the blood oozing down the side of her leg, pooling onto the sheets. Who knew blood smelled so bittersweet?

“That’s for being hardheaded,” he said dryly, slapping the side of her head. “The stupid card isn’t going to work here, boy. You best tell me what I want to know and take your death like a man.”

“Look at me!” she screamed. “How can I answer anything if I’m not who you think I am?”

This time it was a fist to the gut that forced her quiet. Her stomach lurched into her throat. Her vision blurred. She instinctively pulled her body into the fetal position just in case he decided to strike again. The man standing inches away from her laughed, but didn’t raise his hand. He was too busy enjoying the pain he was inflicting.

“If this is the way you want to play it that’s fine by me.” He pushed the knife into her side just under her ribcage and twisted the blade.  The pain was so intense it blinded her. “Nobody knows I found you anyway. Your mom will go on thinking you ran away and after a while the cops will call off the search. Not that they’d find you anyway. I’ve got lots of good hiding places out there.” He yanked the knife out and tossed it on the floor beside him. He pulled a gun out of his waistband. She heard it cock as he took aim. “You really should have stayed out of that garage, Russ.”

Sage sat straight up in bed as she heard the gun go off. She grabbed her chest and found her hands were free. She yanked back the covers. Her leg was fine. She ran her hand over both sides of her ribcage. Nothing. Besides the sweat coating every inch of her body there were no signs of the harrowing ordeal she’d just been through.

Shaking, she flipped on the lamp beside her. As she looked around the room she found it empty. No knife, no rope, no gun and more importantly, no man.


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