Bluebell by James Aurelien is for all who are fascinated and obsessed by the fantasy worlds about vampires, werewolves and shapeshifters. This book will keep the reader entertained from start to finish during those long sleepless nights.
“Junie? Junie! Oh, you’re awake!”
I looked up into my mother’s teary eyes realizing I felt dizzy, nauseous and just not right.
“Mum,” I mumbled.
“Yes, dear! Oh, I’m so glad you’re all right!”
A tear rolled down from behind her glasses and fell to the floor. My father stood behind her with his hand on her shoulder. He was smiling, looking relieved and was also teary eyed. On the other side of my bed I saw my friend Callista, who had tears rolling down both her cheeks, smudging her make-up.
“What happened?” It was hard to form the words. It was even harder to focus on anything. I couldn’t remember why I was in this white, bright room which I could only assume was a hospital room. It smelt like a hospital too.
“You got hurt, dear,” my mother explained. She stepped forward and ran her hands through my curls affectionately. “You were at the wrong place at the wrong time. You were walking home from work and … a car hit you.”
I squinted and tried to remember the event, but the last thing I could remember was walking out of the coffee house I worked at; Better Beans. Everything else was a blur.
“Why did it hit me?” My words sounded more like moaning than talking, as it hurt to speak.
“You did nothing wrong, child. The driver was drunk and crashed right onto the sidewalk where you were walking. He hit you and then crashed into a building,” my father said, speaking in a mix of sadness and anger.
“Did anyone else get hurt?”
My mother smiled, she seemed moved, and stepped back to stand at the foot-end of the bed. “You’re the one in a hospital bed and you still manage to ask that question …”
My father didn’t go off the topic. “Only the driver. He died on the spot.”
I looked around the room. Everything hurt. The lights were too bright. The bed felt too hard even though it was probably perfectly fine. My whole body was aching.
“Do you remember anything?” asked Callista. She reached out to grab my hand.
“Not really … I was just walking home,” I said as I squeezed her hand softly. As I was speaking some things popped back into my head. “I remember the headlights.”
I closed my eyes, and a vivid scenario came back to me; I was just walking when I heard tires screeching behind me and when I’d turned around, I looked directly into the bright headlights of a car coming right at me at full speed.
When I opened my eyes again, I saw Callista nodding. I looked at my parents, they both had a worried look on their faces.
“I don’t remember the crash,” I said as I closed my eyes again, trying to remember. “I do remember waking up.”
At the site of the crash, I had woken up after being hit, and there was a woman with me. She had piercing blue eyes and had looked mortified when our eyes locked. Thinking about it gave me a weird feeling but at the time it was the least of my concerns, so I brushed it off.
“There was a girl. A woman. I think she woke me up … but I passed out again. When I woke up again, they were checking on me … the ambulance people. The police were there too. There was a crowd. It smelt like smoke. It was loud. I got carried into an ambulance … and then I woke up here.”
I opened my eyes again to see that both of my parents’ eyes were watery again. Callista was still holding my hand, tears still rolling.
“It’s okay,” I mumbled in an attempt to soothe them. “I’m okay.” It was dead silent for a minute. “Am I okay?”
Callista chuckled. “You broke your hip, five ribs and your arm. You have bruises and stitches, but luckily none of it will be permanent,” my mother answered.
I nodded, at least as much as I could.
“Why don’t you get some rest, dear? The doctor said she wants you here for a few more days just to be sure you’re okay. We’ll be back later.”
“Thank you,” I squeezed it out.
“We love you, baby,” my father added. They gave me a loving smile and walked out. Callista squeezed my hand this time.
“See you later, sweetie,” she said, then walked out too.
I fell right back into a blissful, sedated sleep.
Over the next few months my body started to heal. I hadn’t been able to work in a while, so my parents had been supporting me and helped me around the house while I tried to put myself back together. My friends were also helping, bringing me food, running errands, whatever they could do. Much to my displeasure – I felt like a burden, but resting was starting to pay off; slowly but surely, my body started to recover. My mind, however, was a different story; I was scared. Despite the therapy appointments I had been taking, I was scared to leave the house, scared of cars, scared of loud noises. Life had become scary. On top of that there was one thing I hadn’t talked to anyone about; I had been having very vivid nightmares.
At first, I thought they didn’t scare me that much – they were just dreams, after all – but I’d still wake up shaking and drenched in sweat. Then the nightmares progressively got worse until I became too scared to sleep and I couldn’t lie to myself anymore about not being scared. The nightmares were always different, but they ended the same; I died.
It was always a painful and terrifying death. Electrocution, drowning, getting stabbed, getting shot … Besides the fact that I always died they had one more thing in common; whether I’d be murdered or die in some other way, the blue-eyed, red-haired woman I saw on the day of the accident was always there. She could have been the murderer or she would watch me die and do nothing. Sometimes she would smile. I had no idea who she was, and it didn’t seem like she had done anything to me when I saw her that day, but within a matter of months this stranger had become my worst fear.
I kept telling myself that these dreams were just a manifestation of anxiety, that I didn’t know this woman and that she hadn’t hurt me, and that she wouldn’t in the future. I had no factual reason to believe otherwise.
Another night I woke up drenched in sweat. I was shaking and out of breath. With great effort I took a sip from the glass of water on my nightstand and sighed. My alarm would go off in a few hours; it was the first day I’d go back to work at the coffeehouse. I was looking forward to it but I wasn’t looking forward to the lack of sleep I’d have to deal with. Coming to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t be able to sleep anymore, I decided to turn on my television and channel-hop. Before I got to a channel I wanted to watch, I came across the news. There was a fragment that caught my attention, about a teenage boy who had gone missing the day before. The boy was living in a hospice and had gone out for a walk but never returned. His caretakers said he went on the same walk every single day and there was no reason for him not to come back. It was unlike him. Everyone was really worried about him. I hoped they would find the poor boy.
When I arrived at work later, my boss didn’t put me straight back into waitressing but gave me tasks that I could do without overworking my body, considering I had broken several bones in the accident. Most of them had healed or at least started to heal but my body was still tender.
I spent the day taking and making phone calls, answering e-mails, ordering supplies, and occasionally processing a few orders at the counter, so I had the chance to stand up and walk around a little.
I was enjoying a decaf soy latte on my lunch break when a gorgeous little butterfly found its way inside the office space in the back and settled on the wall across from me. It stayed there until my shift was over.
Funnily enough, when I opened the door hours later to go home, the butterfly flew out the door.
After my walk home, I was relieved to have made my way back safely and concluded that it had been a good day. On the evening news I saw the missing boy again, there were still no leads.
At around sunset a cat I had never seen before found its way inside my house through an open window, walked around for a bit and then before I could put it outside made its own way out again. It was curious but I didn’t think much of it. It wouldn’t be the first time a strange cat had ever infiltrated someone’s house, I thought.
For the next few days, and evenings, the days remained enjoyable, but the nights continued to be harrowing. The same graphic, terrifyingly realistic nightmares every single night had started to take a toll on my body … I was feeling exhausted every single day and had developed a new fear of death. It manifested in the fear of eating: what if someone poisoned me? What if my food was contaminated? And fear of people: what if they’re out to get me? What if they are armed? You name it …
I had just begun recovering from the expected fears caused by a potentially fatal car accident, but it was starting to feel as if it had all been for nothing. Undeniably, fear was now ruling my life. It felt as if I was living in one of the thriller shows I always loved to watch, or maybe one of the true crime shows. Who knew? All I knew was that I didn’t like it one bit, and the shows weren’t so great anymore either.
On a rainy Friday morning at the end of the week I had called in sick, because I was so fatigued and anxiety ridden that it was simply too much for me to leave the house.
Since my night had been filled with terror once more, I was up early and caught the morning news while the sun was rising.
Another person had gone missing.
It was the second person reported missing within a month, something that had never happened before in the small town of Cunabula.
The sick boy had still not been found and now there was another missing person’s case. This time an elderly woman had gone missing. She was taking a stroll in a park in the early morning and never returned. Her caregiver went inside to look when the old lady didn’t answer the door for their morning visit, and found no one inside and called the police. Later, they found her walker still in the park but there was no trace of the woman. The police were expecting the worst.
I turned the television off and sighed. News like this didn’t make me feel any better when I was already terrified of the world.
I tried to shrug it off and told myself it must have been an accident, just like with the missing boy. These were accidents. Soon they would be found, and they would either be well and had just been lost, or some unfortunate accident had happened; there was no foul play, I concluded. There couldn’t have been. With that in mind, I decided to go and have the breakfast that my extremely understanding boss had offered me.
He had empathy for the situation I was in and told me it would be good for me to get some fresh air, go outside and interact with someone.
So, I went outside, looking exactly how I felt (not good) and started to mooch towards the coffeehouse. It being early July, the weather was pleasantly warm with a light breeze dancing through the trees. The streets were filled with people rushing to get to work.
It was only a ten-minute walk to work from my home but considering I was walking extremely slowly, it might have taken me a bit longer on that particular day.
I was looking at some flowers on the sidewalk when I was startled by a dog barking on the sidewalk across the road to my left. Much to my horror, my eyes fell on the woman who I had seen on the day of the accident and since then in my nightmares, every single night.
I froze in the middle of the street and felt my chest tighten. I couldn’t breathe. My legs suddenly felt heavy. I felt dizzy. It was like time slowed down. Then she locked eyes with me. On her face appeared the same look of horror she had had when I woke up after the accident.
She backed away from the dog that was still barking at her and started walking away with her head down. She was walking so suspiciously fast she might as well have been running.
I watched her take a few steps back, and then my freeze response had shifted into a flight response; before I knew it I just started running. Even though she was walking away from me, and still on the other side of the road, I felt I had to move, to run away. I sprinted to Better Beans, ignoring how running still hurt my fragile hip, and rushed inside. One of my co-workers saw me come in and looked at me from behind the counter.
“Are you okay, Junie?”
I must have looked out of my mind. I had huge bags under my eyes. My skin had been breaking out. I was in my sweats with a dirty hoodie and on top of that, I was now panicked, panting and sweating. I had run, as if my life depended on it, into a calm, serene little coffeehouse where bubbly music was always playing and it always smelled like pies.
Besides my worried co-worker there were several customers giving me weird looks.
“I-I guess, sorry, rough morning,” I said, and sat down at a table in a corner.
“Okay,” Vienna, my co-worker said, still looking worried. She finished cleaning something behind the counter and walked up to me. “What happened?” she asked softly, as she sat down across from me.
“I, uhm, had a flashback,” I said, while avoiding eye contact.
That wasn’t the truth, I knew it was real, but I didn’t want to have to explain the whole situation, and I would probably not be believed anyway.
“Oh, honey, from the accident?” Vienna asked sympathetically. I nodded. “It must be so hard for you. You know we’re all here for you, right? Well, Ian said you might be coming in, so tell me what you want and I’ll bring it to you.”
I nodded again. “A hummus bagel and a chocolate muffin please,” I mumbled with a forced smile.
She brought them over to me a few minutes later with a large glass of freshly squeezed juice. I enjoyed my free breakfast, sure, but I could not stop thinking about what had just happened. Who was this girl? Why was she at the crash? Why had I started having these nightmares? Why was she always in them? And why did she look mortified once again while locking eyes with me?
Down the Rabbit Hole
All through the weekend, and the days following, my anxiety was through the roof and my nightmares had become even worse.
I was sitting at my friends’ apartment one afternoon for the first time after the accident. I had managed to find the courage to go there and spend time with them, but it seemed as if I could barely focus on them. My friend group consisted of my cousin Davin, my friend Callista – whom I had considered my best friend ever since high school and who was coincidentally Davin’s girlfriend – and their roommate Stellan. Stellan and Davin had been friends ever since elementary school and had decided to get an apartment together after enrolling at the same university, Callista moved in later.
The three of them lived together in a decent sized apartment on the second floor in a quiet part of town. The apartment was well kept, modern and had been full of plants and flowers ever since Callista had moved in.
I was sitting on the couch in the living room with Dasch’s (Stellan’s dog) square head on my lap. My friends were all talking but I couldn’t help but zone out.
She was in town, I kept thinking. It was all I had been thinking about ever since Friday morning.
“Junie!” said Davin suddenly, his deep voice snapping me out of my overthinking. “I asked if you wanted some pancakes. Stellan’s making those wildly good chocolate chip pancakes. You know, the ones that are somehow still healthy.”
I quickly looked around and realized that I hadn’t even noticed Stellan who was sitting next to me getting up. I simply nodded.
“Okay, I’ll go give him a hand then,” he said as he got up from sitting next to Callista.