Eight-year-old Sara Goodman stared up at the cloudy sky, and tears streamed down her face as she leaned against the hard stone behind her. The ground below her was hard and cold, but she didn't pay any attention to it. She unconsciously reached her hand up and began fiddling with the locket that hung around her neck, her eyes still aimed upward.
She cringed a little at the sight of a huge bolt of lightning in the distance. She held her breath, slowly counting the seconds until the sound of rumbling thunder that she knew was coming. One. Two. Three. A barely audible escaped her mouth as the ground beneath her seemed to shake from the incredibly loud noise.
Within seconds, the cold rain that had been threatening to fall for hours suddenly began coming down. Sara barely even noticed it though. She was already cold and sore, so the addition of a little water seemed to be of little consequence.
As the wind picked up a little more, making the temperature seem to drop several degrees within a period of only a few seconds, she couldn't help but shiver slightly. Moving as close to the stone as possible, she finally set free the sobs she had been holding back.
Tony Goodman looked up his uncle with worried eyes. They had been looking for Sara since the day before, when she had ran out of the house with tears streaming down her face. She had screamed that they didn't care, but neither of them had a clue what she had been referring to. Everything had seemed to be going fine, and then she had suddenly struck out at both of them without any warning whatsoever.
As a thought crossed his mind, he bit his lip slightly. There was only one place that he could think that they hadn't checked yet, but he knew that the odds of her going there were slim to none. None of them had been there since...
Tony flinched slightly as his mind started moving back to the day a little over a year ago that had changed their lives forever. He quickly forced himself to move back to the present as a deep pain started making its way into his heart, and instead focused his attention on the problem at hand.
"Uncle Bernie," he called out as he hurried toward the kitchen. "You don't think that she went to visit Mom and Dad, do you?"
Sara reluctantly opened her eyes as she felt the warmth of sunlight hit her face, and she blinked a few times in confusion as bright rays of light flashed in her eyes. She slowly pulled herself into a sitting position before taking a look at herself. Her usually neatly brushed hair was wet and drenched in mud. She was stiff, and there were several large scratches on her arms and legs that she assumed were from the various sticks and small branches that were laying all around her. Blinking in the sunlight, she looked around at her surroundings. "Where am I?" she whispered softly.
She took a small intake of breath as she glanced behind her, noticing the large stone that was there for the first time. Memories from the night before came rushing back to her, and she immediately felt guilt rush through her. She had flown off at her brother and uncle for absolutely no reason... at least, no reason that seemed justifiable that morning.
A few tears streamed down her face as she felt the sunlight gently caress her face once more. "God, I was such an idiot," she muttered. She knew why she had been though. She shivered just a little as she remembered what the date was. It had been a whole year since...
Sara's mind was quickly brought back to the present as her head shot upward. She had thought that she had heard a familiar calling her name. Her eyes quickly moved over the surrounded area, and the barest hint of a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth as she caught sight of her twin brother running towards her, followed closely by their uncle.
A large grin spread across Tony's face when he saw his sister, and he quickly glance back at his uncle. "I'm running on ahead!" he called out before taking off at a sprint.
Tony raced ahead, leaving Uncle Bernie in the dust. He usually wasn't very good with things like running, but his worry for his sister pushed him forward. Even though she didn't appear to be hurt, he knew that something was still wrong. He could feel it.
Sara looker up at him, tears shining in her eyes. "I'm sorry about last night, Uncle Bernie. It's just that it had been a year since..." She stopped as he nodded understandingly. She caught Tony's eye and gave him a small smile. She didn't have to tell him anything. He already knew.
She barely noticed as her uncle picked her up in his arms, and she didn't even hear the worried questions he was asking her . She was too busy staring at her parent's gravestone , which was quickly fading behind them, and the dark, shadowy form that was standing behind it. The one with golden eyes and long, jagged claws that seemed strangely familiar to her for some reason...
She gave a small gasp as she realized what she was seeing. Her eyes widening, she turned her head towards Tony. She had to tell him. Before she had a chance though, a sharp pain shot through her head. She felt everything go black as she faded into the blissful peace of unconsciousness.
Sara glanced around frantically, her eyes searching the surrounding darkness for any sign of movement. "Tony?" she asked hesitantly. "Uncle Bernie?"
Out of the corner of her eye, she caught sight of a momentary flash of light. A sense of foreboding planted itself in her stomach, and she had to struggle to keep her voice calm. "Flint? Merlock?"
The stillness was suddenly broken by an ear piercing scream, and Sara's hands flew up to cover her ears. She looked around wildly, and an almost frantic expression appeared on her face. "Who's there?" she called out, her voice laced with a fair bit of panic.
"You shouldn't be here," a low voice whispered from directly behind her, and Sara quickly spun around. She was greeted by nothing but darkness though, and the icy sense of foreboding seemed to move from her stomach directly to her throat.
"Please," Sara whispered, "tell me who you are."
"Go away," another voice softly said. "You don't belong here."
Sara glanced around once more, and her tone of voice became even more pleading as her eyes moved over the dark nothingness. "Where am I?" she asked, her voice shaking slightly. "Who are you? Why do I keep dreaming about this place?"
For a moment or two, there was nothing but silence. Then, slowly but surely, two faces -- both of them near transparent and shining with an otherworldly glow -- appeared in front of her. As their forms came into focus, Sara couldn't help but let out a quiet gasp. "Mom?" she whispered, her shock clearly visible on her face. "Dad?"
The two figures didn't answer, and instead their shapes began distorting horribly. Before she had a chance to stop herself, Sara felt a strangled scream escape her lips.
In the darkness, a pair of golden eyes immediately shot open. They slowly turned toward Sara, and as their gaze focused on her she felt a wave of pure terror rush through her body. The eerie cries of the beings that wore her parents' faces echoed around her, and the sense of foreboding that had been buried inside her body suddenly sprang forth and became comprehension.
The golden eyes glittered threateningly, moments before a clawed hand reached out and slashed her left arm. "Get out!"
Sara lunged into a sitting position while she gasped for breath, and as her eyes darted wildly around her it took a moment or two for her to realize where she was. "Damn," she said softly, "that nightmare just keeps getting worse and worse."
The seventeen-year-old glanced over at the clock that lay on her desk, and she let out a tired sigh when she saw the time. "Only 3:26," she muttered, "and there's no way I'm going to get back to sleep tonight. It's a good thing we're on vacation from school."
Shaking her head, she pushed her clammy sheets off of her and swung her legs off the side of the bed. She sat there for a moment, taking deep breaths as she attempted to slow her still-racing heart. As strength returned to her legs, Sara carefully pulled herself to her feet and walked over to her window. She stood there for a few moments, staring up at the starry sky, before letting out another sigh and turning away from the window.
She reluctantly walked over to her desk and grabbed the well-worn copy of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea that lay on it. Then she walked back over to her bed and, after turning on the lamp that hung on the wall above it, collapsed on top of her covers. She opened the book to the first page and slowly began reading.
Tony blinked as he stepped into the kitchen, and a surprised expression appeared on his face as he glanced at the plates of food that were already spread out on the table. He glanced over at his uncle, who was leaning against the refrigerator with a cup of coffee in his hand. "Hey Uncle Bernie," he said suspiciously, "who's been cooking?"
"Sara," Bernie replied simply. "Again."
Tony let out a sigh as he walked over and picked up a glass of orange juice that had been laid out on the table. "Do you have any idea as to how long she's been up?" he asked softly.
"It took at least two hours to make all of this," Bernie replied, gesturing toward the table of food, "but there's no way of knowing how long she was awake before she started cooking."
"I wish that she'd at least tell us what's wrong," Tony muttered as she slowly took a sip of his juice.
Bernie glanced over at him. "Do you think it's because of what next Thursday is?" he asked curiously, a touch of sadness in his voice.
"Not really," Tony replied dejectedly. "It's not exactly the happiest time of year, but it hasn't been that bad since--"
"Flint," Bernie finished with an understanding nod. He started to say something else, but he quickly closed his mouth and gestured to a point behind Tony with his eyes. The boy nodded slightly in understanding.
"Hey Sara," Tony said as he turned around, raising an eyebrow when he saw the dark circles under her eyes. "Couldn't sleep?"
Sara shrugged slightly as she walked past him into the kitchen and promptly pulled a chair out from under the table. She collapsed into it with a sigh and grabbed one of the glasses of orange juice that still sat on the tabletop. "Something like that," she said ruefully before taking a long swallow of juice.
"Want to tell me about it?" Tony asked, his voice just a little too hopeful.
His sister shook her head as she sat the glass back on the table. "Not really," she said awkwardly. "It's kind of… personal."
Tony walked over and pulled out a chair of his own before sitting down in it backwards. He leaned his head down on the back of the chair and gave her a look of feigned horror. "Personal?" he asked with a fake gasp. "Oh, my poor heart. My own twin is keeping secrets from me. It's…"
"Tony, " Sara said warningly, "not today."
He quickly dropped his mock cheerfulness and gave her a serious look. "Come on, Sara, tell me what's up."
"It's nothing," she replied firmly. "Incoming."
"Incoming?" Tony repeated questioningly. "What do you mean by…"
Comprehension dawned in his eyes, and he quickly jumped out of his seat just as Flint came rushing into the kitchen. The fifteen-year-old boy practically flew into the vacated chair, and before he even had a chance to come to a complete stop he was already shoveling food into his mouth.
"Some things never change," Tony muttered as he reached out and cuffed Flint on the side of the head. "That was my seat, you brat. Just because you‘re taller than me now doesn‘t mean you shouldn‘t show some respect."
"Sorry," Flint said, his voice lacking anything that even remotely sounded like repentance. "It will never happen again."
Sara let out a quiet laugh as she stood up from her chair. "That's what you've said every day this week, Flint."
The younger boy winked at her before reaching out and grabbing some food off of one of the other plates on the table.
"Hey!" Bernie called out as he quickly stepped away from the refrigerator and grabbed the plate from Flint's clutches. "That's my breakfast."
Flint shrugged again. "How was I supposed to know?" he asked innocently. "You weren't eating it."
Sara moved over to the side as friendly banter filled the room, but as Rocky and several Time Shifters made their way to the kitchen she couldn't help but feel a slight headache begin pressing against her skull. Without saying anything, she slowly began edging her way toward the door.
When Bernie caught sight of her, he quickly swallowed the bite of bacon that was in his mouth. "Where are you going?" he called out.
Sara paused in the doorway and glanced back at him. "I'm going for a walk," she replied with a shrug. "If nothing else, maybe it will wake me up some."
Bernie nodded, and she gave him a brief smile. "I'll be back in a little while," she called over her shoulder as the door shut behind her.
"You really shouldn't fall asleep out here," Merlock said softly, a worried look in his eyes. "It's dangerous."
Sara sat up with a start, and for a moment she felt completely disoriented. "What time is it?" she asked with a yawn.
"None of your business," a sharp voice retorted, and when Sara blinked a few times she finally noticed Bindi floating near Merlock's shoulder.
Merlock shot the Time Shifter an annoyed look, and Bindi immediately turned away from him with a disgruntled "harrumph." Then, shaking his head, the young man glanced back at Sara. "Almost ten o'clock," he replied with a raised eyebrow.
She muttered a curse or two under her breath as she reached up to rub the sleep from her eyes. "Damn it," she groaned, "I told Uncle Bernie I'd only be gone a little while. If it weren‘t for that stupid nightm--"
Sara trailed off suddenly, and a suspicious expression appeared on her face as she glanced at Merlock. "You've been talking with Tony," she said crossly.
"Where would you get an idea like that?" Merlock asked in surprise, just as Bindi floated back up and started nodding her head wildly.
"Yes, yes he has," the Shifter said excitedly. "He's been talking with him all the time. In fact, they're best friends. Merlock doesn't need you anymore, so you can just…"
Merlock covered her mouth with his hand, cutting her off mid-sentence.