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The nightmares started around the beginning of the school year. They were the same every night, the city going through one disaster after another… Leviathan, the S9… the city barely still standing and then Taylor revealed to be Skitter, the running the last gang standing. The same Taylor we were teasing every day at school. I’m not proud to say that it got pretty bad. When I suggested that maybe we should back off for a bit, I was surprised that Emma and Sophia were both ok with that, and so we kind of wound down and the nightmares eventually faded.

It was the afternoon after school just before Christmas break when Emma suggested, in her words, “the prank to end all pranks”.

“C’mon, I know it’s a bit icky but take a trash bag and help me. Just imagine her face when she opens her locker and sees all this! It’s going to be epic!” Emma said gleefully.

Madison felt her veins turn to ice. This. She remembered this. It was where it all started. She’d heard Emma say exactly that before, in her nightmares. Only then she’d eagerly joined in…

“I’d, um, Emma, don’t you think this is going too far?”

Emma looked confused. “Since when do you back down on a prank Maddy? It’s fiiine.”

Madison shook her head. “I-I don’t know, I’m not comfortable with this one. Can we just think of something else?”

Madison would swear she saw Emma roll her eyes at Sophia, but then Emma said “Ok Maddy, if it bothers you so much we’ll think of something else then.”

Madison nodded uncertainly. “Ok, good, um, call me over vacation and I’ll help out.”

Her family’s flight home had been delayed and they didn’t land until the day school resumed. Madison was sick with worry. This was the moment. If Taylor was ok, if nothing happened to her today then maybe the nightmares were just nightmares. Maybe she wouldn’t have to live all that. Her parents were ready to have her stay home, but she insisted they drop her off at school. It was ten thirty and during classes but she didn’t care, she ran down the hall that Taylor’s locker was in. And oh no, the smell, there were knitting needles shoved through the lock and she thought she could hear Taylor’s voice.

Madison ran over to the locker and ripped the knitting needles out tossed them to the floor and pulled open the lock.

“Nonononono, it wasn’t supposed to go this way this time,” Madison babbled to herself.

The door opened and Taylor and filth tumbled out on to her. Taylor … didn’t seem to be there, flailing around, screaming and hitting. Madison remembered this. She’d come out with the teachers and students to see what the noise was and laughed as Taylor blindly attacked the poor janitor who’d had the misfortune of opening her locker. But now she was there and, OW, scrawny as she was that girl could hit. But it couldn’t be like that, not again, she had to fix this.

Madison stepped into Taylor’s assault and wrapped her arms around her, hugging her even as Taylor screamed and thrashed, rubbing her back whispering “It’s going to be ok, it’s going to be ok.”

It felt like an eternity, but was probably only a minute or two but the scene from Madison’s memories played out as it had before. All of the teachers and students rushed out into the hall. An ambulance was called. The students will still pointing and laughing. Well, those that weren’t whispering about what was up with Madison. Emma gave her a disgusted look. Still, Taylor had calmed a bit this time, so that when the ambulance arrived she at least didn’t try to bite the paramedic.

Madison gave them her best “I’m so adorable” smile and managed to convince them to let her ride along. It probably didn’t hurt that she was the only one present who seemed to be trying to help.

It was going to be a long few weeks, but Madison decided that maybe this was her penance. What she’d done to Taylor… it’d been fun, but at the same time she knew it was wrong. Maybe she could make up for it now.