Chapter 1: The Dark Before the Dawn
It would have been probably safe to say that it was not a good idea to be outside.
Deep, black clouds covered the sky horizon to horizon, staring down ominously at the events that were happening below. From them lightning whips lashed across the sky, and stinging torrents of rain spilled out by the gallon, unleashing lashing fury and howling sound upon the miserable occupants of houses and vehicles below. Trees swayed back and forth, constantly threatening to topple; the ocean was alive with foam, and waves crashed to the beach with a roar.
Despite the inadvisability of being out in such conditions, there was one brave car that was doing just that. An older bluish car that looked like it had seen better days wound its way down a curvy cliffside road – the quickest way between their house and the kindergarten. And from that car, one four year old girl watched with deep awe and great fear as lightning bolts licked the sky.
Another one. The girl skittered beneath her blanket, where she would be safe. Blankets, after all, could stop anything, even lightning.
In the front seats of the car sat two people, and it would probably be redundant to say that they were both adults. One was female, clearly of Hawaiian descent; her skin was coffee-brown skin and her hair was black, long and wavy.
This woman was staring intently out the window. Her lips were pursed, and her eyebrows slanted inwards in deep anticipation. She didn’t quite know what she was waiting for, just that she had the strange feeling that something was about to happen.
The second adult noticed this. He turned into a sidling, stopped the car, and and prodded the woman’s shoulder playfully.
“Hon, what is it?”
He swept back his messy brown hair to get a better look at his passenger, who blinked, as if disturbed from some kind of deep thought, and turned her head slowly.
The male sighed, putting his hand to his forehead, and repeated the question.
She appeared to consider something for a moment, as if having trouble putting her muddled feelings into words.
“I don’t know, Jess, I just have a bad feeling…”
Jess, the man who had been driving the car, nodded a bit. He knew what had happened.
“You had the dream again, didn’t you?”
The female nodded slowly. Jess often teased her about her dreams, weird and cryptic that they were.
“Kalani, you know they’re just dreams, right?” he asked her, smiling cheekily. “Unless a truckload of Tribbles were to come at us this instant, I doubt anything’s going to happen.”
Kalani smiled. Jess knew just how to humour her.
“I know,” she giggled, waving her hand slightly. “But I just…”
Another thunderclap. The small girl in the back screamed.
“Look, we’re late, Jess, she’s scared to death, and her sister’s probably worried sick about us. We should be getting on…”
Jess looked at his wife and smiled. Most of the time, she did know what’s best, even if she spent most of her weekends watching Star Trek reruns.
He stared out into the windshield as waves of rain washed across it. “Urgh, these rainstorms. It’d been so nice when we left.”
“All the more reason to get going,” said Kalani. “Come on, let’s go home.”
And so, clutching the gearshift, Jess started the car, intent on driving it forward to its final destination.
The four-year old shivered violently in the frosty air, drawing safety from her blanket. As long as I’m in here, she thought, the sparks of the almighty can’t get to me.
Every now and then, she would take a peek outside; these brief glimpses reviled only torrents of rain and the odd lightning strike – most often far off in the distant horizon, far away from hurting them.
A flash of light crossed the sky, and the little girl screamed - but this time not because of the lighting streaking the darkening sky.
Far above her, standing perched on one of the clifffaces surrounding the roadside, the silhouette of a person stood, illuminated by the crashing sparks of sky surrounding her. The human seemed to survey the scene before them, standing completely unwaivering in the wake of the wind and rain and power that would surely have any normal human being tossed and turned about.
And for a moment, their eyes connected, and in them the little girl saw hatred, more than she had ever seen before, far beyond her comprehension.
The little girl didn’t know how it happened. The being was hundreds of meters away, surely too small to resolve the position of the figure’s eyes, and besides, it was a silhouette. Silhouettes didn’t have eyes.
So why had she been so certain?
But then, the being vanished into the night, and the girl felt silly – had it been her imagination? Or was the being really there,like a creature preying on the dreams of man, or from a mystical place where man fears to tread?
Jess hummed along to the radio. which was now playing Cat Stevens’ famous song of schoolyard days gone past. As the song moved into a rousing chorus, his mind briefly fell back to his own childhood – growing up, high school, homework, Kalani… those were the days where you felt as if you could do no wrong.
“Jess, the median,” Kalani warned, and Jess, brought out of his stroll down memory lane, scolded himself. He should be paying attention to the road, especially considering the conditions were… less than preferable.
He sighed, continuing his constant vigil through the oncoming night.
The girl did not see it happen. She had been staring out the charcoal windows, trying to see if the apparition would show itself once more. She did not understand why her mother suddenly screamed “Jess!”, nor why she felt the vehicle rapidly veer sideways. She could not comprehend why the sides of the car crumpled around her, or why she was flung forwards as far as her seat belt would extend, and then drawn back into her seat, or why the seat in front of her moved backwards at great velocity.
She did not understand why everything went black.
And she did not understand why, when she next awoke, she was not in the car.
Through blurred eyes, she tried to take her berings, but it was impossible to see where she was. All she could see were bright blue and red lights, flashing on and off.
A small brush of night air bit her shoulder, and she tried to sink below the covers of her sheet.
Blaring klaxons filled her ears, but they sounded distant – almost as if she was hearing it through an old gramophone. People warbled around her, but the words she could not hear.
She felt the platform she was on with her hand, and found that it was soft and squishy, like a mattress. And then she remembered the lights blazing around her, and it clicked together.
She was on a hospital bed.
She tried to push herself up, but as she tried, shots of pain ripple through her arms and sides. Gasping, she slid further under her sheet. Apparently, she was injured, though just how badly, she was unsure of.
Gradually, her hearing and vision returned to some sense of normality, and when she could distinguish the circle of the moon above, she glanced to her side. A pale white ambulance straddled the median, its doors thrown open as if it were eagerly awaiting its patients, its walls glimmering in the headlights of a police cruiser blockading the road. Yellow tape stretched thin between two palm trees on either side of the tarmac, and bright orange cones stood as senitinals, guarding the footpath to the side of the road.
Two beds rolled past, medical professionals surrounding each, rushing towards the ambulance’s open doors. Following them slowly was a man, dressed in a black raincoat and overalls, shaking his head slowly. As he turned, the girl noticed a word plastered on his back, gleaming in the moonlight. Coron-, it read - the rest was covered by a police officer’s head.
Two policemen were chatting with a third person; the girl could not see the third behind the police car, her vision blurred by pain and angry police lights and sirens, pounding through the night. She could make out snatches of conversation between the blasts of sound, but nothing more.
“-it doesn’t look very hopef-”
“-bout the girl?”
“-sponive, yes, but barel-”
The girl’s vision shifted towards the cliff face. A tree, seemingly uprooted by the very wind itself, lay across the footpath, a stream of gutter-water trickling through its roots. And then – a wave of horror rippled through her, melting her stomach and sickening her to the core – the car, crushed into the side of the cliff, as if it had been an accordion leaning against the ground. No-one could have survived that. No-one.
And yet, here you are.
The girl spun her head around, and then wished she hadn’t as sparks of agony flew up her spine. But she gritted her teeth and stared at the person who had addressed her.
Was she dead? Was this some sort of weird initiation ritual?
No, you’re still alive.
The woman – it was so hard to see – looked young and old at the same time. Her skin seemed tinted with the slightest shade of green – or was that the light? – and her body was covered in clothing that appeared bulky and black, like some kind of armor. The girl wondered if she was some far off cousin who’d heard about the crash, or perhaps another police officer.
A thought – an impossible thought – crossed her mind. The woman that stood before her – her lips didn’t move when she talked.
But surely they did, and she had just missed it?
Their eyes met. And the little girl saw it again - the same hatred she had seen, in the eyes of the person on the cliffside. And the little girl knew that somehow, she was the same person.
It only lasted a second.
The next moment, the woman was clutching the little girls’ neck – not so it was choking, though, merely so her fingers touched the surface of the little girl’s skin. Her fingertips were cold – far colder than human skin had any right to be, far colder than the night that surrounded them all. The touch of the woman chilled the little girl to the very core – everything about it felt wrong.
The woman's clutch became slightly tighter.
And then, it started.
Intense pain filled her body… her head…she couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe… the pain was consuming her completely-
She screamed. She screamed as loud as she could. The police, they would do something, surely…
But no-one came. And she continued to scream into the night.
And in that moment of everlasting eternity, four and a half years later, the girl named Lilo Pelekai awoke, her body soaked in sweat.