I wake in the snow with nobody around me. This must be a dream for the FBI never leaves my side. Pushing to my feet, I exit the cemetery and cross the street. Scanning the small ranch for signs of life, I move on. A few steps up a moderate incline brings me to the front door, which is open. “Are you ready?” James asks me. I don’t need to look, I know he’s right behind me. A mattress occupies the space in the middle of the living room and an ashtray with cigarettes spilling onto the floor beside it. There is no other furniture in the room. Placing my foot into the house, I glance over my shoulder at James. “Are you coming with me?” “No,” he says. “I’m not allowed.” “Really?” I scan the living room again while I ponder his words. “The truth.” “Can you tell me why?” “I threw a bomb into a window of Town Hall and a lot of people died.” The air leaves my lungs. Did he really say that? Closing my eyes, his words burn onto my eyelids. When I open my eyes he is no longer there. Vanished, like an echo in my mind. Shaking his words from me, I enter the house. The door bangs shut and a tall thin man with blond hair leans against the wall. “Hello, Ella,” he says. I know him. I met this man long ago, but how can he be in front of me? I thought he died. And he doesn’t appear to be a ghost. Reaching my arm towards him, I pinch his arm. He is real. “I’m not a ghost like James.” I don’t understand. “I saw your gravestone, Ryan.” “Death can be faked,” he says, winking at me. I close my eyes and picture Ray in my mind. “Is Ray alive?” Clouds roll over his pupils and for the briefest moment I see the man the police label a terrorist. “He is dead to me.” The words cut at my insides and I want to slap him. “How can you say that about your own brother?” “I’m aware of how you feel about him, Ella, but it doesn’t change the fact he destroyed my family. Don’t ask me about him. If you want to know, seek the answers at the end of the hall." His eyes bore into mine and I let him dig and explore until he blinks to break the stare. “What will I find at the end of the hall?” I ask. Waves of anger from him towards me, sending a chill down my spine. “A dragon,” he says. Looking down the short hallway, I attempt to understand his words. I will find a dragon in the last room? “Who is the dragon?” I ask out. My voice sounds odd in the empty space and I take a step forward, leaving the living room. A growl fills the air and I jump, gripping my knife before I take another step on the creaky hardwood floor. It can’t be a dragon. Dragons aren’t real. I take a deep breath before continuing towards the sound at the end of the hallway. “There’s no such thing as dragons,” I say, placing my hand on the doorknob. Yanking the door open before my courage fades, I extend the knife into the space of the room before stepping inside. There’s a desk against the wall with a framed monkey painting hanging above it. It’s dark coal eyes investigate me, ripping into my brain. I pull my attention from the monkey and scan the rest of the room. A cigarette burns in an ashtray overflowing with crushed butts. Books and beer bottles litter the floor and against the wall a toy dragon with the stuffing spilling out speaks to me. “Rawr!” the toy repeats. It’s stuck on this greeting like a broken record and issues it’s roar to me again every ten or fifteen seconds. “Rawr!” ‘Go to the basement,’ a voice whispers into my ear. I spin in all directions, but there’s nobody here. I return to the living room, but there’s no sign of Ryan either. The house is empty. As the clock against the wall ticks and ticks with the pounding of my heart, the cellar door creaks open and I stare down into the black void of the basement below.
‘Deep into the darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.’
“Ray,” I whisper before stepping into the darkness.