"Valerie," a strange voice calls through the darkness, "Valerie, hey." My head pounds violently. Nausea hugs my stomach.
"Valerie. Come on, wake up." I open my eyes. A bright, blinding light welcomes me.
"Where... where am I?" My eyes slowly adjust to the light.
"You're home, honey. Goodness, you're burning up." I look up to see my mother looking down at me, worriedly. She places a cold hand on my forehead, "you're burning up Val. How do you feel?" she sits on the edge of my bed and looks at me, "my God, you look like you haven't slept for days."
"M... mom?" I look at my surroundings confused. How did I get back here? I was just at the... was it a dream? It couldn't have been. It felt so real.
"I'm gonna keep you home from school today, okay?" My mom pulls me out of my head.
"School..." I repeat.
"I'm gonna tell Mag not to come over after school, okay, honey. I need you to get some rest."
"Mag... Maggie!" I sit up quickly and try to stand up, but instead, I fall back down on my bed. The room starts spinning.
"Hey. Hey. It's okay. I'll tell her you're sick. You can have her over when you're better." She pats my head and walks out of my room. I sigh, slowly standing up. I make my way to my bathroom.
"Ugh. I do look terrible," I look at myself in the mirror and sigh, "It felt so real. I could have sworn—"
"What felt real honey?" My father walks in and looks down at me. His dark brown eyes are soft.
"Uh... I had a nightmare last night." I look up at him and sigh.
"What about?" he asks, looking down at me. "Oh wow, you look terrible." He frowns and rubs my shoulder. A sharp pain bites at it. I jump slightly.
"I... can't remember." I lie. He sighs and kisses my forehead.
"I'm gonna be staying home from work today, okay? You're mother asked me to keep an eye on you. She has a lot of things she's got to get done before her business trip."
"Business trip? Where is she going?"
"She's leaving for phoenix tonight," he says with a slight smile and leaves the room. I sigh and look at my reflection in the mirror. It looks like all the life has been drained from me. It feels like it too. My eyes are bloodshot and I have heavy bags under them. My skin is paler than usual. I look like I have the plague.
"It... it felt so real." I repeat to myself in the mirror. My head spins painfully. Both of my shoulders begin to sting violently. I lift up my shirt to look at them.
"What the..." Five crescent shaped marks sit, scabbed and bruised on my left shoulder. On my right shoulder, a mixture of blue and green with red blood form around a large bite. It starts burning.
"It did happen. It wasn't a dream," I stare wide eyed at the bloody markings, "how did I get back here?" I panic.
I pick up a washcloth and wet it down, trying to clean the wounds. How is this real? How did I get home. And the other Valerie... where is she? I need to talk to Maggie.
I hear footsteps approaching my bathroom and I quickly fix my shirt.
"Maggie said she needed to talk to you. It's kind of important." My dad pops his head in the doorway.
"She's here?" I look up at him.
"No, you're mother called her. Your mom is going to be in phoenix for the rest of the weekend so I'll see about Maggie coming by later tonight."
"Okay," I nod.