Sleepless (Bird of Stone Book 1)By: Tracey Ward
The first time I saw her, I was dead.
I was rolling down the river with two coins for the Ferryman, heading out onto the infinite black sea. Worst of all, I was going without a fight.
How she found me is still a mystery or a miracle, depending on your perspective. Any way you slice it I’m lucky she was there, though showing gratitude for it wouldn’t come easy for a long time after. How she put up with me for as long as she did is pure miracle. No mystery about it. She’s as close to an angel as I’ll ever get and whenever I think of her I remember the way she looked there by the river; long auburn hair, glistening hazel eyes and a T-shirt that read Zombies Hate Fast Food.
When she reached out and took my hand, it shattered my world. Her eyes and the warm press of her skin against mine changed everything. Suddenly I was gasping for breath, fighting for life, and as she lowered her face to within inches of mine I felt my heart slam painfully in my chest. She parted her lips, making me think she was going to kiss me goodbye. If that had been the last sensation I experienced in this world I would have died a lucky man. Instead, she whispered one word against my mouth. One word that would press air into my lungs and pull me back from the void.
Then she was gone.
I wake with a start. My eyes immediately find the black sparrows flying across the white paint of the wall beside my bed, calming my racing heart. I trace one with my fingers, smiling at the familiar feel of its edges, letting it tell me that I’m home.
In honesty, I hate birds. They’re too quick and erratic with their sharp claws and beaks. They’re like flying, disease carrying knives. I don’t trust them.
But more than anything I hate them because they remind me of the Dragon.
“Are you here?” Cara calls.
“Present and accounted for.” I drop my hand from the bird just as my bedroom door swings open. My sister stands in the doorway. Watching.
“Yeah, I’m good.”
“I’m glad you’re home.”
I chuckle quietly. It could go without saying but she says it every time. “Me too.”
“Where’d you go? Do I want to know?”
“Transylvania,” I lie.
“Okay, so I don’t want to know.”
I shake my head. No. She doesn’t want to know.
“I had the Dragon Dream,” I tell her, changing the subject. “It brought me home.”
“The Jabberwocky.” she corrects quickly.
I roll my eyes. “It’s not the Jabberwocky.”
“I have shown you the pictures. It looks exactly as you described.”
“I know, but—“
“Is it or is it not the spitting image of the Jabberwocky?”
“It is,” I concede, “but how would I have started dreaming of the Jabberwocky when I was four years old? We never had the book.”
“You saw the movie.”
“Stop. We’ve talked about this. The Disney Alice doesn’t have the Jabberwocky in it. There’s no way. It’s not him, it’s just a dragon.”
“It’d be cool if you could dream about Pete’s Dragon.”
I throw my pillow at her face. “Jesus, don’t put the idea in my head!”
“What? He’s friendly! And it’s not like you can Slip to Passamaquody.”
Slip is our word for what I do. For my tendency to fall asleep, dream of New York City, and wake up in Times Square in my underwear. My parents called it sleep walking, but that’s absolutely not what it is. It just made it sound normal, made it easier for them.
I don’t stand up and walk out the door. When I Slip, I dream of a place and then there I am. The base of the Eiffel Tower. The shore on the coast of Ireland. The third baseline at Wrigley Field. While it can take my mind a millisecond to raise familiar images of the Las Vegas strip, it will take me days to return my body home from it. I don’t understand how it happens. No one does. It’s mind over matter to the nth degree. It’s unpredictable, terrifying, and most of all it’s annoying.
“He kicked my ass,” I tell her glumly, thinking of the Dragon. I rub my leg even though there’s no wound on it. Not anymore. Not now that I’m awake.
“Jabberwocky’s are the worst.”
“It’s not the Jabberwocky!”
“Sure. Hey, what are we doing tonight? Did you decide?”
I throw my arm across my face. “Nothing, we are doing nothing.”
“No,” she insists, pulling my arm away. “We were going to do nothing if you Slipped away to Antarctica. But you didn’t. You’re here and we need to celebrate.”