(ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 5/27/2016)
Waking up with a start, Shannon abruptly sat up and tried to steady her rapid breathing. Tears cleaned her muddy face as they rolled down her cheeks.
“Are you okay?” a voice called from the darkness.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” she lied, wiping the tears from her eyes.
Nicolas emerged from the shadows. “I don’t think so. Do you want to talk about it? I’m no detective but, I have noticed something has been weighing on you.”
Shannon shook her head. “It’s okay. You should probably get some sleep now. I’ll take next watch.”
Crawling towards her, Nicolas plopped down next to his friend. His serious violet eyes glowed in the dark. “Before I do, you are going to tell me what’s wrong.” Nic was never the type of person to tell someone to share their feelings with him. He must have known something was off with Shannon for a while if he finally said something about it.
The girl took a deep breath and began to explain.
“Sometimes at night, when I am in my half sleep half awake state, I hear these voices. Do you hear them? At first I thought it was in my head, but then I hear them from all directions. I don’t get frightened easily, but this disturbs me.
“Now tonight, I dreamt I was alone in a room engulfed by darkness. Voices whispered in the shadows; calling my name. Turning in every direction, I still could see nothing, but the whispers turned to shouting. I began to ran, but stopped when I realized they were not following me. Cautiously, I walked back to the voices. They were crying for help. Listening closer I realized why they frightened me so. They were… your voices; yours, Shane’s, Aymie’s, all of you. You needed my help and I couldn’t help you. I was a failure.
“Before I woke up, your voices died off one by one. You all left me alone and then I felt something grab me. That’s when I woke up.”
Nicolas sat their in amazement. He rubbed his head and began to think.
“Well,” he said a little too loudly. One of our sleeping comrades grunted and then went back to snoring.
He started again, this time a little more quietly. “Sounds like you are taking on the responsibilities as an officer, but a little too seriously. You’ve always been the serious and responsible one and now I think thatyou think you have to make sure nothing happens to anyone. I just want you to remember that it is never only on you. I know you probably know more about what is going on, but know that I am here, Shane is here, and we are all here for you.”
Sniffling, Shannon thanked her friend. “Thank you, Nic. I am sorry for keeping you from sleeping. You should rest now.”
He rubbed her head and lay down.
“But, Nic?” she called before he slept. “Do you hear voices sometimes?”
After a few moments of silence, he finally spoke. “Yes. It’s called anxiety and regret. Those are the loudest voices that speak to me. Just ignore them, that’s what you told me.”
Propping himself up on his elbow, he stared at his friend in confusion. “Wait, you are the smart one! I am supposed to be learning this stuff from you.”
She chuckled. “I think I am rubbing off on you all.”
He shrugged and lay back down. “Don’t think about those things, now. Goodnight, Shannon.” He began snoring almost immediately.
She smiled and whispered, “Goodnight, Nicolas.”