Chapter 1

nightmare n 1) Any oppressive terrifying dream. 2) Any threatening, haunting thought or experience.


TILDA woke to the sound of her roommate pounding on her bedroom door.

She stumbled to the door and opened it. “I’m awake, I’m awake.”

“You woke me up again!” Colleen said accusingly.

“Damn it!” Tilda said, wiping the sleep from her eyes. “Sorry.”

Colleen looked nearly as tired as Tilda felt. “Tilda, you’ve got to do something. This is the fourth time in a week!”

Tilda didn’t bother to tell her that it was actually the sixth. Fortunately for Colleen, Tilda had been sleeping over at a friend’s the first time the nightmares hit and she’d suffered quietly one of the other nights.

“It’s not that I’m not sympathetic,” Colleen continued, though she looked anything but. “It’s just that I have to be up in the morning. At least tomorrow is Sunday, but I was late for work twice last week. This can’t keep happening.”

“I know,” Tilda said.

“Are you sure you don’t want to talk about it? I’d be happy to listen—I’ll make us some coffee.”

Tilda might have been tempted had she not had a sense that Colleen was more interested in the gory details of what Tilda was dreaming about than she was in helping her work through the issues. “No, that’s all right. I know you need your sleep.”

“You need to talk to someone. If not me, then maybe a professional.”

“I’ll talk to my sister. She’s a psychologist.” June was a researcher, not a clinician, and currently a full-time mother, but Tilda saw no reason to get technical.

“Whatever.” Colleen yawned. “I’m going back to bed.”

“You do that. I don’t think I’ll bother you again tonight.”

In fact, Tilda thought as she closed the door, she was sure she wasn’t going to have any more nightmares—she wasn’t going to try to sleep. Instead she went to her desk, hoping to get some work done, but when her brain proved to be too fuzzy for that, she watched a DVD of Power Pet cartoons. Anything was better than waking up screaming again.

While Power Pup defeated the Evil Dalmatian of Doom yet again, Tilda kept wondering why it was her subconscious wasn’t satisfied with dredging up memories of the real event. Wasn’t finding an old woman who’d been bludgeoned to death gruesome enough? Why did her sleeping brain have to add the dead woman rising to chase her through snowy Boston streets, and why did the corpse have that obscene mockery of a come-hither smile on her face? Why did Tilda end up screaming, when in reality she’d barely been able to speak?

More importantly, how much longer were the nightmares going to last?