The room came in and out of focus in short burst of consciousness. Reida was aware of a blue plastic curtain sectioning the room off, and she could feel the metal rung in her bed pressing into her back. She recognized the nurse, who was trying to get her to drink from a straw in a paper cup.
When Reida could finally open her eyes without being pulled back into sleep, she saw that it was dark. She tried to sit up and immediately fell back on account of the nasty headache she had. Managing to grab the glass of water by her bedside, Reida chugged it.
She set the cup down and was able to focus on the noise that woke her. A scraping sound was coming from the window.
Heart beating faster, Reida carefully pushed herself onto her elbows. A sharp pain in her ankle caused her to suck in a breath and lower herself down again. She stared at the window, which had been conveniently been left open.
The scraping stopped, and as Reida once again gained control of her fear, she realized that the infirmary was two stories high. There's no way anyone could... She didn’t let herself finish the thought.
Just as she let her guard down, a face appeared in the open window and drew a shrill scream from her. Her heart gave a jolt. Before she could draw another breath, the boy who had chased Reida was halfway through the window.
"Queen Reida, please refrain from screaming," he said in a harsh whisper.
Reida stared into his dark eyes and told herself that this man was most likely insane, besides being in her nightmare, and that she should stay calm.
"Who are you," she tried to keep her voice from wavering, "and why are you following me?"
The red-haired boy blinked, and seemed to gather his thoughts before speaking.
"I apologize- you must not recognize me in this form," he suddenly sank to the floor on one knee, his head low, "Captain Vesper, at his Queen's service."
Reida stared, contemplating how to call for help without upsetting this clearly deranged boy.
After a few moments of her silence, he peeked up at her from the floor and, seeing her expression, rose to his feet.
"Tell me this is a joke," he searched her face, "do you not remember me?"
She chuckled nervously and glanced toward to door.
He stepped closer to her bedside, eyes narrowed.
"What is your profession?"
"Student," she said, the 'duh' apparent in her tone.
"Oh no," he groaned and ran a hand through his hair, "this is bad. Very bad."
Suddenly he was inches from her face, clutching her arm.
"I know you don’t know who I am, but I need you to come with me."
Reida stared at him, coldly calm.
"I will scream if you don’t let go of me."
He moved back until he was once again perched on the window ledge.
"I'll talk to you again when you can listen."
Reida blinked, and he was gone. The burst of energy from her fear left Reida all at once, and she laid back, dizzy.
She lay awake for awhile, trying to keep her eyes open, worried that the boy would come back, and eventually she succumbed to sleep again.
The next time she opened her eyes, Reida was blinking back sunlight. She looked around, disoriented, and saw that she was still in the infirmary.
"Hello?" she croaked.
The blue plastic curtain slid back, and the nurse came in to stand by Reida's bed.
"Oh good, you're awake," the nurse gave a friendly smile and Reida racked her brain for her name.
"I'm Grace," the nurse said, as is reading her mind, "hold on, I'll make you some breakfast, and then we can talk."
Grace left the room, and Reida tested her ankle again, gasping at the pain. With a sense of deja vu, she thought of the night before, and glanced at the window. It was tightly shut.
Maybe it was another dream, she thought hopefully, I have been working hard lately.
Reida's mouth watered in response to a sizzling pan in the other room, and Grace came back with a small plate of eggs, bacon, and toast. She made an effort to sit up a little for promise of food.
Reida took a bite and chewed carefully before speaking, "What happened? I remembered falling down the stairs and...,"
She trailed off, not sure if she had dreamt the rest.
Grace nodded, "that’s what he said happened- you fell down the stairs."
"Who?," Reida asked, slightly alarmed.
"Oh, sorry- you were brought here by another student. He carried you here," she raised her brows.
"What was his name?"
Grace blinked, taken aback, "I don't think he said."
"Did he have red hair?," Reida swallowed the lump in her throat.
"Yes, that’s right. Do you know him?"
Reida paused a beat.
Grace gave her a strange look before standing and offering her a glass of water and a pill.
"You might want to take this. You have a concussion."
Reida was again made aware of her pounding head, and gratefully took the painkiller.
"And my ankle?"
"A bad sprain- you need bed rest. No classes for a week- I can let your professors know. Do you think you can try crutches yet?"
Grace fetched some out of the small utility closet in the room. Reida gingerly swung her legs over the side of the bed. She pulled herself up, favoring her bound ankle.
"I think so..."
"Good. I'll have someone escort you to your dorm."
Thankfully, it was Lucie who came to escort her. She carried Reida's bag, which contained more painkillers, and tried to glean information from her.
"So, let me get this straight- you fell down the stairs and were carried to the infirmary by some hot stranger?"
"That’s not what I said."
"No, but it's more exciting. So, who is he?"
"I'm not sure." Reida said evasively.
"Ooh- mysterious," Lucie waggled her eyebrows and Reida tried not to snap at her.
"Maybe. I'm tired. Can I just go to bed?," they were standing at her door.
"Oh, right," Lucie reached over and unlocked the door, "the nurse told me to watch you if you fell asleep- to make sure you don’t, y'know, die."
"Sounds reasonable," Reida muttered as she climbed into bed. A brief thought crossed her mind before she dozed off- if she was supposed to be watched when she slept, then why wasn’t Grace watching her when her stalker showed up?
The next few days for Reida were mostly filled with boredom, aside from an interesting assignment or two emailed in by a professor. Lucie kept her filled in on student drama, to Reida's annoyance.
After waiting for Jerry to email her the weekly paper for editing, Reida finally took matters into her own hands and asked him for it herself. A few hours later, Reida heard a knock on her door.
"Come in!," she called, having left the door unlocked for Lucie.
An upperclassmen from the Journalism Club came in, looking a bit awkward, and handed her a flash drive. It was the drive- the one Jerry used for his master copies of the paper.
"If you'll wait here, I'll be done soon," she said, booting up her laptop.
After editing her assigned sections, she did a routine check, skimming over the columnist section. An article caught her attention:
"Past Lives- Many theorists, conspirators, if you will (myself included), have speculated the theories of past lives. These theories can be traced back to Ancient China and other cultures as the belief in reincarnation. There are many ideas disputed along with this, including my personal favorite: birthmarks highlight the site of death of one's past life, if the death be of physical causes..."
Reida scanned the article to the bottom, her anger and disbelief rising, "...Landon Bramsey."
She didn’t recognize the name. Her mind wheeled, and she assumed that this was some sort of hack or practical joke intended to sabotage the credibility of the school paper.
"Who is this?," Reida turned to the upperclassman, jabbing her finger at the screen.
"Landon Bramsey?," he squinted at the name, "that's the new transfer student."
"Where can I find him?"
The student looked alarmed.
"Uh... he lives in dorm 7B- I think?"
She swung out of bed and grabbed her crutches.
"I'm not sure what they taught Landon at his fancy school, but he needs to learn how our paper works."