Josie MacDonald was not hearing things—at least not things other people could hear. He’d woken up with a pounding headache and a cacophony of voices overwhelming his ability to think. But his wife was asleep in bed, the kids still snoozing in theirs. The house was dark and otherwise empty—so why was his world so loud?
He stumbled to the bathroom and swallowed three aspirin, splashing a handful of water into his mouth to help them go down. Sinking to the floor he clutched his head, struggling to remember those pressure points Bonnie always touted for her migraines. That’s right—his temples! He shifted his hands and pressed, praying urgently for the pain to dissipate. As he rubbed his fingers in a circular motion, the voices began to shift and focus.
He heard his wife’s voice singing but he could still see her sleeping form under a mound of blankets across from the bathroom door. He also heard laughter that sounded just like Suzy and Jann when they played dolls together. He squeezed his eyes shut and listened harder. Someone was crying… about an avalanche of pickles? And someone else, he thought he recognized the voice of Bryce two doors down, was laughing maniacally and bragging about his new monster truck?
Josie’s fingers dropped from his face and he gaped, unseeing, past the towels hung haphazardly over the shower rod. Could he be hearing… dreams?
Afraid? Bri couldn’t say she was exactly afraid. Nervous, sure. Excited, definitely. But not quite afraid. After all, she had been preparing for this event for 945 days—almost an entire year! Today she would face the test of the Dracmin and either begin her new destiny training with the Dracmaster or be sent back to the harvest fields, a failure. Okay, maybe she was afraid. Just a little.
Bri tightened her grip on the basket dangling from her hands, the woven rim tapping against her knees. Soft wisps of shredded fabric shifted in the bottom of the basket but she paid them no attention as the sound of the start-chimes suddenly rippled through the air. The first step was always the hardest so Bri took a deep breath and charged forward before her legs could argue with her brain.
The heavy mist that covered the Dracmere swirled around her as she entered the grey inlet so she closed her eyes and slowed her pace. Cautiously she cast about with her other senses, filtering out the sound of the other contestants sloshing through the mere and searched for the deep, barely perceptible hum she knew was out there. The Dracmere vapor filled her nostrils, the briny scent of the sea mixed with the slightest hint of warmth – the fireblood of a Drac! Bri spun toward where she thought, hoped, that slight breeze had begun. Anxiously dragging her legs through the murky waters, she lurched forward, raising the basket over her head to keep it dry. The odor of the Drac grew stronger and a few moments later her knees slammed into the rocky edge of Dracmere’s floating island.
Bri shoved the basket onto the islands’ shore and scrambled over the edge. As she shakily rose to her feet, a thrumming filled the air and she knew she was mere steps away from a Dracnest.