It wasn't sleep so much as it was emptiness. A long, aching, consuming darkness that seemed to take up her entire reality, not even the stars of her astral world dotting her vision. It surrounded her, filled her up. Aya couldn't tell if she was in it, or was the darkness herself.
Nothing felt right -- like she was wearing her body wrong, skin stretched odly over muscle that wasn't attached correctly to her bones. With every breath, her organs fought for space in her chest, moving beneath her ribs in an attempt to fit.
Sometimes there was pain. It burned her like fire, turning her to ash, black dust disolving into the nothing around her. It pierced her chest, ran her through, and all Aya wanted to do was scream. But she couldn't. She didn't have a mouth. Or a face, or a body
. She had no way to open herself up, no vocal chords to stretch raw.
Bloodshot eyes flashed into reality. Then great yellow fangs. Grey skin stretched too tightly over a grotesque figure. It raised its clawed hand to run her through, eyes hungry for whatever pain it could harvest.
Then there was the steady beeping of a heart monitor, and the too clean smell of hospitals. Her father's withered hand, grey skin laying loosely over the sharp outline of his skeleton."W-what did you do?"
a voice she tried to forget rang in her ears. "Put me back, freak!"
Pink eyes, yellow fangs, grey skin, panicked voice, it all flooded her nothingness, and she couldn't scream, she couldn't feel, there was only --
Aya stood in a world made of stardust. Smoke like billowing galaxies rolled along the floor. A man emerged, with dark eyes and a smile that turned Aya's blood to ice. Then there was a throne. He took his seat, perfectly at home, but -- no. No, this was wrong
. He opened his mouth to speak, his sly smile still curling his mouth, looking to all the world like an apex predator. But he had no voice. Aya's eyebrows crinkled together, and she stepped forward --
Pain weighed her down like a blanket, a steady, even pressure that kept her from moving. Her face scrunched up -- she had a face. Slowly, muscle by muscle, Aya became aware of her body again. Everything hurt
. But it was nothing compared to the thunderous pounding in her head, like boulders piled on top of her temple until her skull cracked open. A tiny groan tried to escape her, but her throat was too dry for sound -- instead there was only a weak hiss of air.
There was the steady beeping of a heart monitor. For a moment, Aya didn't remember where she was -- that sound meant a hospital in Honolulu. Her father in bed, covered in wires, too skinny, hollowed out eyes, barely able to move.
It meant looking down at her own body, as Kainoa screamed and sobbed at her to put him back.
It meant she was helpless.
Aya managed to peel her eyes open, only to immediately regret it. The fluorescent light high above her head stabbed at her, and Aya flinched her eyes closed again. Regaining control of her body through the pain and the disorientation was a slow, agonizing process. But eventually, after what might've been minutes or hours, Aya was sitting up in bed, blinking blearilly down at herself. Needles stuck out of her arms, monitoring her, feeding her, keeping her hydrated. The sight of them was too familiar. It made her want to throw up.
She flinched as she removed each needle from her arm, watching pinpricks of blood ooze up from under her skin. When she looked down at herself after pushing away the thin hospital blanket, she found she was still in her wrinkled blue dress, though she was barefoot now. Aya nearly collapsed when her feet hit the chilly linoleum floor. She barely managed to catch herself on the heart monitor, now beeping incessantly to alert her that no data was being collected. The sound pierced her ears, each beep another stab at her brain.
Eventually Aya managed to stand on her shaky legs, and she made her way out of Ashford Academy's medical wing. She didn't know where she was going. She just couldn't be here.