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Sleep eluded her. She tossed and turned in her bed, then got up to wander the dimly lighted cottage restlessly; then returned to her bed to try to rest once again to no avail. The clock in the parlor chimed one, then two, then three before her eyes grew heavy and her mind stopped spinning and it was only when she curled up on her side and snuggled into the downy softness of her pillow that she heard a sound. The sound made her eyes snap open, then she sat up in bed and gazed round her uncertainly. Had she dreamt it now as she believed she had dreamt it earlier, or had she heard the softest whisper of her name?
“Ayla.” Unmistakably, her name was whispered once again and she jumped out of her bed and twisted about, searching for the source of the whisper.
“What! What do you want!” She insisted to the cool night breeze, but only silence answered her. Frustrated and exhausted, she growled in exasperation and stalked to the window, shouting out into the darkness without the slightest concern of who might hear her.
“I know you are there. Simply because you hide, does not mean I cannot sense you! Stop this at once! Show yourself or be gone; I grow weary of this game!” An owl hooted sharply in surprise at her outcry and fluttered away from the chimney of her cottage. The night was growing colder and the breeze uncomfortable. Spitefully, Ayla muttered under her breath and snapped the shutters closed, snickering that if he did not wish to show himself, she would simply shut him out. She repeated this action all round the house until every window stood closed and she felt more secure in her protection. Nodding in satisfaction with her actions, she traced her steps back towards her bed, yet even as she paused to slip beneath the warming blankets, once again, she heard her name in the form of a soft, drawn out, whisper.
“Ayla.” She froze. It was impossible that she could hear him now, whispering to her from the forest. Where, then, was he? She strained every sense of perception in an attempt to locate him, but besides the familiar awareness of his presence, she could not pinpoint a specific location where he might be hiding in the shadows. Without thinking, she answered his call in her mind through thought alone with a silent, yet insistent, ‘what! what!’ and to her utter disbelief she received an instantaneous reply.
“You hear me.” His voice was soft in her mind, yet clear as if he were standing beside her, whispering in her ear. She started back in surprise and spun around, fully expecting to see him there next to her, but she could only see the dimness of the room around her and the flickering lamp glowing softly in the corner.
“What do you want?” She spoke aloud, not fully aware of what was happening. Silence. She repeated herself more loudly, but again received no reply. Standing perfectly still in the middle of her room, she reasoned out the dilemma, then, cautiously, she thought the question to herself as clearly as she could manage, struggling to keep her own sense of skepticism from clouding her mind. She waited, then shook her head at her own foolishness when emptiness and silence was her only response. Grasping at the corner of her blankets, she moved to climb into her bed, so weary she felt dizzy and unfocused, yet she never lay down and she never found sleep.
The answer that filled her mind utterly prevented any phantom of sleep.
The answer that filled her mind was indisputable and terrifying.
The answer that filled her mind was inescapable.