Dark. It's dark out. Cold. Like being tangled in a sheet during a bad dream but without the slick heat. A frantic heart beat, beating so hard that it feels as if the organ is straining to escape from the chest. A dim light flickers up ahead. The cold starts to seep away. She walks forward, reluctant to go to the light but very afraid to stay in the dark.
Steam hisses from somewhere up ahead. Sounds of a building, usually a sub-audible type of hum become crisp and prominent in the night's stillness.
A new sound.
Click. Click. Click. Click click clickclickclick.
Metal drumming on metal. Like impatient fingers tapping idly away.
A sudden, startling laugh, rough and unapologetic, pierces the dark.
Taylor gasped as she woke, eyes flying open and searching wildly. As her initial panic subsided, she felt blindly for the bedside lamp. It snapped on and the room of the hotel was flooded with yellow light. The next bed over, Doc Halloran stirred in his sleep. Not wanting to wake him, Taylor shut the light off. She slid out from under the blankets and padded softly across the room and opened the curtains in front of a large sliding glass door.
Moonlight spilled silver over her face. Taylor ran her hands through her hair and sat on the floor by the glass door. She could see out onto the balcony. Only a few weeks after the horrific event with Leslie Vernon, Taylor was too afraid to be alone. Doug and Halloran took turns staying with her every other night or so. It was never said aloud, but Taylor knew that even they it thought was good for the three of them to stick together, at least for a little while longer.
The Glen Echo police were looking into the incident. It was a tragic loss for the little community and no one seemed to know how to cope. The police were baffled, especially when they reviewed the footage Taylor, Doug and poor Todd had gotten. One officer had looked at Taylor with accusing eyes once they were done watching the raw videos and asked her why they hadn't reported Leslie to the police earlier. Taylor snapped at him, yelling that she thought it was a prank, there was no way it could have been real. It took Doc Halloran and the police chief getting between them to diffuse the situation.
Behind her, Taylor could hear Doc Halloran waking up despite her effort to be unobtrusive. She continued to stare out the window hoping he would fall back asleep until she felt him put a hand on her shoulder. "Taylor," he said gently, "you should try and sleep."
"I had that nightmare," she murmured.
Halloran sat on the floor across from her, leaning on the glass door. "The nightmares are normal. They're awful, I know, but they should pass with time."
"What if they don't?" Taylor asked pressingly. "They're worse than what I think about when I'm awake."
"What happened in Glen Echo was very traumatic, Taylor. Dreams are one of your mind's ways of processing emotional damage. The dreams are scary but harmless. You just need to learn how to cope with them."
Taylor palmed away tears that began to well up. "It's really hard," she said. "I can't stop thinking about it, replaying everything. I could have stopped him, Doc. I had so many chances to stop him. You even warned me—"
Halloran shook his head. "Stop it, Taylor. Blaming yourself is counter-productive. What happened could have been prevented, yes, but it wasn't your fault. I can't emphasize that enough. If anything, a lot of what happened was my fault. I could have done more."
Taylor brought her knees up to her chest and hugged them. "If I'm not to blame, how are you?"
He sighed and his hand unconsciously crept to where Leslie had slashed him with the hand scythe. "I had his whole psychological profile, and his history of mental illness. I could have brought it to the police, or to the judge to have the restraining order lifted. Instead I let my impulsiveness control my actions. I followed him on my own instead of reporting him."
"I don't think reporting him would have done any good," Taylor rested her chin on her knees. "He would have found a different shrink and played them to think he was normal. It would have been their word against yours."
Halloran fell silent. In the moonlight he looked much older than he actually was. His face had grown haggard over the last few weeks. The lines around his eyes were more prominent and exhaustion dogged every expression he made. Taylor felt a little guilty. She knew that she was a big reason for his and Doug's lack of sleep lately. She had been waking up almost every night in a panic, scaring the two men awake with shouts and crying.
At first the nightmares hadn't been awful. They were disturbing, but not so bad. They had gotten worse once the three of them had left Glen Echo. Doc Halloran had seen the terrible anxiety staying in Glen Echo was causing Taylor and Doug, so he talked with the chief of police and they had gotten permission to stay at the other town over, Springwood, during the investigation. Taylor wasn't sure which was worse— the daytime anxiety in Glen Echo or the night terrors in Springwood. At least they would be going home soon and she was grateful for that.
Taylor suddenly imagined the clicking sound from her dreams, the sound of metal tapping against metal. It made her shudder with unease. She scooted over to where Halloran was sitting and let him put his arms around her in a hug. Taylor could hear his steady heart beat and it was incredibly comforting. Halloran was her rock, a sort of parental figure that she knew she needed while she healed emotionally and mentally.
She began to drift off to sleep, feeling safe enough to do so for the first time in weeks.
Halloran felt a stir of emotion in his chest as he held the dozing Taylor. It was a mix of protectiveness and a confusing breed of affection. He was old enough to be Taylor's father and he knew that was the way she saw him; a fatherly figure. No matter what sort of feelings he had developed for her, he wouldn't let his own wants destroy the only sense of solidity she had. It would be immensely unfair of him to tell her how he felt, especially in the after-math of the Vernon Incident.
Even if they both weren't recovering from intense trauma, he wouldn't act upon his feelings. Infatuation was a young man's game and he certainly wasn't young anymore. Taylor was just so vivid even in her moments of darkness and she didn't realize it. She brought a lot of hope to him and Doug. Taylor was coping well and it was inspiring to see. The trauma she had experienced was so shocking and she was healing beautifully. Halloran didn't think she knew just how normal her healing process was. He didn't want to bring it up and risk having her think that he was downplaying the devastating effect of Leslie Vernon on their lives.
A tiny, childlike whimper came from Taylor and she began to shift unhappily in her sleep. Halloran hugged her tighter. She settled back, head nestled in the crook of his neck and one hand on his chest. Halloran could feel sleep creeping up on him, too. He placed a gentle kiss on the top of her head as his eyes began to slide shut. He hoped his presence would be enough to keep the nightmares away for the next few hours. They both desperately needed some undisturbed rest.