When Mom came back, she had a glass of water and two blue pills. She told me they would help with the fever and make it easier for me to sleep. I gladly took the pills without question. I told Mom I was sorry for worrying her and that I truly appreciated her taking care of me. She kissed my forehead and said she'd check in on me later and then left the room. I closed my eyes and tried not to think about things; the more I tried, the less successful I was and the more my head throbbed. Finally my body began to feel warm and my thoughts became hazy. The pills had started to take effect, and then I dozed off.
"Where am I?" I say out loud. The surroundings are unfamiliar. I am in a big mall of some kind. Indoors. Stores and shops all around me. People walking by me, bags in hand, talking, moving quickly, moving slowly. Crowded, noisy.
I hear laughter behind me. I am suddenly warm and calm.
"You know you can't hide! I'll always find you." I say, smiling. I turn around and snatch up a little girl – four, five years old, maybe – hiding behind a potted plant. She shrieks and giggles and kicks her legs as I set her down.
"It's your turn, Daddy!" Close your eyes!" she says, pushing my legs.
I groan, "Do I have to?"
"Those are the rules. You wouldn't want to break the rules, would you?" A woman's voice graces my ears. She comes out from one of the shops, pushing her hair from her eyes. She smiles and kisses me.
"Never." I say.
"Close your eyes." She whispers. I do. "Are you ready?"
"Ready? What for?"
"To find us." She says.
"But, you're right here." I open my eyes. They are gone. The crowd has multiplied. I'm suddenly surrounded by people, bustling all around me. "Wait!" I yell, pushing myself through the mass. I start walking, to where, I don't know. I see a bench off to the side, next to the wall between two shops, empty. I'm tired; I go to the bench and sit down.
"Daniel!" the female voice is from far away, yet near, familiar, yet vague.
I stand up and look around, searching for whoever called for me. I don't see anyone I recognize, all strangers.
"Daniel, where did you go?" the voice calls out again.
"Daddy?" says the little girl.
"I'm here!" I call out, loud, hoping to be heard over the hustle and bustle. The crowds start moving faster and faster.
"Daniel? Why did you leave us?" Her voice sounds like it's right next to my ear. I turn around sharply but no one is there. I turn back to face the common way and it is empty; there are no crowds, no people. The mall is empty. Silence. Suddenly I know the voices. I remember.
"Lizzie! Megan!" I shout into the silence, my voice echoing up and down the empty mall. "I'm right here! I'm right here! Megan! Lizzie!"
I woke with a start and sat up in bed; the sun was shining through my blurred vision. I shook my head slowly as I rubbed the sleep from my eyes.
"Oh, my God; what the hell have I done?"
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