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Avalon City

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Each breath I draw is a cruel reminder of their deaths, the echoes of their last moments vibrating in the hollow pit of my soul. It's not just the sting of grief but the harsh reality of their sacrifice, their lives lost in a betrayal by those we blindly trusted. Now, it's my turn to dive into the past, to meticulously untangle the intricate web of secrets woven into the fabric of my history. However, as the truth begins to unravel, an unintended consequence follows—I awaken something—a force, a presence, a darkness that should have remained dormant. But the more it stirs, the more I find myself reveling in its ominous depths. I am resolved to claim my revenge, even if it demands a price others would falter to pay. The price of my heart. A price I'm willing to surrender for the retribution that is rightfully mine. Their lives will not be in vain, and with every beat of my heart, I promise I'll hear the last beat of theirs.

Chapter 1

~Avery~

Dreams have always tormented me as far back as I can remember, and the one I'm currently caught in is no exception. Even though they seem like nightmares - intense, lifelike, and terrifying—I find it hard to label them as genuine night terrors once I am awake.

The fact that I'm aware it's a dream doesn't alleviate the torment I undergo while experiencing it. I wake up with a sense that these dreams are more than just figments of my imagination. Deep down, I feel that there's a profound meaning hidden within these vivid images.

It seems as if I'm missing a crucial piece of information, something that could tie everything together, forming a coherent picture and rendering the dreams comprehensible. Even though I'm familiar with the futility of battling my dreams - having lost numerous times before - I persist, each failure pulling me deeper into the abyss. Like before, this dream engulfs me, seizing control of my senses and immersing me in a surreal reality crafted by my mind just to torment me.

Excruciating pain courses through me, paralyzing my body the instant it strikes. The unique pain feels like a razor's edge slowly, mercilessly, and tortuously slicing through my chest. Each dream is different, yet they all share a common thread - they depict scenes I can't escape from, embodying all my fears, with each detail meticulously tailored for my downfall. The pain persists as I gasp for breath, choking on the thick smoke that fills the room around me.

Gasping for air, I try to dismiss the pain as I struggle to fill my lungs with each agonizing breath I take. My throat feels raw, dry, and burnt to the point that tears blur my vision, making it even harder to find an exit. A high-pitched sound grows louder in the distance, and I immediately recognize it as the fire alarm in the room below. It blares so loudly that I fear it might deafen me. The alarm abruptly stops when the device melts off the ceiling, and the last screeching echo bounces off the walls of the room downstairs.

I roll out of bed, landing on my hands and knees. Smoke billows under the door, filling my room. The carpet feels soft yet uncomfortably hot beneath my palms. Despite being enveloped in a smoke cloud, the rising heat underneath reminds me of the looming danger.

With each passing second, the floor grows hotter, and my strength wanes. The situation worsens to the point that I can hear my lungs wheezing and rattling as they fight for much-needed oxygen. As I crawl towards the bedroom door, my body grows heavier and weaker with each breath and movement.

When I reach the door, I muster the strength to reach for the doorknob, but its heated surface burns my hand. Ignoring the pain, I twist the knob and force myself to move towards the stairs, despite a feeling of dread and desperation growing within me. Each time I have this dream, it's the same. No matter how much I will my body to go to the window, I always choose the door.

Crawling, I use my hands to navigate my way to the stairs. About halfway down them, I encounter a lifeless body. Running my hands across a man's chest, I feel the handle of a blade protruding from where his heart should be. The realization sends a wave of fear coursing through me. I contemplate the possibility that the murderer might still be in the house and where they might be hiding.

I attempt to crawl back up the stairs, noticing that the fire is now licking at the walls and the temperature continues to rise; my skin feels like it's melting. The situation is dire; the only plausible escape route is back up the stairs. Black spots begin to obstruct my vision, my surroundings smudge into an unrealistic picture, and the intense pressure in my chest feels like my lungs are about to burst. Eventually, the pain becomes too much, and I let the darkness overtake me.

When I jerk awake, I'm panting heavily with my hand clutching my heart. My heart is pounding so fast that I can hear its rapid beats in my ears. I reach for my bedside table, hands fumbling as I reach for my lamp, switching it on to illuminate the room. I blink a few times until my eyes stop burning and adjust to the light. A loud sigh of relief escapes me before I repeat to myself, "It was just a dream. It was just a dream."

Those dreams are regular for me. They always haunt me, and when I try to resist sleep to avoid them, they return with even more force. I look around the room and notice that my flatmate, Becca, isn't home yet; I can see her bedroom door wide open from where I lay. She likely opted to stay in one of her many lovers' dorms.

Unlike Becca, I feel like I’m barely existing, always caught in this place of permanent exhaustion. I make an effort to regain my breath and steady myself, despite my parched throat. My trembling hands reach for the water bottle next to the lamp. I gulp down the water, hoping it will soothe the ache in my throat and wash away the residual taste of burning smoke.

I glance around the room again, reassuring myself that I'm safe. I'm in my dorm room; there's no fire, no raging flames licking up the walls. My heart slows down as I run my fingers through my hair, brushing it away from my face. I know I won't be able to fall back asleep, so I decide to get up a little earlier and maybe check my notes from yesterday's assignment. But first, I need a hot shower to wash away the dread that always follows these horrific dreams.

I grab my towel, toiletries bag, a pair of jeans, a hoodie, and a new set of underwear. I step into the hallway, locking the door behind me and ensuring it clicks into place.

The fluorescent lights of the campus corridor flicker, casting an eerie glow on the green paint. Their low buzzing seems to echo off the walls in the silence of the night.

Treading lightly to avoid disturbing the sleeping residents, I navigate the familiar pathway, skillfully sidestepping the creaky, old, wooden floorboards. Reaching the end of the corridor, I turn left towards the unisex amenities room.

The solitude at this hour is unsettling, far from my usual preference for quiet. Uncharacteristically, I wish for some company to fill the eerie silence.

Goosebumps prick at my skin as I walk through the quiet building, an unsettling aftermath of my dream or perhaps, a reaction to the creepy ambiance of the place. The cold floor underneath my bare feet sends a shiver up my spine, the lack of air circulation in the corridors making the temperature drop noticeably.

Finally, I arrive at the brown door at the end of the corridor. The door creaks open and I step inside, flipping on a light switch as I move further into the room. The room is overwhelmingly white, the tiles from floor to ceiling reflecting the harsh fluorescent lights. The brightness stings my eyes, forcing me to squint. The layout is simple: showers on one side, toilets on the other, and sinks with long mirrors up front.

I head straight to the sinks, splashing my face with icy water in an attempt to shake off the remnants of my dream. As I pat my face dry with a towel, my reflection in the mirror catches my attention. I look exhausted, my usually tawny skin is pale and lifeless, dark circles underneath my eyes and disheveled hair evidence of my nightmare. My emerald eyes scan every feature, noting the tiredness that has seeped into my demeanor. It's clear that sleep deprivation is taking its toll on me.

The dreams that plague me two or three times a week have been repeating, albeit with slight variations, for weeks now. My eyes feel rough as I rub them, as if I'm scrubbing them with sandpaper.

Gathering my belongings, I make my way to the first shower cubicle. With an exhausted sigh, I start unpacking my toiletries bag onto one of the shelves next to a shower stall. The old taps groan, and the pipes rattle as I turn them on, waiting for the water to heat up.

I quickly undress and step under the warm water, dampening my tangled, sweat-soaked hair. I reach for my lavender-scented shampoo, the familiar aroma infusing the air, offering a small sense of comfort.

Yet the need to be quick is overwhelming. Just in case my flatmate, Becca, returns. When I left our dorm, I noticed her keys on the hall stand, a sign that she'd left in a hurry.

As warm water runs through my hair and over my skin, a wave of relaxation washes over me like a salve for my still-troubled mind. Allowing myself to get lost in thought, I scrub away all traces of dirt with soap before applying shampoo.

Once done rinsing out all traces of suds from my hair and body, I turn off the taps with eagerness—eagerness for a temporary reprieve from sleeplessness that tends to follow me around like a dark shadow everywhere I go. Wrapping myself tightly in a towel, I reach out to grab my clothes when the door creaks open.

Chapter 2

A man strides in, and the air in the room seems to change, almost as if charged with danger. A towel is draped over his broad, hard-looking shoulders, revealing a body of perfection - chiseled like an ancient sculpture, revealed in its full glory. He's dressed only in black shorts, his muscles rippling as he moves. I stare at him, from his abs to his toned arms. His olive tan is dusted with a thin layer of sweat as if he has just come from a training session, and his short black hair falls messily onto his forehead.

At this moment, he seems more like a stone-cold deity than just a human — one that I'm not worthy to match. I feel so exposed; all my imperfections are laid bare as if I had nothing to cover myself up with apart from a scrap of fabric. My heart pounds harder as he enters.

I'm startled, frozen on the spot, when this stranger suddenly walks into the bathroom. It's early, and I didn't expect anyone to be here at this hour.

He turns and shuts the door behi

Heroes

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