Caitlin woke to a blood red sun. It filled the entire sky, a ball on the horizon, impossibly large.
Standing against it was a lone silhouette, a figure she sensed could only be her father. He held out both arms, as if wanting her to run to him.
She desperately wanted to. But as she tried to sit up, she looked down and saw she was chained to a rock, iron clasps holding her wrists and feet in place. In one hand she held three keys—the keys she knew she needed to reach her father—and in the other, her necklace, its small silver cross dangling in her palm. She struggled as hard as she could, yet she could not move.
Caitlin blinked, and suddenly her father was standing over her, smiling down. She could feel the love radiating off of him. He knelt down, and gently unlocked her chains.
Caitlin leaned forward and hugged him, and she could feel his warmth, his reassurance. It felt so good to be in his arms; she could feel the tears pouring down her cheeks.
“I’m sorry, father. I let you down.”
He pulled back and looked at her, smiling, as he stared directly into her eyes.
“You have done all I could have hoped for, and more,” he answered. “Just one last key, and we will be together. Forever.”
Caitlin blinked, and when she opened her eyes, he was gone.
In his place were two figures, lying motionless on a rocky plateau. Caleb and Scarlet.
Suddenly, Caitlin remembered. Their sickness.
She tried to move from the rock, but she was still chained, and struggle as she did, she couldn’t reach them. She blinked, and Scarlet suddenly stood over her, looking down.
“Mommy?” she asked.
Scarlet smiled down at her, and Caitlin could feel her love enveloping her. She wanted to hug her, and she struggled for all she had, but she could not break free.
“Mommy?” Scarlet asked again, reaching out a single, small hand.
Caitlin sat bolt upright.
Breathing hard, she ran her hands along her sides, trying to figure out if she were still chained, or if she were free. She moved her hands and feet freely, and looked around, and saw no signs of chains. She looked up, and saw a huge, blood-red sun sitting on the horizon, then looked around, and saw that she was lying on a rocky plateau. Just as in her dream.
Dawn was just breaking over the horizon. As far as she could see were mountain peaks, covered in mist, endlessly beautiful against the open sky. She peered into the muted light of dawn, trying to make out her surroundings, and as she did, her heart leapt. There, lying in the distance, were two figures, unmoving. She could already sense who it was: Caleb and Scarlet.
Caitlin jumped to her feet and ran over to them, kneeling between them, reaching out one hand to each of their chests, shaking them lightly. Her heart pounded with fear as she struggled to remember the events of their previous incarnation. Horrific image after image flashed through her mind, as she remembered how sick they had been, Scarlet covered in boils from smallpox, and Caleb dying from vampire poison. Last she had seen them, it had seemed certain that they would both die.
Caitlin reached down and felt her own neck, felt the two small scars. She recalled that final, fateful moment when Caleb had fed on her. Had it worked? Had it brought him back?
Caitlin shook each one frantically.
“Caleb!” she cried. “Scarlet!”
Caitlin felt tears well up, as she tried not to think about what life would be like without them. It was too much to even contemplate. If they could not be with her, then she would rather not go on.
Suddenly, Scarlet moved. Caitlin’s heart soared with hope as she watched her shift and then slowly, gradually, reach up and rub her eyes. She looked up at Caitlin, and Caitlin could see her skin was completely healed, her small, blue eyes bright and shining.
Scarlet broke into a wide smile, and Caitlin’s heart lifted.
“Mommy!” Scarlet said. “Where were you?”
Caitlin burst into tears of joy, as she reached down and pulled Scarlet to her, holding her. Over her shoulder, she said, “I’m right here, sweetheart.”
“I was dreaming that I couldn’t find you,” she said. “And that I was sick.” Caitlin breathed with relief, sensing that Scarlet was completely healed.
“It was just a bad dream,” Caitlin said. “You’re okay now. Everything is going to be okay.” There was a sudden barking, and Caitlin turned to see Ruth charging around the corner, right for them. She was overjoyed to see that she had made it back, too, and amazed to see how large Ruth had grown, now a full-size wolf. Yet Ruth still acted like a puppy, wagging her tail excitedly, as she ran into Scarlet’s arms.
“Ruth!” Scarlet screamed, peeling away from Caitlin, and hugging her.
Ruth could barely contain her excitement, charging her with such force, that she knocked Scarlet over.
Scarlet bounced back up, screaming with laughter and delight.
“What’s all the commotion?” came a voice.
Caitlin wheeled, feeling a thrill at the sound of Caleb’s voice. He was standing over her, smiling.
She couldn’t believe it. He looked so young and healthy, better than she’d ever seen him.
She jumped up and gave him a hug, so grateful he was alive. She felt his strong muscles as he hugged her back, and it felt so good to be in his arms again. Finally, everything was right in the world. It had been like a long, bad dream.
“I was so scared you had died,” Caitlin said, over his shoulder.
She leaned back and looked at him.
“Do you remember?” she asked. “Do you remember being sick?” He furrowed his brow.
“Vaguely,” he answered. “It all feels like a dream. I remember…seeing Jade. And…feeding on you.” Suddenly Caleb looked at her, eyes wide. “You saved me,” he said, awestruck.
He leaned in and hugged her.
“I love you,” she whispered into his ear, as he held her.
“I love you, too,” he answered.
Caleb lifted Scarlet in a huge embrace. He then reached down and petted Ruth, as did Caitlin.
Ruth couldn’t be happier with all the attention, jumping up and whining, trying to hug them back.
After some time, Caleb took Caitlin’s hand and together they turned and looked out over the horizon. A soft, morning light filled the endless sky before them, mountain peaks punctuating the horizon, the rose-colored light swirling through the mist. The peaks stretched on forever, and looking down, she could see that they were at an elevation of thousands of feet. She wondered where on earth they could be.