It was almost midnight. Nitho paused from her work for a moment to glance around. If anyone saw her, she was well aware she'd be killed.
She gave a short sigh and returned to the keyboard, fingers tapping away swiftly and silently. She was bathed in the harsh light of a computer screen as she worked.
The albino girl narrowed her eyes as a message flashed on the screen. A nightmare? But we didn't schedule any of those... She stood abruptly, dog tags clinking and long hair swishing, and turned around, a blush dusting her cheeks.
"Taiko! It's not your shift yet and you-" The boy cut her off.
"I got a text from Mika." Nitho hesitated.
"Did it... did it have anything to do with that?" She gestured to the screen. Taiko shifted his gaze past her face to the computer, confusion clouding his gaze.
He walked over, scanning the message before looking back towards the girl.
"No... we didn't organise any nighmares, did we?" Nitho shook her head quickly.
"I was about to come and get you, actually. Wait- why did he-"
"It's your birthday in about..." Taiko glanced at his watch. "Ten minutes." He chuckled. "Couldn't let you celebrate all alone, could I?"
Nitho blushed and ducked her head.
"You could've. I'm way too busy, especially now with this. We've gotta find the bug, get into the person's Facebook..." She frowned. "Besides, I'm only turning 19. Nothing special."
The brunette teen shook his head slowly.
"That's what you said last year. And four years before that. You wouldn't even have a cake on your sweet sixteen!" His voice was light, but underneath was a hint of worry. "You push yourself too hard."
Nitho rolled her eyes.
"Whatever. Can we please just fix this?" She walked briskly to the screen and took a seat. "Okay..."
"Who's dream is it?"
"Oh... lemme find out." She quickly brought up the person's profile. "Uh... Madeline Jones. She lives in Nantucket."
"What's happening?" Taiko fished a notebook and pen from his pocket and flipped it open, the pen hovering above the crisp paper. Nitho smiled. Her friend Tam loved to write stories based on dreams, and she was also responsible for archiving every dream they created.
"Uh, she's dreaming about a fire. Her brother is in the basement and she's trying to reach him, but she can't. Ouch, that's nasty."
Taiko frowned and finished writing, slipping his writing utensils into his satchel. He wouldn't need them again tonight.
"What're you going to change it to?" Nitho paused. As founder of the Dream Catchers it was her job to create ideas for dreams, and also to make sure nobody had infiltrated. Of course, Mika was the one who worked with security. He was great at keeping the computer's IP address off the internet. Basically, he made sure nobody knew it existed.
"Probably just make it so she gets to him, and they're both safe." She scrolled down, reading Madeline's profile. "She's an orphan and they're both in an orphanage so also get the parents back."
Taiko nodded and Nitho stood up, allowing him to do his thing. He was in charge of actually programming the dreams and also fixing any glitches in the software.
Within a few moments he had pinpointed the glitch and was typing away, fixing it. The albino noticed he had a faint smile and by the time it was all fixed, his tanned cheeks were red.
"You ok, Taiko? You look red." The New Zealander nodded hastily.
"Happy birthday." Nitho blinked. It's my birthday... I'm nineteen now... yay. She shrugged loosely.
"Now go to sleep, you deserve it."
"Yeah, yeah. Good night." Taiko hugged her quickly.
"Good night." Nitho hid a blush behind her fringe, swept to the side in what could be mistaken for an emo-style. Except as far as she knew, there weren't any albino emos.
She turned and walked into the shadowy hallway, finding the bedroom she shared with her friend Rose quickly and crept into bed with the practiced ease she'd developed.
The teen sighed and pulled the doona over her pale body, waiting for it to warm up as she drifted into sleep.
Nitho is dreaming. She knows it, but can't tell if it's real or designed. She is standing in a field, the lush grass at her feet decorated with golden flowers. Her white tank top is clean and her cargo pants are without stain, for the first time in years.
She smiles. This is definately a fake dream. She looks around and is confirmed when she sees someone walking towards her. It's her sister Jessica.
Jess is wearing a pair of dark short shorts and a blue blouse, and she has a blue ribbon tying up her curly brown hair. She's almost the opposite of Nitho, but maybe if she hadn't been born an albino she'd be the same. They could've been twins.
Nitho hurries to meet her and they embrace.
"Jess, I missed you." Her red eyes are shining with happiness.
"I missed you too, sister. How's life in London?" Jess has a serene look on her face as she asks, and Nitho realises she already knows. Oh well.
"Horrible, still. I made some friends, though. How're you and mum and dad?"
"We're fine. It's not like it could be bad."
"Hey... I never asked." Nitho's voice is tentative.
"Is this dream real, is it my imagination? Or is it a birthday present?" Jess giggles at this.
"I'll leave that up to you, dear sister. And it's your birthday?" She seems surprised and Nitho punches her playfully.
"How could you forget?"
"I've lost contact with you, and it's been many years."
"Goodbye." Nitho panics and looks up.
"What?! You can't go!" Jess smiles sadly.
"I have to, ES." Nitho's heart twists at the memory of her sister creating the nickname Evil Strawberries, then shortening it so it became an inside joke. Only they had ever known.
"Bye." Jess starts walking away again and after only seconds, Nitho loses sight of her. The wind is stirring up petals and a golden shower of them soon fills the air. The wind grows stronger and stronger, as does the fear in Nitho. She spins around, calling and frantically searching for a way out as stormclouds blot out the sun and she is shrouded in darkness.