Back in the dream world, Apryl, still strung up above the hot boiler, was clinging to her life with everything she had. She’d been plotting her escape since Krueger had been pre-occupied with Veronica, but had been unable to totally free herself. At her wit’s end, a thought finally entered her mind. What if I could break free just enough to touch one of those scalding steam pipes? Surely I’d feel it in real life and wake up, wouldn’t I? I’d have a bad burn, but at least I’d be alive, and that was most important. Then I could tell Lexi and the others just who was responsible for this mess, and we could get the bastard once and for all. Considering all she’d been through, it was definitely worth a shot.

Twitching and fighting and squirming with all she had left, Apryl managed to free one arm from the grip of hell and worked to get the other free, when suddenly, directly below her, a familiar large snake appeared. Slithering up slowly from the white-hot flames below, Apryl recognized her worst fear once again and screamed with all her smoke-filled lungs would allow. Recognizing the burnt scarred face of the snake, she realized it was really Freddy Krueger, and her eyes widened with horror. Snakes terrified her, and that son of a bitch must have known it all along.

“What have you done to Veronica, you bastard?” Apryl yelled, removing her mouth restraint.

“Sssss,” was all the Freddy-snake said as it slowly ascended toward her. The snake was unlike any other, and it closely resembled Freddy in every way. It was slithery, burnt and scarred all over, and had the same foul yellow fangs in its mouth. It was also as wide as the steam pipes around her, with an appetite to boot.

“You didn’t get me before!!” Apryl insisted. “And you aren’t gonna get me now!!!”

Angered, the snake opened its mouth wide as Apryl’s restraints suddenly all gave way. Slithering with its large tongue hanging out of its mouth, the Freddy-snake lay directly below her, waiting to catch its prey like a baby robin with a worm dangling above it. However, Apryl had a surprise of her own in store. Just before her restraints were freed, she managed to swing enough momentum to catapult herself toward the steaming hot pipe, hoping it would help her exit her worst nightmare.

But what Apryl didn’t realize was that the Freddy-snake was as long as it was wide, and just as she leaped toward the pipe, the snake caught her and wrapped itself around her entire body in mid-air, securing itself around the pipe in the process. Then, dangling from the pipe, the snake began to squeeze the life right out of her as she let out a blood-curdling scream and fought with everything she had left. The scalding pipe, her ticket out, was just barely beyond the reach of her fingertips.

“No!” she grunted as the snake’s vise-grip tightened. “Nooooo!!! Lexi!!!!!”

Freddy’s real head then appeared on the end of the snake, and he stared right into her eyes and laughed as he felt her heart dissipate, then stop.

“Sucks, don’t it?” Freddy quipped as he inhaled her soul just like all the others.

For a split second, Lexi could hear her sister calling to her. She could hear her cries of “Noooo!!! Lexi!!!” and she even briefly saw her sister reaching out for help, suffocated by what appeared to be a large snake. However, noticing the boiler around her, she knew better. She knew who was really responsible...

And just like that, Lexi was awakened by the sound of Apryl’s heart monitor flat-lining. Shocked beyond belief, Lexi just stood back, her mouth open, and retreated backward out of her sister’s room. Doctors and nurses brushed past her in a whirlwind of commotion attempting to help her sister. But somehow, Lexi knew there was no saving her. At that very moment, Lexi’s world came crashing down like a ton of bricks, causing her to fall backward against the wall outside the room. Hysterical, Lexi rubbed her temples, hoping the nightmare would go away.

It didn’t.

Springwood’s head cheerleader didn’t even hear her own mother’s cries, nor did she see her reaching out to console her. In that instant, everything started to make sense. Krueger was rapidly getting stronger and picking off the new Elm Street kids one-by-one. That’s why the rest of the hospital rooms were now empty. Krueger got them all. Mike, Quinton, and Tash were right all along. Her worst nightmares were confirmed, just like everyone else’s. The only difference was that she was still alive, and the others were dead. As soon as that entered her mind, she immediately thought of Mike and Tash. They were the only other two left who understood what was really going on, and if Krueger got to them, she’d be all alone and wouldn’t stand a chance.

Coming back to her senses, Lexi, nearly in a state of shock, was being treated by a doctor who saw her fall against the wall. “What are you doing?” she asked.

“You’re in a state of shock, young lady,” the tall, lanky doctor informed her.

“No, I’m not,” Lexi insisted. “I’m fine, really.”

“Yes, you are,” the doctor fired back rudely. “I think you need some rest. You need to get to BED!” And in that same instant, the doctor’s face morphed into the face of evil itself, Freddy Krueger, who glared at her face-to-face. She could see his rotten yellow teeth and feel the heat of his rancid breath on her face.

A moment later, Lexi awoke and saw the real doctor taking her pulse with a stethoscope. She did a double-take to make sure the guy wasn’t Krueger, and then immediately thought of Mike and Tash again. Hopefully they were still okay. But for how much longer, she didn’t know. At the rate things were going, they’d be lucky to survive the night. Then she remembered Mike down in the emergency room. Krueger may have already gotten to him. And if those doctors wouldn’t let her in the ER, there was nothing she’d be able to do for him. But Tash was a different story. She took off running out the door as soon as Mike was brought in. She could still be awake. And could still be saved. Thinking fast, Lexi shoved the doctor away and started to sprint down the hallway.

“Hey, miss, come back!” the doctor yelled. However, Lexi, not paying attention, kept going and ran right into her mother, who was balling her eyes out.

“Please don’t leave me!” Sandra cried, red-faced with grief. “You’re all I've got left!”

Lexi, in tears, so desperately wanted to stay in her mother’s arms, but she knew that if she didn’t do something, more people were gonna die. More innocents. More of her friends. Her best friend. The love of her life.

Reluctantly, Lexi let go of her mother and ran down the hall, exiting the staircase. The whole way down, all she could hear were her mother’s shouts of “Lexi, Lexi please!” echoing in the stairwell. Outside, Lexi even thought about turning around and going back in, but something inside of her drove her to keep going. Then her thoughts immediately shifted back to Tash. Hopefully she could get to her in time before she did something stupid. Before she fell asleep. Before Freddy could get her.

Proceed To Chapter 24
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