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Author Topic: [Mar 2016] - Nightmares - Submission Thread  (Read 2736 times)

Offline xiagan

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[Mar 2016] - Nightmares - Submission Thread
« on: March 01, 2016, 10:39:15 AM »
Nightmares


Nightmares by Jared1481

I had problems writing a short text introducing the theme since everybody knows about nightmares and I felt that in this case an introduction wasn't necessary.
To get you into the mood and to convey a nightmarish atmosphere you can read my approach to nightmares below (it's not a recent story so I wouldn't have been able to enter with it anyway ;)).


Spoiler for Hiden:
Quote from: xiagan
It was the big white house in the middle of the lush gardens I knew so well. It had wide open windows, the sun was shining and the birds singing. Harmony radiated from this place in warm comforting waves and I knew it was more than my guests had hoped for. Strangely I wasn't seeing anyone. They couldn't be all inside, could they?
   I opened the big white door with its flower ornaments and it creaked. That was strange. I hadn't designed it to creak. I put my bag on the floor and took a look in the two rooms next to the hall. They were dusky and dimly lit - which was impossible because I could see the bright sun through the big windows. Its light just didn't seem to be able to get into the house. Confused, I went back to the front door to get my bag, but it wasn't there anymore. I have good hearing and especially in this place, nothing and nobody could get near me without me noticing. So where was my bag? I tried to open the front door, but it was locked. Another impossibility.

Tensed and with the beating of my own heart in my ears, I crossed the hall to the big staircase. There still wasn't a single sound inside the house and my own noises, mostly walking and breathing sounded stentorian. Halfway up, I heard a deep wet clunk from the second floor. And again. And again. I couldn't identify the sound, but it was menacing and gave me goosebumps. The whole atmosphere was oppressive and the fact that it got darker with every step upstairs didn't make it any better.

"Enough!", I thought. And tried to will the place back into what it once had been. A big knife just missed my throat and hit the wall with a sickening thump. Deep red blood oozed from the wallpaper and run down to the ground. Frantically, I turned round and round, but I was still alone. Making haste, I finished the last steps to the next floor. Everything looked derelict. The carpet was a moldy decomposed rug and its once bright and shiny colors had decayed to brown and gray. I tried to not tread on it. The chunking had become louder and more frequent. Even while knowing better, I still followed it. There was an open door, wherefrom the ominous sounds where coming. Carefully I went nearer until I was able to peek around the door frame.

   It was the most disturbing thing I had ever seen. A small, blond girl was standing in front of a chopping block. She had a hatchet in her hand and blood all over her short blue summer dress and her bare arms. Next to her was a huge pile of decapitated hares, birds, cats, dogs and other small animals. Mechanically she put her hand in a bag, my bag, as I shockingly realized, and pulled out a white rabbit and beheaded it. So that was the wet chunk I had heard earlier. I must have made a sound, because the girl stopped and looked up.

"Mama? Mama?" She had a fragile voice full of despair. "Are you my mama?" Slowly she made a step in my direction.

I hesitated, torn between the wish to flee and to stay. She came another step closer, the hatchet in one, a struggling puppy in the other hand.
"Mama?" she asked again. Then she looked up. An evil red light blossomed in her blue eyes when she stated: "You are not my mama." She came another step closer, while I was paralyzed. "What have you done to my mama?" she screamed and sprang in my direction, hatchet and puppy raised above her head.

That's when my freezing left me and I ran as fast as I could back down the stairs. I knew this house and  with the advantage of my longer legs, I easily made ground. I stopped to catch my breath and to listen for my pursuer. I heard the whining of the puppy and her perverse giggles.
   Cold sweat on my forehead, I thought as hard as I could. What had happened here? Where would I be safe? Carefully I snuck into the kitchen, got me a big knife and opened the trapdoor to the basement. Cool air cleared my head and I slowly climbed down the ladder. I stopped, when with an ear-battering thud the trapdoor slammed shut.
In the same moment, I heard a counting-out rhyme from far below:
   
   "Eeny meeny miny moe
   Catch a dragon by the toe
   Catch a duckling by the down
   Tell, oh tell me whom to drown.

A little boy chuckled, followed by a scream and a splash.
I took a deep breath and closed my eyes for a brief moment. Where exactly was I? What was this horrible place? When I heard somebody trying to open the trapdoor, I hurried farther down the ladder. Had that creepy girl finally found me? I wasn't with my whole mind at what I was doing, so I missed the next step, slipped of the one after that and fell.


   I woke in my bed with a scream, covered in cold sweat, my heart thumping as if I had run a few miles. I was slightly disorientated and dizzy. A nightmare.

Rules:

1. This must be prose or poetry.
2. A nightmare or nightmares must be a central part of the story.
3. Prose must be 500-1500 words long.
4. Poetry must be 100-500 words long.
5. One story per person or writing team (not per account).
6. You will be disqualified if you exceed the limits, full stop. That's why they're called limits.
7. Your entry can't be published somewhere else before.
8. This is a writing contest, not a "I have written something like this ten years ago" contest. So if you happen to have a story that fits one of the themes, I'd like it to have a mayor overhaul/edit. Work for it. ;)
9. Please add your story's word count and, if you have, your twitter handle.
10. Please put your story in [ spoiler ] tags to make the thread easier to handle. :) You can find them above the smileys next to the 'youtube' symbol.

Entry will close March 31st/April 1st, 2016 and voting will begin somewhere around the same time too.

Please post your entry below. All members are eligible to join. If you are not a member you can join here. Sign up is free and all are welcome! :)

The winner will have their piece displayed on the main Fantasy Faction website sometime in the next months.

Remember that this thread is only for entries. Discussion or questions can be posted here.

« Last Edit: March 01, 2016, 10:43:04 AM by xiagan »
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Offline D_Bates

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Re: [Mar 2016] - Nightmares - Submission Thread
« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2016, 06:54:55 PM »
Hey,

Not been around these parts for a while, but thought I'd knock a little something up.

Broke out my syllable counting fingers to try a poem this time (Poetry is not my strong point so consider yourself warned). Comes in at 270 words:

The Reapers

Spoiler for Hiden:
I'd felt their many eyes watching.
I'd heard the natter of their maws.
They number in the trillions.
There's no escaping their vile claws.

By day, their black and red hunters,
Scour far and wide.
They tear across expansive lands,
Leaving nothing found alive.

Their citizens are merciless:
One mind, one body, one soul.
A society that's peerless,
Convicted to a single goal.

Their fortress cities dwell deep beneath the hills,
Reaching beyond borders.
Tunnels full of gas chambers and hatcheries,
Armies made for slaughter.

When in bed I sensed them,
Creeping beneath my floors.
No house is safe from their invasion,
They need not open doors.

In death I hear the patter, patter, patter,
Of their many tiny feet.
There's no escaping this inevitable fate,
The reapers I'm now to meet.

All I can do is lie here,
Frozen in eternal rest.
Defenceless, paralysed, trapped in earth,
Arms crossed over my chest.

They're outside the door...
The walls...
The floor.
All around they gnaw...
They gnaw...
They gnaw.

The cracks begin to form,
The creatures seep on in.
The dark begins to run.
The feast's soon to begin.

They've come for me.
They've come.
My time is nigh,
I'm done.

Soon they are upon me,
Crawling between my toes,
Climbing right up my arms,
Entering my nose.

Inside me, many tiny scythes,
Claw and tear and slice.
Soon poison flows through my cold veins.
Flesh they start to dice.

I was buried so I'd be safe,
But six feet under I'm all alone.
I try to scream but can't be heard,
The ants are here to claim my bones.
« Last Edit: March 02, 2016, 10:28:01 AM by D_Bates »
David Bates
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Offline tebakutis

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Re: [Mar 2016] - Nightmares - Submission Thread
« Reply #2 on: March 04, 2016, 07:12:04 PM »
I'm in! This time, I did have to noodle on a theme for a few days, but a decent idea came to me last night and I banged it out today over lunch. Not sure how original it is, but I think it fits the theme as was fun to write.

So here, at precisely 1500 words, is my story for this month's theme.

As always, Twitter is @TEricBakutis.

EDIT: A couple of minor edits before lock!

A Gift for the Nightmare Man
Spoiler for Hiden:
The outsider arrived on an overcast day in shelter season, wrapped in furs of black and brown. A mask of blood-stained wood obscured her face, a demon visage with leering eyes and bared teeth. Metal rods ending in small balls jutted from her boot tips, thumping the ground with each measured step.

From the moment she entered Papa’s smoke-filled tavern, I couldn’t stop staring at her. She journeyed freely without servants or a husband or anyone, really, a life I’d live if not for Papa’s condition. The common room grew silent save for the woman’s boot tip rods thumping the wooden floor. A sword remained sheathed on her back.

The leering eyes on her demon mask passed over my sullen patrons, the sad fire sputtering in my hearth, and fixed on me, standing behind the beaten bar. Excitement filled me that I’d not felt for almost a year, since the last outsider arrived. That same excitement faded once he fled, babbling, down the mountain.

“My name is Kinto Kusaragi,” the woman told me, “and I’m here to kill your Nightmare Man.”

I looked to Papa, staring at nothing, and then at Will, my towheaded younger brother. Will nodded, face solemn. He could handle things while I was away. He could handle Papa if the necessity arose.

I prepared myself for another long trek up the lonely mountain, another day of listening to boasts and threats. Another bitter disappointment. “Very well then. Let me get my coat.”

* * *

There was no delay once Kinto Kusaragi stated her purpose – this was not, I suspected, a woman who tolerated delay – so we set out together despite the overcast sky. For those who still lived in Stone Hamlet, a blizzard was the least of our worries. We had thick furs, sturdy homes, and sturdy hearths, and enough salted meat and porridge to last through the winter. What we did not have is sleep.

Our waking lives were repetitive, exhausting slogs through necessities and chores. We put off sleep for as long as we could, fighting exhaustion until we couldn’t. Some of us, like my poor Papa, had lost themselves entirely in the visions that raced down the mountain every night.

It was the Nightmare Man who shoved those horrors into our heads, who sent the things that drove us awake, screaming, and suckled on our fear. Worse yet, once you’d suffered through enough gifts from the Nightmare Man, waking just continued the dream. That was why Papa stared.

“Tell me of your village,” Kinto said, as she followed me up a narrow mountain path of packed dirt bordered by rocks and scrub. “Tell me of your life here, before and after. I wish to know everything.” The bulk of the lonely mountain towered over us, jagged edges and snow-capped peaks.

The last outsider to answer Mayor Rollin’s plea for aid, a big dark-skinned man with his huge axe and clinking mail, had asked nothing as I led him up the path. He had called himself Rourke the Crusher, a hero of great importance, and a lonely tavern keeper like me was beneath him.

Kinto was different, interested, so I told her of how things had been before the Nightmare Man came. Of the festivals and dances we used to hold during Harvest Months, the chalk art my mother made before she died. I told her how the nightmares drove Mayor Rollin insane, how Lady Rollin grew mad with grief and fear and ended her children before ending herself. I told her the names of those who fled or died.

I told Kinto of my Papa before he lost his mind to fear, the way he could stop a brewing fight with a stern glare and set a room to laughing with a single bawdy joke. The way he treated me and Will the same, always. None dared question a woman working behind a bar, not in front of it, while Papa watched.

Papa protected me until he couldn’t, and I was determined to protect him too. That’s why I remained in Stone Hamlet despite the horrors that ripped me apart in nightmares every night. That’s why I risked my sanity and safety despite my urgent desire to do anything but run a tavern and tend a bar.

As we ascended Kinto mirrored my every step, metal bars thumping, along with her boots, into the snowy imprints of mine. Odd behavior, but I put it off to paranoia about traps. Perhaps I was not so friendly as I claimed, or in league with the Nightmare Man. A woman who fought demons would not survive without being cautious.

We found the Nightmare Man’s two-story cabin at the end of the mountain path, the one so many of my people trudged up and down every day. The smell of bags of rotting fruit was awful, gifts our sheltered tormentor ignored as he often ignored us. Bribes and pleas.

These desperate attempts by the people of Stone Hamlet’s to purchase even one night’s uninterrupted sleep were as unimportant to the Nightmare Man as we were. Our screams and our terror kept him fed, not these rotting sacks of fruit, and he took that gift whenever he wished. What need had he of fruit?

“Close your eyes, child,” Kinto said softly, and I complied. The way she called me child was not dismissive – it felt protective, even – and I had no desire to witness the horrors that had sent Rourke the Crusher fleeing down the mountain. I was willful, but I was no trained fighter. I could only get in her way.

“Palor Sellius!” Kinto’s voice thundered up the path. “Your time here is at an end! Leave, or die!”

Nothing from the cabin. Nothing but silence on the wind. Then the sound of the Nightmare Man’s mad laughter, echoing off the rising walls of the mountain path and digging into my ears. His laughter was the worst of it – the glee he took in driving us slowly insane – and I bared my teeth and clenched my fists. Yet despite my closed eyes, my endless shudders, I would not turn and run. Not until Kinto ran too.

“Leave!” Kinto thundered. “Or die!” And though my eyes were closed, the ring of her sword leaving its sheath came so clearly I could practically see the blade glistening in the fading sun. Red as blood.

“Fool of a woman.” I heard a door open and the Nightmare Man’s heavy footfalls as he stumbled out. I pictured a wheezing man grown fat on the nectar of our nightmares and what bribes he deigned to eat. “You really wish to lose your mind?” And with that, a monstrous scream chilled my blood.

“Pathetic,” Kinto replied, and I heard those metal bars clanging forward. “Anything else?”

For the first time in a long time, I dared hope. I did not know what had produced that roar – I dared not look, for fear of losing my sanity – but that roar had driven Rourke the Crusher back down the mountain, hollering at the top of his lungs. Evidently, Kinto Kusaragi was made of sterner stuff.

“Unexpected,” the Nightmare Man whispered, excitement twisting his words. “Face this!”

A mournful keening set my muscles rigid and brought sweat to my sides. Yet Kinto strode on, metal balls thunking in the dirt, and I heard his wooden stoop creak as the Nightmare Man stepped back.

“Impossible,” he said, and I heard the first hint of real fear. I wondered if he had forgotten what fear was like as he lived in his cabin all these years, ruthlessly inflicting terrors on my people. “No! Get back!”

A roar arose that stole my ability to think. I could not imagine what sort of horror had made it, what sort of horror Kinto Kusaragi must be confronting with her glistening sword, but I did not hear her run.

“You cannot frighten me, Sellius,” Kinto told him, and then I heard a meaty thunk and the Nightmare Man’s gurgling. “Go in peace.”

I opened my eyes – I had no choice but to open my eyes, hearing those impossible words – and found Kinto withdrawing her bloody blade from the middle of the Nightmare Man’s chest. He collapsed, eyes wide and words slurred, as blood spread around him like a stuck pig. His nightmare power was broken.

I stared at the man dying on his stoop. “How?” I stared at the woman who ignored a horde of horrors to murder him. “How did he not terrify you?”

One of Kinto’s hands rose to her wooden demon mask. She removed it to reveal the weathered, golden face of a woman about Papa’s age, a woman whose milky white eyes stared at nothing. She was as blind as I was when I squeezed my eyes shut, guided only by her metal rods and her sharp ears.

“We all have our gifts,” Kinto said, a satisfied smile spreading across her face. “Mine is killing rogue illusionists.”

THE END
« Last Edit: April 01, 2016, 12:58:32 AM by tebakutis »
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Offline Rukaio_Alter

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Re: [Mar 2016] - Nightmares - Submission Thread
« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2016, 01:32:08 PM »
Boy, this sure is a dark, scary topic, isn't it? So, naturally, I'm going to ruin the mood for you all with the silliest idea I could conceive.

Coming in at 1499 words, here's Dreamt a Little Too Deep.

Spoiler for Hiden:
Andrew sprinted through the smoky corridors, fire licking at his feet. He turned corner after corner, but he never found the exit no matter how hard he looked. But perhaps he had outran the demon? Perhaps he was safe? Perhaps he was-

Creeeak…Creeeak…Creeeak…

Andrew shivered. Slowly, he turned to see a figure standing behind him, illuminated in blood-red light.

“Finished running, boy?”

Horribly deformed, with blades growing out of its skin, the Kreeper slowly stepped forward, legs still making that same chilling noise.

Creeeak…Creeeak…Creeeak…

Andrew didn’t move. He couldn’t move. There was nowhere left to go. All he could do was screw his eyes closed as Kreeper raised a single bladed hand. And brought it sharply down towards Andrew’s-



Andrew woke with a start. It took him a few moments to calm down and realise he was lying in his bed back home. He pulled himself into a sitting up position and nervously looked around. It was still the middle of the night, but Andrew was certain he was in his bedroom. He could even see his pet hamster, Chubbs, running around in his wheel.

He let out a sigh. So that entire thing had just been a nightmare. What a relie-

Creeeak…Creeeak…Creeeak…

Andrew’s blood ran cold. There was no mistaking that sound. The sound of the Kreeper. And it was coming from beneath his bed.

Slowly, carefully, he leaned over the edge of his bed and, in a quick motion, took a peek beneath.

There was nothing there.

Trying not to faint with relief, Andrew fell back onto his bed, only to find a shadowy figure standing over him.

“Miss me?” Kreeper snarled as he drove his hand towards Andrew’s screaming face-



Andrew woke with a start. Once more, he was back in his bedroom. Looks like it really had been a nightmare after all.

“Well, that was weird.” He said to himself. “Still, at least it’s over now.”

“Or so you think!” Someone hissed in his ear.

Andrew sprang up as a clawed hand reached for his throat and-



Andrew woke with a start. He took a few moments to regain his composure before realising he was still in his empty room.

“Okay, really?” He said to no-one in particular. “Three dreams? That was just silly.”

“Tell me about it,” said the menacing figure at his side.

Andrew turned to see-



“Are you kidding me?!” Andrew shouted as he leapt out of bed. “Four times?! Now it’s just getting annoying!”

“Good news!” Brandishing his clawed hand, Kreeper leapt at Andrew. “You won’t have to live with it much longer!



Andrew woke to see Kreeper leap at him. “You won’t have to live with it much longer!



Kreeper leapt at Andrew “You won’t have to li-“



“Okay, I’m with you on this one now.” Kreeper said, folding his arms. “This is starting to get ridiculous.”

“Yeah.” Andrew nodded. “I mean, this is how many times now?

“I think we’re up to 8 dream le-“



“…up to 9 dream levels now.”

“So how do we stop it?” Andrew asked.
 
“Hell if I know.” Kreeper shrugged. “I just haunt the dreams. I don’t create them.”

“Surely you must have some idea?” Andrew said. “I don’t know how much more I can take before-“



“-how much more I can take before-“



“GOD DAMN IT, LET ME FINISH!” Andrew shouted at no-one in particular.

“Look,  I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Kreeper admitted, “but I think our best option is for me to kill you. Then, since I’m a Dream Demon, you’ll die in real life and stop dreaming and we’ll both be free. Except you, of course. You’ll be dead.”

“Yeah, I kinda like not being dead? Is there any other option we could-“

“Nope!” Kreeper said cheerfully. He raised a bladed hand. “Now die!”



“Now d-!”



Kreeper was silent for a moment. “N-“



“…”

“…”

"..."

"...I don't think it's going to work."

“NOW D-!“



“Son of a bitch!” Kreeper roared.

Andrew stifled a laugh. “You need a little help there?”

“Shut up!” Kreeper shouted. “This is all your fault! Most kids would be fine with me ramming a spiked fist through their throat, but no! You had to be Mister ’14 dreams-within-a-dream’!”

“15.” Andrew corrected.
 
“I don’t care!” Kreeper screamed. “Now you are going to hold still while I take this sharp implement and shove it right up your-!”



“....16.”

“GAAAAAAAH!!!" Kreeper bellowed. He hunched over and began taking deep breaths. “Okay, stay calm. Breath in and out, just like the psychiatrist told you.”

Andrew blinked. “You have a psychiatrist?”

“Well, I briefly haunted one.” Kreeper explained. “Nice fella. Gave me a few tips on anger management. Then I bashed his skull in with a bust of Sigmund Freud while making ‘headcase’ puns. Good times.”

“Okaaay…” Andrew twiddled his fingers. “So you think we ought to just wait it out?”

“Not much else we can do.” Kreeper sighed.

The two sat in silence for what felt like a few minutes.

“I don’t suppose you’ve got a deck of cards or anything?”

“I have the peeled skins of previous victims.” Kreeper said. “We could play with their tortured souls a little.”

“…Honestly, I’d prefer Blackjack.”

The two were silent for even longer this time.

“Seen any good movies late-?“

“DIE!”

Kreeper leapt for Andrew’s chest as-



“Damn it!” Kreeper swore.

“What was that for?!” Andrew shrieked.

“I thought I could catch it off guard.”

“Catch it off-? It’s not a freaking rabbit!”

“I don’t see you coming up with any good ideas.”

“Alright, well what if we-“



"M-Maybe we could-?"



"Come on, at least let me finish-!“



“...Damn it.” Andrew sighed.

“It’s okay, kid.” Kreeper gave him a comforting pat with his non-bladed hand. “Your stupidity has actually given me a great idea.”

“What idea?” Andrew asked.

“Well, what always wakes a person up in real life?”

“Loads of things, to be honest. Alarms, sunlight, falling out of bed, pickles, getting wet-“

“Precisely!” Kreeper said. “So all we need to do is-“ He paused. “Pickles?”

“Yeah, I have nightmares about them. Is that weird?”

“A little. Then again, it's hard to see your dreams getting any weirder.”

“I've-"



"-no-"



"-idea-"



“-what-“

A rocketship zoomed past.



“-you’re-“



“-talking-“



“-about.“

Kreeper blinked. “Were we in outer space for one of those?”

“Yeah, I get that dream sometimes.” Andrew shrugged. “Anyway, your idea?”

“…Right.” Kreeper said. “Like you said, you wake up if you get wet. Therefore we just need to get you to wet the bed. And what dream always gets someone to wet the bed?”

"...The one about Megan Fox in a bikini?"

"No, the other kind of-" Kreeper shook his head. "I meant going to the toilet."

“Dreaming about going to the toilet!” Andrew clapped his hands together. “That’s genius! That’s brilliant! That’s- Do I really have to wet the bed? That’s kinda embarrassing.”

“Well, unless you can think of any other way out of this mess?”

"Well, what if we-?"



"..."

"Heh. Saw that one coming."

“Fine, I’ll do it.” Andrew scowled. “But when I’m changing the sheets, I’m going to be blaming you.“

Andrew screwed his eyes shut and concentrated for a few moments.

"What's taking so long?" Kreeper scowled.

"S-Shut up!" Andrew whined. "It's difficult to go when someone's watching!"

"...So do you want me to get you a glass of water or-?"

"Uh, hold on." Andrew shuffled awkwardly in his bed. "Well, that's odd."

"What's odd?"

"Um... I'm doing it but I'm not waking up."

Kreeper blinked. "What?"

"I'm wetting the bed." Andrew threw off his sheets to reveal a large yellow patch. "See? I can feel the damp as well, but I'm not waking up any further. So... unless this is already the real world..."

The two stared wordlessly at each other for a few seconds. Then, slowly, Kreeper raised a bladed hand.



"Nope." Kreeper sighed. "We're still in the dream."

"Then how come me getting wet didn't do anything?" Andrew asked.

"Okay, first of all, watch your phrasing. That just sounded wrong." Kreeper shuddered. "Secondly, the only logical explanation is that this, somehow, is not your dream."

Andrew blinked. "Then whose dream is it? Is it yours?"

Kreeper rolled his eyes. "Kid, I'm a dream demon. I don't have dreams. Otherwise things would get really complicated. Could you imagine a dream demon haunting the dreams of another dream demon? It would be a mess."

"Okay..." Andrew said. "But if it's not your dream and it's not my dream... then whose dream are we in?"



Chubbs the Hamster woke with a start.

"Boy!" He squeaked to himself. "That was a weird dream."

He was then distracted by the sight of a leftover carrot and promptly forgot what he was talking about.



Meanwhile, in the depths of hell, Kreeper looked down at a vision of the scampering hamster and rubbed the bridge of his nose.

"I guess this is going to have to be one of those jobs I can't tell people about then..."

(Thanks to Lady_Ty and Blackthorn for pre-reading.)
« Last Edit: March 06, 2016, 01:40:11 PM by Rukaio_Alter »
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Spoiler for Hiden:
Also, <Insert GOD EMPEROR OF THE WRITING CONTEST joke here>

Offline Nora

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Re: [Mar 2016] - Nightmares - Submission Thread
« Reply #4 on: March 07, 2016, 07:41:36 AM »
The Dreamcaster comes at 1500.

Really enjoyed writing this one and quite sad that word count prevented the full eccentricity of my character to play out but heck, editing is a great exercise.

Spoiler for Hiden:
I saw the trap the moment I stepped into the parlour.

The goons stood out like warts on a Courtesan's smooth backside. Such glaring display was surely bait, inviting nervous people to lose their cool and turn around.

I walked past with the carefree gait and flowing robes of a rich patron. I didn't let my gaze linger on them, the man I played tonight would be too righteous to care. I reached the counter and asked to join the public session, two hours worth of Dream. I gave my fake name and ID, paid in cash.
The men didn't react to me but that guaranteed nothing, so I started a mental list of potential enemies. I knew of five serious ones, six, if counting personal vendettas. I reviewed grudges in order of threat and seriousness as the young hostess showed the way to a lounge-room.

I wondered if it could be Hamsworth keeping tabs on me. I was months behind the man's deadline.
I love deadlines, especially the noise they make as they fly by.

The goons could be some of my target's henchmen, left in the lobby while their master drooled in some drug infused paradise, but that would be an unexplainable change of attitude. After all, my target kept his Dream addiction so secret that he always moved alone and disguised himself a lot more than I ever care to and I'm the outlaw.

I am a Dreamcaster. One plagued with a busy body and mind.

I could never settle for the easy life of a parlour, making up worlds for anxious patrons to play in, managing them down rosy plots to ludicrous, fulfilling ends that would leave sweet submemories to mend their broken souls.
Humdrum, wretched work!
I strive on challenges. I cast like no one else: I can fake true life, give a taste to sounds, I can imagine colours that don't exist. I can take a Dreamer by the hand and have him walk me through his mind-palace with pride and honour. Which is, incidentally, one of the many aspects that make me a criminal, and the very task I was paid to execute tonight.

The hostess opened the door of a small, cushioned room.
She smiled as she handed me a tray with needles, plastic straps and a little piece of disinfecting gauze. She left to fetch a vial of this session's Dream. No prattle, no explanations. No need for them: my arms were already out of my sleeves, both covered with the black tattoos that ran along the veins of professionals and junkies alike.

I wasn't done disinfecting myself when the door opened again.

'That was fast.'

The laugh that answered was manly. I didn't make it to my feet before other manly things crashed against me and pined me to the cushions.
Four men loomed above, three holding me and one flicking at the glass of a syringe with a smile, all strangers. They had the rough faces of long-time mercenaries.

'I can inject myself, thanks,' I said, dripping sarcasm and not quite breaking character yet.

The fourth man laughed again and bent down to where his colleague held my right arm in a lock.

'I very much doubt you would.'

Then I saw the syringe properly. Its long needle dripped black. My whole body broke in a sweat.

'Oh no, no, no, you can't! Fuck, mate, you can't! Not Nightmare! Why?!'

The man plunged the needle in the dark maze of my tattooed veins. I shrieked, giving it all I had while the black sludge sank into me.

'You've been a bad man Mr Kureno,' the man said.

'Well, what the fuck does that make you mate?!'

'I'm only a delivery man. You should be grateful, now you'll be sleeping too tight to feel the trip.'

'To where? To whom?'

Darkness choked my thoughts before he could answer.

I started awake, panting, sweat plastering my hair to my skull.
I was home, sitting in my bed, jumped halfway out of my kimono, sheets rumpled around my legs.
Nightmares of thugs putting me under Nightmare? Next level shit. Probably a stray natural dream.

'Kure?'

I perked up. It was my mother calling me.

'Kureno?'

I froze.
Yes. It was my mother.
My ten-years-dead mother, coming up the stairs of a house I had burned down myself the day she'd died.

I looked at the crook of my arm and saw some gauze covering the vein the villains had pricked in that nightmare. I reached for it and started to pull. The skin came out with the gauze, flesh sloughing off my arm.

A false awakening! These men had really put me under to take me somewhere! In a second I was on my feet, dread pushing my stomach up my throat. I reached inwards, using the mental cues to access old memories.

I was trained in Nightmare, more than most too, but that meant nothing. With Nightmare, you had the stuff five times in your life and you were a veteran! I have thousands of hours of work on Dream, my brain grew on the drug, developed my reflexes for it. Nightmare stimulates different networks, it warps your subconscious perceptions, reverses the laws of the whole game. It would play my own habits against me.

I squatted, gathering myself for the push that ought to get me flying. Instead the air turned to thick jelly against my body, gravity pressing me to the floor.

Typical Nightmare dynamics.

'Kureno?'

My mother opened the door. She looked at me with empty eye-sockets, her twisted mouth pulled taunt against white jaw bones.

'What is it child,' she asked, reaching for my face, 'why won't you come down?'

I made to step back, my feet dragging, her hand just as slowly brushing past me, a battle in slow-motion.

'You're dead you know?' I said to my mother's dried, charred face. 'I burnt the house to the ground with you in it. That's why you're here. No matter how right it was to do, it's still the stuff of nightmare, these memories.'

With some effort I cleared my mind to trigger a new iteration. The nightmare reset itself, and as my old house and dead mother disappeared, I fell.

I tore through the air, an upside down townscape blurring in my sight. The sensation of falling was so vivid I cried in panic. None of my probes shaped the world as they should. I was in true free fall.

'Hey!'

I twisted around to find a man falling with me. Tall, lanky, with short, jet black hair over green eyes, my spitting image without any tattoos: my twin brother, Koharu.
His aura however did not match his body. It was, and wasn't my brother. Such misplacement is common in natural dreams, and it felt aweful.

'Kureno,' my brother's image called, coming down on a level with me, 'grab my hand!'

'Fuck off.'

'Kureno, you'll die if you don't!'

I flipped over, feet down to the abyss of the sky, arms catching the wind, the crazy shapes of the world swirling out of reach.

'It's a Nightmare. Dying would just start a new iteration!'

'The ground is coming up,' he yelled, horror in his voice. It was. Somehow the sky had become a solid thing.
Koharu caught my loose kimono, and I grabbed for his hand to pull him close.

It broke.

Shattered at the wrist like a twig, a flawed porcelain handled too rough. We stared at each other, stupefied, swallowed by the certainty of our death.

Reality hit me like a ton of brick.

I was on all fours, retching.
Waking isn't like in movies, when you're never sure if you aren't still dreaming. Puking your guts out while awake never feels dreamy enough for such doubts.
Koharu's hand was on my back, holding me while I gathered my wits. We were in a corner of his lab. I remembered now, my twin injecting me with his latest batch of so-called "innovation". We often work together. He's the smart one, I'm the artist.

'How much are you paying me to trial that black crap again?' I asked, wiping my face with a trembling hand.

'We'll discuss a raise once you've spat your analyses. Out with it, I want it fresh!'

'First iteration had incredible convincingness. Instinctual theme, solid narrative structure, I was working a Tour-type Dreamcast. Paranoia heavy, but lowered wariness.' I detailed the attack, the subsequent false awakening, the free-fall, reviewed my feelings and sensations.
'If I hadn't woken up in our old house I might not have realised I was on Nightmare at all. Mother was there.'

We exchanged glassy looks.

'I could reset the iteration,' I went on, 'but other commands were completely ineffective. Whatever you're planning to do with this new variant, it will throw off anyone, trained or not.'

'Kureno,' he said, smirking at me with my very own favourite grin, 'this new Nightmare will throw off the whole world.'
« Last Edit: March 25, 2016, 09:56:49 AM by Nora »
"She will need coffee soon, or molecular degeneration will set in. Her French phrasing will take over even more strongly, and soon she will dissolve into a puddle of alienation and Kierkegaardian despair."  ~ Jmack

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Re: [Mar 2016] - Nightmares - Submission Thread
« Reply #5 on: March 14, 2016, 11:33:23 AM »
Dream Leaks
About 1412 words.

Spoiler for Hiden:
Doctor Katashi walked through the asylum corridor with a firm step. His assistant Ayumu tried to keep up with the long-legged doctor but he was trying to do so while fumbling their patient’s records so eventually he had to leave his dignity behind and break into a run.

“Our patient.” He huffed between catching breaths. “Is Enosh Adisson, an American apparently. His condition is most precarious..."
He stopped as he was interrupted by a piercing cry from the end of the corridor. His blood turned to ice, but the doctor seemed unfazed.
Ayumu nodded to himself. The doctor had probably experienced a lot more in his many years of work as an oneirologist. It was a profession that required a lot of patience and firmness so Ayumu could not help but admire doctor Katashi. After all, dreams were a complex matter.

He leafed through the files again. “Mr Adisson may very well be the first person with this condition. He is now a danger to others and himself and must be kept in isolated confinement.”

They’d arrived at a heavy metal door with a grate at eye level. A security guard sat in a chair by the door, white strands of hair escaping his cap though he couldn’t have been any older than forty. He had bags under his eyes but gave them a friendly smile regardless.
“You’re another doctor trying his luck eh...” He smirked. “Well good luck in there ‘cuz you’ll need it, doctor-?”
Doctor Katashi looked at the man with a friendly smile and filled him in.
“- Katashi. I'm doctor Katashi.” He turned to Ayumu. “And this is my assistant Ayumu. Ayumu, if you’d be so kind to finish reading the patient’s file so we can begin?”
Ayumu nodded hastily and rambled through the printed notes. "Thirty-three year old, male... an automated dose of an anxiolytic  seems to help a bit but is only a temporary solution. Many doctors have attempted an examination, but the man is a danger. I'll monitor your treatment doctor, using the camera in your collar, doctor. Are you ready?"
Katashi simply nodded. His hand moved to the door handle when they heard a scream again which was then abruptly cut off.
"That was the anxiolytic dose being triggered." Katashi murmured. "Let's try this now."
He opened the door.


Ayumu held up a tablet display to follow the doctor's camera and survey the treatment. They could intervene when things went awry. The security guard tried to appear disinterested but Ayumu could sense the man's eyes slip over his shoulders to watch the footage as well.
"There's no need to peek over my shoulder sir, feel free to watch."
The guard made a gruff sound, murmuring something incomprehensible, but eventually settled with standing next to the assistant.
"How'll the treatment work this time? Do you think he stands a chance in there where others have failed?"
Ayumu tore his eyes off the screen to look at the guard.
"Doctor Katashi will try to find the physical form of the patient. Through old fashioned dream analysis he will try to help clear up the personal anxieties that torment this particular case. Now let us see how he fares in there." They both looked at the tablet with keen interest.

~~~~

The room was only dimly lit. The walls, floors and ceiling covered in cushions to prevent the patient to harm anyone, but apparently those didn't help in this case. Only one thing was odd, there was no patient in sight. Doctor Katashi stood still for a moment then the camera made a jerking movement as he turned around. The door he had just came through had vanished. Static began to appear on the screen. Ayumu turned on the microphone.
"Be careful Doctor, this is most likely part of the patient's condition. Only believe what is objectively real in your eyes and you should be safe."
"I know." The doctor's voice sounded distant. "I need to locate the patient to be able to start the treatment. Let me know if you spot something with that camera. I will now search for a way to a more lucid dream."

Ayumu and the security guard watched as the doctor ran his hand across the pillows, then tried several things like running into it, pressing against them or trying to pry a finger between them, to no avail though. The room on the screen grew darker and darker as the doctor continued his operations however and Ayumu had to alter the screen's settings in order to make out anything.

Then the doctor spoke to them. "A feeling of dread is filling the room. The patient's drugs are starting to wane or Mr Adisson is aware of our probing of his personal space. Either way this fearfulness seems to be linked to a personal repression as our closed room landscape suggests. I'm not sure what repression this is exactly though..."
Ayumu talked back through his mic.
"We need to locate the patient though. Have you found anything there?"
"I think so. The room is part of the patient's dream, so the patient is the entire room no matter where his physical being is. He should be perfectly capable of hearing us here so we can commence treatment as is and perhaps he would manifest later before us."

Doctor Katashi sat down on the floor. He ignored the dark presence filling the room and displayed a firmness Ayumu could only admire. Then the screen went completely dark.
Ayumu looked at the tablet in disbelief. He shook the thing, pressed all the buttons and called out to the doctor through the microphone. The security guard blinked, then suggested replacing the batteries, but whatever they tried the tablet remained dead.
"Call security." Ayumu told the man. "I'm going in to get him out of there."
"Don't." The security guard said. "You're only risking yourself."
Ayumu shook his head. He couldn't leave his friend in that bizarre dreamscape after all this. He opened the door and entered the room.

~~~~

The door had vanished once more, Ayumu found himself in their lab in Shinjuku. The lights were dimmed and his bag sat before him ready to go home. Something was off though, it was as if a voice was growing louder inside his head and a profound shadow filled the sky. It kept repeating the same phrases, a fragment from the Zhuangzhi.

"Once upon a time, Zhuang Zhou dreamed he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting about happily enjoying himself. He did not know he was Zhou. Suddenly he awoke, and was palpably Zhou."
"Who's there?" Ayumu called out, but a dizziness caught him unaware and he had to steady himself by the wall. When he looked up he was in a pillow-covered room. His colleague, Doctor Katashi sat in the middle of the room. He looked up at Ayumu and finished his story:
"Now, there must be a difference between Zhou and the butterfly. This is called the transformation of things."

After the story the doctor simply smiled as if he were the heavenly Buddha himself. Ayumu spread his hands in exasperation.
"Doctor, I've found you. We have to leave this place. Have you managed to conduct a form of therapy on the patient."
Doctor Katashi shook his head though.
"Sit down, Ayumu. Our patient is here with us."
Poor Ayumu was still confused, but he did as his superior said and listened to what he had to say.
"Dream leaks are a relatively new phenomena. They occur when the dreams of a patient leak into the real world. Our patient, Mr. Enosh Adisson is all around us, but we are also him , you see? We have become part of his dream after all. Just like the story where Zhou dreams of a butterfly, we can express doubt about whoever is more real than the other. "
Ayumu looked exasperated.
"Despite this, we should cling to our independence, doctor. We must find a way out."
Katashi leaned forward and took his friend's hand.
"You don't understand yet, do you? What will happen when the dose of anxiolytic stops working? We will..."
Ayumu's face turned ashen gray as he realized what the doctor was getting to and finished his sentence.
"We will vanish into the nightmare. By the time the next dose is administered we will long have been reduced to a fragment of the dreams and this is what has happened to our patient already."

Offline Blackthorn

Re: [Mar 2016] - Nightmares - Submission Thread
« Reply #6 on: March 15, 2016, 03:59:17 AM »
My depressing contribution at  1486 words, this is sleep study. I want to thank@Lady_Ty for reading through the original story and bringing some important things to my attention.

Spoiler for Hiden:
Sleep Study

Thursday March 3, 2016 3:26 a.m.

   It’s started again. The last three nights the dreams have been the same as before. It’s always one of two dreams, this time it was the better of the two.
 I’m in a car I don’t recognize but it feels oddly familiar. I’m in the passenger seat going down a dark road. There are no trees. No signs. No buildings. Nothing but road. In the driver’s seat is a figure I can’t see clearly. My eyes are foggy, I can’t see straight. I can’t hear a thing beyond a low thumping I feel in my skull, the back of my head is sore.
The car stops on the edge of the road and the driver gets out, slamming the door. My door opens and I’m pulled roughly from the car. I fall to my knees and look up at the man I can’t remember, except now his face is far too clear.  No wonder the car felt familiar, it’s my best friend’s car.
I never saw what it was that hit me, but it hurt and my sight began to fade.

 I always wake up here. I’m covered in sweat. I roll over and try to go back to sleep but I’m afraid now, so I just flip the lamp on and grab my notebook.


Friday March 4, 2016 11:00 p.m.

   Another rejection letter. I don’t know how much longer I can hold out, the bill collectors are calling every day now. I should have known I couldn’t count on my fist meagre success lasting forever. Especially now, my writing has declined over the last few months. The closer the date gets the worse my writing becomes, I can’t get any sleep.
   Tomorrow is the anniversary of the wedding, it’s been three years since she was married. It wasn’t my wedding, yet I remember every detail. Like a song in my head, I try to ignore it and I end up thinking about it even more.
   

Sunday March 6, 2016 5:53 a.m.

   The dream was worse tonight, I went farther in than ever before. I understand now, but I didn’t do it, I couldn’t have. I’m being blamed for something I couldn’t stop.

Tuesday March 8, 2016 3:43 a.m.

Jesse stopped by to visit yesterday. She seemed a little distracted, but when I asked what was wrong she just pulled her jacket tighter and said it was nothing to worry about. I felt that wasn’t completely true, but I reminded myself that I’m always over-thinking things.
 She said I didn’t look well. It shouldn’t be any surprise, I haven’t slept well in days. Of course, she doesn’t know that, it would only make her worry. I enjoy the time I get to be near her, but I dread the next time I sleep afterwards. It always means the worst dream.
   She’s been my best friend since high school, and sometimes I wonder if she can tell what I really think about her. I wonder if she knows I’ve always loved her. Sometimes I think she does, but maybe I’m misreading things. I wonder what she would think if she knew about my dreams.

Thursday March 10, 2016 2:23 a.m.

   It was the other dream tonight, the one that makes me pray for forgiveness just for having it. I never write it down, I can’t bear to put in to words what I’ve done in that dream.

Saturday March 12, 2016 4:00 a.m.

I slept through the night, no dreams what so ever. I’d like to be happy about that, really I would. It’s hard to see that as any sort of improvement however, when I consider the amount of alcohol it took to achieve results.

Tuesday March 15, 2016 9:45 a.m.

The beer didn’t help this time, the sleeping pills were useless as well. I had a different dream. One I don’t think I’ve ever had until tonight. In the dream I’m awake in bed, face down in my pillow. My eyes still itch and burn from irritation at having just been opened. The phone rings. I fumble for it, trying to ignore the call. When I see who is calling, I have to answer.
   I answer the phone and I’m rewarded by the sweet sound of her voice. She sounds upset, like she’s scared. I keep asking what’s wrong but she’s rambling now, talking to me like I’m her sister. I’m confused now and more than a little worried, I ask her where she is and if she wants me to come get her, but she says she’s fine. I hear a harsh voice in the background. Hurriedly she says she loves me and hangs up.
   I sit there for a few moments, completely stunned, then I mumble into my pillow, “I love you too.”
 I woke up then, and before I could talk myself out of it I sent her a message asking if everything is alright, the dream seemed so real, it really got to me. She doesn’t answer, but that’s nothing new for Jesse.

Friday March 18, 2016 6:00 a.m.

   I had the worst of the dreams again. I always wake up expecting to see my hands covered in blood. I fear that one day I’ll wake up, and find that my dream has become reality. 

Wednesday March 24, 2016 8:30 a.m.

   The last four days have been the same dream, the one I hate. I can barely stand this anymore. I can’t stand the look on her face. I always find myself wondering, what would Jesse say? What would she say if I told her the truth? If I told her, that in my dreams I’ve killed her a thousand times.

Sunday March 27, 2016 11:45 p.m.

   Last night I had the dream about the car again, my best friend’s car. Only it isn’t Jesse driving but her husband, Mike. Honestly it seems weird to be in the car with him, we’ve never really cared much for each other.
In the dream feel completely oblivious right up to the point that I’m dragged from the car. That’s when the shovel hits me and I’m dumped in to a deep pit. Above me Mike is screaming, asking me how I could do it, how I could kill Jesse.
   I try to tell him I didn’t kill her, but he won’t believe me. I don’t blame him, I hardly know what to believe myself. In my dreams she lies dead at my feet. In my blood soaked hands there is a small kitchen knife, the one I’ve just pulled from her abdomen. I can’t remember killing her, I can’t remember anything at all. The dream always seems so real that I often wonder myself if it was really just a dream.
Mike keeps screaming but I’m not listening any more. My mind feels fuzzy, there a dull thump in my head, presumably from where the shovel hit me. No, somehow I’m sure that the thumping was there before the shovel. It was there through the entire dream, even louder in the car. A little voice in the back of my mind says something about loose ends, but I can’t make sense of those thoughts.
Suddenly I become aware of dirt falling on my face. I’m panicking now, claustrophobia has always been a problem for me and being buried alive is one of my greatest fears. I struggle, but my legs won’t listen, my arms are tied. The only thing going through my fear stricken mind is that I must get out.
   I woke up with the terrifying sensation that I couldn’t breathe. I wake up thrashing, my heart beating out of my chest. For a few minutes I just sit, breathing shallowly, trying to calm my pumping heart.

Wednesday March 30, 2016 1:00 a.m.

   I’ve had enough. The same dream for several days now. I don’t care that none of them are real, I’m tired of them plaguing my sleep. I’ve had enough of the fear, the fear that when I wake up next I won’t be dreaming. I’m putting a stop to these dreams somehow, but first I have to do one last thing.
   I write a letter to Jesse, one I never thought I would have to write. I tell her how I feel. How I’ve always felt. I tell her that in a perfect world she would be mine. I tell her about the dreams, and why I no longer trust myself to be around her. Mostly I tell her that I’m sorry for the dreams even existing, and that I want no part of them to be real.
   I’m leaving the letter, and this journal, here on the table. I know Jesse will find them, she’s the only person who ever visited. I’m leaving this place for ever now, and with any luck the dreams won’t plague me any longer.
« Last Edit: March 17, 2016, 03:22:36 AM by Blackthorn »

Offline m3mnoch

Re: [Mar 2016] - Nightmares - Submission Thread
« Reply #7 on: March 25, 2016, 06:07:05 PM »
1343 words, titled FrightBits.

Spoiler for Hiden:

FrightBits


The double doors on the breezeway swung wide as Jordan strode through to the ground-floor atrium of Jefferson High School. It was Monday, and he was ready for his biology exam. He'd never felt more prepared for a test.

Glancing down at his watch, he made note of the time, 7:58 AM. He still had two minutes to walk the paltry 30 feet down the hall to Mrs. Beale's room before the bell rang. He started whistling the chorus from Good Times.

Laughter broke out and stopped his tune. At first it was a few titters and giggles, but soon the long, loud belly laughs boomed through the chamber.

Standing in the center of the large atrium, Jordan glanced up to the balconies above. Rows of students lined the railings, pointing and laughing at him. Along all three floors.

Shouldn't they be in class?

Looking down to check the time again, he noticed his pants were gone. Jordan frantically patted his chest and sides -- He wore only underwear, the stupid purple ones from his grandmother even, as everyone stared at him. Worse, there wasn't time to race home and change before his test.

Hell, looks like I'm taking this test in STYLE.

Music kicked on over the P.A., and Jordan started doing the electric slide, shuffling and spinning right out of the atrium and down the hall. Heads bobbed. Girls swooned. And applause followed him all the way into Mrs. Beale's.


Jordan walked along the boardwalk with Chrissy, arm-in-arm, and enjoyed the soft glow of the street lamps. It was quiet and they were in love. He couldn't wait to marry this girl because she was the first one who truly understood him. Supported him.

My soulmate.

They stopped by the benches on the pier. It was a sleepy spot where they could be alone. Looking up at him, Chrissy's eyes glittered with adoration. She was incredible. And she was his. Jordan brushed a wisp of red hair from her face and leaned in to kiss her.

"Gimme your money. Now."

The voice came from behind him. Jordan spun, stepping in front of Chrissy protectively, and saw the grubby man pointing a pistol at them.

"Now," he repeated.

Without a moment of hesitation, Jordan dug into his pockets and yanked out a wad of ones and fives. He shoved the wrinkled bills at the mugger, and lifted his hands in the air.

Please just go away.

"That's all you got? I guess you're gonna have to watch me take some from your girl. My way." The man pointed the gun at Jordan's face and thumbed back the hammer. "Get on your knees. Now."

This is NOT happening.

Jordan swiped at the gun, fast and clean, with his left hand, fingers wrapping over the top of the barrel, and twisted the weapon back toward the mugger. At the same time, he landed a savage kick to the man's bladder. The creep grunted, and released his already-slipping grip on the pistol. Ripping the weapon away, Jordan smashed the butt into the robber's face. Blood erupted and the man crumbled to his knees.

"You won't touch my girl, bitch." Jordan aimed the pistol and the man's head.

BOOM, BOOM.


The view was exhilarating. Standing on the ledge, Jordan staggered at the height. It must have been over 150 stories of empty space running down glass windows, terminated at a sidewalk covered in ant-like pedestrians.

Good thing I'm not afraid of heights.

Jordan lifted his palms to the sky, basking in the fresh air and sunshine. It was the start of a beautiful day and he shone with life.

A sharp shove sent him tumbling from the rooftop and the world spun.

Terror draped thick over Jordan and he wailed as his body whistled through morning sunbeams, spiraling toward the unsuspecting strangers at the base of the building. He screamed until he had no more breath, and choked on the rush of wind battering at his face.

The fall was far. Still only halfway to the streets below, he had a few seconds left to steal.

Noticing four awnings making a neat row off to his right, he knew what to do. Body steeling, he spread his arms, caught the breeze, controlled his fall, and almost glided.

I've got this. INCOMING!

Jordan burst through the first awning, snapped through the second, ripped the third, and peeled the fourth from its supports. He finished with a muffled crunch as he thumped into a dumpster.

Disentangling from the ragged canvas clinging to him, he pulled himself up and out of the trash. He leapt down to the sidewalk, and bobbed his head to the gawking onlookers.

"Hi." He grinned. "How you doin'?"


Jordan stormed through the alley, feet stomping puddles and refuse. As he cut through the drizzle, he struggled to remember what he was running from. He only knew it terrified him.

A groan echoed around the corner ahead of him and he splashed to a stop. Jordan glanced back as snarls rolled along the walls from the direction he'd come. He was trapped.

There has to be a way out.

Frantic, his head pivoted as he searched, shuffling side to side, from wall to wall in the tight back street. There was no where to go. No windows. No fire escapes. No doors. It was solid brick to either side.

Another growl and his attention snapped to the mouth of the alley and the shadows lurking at the corner. Spinning to face the opposite end, he watched angry dark figures pierce the light spilling from a cross-street.

Instead, Jordan looked for a weapon in the strewn garbage, anything of use in defending himself. In his sweep, he noticed a dumpster he hadn't seen before and his hopes spiked high.

I can hide in there.

He rushed over, threw open the lid, and a figure shot up from the darkness inside. A snarling, rotted monster with greasy hands grabbed at his head. Jordan lurched backwards, tripped, and flailed to the asphalt.

The zombie crawled slowly from the trash bin, as Jordan splayed in a puddle, paralyzed with fear. He needed to get up and run.

I HAVE to get out of here!

Both openings of the alley were filled with zombies now, huge crowds at either end, shuffling toward him. Back in the dumpster, another decayed face appeared and started crawling out. Then another. And another.

The first one, putrid and dripping ichor, reached out and dug torn, yellow fingernails into his leg. Jordan couldn't pull away.

He screamed.


Jordan stormed through the alley, feet stomping puddles and refuse. As he cut through the drizzle, he struggled to remember what he was running from. He only knew it terrified him . . .


"See? There's an art to it. Agility and art." Dr. Keltzer stepped back, hands on hips, and admired his work. "The resource's heart rate is back up to 153 BPM and the LEDs are all green."

He tapped out a cheery rhythm on the tile floor with his Oxford, and eyed the nearly 50 foot long wall containing all of the fright-bays for Quadrant 34D. The bays were laid out four high and sixteen wide, and all but this one thrummed happily along.

"Now, we lock it in." The doctor punched a few keys to commit the nightmare to the JCF-488's memory bank. Turning to the technician originally operating the station, "However, make sure you're throwing in slight variations now and again. That will help keep its mind off balance."

With the final keystroke, the hydraulic lift whined and Bay-28 glided up and back into its Baysocket. The human clone quickly joined its 63 neighbors in comfortable productivity.

"Which other resource did you say was at struggling with output?"

"Quadrant 722B, Bay-17. Its only running at 2.35 FrightBits per second."

"That low? Goodness. Let's hop in the cart and head over. Maybe see if we can craft a better nightmare or two, shall we?"


« Last Edit: March 25, 2016, 06:21:45 PM by m3mnoch »

Offline SugoiMe

Re: [Mar 2016] - Nightmares - Submission Thread
« Reply #8 on: March 25, 2016, 06:18:21 PM »
1,445 words.  Based on a nightmare I had when I was a kid.  Here's Santa's Roller Coaster.

Spoiler for Hiden:
It was a cold, stormy night, the kind that sent shivers down my spine.  I lay in bed wide awake, wishing I could snuggle up to my parents instead of bearing the brunt of crackling thunder alone.  Branches tapped on the window.  Once my climbing tree, now a harbinger of foreboding.  If only I could sleep through the chaos raging outside.

My eyes drifted, mind awake, body lazy.  Then clunk!  I shot up.  The sound came from above.  Softer beats pattered clip clop clip clop , then the sound of boots treading upon the roof.

A burglar! I thought.  The steps were in the hallway now.  Clomp clomp clomp.  The door handle turned, hinges creaked.  I screamed.

“Ho, ho, ho!” a bellowing voice boomed.

I opened my eyes and was startled to see a big fat man in a red suit, one I recognized from commercial images that bombarded town once a year in the dead of winter.

“Santa?”

“Who, me?” the man said.  He burst into a jolly laughter.  “Of course, it’s Santa!  Santa Claus of the North Pole.  Nice to meet you.”

He bowed low.

“What’re you doing here?” I asked.  “It’s the middle of July!”

“Ho, ho, quite so, little one!  Isn’t the real Christmas supposed to be sometime in July?  Or was it June?”  He stroked his beard, pondering.

“I dunno.  I’m just a kid.”

“Right, right.  Look, I need your help.  You’ve been extra good this year.  Checked my list twice and you’re the best kid on the block!”

“Just the block?  What about the whole world?”

“Never mind that.  Can you help me?”

“Does that mean I get to ride in your sleigh?” I asked, hopeful.

“Why, of course!”

Next thing I knew, I was outside in nought but my pyjamas.  The sky was clear, but I could’ve sworn there’d been a storm recently.  Santa Claus, a smile ever on his lips, climbed in beside me.  He plopped himself down on the bench so hard the sleigh shook under his weight and I nearly toppled over.  Then he took the reigns, cracked them and whoop!  Into the air we flew!

So exhilarating!  So fun!  I threw my hands into the air.  We climbed higher and higher.  The ride was a roller coaster, soaring above treetops and mountains.  Soon, the land disappeared and a vast ocean spread out before us.  For a moment, I was happy, free.

But then that happiness ended.  Clouds rolled in.  An eerie green glow reflected off them, coming from up ahead.  Santa’s sleigh began to circle and below I could detect a darkened form.  It was a house that fit the description of a typical haunted mansion.

“What is this place?” I asked, wide-eyed.

“First stop!” said Santa.  The change in atmosphere hadn’t fazed him.

Ground materialized, but the sleigh didn’t land on it.  Instead, it dropped onto a floating dock in the water.  Square pieces of wood made for stepping stones to the shore.

“C’mon,” said Santa, grabbing his enormous sack of presents.

“Are you sure it’s safe?”

“Of course!” he boomed.

I wasn’t so sure.  Looking over the edge, I saw a ripple in the water.  Then something else.  Pairs of glowing spheres drifting around the wood steps.

“Crocodiles!” I yelled.

Santa scoffed.  “Crocodiles?  Nonsense!  I’ve come here a million times and more, and there’s never been any crocodiles.”

“No, Santa, they’re there.  Look,” I said, pointing.  “There’s one there, and there.  They’re everywhere!”

“Poppycock!” Santa bellowed.

He stepped out onto the dock, his boots pounding on the wood.  Then he stepped out.  One, two, three.  Splash!  A reptilian burst from the water, snatched the man in its jaws.  Then it was gone.  Santa, too.  I stared in disbelief at the scene.  Then the fear caught up with me and I screamed.

“Well, dear, go on,” a gentle voice told her.  She looked and saw an elderly woman knitting beside her, a calm expression on her face.  Mrs. Claus, I recognized.

“Me?!  But I’ll be eaten!” I exclaimed.

“The presents must be delivered, dear, and you’re the only one around to do it now.”

I looked behind.  In the back where Santa’s enormous sack of presents once lay, there was a small multicoloured bag.

“But—”

“No buts, dear.  Just go.”

The woman had a passive aggression similar to my mother.  And a vicious, awkward stare to match.

Reluctantly, I took the bag and stepped out.  I could see the crocodiles looking back at me, their eyes eager to feast.  I gulped.  With a deep breath, I to the first step.

One, two, three, I counted.  Four, five.  Splash!

I burst into flight.  The croc just missed me.  I jumped the last three steps, avoiding another’s snapping jaws.  A giant reptile met me on the shore.  It dashed after me.  I screamed and ran as fast as my feet would take me.  The soft sand swallowed up my steps, slowing my speed.  Snap, snap went its jaws.  I looked ahead.  The house rose up from the shore, a big, black dwelling with a pointed roof.  I cleared the porch and hurried inside.

Fear gripped my chest and I gasped for air.  No thud came upon the door.  I was safe.

Or was I?

A greenish yellow light glowed from the upper floor, illuminating a staircase and a hallway.  In a trance, I took the stairs, heading toward the light.  It came from an open door down a narrow hall.  Cautiously, I crept forward.

Creek!

I winced.  The light flared and around the corner emerged a pair of glowing eyes fixed to a hideous monster.  Its body was hairy like a wolf’s but its face lay bare and flat like a man…or a demon.  It growled at me, revealing two rows of stained, jagged teeth.  Another appeared behind it.  Then another.  Three of them, giant and strong.

“P…presents!” the first one wailed.

Terrified, I dropped the bag to the floor and ran back downstairs.  Thudding followed, along with raging, repeating voices.

“Presents!  Presents!”

I burst through the door outside.  The crocodile was gone.  The sleigh, for reasons unknown to me, had taken its place.  Only it wasn’t a sleigh anymore.  It was a roller coaster.  And it was starting to leave without me!

“Wait!” I cried, and jumped into one of the carts.

The demons came after, piling into the cart two down from me.  Then the roller coaster was off, zipping into the sky.  Without a seatbelt, I clutched to the front handle of my cart, my screams muffled by the wind rushing through my ears.  The cart twisted and turned, dodging first mountains, then a city of buildings.  Up and down, around.

“Well, look what you’ve done now.”

I looked up.  Mrs. Claus was still knitting, sitting in the cart ahead of me.  She appeared oblivious to the fact that she wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, but unlike me, she didn’t fall out of her seat.  Her calm complexion was unnerving.

“What have I done?”  I said.

“Because of you, the children won’t get their presents.”

“But I didn’t do anything!”  I cried.

Growling caught my ears and I snuck a glance back.  The demons were scrambling, struggling to get to me.  I knew I had to do something if I didn’t want to get eaten.  I had to be the hero.  The sleigh!  I realized.  I’ve got to steer the sleigh!

Getting to the cock pit was easier said than done.  I could only move when the carts were level.  Slowly, arduously, but staying ahead of the demons, I made my way to the front.  One, two, three.  Only one more to go.  The demons were right behind me, growling, saliva dripping from hungry jaws.  With one last burst, I jumped to the front, landing with a thud on the bench.  Then I grabbed the reigns and pulled hard.

Too late.

The sleigh looped up, down, up again, then plummeted.  Falling.  The ground materialized below.  Falling.

*     *     *

I opened my eyes, found myself livid, lying on my back.  The ceiling above me.  My bed below me.  Tapping on the window from the raging storm.  Crackling thunder.  I panted, failing to catch my breath.

Just a nightmare.  But the memory of the bad dream echoed against the walls of my skull.

I lay awake, wishing I could snuggle up to my parents instead of bearing the brunt of nightmares alone.  If only I could sleep through the chaos raging in my mind.

Gradually, my eyes drifted, mind awake, body lazy.  Turning to my side, I pulled my blanket tighter around me.  A glowing, greenish yellow light streamed underneath my door.

“P…Presents.”
"A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit." -- Richard Bach

Offline night_wrtr

Re: [Mar 2016] - Nightmares - Submission Thread
« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2016, 05:41:23 AM »
I decided to enter this month. Almost didn't, but this hit me today and I got it down fairly quickly. It is also the first time I have ever written in first person.  :o

Please forgive the lack of fantasy elements.

Mr. Schlumon
1,477 words

Spoiler for Hiden:
Mr. Schlumon

The light flickered, threatening to blanket the small room in darkness. I sat silently in the metal chair at the center, hands resting behind my back. I stared at the ceiling where one of the tiles had turned a muddied brown, watching a slow drip of water pool in the corner. Something about that water terrified me. The small puddle was growing.

A cold wetness tickled my toes. Water covered my feet up to my ankles. The slow trickle had turned into a steady stream. The ceiling croaked and moaned, then the corner of the ceiling caved in, crashing into the room and released a flood pouring through the massive hole. By the time I opened my mouth to scream, I was choking on water. The sound of my terror turned into air bubbles. Kicking and thrashing my arms, I desperately tried to reach the surface. I collided with the ceiling tiles that felt like iron. I punched and clawed, blood oozing from knuckles and fingernails.

My chest groaned, begging for just one breath. I swam to the hole in the corner of the room turning up and thr-

Steel mesh blocked my exit.

I screamed again, the last of my air floating up and through the tiny holes in the mesh.  My lungs fought my demands to remain closed. I had to breathe!

The water entered my lungs then; it felt like a python constricting me, pulling my chest in, crushing it in a final squeeze. I started to sink, hand outstretched.  My body twitched.

One last bubble of air emerged from my lips.

I fell into the darkness.
   
   
#

I laughed, my voice drowned out by the rush of wind as I fell through the open sky. The earth lurched as I spun and twisted, letting my body drift and flow like a bird. “This is amazing!” It was a freedom that I had never felt before. I was at peace hurtling through the air.

The landing zone was visible now, a massive target of red and white circles. I could hear Evona shouting over my shoulder. I let the air spin me around and saw her beautiful smile just above me.

She was yelling. “See you on the ground!” I think she said. Her hand reached up to her shoulder and yanked on the pin holding her chute. It opened and she was gone, pulled to a crawl compared to me. I continued to spin around to face the earth below.

I could make out the streets, the cars, the people. They were growing fast. I closed my eyes, taking in the last moment of freedom. Then I reached for my pin and pulled it.

My eyes shot open. The chute did not.

I pulled again. Nothing.

I reached for the emergency chute. Nothing.

Freedom collapsed. My fingers numbed. The ground rushed at me. The altitude meter on my wrist began to scream its beeps, telling me I had ten seconds until my death. “No!” I screamed. “Evona! Evona, I love you! No, God! No!”

My screams beat back the wind before I hit the ground.

#

Thump!

The elevator lunged, tossing me and the other two passengers into the wall. Mrs. Judy fell with a crash, her walker flung aside. Lucy, her terrier, yelped and barked. I scrambled to pick Mrs. Judy up, ignoring the dog’s threatening growls.

“Are you okay?” I said. She stared at me and nodded, though her face was white.

Mathias held a hand to the side of his head, it was bleeding something awful. “Let me take a look. He reluctantly let me glance at the wound. It was a good size gash. “Keep pressure on that, you’ll be fine.”

“What the hell happened?” Mathias said.

I shook my head. “Cable must have broken. That screeching was the emergency breaks.”

“We need to call for help,” Mrs. Judy said.

I reached for the emergency button on the panel and pushed it. It started to blink red.

“Shit,” Mathias said. “I don’t have cell service in here.”

“It’s okay. They know we’re stuck. These hotels have all kinds of censors to alert security. The fire department is probably already on their way.

A loud buzz of static echoed over the loud speaker, then fell silent. “Hello, this is Monumental Hotel Security, is everyone alright?” A woman’s voice.

“See?” I said, patting Mrs. Judy’s shoulder. I turned toward the speaker. “Yes, we’re fine. We have an injury. We will need medical help once the doors are open.”

A brief pause.

“Understood,” the woman said. “Help is on the way. Just relax and breathe as normal. We will have you out in no time.”

Mrs. Judy smiled.

Mathias cursed.

The elevator creaked and jerked before settling again.

Lucy whined.

Mrs. Judy gasped.

Mathias cursed.

Then we were falling, our bodies colliding, our screams matching the roar of the elevator. The crash hit me like a thousand sledgehammers. Dust and smoke floated around me, but I couldn’t move. I could see Mathias’ legs. Lucy’s lifeless body was crushed beneath a large beam of metal.

Blood pooled underneath my cheek. My eyelids drooped in a long blink. I tried to keep them open, but the darkness came anyway.

#

The smoke clogged my lungs, slowing my steps. I coughed again and again, struggling with each breath. The side of the house had collapse and I was trapped, surrounded by flames. The roof caved in right where I knelt. I rolled to my left, barely escaping the massive chunks of wood and debris.

The heat wrapped itself around me, refusing to let me go. A searing pain stung my skin as the fire licked at me. I collapsed, my lungs full of smoke.

I thought I could save one more. Damn, she wasn’t going to make it either.

I could see water spraying into the hole that had collapsed. It drenched the side of the house a dozen feet away. But it was too late. I couldn’t escape the flames as they engulfed me, my skin turning black. My screams died off as I felt myself slip from consciousness.

#

I floated in the water under the hazy moon. It had been nineteen hours since I lost the boat. I bobbed, staring out over the choppy ocean at the nothingness in any direction. The next moment I was dragged under the water, a blazing pain seized my leg, then I felt a release. I kicked awkwardly, reaching down to feel my le-

It was gone. Gone! I reached the surface, crying out in horror. “My leg!”

I glanced around in panic, searching for whatever it was that had attacked me. I pulled the knife from my pocket that was supposed to be used to pry open the mouths of clams, but now I held onto it, ready to strike.

It had to be a shark. “Son of a bitch!” It had to be.

My breaths labored, dizziness crept into my head. My hand released the knife, letting it fall. My body relaxed.

Bloodloss, I thought.

My eyes closed and I was left in blackness.

#

Blood was everywhere.

The first bullet had entered my left arm, the second somewhere around my ribs and the third struck my neck above the collar bone, knocking me off my perch and down the side of the rock. Two men in camouflage stepped into my vision. Ivory poachers.  How did they get the jump on me? My rifle was less than a foot away. I reached for it, not taking my eyes off the men. Belibou surely heard the gunfire. He would come soon. One of the men spoke in a language I didn’t know, then the other pulled his pistol from his holster and pointed it right at my-
   
#

I shot up from the couch, flipping my book to the floor and knocking over the half-eaten bowl of popcorn. Mr. Fuzzies meowed, darting down the hallway to the bedroom. I cringed, my heart thumping in my chest.

I did my breathing exercise, holding two fingers to my neck, counting. Once my heart calmed, I checked my phone. 2:00 A.M.

Rubbing my eyes, I moved to the edge of the couch and reached for the book. I frowned at the cover, lip curling. Psychiatrist Dr. Evona Schlumon was framed from the waist up, pointing one finger forward with that smart-ass smile of hers. “Overcoming the Fear of Death: 21 Simple Tips.”

I had fallen asleep somewhere between tip eighteen and nineteen. I tossed the book across the room and stormed back to the bedroom. I failed getting into the bed without waking my wife.

“More dreams?” She said.

“Nightmares, you mean.”

“Killer, aren’t they?”

I turned to her, eyes wide. “Really, Evona?”

The bed shook with her laughter. “Come on. Tip Seven: Don’t Forget To Laugh!”
« Last Edit: March 31, 2016, 08:30:52 PM by night_wrtr »

Offline Patchwork Mind

Re: [Mar 2016] - Nightmares - Submission Thread
« Reply #10 on: March 30, 2016, 10:27:51 PM »
Hello all,

I'm a loooong time lurker, who's decided to get involved, so I thought I'd give the writing contest a go! Hope you like it.

Mare Ridden 1496 words.

Spoiler for Hiden:
   The moonlight that filtered through the tangled branches of the nightmare pines was tainted by their boughs, and where it touched the snowclad ground, black twins of the twisted branches lay. In the still night a single draught slid across the moonlight snow towards the peacefully slumbering farm. It slipped over a snow drift and gently tipped a latch on the stable door, creeping inside. In the gloom of the stable, something in the draught watched the black horse’s nostrils flare as it sensed the presence, whickering in fear. It swept across the hay-strewn floor towards its prey.

*

   At the horse’s scream, Karl jerked from his sleep, breathless and sweating. The house was silent but the scream still quivered in his ears, worming its way into his brain, thundering through his heart and racing in his breath. It shivered down his spine. Around him his dark bedroom loomed, and the formerly safe room, his day-time sanctuary from the arduous work of the farm, leaned in close as though waiting for its moment.
   Deep beneath his rough, splintery floorboards, Karl heard something, scratching away. It grew louder and for an instant it was something gnawing its way into his room, chewing through joists and floorboards just to get at him. In the darkness the sound was enormous, a saw-toothed scratching that vibrated through the room.
   Karl’s door opened suddenly. He froze.
   From the dim candle light seeping through the frozen night air, he could see his father’s concerned, wrinkled face.
   “Are you all right?” he asked, grey moustache twitching as he spoke.
   “Yes, Vater, fine,” the young boy replied, his voice shaking as he spoke. It bothered him that he couldn’t keep it steady, but if his father was concerned by the sign of fear, he didn’t show it.
   “It was the horse,” his father said, trying to comfort his son in his cold, adult way. “Probably spooked by a mouse or an owl. We’ll check in the morning.” Karl nodded absentmindedly, remembering the horse’s terror, wondering if that’s all that it had been, really, a mouse or an owl. His father said good night and shut his door, taking the light with him.
   In the darkness, Karl shuddered and pulled the bedclothes up around his chin and ears, scrunching his eyes shut tight.
   When the sun came up his eyes were still tightly shut, but he had not slept a wink.

*

   In the morning the snow was even and glittering, a perfect, smooth covering for the hard, cold world that lurked beneath, a muddy smear of brown and grey. The horse, the farm’s only draught horse, a large black beast, stamped fretfully around the muddy ground of its enclosure, dirtying the snow. Its eyes were wide, still, and its nostrils flaring as Karl’s father approached carefully. The terrified horse shied away, whipping its head back and forth. Its chest and shoulders were foamed, Karl saw, as though someone had ridden it hard, even though its saddle and bridle were still in the barn gathering dust. This was a plough horse, which was hardly ever ridden. Its mane was tangled and matted, like something had been rubbing against it.
   The wind hopped from tree to tree, knocking free huge drifts of snow that collapsed to the ground with satisfying thumps. Eventually Karl grew tired of watching his father and wandered away across the inviting snow. His path meandered for a while, then something drew him to the pines which stood guard on the south boundary of the farm. Sometimes he saw snowshoe hares bounding around out there, he fancied, though he could never find their burrows.
   A few yards into the pines, Karl stopped. There was a hare. Just lying there in the snow, a white island in a moat of red. It took him a second to realise what the bright colour was. The smell of raw flesh cut through the cold fresh smell of winter morning air and pines. The hare was crushed, flattened from twitching nose to bobtail, as though something had simply smoothed it out. He caught himself as his innards churned at the sight of the exploded intestines, which lay there on the ground like earth worms, frozen, instead of writhing with life.
   Karl glanced around fitfully. Perhaps it was an owl, the same one that had spooked the horse. It would certainly make the shivers in his spine subside if he could see one, snoozing amongst the branches. There was no sign of any bird amongst the pines, though. Instead, Karl saw pine needles and small branches grown into whorls and tangled nests. There was one above the flattened hare. He stepped closer to inspect the strange confusion of green needles.
   Karl recoiled quickly, a hand flying to his face, as a single drop of water fell from the tangle and splashed on to his forehead, the cold water burning into his skin.

*

   That night, as he climbed into bed, Karl recalled what his father had said about the hare. It was probably crushed flat by the horse, which it had spooked, and then an owl, opportunistically, had taken it into the forest. Simple. It seemed reasonable enough, but Karl felt something was simply wrong, and once again, rubbed the spot on his forehead where the water had landed, before pulling up the cover to his chin and shutting his eyes. A few seconds later he was asleep.
   Then he felt as though he was awake again.
   The walls of his bedroom were gone, replaced only with a roiling darkness. He lay there entombed in the blankets, waiting while the sound of hooves grew closer, tapping across the floorboards to the end of his bed. In the dark the black and white muzzle of the plough horse hove into view, and the horse’s ice white eyes grew large with fear.
   Noiselessly, without a whicker or neigh, the horse began to eat the bed. It slowly opened its sparsely haired lips, revealing tombstone teeth, and began with the quilts at the foot of the bed. It somehow managed to fit the entire width of the bed into its mouth. Karl watched in frozen silence, completely unable to move. He felt the horse’s rough lips against his feet and suddenly it was crunching through them, up to his ankles. Another bite and the mad staring eyes were closer, broad incisors scything through his knees. His breath seemed frozen in his chest, a ball of immovable ice that filled his lungs with searing.
   A few more bites and he could smell the horse, its farm-yard musk and sweat, as it chewed implacably through his abdomen. Then it was in his chest, cracking through ribs and lungs and spine with the same swiftness that it cropped the turf in the summer. Before long it was up to his neck and he screamed, or tried, but nothing came out, his mouth was made of marble, cold and immobile. In a single bite the teeth closed over his head and all was darkness.
   Karl gasped awake, struggling to breathe. For an instant he could have sworn that something was lying on his chest, pressing against his ribs, stopping the cool air rushing in, like being bundled too tightly in an oppressive woollen blanket, but the instant he awoke and opened his eyes the weight disappeared. He gasped and sputtered, like a beached and suffocating fish, pale and clammy.  He panted a second, cold sweat running from his temples down the sides of his face. He sat up and rationalised quickly. ‘It was just a dream. Just a horrible, horrible dream.’ He lay down hesitantly and drew back up the covers. He fancied that he could hear the gnawing again, out of the corner of his ear, but this time the sound was muffled somewhat by the beating of his heart.
   In an instant, he couldn’t move again. His eyes remained locked open, drying and watering in the cold white winter air.
   A small hand grasped his foot under the blanket and used it to lever itself under the covers at the end of the bed. The shape gambolled closer, resting heavily, painfully, against his knees. The shape moved closer still, sitting on his abdomen. The creature must have been incredibly dense, its clawed feet piercing his belly. Finally, it slunk forward once more, until it rested all four hands and feet against his chest. The blanket slipped away and he could see it all.
   The tiny humanoid seemed female, shrivelled and wizened, lank grey hair hanging around its partially bald scalp. Long thin hands and feet, equipped with sharp, dirty talons, stank of rotting gore. Its eyes were slits, all white pupils with night-black, pin prick irises. Its mouth was a puckered maw, scabbed and filled with rows of pine needle thin teeth.
   “Go to sleep,” it drooled, in a rasping, hissing voice. “It’s just a nightmare,” it chuckled, and then began to chew.

Offline Hedin

Re: [Mar 2016] - Nightmares - Submission Thread
« Reply #11 on: March 31, 2016, 02:38:52 PM »
1002 words (a couple of those are adult words) based on a nightmare I had when I was younger: Keep Turning

Spoiler for Hiden:
I start watching the doctors and nurses work on me but I cannot watch for long and have to close my eyes.  I’m not squeamish at the sight of blood but this is my blood and I’m seeing an awful lot of it outside of my body where it rightfully belongs.  Instead I think I’ll just focus on the sound of the heart monitor and let the steady beeps calm me down.

Beep…..beep…..beep…..beep

“Can I get some suction here?” one of the doctors asked.  A few seconds later I heard the sound of the suctioning device working.  Great, there goes even more of my blood.  I do need that you know.

“Clamps”, the doctor said again.  It’s weird, I feel them messing around inside of me but I’m not feeling any pain.  Whatever they gave me I want it in a pill form that I can take when my back starts acting up again.

Beep...beep...beep...beep

“Pulse is up to 121, blood pressure is dropping”, a nurse called out.

Ok that does not sound good.  I’m starting to have a little trouble breathing which is not helping with the whole keeping calm zen-type thing I’m trying to achieve.

Beep..beep..beep..beep

“He’s bleeding from somewhere else, but I can’t find it.  I need some more suction over here”, called the doctor.

Ok now that really doesn’t sound good.  Think about Katie and take deep breaths.  She looked really good tonight didn’t she?  I really love it when she wears that blue dress and you get the contrast from her red hair.

Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeepppppppp

Oh shit. 

“Paddles!” cried the doctor

“Charging to 200!” replied the nurse

“Clear!” calls the doctor as he releases the current.  That hurts.

Beep….beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeppppp

Double shit.  I felt someone start doing compressions on my chest.  I’m trying to open my eyes to see what’s going on but they won’t open.

“Charge to 300,” called the doctor a little quieter than before.

“Charged.”

“Clear,” the doctor said as another jolt of electricity runs through me.

Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeppppp

Come on guys.  More compressions. 

“Charge to 350”, called the next command from the doctor although it sounded like he was speaking from across the room.

“Charged.”

“Clear,” I didn’t feel this jolt at all.

Oh fuck, I’m going to die.  Actually if we’re being technical I’m dead right now.  You never really notice your heart beating during normal circumstance but I am very acutely aware right now that it’s not beating at all.  This is very bad.  I’m actually surprised I can still think being dead and all but maybe it’s like a fan where even after you turn it off it the blades still turn for a bit while it uses up its momentum.  I hope I have a lot of momentum stored up.

I’m a little aware of activity around me but I can’t feel anything anymore.  The voices are mumbled and distant but they do seem to be excited which I’m hoping means they haven’t given up yet.  At least I hope they haven’t as I do like living.

Come on…

Come on…

Thinking is getting harder now.  My fan is winding down and I’m starting to think they will not be able to get the power restored.


I can no longer hear the voices.  No no no no…



Ok something needs to happen.  Heaven…hell…something. 



Come on…heaven or hell, at this point I don’t care just let something show up.  This can’t be it.



Please….please…..I-I-I don’t want…I don’t want this to be the end.




Heaven…….hell….sssometh…..



************************

Sean woke up with a jolt gasping for air.  He felt himself all over to make sure everything was still intact and let out a huge sigh of relief.

“It was only a dream, it was only a dream”, he chanted, “It was only a dream.”

He laid in his bed for a few minutes calming down and just trying to absorb what he just experienced.  He never had a dream before that was that realistic and scared him as much.  He would have to call Katie later to try to describe the dream to her but he was not sure he could really describe the terror in a way that would do it justice.
 
As he lay there he noticed his room was a little darker than usual.  He turned over to look at his alarm clock to see what time it was and noticed that the power was out.  Well it’s a good thing I woke up so I can set my cell phone alarm instead he thought to himself.  He reached out to pick up his cell phone but noticed that he had forgot to plug it in before going to bed and that the battery was now dead.

Frustrated, Sean lay back and stared at his ceiling.  The power must have recently gone out because his ceiling fan was still slowly spinning.  As he lay there he noticed that while the fan was still spinning it was definitely slowing down which brought the unease of his dream back.

“Nope!” he cried out “I think I’ve had enough sleep for one night.”  Sean climbed out of bed and went ahead and got dressed for the day.  He figured he would just go have breakfast at the restaurant near work and go into the office early afterwards.  As he left his room he glanced back at the fan and noticed that it had stopped and hurried to get out.

***************************

Katie wiped away the tears as she listened to the priest give his eulogy over the din of the whirring ceiling fans.  For the hundredth time in the last few days she wondered what Sean was doing out so early in the morning.  He always hated to wake up earlier than he needed to and she could not figure out where he why he would have been awake at four in the morning, let alone driving somewhere.  She looked up past the stained glass window of the church looking for an answer she knew she would never have.


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Re: [Mar 2016] - Nightmares - Submission Thread
« Reply #12 on: March 31, 2016, 11:28:21 PM »
Rushed in about six hours, I present you Broken (1499 words, including the title) (featuring Vega from my Young Love entry).

It was written by a slightly sleep deprived person, fits the theme maybe/barely, and is very hastily edited. So, enjoy.  ;D

Some naughty words and violence.

Spoiler for Broken:

Broken

“I can’t even remember his name.” Vega smiled joylessly as he ran his fingers across the worn markings on the gravestone, trying to make out the flawed letters in the moonlight. He hadn’t heard the person coming behind him, but a whiff of familiar perfume gave away the comer; the one he had sworn to protect. “I really should remember. After all, I was the one who put him there. Was it Gale?”

Vega glanced at the woman who sat down on a small rock beside the graves, folding her dress hem neatly on her lap so as not to soil it on the dirty ground. She didn’t say anything, but Vega knew she expected to hear his story. He turned around and got down, sitting on the mound, his back against the headstone. “We had been training here for a few weeks. I had done well, so the instructors made me the team leader. I figured that picking a leader meant we were going for a mission and I was right. My first ever clandestine mission, and in charge no less. I was scared shitless. That doesn’t happen often.” Vega smirked, hoping that the women would grace him with a smile; it always made him feel better. But he knew she really had no reason to smile.

“The mission was pretty simple: Go in unnoticed, stage an accident for one rebellious noble, and get out without a trace. Everything went fine; just like we had planned. But as we were leaving this one idiot took some things from the manor. Some trinkets of hardly any value. We didn’t see him doing it. And when we found out, it was too late to go back. Perfectly executed mission ruined by a former thief who couldn’t control himself.” Vega took a handful of dirt and recentfully threw it back on the grave. “Galen! That’s his name.” An expression that could have almost been called a smile formed on Vegas bearded face. “He was a funny guy. And my best friend... up until that point,” he said, solemnly finishing the sentence.

A moment passed. The woman sat silent and expressionless but urged Vega to continue with a nod. “We, the others, were pissed. But not as pissed as the instructors. They beat up the scrawny little guy badly. Then they locked him into the root cellar.” Vega pointed to a small hill across the graveyard and the practice grounds behind it. “There. After a day the instructors came to talk to me, put a knife in my hand, and told me to go in and kill him. I thought they were joking. Galen deserved the beating, but to die because of a fuck up on his first mission? It felt a little harsh. But the boss men were serious. I didn’t want to fight them, but let’s say that I wasn’t entirely compliant when they dragged me into the cellar and locked the door behind me.” Vega took a deep breath and winced. “Galen looked bad, real bad. He just lay on the floor, wrists shackled to a beam at the back of the room with loose chains. His face was bloody pulp, and for a moment I thought about putting him out of his misery. But then he wheezed some stupid joke and laughed until he passed out. I just sat there looking at him.”

“On the next morning the door opened, and I was prepared to defend my friend even though I was pretty sure that would have meant they would kill me as well. But the instructors came in with a bowl of soup and mug of water. They walked past me and poured the food and drink into Galen’s mouth; he squealed from the pain. Then they walked out, ordering me to kill him on their way out.” Vega paused, taking a small knife from his belt. He scraped his thump on its edge. “Same thing happened in the afternoon, and the next day. Didn’t take me long to figure out that they weren’t punishing Galen. They were making him an example for sure but they were punishing me; testing me maybe. I was supposed to be the leader, give the orders, make them obey. I failed.”

The woman listening the story turned her gaze away as Vega looked at her. He saw she was straining to keep the tears from flowing. But he wasn’t about to stop now. “After two days they changed tactics. They still weren’t giving me any food or water, but on top of that they posted two guards inside the cellar to make sure that I didn’t get any sleep. Galen was still out cold most of the time, so the guards were free to be colourful in their methods of keeping me awake: Some of them sang, some of them beat me with sticks, and one kept shouting his lungs out every time my eyelids drooped.”

“I can’t really tell how much time passed, but after a while Galen got a little better. We chatted; first this and that and later about his crime and our punishment. He said he was sorry and that I should just kill him. I told him to shut up. It wasn’t the most cheerful of conversations, but it beat listening to the guards’ singing.” The woman smiled at Vega’s macabre humour, but her eyes were clearly watery now. Vega didn’t smile however. “It was nice. But then during one of our chats I got too close to him. He slid one of the chains around my neck and pulled. I was weakened, but so was he. I flailed my arms around and finally managed to get a solid hit on his face with my elbow. He reeled and I got free. I pushed him to the floor and held the knife ready to strike it down. But I didn’t do it. I couldn’t.”

Vega stared at his knife for a moment, tossing it from hand to hand, flicking it around, and balancing it on his finger. Then he struck it into the ground. “We didn’t really speak after that. The guards kept telling me to kill him. ‘Kill him, kill him now, soldier!’ That’s the only thing I can remember. It was surreal, like a bad dream. There were no morals, no ideals. There was no right or wrong. No black or white. There was nothing but the one truth: The command, ‘Kill.’ Nothing else was real. I don’t know how long it took for me to snap, but in the end I slouched over to Galen and stabbed him repeatedly with that knife,” he said, nodding at the handle sticking out of the ground. “The instructors had me bury him before I could eat and rest. It took me days to recover. I refused to train for as long as I dared, but when I heard whispers that they were planning to make a place for me beside Galen, I had to get back to the fold. I never lead again, though.”

“For the longest time after that I didn’t really feel anything. No matter what I did, I didn’t care. As long as I had been given an order, I blindly followed it.” The woman was weeping now, smeary streaks of dark water marring her unblemished complexion. Vega expected to see shock or perhaps disgust on her face, but strangely enough her painted eyes offered only understanding. “When you are broken, and I mean truly torn apart by the things you have experienced and the things you have done, you can’t see the world around you moving on. You concentrate so intently on your past, on your worst memories, that you’re not really alive; you’re living that same bad dream, that nightmare, which broke you down in the first place.” Vega closed his eyes, resting his head against his friend’s tombstone. “But once you realize that you are still dreaming… well, you still can’t wake up, but at least you can try to turn your bad dream into a slightly better one. Luckily I finally got that and left the special forces. After a long time I finally started to think for myself; stopped following orders without a second thought.”

A hint of flowery perfume drifted into Vega’s nostrils, and he opened his eyes. The woman was no longer sitting on the rock. She was kneeling on the ground next to Vega, neverminding her dress. She placed her hands nervously on the man’s cheeks and leaned in for a kiss. Vega was caught off guard, but he didn’t stop her right away. Slowly he seized her shoulders and pushed, gently separating her lips from his, wondering what warranted the woman’s sudden affection. Then he remembered it and saw it in her eyes ever more: The understanding. “We are both broken, living a bad dream,” he said, wiping tears off her face. “But we are lucky to know it... and to dream together.”


« Last Edit: March 31, 2016, 11:48:15 PM by ArcaneArtsVelho »
Everything I wrote above is pure conjecture. I don't know what I'm talking about.

I'm a perfectionist but not very good at anything. That's why I rarely finish things.

Offline Jmack

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Re: [Mar 2016] - Nightmares - Submission Thread
« Reply #13 on: April 01, 2016, 04:15:18 AM »
No idea how this will hold up to reading, but here it is.

Oneiromancer. 1,496 words, excluding the title.

Spoiler for Hiden:
ONEIROMANCER

The phone woke Karin from deep REM sleep, and the dream clung to her as she answered: a dark river, an island in mist, a hooded figure on the shore.

"Captain Onassis? Professor Cornwall needs you."

Three magic words - Cornwall needs you - and she was up, rushing back into the CIA's shadow world. Hell. She pulled the electrodes from her head and glanced at the EEG out of habit. Normal except for that spike at the end. The phone call, or the figure? The dream stayed with her. She closed her eyes, breathed out, explored it.

A dark river; the island low-lying, with sandy shores. The figure was distant, but clear. Then Karin was beside it. It turned, opened its eyes, and smiled.

Karin crossed to the desk, heart pounding. The little ivory box was hidden where it always had been. She slid it out and and zipped it carefully into the pocket of her windbreaker.

A black helicopter dropped from the sky and carried her into the night.

***

Cornwall lay in a hospital-style bed, covered by a blanket so thin that it showed every detail of the belt buckled across his stomach and the wrist cuffs keeping his arms straight at his side. Massive air conditioners struggled against the tropical Cuban fug that pressed on the walls of Guantanamo Naval Base, but the place still reeked of disinfectant overlaying the bitter sweat of prisoners and guards, the acrid stink of urine and a deeper tone of pain. Karin pushed past the CIA man, Harkins, into the narrow room.

A net of whisker-like wires twisted about the professor's grey head. They fed an umbilical connected to a powerful computer on a trolley. Tiny lights pulsed along the wires in time to the motion of Cornwall's eyes under closed lids.

"How long has he been asleep?" Karin asked.

"Three days," said Harkins, "and nights."

"He asked for me like this?" She let the doubt show.

"We told you he needed you, not that he asked for you, Captain."

"What about the other dream riders? Anyone gone in after him?" She pictured the women and men they'd trained for the oneirocaster - ten hand-picked agents seeking an alternative to the brutal methods spawned by 9-11. They'd had such hopes. But by the time only five were left alive or sane, Captain Karin Onassis, USMC, Phd, MD, had had enough and retreated to academia. Professor Alvin Cornwall had stayed.

"They're unavailable."

"What do you mean, unavailable? If you could pull me in from the cold, you can certainly dredge one of them from one the black sites. What about Al-Roush? Isn't she here?" Karin felt cold building around her heart. "And what the hell is this? What is Alvin doing strapped to the bed? That was never in the protocol." Harkins started to answer, but Karin turned her back on the CIA agent and sat on the bed by the professor.

"Lieutenant Al-Roush is also detained."

"Right," Karin snorted. “Cut the crap and tell me what's going on."

The man was silent for a minute. She heard the stubborn grind of ingrained secrecy. If she ever rode his dreams, she'd see a maze of stone walls surrounded by stone walls surrounded by stone walls. When he spoke again, she was surprised to sense something resembling honesty. "It won't be announced until just before Election Day, for obvious reasons, but we recently acquired a new asset. She was delivered -"

"She?"

"She. After the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ISIS was in full retreat. Then out of nowhere, it recovered. We received word of a new leader they called Umm ath-thaeaban."

"Mother of snakes," said Karin with a shudder.

"Rumor had her as Abu Bakr's mother. That was way off. You'll understand when you see her. How she ever took control is beyond us."

"See her?" Karin suddenly knew where this was going. Her gorge rose, and her heart raced. She stood and found Harkins blocking the door.

"It's the nightmare scenario, Captain. It's what you and Cornwall and ten good men and women spent five years preparing for. They have a nuke. Got it from North Korea, we think. We captured Umm ath-thaeaban in a raid, a terrible, costly raid, but she's not talking. Except to tell us we'll never figure it all out in time."

"So you put her to sleep, and Alvin went in for the information."

A twitch in the CIA man's face was the only emotion he showed. "We put her to sleep, and Lieutenant Al-Roush went in. Then Lieutenant Carboni. Then Sergeants Martin, Orice, and Greenway."

Karin's mouth went dry. "All five. Where are they now?"

"Al-roush is in a bed down the hall. The others didn't make it."

She closed her eyes and cursed. "Oh, Alvin. I told you we didn't have it right."

***

Karin looked at the monitor hooked to Mother Snake and marveled at the terrorist's beauty. Porcelain skin, hair the color of fire. If the woman wasn't Irish, she'd eat her medals; maybe some IRA hard-ass's daughter gone totally against her Catholic upbringing. The scan read clear. Asleep. Dreaming.

Karin donned the wire harness of oneirocaster and tuned it to her own brain waves, while Harkins watched from the doorway. "The Professor was convinced Umm al-thaeaban had some sort of extraordinary defense against our dream rider technology."

"She crippled two and killed four. I'd say so, yes." Karin pulled the ivory box from her pocket. She spoke a word, and opened it.

"Can you get around whatever she's doing?"

She removed a gold amulet from the box and stared at it. "The waking mind has automatic defenses, like white blood cells reacting to an infection. It's why we have to go in while the subject is asleep and the brain is uncertain what's real and what isn't. I have to go to the center of her dreams before her mind becomes aware of me." The amulet was in the shape of a closed eye and about that size. Karin lay back on the cot and placed the eye in the center of her forehead.

"What's that?" asked Harkins.

"Something I could never make the technology replicate. Dream riding, oneiromancy, is a very old art. Most wizards can ride their own dreams. Few can ride someone else's."

"Wizards? You're kidding me."

"We need something to help us do it." Karin settled her mind, initiated the oneirocaster, and closed her eyes. The golden eye opened, and she fell into Mother Snake's mind.

***

She flew without wings over a land of sand and oil. She sensed the power of the technology meshed with the ancient artifact, the two held in balance for now. I am myself, she spoke into the wind. I am dreaming her dream. She is dreaming my dream.

There is blood on her hands and grit in her hair. A blast rocks the building and she is deaf. She sees muzzle flashes, but cannot hear the sound of the guns. Men with night vision crash through a wall. She kills one with a thought and another with a knife. She kisses a third, bites his nose and watches him die. They are on her. But she is serving tea, and the smell of salt reminds her of home. Her father turns from the sink with a towel in his hands. "Don't mind me, dear," he says. "It won't hurt much." He pushes the rag over her face and pours water across it. Then she is the one pouring and the other is tied to a board and screaming.

I have to get to the center, she thinks, but she needs information about roadside bombs from this bastard or they'll never reach Karbalah. Harkins hands her a wire. It buzzes in her hand like

a snake.

The figure on the island pulls down her hood and smiles. Karin faces her, and thinks: she is awake. I am awake.

The snakemother strikes. Karin blocks with a forearm, and sweeps a leg to trip her opponent, who leaps away. They circle, looking for an advantage, a chance to attack. They choose the same moment and grapple. You're mine, says the woman. Look at me. Her eyes are like pits. Karin struggles, but the grip is iron. Their foreheads touch. Karin opens her third, her golden eye. The snakemother pulls back, frantic, but Karin holds fast.

Finds the center, and the bomb.

***

"I have what you want," Karin said, as she rose to awareness. Harkins cringed from her eyes. "But if you ever call me again, if you even speak of me, I'll make you relive everything you've ever done in this place, every night, until you never want to see your bed again." She placed the golden eye back in its box, leaned over and kissed the pale woman's forehead. "As for this one, bury her deep. Bury her very, very deep."

« Last Edit: April 01, 2016, 11:31:32 AM by Jmack »
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Offline Lanko

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Re: [Mar 2016] - Nightmares - Submission Thread
« Reply #14 on: April 01, 2016, 11:31:39 AM »
Almost last minute entry  ::)

The Dreamweaver

Spoiler for Hiden:
   Not everyday one can make a politician eat cockroaches for breakfast. Sitting in a bed, wearing an hospital gown and unable to move, the governor could only stare in despair as the nurse kept feeding him the still alive insects into his mouth, that involuntarily chewed them. Judging only by the sound, it looked like he was eating crunchy, fried shrimps.
   The nurse’s face was full of pustules, her hands full of warts. After the last cockroach was eaten, she pushed the governor to a wheelchair and they moved to the main corridor. The governor screamed, but the other patients, doctors and nurses, all equally miserable, paid them no heed.
   They entered a bathroom, and the nurse removed his gown and turned on the shower, releasing an orange, cold cascade that made the old man whimper. She began to rub her hands in his chest. Some warts popped, making pus run down his skin. The governor screamed again.
   And the room shook, sending waves that distorted the building, and then he dematerialized.
   Watching invisibly, Carl sighed. “The fun part was just about to begin.” He closed his eyes and concentrated, erasing the deranged hospital and its inhabitants from his mind. The governor woke up, and even though Carl wasn’t finished with him tonight, he was satisfied with the result. He would continue tomorrow with the bath with the putrid nurse.
   “I see you were having fun,” said a voice from behind him. He turned and saw a woman in a red cloak.
   “Who the hell are you?”
   “I’m Anna. A dreamer, like you.” She smiled and waved her hand. “Let’s talk in a more friendly place, shall we?”
   He felt himself dragged and a second later they were sitting on a bench in a sunny plaza, a big fountain nearby, birds flying and singing.
   “Is this a dream you created?” asked Carl.
   “Yes. Now, would you mind telling me why you were tormenting that man?”     
   “You called me a ‘dreamer’. What is that?”
   Anna sighed. “I think it’s better if I explain everything first. A dreamer is someone who can interact with dreams, be it their own or from others. Everyone that awakens to their power starts as a Sender or a Receiver. A Sender, like you, can influence or manipulate your dreams or of others. A Receiver can see what someone is dreaming and feel their inner thoughts and worries while doing so. As their power grows, they can even dive further inside the mind of the sleeping person.”
   “So… this is magic? And how did you find me?”
   “It’s common for newborn dreamers to find their mentors while dreaming. Fitting, right?”
   Carl frowned. “Mentor?”
   “You are not the only dreamer in the world, Carl. And our power can be dangerous, to others and ourselves.”
   “And what are you? Sender or Receiver?”
   Anna smiled. “People with the aptitude, desire and power eventually become a Sharer, able to use both powers. Now tell me about that man.”
   “He is a governor. He got caught in various corrupt schemes, but managed to get away from every accusation. In this time of crisis, he decided to cut funds from hospitals and increased taxes at the same time. One can only guess it’s to further continue his schemes.” Carl shook his head. “A few months ago he said all the hospitals were in perfect state and there were no shortage of medicines and staff.” He looked at Anna. “Well, I thought appropriate from him to have a taste of the real world in his dreams.”
   “I see. And you think he’s gonna change his politics because of a nightmare?”
   “I will plague his dreams every night until he does. He will have to see it as some kind of signal or divine warning.”
   She grabbed his hand. “Let me show you a place.” Carl felt a distortion and they arrived in a mountain floating above the clouds, with a yellow, bright sky, and a white tower looming over the horizon.
   “This is the Astral Temple,” said Anna. “It’s where we dreamers meet each other.”
   “Wait…how did we get here?”
   “Dreamscaping. Senders can focus on a specific person, or themselves, and radically alter a dream. Dreamscaping allows us to jump to another dream, from anyone. That governor woke up from the nightmare, but sometimes people fight back. It can be dangerous, and you can even get stuck in a dream.  Can you imagine, not ever waking up again, forever bound in someone’s nightmare?”
   Carl paled, but also thought some people would deserve such fate, if not forever, at least for longer periods of time, refusing to let them wake up until he was done.
   “Is this place dreamed by someone?”
   “They say it’s here since time immemorial. No one knows who created it. Only that it draws other dreamers. Eventually you would reach this place, but I accelerated the process.”
   “How many dreamers exist?”
   “A few hundred. Not many, but not too few either. We come from all over the world and you will see that learning different languages was never so easy. Call it ‘sleep learning’.”
   “I heard something about this. People putting audio tapes when they go to sleep…”
   Anna laughed. “This was inspired by people who were dreamers, but that did not fully awoke to their power. You don’t tire and time passes differently in a dream. It’s very useful for academic purposes.”
   Carl saw a circular shaped room where people were sleeping adjacent to one another, but with their eyes open. “Who are they?”
   “Oracles,” answered Anna. “They can see glimpses of the future in dreams. They can’t Send or Receive, though.”
   “Can they really see the future?”
   “Dreams played an important role in ancient times. Civilizations had their destinies shaped by a dream. Dreams about the future can be symbolic, distorted, or even highly detailed and clear, but it is often difficult, beforehand to distinguish the important elements of the dream. Often, misinterpretations caused the ruin of an entire kingdom. Also, any common person can have a dream about something bad happening and then later seeing it happening. However, they might never experience such thing again. The Oracles are different, their power never vanishes, but it’s highly difficult to understand a precognitive dream. They can also see other people’s futures through their dreams, but it’s even harder. Pieces and symbols that are meaningless to us may have a key meaning to that person, if only they could see it and tell us.”
   “Can dreamers have even more power?”
   Anna halted, and so did Carl.
   “Yes. Dreamweavers.”
   “And… what they do?”
   “They make dreams become reality.”
   Carl stared dumbfound at Anna. He laughed, but she remained serious. “Look, I believe this Sender and Receiver thing, even the Oracles, but this is simply absurd.”
   She led him to a library and opened a golden book. “There are plenty of register of dreamweavers. This painter, for example, would often dream of a painting and wake up in the morning with it finished before him. This other one would create weapons for a kingdom in the same way. They never managed to manifest other things, so we can only guess if the dreamweaver’s powers are somewhat limited or they did not realize their full potential, as there are stories of near godlike dreamweavers. There were some that could even create people.”
   “You’re joking.”
   “Could be just myth. Also, dreamweavers weren’t always a force of good.”
   Anna got another book, full of pictures of scenes depicting death and suffering.
   “There was a time when one crazy, lunatic person became an incredible powerful dreamweaver. His nightmares, fears and hallucinations manifested in the real world, creating a living hell for a long time. His mental state, habits and behavior spread to other people through their dreams, like a plague. It was a Dark Age. Imagine if this happened today.”
   “Or one could create a paradise as well.”
   “A paradise? By whose standards? What makes you think you have the answer of all humanity’s problems?”
   “A world without poverty, disease or famine would obviously be the solution.”
   “We don’t know for certain the scale of a dreamweaver’s powers. But don’t get carried away by the painter’s example. Dreaming a picture is simple enough, but what about curing a disease? How would you end a disease that you don’t even know what is composed of?”
   Carl couldn’t answer that.
   “Even if a dreamweaver could be that powerful, there are things we can’t solve by simply closing our eyes and thinking it’s gone. Think about this.”
   “I will,” said Carl.
   But the only thing he was thinking was how a dreamweaver’s power was the only thing worth having. Imagine what one could do by turning dreams into reality! He could punish politicians, criminals, influence people to be good.
   Carl decided. Whatever the cost, he would search and study for anything related to the dreamweavers. He would become one. And he would change the world.
"It is an old maxim of mine that when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

Lanko's Year in Books 2017

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