Hello, Sweet Dreamers and Nightmare Bringers!
Am I dreaming? Am I still awake? I can’t tell… this is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. There’s no way I’m awake… is there? No one is going to believe this place, because…
This week’s Writing Group prompt is:
RULES AND GUIDELINES BELOW!
Make sure you scroll down and read them if you haven’t! You may not be eligible if you don’t!
Dreams. Places of fantastical stories and unbelievable events. You never know what could happen, for there isn’t always a plotline to the dreams we have. But this is more than just what goes on within our minds.
A dreamscape is a landscape or scene with the strangeness or mystery that dreams often have. Places that may or may not actually be real. Say, for example, you venture to a far off land you’ve never visited before. Sure, you’ve seen photos and heard stories, but to lay your very own eyes upon it yourself is nothing short of wonderful. From endless flowery fields, to waters filled with glowing algae, to the highest peaks in the world overlooking the rest of this beautiful planet. These scenes are certainly breathtaking, and one might even describe them as something from a dream. Maybe you’ve moved to a new town, and upon wandering, you find the most serene, secluded little spring amidst the crowd of trees behind your new home. The waters glisten, the grass is a blue-green, it’s simply beautiful… just like it was when you dreamt of exactly this scene so long ago.
One thing to remember, though; not all dreams are pleasant. Maybe the landscape you come across is some old, ancient battlefield left to time. Armor, weapons, and skeletons are sprinkled across the dark, shifting sands. Perhaps some broken architecture protrudes from the dunes like crumbling claws grasping for the clouds above. Maybe the land before you is vast, rolling hills… charred black and still smoldering from the forest fire that had just passed, leaving the once lush valley scorched to ashes at your feet.
Beauty, light, serenity…
Repellency, darkness, desolation…
Only a few of the valid words to describe a world that blurs the line between dreams and reality. Now, venture forth, and paint with colours unknown a land that no one sees like you do.
Remember, this is part of our weekly Writing Group stream! Submit a little piece following the rules and guidelines below, and there’s a chance your entry will be read live on stream! In addition, we’ll discuss it for a minute and give you some feedback.
Tune into the stream this Saturday at 3:00pm CST to see if you made the cut!
The whole purpose of this is to show off the creativity of the community, while also helping each other to become better writers. Lean into that spirit! Get ready not just to share what you’ve got, but to give back to the other writers here as well.
Rules and Guidelines
We read at least four stories during each stream, two of which come from the public post, and two of which come from the much smaller private post. Submissions are randomly selected by a bot, but likes on your post will improve your chances of selection, so be sure to share your submission on social media!
Text and Formatting
- English only.
- Prose only, no poetry or lyrics.
- Use proper spelling, grammar, and syntax.
- Your piece must be between 250-350 words (you can use this website to see your wordcount).
- Use two paragraph breaks between each paragraph so that they have a proper space between them (press “enter” or “return” twice).
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What to Submit
- Keep submissions “safe-for-work”; be sparing with sexuality, violence, and profanity.
- Try to focus on making your submission a single meaningful moment rather than an entire story.
- Write something brand new; no re-submitting past entries or pieces written for other purposes
- No fan fiction whatsoever. Take inspiration from whatever you’d like, but be transformative and creative with it. By submitting, you also agree that your piece does not infringe on any existing copyrights or trademarks, and you have full license to use it.
- Submissions must be self-contained (everything essential to understanding the piece is contained within the context of the piece itself—no mandatory reading outside the piece required. e.g., if you want to write two different pieces in the same setting or larger narrative, you cannot rely on information from one piece to fill in for the other—they must both give that context independently).
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- Be constructive and uplifting. These submissions are not for a professional market, and shouldn’t be treated as such. We do this, first and foremost, for the joy of the craft. Help other writers to feel like their work is valuable, and be considerate and gentle with critique when you offer it. Authors who leave particularly abrasive or disheartening remarks on this post will be disqualified from selection for readings.
- Use the same e-mail for your posts, reviews, and likes, or you may be rendered ineligible (you may change your username or author name between posts without problem, however).
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- Understand that by submitting here, you are giving us permission to read your submission aloud live on stream and upload public, archived recordings of said stream to our social media platforms. You will always be credited, but only by the author name you supply as per these rules. No other links or attributions are guaranteed.
Comments on this post that aren’t submissions will be deleted, except for replies/reviews left on existing submissions.
Recurring Themes (Oneiron Universe)
I felt no impact, but the jolt was painful nonetheless, like the atoms in my body ripping apart with the flick of a switch. My eyelids slid open mechanically, controlled by something other than my mind. Deep purple ribbons of color flooded into my eyes indicating that the day had withered and night was fast approaching. I had to get home.
Slowly I stood up, peering over the edge of the river bank into the black ink flowing below. I opted to go around. My steps were slow and laborious as they fought against the incredible desire to remain motionless. Eventually, the opposing force relented, and I was free to move as I wished.
I reached the other side of the river by the time the sun had released its final breaths. I quickened my pace. I had to get home. The sky exploded with a pale radiance and I found myself transfixed by twin lights in the darkness. They moved closer to me with every second, but I had to remind myself it was only an illusion.
These lights couldn’t hurt me.
I kept my head down and forced myself to carry on. I came to a small building and opened the door. The usual terrifyingly distorted smile greeted me.
“Good evening, Andrew! I’m glad you stopped in. I was just working on yet another one of my unique contraptions. I hope you like it! It’s over there in the corner.”
It pointed one of its fifteen hands to a small machine collecting dust in the corner. As I approached, the machine whirred to life, spitting out white text on a small black display:
Oneiron Technologies Ltd.
CiRFiS v4.60 Beta
Subject: Andrew Pulchant
Vitals: Slightly Elevated
Current Heart Rate: 135bpm
Cognitive Function: High
Motor Function: N/A
Warning: SYSTEM OVERLOADED
ERROR: DREAMER INTERFACE IS CORRUPT
I felt no impact, but the jolt was painful nonetheless, like the atoms in my body ripping apart with the flick of a switch.
Caught in Dreams
By Jesse Fisher
The infinite hallway of dreams were, the words lost on the little creature that raced the twisting hallway. Huffing came from the draconic muzzle as it ran from what it could not see. The slapping clicks of it’s padded clawed feet against the floor? They could not feel what it stood on, the something just out of the corner of their eye.
“Boo!” A nasty looking nightmare appeared before the draconic creature. “We’re every you see.”
“Look out, we might be real!” A group of them began to form around the young one. “This time we got you caught up in a dream.”
The young draconic began to just shake as the world began to spin as the dark melodic tone filled it’s ears. Curled up into a ball as they tried to, it began to cry for it’s mother as the nightmares laugh at their victim. They knew that nothing could save inexperienced dream walkers, as they were between dreams and only they could see them. This is how they hunted and the reason beings feared dying in their sleep.
No one was coming for this young one, no one.
The vibration was a surprise as that should not happen with inexperience such as the victim.
That sound…no SHE could not know of this. They avoided her for a reason, the rage was something to fear.
“WHO IS THE DEAD NIGHTMARES THAT FRIGHTEN MY BABY?!?!”
They saw her, and their fear was clear. The giant dragon appeared in the ‘sky’ with piercing white eyes. Some of the newer ones thought this was nothing and tried to grow to match the dragon. The elders took this moment to just leave as they knew how this would end.
The young draconic just cried, hugging themselves. They felt their mother’s touch, instantly wrapping around them as much as they could.
“Shh, It’s alright Cyan you are safe in mom’s arms.”
By Hemming Sebastian Bane
Tobias watched as his young charge looked around in wonder. Vermillion tapestries hung from rust brick walls depicting an eagle carrying the sun and moon in its talons. Towering arches with windows soared as scarlet light shone down. The chamber echoed as the young girl’s moccasins padded across something like stone.
“Yeilsee!” Tobias barked.
The girl gasped in surprise and snapped to attention. “Master Galzer.”
Tobias suppressed a chuckle. Yeilsee’s excitement reminded him of his own not five years ago. But now was not the time to reminisce.
“Listen. This is your first expedition into the Realms of Night. If you have any questions, ask them now. As soon as we leave this chamber, the world around us will become unpredictable.”
Yeilsee thought for a moment. “We’re here to kill a demon, right?”
Tobias nodded. “Correct.”
“Then why didn’t we bring weapons?”
Tobias nodded before walking over to the velvet-lined redwood chair that appeared from thin air. Tobias sat down in the chair.
“Tell me, Yeilsee. What do you see?”
Yeilsee furrowed her brow. “I see a chair.”
“Wrong. This is a table.”
“Wait, wha—” Yeilsee blinked. He was right. Tobias sat on a redwood table with scarlet candles of vermilion flame.
“I imagine you’re confused.” Tobias stood. “Remember, dreams are of…”
Yeilsee paused before answering. “The subconscious?”
Tobias nodded. “Right. The Realms of Night, dream made place, functions similarly. A knife can be a teacup. A hallway can be a hill. A flower can be a snake.”
Yeilsee’s eyes lit up. “Our weapons may not be weapons!”
“Exactly. That’s why we never enter the Realms with a weapon.”
“Wait. So, we have to take on demons without weapons? That’s dangerous!”
“Not necessarily.” Tobias looked around the table until he found a bowl. “Watch.”
With a toss, Tobias hurled the dish at a wooden pillar. With a thunk, the edge of the bowl lodged itself deep.
“Interobjects,” Tobias said tersely, “They’re items unique to the Realms of Night. Two different things at the same time. For example, that’s a bowl AND a hatchet.”
Yeilsee nodded, wide-eyed. “So… where’s this demon?”
By L. L. Marco
Juny hasn’t been here for weeks. I’ve been searching, sticking my ‘feelers’ out into the Aether to see if I could feel her or she would let me into her Dreamscape, but night after night I’ve found nothing. I can’t help but worry… The last time I saw her, something was wrong. She’d started crying and hugged me so tight. Then she vanished.
I can’t stop thinking about that hug.
My bed feels unfamiliar as I lay in it. My eyes close, sleep overtakes me, and moments later I awake in my Dreamscape. Like every night, I search for Juny in the Aether. Like every night, I feel nothing.
“C’mon Juny, I know you’re there.”
I keep searching.
Nothing. More nothing….
And then suddenly everything. It feels like I’m buried in thick sludge; drowning but there was never any air. My lungs feel utterly empty but I keep pushing forward, slowly, stubbornly…
I burst through, tumbling into Juny’s dreamscape. She simply stares.
“H-How did you…”
Juny doesn’t finish her sentence. Her skin is sickly pale and bruised. She’s crying.
She grabs me with trembling hands and tries to push me out. I steady myself. She isn’t strong enough to move me. My heart jumps at the idea. This is HER Dreamscape. HER mind. Why can’t she move me?
I look at her and then to the space around us. It’s so small. So empty. No bigger than a bedroom, and even then the edges flicker in and out like static.
It was dying…
SHE was dying.
“You have to leave,” she sobbed. “T-this place is collapsing a-and if you…”
I wrap my arms tightly around her.
“I’m not leaving you.” I smile.
The room closes in around us until there’s little more than the flicker of floor just beneath our feet. Soon even that is gone. All that’s holding us here is the last remaining moments of her life. Our bodies fade until all that’s left is my heart against hers. Our tears intermingle. In our last moments I feel them fall into the Aether.
Perchance to Dream (A Tiefling Tale)
C. M. Weller
Kosh wasn’t aware of when he made the mistake of falling asleep. This may remind him why it WAS such a mistake. Or he may believe he deserved the torture.
He was running. The kind of slow running that gets nowhere and drifts through the air but is still the fastest he could run. Kosh couldn’t tell where he was running towards or what he was running from. He barely had an idea of where he was running at all.
In one moment, it was the winding paths of the Dojo. Then, the halls of the castle of his childhood. In another, the winding ways of Waterdeep. In another blink, he was watching Master Bai fall from the high poles in their duel.
This time, the Master splashed in a fountain of blood.
He was standing in the court, looking up at the Earl his father on the Blood Throne. In its crimson glare, his father was a sneering expression in deep shadow. A breeze made itself known to him and Kosh realised he was naked. Under the gaze of the Earl, his Barons, and all their Knights.
“Turn around, devilspawn,” sneered Earl Valiant.
He turned, no matter how much he wanted to resist it.
She wore white from head to toe. No details visible under veils, lace, and fine satin.
She’s dead. He said she’s dead…
Nevertheless, his bride still had breath to scream. She ran as she always had. Satin skirts, veils, and petticoats floating around her.
“Catch her, you fool,” snarled his father, “or be alone forever!”
He ran, chasing after her through a maze of passages. Into the Plane of Torment itself.
Where his great-great-something grandfather sealed him away in chains. On the coldest peak of the mountains. Face to face with the old Warlock who started it all. Forced to make the Keep and the bargain that had doomed him.
Kosh startled awake to the greys of the night. Alone. Someone had carried him to a bed. He would have to remind the staff to ensure he meditated. He could not rest any other way.
All That Seems
By RVMPLSTLTSKN (The Saga of The Deep One’s Wake)
In a place where gravity has a rainbow and cities float, a nation of sailing ships above and flying insects below, a world of disjointed perceptions and alien ideas, a reality of unshattered selves and wanderlusting souls, Father stood still.
He hear all within this little web of fates and ambitions, of longing and promises; everything was prayed for: protection, health, wisdom, wealth. Father was, perhaps, the least among his fellows.
In their celestial mantle, Mother Fate whispered events to him, but never endings. Charn stood like a servant, His mask a promise of endings. The Warlord stretched xir influence while the Usurper smiled cruelly at the stars. And the Wanderer, she was never quite present. Always a little away from the others.
Father looked at her in particular. She was only here because of him, in more ways than the obvious.
She caught him staring. “What is it, Father?”
“We are forgetting something.”
“Can gods forget?” Usurper asked.
“I can,” Father said. None doubted his entendre.
“The prayer for a new god is forming,” the Warlord said.
“For home?” The Wanderer said, “My sister is dead.”
The Warlord, without hope, answered, “No, for something else. There is a balance upset. A binary. We have Mother and Father, Daughter and Priests, but no son. No reason. We need a learned member.”
“I am a learned member,” Usurper said.
Father ignored them, knowing the dread secrets Mother Fate whispered to him. There would be no others when it matter and, what’s more, there would be only him to protect them all.
He reached out to feel the prayers and supplications, sacrimonies and testaments, and he stretched the meanings of their words, adding Himself, his own identity. Father, Home, Family. He felt the Wanderer’s tug too in this act of magic. Where he created structure, she syphoned the outliers and rebels, the lost and wandering souls, damned to lack what they needed by Mother Fate. There was a balance to this dream, to the weaving of divine conspiracies and human lifes.
The Endless Battles Of Peacetime (Corespace Universe)
By Calliope Rannis
The Core World of Vang hasn’t needed to activate its self-defence forces in over a century. It was once a world upon the border of humanity, the wilder unknown hanging before it like a great maw in the darkness. But in the decades upon decades since, humanity had explored much further, and now Vang was nestled comfortably within the relative centre of a vast human coalition of territories.
Still though, in the deep high-security recesses of the planet, there lay a dozen silver droneships. Each slumbered within secluded hangers, held in steel cradles that were ready to launch them straight into orbit at a moment’s notice.
One might think this a boring existence, to sit in silence and isolation, waiting for a fight that may not arrive for decades.
But for Sigrdrifa, 5th Valkyrie of Vang, nothing could be further from the truth.
In her electric dreams, she flew from her hanger every day and night, ready to face whatever enemy her Queen had decided to test the prowess of her Drone Commanders with. Oh, and what variety there was! The ragged forces of a Pirate Conglomerate, the blunt iron bulwarks of a Shellskin Advance Troop, the crystalline sphere and vicious energy arcs of a Crystalwyrm Terraformer…even foes with no basis in known reality, such as great clouds of ravenous nanites, or tentacled monsters as large as moons. All for the sake of practice, of refinement, of victory in every possible scenario.
These battles had escalated, over time. The fights grew more intense and dangerous with every passing year, as the confidence of the Valkyries improved, and the victories continued to shine. Sacrifices were made. People, buildings, even Sigrdrifa herself, when most needed – but when the battle was over, and the simulation reset, victory was always theirs. The enemy was destroyed, and their Queen remained alive and intact within the core of their wounded world.
It was her greatest pride, to have never allowed Queen Freya to come to harm. Not even once, no matter the danger.
Sigrdrifa dreams in her silent hanger, content never to see the sky.
Surrounded by Nothing
by Carrie (Glaceon373)
There was nothing there.
There was nothing as far as the eyes could see. A barren wasteland, covered in darkness. There was nothing.
And yet there was everything. Everything surrounded everything. There was everything in every direction.
And it was painful.
Everything sneered, sneered without a mouth. It sneered, screamed, and wailed, shrill and cold, threatening and weakening. The everything and the nothing screamed and sneered and wailed and hurt.
There was no escape.
Except there was. Waking up.
But you couldn’t just wake up from this nightmare, could you? It was haunting, tormenting, and in the morning or evening or whenever you woke up, it was still there. You saw it whenever you blinked. You heard the wails in the wind and the traffic and the hustle of the world around you. You felt the pain and the weight of it whenever you tried to stand, whenever you tried to move.
It messed with your mind, messed with your thoughts, messed with the passage of time and your attention and everything else. Messed with the everything and nothing and it hurt to breathe.
There was no escape.
But one day you decide to fight for one. One day you decide to face the nothing and the everything that hurts so, so much. You close your eyes and force yourself to move across the wasteland. Feel the sharp, stabbing grains of sand beneath your feet. It hurts. Your body falls over, but your mind keeps moving.
There’s something there.
It glows, a single light, all alone, and very far away.
You have to reach it.
You know what you have to do.
You open your eyes. You stand up. You breathe, slowly and deeply.
And you ask for help.
The Dreams of a Traveler
by Matthew (Handsome Johanson)
It had been a long voyage, and my men were growing weary. By this point, we had sailed thousands of miles from sunny Massalia, encountering people only heard of through the whispered rumors of traders, discovering the source of tin in the north, and contacting people in lands once thought barren. Now, we sailed through the open ocean northward, Poseidon, Mercury, and Zeus being the only ones protecting us from certain death.
A few days into our final push into the unknown, I was awoken from my slumber by an aid.
“Pytheas, the men have discovered something. You should take a look.” Groggily, I arose from my bed and made my way to the deck. The men were huddled on one side, peering at something floating on the waves. I looked in that direction, and despite the early morning light, I could see it clearly. An island that was pure white. Upon further poking and prodding, we discovered that the island was actually a giant floating pile of ice. As astonished as we were, we had to continue our pace, so we moved on.
The next day, we awoke to spotting an entire field of drift ice, sprawled out before us. It was at this point that we realized that we had reached the end of the world, and the end of the sea. It was then we turned back, heading back south into the relatively known.
That night, as though the world hadn’t gone insane enough, we were greeted by a new surprise. Again, I was awoken from my sleep, but this time during the middle of the night.
“Pytheas! Pytheas! The sky is alight!” This time I rushed out of my cabin. On the deck, the men were staring up in awe. The sky was indeed alight. Large bands of colors vibrated across the sky, shining in brilliant reds, greens and purples. Were we in a dream? Could this all be the fantasies of a sea-sick traveler? That night, the world proved ever stranger than anticipated.
The blackness seemed to divide itself into little diamonds, tessellating into infinity. Within each one a pinprick of light sparkled, some fading while others shone brightly. He looked around, watching as lights blinked out and replaced themselves.
“Each of these lights is a Path being walked.” The voice seemed to radiate from every direction, perfectly monotone and uniform. A figure appeared from among the lights, a figure neither masculine or feminine, clad in loose, grey robes.
“Where am I?” The last thing Emrys remembered was searing pain, the metallic taste of blood in his mouth. He remembered her screaming, and then nothing.
“You are Nowhere. You stand beyond life, beyond even death.”
The silence in this realm was crushing. Emrys could hear nothing, not even the routine sounds of his own body. He pressed a hand to his chest, but no heartbeat reverberated against his ribs.
“You are not alive. Nor are you dead. Not yet.”
He should have been scared. He should have screamed, or run, or fought. He knew this. But of all the questions swarming his brain, only one crossed the threshold of his lips. “Is Serennia safe?”
The being plucked a light out of thin air, one that shone brighter than any around it. “It is not her you should be worried about. Many Paths are right now crossing hers and reaching their end.”
Emrys leaned in to look at the light, but the being closed its hand before he could get a glimpse. “To peer into people’s Paths is not a privilege of mortals. But you will soon be walking it alongside her once again.”
“But how? I died, didn’t I?” The being gently tossed Serennia’s light in the air, and Emrys watched as it blended in among its kin.
“You would have. But I have bigger plans for you.”
by Lunabear (Please don’t read on stream) (CW: face melting)
Gray clouds drooped high above. Potholes waited to receive the impending rain.
Thurston walked to school with Chip and Colleen. His favorite duo gossiped amicably while he half listened.
“Markel did NOT hate that gift!” Colleen shrieked with a smile.
“Did, too,” Chip chuckled. “Bryan Limpkin said.”
A familiar sensation prickled down Thurston’s neck and spine. It had followed him. Again.
‘What does it want?’
Thurston looked back, but regretted it. This…thing was black, its form somewhere between smoke, shadow, and mist. Its edges rotated like gears.
Chip’s voice pulled him back. “…right, Thurst?”
“Mmhhm,” Thurston grunted, glancing briefly at his friends. When he tried to spot the figure again, it was gone.
“What?! That chicken founded the ENDEAVOR of poker rice!” Colleen huffed indignantly.
“I–huh?” Thurston stared wide eyed at her.
She spoke again, but gibberish came out. It was the same with Chip.
The thunder interrupted, and the heavens unleashed a burning deluge. Thurston shielded himself with his hood and arms, but his friends weren’t so lucky.
Colleen’s face became a draining whirlpool until only a black hole remained.
Chip’s face dripped down like melting wax, leaving muscle and bone exposed. His eyes blinked within their sockets.
Thurston gasped and bolted from the horrific scene. His heart pounded in his ears. He didn’t know where he was headed, but he’d think about that later.
Everything around him enlarged, and the ground turned slick. Thurston slipped and slid beneath an elevated bridge. Rain and sweat sluiced down his body in rivulets.
He worked to slow his heart, but his mind couldn’t be calmed.
‘What’s happening?! Where’s that thing??’
Thurston peeked from the safety of the bridge, but he was met with only darkness. The thing was enormous now and blocked out everything else.
What felt like strips of cloth wriggled beneath his clothing and seared his skin.
Thurston leapt straight out of bed, his sweaty, bare back against his cool door. His blood rushed through his veins.
Still feeling the scorch, he looked in horror as a single word was etched into his right forearm: PREPARE.
Only a dream
by Daniel Weaver
CW: Vomiting, gore
“It’s a dream. Only a dream. Nothing more.”
Whispers filled the room, the looks of fear embedded into the eyes of the ones occupying it. The smell of sweat lingered in the air, and the sounds of breakfasts being regurgitated and thrown up onto the floor followed. A baby’s cry for help, or food, I couldn’t tell. People pushed their heads together, and muttered something, some folks collapsed onto the floor, covering their mouths. Some tried to leave the small shed, that has been our home for several months now. They tried to leave this shelter, the very same one, that kept them away from danger.
“You…” came a voice from behind me. Deep, and raspy, filling me with a sense of danger. “You dare to say such… HOW DARE YOU!?” he shouted and pushed me with such force that I fell onto the floor, almost slamming my head into the wooden table in the middle of the room. I quickly regained my sense of direction, and hopped back onto my feet, ready to defend myself. “You lying piece of-“
“ENOUGH!” Pierced my ear a sharp feminine voice. “Enough… Both of you.” I saw a thin layer of air escaping her mouth as she panted, then suddenly fell to her knees. “You guys, causing a ruckus… You’re calling those things to us!”
I looked at the man who pushed me, then lowered my hands, nodding ever so clearly, that I do not want trouble. The weeping of the infant has grown ever louder. Only, the mother had no mouth to calm her child. She had no eyes, nor ears to see or hear the discomfort of the baby. Where her head should’ve been, now there had been only a bloody claw, coming straight through the wall. One shriek of panic later, they were all over the place. Cutting down, chewing through people. Blood. Bits and pieces everywhere. I lunged myself in a corner, and I kept repeating.
“It’s a dream. Only a dream. Nothing more.”
Her dreams, his mask
By Larissa (Lari B. Haven)
He adjusted his mask and painted the last strokes of the dream magic. He promised she would have anything she wished. Haven missed home, so Jack handpicked one of her favorite memories to start. Her homeroom bedroom where all of her plushies, books, and drawings would be.
“You got all the details right, Jack.” She sat down in her bed. “But this is not what I wish.”
“I thought you wanted a piece of your home.” Jack wasn’t expecting her to be aware of the dream.
She lifted her hand and pushed him to her bed. Her long fingers ran through Jack’s mask. Drawing shapes and watching it slowly crumbled under her touch.
“My home is still there. But my dream it’s seeing you, the real you. Behind the mask.”
What she asked of him was against the boundaries they had set when they met. Yet he caught himself yearning for a moment like this.
Haven embraced him. They were close. He always said that he could just keep his distance, and his heart wouldn’t be hurt.
His mask kept crumbling.
Shining saw dust rained from his lashes and filled his lips. All the secret little bits of him, she destroyed with ease. Haven had this power over him, power he once thought to keep hidden. He loved her, but was afraid to tell her.
“I know you don’t want to say it, but I do!” She hugged him harder. “I love you Jack.”
The room dissolved around them, and the chasm of his magic stopped to a halt. He untangled her arms from him and gently placed her hands over his face. It was time.
“As you wish.” He pulled the mask away. Jack wouldn’t deny or lie to himself anymore. “Have a wonderful dream Haven, my love.”
As the last remnants of his crumbled, she woke up. And for the first time in years he felt the warmth of someone else’s hands on his cheeks. There was nothing between them anymore.
Her gleeful orange eyes welcomed him. He pulled her for a kiss.
A Brief Dream
When he had first become an acolyte, set adrift in the violent red and gold and swirling dust of the Lesser Academy, he had often received the honor of assisting the initiates when they awoke from their first dream. The preparations would begin hours before: he would light cones of bitter incense to drift through the halls, and play some sharp, piercing tones on the double pipes. Tools to draw the wanderer home.
And then he waited. And he watched. And when the time came, he was called upon to awaken them.
All it took – had ever taken – was a small nudge. After all, the stage was already set.
Izek awoke to the shrill howl of his (fourth? fifth?) alarm. It worked as well as any instrument.
He sat up, glancing from side to side at the clean industrial corners of his quarters. A few images were scattered across the ground – pictures of family, friends. Some cold flatbread sat on the table. His preparations were far less thorough than the Academy standard, but they worked all the same.
Soon he would have to get up and feed himself – the beginnings of hunger pangs were already beginning to evident – but not yet. His eyes slipped shut, and he fell prone across his bunk.
He could still dream a while longer.
Izek tapped on the initiate’s shoulder. It was cold and lifeless. For a moment, a shrill whine filled his ears, but he ignored it.
They did not awaken.
December 21st, 2097
Once again, the experiment has failed, and while a possible investor was present as well. This one had so much promise, but alas, Ainava regained consciousness after remaining in sleep for 10 years, 8 weeks, and 3 days.
It’s been a week since he woke, and we’re still investigating what went wrong. No wires attached to the test subject were loose, and all of our machinery was running in pristine condition. After the first three failures, we would never make the mistake of overlooking maintenance again.
And yet, we still cannot find a proper answer. Every experiment before was straightforward; we found the cause and would repair it. Everything from power outages to the subject’s health failing, they were things that we could learn from and then avoid.
Ainava is a male in his early twenties. He is as generic as they come: brown hair, blue eyes, and even if he was on the thinner side when he was first brought here, he has no prior health conditions. His life has nothing notable within it either. Loving parents, an above average social status.
A colleague of mine brought up the hypothesis that a flaw within the dream simulation triggered a memory, and in turn lead to a downward spiral in Ainava’s mentality. Unfortunately, we overlooked that possibility. We could have erased his memories, but then the problem of the dream being too artificial arises, as we have to manufacture it before putting the test subject within it. Surely it would lead to the exact same outcome.
Maybe I am being too sympathetic by allowing them to dream. I hoped by giving them that pleasure, it would allow the length of a subject’s sleep to go on further. If they have no clue they are dreaming, there is no reason to wake.
Presently, I am debating what to do with Ainava. For lack of better words, he is a mess. The shock of being taken out of sleep has left him frantic and broken.
I think the time has come for me to be a merciful human being.
What makes us (in)sane? (The Ballad of the Monsters: ?)
She told me cats don’t smile enough.
Some call me mad. But, can you handle mercury without going mad?
It’s funny, because whenever I work on a new piece—(which they say makes me mad)—I feel like I’m stitching my world together.
Is there a world outside today?
“Hatter!” The girl is calling me.
I must have done it again—another sign of my madness: I tend to lose track of reality sometimes.
“What is it my dear?”
Alice, I think she’s called. I really should know this by now.
“You’re spilling the tea.”
So I am. The teacup has presently become a fountain.
I apologize (to the tea) and smile, pulling back the teapot.
I smile often. I never know why. It’s like a nervous tick. A tugging at my skin. At the back of my brain.
Am I happy?
“Am I missing anything?” The cat with the human smile trots over to the table. And, no, it isn’t strange.
She told me cats don’t smile enough.
“You’re just in time—”
When I headed downstairs for breakfast tea didn’t sound half bad.
Kairos walked in a little while later, looking pouty.
“What did I do this time?”
“You weren’t supposed to wake up so soon.”
“Ah: waking up. One of my favorite crimes.” I sat across from her. “To tell the truth, I might have liked to hear more of my dream. I was this mad hatter, and you were an ordinary girl called Alice.”
“So…” A smile slowly broke across her face. “You liked my Wonderland!”
“It’s…” There was something timid in her voice. Something wanting. “It’s my special place. I like to go there when I’m feeling down it…” She hid behind her hair. “It makes me feel sane. I thought it might do the same for you.”
My eyes widened. “That’s a real place?”
She blinked, confused. “Of course it’s real.”
She told me cats don’t smile enough. And I did what I do best.
I’m not a hatter, but I think I may be mad after all.
Because I do stitch. Just not hats.