Chapter 6: A New Beginning
“Each night, when I go to sleep, I die.
And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.”
“Oh my God, are you okay, Sierra answer me!” I heard someone’s voice as I felt him nudge me over and over again, I could feel his warm breath washing over my face. If that was Travis disturbing my morning sleep on a Saturday morning, he was so going to regret it. I had trouble opening my eyes, and when I finally pushed myself to do so, everything was hazy, strange, it was as if I was having a hard time crossing over from the dream world. I didn’t recognize the boy who was hovering over me, his face stressed, his forehead furrowed in worry. He looked more or less about my age, he had an unshaven appearance with scraggly and unkempt black hair growing over his collar, and clothes that had seen better days. In the background, I could hear screams, shouts and gun shots. The sky above me was lit bright yellow, as if under the invasion of millions of fireworks, but I soon recognized it for what it was, it was blazing fire, and its waves of heat were brushing my skin. Fire? What the hell? I closed my eyes in a hurry, then opened them again.
“C’mon Sierra. they are here, we are going to die if we don’t get away. We need to leave now,” the boy cried out. He held me by the elbow, and lifted me up impatiently, dragging me harshly to my feet. Still thinking I was dreaming, I held his hand and just followed him in the wilderness, my eyes constantly on the uneven ground, looking for obstacles that could make me trip on my feet as I tried to keep up with his extraordinary pace. I didn’t know where I was, or who I was with, but the streams of fire that rained all around us, making us skitter sideways to avoid burning, left no doubt that I was running for my life. There was something behind us, the sound of its powerful hooves echoing in the distance, almost shaking the ground. The boy, with a quick tug, drew out his gun and shot towards the deafening sound of its footsteps. This was followed by a piercing roar, the great boastful cry filling the air with dread and horror. Whatever the boy had done, he had succeeded in enraging the creature on our tail. There was no doubt that whatever it may be, it was enormous, yet it was lithe on its feet. How could that be?
“Damn it Pietro, what did you do?” the boy cursed at himself. That’s how I learned his name, as I kept my legs pumping like a perfectly ticking clock, first the right leg in the front, then the left, and then the right again as though they were both computer programmed to keep going on a steady pace.
I balled my fists, cycling my hands and legs in a sprinting pattern, and upped my chin to gain momentum, feeling the rush of warm air to my face as I gained speed. I was in a nightmare, but I wasn’t taking any chances dying, not even in this weird dream. Beneath the trees, I could see the shadows of others like us who were running away from whatever we were facing, jumping over the incessant flames pouring from the sky like rain.
My head was running wild with the identity of the enemy, was it a dinosaur, was it perhaps an alien? I was mesmerized with the vivid images in this dream, my senses were on full alert, the sound of the roar of the monster, the feel of the engulfing heat, the sight of others like us scattered all around, the sound of my heavy breathing, the touch of my feet on the hard ground, the exhaustion settling on my limbs, and the fear of being prey to whatever was hunting us, all of the sensations felt extremely real. This was a dream I was telling Payal and Abby first thing in the morning, I just wished I’d remember it all. And, that’s what it took to break my concentration, I was up and running in one second, and in the next, I was down on the ground, my lips emitting an unavoidable painful cry. Daydreaming about my friends had cost me dearly, but could you even daydream within a dream? Apparently, one could.
Pietro turned around immediately, he was certainly turning out to be a good friend in this dream. But, damn it, I was so ready for it to be all over.
“Sierra, c’mon,” he said, hurriedly, his voice thinning with fear as he crouched down next to me.
“I can’t, I think I’ve hurt my ankle,” I said, gasping pitifully as I tried to move my foot.
“Damn it, we need to leave, or we are dead meat,” he said. A sound like the crash of thunder drowned his voice. Was it the creature? So appalling was the sound that I flinched back on the ground.
Pietro’s hands were suddenly diving beneath my body, and I found myself swiftly lifted from the ground, and into his arms. He didn’t look to be that strong, with rather puny looking arms. But, given the choice of being trampled underneath the hooves of the approaching creature, I was willing to take my chances with him, praying fervently that his strength and endurance would hold. Crap, I shouldn’t have eaten three pieces of lasagna last night!
“We are almost there,” he said with a glimmer of hope settling in his voice, which would have done wonders for my confidence, except that there was nothing around us. We were in the middle of nowhere surrounded by nothing but trees and then, some more trees, holding hands, forming a dense overarching impenetrable canopy, above and around us. But, nobody said dreams had to be reasonable. We could suddenly rise up in the air, and fly away, or we could push our way into a magical dwelling appearing right in front of our eyes, completely invisible to the creature who was preying on us. I guess, all that was possible in a dream.
My prayers were not to be answered however, as I felt Pietro’s arms shake badly, and he drew in long breaths to slacken his muscles. He wavered for a brief second, but he steadied himself immediately. Despite letting my body fall a little, he lifted me up again, his face muscles tensing with the effort it took him. He took in another long, chest filling breath, and continued running. But, a few minutes later, we were both down on the ground, tumbling along the harsh forest ground. I cried out when my bruised ankle made contact with a piece of rock.
When I held my ankle in agony, how was I to know that was to be the least of my problems? I thought my eyes were deceiving me, as I saw the creature emerge from beneath the trees directly into our eyesight, the extremely dense trees barely providing enough space for it to move its body. I couldn’t believe my eyes, how had my brain manage to conjure such a beautiful being, I had no clue. It was a dragon in all its glory, it was, to my surprise a little bigger than the size of a tiger, with red glowing eyes. It had scales of vibrant bright rainbow colors, a mixture of purples, oranges, yellows and reds, slowly darkening, as if ripening, towards its tail section. It hollered as if to mark its territory, lifting its jaw up in the air, a blaze of fire rising up in the sky, illuminating the environs in its bright fire.
Pietro crawled slowly towards me, heeding not to draw the dragon’s attention on his hand holding the gun. The dragon took slow steps towards us, its glowing eyes wandering from Pietro to me, and then settling on Pietro. It moved its large tail sideways, which failed to assure me much. Somehow, I didn’t think flapping of the tail indicated a playful mood, unlike in the case of a dog. This would be a good time for my brain to conjure that magical house that would save our asses. I looked around, but everything was still, threateningly still, as if even the leaves were afraid to move despite the slowly blowing wind lest they be destroyed by this dragon.
I held my breath in fear, this was strikingly too real for my liking. Pietro targeted the gun at the dragon and took a shot, the piercing agony of the dragon filling the sky as blood poured from its torso. And, before I knew what was happening, the dragon had snatched Pietro with his fierce jaw in one leap, throwing him behind its back. I saw it knock down a few trees with its hooves, just enough to open a clearing in the sky, and take off in the mystery of the night, taking away my only friend, and leaving me alone in this utterly strange world. I sighed, there was only one thing left to do now. It was now time to wake up.