A dreamlike world
with so many other nights, my dreams were heavily influenced from what I’d been
reading before sleeping. I was hiding behind a tree, thinking hard about the
best way to get rid of my enemies. Bullets were flying all around me, but I
felt completely calm. These idiots were using guns. Guns! What a joke. Did they
really bear any hope to get me with these toys?
In a swift movement, helped by a hint of magic, I jumped to reach the highest branches of the trees. I was looking in my bag for some spell components, when I realized it was empty. Oh, well, no big deal. If I focused enough, I’d surely manage to throw a fireball at them, wouldn’t I? I drew within my deepest resources to find all the energy I needed, trying to gather it all in my right hand. My body was tensed and shaking from the strain, and I felt sweat dripping from my forehead and in my back. My clothes were sticky – that was most uncomfortable – and I suddenly understood why magicians always wore ample clothes.
I raised my arm, targeting at the group of dark elf that were after me. I realized something was wrong – wasn’t I being chased by gangsters?
Regardless, they were just as hostile, and I thought it was about time to be done with this hunt. I released all the energy from my hand. Nothing happened. I stood there, arm raised, feeling slightly stupid, as the elves looked at me with a very unpleasant smirk.
I cursed, and got deeply mad at this part of myself, that very one who even in dreams would remind me that it is not possible to throw fireballs with your fingers. As reality slowly mixed within this surreal dream, I was no longer the main character; I was becoming the witness of the scene, and the mage was a mere copy of myself. He glared at me, definitely unhappy about the turn of events.
A shower of arrows flew at him, two of these hitting his arm and his leg. With a pained look, he pulled them out and put them in his bag. He dodged a new wave of arrows, but he slipped while doing so and lost his footing, and I saw him fall from the tree, in a seemingly endless fall. He was shouting…
…as I woke up with a silent cry. My heart was racing, as a mix of relief and frustration filled me. I’d so enjoy being a magician…
But I wasn’t one – and wouldn’t ever be. I was just a normal man, and I had a long day ahead of me, so I hoped to be able to fall back to sleep for a few more hours. I took my phone to check the time, wishing for a normal clock that would not blind me out of sleep.
I pressed the button, and as I turned my head to give my eyes the time to get slowly used to the strong light of the device, I noticed a big shape, right there next to the bed.
I screamed, jumping out of bed and ready to run.
The shape moved lightly, moaning while doing so. I looked at it, shocked. I closed my eyes, and reopened them. Nothing changed. I closed them again, shook my head. Who knows, maybe this would make it disappear.
I didn’t need to open them again. I knew it, I felt it. This person was still there. He’s – or I – or well… whatever it was, was still there.
I come closer and push him lightly. He opens his eyes.
He screams, jumping on his feet, ready to flee. He closes his eyes, opens them again, then closes them again and shakes his head, just in case. I understand his reaction pretty well.
When he finally opens his eyes again, we stare at each other for a long while. No one dares to speak; which one of us is going to break the silence?
I open my mouth, he also does. In the end, he starts before me.
“Erm… actually… am I you?”
I chuckled – quite the nervous laugh, actually – at this ridiculous and awkward sentence. Worst thing was, I knew I wouldn’t have phrased this any better in his place.
I sit on the bed, I need to pull myself together.
“Ok, ok. Let’s try this again. Are you… my dream ?”
- “Right. You know, the very one you almost killed, because you had no better idea than to think ‘Oh, well, you know, Fireballs don’t exist actually?’”, he said bitterly.
- “Anyway. Not like I can even be mad at you, I’m sure I’d have thought the same if our places were switched”, he went on.
- “Alright, alright. I’m sorry about that. Though right now, I’ve got more pressing concerns. Like… What are you doing here and WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?!!”
There. I was getting nuts. I was always afraid this would happen sooner or later, but I didn’t expect it to happen so soon. Sure, I always had a strong liking for fantasy, and often wished for it to happen “for real”, but part of me knew it should better stay in books and movies.
“Hey, relax! I’d also like to understand what’s going on”, he said. “It’s the first time this ever happens. It feels like the border between our worlds is fading. I don’t…”
This noise was driving me crazy. I turned towards the window, ready to chase the bird who dared to annoy me in this very peculiar moment. When I saw the outside, my face went as blank as it could ever be.
Flying outside, a small angel was shooting arrows at my window, which was starting to break from the repeated assaults. It took another arrow in its quiver, and shot again, clearly aiming at me.
The window was about to burst.
“And can you explain the hell out of THAT?!” I shouted, starting to let panic get the better of me.
- “Oh, well. That would be Cupidon, I guess? You know, small angel, shoots love arrows and all? Probably someone’s dreaming about you, or something like that, and he also got materialized like I did.”
- “Can’t you say that like this was NOT some normal everyday life thing?! (At this point, I was almost crying). And can you at least find whose dream that is?”
He focused, but shook his head after a few seconds.
- “Can’t.. I don’t manage to track the source of that dream. But I’ve got a strong feeling that if you get hit, you will madly fall in love with the ‘owner’ of this Cupidon. Or, well, maybe it’ll just hurt very much. Either way, I believe we’d better run out of here, and fast!”
For a short moment, I wondered if he really didn’t know who was making that dream about me. Maybe he was bluffing out of jealousy, planning to find that person on his own? Then I remembered that I was very bad at lying, and thus he probably was too.
I understood how bad the situation was. I jumped to the door, rushing out of my flat, followed closely by the dream-version of me. The sound of shattered glass made me realize the window no longer protected us. I almost fell in the stairs, hating as I never did the fact that I lived at the fifth floor. My other self got less troubles: he jumped directly from the fifth floor, and, probably using some magic, let himself float towards the ground. I cursed him, jealous of his powers, and accelerated even more as I heard the flapping of the wings getting closer.
I finally reached the first floor. I stumbled across a carpet, which was lucky as I would probably never have reacted to the command in time if I was not already in a falling motion.
I let myself crash on the ground, as I felt an intense heat wave go right through the spot where I was standing. The cone of fire hit the angel, along with the arrow that was flying towards me.
This had been close. Way too close, to my taste.
Cupidon disappeared with a loud “pop” noise, dropping its bow.
“Are you ******…”
I was about to swear very bad here, but then, out of politeness, I’ll make this sentence a bit better for you.
“Dear other self, might you be a bit funny in your mind? You wanted to get rid of me, didn’t you? An inch closer, and poor me would have been a stack of ashes on the ground, which I bet would have been fairly unpleasant.”
Oh well. This sounds now like really, really far away from what I actually said, but I’ll leave that to your imagination.
- “I didn’t have a choice!” he argued. “You were about to get hit! Is that how you thank me?!”
I didn’t know anymore if I should cry, laugh, smile, sigh, or if I should even try to care about anything going on around me, so I just went for thanking him, because I guess he did kind of save me after all.
- “Alright, thank you… But next time, please warn me in time. I’d be burnt to crisps if I didn't stumble on the carpet… I’d still rather be in love with whoever that was than end up as human meat stick.”
He was no longer listening to me, and he was heading towards the bow. Gosh, he was so unbearable. And then it hit me that he was mirroring my own behavior. Was I really that bad, actually?
As he picked the weapon, it grew bigger to suit his own size. While this didn’t seem to surprise him at all, his expression changed when he noticed a small symbol carved into the old wood.
“Holy… ! That’s an original Olympus Silverleaf! That’s an extremely rare find, a real treasure!”
I looked at him getting overjoyed, thinking that if things ever went back to normal, I’d seriously have to take some time thinking about myself and possibly start over. But that would come later. My train of thoughts was interrupted by my phone notifying me about a message. It perplexed me that it seemed to come from my own number, but given how the day was going, I was ready to accept any oddity at this point and not raise an eyebrow at it.
The message read: “As soon as you can, steal some black sand, or you’ll be forever stuck here! You’ll understand when the time comes!”. Whatever this meant.
I looked at the sky, almost considering going back to bed. Maybe when I’d wake up, everything would have turned back to normal? I pinched myself. Hard, just in case. As I winced, I figured with a hint of disappointment that I was already well awake. But then again, my thoughts were interrupted.
“Hey, what are you doing out there in these clothes? You look quite cool like this!”
There was no way I would not recognize this voice. This was Lucie. I liked her so much I could very well believe she was also straight out of my dream, but unlike my other self, she was quite real. We were friends at the university. Well… here I’m trying to make you believe that I’m studying, but actually, I’m just the guy of the student’s restaurant, while she’s studying astrophysics. And when I say “friends”… Well, I believe she likes me because I often give her free desserts. Hey, please don’t give me “the look”. I’m doing my best out of the means I have. Damn it, I need to learn how to lie, I must look pretty lame to you now.
Anyway, where was I? Oh, right. I was wondering what the hell she could mean when I suddenly realized I didn’t have the time to change. I was still in pajamas.
I felt the heat on my cheeks, ashamed. But wait. Did she say she found that… cool?
“But well, that’s not the strangest of things I’ve seen today”, she added, walking right past me without even glancing at me. “I don’t know what’s going on, but it seems the world’s gone crazy.”
I saw my dream standing there, in his light armor, bow at the shoulder, looking like a proud adventurer of old times. Looking cool. Oh gosh, now I understand what she meant, and I started to hate him more than ever.
He looked at me, obviously feeling my waves of jealousy and giving me a sheepish smile, like, “hey, I didn’t do anything, not my fault”.
I didn’t know how to best react, and my doppelgänger, that I decided to name Dream, chose for me.
“I… Yeah, you’re going to find that insane, but I’m under the impression that people’s dream materialize in the real world…”
I made a sound with my throat, trying to remind them I was actually here.
“Oh, and, erm… Lucie, I wanted to introduce my twin, erm…”
- “Thomas”, I improvised.
- “… Erm, well, yeah, Thomas. He’s in town for a short time and was sleeping over when all this chaos started. And, erm, we had to leave the flat in quite the emergency…”
- “Thus the pajama”, she commented with a smirk. “Cute little ducks on that one.”
Now she’s done it, I’m mad at her. I had spared this detail on purpose, but she now decided to destroy the last bits esteem you might have had for me.
But since it was her, I was willing to forgive that just as fast. We stared at each other for a few seconds, and I drowned myself in her pretty green eyes; I could feel her comment was actually genuine and not trying to mock me, and I sure hoped my feeling was right.
“Do you really believe in that dream theory…?” she asked with a hint of anxiety in her voice.
- “Given what happened to us, I’m certain of it.”
Lucie was biting her nails, looking pretty nervous. She looked hesitant about sharing something with us. She started on a sentence, then interrupted herself before she could talk, and finally said:
“Well, you see... It’s just that I had this weird dream… Please don’t laugh at me, but my fridge had become a time-traveling machine, and I used it to go back 65 million years ago. You know, yesterday, I had seen that movie that got a released again for it’s twentieth birthday, Ju…”
Her sentence stopped on a silent cry, and she curled herself in the arms of my “twin”. I turned to see what made her panic so much, readying myself for something terrible. This was even worse than anything I could have imagined. Nothing could have ever prepared me to that vision. A T-Rex and six velociraptors were standing there, all of them with caps on their head. Two of them wore jeans with a pretty low cut, letting everyone see… what should probably qualify as the top of their underwear. Some had a golden chain as a necklace, and the smallest of them all was playing with a knife.
Their leader smiled at us, revealing…
I looked at Lucie, unable to process what I was seeing. Was that really fresh out of HER imagination?
A T-Rex with a golden tooth? I thought of all the prejudices I had on that girl, that I imagined spending all of her time working, writing pages and pages of complex formulas, in her world of her own so, so far from mine. This picture shattered, replaced by one of a girl who dreamt of dinosaurs with golden teeth and who liked pajamas with cute ducks. For the first time ever, I started thinking that maybe, just maybe, we were not that different after all.
Oh well, I thought when getting a new look at the dinosaurs. That still had to be proven; even I would never dream of such a sick thing.
“Hey, that’s a hella cute girl we got there”, started the leader. “Don’t cha wanna come spend some fun times with us, baby?”
Lucie was stunned by fear, and Dream by Lucie in his arms. They’d deserve for me to leave them to this trouble, I thought grumpily. Handle this on your own, I’m leaving for a place where I won’t bother the two of you and drown myself in jealousy.
I sighed, wishing that I was this kind of person. Instead, I stood right behind them, clearly showing that I’d support them no matter what happened.
“Hey, dude, who’re ya starin’ at?” one of the raptors told me.
- “What the f---? Ain’t cha a lamer? Look at ‘im with his pajamas!”
- “What, you think you’re big guys just because you’re dinosaurs? Try me! As long as I’m alive, no one touches a single hair from Lucie!” I shouted, moved by a courage I didn’t know I had.
Or, well, maybe by the anger this pajama thing built into me. Whichever it was, I realized how hollow my threat rang, and thought I probably had better shut up. The raptors circled us, and the T-Rex walked closer to me.
Its head was no further than a few centimeters away, and I was mesmerized by its teeth – each of which must have easily been the size of my hand. I remembered all that I heard about these beasts, in particular about their speed, and I came to a conclusion.
My apologies for this improper language… but we were in deep shit.
“Oh, geez, forget the girl. I’m too hungry, an’ that dude looks tasty. Let’s eat guys!”
I stepped back, and said a mental prayer to anything that would have been willing to listen to me right now. I didn’t notice Dream whispering a spell, and barely felt Lucie’s hand take mine. As the terrible jaw of the T-Rex got near me, I felt pressed and torn from inside, and ejected towards… everywhere? It’s impossible to describe with words, so I’ll just let you imagine what it felt like. In any case, my intuition told me I was currently being teleported somewhere else. Seems like we’d just been saved. Or were we?
I touched each and every of my body parts, just to make sure they were all where they should be. I was feeling extremely nauseous, and Lucie’s pale face let me guess that she didn’t feel any better. Only Dream seemed unaffected by this.
I do not wish you to ever experience being teleported. I was starting to even wonder how I could make sure I was still myself as I was before – what would I know if some of my memories or my personality had changed during the travel? Anyway, with no way to find out, there was no use debating on this topic.
On the other hand, I do think it was important to describe this place. For a start, the sky was pretty strange. It kept on changing colour, varying through the whole spectrum of the rainbow. Though, regardless of the change, it didn’t have any influence on the light; everything had a slightly orange shade, kind of making it look like a sunset scenery.
The sun was just as weird. It was there, just like it would normally be, but it was not blinding at all, and you could look at it all your heart’s content without needing to even blink – just as if it was a mere painting. Also, it seemed to follow a random moving pattern in the sky. The moon was also there. It wore sunglasses and seemed a little bit unnerved. Look, I know this is a very strange description, but this place has rules of its own, and the best I can do is tell you what I see and what I feel – and all of my senses were pretty messed up at the moment.
All of that drove me to one question.
“Erm… Where exactly are we?”
My other self was about to reply, but a butterfly that was roaming around beat him to it.
“You’re in the world of dreams, you moron! How can you not figure that out? Are all humans just as dumb as you? No kidding our world’s so messed up, with people like you shaping it…”
It went on its course, muttering some more unpleasant stuffs to itself. I stood there, frozen, unsure if what shocked me most was to have been scolded by a talking butterfly, or to be actually standing in this strange world, the dream kingdom.
“Alright, so, what do we do now?” asked Lucie.
- “We need to find more information about what’s happening”, Dream replied. “Understand exactly what the hell is going on.”
- “Alright, but how do we do that?”
I realized that I had screamed this in spite of me. I breathed in and apologized. I really needed to calm down.
“Isn’t there, like, a tavern or something?” Lucie suggested.
- “That’s way too cliché”, I replied. “I highly doubt we’d find anything interesting there, even if it’d exist.”
- “No, actually, that’s a very good idea”, Dream said. “What you need to understand about this world is that it’s very tighly linked with yours. Humans are one of the major influence shaping this place. The inhabitants – all of them, including me – are just essences, and we start looking like something you can understand when we get caught in your dreams. Same goes, to some extent at least, with the scenery. If something is cliché, then it’s accepted and known by a vast amount of people; which means that there are actually pretty good chances that it exists or works here.”
This had some sort of sense, in its own way. I gave up, and decided I’d just follow.
I’m not too sure how he managed that, but our friend seemed to know where he was heading to. That’s what mattered, I guess.
Traveling in this place gave off the strangest feeling – it felt like the landscape was moving around us, rather than us walking through it. This place was really strange, and definitely had rules of its own. Still, there was this awkward familiar impression, which somewhat reminded me of every single night of my life. We went on in silence, deep in thoughts and in the observation of this new world, but I have to admit I was a bit disappointed. Once I got used to the peculiar landscape, I quickly got bored, and I definitely wouldn’t have qualified it of dreamlike. Quite the paradox.
“Chris?” Lucie started, turning towards me.
- “Erm, well… Nothing”, she said after a short pause. “Just wanted to say I really found the ducks cute.”
I frowned. Why was she suddenly talking about that again? I just didn’t get it. Then it struck me.
I turned to her, and noticed her smirk as she looked at me. Then she raised her hand, inviting me to take it.
She had guessed I was the ‘original’, that Dream was just the result of my own fantasies, something that could not exist in our world. My heart was racing as I felt my fingers wrap around hers, and I suddenly forgot about all of the bad things that happened to us in the last hours. For a moment, I was not sure if I was genuinely happy, or extremely anxious to spoil this moment by reacting the wrong way.
“You know”, she said, “I always thought we were so different. When I saw you, at the restaurant, you always displayed this charismatic and relaxed look cool people have, you always talked and joked with everyone… I had no doubt - you had to be the kind of guy that would be too cool for me. The kind that would dislike cute things, or the quiet and imaginary worlds I like so much! Then that seemed even more likely when I was paying, and you’d almost always go silent and just let me through as fast as you could, not letting me pay some things as if you wanted to see me gone as soon as possible… But when I see the way you imagine yourself”, she added with an appreciative look at our companion, “when I see… your ducks, all of that makes me think we maybe are a lot more similar than I could ever think possible.”
I burst out of laughter. How could we both have interpreted these few daily minutes so differently? Sadly, we didn’t get the occasion to push this discussion any further.
“We arrived”, said Dream in a snappish tone of voice.
He was jealous, I guessed, and I couldn’t blame him. I wondered how much my dreams shaped him, and how much of an own personality he had, but I didn’t feel like investigating now and thus I would probably never know.
That aside, I’d wish to understand at what point we had entered the small town. It felt as if we suddenly were walking in its center, while never having crossed its outskirts – actually, I didn’t even remember seeing it at the horizon either.
The town center was pretty cute and, for once, looked like a pretty ordinary place. It did have some elements that reminded you in what world you were – like the chaotic pavement, that gave off the feeling that it had been built by many different minds, each of them adding their own touch to it. Which, I realized, was actually probably the case.
A big fountain stood right at the center. On one side, water was pouring from a pail held by an angel, sparkling a beautiful light where the sun’s light hit it. From the other side, a red and yellow stream that looked like a vivid fire flowed from the mouth of an angry looking devil. Both liquids mixed in a pretty golden colour, and it could have very well looked like a pool of melted metal.
Straight in front of us was a wooden house, a bit bigger than the other buildings around us. A sign indicated that this place was called “Your Inn for a Dream”. I sighed at the pun; seems like people in this place didn’t have a better sense of humor than people on good ol’ Earth. Which I shouldn’t have found surprising, given we humans shaped this place, after all.
The sign was creaking above the big wooden door, as it was being pushed by a non-existing wind. I started to believe our friend’s cliché theory.
It was pretty dark inside, and, surprisingly, also very empty. There was a single customer drinking at the bar. He didn’t seem any trouble by the fact the bartender was… Well, I don’t think that word exist, but you’d probably understand what I mean if I spoke of a Were-rhino, right? It was standing on its rear legs, and from afar had a very human shape, but when you got closer you could notice its grey skin, and the two horns on its forehead. It was tall, very tall, and had built some impressive muscles. I decided it’d be better not to start some troubles here.
They stopped talking as we approached, and the small eyes of the barman – or, I guess, barrhino – appraised us.
“How surprising, some visitors!”
I guessed it was a cheery tone, but its voice was so deep that it rang pretty grave to me, and I just didn’t manage to make sure of what it exactly expressed.
“Didn’t think there’d still be people out there, ‘sides Bart. Wanna drink somethin’?”
I stared at the so-called Bart, briefly hoping to meet a legendary yellow-skinned character, but this actually just was a very plain old man. He nodded to me before focusing once more on his drink.
“What do you offer?” Dream asked.
- “All sorta beers, syrups, juices, cocktails, alcohol, ask whatev’ you wish fo’ and you’ll get it. An’ if you have no idea, just get somethin’ from the Random Barrel.”
- “That is…?”
- “Well, just does what the name says.”, he said, showing a small cask, no bigger than a teapot. “Dam’ thin’ pours a random drink each time, tis quite the marvel.”
- “And… How can we pay?”
He looked at me as if he’d seen a ghost.
- “C’mon, friend, we’re in the world of dreams her’. Why the heck shouldya pay?”
I started to like this place.
- “Alright, get me one of these random drinks, then.”
- “Make it three!” Lucie added.
Dream was about to complain, offended that she had chosen for him without consulting him. Then he realized the second I had chosen, she knew he’d pick the same thing. He pouted.
I was trying to engrave every of these fascinating moments on my memory. That Were-rhino, who was moving very dexterously in spite of its huge body. These tall glasses, that it carried with delicacy, and that barrel which, each time he drew from it, released a beverage of a different colour – and that, even though it should have been too small to fill even a single cup, let alone three of them.
“Oh oh oh, looks like we got lucky people! These you dun’ see very often. That’ll be a Dragon Slayer fo’ the big Sir in armor; a Dream Catcher fo’ the lady, and a Duck Tales fo’ our frien’ in pajamas.”
I faked a smile at the name, but deep inside, I was boiling so hard with anger that I might have cooked the Were-rhino, even through its thick skin. He had to have just invented that name on the fly to make fun of me.
Though, he probably was capable of killing me with a simple punch, and I decided it was smarter to leave it at that, making a mental note to never, ever again buy such clothes.
Luckily, this cocktail was by far the best drink I ever had, and I quickly forgot that slight. I wasn’t able to identify a single ingredient, but simply drinking it had a very soothing effect, and I suddenly felt a burst of energy growing inside me. All of my fatigue was suddenly gone. A glance at my friends let me find out they just experienced the same thing.
“So, what’re ya doing aroun’ her’?” the innkeeper asked.
- “We’re seeking for information. We’d like to understand why the border between our worlds became so fragile. But it looks like there’s no one here that could help us.”, I replied, disappointed.
- “You bet!” Bart snapped. “Tis all ‘cause o’ me, everythin’ tha’ ‘appened.”.
The guy sounded very drunk, and he probably would have replied the same way to anything we said. But we had no better trails, and so we waited until he went on.
- “I shoul’ve been wary. I was dum’. Naive. Ashalak promised to help me with my work, just had t’give him pieces o’ my machine, so, well, o’ cou’se…”
- “Tis a bit chaotic, Bart.” The Were-rhino warned.
The old man paused, and thought for a bit, scratching his chin. Then, he nodded and went on.
“People her’ call me Bart, but you prob’bly know me bette’ as “the Sandman”. For thousands an’ thousands o’ years, my work was nice an’ easy. T’was pretty fun, just kep’ on throwin’ sand at people like a madman, and they feel asleep. But ya humans breed like mad, an’ survive well, an’ sudd’nly there were humans all ove’ the place. Peopl’ slept bad, got insomniac. Luck’ly, ya got many geniuses, an’ I could steal thei’ dreams, buildin’ tools to help me do a better work. Ima supe’ proud o’ the Sand-o-matic. Great tool, my work was fin’lly accept’ble agai’. But you grow exponentially, an’ I couldn’ beat tha’, even with the greatest new technologies. Tis when Ashalak, a Nightmare Lord, came t’me an’ said : “Bart, poor thin’, tis a hard life ya got. I’m moved by s’much hardships. I’ll help ya; just gimme yar latest inventions, an’ I’ll use my own technology to make them perfect an’ build somthin’ aw’some for ya.” When I think back, should’ve been careful…”
No kidding. A Nightmare Lord, whatever this exactly entitled, comes at you and asks for your technology, tells you couple of pseudo-friendly hollow words, and you just jump right into the trap… Once more, I figured I’d rather just refrain from talking as it would just make things worse.
“He created a dark sand, kinda like mine, bu’ it lets essences go free from thei’ owners. Could only use tha’ on one essence at a time, but with my Sand-o-matic… Befo’ I could understand, most dreams ended up on Earth. An’ now, tis utte’ chaos ther’. Ashalak must be laughing…”
- “So, if we destroyed that machine, would everything get fixed?”
- “Not complet’ly. Dunno ‘sup in you’ world, curren’ly, but I bet ‘tis a huge mess. Just imagine, someone coul’ dream that a comet’s fallin’ on Earth, an’ it could happ’n! The problem is basic’lly tha’ you could stop tha’ from happenin’, but if it already happened, there’s no undoin’ it.”
- “Then, what could we do?!”
My mind was racing, exploring hundreds of possibilities, discarding one after the other as they seemed invalid.
Or well. That is the description I give about it, because I often saw people do it this way. But honestly, the truth was closer to something like this. “My mind was blank, and I just couldn’t seem to find any idea. Not a single thing. After several minutes, nothing had changed and I just seemed frozen.”.
Sounds a lot less cool, though, so let’s pretend we stuck to the first description, ok? Luckily, Lucie was there when it came to thinking, and she did a good job of it.
“Wait. If dreams just become real, wouldn’t dreaming that nothing of this happened make the trick? Wouldn’t it revert things back to how they were before?”
- “Easier said than done”, I replied. “Ever managed to control your dreams? I didn’t.”
Also, I thought, wouldn’t that mean that our relationship would revert to what it was before? That was a price I was not willing to pay, if I had any choice in the matter.
- “Well, you could try to go meet the ol’ sage in his village”, the bartender said. “Rumors go that when you meet him, he lets you choose your next dream. You got nothin’ to lose trying, do you?”
That world really seemed convenient. I started thinking you could really find whatever you needed.
I didn’t think I’d be so right.
- “If ya’re in a hurry, ya coul’ take my Dreamsphere”, Bart said. “’tis what I use fo’ my work, but anyway, I’m on strike now. Tis probably better for Earth, as it goes. Just imagine your destination, an’ hold this lil’ ball in yar right hand, and poof, y’are there. Aw’some, innit?”
We thanked him as we picked the device and, without needing to discuss it, we decided to instantly warp to where we wished to go.
While the Dreamsphere was in essence very similar to the teleportation magic, it ended up being a lot more comfortable. This time, no impression of imploding or no travel sickness – the scenery around us just changed, instantly replaced by another.
Even if the place we arrived to was called a village, this merely consisted in three houses and a temple. A quiet high pitched voice welcomed us as we entered the latter.
“Welcome to the temple of Dreams, my friends. Are you coming in look for a specific dream?”
This time, it was a tortoise. Why not. I stopped caring for a while already, and all I wished for was for it to be able to help us.
- “That’s right. How should we do this?”
- “That’s fairly simple. Just lay in the Magic Hammocks behind the altar, and when you fall asleep, just follow the instructions. Just hold each other’s hands if you wish to share the same experience. The first who’ll fall asleep will trigger the dream for all of you.”
We rushed to the Hammocks, impatient to complete our mission, and be done with all this.
I now got understood what it meant by “follow the instructions”. The second I feel asleep, a giant screen popped out of nowhere, and starting to ask me some questions about my dream. I was inputting the various parameters – it actually didn’t feel very different from filling an online form – but when I submitted it, an alarm suddenly started to ring. We got violently shaken, and ended up in a big room, full of pipes and conveyor belts, carrying various items. A big machine stood right next to us, fed by an endless stream of a dark sand, which I guessed was what Bart told us about. No doubt about it – this was the Sand-o-matic. Why the heck were we here?
The alarm stopped. And then, he appeared. I’d really have wished for this one to be a tortoise, or a butterfly, or whatever other cute animal. But it was not.
It was huge, and wore a heavy silver armor, making it look like a knight of old – the only difference being, its movements didn’t seem a tiny bit impaired by the weight, as if these were mere clothes. Its face was covered by some long and thin helm, featuring a pair of wings at the top. It had some style. And it greatly raised my anxiety, as I immediately figured out who, or what, this should be.
“What sort of bugs did we catch?” the dark and deep voice said. “Did you think it would be so easy to ruin my plans?”
I was eager to reply, but I knew it was not expecting for any kind of answer.
“Which Dark Lord would create an Artifact that could so easily cause its own downfall? Did you really think my machine would have no defense against such pitiful attempts to undo my work?”
- “Actually”, I started in spite of me, “I could name quite a bunch of them”.
Its two red eyes locked on me, and I felt like something had just pierced through my body. Once more, I probably should have shut up.
I thought once more about the rules of this world. I might have an idea. We had to start a discussion; Villains always talked too much. It seemed like Lucie reached the same conclusion.
- “Why are you doing this?”
- “You humans cannot even fathom!”, he started, while closing in on us.
I had not noticed yet the huge sword that was hanging at his side, and definitely did not enjoy the fact he put his hand on the grip. Like, really not.
- “Did you ever wonder what how much you make the people of this world suffer? Because of you, our world vastly changes from one second to the next, in fashions that make no kind of sense. You force us essences to take ridiculous shapes, and sometimes, you even kill some of us. When you’re dreaming that you’re losing your teeth, or that you’re falling without ever hitting the ground… Did you ever think about the trauma you bring on us? Did you ever think about my parents, about my whole family, who got destroyed by a human dream…?
Gotcha. Sad past, tragic world, understand me, and so on. Typical villain. I started to hope again. With a bit of luck, he’d reveal his weakness to us in a few more minutes.
He stopped talking for a bit, and walked closer to Lucie while staring at me. He probably understood what she meant to me, as he burst into a very evil laugh. Then, before anyone could react, he unsheathed his sword and, in a swift move, buried it into her insides. She put her hands on her wound, an incredulous look on her face, and collapsed on a silent scream.
“Lucie!” we shouted together.
- “Ha, do you really believe in such stories?” he roared with laughter. Come on, I’m a Nightmare Lord. My only purposes in life are chaos, and tormenting humans. Why would I need a reason to do what I did? Just seeing you in deep despair, seeing you in a world that no longer makes any sense or follow any rules, seeing you suffering as your friend is mortally wounded – isn’t it all enough?”
Horror washed over me as I realized how mistaken we had been. Not everything followed our logic in this world, and Ashalak was certainly one of the exceptions. Dream was about to throw an attack at him, but I blocked him with my arm. Sometimes, the difference between courage and recklessness was very blurry. But not here. I was ashamed, and I was filled with rage, but adding ourselves to the list of our enemy’s victims wouldn’t get us out of here. If anything, it would ruin the very slim chance we had to save Lucie.
My stare was caught by the conveyor belts. For some reason, the SMS I had received earlier that day came back to mind. I didn’t know too well what that meant, but I whispered to Dream to grab some of the dark sand as soon as we’d have an opening. Meanwhile, I was desperately looking for a way out of this.
Ashalak seemed to thoroughly enjoy our despair.
“So”, he said, “what are you going to do? Flee, and leave your friend to die a slow and painful death here? Go at me, knowing well that you’re too weak and will end up getting sliced by my sword? Let rage get the better of you? Come on, surprise me!”
My jaw was so clenched, it started hurting. I breathed deeply, trying to resist the urge to jump at our opponent. My eyes were stuck on Lucie, and I had this only thought taking all of my brain power: if I didn’t do anything, she’d die right here. Her breathing was unsteady, and she seemed in agony. One of her arms was over her wounds, while the other… only now did I notice she was trying something.
“If we don’t succeed, someone else will!”, I shouted defiantly. Whatever to keep its attention.
But this was too hollow of a threat – so hollow, in fact, that he instantly understood my intent. He turned towards Lucie and knelt, taking something out of her hands. Her cellphone.
“Well, well”, Ashalak said, “what a naughty girl. This is not polite to try to send messages to one another when someone’s talking to you. Let’s see, what does it say? Oh! I’m sorry, I’m afraid her mind is already gone. Death must be really near. « Fridge. Dinosaurs. Maybe you… ». As I’m in a good mood, I’ll do you a favour and won’t make it known that this non-sense were her last words.”
My heart raced as I understood Lucie’s message. What would I do without her? Even half dead and in deep pain, her brain was way better than mine at finding ideas to fix our world. There was no guarantee this would work, but we were so desperate I was willing to give it a shot. Our eyes met, and through this, she gave me the strength I needed. I felt like my heart tear apart when I realized we had to leave her behind. I nodded to her and readied.
“Now, Dream!” I shouted.
We jumped on the conveyor belts, and he followed my order, picking as much dark sand as he could, while I grabbed his should with one hand and the Dreamsphere with the other. The Nightmare was fast to react, but we were faster, and when its sword swung, it was only to meet thin air.
Less than a second later, we were at Lucie’s home. Please, don’t ask how I knew where she lived. I just did, ok?
We rushed inside the empty house and headed straight to the kitchen. There, in the left corner of the room, we could see her fridge. I opened it, praying very hard to find in it what we were looking for.
And we did. A small control panel was visible in the fridge, with some keyboard to input dates. Above it, it read: “Please choose your targeted date : ». I turned the button to pick the day before yesterday, pressed ‘OK’, and nothing happened.
Or so did it look. Suddenly, the noises of chaos disappeared, and when I looked through the window, everything was quiet. As it would be any other day. As we heard some noise coming from the living room, we hurried to exit through the kitchen’s window.
“Alright, and now, what do we do?” Dream asked.
- “We use the Dreamsphere, we talk the Sandman out of giving the Sand-o-matic to Ashalak, and everything reverts to how it should be. Right?”
He nodded. I picked the small artifact, and after a second, we were once more gone.
And violently hit some obstacle. We were in a very weird place. It felt like we were in space, except for the numerous colours shining everywhere around us. A huge wall stopped us from going further.
“Damn it!” my friend cursed. “The border between the worlds has not yet fallen, since the machine is not yet operating!”.
I shortly panicked, before realizing what was going on. And then I started bursting out of an unstoppable laugh, as I realized what was happening. I wondered how many times this, or events close to these, had already happened before reaching this very moment.
My twin also understood, and smirked. He picked some of the dark sand in his bag, and threw a handful on the wall. Where it hit, the border became soft. Enough that was could cross.
“Too late”, Bart replied. “I gave him the plans yesterday.”
That was a problem.
- “But if he really plans on using the machine as ya said… Can’t let him do that. Give me a day. I’m gonna craft something awes’me for ya!”
We had no other choice but to wait. We crossed fingers and hoped the machine would not yet be started until then. Meanwhile, ordered some cocktails from the Random Barrel, and refilled our energy to prepare for the big fight.
We were ready. Bart had outdone himself, and gifted us a marvelous sword named Fulgur.
It was crafted from his own magic sand, that he had refined with some secret techniques. What he got out of this was an insanely sharp and durable material.
With a last word of thanks, we decided to teleport back to where we had met our complete demise.
One could hear loud rings, as the hammer fell again and again, but it quickly stopped when he noticed us.
“And who would you be?”, it asked
“Your worst nightmare!” I shouted back, exalted.
I had always dreamt to be able to say that line, and I really liked the irony of it in this context.
- “Appaling”, it said.
It unsheathed its sword, and readied for combat. I was surprised he was wearing his armor, even though he had been doing some manual work, but the Nightmare seemed like one to always be ready for any situations, and that was probably good enough of an explanation.
Dream raised Fulgur, and they engaged into an epic duel. I felt like I had nothing to do here. Their swords clashed a few times in a loud ring. They chained attacks, feints and blocks, and seemed like their skill levels matched, but I realized my companion was getting tired a lot faster than his opponent.
I gathered all my courage, and decided to try something. Using the conveyors to hide out of sight, I went around Ashalak to try to attack him in the back. Not that I could actually do much myself, but if I could distract it for even just a short moment, maybe that’d be enough to let Dream strike a decisive hit.
Just a few more steps… Please don’t notice me, please don’t notice me, please don’t…
He didn’t. But before I reached him, he managed to land a blow that disarmed my friend. I rushed toward the sword as it flew away, and grabbed it, bringing all of the Lord’s focus on me.
Now I really panicked. Unlike my copy - the heroic version of myself – I didn’t have the slightest of skills with a sword. I raised the sword as Ashalak approached. Please, Dream, please, do something!
The Olympus Silverleaf! And the arrows from my dream’s dark elves! I thanked all the gods I could think of for this turn of event.
Surprised by the arrow that hit its helmet, the Nightmare checked for the threat in his back, giving myself an opening. I had no sword skills, but if I put all my strength in a huge swing, and if it connected, I possibly had a chance to defeat an unfocused opponent. I jumped at it, and released all of my power in a single attack. Ashalak realized its mistake, but it was too late. Fulgur cut through the metal as if it had been more cotton, and the Nightmare disintegrated, its essence destroyed. The empty armor collapsed on the ground. We had won.
I just didn’t manage to believe this. We had succeeded! I let myself fall on the ground, exhausted, and laid there for a while, happy.
Now that it was all over, I was almost regretting these crazy days. I was back to my boring everyday life. Dream had come along with me to the border between our worlds, and used the dark sand to send me back to Earth. He’d take care of the rest, he promised, and would make sure no such accident would happen ever again.
And there I was, daydreaming, rewinding in my mind the events of a story that no one would ever believe. Back as a seller at the university’s restaurant.
But I understood it was all worth it as I saw Lucie queuing. In this new time line, she had never got hurt. Sadly, she also didn’t remember of any of the events.
When it was her turn to pay, I thought about everything I had learnt about her, and managed to get past my anxiety.
“Say, Lucie. I have an amazing story to tell you, and I’m sure you’ll love it. Would you like to go and get a drink tonight, that I tell you about it ?”
After a brief pause, she nodded, giving me the prettiest of smiles.