1 | me...sss...enger
I knew it had to be a dream, but my gut screamed the opposite.
The floor felt genuinely cool under my bare feet as the dreamscape materialized. Hypnotic ribbons of moonlight cruised across the smooth marble, reflecting down from a ceiling rippling with ocean waves.
I marveled at the body of water defying gravity.
As a wave rolled through the oceanic sky, droplets fell. Instead of making quiet splashes, each landed with grace and without losing shape. They dotted the floor like small beads of glass.
One drop kissed my bottom lip. It was warm, but the taste was devoid of salt. It instead had a subtle hint of sweetness to it like a diluted peach — yet, with a metallic aftertaste.
I touched my lips in strange wonder.
Where in a normal room four walls would have closed me in, only darkness extended beyond each side. Even the ripples of moonlight had no effect on the extending void. The longer I stared at it, the emptier it felt. I stood on a lone platform supported by seemingly nothing.
I crossed my arms, rubbing my triceps therapeutically as goosebumps rose. “Is anyone there?”
The question felt silly, but a sixth sense gave off the impression I was somehow trespassing - like this place, this dream didn’t belong to me. Yet the setup felt intentional. Like a trap.
Then all thoughts dissipated the moment my attention locked on like an unloaded sniper to a small portion of darkness twisting at the edge of the floor directly in front of me.
I took a step back as a cobra slithered into view.
Slivers of the tide’s light glided over its radiant, opal-white form. Tendril-like wisps of umbrage clung onto the cobra as if the darkness refused to let go. But the abyssal tendrils thinned, converting into an inky mist.
I had never been particularly scared of snakes growing up, but this snake was glowing. Glowing! Okay, not glowing-glowing like a neon sign or anything crazy like that. The word radioactive came to mind.
The urge to run coursed through me. But where would I run to? Not the darkness, obviously. For all I knew there could be an entire family of snakes lurking around out there.
I eyed it, uneasy by how it watched me. For now, my only option was to keep my distance and hope it lost interest and slithered on back to its shadows. And hope more wouldn’t join it.
The snake neared closer, and I took a couple steps back. “Woah, don’t.” I pointed a finger at it. “You won’t like what I’ll do if you get near me— h-holy!”
The cobra’s radiant body suddenly amplified in size, going from zero to anaconda in a matter of seconds.
The once small and manageable snake was now big enough to be my sparring partner. And I’ve never taken a sparring class in my life! Why didn’t I have a weapon? Or, I don’t know… wings to fly away with? A pair of shoes would have been nice! Actually… I looked down at myself, horrified. I didn’t have a single lick of clothing on. If this was truly a dream, shouldn’t I be able to conjure up whatever I wanted? Ugh, why wasn’t it working!
The giant cobra hissed. Its opalescent hood fanned outwards like a bird would with their wings.
My shoulders trembled, but I couldn’t bring myself to move. Fear utterly paralyzed me as its bright vertically slit eyes studied me like prey, calculating its next move.
The air in the room took on an almost physical weight.
My heart battered against my chest, followed by an instant cold sweat that caused my skin to crawl.
“It’s just a dream. It’s just a dream… a dream about a magical hybrid anaconda. Everything is fine.” The last part ended on a rather high note while reassuring myself that nothing bad could possibly happen. After all, it’s my dream. I could pinch myself at any given time to wake up. Right?
My legs trembled when taking a leaden step back. Just that one movement felt like pulling my leg through thick mud.
“It’s not real—” my breath shook, taking on a ragged edge.
The snake flicked its forked tongue, then coiled back in a slight arch as if preparing to strike.
A helpless whimper that wasn’t my height of bravery trembled past my lips as it twisted around me in a coiling circle. My eyes went wide as it left only a few inches between our faces — a deadly, life-threatening distance.
For a moment, I forgot how to breathe.
Then its gaze dropped down to the floor as the beads of water moved on their own accord. They gathered like marbles rolling down a hill, congealing and rising a few feet in front of me where they formed a large sphere of clear water.
With its tail, the cobra slapped the side of the sphere. The disruption sent ripples to rush across the surface, morphing the viscera into a wispy illusion.
In a way, it reminded me of a fortune teller’s crystal ball… only much, much bigger. One that could potentially belong to a giant. Or… a giant snake such as this one, I guess.
The wisps twisted together to take the shape of a strange rock-like — no, crystalline golem with a weapon made of the same blue matter. It roared towards the sky, but the sphere didn’t emit any sound. Compared next to the trees in the vision, the monster was huge.
~You are in danger.~ something faintly whispered in my ear. A silvery promise.
The monster swung its double-edged ax viciously at someone outside of the orb’s vision. Blood sprayed across its body, and I flinched. It leaped and stomped and bellowed towards the sky, swinging its weapon in a savage rage.
~You have been found.~ the whispers hissed dangerously, making my head begin a slow throb. ~They are coming. They are coming for you.~
I stepped backward but forgot about the cobra’s body coiled around me. My butt hit the floor, but my focus didn’t waver.
The wisps pulled free of the monster’s shape, fabricating into something new. As the wisps worked on the illusion, the opal cobra pushed its head behind my back, using its neck to boost me upright on my feet.
My entire body tensed up, but I managed to not scream like the scared little girl deep inside wanted to.
Instead, all my focus cemented to the sphere, mesmerized by the new illusion taking on the shape of a man.
It was so striking and lifelike, a part of me believed it could be real – that he could be real. My fingers twitched with the urge to reach out and touch him, to test if he felt as real as he looked.
His midnight-black hair flowed upwards as if the stranger were truly floating in the sphere of water. A small braid behind his ear brushed the side of his golden-toned neck, enticing my eyes to trail down his bare chest where lean muscles were built somewhere between a swimmer and an assassin physique.
A dangerous appeal lingered around him, like trouble worth getting into.
My eyes magnetically studied his devilishly handsome features, taking an extra moment to admire his jawline, relaxed lips, and closed eyes. I felt a strangely intense yearning to know who he was. The feeling flourished in my chest.
“Maybe this isn’t a nightmare after all…” I whispered.
Sometimes my best friend would talk about wishing for the man of her dreams to come swoop her off her feet, yada-yada-yada. Well, now I think I understand where she’s coming from - because this guy just became that for me. I wasn’t too keen on a magic cobra showing him to me, but eh, dreams were weird.
Although he appeared to be in a deep sleep, there were holographic-like wires embedded into his arms, back, and on his chest – all connecting to the bottom of the orb under his feet.
In a way, it looked as if some an evil scientist was using him as a test subject for villainous reasons. Have I watched too many Sci-fi movies? Or was this my brain’s way of creating a weird fantasy? Probably both.
“Who is this?” I asked, almost forgetting about the snake.
It blinked, studying my face with far more intelligence than any normal snake would possess. But there was something sinister still lingering within those serpentine eyes; a hunger desperate to be quenched.
“What is his name? Is he in danger? Why are there wires attached to him?”
The questions poured from my mouth, despite not understanding why I cared so much. But I did. My body practically swelled with concern for the stranger.
The snake’s vertically slit pupils dilated. In the reflection of its fixed gaze, I saw myself. Goosebumps trailed up my neck from the sheer detail. Unlike how disastrous my hair looked before hitting the pillow, here the champagne locks cascaded down to my biceps in loose waves. The lighter pieces in the front framed my lightly tanned face, bringing more attention to the blue of my upturned eyes and the faintest sunburn across the bridge of my nose, where my freckles appeared darker than usual due to the little burn I received out in the sun yesterday. The cupid-bow of my top lip pressed down on my full bottom lip as uneasiness bloomed in my chest.
Something about catching my reflection made this… dream feel all too real. And every time the word dream came to mind, it reeked of a lie.
~Save him, save you.~ The silvery phrase lingered in a chaos of unintelligible whispers.
“Save him?” I looked at the stranger then back at the snake, wracking my brain to make sense of what it meant. Hadn’t it just said I was in danger too?
Then a distant sound of rumbling reached our ears. The cobra’s attention flashed towards the surrounding darkness. Its opalesce scales prickled down its long spine while emitting a low hiss.
The mood in the atmosphere warped into something dark and cold.
The rumbling grew more pronounced like a drum beating out of a thunderstorm. I searched the darkness but saw nothing. Even still, a metallic shimmer arced down the snake’s neck, like a warning sign to nearby danger.
It coiled its body tighter around me, looping up past my waist. I thought the giant cobra sought to protect me, but I was gravely mistaken. It was merely preventing me from getting away.
With lightning speed, it struck my neck with its razor-sharp fangs.
I screamed as the pain hit. It ripped through my lungs as serrated icicles sank into my flesh. The frigid blaze shot up and through my veins, and directly into my head.
Simultaneously, bizarre images zipped through my psyche: A saffron tree, a black-opal ring, a desert stretching for miles, arcing runes against rock, withered plants, a crescent moon… then more distorted images too fast to pinpoint. The fangs sank deeper, tattooing the images into my brain.
The images drilled deeper with each loop, revealing more detail than the time before. By the fourth playback, I noticed a pink moon rising over a desert landscape. On the seventh, a blanket of darkness sprouted dozens of violent red eyes.
It was all too much. I wrenched myself away from the pain, desperate for it to end.
I must have somehow managed to pull free because the pain suddenly ceased.
I opened my eyes just as the cobra dissolved back to its original size. Thin rivulets of blood slid down my neck. Claps of thunder shook the floor, sending vibrations up my legs. I stumbled for balance, and the ocean above transitioned into rainfall, quickly turning the floor slick. The tidal waves grew choppy and disturbed by the second.
~Save him. Save you. Find Sio.~
As if time had run out like some twisted version of Cinderella, the snake slithered back towards the darkness. At the same time, the illusion of the stranger began to slowly fade.
“Wait!” I begged. “I don’t understand — please!”
Umbrage spilled over the edges of the marble floor, working on enveloping everything in darkness while the tide above grew furious.
No. Tears ran down my cheeks.
The rolling umbrage reclaimed the serpent, coming for the stranger and me next.
Everything was out of my control.
I stumbled and ran towards the stranger, thrusting a hand through the sphere, desperately reaching out to him before it was too late. My lungs yearned to call out to the man, but his name…
As the storm swallowed us, an air bubble escaped his lips, and his body arched in a violent spasm. Though, his eyes remained closed.