The darkness was quickly approaching. The huge mass reminded me of ink spreading in water, the billowing clouds spreading at an unstoppable pace. At its speed, I guessed it would reach the first island, on the outskirts of the complicated web of enviro-domes, in less than 5 minutes. I bit my lip, already knowing what I was going to do next, and already regretting it. I took one last look at all the domes, seeing all the people, my people, running with all their might across the light bridges to get to safety.
If there was anywhere that was safe.
Taking a deep breath, I whirled around, looking straight into Kied’s eyes. The kid was just awestruck, little violent convulsions on his skin the only moves he made. He was looking straight into the storm with a gaping mouth and wide eyes. He wasn’t even trying to escape, he was just that scared.
“We’re doomed, we’re definitely, god-forsakingly screwed,” he said finally, burying his hands into his tentacles. He obviously didn’t think anyone was going to jump in and stop that thing. He obviously didn’t know me very well.
“So, what do I do?” I said. My head gesturing to the storm.
It took him a moment to register what I had just said. Though I can take pride in the fact that I finally peeled the guy’s eyes away from the darkness. He had that look that told me he hadn’t believed what I said.
“Look kid. There’s a cloud coming straight for us. You need a Dream-Traveler to stop it. I’m a Dream-Traveler. Everything’s solved!” I said, saying it a bit too cheerfully. Might as well act like I knew what I was doing. Though it didn’t convince my heart, it was still doing frantic taps on my chest like it was trying to leap out. “So what do I do?”
“Shadra, it’s not that simple, you could lose all your memories! Or worse, you could disappear forever,” Kied said, grabbing my arms, shaking me around violently.
“Look. What else is there to do? If I don’t try, everyone will pay. If I go and somehow succeed or disappear, then we’ve got a chance. Besides, it’s not like I have much to lose,” I said, shrugging. It was true, I only had a few hours’ worth of memories.
Kied just stared at me a few moments, and then let me go. His head facing downward, defeated. “Fine,” he said, sighing, “you go in there, defeat the nightmare causing the darkness, and that’ll kill it. The hard part is getting through the darkness.” He looked up. “Go, the cloud’s almost got us.”
I nodded with as much enthusiasm as I could pull off, and ran towards the cloud, which was just a few moments away from eating one of the islands. Fear still gripped me, but I talked myself out of it. It’s only a nightmare, which I had dealt with for, like, ever. What was one more measly nightmare? I swallowed, and teleported into the darkness.
I was thrust into complete blindness. No feeling but the heaviness of the darkness entering my lungs, no sight but the black wall in front of me. For a split second, I felt an oozing calm between my fingertips, until I was falling, falling… falling…
Time stopped. It literally stopped. The only thing that told me I was alive was the feeling of my heart. I wasn’t even certain I had a mind; I was grabbing for some sort of memory, but then realized I had none. I had been in the black for my entire life. Right?
No, I hadn’t been.
I fought for the control of my mind, putting up a mental block against the encroaching darkness. I took in a deep breath and pushed myself forward, as if I were swimming through it. And, to reward my hard work, a light soon appeared ahead, promising a new place, a new nightmare to solve.
I’m ready to roll.
The place I fell into was a colorfully creepy place. It was like a mixture of your grandmother’s house and a Tim Burton Movie. I landed on a rainbow patched quilt with little cartoon skulls stitched onto them. There were bare trees growing out of the dusty fabric, which occasionally gave out creepy little laughs from thick-lipped, snaggle-tooth mouths that popped out of nowhere. I looked up, and the clouds moved at a snail pace, and shifted up and down as if they were from one of those old large-pixeled video games. It was quite the weird scene. Quilts upon hills went from horizon to horizon, and the sky a gray mass with some weird clouds. Someone had a messed up mind.
I soon spotted a little black bench with an old woman sitting on it, her head in her hands, weeping bitterly. She was surrounded by floating picture frames of children whom I guessed were her grandchildren, from their similar hair color, and the fact that the photos looked fairly new and colorful. She looked lonely. I instantly took back that mean comment I said about her.
Who was I to judge? Dreams cannot be controlled, and are never made consciously. And don’t get me started on nightmares.
I knew what to do the moment I laid eyes on her. With a deep breath, I counted each step it took to reach her side, imagining myself as the children from those photos. I felt myself split into different pieces, all running toward the woman to embrace her.
As soon as my tiny arms wrapped around her, I felt warmth I could only imagine, penetrating into my arms. I snuggled into the folds of her skin, letting her leathery hide settle next to mine, her musty smell feeling familiar and so comfortable. The woman lifted her eyes and looked into mine.
And what happened next was so unexpected, I would question it almost every day in the future. She smiled at me, kissed each one of my foreheads with dry lips, and said one thing.
“Don’t hide anymore,”
I instantly felt myself conform into myself again, and even when the woman looked at me in my black, octopus hair form, she didn’t flinch. Green spots were not rising on my skin. She smiled.
“Thank you, my Guardian Angel,” the old woman said, a small tear sliding down her face. Slowly, her form faded, until she was no longer there. The dream quickly following, turning into colorful puffs of smoke. I watched every color dissolve into darkness.
And for the first time in my life, the darkness had never felt so warm.