The Dream Time

The Dream Time

It was cold. The air carried a sinister chill. The floor was so frozen, she felt it through the soles of her sandals. The light in the room seemed impossibly dim. She could make out the vague silhouettes of figures. She recognized every one of them. With terrible clarity, she recalled the role each had played in her nightmare. There was the blonde haired Eagle, now sporting a pair of ugly bat wings, and his cold associate surrounded in a shimmering bubble apparently made of steel. There was the prim Amida in his well pressed suit, sporting briefcase and cell phone as though they were sword and shield. Worst of all was the man who spoke in the cold, emotionless voice whose face she'd never seen. He no longer had a face. His cold, metallic body, appearing almost robotic, had no head at all.

Shadows shrouded the room. They wove around the figures gathered to torment her like misty morning fog that refused to dissipate, clinging to her as readily as the evil figures surrounding her. Somewhere deep in the mind of Selene Brodrick, a small voice squeaked that this was not how it was supposed to happen. The players were on the wrong set, in the wrong costumes, saying all the wrong lines and carrying out actions that had never been a part of the original scene. Yet the scene played on, uninterrupted and irrepressible, though with each passing moment she prayed the dreaded horrors of her past would disappear.

The sinister, cold ascendant and his shimmering bubble darted toward her. An invisible force gripped her, lifting her into the air, where it held her hostage from both ground and gravity for several seconds before it flung her like a rag doll from its grasp. The forces of physics reasserted themselves violently. The sound of shattering glass filled her ears, though she didn't feel the impact, didn't feel the glass give way beneath her, didn't feel the sensation of falling. She hung in the air, frozen in time, suspended in the window frame. A thousand pieces of broken glass surrounded her, motionless in mid-flight, as unable to reach their destination as she. Her mouth opened, ready and waiting to scream, but no sound would come.

She expected time to restart any moment. Try as one might to make time stand still for them, it never complied for longer than a moment or two. Time, however, did not seize its rightful opportunity. She did not fall.

Out of the shadows, a new figure appeared. She didn't recognize him. He had no part to play here. He wove his way around her now stationary tormentors until he stood before her where she waited, suspended in the window frame amid the broken glass. He appeared in sharp contrast to the rest of the scene, a bright ray of sunlight braking through dismal clouds in order to shine. Where the rest of the nightmare figures were cold and grey, he appeared in bright, living colour. His hair was mostly short, a brilliant golden blond not unlike her own. His eyes were mirrors of hers as well, brilliant emerald in shade, but they didn't shine. Instead they seemed sad. His whole face seemed clouded with sorrow. His brow was furrowed and his head tilted to one side as he regarded her. He seemed to be asking a silent question.

Selene was certain she had never seen him before. But there was something naggingly familiar about him. It took her several moments to place. It was his earrings. In his right ear, he wore two hooped earrings, one low on the lobe, the other high on the cartilage. The hoops were connected by a small chain. It jingled when he walked. She was just about to comment on the familiar configuration of the earrings when the man spoke quietly but sternly.

"You dream very loudly."

"I... dream?"

Amusement tugged at the edges of the strange man's lips. "You didn't realize? You are dreaming."

As soon as he said it, everything made sense. She wasn't reliving the nightmare of her recent abduction and rescue, including her terrible plunge from the seventy-second story window of a building in Japan. She was dreaming about the fall. Except that she wasn't falling. She was still frozen in the moment before she dropped.

"Then I am dreaming you?" she asked, confused. She'd never had this kind of dream before. Every time she realized she was dreaming, she woke up. She'd never had a discussion about it before, certainly not during the dream.

Again the man seemed amused, though the shadows had not lifted from his face. The expression was eerie. "Yes and no and neither one," was his cryptic response.

Selene's mouth hung open for a moment and she stared at him, not understanding what that could mean. She decided a change of subject was in order, so she fell back on her original observation. Though her body was, suspended in time, she moved her arm to point at the stranger's right side. "I know someone who wears earrings exactly like those."

Something flickered in the man's eyes and for the first time he truly seemed to care about the conversation. "You do?"

"My uncle Domerin," she responded without thinking. She added as an afterthought, "Well, he's not really my uncle. He's a good friend of my dad's, but he asked me if I'd call him uncle. He was trying to cheer me up, I think. He wears the exact same earrings, only on the left side."

"What a coincidence," the strange man almost purred. His entire demeanor toward her changed. At first he had seemed annoyed, as though her 'loud dreaming,' as he put it, had somehow distracted him. Now he seemed interested in continuing their conversation, though his tone made her shiver.

"Tell me," he said a moment later, not giving her a chance to question him further. "Why are you still hanging there in that window?"

The answer seemed fairly obvious to her. "I'm waiting to fall," she said, no small amount of fear in her voice. The fact that she hadn't confounded her.

"Do you want to fall?"

"No."

"Then why would you?"

Selene was taken aback. "It's not like I have a choice."

This time a smile split the man's lips, though no happiness accompanied the gesture. "Why child, of course you do. This is your dream." Though he was standing at the threshold of the window frame, and moving forward meant stepping into empty air, the blond haired man came toward her. One moment he stood on the floor, the next he glided through the air until he hovered beside her, his hand outstretched. "Don't you know that you can control your dreams?"

"Control my...?" No. She hadn't known that. Until he told her, she hadn't even realized she was dreaming, except that something had seemed somehow wrong. "How?" she asked, eager to be far from the terrible men and the frightening fall and the horrible memories of the past few days. She moved her hand again. It seemed unstuck in a way the rest of her was not. She took the hand offered to her. The stranger's grip was soft but firm. Gently, he squeezed her hand, reassuring her she was not alone as she was engulfed by a light so bright she could see nothing through it.

Everything changed.

Gone were the darkness and shadows of her nightmare. Gone were the ghastly figures. Gone was the building. A soft spring wind blew, disturbing both her golden locks and those belonging to the stranger. A beautiful scene spread out below them, paradise when compared to the steel building where her captors had taken her. Flowers spread as far as the eye could see and, in the distance, green trees rose to embrace the sky. Fluffy white clouds drifted lazily in a sea of bright blue above her. The air was warm, not hot, and smelled sweetly of flowers and leaves.

The invader of her dreams looked different too, though she was fairly certain he hadn't changed. Now that he appeared to belong in the scene, instead of standing out in stark contrast to it, he seemed a handsome man. Not quite a match for the attractive Oversoul, whom she knew now as Domerin Lorcasf, but the golden-haired stranger had his appeal. In fact, she could almost imagine him on Domerin’s arm, a pale sunflower compared to the dark raven of her adoptive uncle. She was immediately embarrassed by the thought; it was only that the earrings in the man’s right ear so reminded her of Domerin, she couldn’t quite get him out of her head.

It took several moments for Selene to realize that she too had changed. She found herself in a dress that may have been worn by royalty in the real world, elegant and beautifully decorated. What surprised her more, however, was the shimmering light surrounding her body. It swirled about her, ever changing as it moved. First deep blue, now brilliant green, a flash of shining silver, now royal purple. She was uncertain how she managed to see herself as though looking in a mirror but, for a split second, she could see her whole body, the aurora swirling around her almost seeming to form fairy wings behind her back.

She blinked at herself, then at the stranger who had waltzed unexpectedly into her dreams, at a complete loss for words. She found herself floating beside him over the vast garden. Their hands were still firmly clasped. Selene was half-afraid to release his hand, for fear that she would tumble out of the sky. The stranger smiled at her.

“You need not fear,” he said softly, as though he could read her mind. He was so close, his breath brushed her cheek. “The Dreamer is always in control of the Dream. All you need do is will what you wish to happen. If your will is strong and firm, then your wish will always come to pass. That is the Magic, the Secret of Dreaming.” He put odd emphasis on certain words in the midst of his short speech. Selene wondered if it meant they had special significance.

She turned her eyes from him to gaze at the world spread out below her. Tentatively, she pulled her hand free of his and floated in one direction, then another, until she got the feel for flight. His smile was becoming infectious. It was hard to remain frightened and sad with such beauty and freedom offered to her.

“This is beautiful,” she said, full of wonder and awe, like a small child recently dazzled by one of her father’s visits.

Her strange dream benefactor’s head dipped slightly. “I thought you might appreciate it.”

“I can come here whenever I wish?”

“It will take practice. But yes, if you can get the hang of it, you will never have trouble finding this place. It comes from inside you, after all.”

Selene glanced down at herself again. “Why do I look like this?” she asked, holding up her hands and watching them flash with colour. It reminded her of what Domerin said when he first took her hand. This was almost exactly what he had described. Had this, too, come from her mind? A manifestation of a vision she had not herself seen?

The dream stranger’s smile remained but shifted slightly. His expression gave her the impression he had all the answers, but wasn't yet willing to part with any of them. “It is what you look like to me," was all he said in answer. He turned away from her then, as if to enjoy the view for himself. For several long moments they drifted through the blue sky. Selene was content. This was better by far than the nightmare she’d left behind. She almost thought she’d be disappointed when she awoke. After all, there were a lot of issues left for her to deal with, and she wasn’t keen to face any of them.

Finally, the blond man turned back to her, a hint of sadness in his eyes. He held out his hand, as though calling her back to him. “I wonder,” he said softly, “if you would help me.”

She blinked at him several times before she managed to respond, “How can I help you?” She’d only just met him. She wasn’t even certain he was real!

Again he offered her a secretive smile. “How is not so important as whether or not you are willing. You see, I am trying to reach someone, someone I have not seen in a very long time. I believe that you…” Here he hesitated for the first time, perhaps searching for the proper words to explain his strange request. “You are closer to this person than I. If you would only offer me your help…” He drifted off, giving her an imploring look.

To say Selene was confused would be an understatement. Here he was asking for her help, but he wouldn't tell her what it was he needed her to do. But as she considered the matter, she supposed he had already offered his help to her. After all, if he had not come to tell her she could change her dreams, she would still be stuck in her nightmare, watching it unfold over and over. It had never been in her to distrust others, and this was only a dream, wasn’t it? Dreams couldn’t hurt people.

“I guess I owe you,” she said, though there was no sign of grudge in her voice. “You helped me escape my nightmare, so I will help you find your friend, if I can.”

The blond man seemed relieved. His smile returned and he nodded. “Only sleep...” his lips moved as if to say something more but he stopped short. “I… am sorry, I have quite forgotten to ask your name.”

“Selene,” she said without hesitation, smiling herself. “Selene Brodrick.”

Again he nodded. “Only sleep, Selene. Only keep dreaming sweet dreams. That is all I need of you.”

That, she thought, was something she could do. She felt the warmth of the sun and the spring breeze enfold her. She felt she could drift there for eternity, if only the dream would last that long.

“But wait,” she murmured sleepily as she felt his hand leaving hers, the warmth of his body retreating from her side. “You haven’t told me your name yet…”

She could no longer see him, though she knew he wasn't yet far away. Somehow, she could feel him, and almost see him through half-closed eyes. She could hear his laughter ringing softly nearby, though it didn't sound like he was trying to mock her.

“The question is not who I am, Selene. It should be what I am.”

“What are you?” she breathed, knowing he would hear. She suddenly felt tired and he seemed to be retreating father from her.

At the last moment she felt the brush of hot breath against her cheek and his voice murmured very close to her ear, “I am a Whisper.”

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