This story is brought to you by the Flash Fiction Challenge: The Random Title Jamboree at Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds. Enjoy! — FY
Every dream starts the same. Every dream ends the same. Nothing to nothing. An endless, empty expanse. Darkness. I haven’t dreamed in years. I guess it was about the time that Jerry died. Not that the old man and I were all that close, or that his death was all that tragic. All said and done, he lived a good life, a long life, and died peaceful, in his sleep. Not a huge impact. Just the most memorable thing that happened that year. Doesn’t keep Anderson from joking that the dreamcatcher the old man left me is grabbing all my dreams before they can get in my head.
Every night I sleep deep, I sleep dreamless. Supposedly, that’s good for you, but I’m not convinced. I’m always moving about in the night, tossing and turning. Everyday I wake up tired, a little more worn down than when my head hit the pillow. Circles under my eyes. I sleep ragged.
So when I go to sleep, I expect darkness and I always get what I’m expecting. A great nothing until my alarm goes off and I open my eyes in the real world. But now, I open my eyes and I’m standing in a classroom, my old sixth grade classroom, but not. I know I have to give a speech on something, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what. To top it off, I’m naked. So damn cliché. I do the only thing I can. I ace the speech, I invite them all to kindly kiss my ass, and I fly away. Not only am I dreaming, but I’m lucid.
Somewhere above a child’s drawing meant to be the eastern seaboard, a dog comes up to me. Huge thing. Ugly thing. So cartoonishly monstrous that it seems like it should be a level boss in a video game where you play an anthropomorphic squirrel. I fly away. It flies after, faster than I expect. Doesn’t matter. I’m lucid. I’m in control. But it keeps up with me. I throw birds and planes and mountains at it, but it still closes the distance. It gets close, opens a maw made mostly of yellow metal, and says my name. I don’t ask how it knows me. We’re in my head, it is part of me, of course it knows my name, but for some reason, that lets me know it’s not dangerous.
Fearsome presence and bad first impression aside, it seems friendly enough. I ask for its name. Gold, it says, like its teeth. Makes as much sense as the forty foot tall crab mowing down the roman centurions below. I ask what it wants. It wants to protect me. I laugh. Don’t need anything to protect me from my first dream in years.
It doesn’t laugh with me. Just shakes its head sadly. This dog must be a part of me that hates joy. It starts talking. I ignore it, determined to not let myself squash the childish joy I’m feeling. Blah blah blah talking. A word breaks through, catches my attention. Mindweavers. Suddenly I’m afraid, more afraid than I’ve been in my entire life, except it’s a familiar fear. Gold smiles. It knows I’m listening.
Gold’s voice takes on an even tone. A lecture, one it’s delivered many times before. Mindweavers. Ancient evil, lives off the human psyche. Nests inside a person’s brain, turns their dreams into a deathtrap. The old wives tale, about how if you die in a dream you die in real life? That’s not true, not really. Your body only dies if the Mindweaver devours you before you wake up.
I’m freaking, so Gold starts telling me about its kind. Unravellers, they call themselves. Reborn victims of the ‘weavers. If an Unraveller can destroy the heart of a dream before the ‘weaver gets to it, the person gets to live another day. Fun times. The only way to save me is to find the center of the dream and rip it to shreds before I get gobbled up.
I laugh again. Looks like I’m going on a quest through myself to help myself save myself. Damn, I’ve missed dreaming. Gold doesn’t seem terribly amused, but looks grateful that I’m following. We travel over the river and through the woods and past mountains capped with snow and ice. Things start to feel a little foreboding, almost hostile. There’s a chill in the air. I land, thinking I’ll look for something to cover myself up with, but the instant my feet touch the rocky ground, the trees spring to life, branches flailing and wooden teeth gnashing. I duck and dodge and scamp. Gold springs into attack mode, metal teeth tearing through bark, coating its face in sap.
I run. I run through the hills and the ice and the snow, tears streaming down my face. Eventually, I find myself in a cave. It’s warm, brighter than it should be. The source of the light and heat is a sphere, floating in the center, glowing.
A sound behind me startles me. I turn, but it is only the dog. I mumble a greeting, turning back to study this new thing. It is me. It is all of me. Ephemeral, like a ghost. Instinctively, I know this is what we’ve been searching for.
I’m so wrapped up in the object, I don’t notice the sounds of the change. I don’t hear the click-clack of chitinous legs on the stones beneath. I only notice something is wrong when I see the thick talon protruding from my chest. Gold neglected to mention the Mindweavers could shape-shift. At least, not this go around. A memory of a memory, a fragment of knowledge floating to the surface too late to do me any good.
The creature does not cackle triumphantly, or toy with me like a cat with a mouse. It simply drags me towards a salivating maw that I cannot see but I must have seen a thousand times before. A force of nature. A being of singular focus and deadly purpose.
The ‘weaver is so focused on mealtime it doesn’t notice the canine form drifting in on the breeze, floating slowly past my impaled body. The creature only has eyes for me until a pair of metal jaws clamp down on the heart of the dream.
The terrible sound of the unraveling drowns out the cries of the weaver. I’m whirled around. I’m sucked in. My body of mind rips into a thousand pieces, crashing against the rocks of the sea of dreams.
Every dream starts the same. Every dream ends the same. Nothing to nothing. An endless, empty expanse. Darkness. I haven’t dreamed in years.
I wake from my dreamless sleep, more exhausted than when I laid down. I sit alone in the pre-dawn glow. My gaze drawn to the dreamcatcher over the bed, a present from my Uncle Jerry, my fingers drawn to the small piece of pyrite at the center of sinew web. For an instant, it seems warm, pulsing, but the feeling fades and I’m left alone in a world of formless shadow.