Chapter Twenty One
A wave crashed against the massive, 17th century style pirate ship. The mast and sails were being battered by the furious wind and rain. Overhead, the dark, brewing sky shot out bolts of lightning and claps of thunder.
Churned by the bitter, cold winds, the sea came up with towering, white-tipped waves. The vessel kept going up and down the waves, tossing from side to side as it was hammered by the ferocious storm.
On board, a young woman clung to the side of the ship for dear life. Water surged over the side of the ship, swamping the decks with cold, icy seawater. She kept a tight grip on the railing, ducking her head as another wave soared overhead before crashing onto the planks.
"Steven! Hold on!" Julia, took a few hesitant steps alongside the ship. Her lover, who had just entered her dreams, was tied up in the netting at the far end of the boat. His eyes were just starting to open, while the water surged over his head.
Steven heard a faint voice as his eyes snapped open. Tied around his body were ropes, which if not for his inability to feel pain in the dreams, would certainly cause him to cry out. Already they were cutting into his skin, wrapping tightly around his limbs.
Squirming in the tangle of ropes, he saw Julia making her way towards him.
Another wave crashed onto the deck, the icy water flooded the ship, dousing him from head to toe. He thrashed at the ropes, trying to keep his head above the water that threatened to drown him.
Gasping for breath, water poured from his open mouth. "Julia!" He grabbed a rope coming around his neck, trying to loosen its hold. He pulled it over his head, as he slowly freed himself.
Julia quickened her efforts as the sea momentarily relented. "Steven, oh my gosh, are you alright?" She knelt beside him, staring into his deep, fathomless blue eyes. She took a rope that was secured tightly around his legs, tearing it off him.
"I'm okay," he got out in-between labored breaths, "is there any shelter?"
"Yes," she pointed away from the stern to the back of the ship, where a door was half open, it had a window where there could be seen light from a candle. "Let's hurry before it worsens." She said of the storm, putting her hands underneath his arms before dragging him across the deck.
Backing up, her lover in tow, she made her way to the slightly open door. Opening it further, she pulled in Steven, dropping him on the damp floor. She closed the door behind them, while the storm outside said farewell with a booming clap of thunder.
While he could still feel the ship shaking and plunging through the stormy waves, he was happy to be out of the wind and rain. Shimmying his arms, he hastily freed himself from the ropes. With Julia's help, he was out of the mess in minutes, breathing hard and dripping wet.
"Thanks so much, crazy dream, eh?" He embraced her, holding her cool body close to his. Lovingly running his hands through her hair, he kissed her on the lips but pulled back before she could continue the affection.
"It really is," her eyes darkened and she looked around the cabin for a place to sit. "But why are you dreaming now? This is much too soon." At the side of the warm, candle-lit cabin, she found a chair that had been knocked over.
Picking it up, she placed it upright and took a seat.
On the walls, candlelight flickered from candles held by metal clasps jutting out of the wall. A desk was on one side of the room, littered with papers and maps on its wooden, chipped surface. Seemingly ripped right out from Pirates of the Caribbean, all the room was missing was a one eyed pirate captain.
Steven found a sword lying on the ground, picking it up he admired the shiny blade. Before answering he leaned against the wall, delicately wiping the blade clean of water with a handkerchief which had been lying on the floor. "It is too soon. I was hoping that you could tell me why." He sighed, staring at Julia, who was no longer smiling. "You're hiding something, Julia-I don't know what it is, but I know that you know more then you're leading on to. At the camp, you said the hallucinations were caused by stress… but there's more to it, isn't there?"
"What makes you think that?" Her eyes drifted to the ground, where they stayed.
"Because of the way you're acting. Last time when we dreamed together, my dreaming didn't end with us. I woke up to the memory of my mother's death. Afterwards, I continued to hallucinate about the killer, about you, and in those hallucinations, I'm not myself." He put the sword down, bracing himself as the ship rocked violently.
Water poured in from outside, through a crack at the bottom of the door.
Outside the cabin, the wind howled noisily, accompanied by thunder.
Julia stared down at the floor, biting her lip.
"You didn't enter this dream from falling asleep, did you?" She looked right at him, her turquoise eyes growing dull. "You collapsed on the ground, right?"
"First time that's happened?"
"Sort of, I mean this is the first time I ended up here from a hallucination. Can you tell me what is going on?" He shifted uncomfortably, seeing that Julia's face was growing paler. For a minute neither of them spoke.
When she did open her mouth, only a sob came out. Her body began to tremble as tears poured down her face. Cries echoed loudly in the cabin, as she clenched her fists. Her mouth was open in a blood-curdling cry before she fell to the floor, weeping unashamedly.
Steven was too surprised to move.
He only stared at Julia, his mouth agape. "What's wrong? Julia!" He took two steps towards her, kneeling at her side. Wrapping her in his arms, he was surprised when she pushed him off her. "Julia!" He fell on the wooden planks, gawking as Julia got to her feet, her face twisted in anguish.
"What's wrong? I've killed you, Steven! That's what! I've stolen your life, ruining you completely! I'm such a horrible monster, a bitch!" She was heaving, her eyes pouring with tears. "And it isn't the first time, Steven, I should've known… I should've known! I just thought," she took a seat, her eyes wide and lost, "thought that I could stop it from happening. But all I did was ruin another life."
Steven scrambled to his feet, perplexed at the sudden, harrowing change in Julia. Confused by her words, he went back to the wall, trying to stay upright as the storm continued to wreak havoc on them. "I don't understand."
"No, of course you don't." Glowering at him, she took a shaky step forward. "I lied to you, Steven. I fucking lied!" She kicked a burnt-out candle that had fallen on the ground. Swearing she collapsed back on the chair, her mouth twisted in a tormented frown. "These dreams aren't a gift, Steven. They're a curse. My curse. I thought I could overcome them, that their ability to ruin lives would end with Markus."
"You weren't the first one to enter my dreams, Steven." She threw her head back against the chair, screaming at the ceiling. "I just want to die! Damn it! I just want to die!" She snapped her head back down, glaring at Steven with untold, poignant rage. "I always suspected, always feared that it would happen again-but I couldn't know for sure. I hoped that things had changed."
Steven felt his stomach roll with nausea, both from the ship's movement and Julia's words. He picked up the sword, his hands trembling. "Who is Markus?"
She paused, pursing her lips. "His name was Markus Anderson," smacking her lips, she chuckled sardonically. "My first victim." She stared at the sword, "Just kill me, Steven. I don't deserve to live, not after what I've done to you. Run me through."
Dropping the sword, he shook his head. "Julia. Please, I love you, no matter what you did. Please, just tell me what's going on." His heart was pounding violently in his chest. Blinking, he awaited whatever she would unfold to him.
"This dreaming ability, this curse has been in my family for generations. My father would always talk about it as if it were an amazing gift. He would tell me that it was a secret, that we were special. More then human. While others slept, we would dream. Not those silly, fleeting images and emotions our subconscious throws at us, or even lucid dreaming… but something much more powerful. An entire world that we could inhabit.
"But it was also a crippling, cruel ability. For though we, I mean those who were born with the ability, could dream without problems, others could not. Whoever we shared the dreaming ability with; they would not be able to handle it like we could. Eventually, usually in a short period of time, they would succumb to it. In the end, all those who were given the dreaming ability fell asleep." She stared up at Steven, her eyes widening and lips trembling.
Steven recalled how powerful the hallucinations had been. Frowning, he folded his arms over his shoulder, suddenly feeling chilled. "The hallucinations? My reflection disappearing? All of that is because of these dreams?"
"Yes. Markus told me all about it."
"But why didn't you tell me?" He held back a torrent of rage, biting his tongue from saying anymore.
"Because I didn't see the point in it. I thought perhaps if I never brought it up, it would never happen. We would just dream together, falling more and more in love. After Markus, I swore I'd never fall in love again. But there was something about you, Steven. Something that drew me to you, I wanted to fall in love with you, so I did. I thought that it would be different this time."
"But it's not."
"No." She got up, her frail body still quaking. Peeking at him with her turquoise eyes, she wrapped her arms over her chest. Sighing, she stood before him, waiting for whatever he would do to her. "Words will never make up for what I did to you."
Steven only stared at her with a grimace. "And what is that? I mean, I still don't get it. Did Markus die?"
"No. He entered the dreams permanently. Just like entering a coma, at least that's how my father explained it. My mother was strong, she did not easily succumb to the dreaming ability. For months she carried on, fighting off the hallucinations and dreaming. They performed a c-section on her way before I was to be born. Still, I survived, beating all the odds.
"After that, my father made sure that I would never have to suffer what he did. He made me promise to never fall in love with someone, to give them the dreaming gift. For a long time, I did listen to him, yet our feelings have a crazy way of overthrowing our logic. I fell in love with Markus, two months before he was overtaken by the dreams. I've never seen him since."
"Did he ever wake up?"
"Maybe, I never heard anything from him or his family. They moved away from where I lived, cutting off all communication with us. I was such an idiot, Steven, I stole his life because I loved him-wanted him. And I've gone and done the same to you."
"That's why you asked for forgiveness, isn't it?"
"In the text? Yes, I was going to tell you then, but I slipped into the coma before I could. Even though I wasn't sure at the moment, I still feared it would happen. I want you to know how sorry I am. How much I hate myself for loving you."
Steven braced himself as another wave crashed against the ship, sending Julia falling to the floorboards. Reaching down, he offered her a hand, to which she took with a surprised smile. Her red, swollen eyes shut as she let go of his hand, falling back to the floor. "Leave me, Steven."
"No. I made a promise, damn it, no matter what, I would always love you. I will beat these dreams, I will beat these hallucinations. I will not give up!" Again, he held out his hand, frowning as she grabbed it securely. "I love you, Julia. I will fight off these dreams, and I will find you."
Once they were both on their feet, he reached for the door, wrapping his hand around the knob. "When I wake up, I'll go to Alberta and I will find you. No matter what, I'm not going to be overcome. I love you too much." Although he was still deeply afraid of what she'd told him, he decided that he wouldn't care.
He'd lost his mother, was losing his father, and he sure as hell wasn't about to lose Julia. The only mistake she'd made was following her heart; he would make sure it wasn't all for nothing.
Kissing her on the lips, he wrapped her in his arms. "I'll find you, Julia."
"What if you don't like what you find?" Julia kissed him on the lips, staring deep into his eyes with a sorrowful smile. "What if you can't stop the dreams from overtaking you?"
"They won't." He let her go, opening the door. Stepping out onto the deck, he made his way on wobbly legs to the stern. Behind him, Julia stood in the doorway, watching her lover with sad, dull eyes.
"But what if they do anyways," she whispered to herself, knowing that for all his bravado, he would fail. And when they buried Steven Walker, she would be the one who put him there. Sighing, she stared at the darkening storm, watching a certain wave glide towards the starboard side of the ship.
Steven, who was right in the middle of the deck, his hand on the base of the mast, took the full brunt of the wave. While there was no pain, he still felt his breath leave him as he was tossed like a rag doll in the vicious wave.
He smashed against the railing of the ship, before going over it with the torrent of water. Headfirst he dove into the icy, restless waters. All he could feel was the freezing water pouring into his mouth and enveloping his body as a nasty current kept him under the surface.
Opening his eyes, he expected to see nothing but inky blackness. Instead, he saw a pulsating, glowing ball of light below him. Drawn to the light as a moth is drawn to the flame, he stopped fighting the current and let it take him further into the depths.
As the water grew warmer and the light brighter, a dark, colorless hand reached out for his ankle. Forcefully it wrapped around his foot, slowly crushing it in its tight, merciless grip. Another hand grabbed his other foot, which he tried to kick around wildly before it was subdued.
Now more then the current was dragging him down into the depths.
His lungs began to burn without oxygen.
He finally opened his mouth, letting loose a scream. Water flowed into his lungs, flooding his body with icy liquid. More hands reached out from the depths, taking him deeper into the bright, warm depths of the ocean.
"Many have called this place 'home'," a familiar, grating voice said with in a delighted tone. "It looks like you will as well."