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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
Adelyne meets someone unexpected in a lucid dream. As sinister as the encounter is, there is something far stranger about the world she has dreamt...

Submitted: December 22, 2011

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Submitted: December 22, 2011

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The quiet English village hummed in a cocoon of its own silence. I pivoted slowly, noticing the new green dress I wore. It rustled around my knees. Everything was quiet except for my skirt, settling in ripples. Even that was a whisper, as though the bright silk was cowed by the all-consuming quiet of the town. When I stopped turning, the cloth clung to my legs like a scared child.

Barefoot, I began walking through the town. The cottages, brown and off-white like coffee and cream, were carbon copies of each other. Their identical fronts and sharp angles were unsettling, and so was the absolute still of the trees.

I tried to quash my nerves, but the though bubbled up, There’s something very wrong here.

I was squinting up at the treetops, trying to see if there were squirrels, or really anything living, when I heard footsteps crunching on gravel. My head whipped around and I saw, fifty meters away, a coated stranger walk briskly across the street. He looked straight ahead, and was whistling one long, aimless note that floated through the air to me.

Until he disappeared down a side lane, I was gaping, immobile. But his exit snapped me out of it, and I ran after him, calling, “Wait!” Strangely, the stones did not hurt my feet. I rounded a corner, saw him round another one, and followed again, at a run. There were no street signs, no fire hydrants, and, even more curious, the picket fences belting each house had no gates. As though there were no occupants at all.

My speed increased the more I noticed about the town. Despite the warm September, and my panicked sprint, I felt chills. I saw the stranger’s dark body step off onto a dirt road, still giving no signs that he knew I was there. Well, once I was staring him the face he could not fail to notice me. I redoubled my efforts, and was far down the rough trail before I realized he was nowhere in front of me. I tried to stop, but too quickly, and I fell. My lovely green dress made an awful noise scraping against the dirt.

He was there when I opened my eyes, staring down from straight above me. “Last time, you were running away from me,” he noted. I knew his face.

I opened my mouth to scream, but then he blinked and was gone. I scrambled up, spoiled clothing forgotten, and looked all around warily.

“—orry, I’m having a hard time—staying in one—” A black shadow shivered at my side for an instant, then vanished.

“—dreadfully annoying!” Just his hand this time, reaching for me. I screamed, and the sound, like breath to a cobweb, dissolved the limb. Then I started running back for the town. I would hide in one of the homes. But then I halted, as I remembered; the doors had had no doorknobs. I was locked out of the dollhouses.

“You really don’t like me, do you?”

He sounded further away now. I looked to my right, and there he was, whole-bodied and very real. There was a cleared glad, carpeted by fallen leaves. A few puddles were in the middle, left from some passed storm. A long log, slick and hollow from rot, lay beside it, covered with lichen, moss, and dark streaks. Somehow it bore his bulk, as if he weighed no more than a phantom. He had a stick, and was poking at a slop of what had once been an animal. I felt immense pity for the pathetic remains, the only evidence I had seen of life so far.

“Of course I hate you,” I called down to him, my voice higher than normal.

“Oh, no, not the running. Actually, I was talking about all this—” He waved his make-shift cane around him, at the world in general. The tip of the stick was red. He planted it and grinned. “Your mind tried really hard to kick me out. Naturally it failed. But I’m hurt, all the same.”

He did love his secrets. “Where is this?” I asked bluntly.

“You tell me. It’s your dream.” He whistled again, a low, breathy tone. “Come over here to talk, unless you have a pair of tin cans at hand. Our conversation might take a while.”

“What makes you think I want to talk?”

“What a stupid question!” He waited with a leer.

Where would you go otherwise, Adelyne? my inner voice taunted me. To the doors that won’t open? To the silent trees? And I could not deny that I felt pulled to the glade. It was as if a ribbon were knotted through my ribcage and he held its end. With a step off the road, I felt the tension ease, and when I was standing just across from him, the compulsion had faded.

“This can’t be a dream,” I told him.

“Oh?”

“It’s far too real.” I smoothed my green skirt, and yes, it felt genuine. “Dreams are all color and confusion, so inexplicable and fragmented. They’re all static and thoughtlessness—flying and falling.”

“This is the kind of dream you won’t remember, the kind your mind won’t admit to having.” When he spoke, I barely heard his nonsense words. His teeth—they were sharks’ teeth, rows of saw-edged fangs. I stared at him in horror.

“What? Got spinach on my teeth?”

“Check and see,” I croaked.

He put a hand in his mouth and his eyebrows jumped up. “Oh!” The finger her took out was sliced. I winced. He said, “What did you do to them?”

“What do you mean, what ‘I did to them’?” I demanded, incredulous.

“Well, it’s your dream. You control how things are.”

That’s pure fiction. Look at this place!”

He did, taking his time to survey the woods, the bits of village visible, and the road we had both come from. “What a lovely, lonely thing,” he said, smiling from under half-lidded eyes. It vexed me, and he knew it did, for the last time he had said that, he had been talking about me, with a length of rope in his hands to stop me from hurting myself.

“Why would I make you like that? And this place! Why would I ever create this empty, empty place?”

“Well, as for me, it’s however you perceive me.” He considered me for a moment, then, without warning, stepped forward and swung at me. I only had time to cover my eyes and flinch away, but it did not matter. Like cool mist, he passed right through me. “Guess I can’t touch you.”

I was still in shock, but that helped calm my rabbit heart. I straightened up. Stay crazy, dear, sweet, delusional brain. I’ll gladly be cracked, go utterly mental, if that’s what it takes to make him a ghost.

“And the village? How did I dream it up?”

“I’d guess for peace. It looks like your version of idyllic.” He ran his tongue over his bottom lip as if he were savoring the air. “Too sweet for me. Practically fairy tale.” He smirked, running his eyes over my garment. “You’re certainly dressed for one.” He laughed lightly and looked back towards the scenery. “You just put so much time into dreaming up the perfect place, building your personal, quaint, little heaven, that you forgot the people—the sun—and the wind.” He pointed to the untouched homes, then the bright, vacant sky, then dropped his finger.

Gooseflesh rose on my naked arms as I noticed other anomalies. No splinters or insects in the grass around my toes. Every one of the garden flowers I had seen had been in perfect form, not a single one budding or rotting, each frozen mid-bloom. No animals or humans, as I had observed first of all.

What did this mean for me? This broken world was my child. It was barely more complex than a coloring book, all cloudless and clean around the edges. Even when I forced myself to stop looking for mistakes and look back at him, my madness was staring me right in the face from his predatory smile.

“How did you get in, then?” I whispered, hastily looking at the ground. I wanted to change the subject.

“Didn’t I tell you I would always find you?” He leisurely surveyed the woods, taking his time on all the missing details. My skin crawled, and I felt deathly self-conscious. Stop looking at it like that. It can’t help being different. Leave it alone. I wanted to wrap the whole world up and put it back inside my head.

His explanation was aggravatingly simple, but I did not care at that point. “Can I wake up?” Maybe I could jump off a cliff, or stab myself in the heart.

He considered me. “You’ll have to eventually,” he finally said in a neutral tone. I understood right away; he was not going to tell me how to escape, not until he got what he came for.

I was running deeper into the woods in seconds. “Wait!” he cried. I did not, and heard him soon after begin to follow me. His steps were heavy on the litter, and I heard him yelp when a whip-thin branch swatted him. It was only me that he could not touch, then. No wonder I had heard his footsteps.

“Where are you going?” he demanded, coming up to my side.

“To find a cliff.”

“A cliff?! To what, throw yourself over?” I didn’t answer and he scoffed loudly. “Fool!”

I changed direction again, running without warning, and it took him longer to catch up this time. I felt a little bit of power return to me when I heard his curses. “If you don’t have something to say, don’t talk,” I suggested nastily.

It worked for a while, although I did not look at his face to see how red he had become at my impudence. We walked wordlessly over roots and weeds. At least there was little to forget in a forest, I thought, before I realized there were no birdcalls.

Perhaps it was their conspicuous absence that finally pushed me to ask him, “Why are you in my head?”

Did I imagine it, or did he smile? I ignored it. Whether I was taking his bait or not, I wanted to know. Or at least I thought I did. I waited.

He spread his lips in one of his signature grins, broad and indolent, brilliant white against black. I glanced at him sideways and he raised his arms to show his harmlessness. The gesture was pointless peacocking for me, who knew him too well to be convinced. “Come back, Addy.”

“No.”

“Oh, come on, Addy. The other kids miss you.” I looked away. He knew that hurt, why bother if he saw it? “You know they imprint on anything older than eight and taller than a tabletop. I hear Liv say all the time, ‘Master, when’s Addy coming back? I miss Addy so, did she forget us?’” From the corner of my eye I saw his eyes, inhumanly cold and calculating. His whining imitation was nothing like her voice, and I knew Olivia would never say that, but my heart twinged nonetheless. I would have loved to take her with me, but I could never have lived these two past years free if I’d taken a four-year-old with me. We would have been put in homes, or he would have taken us back.

I quickened my pace, and said heatedly, “I’m never going back.”

“Don’t get melodramatic. You’ve lost most all the sense I so carefully taught you.” He sighed and caught up to me easily. “It wasn’t nearly that bad, was it?” His tone now was wheedling. “You’re special, Addy—didn’t I treat you special? You got good meals, a warm bed, toys… I’m hurt you ran away, Addy. Honestly.” He stepped in front of me, one hand over his heart.

“My name is Adelyne.” I wanted to wake up now.

When he saw my stubborn face, and how little persuaded I was, he bared his teeth. I had been openly defiant for far longer than I had ever dared in the real world, where he could touch me. But I had forgotten that it was his words I was most afraid of.

“Well, yes, now it is,” was all he said. It was far less than what I was expecting, and I nodded before the words processed.

Feeling his trap’s jaws loom, I couldn’t help but ask, “What do you mean, ‘now?’

“Your birth name was Jasmine. Didn’t I ever say?”

My pulse was pounding in my temples, throat, and chest. He knew very well he hadn’t. Jasmine?

“It’s what your mother called, when she gave you to me.”

And there it was. There it was, the straw on the camel’s back, the nail in the coffin, the mortal blow. I had trouble swallowing, and then trouble breathing, and red washed over my unfocused vision, as though I were lying on the floor watching the life bleed out of my body. “She… You…Liar.” My eyes burned, but for some reason came of it. The forest floor seemed closer, dimmer. “You stole me. My mother… would never…”

“Oh, what would you know?” He easily cut my mangled denials off. “What do you know of mothers and their children? I changed your name for aesthetic reasons, if you’re curious. The flower is so delicate, so unpleasantly sweet… You are much more an Adelyne.” He studied me. “I have all the proper forms, her signature and all, in a drawer back home. If you want to see them.”

“You…”

“Of course, you’d have to come home.”

“It’s not home!” I curled my hands into fists. My head was pounding and I brushed roughly at my cheeks, but there were no tears. “And I’m never going back!”

He stepped forward, and though I knew he was intangible to me, I knew it was a dream and he could do nothing, I stepped back and shrank into myself. He seemed to grow taller. “I think you are.”

“No,” I whispered.

“I think you will come back,” he repeated calmly, patiently. “Life out there is not so wonderful, is it? It’s a cruel world for deranged twelve-year-olds, am I right? Sleeping in alleys, stealing leftovers? Maybe if you’d learned a little more about who you are, how special you are, it would be a little better. But out there, no one can tell you.” He grinned down at me menacingly.

“Why do you think that?” I felt alone, incredibly alone. Looking up at him, I realized that I had shrunk, I had actually turned into a child again. My fists were soft, useless toddler fists, my curls tangled and golden like they were when I was six. The muddied green dress reached my bare white toes. Terrified, I yelled at my mind to stop it, to stop warping things. The sunless sky seemed to darken.

“Why no people, Addy?” He answered my question with one of his own. He cupped a hand to his ear and feigned puzzlement at the silence he heard. “Not a soul in this village? You can’t trust anyone out there.” He squatted and raised a ghostly hand to my cheek. I flinched as if shocked. “How horrible are they?”

The false pity made me sick to my stomach. “You don’t know me.” Now my voice matched the childishness of my words.

“I do, Addy. Who could know you better? Your own mother left you—” I shook my head violently and tried to run, but he grabbed me. He grabbed me. I stared at his suddenly solid hand, encircling my arm with room to spare, bruising me. He grinned. “I guess I do get some power.”

My mind had betrayed me. The stick-like pines stared mercilessly down, the unmoving air rested its wordless lips on my ear.

He continued, “I can see all of you here. Every dysfunctional cog and twisted synapse. Each fear, insecurity, and nightmare… You hate the outside. So I know you will come back.” His eyes roamed my face coldly, and I felt like a piece of property. If only he would meet my gaze. Even if it paralyzed me, at least I would feel human. “You have a horrible poker face, you know.” Slowly, viciously, he gave me that shark’s grin.

With all my strength I pulled, first one way then the other. Somehow I slipped out of his rough hand, and then I was running, running as fast as I could. Running from the man who had raised me, the one with shark’s teeth who loomed over my childhood self. The one who had named me for what I was now. Every step I was sure he would overtake me; my feet were so slow, and I was already panting. It was like the first time I had tried to escape, so small and so unthinking. He had so easily pulled me back inside the house.

But this time he did not even try to catch me. I heard him call, from behind me, “I’ve seen it already, Addy. Your secret. Something you’ve forgotten.”

A cliff, a cliff, I have to find a cliff.

“I know you’re afraid. Just come back.”

A cliff, a cliff— I hit something, hard. Something broke—it might have been in my skull. I could not see for a minute, and when I did, I feared at first I had gone blind. A huge, glass wall, curving up as far as the eye could see, towered over me. This was it, then. The end of my dream. The limits of my mad mind. I could not run anymore, but somehow I knew he was not chasing. I felt over the smooth, blue-tinted surface with my fingertips. My head had chipped it, and three drops of scarlet adorned the crack. He had been talking as though he were not the enemy, as though he had found some secret of mine. Something you’ve forgotten.

As I studied the wall, my eyes blurred momentarily, switching focus. I saw my reflection and a strangled cry sprung from my throat.

Distantly, I heard his cry. “Where’s your face, Adelyne?”


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