Murder in Dreamscape

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

A man that can see into the dreams of others witnesses a nightmare.

The hard rain bombarded the window of the coffee shop with unrelenting tenacity. Closing time has come, and only a short journey through the drenched city outside separated Logan from his bed. He wrapped the heavy cloak around himself and stepped out into the cold. The coffee flavored warm air, laced with the hubbub of conversation, pushed him out into the cold like an unwanted child. A soft, barely audible “See you Logan!” was cut off sharply by the slam of the door and the enveloping darkness of the rainy night. 

Logan breathed a sigh of relief. Finally… Finally, he was free from the mindless droning customers, so wired on sugar-rich caffeine that their sentences slurred together and became indistinguishable from the rhythmic patter of raindrops on the asphalt. If only they could understand how unbelievably dull they were, hurrying through the mundane routines of their daily lives, completely oblivious of the magical reality that only Logan was privy to. Perhaps then they would awaken to their dreams and embrace them, just as he had.

Logan loved the rain. The downpour molded the otherwise solid lines of reality into magical, malleable shapes. The skyscrapers, distorted by the dark water in the air, were enormous giants, infested with millions of tiny square lantern bug windows. The cars rolling by grinned with sharp teeth of their grills, threatening to pull over and swallow down anyone foolish enough to be caught outside when the rain ruled the world. The light posts lining the alley blurred and became floating faeries, lighting the way for tired travelers.

Long and practiced strides carried Logan swiftly towards the metro, where a night train would speed him towards his dreams. He settled on a plastic chair closest to the exit. At this hour, the only other occupant of the train car was an ancient white-haired lady, with the kind of face best suited for scaring young children and peeking over fences to spy on the neighbors. She eyed him suspiciously, lips pursed and scowling. She turned away, but not before muttering “Damn druggies…” under her breath.

Logan turned to the window and saw a gaunt, unshaved face reflected back at him. The eyes of the stranger were shining with feverish intensity, as though he was itching for his next fix. He looked down at his hands and was not surprised to see them trembling. 

He long ago surrendered to the idea that he was addicted. Logan knew that if he tried to kick the habit, he would most likely go through withdrawal symptoms that were very similar to a conventional drug user. He did not have any inclination to stop, however. Even if he wanted to, he doubted that any amount of willpower was capable of loosening the iron grip of his craving. How can one overcome an addiction to something that shouldn’t even be possible?

At the terminus of the metro, Logan found himself to be the only passenger remaining. He stepped out into what the government officially deemed “The Slums”. A grim wall of a prison loomed right outside the metro exit. Logan quickened his pace, walking briskly the length of several decrepit blocks infested with the lowest forms of humanity before stopping at a wooden door encrusted with several decades of graffiti. The many layers of gang symbols and crude obscenities merged together into something that actually resembled art. Perhaps – Logan thought – I’m staring at the Mona Lisa of the modern age. 

He shouldered the door open, cringing at the screech of hinges choked with decades of rust. A short walk down the hall and Logan was in front of his apartment door, familiar and comforting. The sputter of the only functioning light bulb in the hall was a friendly greeting that he had learned to associate with the safety of home and the comfort of dreams.

Logan’s trembling hands fumbled at the lock, anxious anticipation coursing through his veins like fire. Finally, the tumbler clicked and the door swung open.

Bare, grey walls of sheer concrete framed the only room of the small apartment. One corner bulged, encasing a cramped bathroom with the tiniest, rusted shower and a small toilet. Stacks of books lay scattered throughout the space. “Dream Anthologies” was stacked upon “Lucid Dreaming”, which in turn haphazardly perched on “Interpretation of the Sleeping Mind”. Logan’s taste in literature was excruciatingly narrow, but proportionally deep. The collection of volumes about dreams ranged from scientific to downright supernatural. 

A giant luxurious four-poster bed stood in the center of the room, in stark and jarring contrast to the Spartan décor and squalid finishes. Dark red sheets cascaded down the sides like a silky waterfall. A single white pillow lay in the center – a fresh murder victim in a pool of its own blood. 

The corners of Logan’s lips twitched upwards. He exhaled deeply, relaxing visibly. His eyes sparkled with greed as he beheld the bed. Not bothering to undress, Logan tumbled into it and was asleep in seconds.

Logan slept, and the dream-walker awoke.

#

White light enveloped Logan in a comforting blanket. He floated serenely on the slow currents of his dreamscape. It was a blank canvas, and Logan was the artist. Tonight, however, was not a night for painting. Tonight, Logan longed to explore.

He waved his hand from left to right in a sweeping gesture, and half a dozen small circular openings came into being at his behest, trailing his palm. The portals were windows into the dreamscapes of the night. Epic battles and rampaging monsters wrecked havoc in a few of the spaces beyond. In others, pornographic scenes played out for the amusement of frustrated teenagers and unsatisfied husbands. 

However entertaining, Logan was not looking for lust or violence this night; he was searching for art. Most humans were puppets of their dreams, swept along by the rushing rapids of their own imagination, helpless to control or affect the manifestations of their own desires and emotions. Every once in a very rare while, the dream-walker stumbled across something truly magnificent – a builder. These artists put a dam in the river of their sleeping thoughts, created a placid lake, and built wonders on the fertile foundation. Logan was also a builder and much more. He was the only one who could peek beyond the veil and watch the dreams of others. Logan found it intensely addicting to observe human minds get carried through the mayhem of their dreamscapes. The true prize, however, was the privilege to behold a builder creating something magnificent. He rarely built anything himself anymore; the unyielding need to bear witness to creations of others drove his addiction.

Logan discarded the portals, judging none to be worthy of his attention. He brought forth more and more little circular openings until finally one of them stood out from the rest. Through the portcullis, Logan could see a void of space, with a multitude of stars shining through the blackness. In the center, a variety of orbs floated around a shining woman, like planets around the sun. Unlike regular dreamscapes, hers was sharp and real, as though torn from some distant segment of galactic vacuum. No lines were fuzzy or unnecessary; nothing vibrated or fell out of place. The space shone with a logical coherence and artistic beauty Logan never encountered before.

Rejecting all the other possibilities, the dream-walker eagerly expanded the tunnel before him and stepped through to watch. 

A trickle of euphoria started pouring into him the moment he emerged into her dream. There was no doubt that she was the most talented builder Logan ever encountered. The orbiting marbles were miniature planets, each distinctly unique, but part of the same pattern. On one of them, an army of little bearded goblins worked furiously to excavate the core of their world. They appeared to be building a grandiose, gem-encrusted palace suspended by cables in the center of their orb. The biggest, fattest goblin with the longest beard was carried into the throne-room, where he proceeded to give a speech, gesticulating wildly. Logan couldn’t help but laugh at the comic seriousness of the little emperor.

The dream-walker floated over to a different planetoid, propelled by his curiosity. The next world seemed uninhabited, until he realized that a giant gelatinous creature was actually imprisoned inside it. The slime ball had two cranky eyes that gave Logan a condescending look. Meanwhile, a large mouth kept taking chunks out of the marble’s mantle, in an apparent attempt to eat its way out to freedom. The creature looked so cantankerous, and yet worked with such unabated determination that this also made Logan laugh. The dream-walker has never seen humor laced so masterfully in a dream. This woman was truly unique.

He moved on in, floating by a myriad of planetoids, getting closer and closer to the brilliance at the center of this strange and beautiful solar system. She floated there, legs crossed, carefully crafting a new planet to add to her collection. He witnessed her blow gently on the surface of the sphere floating before her. With her breath, tiny bricks and windows assembled into a beautiful castle on the river’s edge, complete with banners and gallant knights riding through the front gate. A creation that intricate would have taken Logan all night to assemble, and even then it would be a poor imitation of the grandeur she had created with a single breath. The sylph of the dream waved her hand and the new planetoid joined his brothers and sisters in orbit around their common creator.

Logan turned towards the planets to marvel at their beauty and perfection when suddenly, the dream jerked and rumbled. Some planets went off-course and crashed into one another, causing impromptu moons to appear. Alarmed, the dream-walker turned back towards his sylph, and found her staring at him with huge, frightened eyes. Not understanding, Logan turned to look behind himself, searching for something that might have scared her. Nothing but stars and blackness met his gaze.

“That’s strange… I didn’t put you there.”

Logan flipped around as fast as he could, nearly breaking his neck with the effort.

“What are you doing here?” 

The sylph’s voice was mellifluous, but Logan could perceive a tinge of threat in it as well.

“You can see me? Can you hear me?” Logan inquired, his voice trembling. 

“Of course I can see you! It’s a little hard to ignore a random stranger appearing right in front of my eyes. Why are you here? I didn’t create you!” she demanded. Small hints of panic wove themselves into the melody of her voice.

The dream was beginning to tremble and crumble as the sylph struggled to understand the foreign presence inside her mind. Logan, just as surprised by the developments as she was, struggled to come up with something to say that would calm her. A line from a sci-fi alien flick he saw as a kid suddenly popped up in his head.

“I mean you no harm. I come in peace!”

He realized how dumb it sounded the moment he said it. He expected her to wake up any moment. Instead, she laughed. The sound was like a bubbling brook, sweet and happy.

“Who says that? ‘I come in peace.’ That’s the corniest thing I’ve ever heard. What’s your name, peaceful one?”

It had never felt so good to be made fun of.

“Logan… Uh-hem! My name is Logan Varen. I’m really sorry for spying on your dream. This has never happened before. No one’s ever been able to see me before, I mean… Your dreamscape is incredible, by the way. You’re amazing…” Logan’s words came gushing over one another, fueled by his nervousness, until they trickled down into embarrassment.

“Dreamscape?” the sylph asked. Her head was now tilted to the side, a small smile gracing her lips.

“Yeah, that’s what I call the inside of people’s dreams. Like landscape, but, you know, inside a dream.”

“So, you think it’s okay to spy on people’s dreams just because they can’t see you? What if they were having one of them, um… naughty dreams? You watch that too?” 

Logan’s face went red as a tomato, which was really easy to see against the backdrop of starry space.

“Oh, Mr. Logan, you are sick!” the sylph’s voice was outraged, but the sly smile did not leave her face.

She floated closer, spinning around him like a fairy on wings, examining the stranger that so suddenly appeared in her dream. She came to a stop directly in front of him and extended her hand.

“My name is Kora Lythe. Pleased to meet you, Mr. Logan.”

Logan had never been able to interact with the dreams of others he visited, but it seemed like she was breaking all the rules. He grasped her extended hand, half expecting his fingers to pass through her skin like a ghost’s. Instead, they locked with hers in a vigorous shake.

This was completely unprecedented. Logan has tried on more occasions than he could count to make contact with the dreamers. When that failed, he tried to affect their dreamscape in some way, but found it impossible. He couldn’t modify anything they had created, and they seemed unaware of anything that he conjured himself.

An ear-splitting buzz vibrated through the dream, cracking the planetoids that hadn’t already crashed into one another. An anxious look of loss overwhelmed the sylph’s pretty face. Logan felt a strong tug on his hand, as something was forcefully pulling Kora away from him. The force became stronger and stronger, until it ripped her away from him. The planetoids were sucked up into a white hole that appeared in the fabric of the dreamscape above them. Kora tumbled in afterwards, screaming something faint and distant at him. 

Logan awoke in his luxurious bed, breathing hard, exhilarated. 

“I hate alarm clocks…” he muttered regretfully.

He knew there would be no more sleep for him this night. Kora’s last words kept echoing through his ears.

“Visit me again!” she yelled as she was wakened by her infernal alarm clock. Logan knew that nothing would stop him from finding her dream again.

#

“That’ll be fifteen ninety-five.”

The teenage girl in front of Logan could have easily passed for a clown. The layers of makeup obscured her face so entirely and completely, she could have been an alien underneath.

“Mkay then. Here ya go!” She thrust a worn credit card into his hand, with what was undoubtedly her father’s name embossed into the plastic.

Logan thanked God that she was the last one in line. He rang her up and looked at the clock for the millionth time. Only one hour left until I get to see her again! His hands had already started trembling violently. Only an incredible gathering of his will steadied them. The shakes almost caused him to spill the coffee into that clown face staring up at him. At least maybe I would get to see the human under the mask. Or an alien.

He was manning the shop by himself again. Kyle was again “taking a break”, which was Kyle-speak for smoking a joint in his car. God, I hate this job.

The bell above the door rang as another customer pushed their way in. Logan turned to look, resigned to dealing with another overly complicated drink order. His heart stopped when he saw Kora shaking off her umbrella and stepping up to the counter.

He froze and forgot to breathe. She looked at him, and then glanced up at the menu plastered above his head.

“I’ve never tried coffee before. Sorry to ask this of you, but what do you recommend? Are you okay sir?”

Not a hint of recognition.

“Kora….” Logan exhaled loudly.

She looked down herself at the tiny nametag attached just over her heart. It read “Kora”.

“Ah, you’re a perceptive one… Logan,” she said sarcastically, eyeing his own nametag.

“You don’t remember me, do you?”

“I’m sorry but I don’t. Have we met before? Same high school, perhaps? You do look slightly familiar," her tone was apologetic.

“Kora, do you remember the dream you had last night? The one with the planets? Don’t you remember meeting me there?” Logan asked, without really thinking of the consequences of such a strange question.

Kora’s eyes suddenly turned suspicious. She looked around the empty coffee shop and stepped back a step from the counter.

“That is probably the lamest pick-up line I’ve ever heard. I think maybe today is not my day to try coffee.” She turned around and started hurrying towards the exit.

“No wait, I’m not crazy, I swear!” This, of course, made him seem even crazier to her. “Just listen, I can explain!”

Kora pushed her way through the door and into the afternoon light. Logan jumped over the counter and sprinted for the exit in pursuit, just to witness her climb into a cab and vanish from his life.

I am the dumbest person that ever lived. Logan could not believe he was so blunt with her. He couldn’t understand why she did not remember him, when the dream was so vividly burned into his memory. Perhaps she never recalled her dreams? Or maybe, she was simply shocked at seeing what she thought was a figment of her imagination suddenly show up behind the counter of a coffee shop.

Logan resolved to find her dream again after work and reason with her. Maybe her memory could be stirred from within her dreamscape. Logan’s workday suddenly got a lot more depressing.

#

The dream-walker was back in the cozy brightness of his dreamscape. He concentrated on Kora, trying to find the pathway to her mind that he used before. No matter how many portals he brought up, no matter how hard he tried, he could not find a way to her mind. Abruptly, he stopped his efforts as a realization came over him. She’s not asleep. 

Logan never tried to find anyone in particular before. He’s always been a wanderer, jumping from dream to dream, marveling at the beauty of human imagination, but never lingering on any one person for too long. This was the first time that he tried to find someone he has found before, and he simply didn’t take into account that she might still be awake.

A wave of disappointment crashed through him, temporarily coloring his dreamscape a pale blue. Dammit – he thought angrily. His meeting with Kora would just have to wait. 

Reluctantly, he resigned himself to the fact that this night he would have to visit lesser beings than his sylph. He relaxed, bobbing slightly up and down as he floated and let his subconscious decide where he would go.

A round dark hole appeared in front of him, called forth by the nether regions of his mind. Logan could glimpse a small dark room, with peeling wallpaper and neon light pouring in through the window. Just like Kora’s, this dream looked incredibly real. Two builders in two nights? Logan was intrigued.

He floated himself through the portal. The moment he was through, he fell to the scabbed wood floor of the dingy apartment. What the hell? Logan tried to lift off the ground, but merely succeeded in scrunching up his face until it started to hurt. He could not fly in this dream. A sharp spike of alarm caused his heart to beat faster.

He could not see the dreamer. The apartment was entirely empty, except for dust bunnies along the walls and spiders peering out from their webs in the dark corners. 

Logan stood up and shook himself off. He walked towards the window and peered out at a rain-slicked street devoid of people and cars. The building across the street proudly displayed a giant neon sign that read “Gary’s Pawn Shop”. Logan was used to hearing ads for the seedy establishment incessantly pestering radio listeners with their addicting jingle.

A crackling sound of breaking wood echoed through the small room. Logan instinctively dove for the dark corner, trying to make himself small and insignificant. He did not know why he should feel so scared in this particular dreamscape. He witnessed terrifying nightmares of battle-hardened marines before, but never did he feel that he was in personal danger. After all, other people’s demons couldn’t hurt him. Then why the hell was he shaking with fear right now?

Eight wooden skeletal hands ripped out of the floor, sending parquet fragments flying. One of the pieces grazed Logan’s elbow, and a dark spot of blood welled up there. Logan’s terror intensified. Every instinct screamed for him to get out, but he was too entranced in events unfolding before his eyes.

The hands morphed, undulated and jerked spasmodically as they climbed up into the air, becoming gnarled wooden posts. At the height of about three feet, they started to grow towards one another, interlacing and sprouting thorns. Finally, the incoherent mass of thorny vines stilled and became two twisted tables. Logan squeezed deeper into his dark corner as the mass of vines on the tabletops started to broil and churn. Demonic mouths, studded with thorn teeth formed and opened on top of the desks. A smoky fire lived deep within the gullets of those hungry maws.

Logan no longer thought of the things as furniture. They were alive. The creatures started convulsing with sloshing sounds, as something wet was being regurgitated upwards from the inferno. Oversized human placenta started to be seen between the teeth of the monsters. The tables spat out the sacs onto the tabletop and bit off the umbilical cords that stretched back inside. Their job completed, they shut and were still.

As the sacs landed, they ripped open on the thorns and two fully clothed young boys tumbled out. Vines shot out from the tables and immediately bound the wrists and ankles of the children. Logan wished he could scream, but his throat was frozen in terror.

A cold, intense silence followed. Logan allowed himself a few rasping breaths. His respiration was quickly silenced as a loud high-pitched screak pierced the room.

The screak repeated. It was coming from the darkness of the hall leading into the room. Logan stared into the blackness. Red eyes stared back. A fiend was coming towards the boys, taking his time, savoring each second of terror. Each step towards the light caused more and more of the creature to be revealed. A face of a balding middle-aged man in square glasses surrounded the scarlet eyes. The fingers of his left hand were foot-long scalpel-sharp spikes of bone, covered in blood and pieces of skin. He hunched over a pooched belly, the vertebrae of his backbone protruding out of the skin on his back. As he stepped completely into the light, Logan could see that his right hand was a giant spike that the beast dragged along behind him, leaving deep gouges in the wood floor.

Logan immediately realized that this was the dreamer conjuring the nightmare. Except the dreamer was not scared. An intense sense of anticipation and pleasure could be felt emanating from the mutated demon. Logan knew that everything in this dream was the manifestation of this man’s desires rather than his fears. The dream-walker had the privilege of seeing inside the mind of a psychopath.

The monster slowly ambled towards the boys, whose eyes were wide with utter panic. The creature stood next to one of the tables, lifted his left hand and stroked the boy’s hair with the tips of his spiky fingers. As the boy screamed, the dreamer heaved his right hand up and drove the spike through the belly of the child.

Logan’s fear finally overcame his paralysis. His terror and panic filled the room in a desperate scream.

The monster slowly turned to look into the corner where Logan was hiding.

“Whosssssss there?” the psychopath hissed, a forked tongue peeking out to sample the air.

Logan felt the room spin out of control as he sat up in his four-poster bed. Cold sweat soaked the sheets. Logan shivered violently trying to get a hold on his boiling stomach. He stumbled out of bed, bracing against the wall to lend strength to his weak legs, and fell through the door into the bathroom. He leaned over the toilet and vomited, trying to purge the image of that malefic room from his mind. Finally, he sat back against the cold cement and cried.

#

Logan felt like a sledgehammer thoroughly tenderized his brains. A headache throbbed along his temples, rendering him slow and useless. The customers just kept coming. Logan didn’t have time to recover from the horrors he experienced last night; he had to deal with his insipid patrons’ twenty-word orders. Where the hell is Kyle? 

Logan needed to get out of here, and go home and relax, and forget about the monster, and the boys… The boys. What if the boys were real? The image of the spike being driven through one of the little bodies flashed in Logan’s eyes. What if the sick and twisted son-of-a-bitch actually has the kids? What if he plans to kill them tonight?

The intense sense of anticipation Logan felt in the dream only confirmed his suspicion. If the murders had already happened, then the dream would not have that undercurrent of sweet foreboding. The desperate need he felt would not have been there.

But was it really his problem? So what if two kids die tonight? Impaled… They were not his kids, after all. Red eyes… He might even be wrong, and it was just a serial killer doing time in some prison out there. Screak… 

But what if he was right? What if he was meant to see, meant to understand, meant to act. It’s not some act of God. Get a hold of yourself. Would he be able to live with himself if he did nothing? He remembered the hungry, craving expression on the face that housed those red eyes and realized that he had to act. If he did not, then he might as well be murdering those children himself.

A pulse of the headache blurred his vision. How long does it take to smoke a joint, Kyle?

As though brought forth by Logan’s exasperation, Kyle stepped through the door. His eyes were glazed as he slowly meandered behind the counter.

“Hey Kyle. I need you to take over for the rest of the day.” Logan said, staring his unfortunate colleague down.

“Wait, man… You can’t. I mean… I can’t hold this down by myself. If you leave, I’ll tell Shanay.”

What a hypocritical ass.

“Listen, Kyle. You can tell Shanay whatever you want, but whether you like it or not, this is the end of the day for me.”

Logan brushed past his co-worker, swiping Kyle’s car keys from the pocket of the junkie’s jeans as he swept by. Sweet revenge.

Logan walked briskly out the door. He suspected that the slaughter that the psycho planned would happen at night, just like in the dream. It was already mid-afternoon. He made his way towards the beat-up, multicolored rusty piece of machinery that Kyle called a car. The front passenger door was missing, and was instead plastered over with some duct-tape. Classy.

Logan jumped in and managed to start the clunker after several tries. The engine sputtered into gear, and took off down the parking lot, ferrying its only occupant on a collision course with unadulterated evil.

#

The night was dark. The light posts were sparse, and most were burned out. Logan sat in the car parked on the shoulder across the street from “Gary’s Pawn Shop”. A baseball bat he found in Kyle’s back seat lay on his lap. Logan was transfixed, staring blankly at the dark entrance of what looked like an abandoned apartment building. “The future of your dreams lies within!” - a billboard proudly proclaimed. A small footnote with the name “Fantasy Realty and Redevelopment Group” was attached underneath.

Logan rubbed at a bruise that was quickly spreading on his elbow. When had he injured it? He remembered the small sphere of blood that welled up from a cut he received in the psychopath’s nightmare. Could that be? A sensation of fear, mollified by adrenaline and tiredness, tried to grip his consciousness. He pushed it aside and continued to observe the ominous building.

He did not have a plan of action, and for some reason that did not scare him. His headache subsided. The terror of last night and the indecision of the morning burned him out. The only thing left was weariness and a sense of purpose. No matter what, he decided, he was not going to let two innocent children die this night.

He kept telling himself that his reasons were selfish. Logan rationalized that it would be significantly more difficult to fall asleep knowing that these kids were murdered here tonight. That would be most inconvenient, as it would make it difficult to satisfy his addiction. Even now, his fingers flittered softly, first harbingers of withdrawals to come. However he tried, though, he could not explain why he felt a pain in his chest when he remembered that wicked spike driving into the little body. The pain in their eyes! Logan shuddered. He had to stop this. 

A dark SUV pulled up and parked in the dirt just beyond the sign. A pudgy, balding man climbed out and stalked to the rear of the vehicle. He was wearing square glasses. His eyes were furtive black dots of a rat – not the scarlet triangles of the demon in the dream. There was no doubt that this was the monster from the nightmare.

Logan’s heart rate quickened as his body pumped adrenaline. The man pulled out a portable pallet carrier and set it down. The little eyes scanned back and forth feverishly, searching for anyone that might be watching. Logan quickly ducked down. 

The psycho pulled out two large wooden boxes and stacked them on top of the carrier with considerable effort. Breathing heavily, he slammed the SUV trunk shut, and dragged the carrier along with its cargo into the dimly lit entrance to the building.

As the man disappeared inside, Logan slid out of the car and jogged up to the black vehicle. Brown mud covered the hubcaps and rubber of the tires. He looked inside and saw a couple of empty syringes in the back seat. Logan felt his senses heighten, as his primal instincts took over. He sprinted to the fire escape ladder on the side of the structure, tucked the bat in his pants at the small of his back, climbed on the dumpster and jumped up to reach the lowest rung. He barely made it, and heaved himself up.

Logan knew exactly where the apartment would be by the angle of view from the window in the dream. It was on the third floor. He ran up the metal steps, alongside the brick façade of the decades-old wall, trying to make as little noise as possible. Logan reached the third floor out of breath and starting to sweat. Dream walking did nothing for his fitness levels.

He crouched by the window, peeking inside. The room beyond did not look familiar to him. There was a single closed door, leading out to the right. Logan heard heavy scraping noises originating from that direction. The bastard was just on the other side.

Logan tried to push the window open. It budged an inch and was stuck. He put his whole body against it. The windowpane loosed and surged upwards, emitting a loud screak.

The activity behind the door ceased abruptly. Shit, shit, shit! Logan’s first instinct was to freeze. He immediately realized how idiotic of a move that would be. Logan quickly moved to the side, and up another flight of the metallic stairs, ending up directly above where the window he had so stupidly left open was located.

He heard the groan of a door being opened. A few moments later a balding head appeared out of the wall underneath Logan. The killer looked around in both directions, and retreated back inside.

The dream-walker quickly hurried back down the flight of stairs. The door was yet again closed. He mastered his courage and quickly squeezed through the small opening into the squalid room. He took several steps towards the door, when a glint of reflected neon light on glasses to his left caught his attention. Logan turned too late.

The psychopath dove at Logan from the dark corner where he was hiding, poised for attack. Logan was driven back against the wall, his breath knocked out of him, as the bat slipped out and rolled to the floor. The dream-walker felt strong clammy fingers encircle his neck as his assailant tumbled on top of him.

Logan was completely unprepared for such a ferocious assault. He flailed weakly as the grip on his trachea tightened more and more. An insane, toothy grin shone on the killer’s face. Logan knew he was outmatched.

One of his flailing arms encountered something smooth and round on the floor. The bat! Just as the circle of his vision began to fizzle out to a small point, Logan gripped the weapon and drove the butt end of it into the side of the psychopath’s face as hard as he could. 

The grip on Logan’s neck vanished, as the murderous son-of-a-bitch tumbled off of him onto the floor. Regaining some of his breath, Logan managed to stand up. His enemy was on all fours, trying to shake off the dizziness of the sudden blow he had received. 

Logan wasted no time. He swung the bat and brought it down on the back of the man’s head with a sickening crunch. The psychopath crumpled and stilled. Logan heard irregular rasping breaths emanating from the broken body. At least he’s still alive.

Leaving the unconscious body, Logan stumbled through the open door. The heavy crates stood open on the floor. Two very regular, although shabby, tables occupied the middle of the room. The two boys were laid out, apparently sleeping, and not yet bound. He saw their little chests heave as they breathed, and Logan thanked all the Gods he did not believe in. He stepped up to the older of the children just in time to see the kid begin to open his eyes. Foggy confusion swirled in the boy’s eyes. The pupils focused, and the kid feebly tried to scramble backwards.

“I’m not gonna hurt you… Everything’s okay now. I’m not the one that took you.”

Logan suddenly realized that the gaze was not directed at him, but over his shoulder. He turned around just in time to see a plump, old woman with gray hair stick a syringe into his neck and push the plunger.

The world went immediately black.

#

Logan’s dreamscape pulsated in waves of deep maroon. Neurotic panic gripped him in its clutches and would not let go. He had been completely unprepared for the psycho’s accomplice. The murder dream he had witnessed made no mention of an old lady with an unhealthy obsession with sharp needles. He floated in his tempestuous dream, rendered incapable of anything but simple primal panic. She could be getting ready to slit his throat even now, and he would be helpless to do anything about it.

Logan tried as hard as he could to wake up. Usually, this was not hard. All he had to do was concentrate, and the waking world would suck him back up into reality. Now, however, he was stuck. The tranquilizer inside the syringe was keeping him cocooned inside his own dream world.

Logan realized that if he didn’t get control over the fear that paralyzed him, he would never get out of this alive. He focused his mind and slowed his breathing. Slowly, but surely, the waves of maroon turned pink, tan and finally white. The dreamscape became placid, last waves retreating under the intense pressure of Logan’s will. Finally, he felt calm enough to reason rationally.

He doubted that he would be able to wake up before the sedative wore off. Logan needed to figure out a way to remedy his situation from within his sleeping mind. Immediately, he knew what he must do. 

He hoped that Kora was asleep. She was his only chance for salvation.

Logan searched for a pathway to her mind, and quickly found the bright strand that he could follow to her consciousness. He invoked it and conjured a portal into one of the most aesthetically pleasing, and yet impossibly complicated dreams he had ever had the pleasure to behold. 

Geometric layouts of staircases, hallways and patterns made the whole dream a maze of architectural wonders that even M. C. Escher would have been proud of. Kora was nowhere in sight. Logan ran up flights of stairs that somehow doubled back on themselves, so that he ended up exactly where he started. He followed canals that spilled into themselves, creating a constant cycle. It was hard to tell where one hallway ended and another branched off due to the dizzying wallpaper covering every wall. Interlocked doves, fish and horses repeated in harmonic patterns ad infinitum, covering every inch of surface.

Even in his current situation, Logan couldn’t help but admire the exquisite skill of his dreaming sylph. Finally, he turned a corner and saw her walking there, a new segment of a twisting hallway forming all around her as she took each step into the blank canvas beyond.

“Kora!” Logan called out.

She did not stop or even appear as though she heard him. He hurried over to her side. He stopped in front of her, in the empty space she must pass through in order to continue her masterpiece.

“Kora, I need your help.” The sylph looked through him, a small smile on her lips as her imagination sculpted the space around her.

She took another step, passing through him as though he was an ephemeral wisp of talking, terrified smoke. She cannot see me! The experience of meeting Logan the day before must have made her numb to his mental presence. Perhaps she was intentionally shutting him off, having pegged him as an unstable stalker during their brief encounter in the coffee shop.

Logan’s panic returned. Kora was his only hope, and he had no way of reaching her. He tried changing any part of her world, and found that he could not. He brought forth items that he threw at her. Each passed harmlessly through her, her creations, and out into the void beyond.

Logan’s despair mounted until it became unbearable. Well, at least I stopped the psycho from hurting those boys. 

The psycho…

A ridiculous idea crossed Logan’s mind. It could work. I’d be insane to try it, but I’d be an idiot to just sit here and wait for the homicidal grandma to slit my throat. Logan’s resolve returned, and he decided that there was no time to waste. The dream-walker opened a portal to the murderer’s turbulent mind.

#

The dream pulsed with every color of the rainbow. Black, vine-covered towers rose and crumbled in a matter of seconds. Half-formed ghosts peeked in and out of existence. An overwhelming agony rose and fell like a tide, permeating the very essence of the dreamscape.

A small white crib stood solid in the middle of the amorphous chaos. Barely audible whimpers of pain sounded from within. Logan carefully made his way to the child carriage, precariously avoiding the strange items taking shape and then dissipating all around him. As he stepped inside the ten-foot circle of peace that surrounded the baby, a younger, blond version of the old woman that sedated Logan materialized out of thin air. The dream-walker froze.

The woman crooned softly, taking a small white bundle out of the crib and rocking it. She unfurled it in her arms, revealing a perfect pink baby boy. The child wailed, fat tears spilling out of his blue eyes. The mother reached inside her apron, pulling out a syringe loaded with glowing, red liquid. She stabbed the child with it and pumped the whole payload inside the innocent body.

The baby’s eyes immediately turned scarlet. His hands bubbled, grew, and morphed into hairy claws. His body expanded rapidly, until he appeared at least 7 feet tall, juddering violently on the ground, while his mother looked down at him with kind eyes and a peaceful smile. 

His motion stopped, but he could no longer be considered human. Coarse blue hair covered a muscular, powerful body. Saber-like canines protruded from a pig snout. Dark lines of black fur formed the outline of square glasses around red, triangular eyes. The creature stood on its two hind legs, eyeing Logan with pure malice. 

“Feed, my child.” the woman murmured lovingly.

The beast charged Logan with ferocious speed. Without thought, the dream-walker created a solid brick wall in between himself and the chimera. A crash reverberated through the dreamscape, as the wall collapsed in the collision. After a few moments, the heap of bricks stirred and the psycho emerged unscathed from within.

A wave of pain shuddered the dreamscape, and the creature stumbled and fell over. Logan ceased his opportunity. As quickly as he could, the dream-walker ran to stand right next to the incapacitated beast. Logan summoned a portal to Kora’s beautiful dream directly above him and his enemy, and caused it to lower around the two of them, engulfing them and transporting them into her dreamscape.

#

They arrived in the empty space just outside the labyrinth of geometric beauty that Kora was constructing. Being transported to a different person’s mind seemed to lift the pain of injuries that Logan had inflicted on the psycho. The chimera sprung to his feet, and charged his quarry. 

Logan darted to the side, narrowly avoiding a swipe of the beast’s sharp claws. The dream-walker flew towards Kora’s maze as fast as he dared, feeling the pursuit of the creature on his heals. The thing was running through empty dream space as though on solid ground. What’s worse, the beast was closing the gap. 

Logan haphazardly conjured walls and obstacles behind himself, and heard loud crashes as the unstoppable monster charged right through them or knocked them aside. Logan dove into an opening to Kora’s maze. He ran, taking corners at random, and exploiting anything and everything possible in order to gain an advantage. Logan used the complexity of the structure against his enemy, walking on the ceiling or walls to reach corridors that would have been completely useless in reality. Gradually, the thumping footsteps of his predator became softer and softer, until Logan could no longer hear them.

The dream-walker stopped and caught his breath. Now that he was no longer in immediate danger, he needed to find Kora. He knew roughly where he had left her, so he headed in that direction, hoping that she hadn’t gone far. After a dizzying array of twists and turns he flew out into empty space where only a single stone platform floated, roughly twenty feet in diameter. On the edge closest to him, Kora stood, eyes huge and terrified, hands outstretched in front of her with palms bracing for impact. Opposite her, on the far side of the arena, the chimera crouched on all fours, saliva dripping through the teeth of his snarl.

As Logan suspected, she could see the murderer quite clearly, even though her subconscious blocked out Logan’s presence entirely. The dream-walker never desired for her to face the creature alone. He remembered the bruise on his arm, inflicted by the piece of dream that he so foolishly believed harmless. Suddenly, he was scared for her.

Kora screamed as the vicious beast lunged for her, his jaws spreading wide to deliver the fatal bite. Logan flew directly for the chimera, feeling nothing but protective rage in his heart. He felt his hands transform into sharp metallic blades as he collided with the psychopath in mid-air. They both tumbled into the center of the arena, with Logan landing on top. He felt a swipe of lethal claws scrape his cheek. His blood splattered on the blue fur as pain burned through his face. Gripped by fear and rage, Logan drew back his hands, and plunged the steel spikes they have become directly into the monster’s chest.

A resounding roar of pain shook the entire dreamscape. The creature convulsed rapidly, losing its hair, claws and teeth. It shrunk and became the real monster - a middle-aged man with square glasses. He contorted further, shrinking into a toddler, and then a baby, until finally the body disappeared entirely.

Logan stood hunched over the spot where the psychopath’s consciousness died, panting heavily. The sharp spikes he wielded retracted and split, forming the palm and fingers he was accustomed to.

“Logan?” a voice spoke softly.

Logan turned around. His fight with the psychopath woke Kora up to his presence inside her mind. She was now staring at him, a look of awe spread across her features. She remembers me!

“Listen, there’s no time to explain. You need to get help. I’m at the building across the street from ‘Gary’s Pawn Shop’, third floor. Fantasy Realty owns it. I’m in danger. Please, help me Kora…”

“I don’t understand. What is happening? What was that… thing?” Kora demanded. 

Logan attempted to answer her question, but stopped when the space around them took on a grainy, photographic quality. Everything began to fold in on itself, merging and condensing into a single central point. Logan realized that he was being inexorably pulled awake. Kora’s pretty face melted and was replaced with the lined, scowling mug of the old woman. Logan’s time had run out.

#

Logan tried to move his hands and feet, but found them securely bound to the table he was on. His right cheek throbbed with piercing pain. He looked around. The two boys were unceremoniously dumped in the corner of the room. Logan was relieved to see their chests rise and fall with strained breaths. The dream-walker returned his attention to his captor.

The old woman shuffled away from Logan to a small chair where the crumpled body of the psycho now sat. The corpse’s chest looked sunken in, as though a large weight had broken the ribs and squashed the lungs. 

The mother leaned over her dead son, wiping away bloodstained hair from his serene face. The broken square glasses perched haphazardly on his nose. She muttered soft, reassuring words that Logan could not make out into the corpse’s ear. She reached into the jacket he was wearing, pulling out a long curved blade, gleaming with wax. The edge was sharpened to perfection.

“Why are you doing this?” Logan muttered hoarsely, trying to regain his voice.

The woman was not ready to talk.

“He’s dead! Don’t you see that? He’s dead! You don’t have to do this. Please, just let me go,” Logan pleaded, trying to find the words that would stall her.

She shambled over to his table, looking down at him with an unnerving mix of pity and hatred.

“You have no idea how this feels… You have just ripped from me the only thing that I loved. He was such a precious little child, playing with his toys,” she gestured to the two boys on the floor. “He didn’t mean any harm to anyone! Sure, he played rough sometimes, but he loved his toys just as much as I loved him.” 

Tears welled up in that ancient, insane face. All the while, she was stroking the edge of the blade with her finger, cutting herself deeper and deeper, dark blood running down to her elbow.

Logan decided that this woman was just as crazy as her homicidal son. He could not reason with her. He could only try and lie his way out of this.

“I did not kill him ma’am. He invited me to play with his toys tonight. We were going to have a nice time together. Your son and I, we were best friends.” Logan’s lying sounded pathetically weak.

“F…friends? I’ve always wanted my little Walt to find a friend. He was such a lonely child. That’s why I brought him all his toys, you know. He was just so sad, sitting there alone, without any other boy to keep him company. Every time I brought fresh toys home, he would get so happy!” A toothless, nostalgic smile spread across her face. “But, why is he so hurt? Why would you hurt him if you were friends with him? He trusted you!” She waved the point of the knife in front of his face like an accusatory finger.

“No, you don’t understand. We had some bullies pick on us. On our way here tonight, they ambushed us and beat Walt up really bad. I had to carry him in to try and save him!” Logan was desperately searching for a lie that would get him untied.

The woman’s face turned quizzical. She frowned down at Logan.

“That doesn’t sound like Walt. He was a strong boy! He could always protect himself. You are a LIAR!” she screamed shrilly.

The mother raised the hand wielding the knife above her head, preparing to drive the blade through Logan’s heart. The dream-walker squinted his eyes in terror.

A burly man in black riot gear appeared out of nowhere, tackling the blade from the wrinkled hands of Logan’s captor. Thuds of running boots followed, as a group of men with “SWAT” written on their backs charged into the room. They checked the corners and stopped to stare, incredulous, at the strange scene in front of them. 

Kora hesitantly peeked into the room from the doorway. Her eyes locked on Logan and she hurried over to his side. Kora’s relieved eyes shone brightly out of her worried face as she unfastened his restraints.

“You saved me…” Logan exhaled gratefully.

“You saved them.” Kora pointed to the children on the floor and graced him with a brilliant grin.

#

The stars shone in the velvet canopy of the sky, like diamonds on a gem-encrusted pillow. A soft breeze from the lake ruffled Logan’s hair with gentle caresses. He stared into Kora’s eyes over the little restaurant table, as she laughed at a joke they had just shared.

He absent-mindedly scratched the three parallel scar lines on his cheek. He was grateful that the swipe of Walter’s claws inside the dream had been the only injury he sustained throughout the whole ordeal.

It has been a full day since he had slept. The clear plate in front of him reflected back a clean-shaven, unfamiliar man. Logan looked down and examined his hands. No shakes or shivers possessed them. His gaze turned back on Kora’s pretty face. Logan beamed her a giddy grin.

The dream-walker had finally found something worth being awake for.


Submitted: December 04, 2014

© Copyright 2021 Vitaliy Kubushyn. All rights reserved.

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