Thursday, February 9, 2012

Reaching With Fever

Esther Paine.

I died. That was the name I died with. It was Esther…Esther and Briar. Young and afraid. She promised to never leave him, but she did. She left him. That’s when they took her away. Broke her soul apart. She’s not Esther anymore because they ripped her and shattered her until she was something else. She is…

Now you know, Riddle Girl.

My eyes fly open. I feel the scream. Long, deep shout, crawling up my throat. Ripping through my insides, growing, and yet-

Outside, there’s no scream. No one is screaming here except for the ghosts. They can’t stop crying.

It takes me a little while to realize I have joined them.

"I just realized something,” Dragon told her, sighing. The static from the phone distracted her momentarily, but it captured her attention more than the voice did. What had she been thinking about? “And I’m surprised I never thought about asking you.”

She shifted around over her seating position, settling over her legs and holding the phone with her cold hand. Instead of answering, she waited for him to keep speaking, but the pause was so long she feared he would believe the line had gone dead. “What is it?” she asked simply, staring at the wall in front of her. There was a crack, ants marching away and inside with pieces of food. She leaned forward and peeked through it. It seemed to extend. A dark passage. They moved the food to their queen and she pictured herself growing small enough to crawl inside and join them. Maybe if she crawled quickly they would assume her to be like them.

“How many dreams have you visited in the past…I don’t know, two years. Has it been two years?”

“Give or take.”

“You must have seen some strange things.”

She thought back briefly. The Verona play with the main man who is killed. The nightmares of she with a thousand eyes. The angels who ripped their own wings apart. The dreams that repeated over and over, playing and replaying the same scene. All the ones who dreamed of the past. The broken hourglass. The love and the anger and murder and faith. The ones who dreamed of a deity who whispered to their being. The creature that swallowed whole all others like them. And the darkness. All that fear in one mind. “Not really,” she admitted.

“You enter people’s thoughts and dreams as a form of interrogation, I suppose. I’m never sure. You busted me because of it. So the question is, do you ever analyze and look at your own dreams?” he asked her, suddenly. A spark. A light that shone down on her, too quickly for one to notice how it had switched on in all the silence and darkness. She winced and waited for it to dim, but it didn’t. Her senses adapted to it until she could see the source.

And she answered, “No.”

And there was silence.

"Why not?” he asked, his voice low. She heard something in the background. A song changing. A piano. Soft. Constant. Where was he now?

“There never seemed a point.”

“What do you dream about?”

She dropped her gaze away from the tiny marching scavengers and began leaning down till her back was against the floor. Her legs felt cold, and yet still she stretched them for the cold wind to trap. “Must I tell you?”

“I’m just curious,” he said, “You don’t have to tell me anything.”

But she wanted to. She hadn’t realized it until now, but she wanted to. “There’s always a girl. Always. Brown hair, brown eyes, too skinny, too dirty, too full of screams in her face that never let out.”

She paused and waited for his comment, but he didn’t say anything. She considered leaving it at that, but for some reason, she decided to continue. “She’s been tampered with. Born again. There was another in her place, until the men and women who captured her decided that she wasn’t good enough and wiped her away. Then another was born—and she escaped. She got out. But someone wiped her clean too and left an empty shell, until the last was born. And she could see things. She was a Watcher. Visions of the past and the future belonged to her. The minds of others in her own mind. At first the powers were accidents, then they began to grow, and when the demon of shadows took her and locked her away, she had to develop them. She had to. She could jump from mind to mind. She could make others thoughts her own and she could put her thoughts in their minds. She could make them feel what she felt, and she could see through their eyes and feel their anger and pain and happiness and greed. And she found hope within the walls of screams, so she broke out and took his hands and helped him escape.

"But she was broken. Crazy now. A doll with nothing left. That’s when things changed. She grew stronger. She could fight as long as she could see what others planned. She could make them feel the pain of her bleeding leg or broken arm. She sang to open her mind and get into others. And then she realized she could project her thoughts, like a wave that others would pick up. And I can see her, lately. I can see her walking, barefoot, long hair, scars everywhere. And she’s singing a song. Her voice has changed, grown beautiful over time. She sings and her thoughts reach all who fall too close. And they scream. They crawl up and scream and scream and scream—and she’s walking with so many of them piled up at her feet, twitching and yelling in pain. She makes them feel…what she feels. She sees them, and they see her. She is…”

Dream had not thought about it until now, but as the salty liquid slid over her lips and she heard the song of miles away change again, she realized it then, and there. And she said. “Awake.”

Dragon was silent for a long time. She knew the line hadn’t gone dead for the music in the background continued. She wondered if he had placed the phone down and made his escape when he could, far away from the strange young girl and her riddled thoughts.

But he was still there. “Why would she make others feel her pain?”

“I…” she began, but the words were trapped, unreachable. “I don’t know.”

Dream tried to imagine what he looked like now. Was he frowning? Was he shifting around nervously on his seat. Or was he just leaning against one hand, listening to her words and the music without fear of anything.

That last one was both unlikely, and yet the most logical choice of all.

“Dream,” he said, “Your powers-“

“It has nothing to do with that.”

“Listen to me. For one moment, just listen to me. You need to try. I don’t know why you do, but you need to try. You’re a reader-"

She began shaking her head, her eyes closing down tightly. “N-no. No, I am not.”

“Just listen to me. Maybe you’re not. But you could be. You can get into our minds when we’re at our most defenseless, in our sleep. It was difficult when you started, but it has become easy to you. Like breathing. Think about it. Maybe you can do more. Maybe you can enter minds that aren’t in REM-sleep. You just have to try.”

She brought her arm up and slid it over her cheeks, wiping the water away. The cold was making her shudder. “She’s not right. She’s sick and she’s alone. She’s not real anymore. She’s just a wandering creature, written words and nonsense all around her flesh. She went crazy. Maybe I already am too.”

Dragon sighed, but it didn’t sound like the annoyance was creeping on him. It sounded like he just didn’t know what to say. “I’ll be there in three days. Will you wait for me?”

She sat up. Her voice adjusted. No more crying. Not for him. “Maybe I will,” she said, “Maybe I won’t.”

“I’ll be there anyways,” he promised, “And Dream?”


“What does she look like?”

Ah. That was the one question she had a clear answer to, and yet she had never thought she would have to use it. Truth was, she didn’t want to answer. Not to him of all people. But eventually, it flowed away from her. “The one we have wronged. She with a thousand eyes.”

Dragon pondered on that for a moment, and then, without another word or indication, the line went dead.

Dream rose to her feet, put on her only boot, and opened the warehouse door, stepping into the night. She crossed the field, concentrating on the shifting feeling of the ground, until she was by the highway. Then she threw the phone into the middle of the street until a wheezing truck flew by and squashed it to pieces.

She waited by the side for a few moments before glancing up at the sky. The moon smiled at her, but for once, she decided not to smile back.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous8:38 PM

    I rather like this one.


"Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century... The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists...which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science..."
- Carl Sagan, in his message to future explorers of Mars.