Wind tangled my hair as my toes gripped the edge of the cliff. Strands of dark hair whipped my face. The air tasted of cold and dew, it clung to my skin, my bones. Thin white cotton, the meager material of my dress, pressed against me, billowing behind my legs. Clouds writhed below the lip of the cliff, the shifting mass of darkness concealing what lay below.
The voice I had followed here twisted on the breeze; a melody tugging at my reason.
Come to me.
I raised my arms, closing my eyes. Icy panic slithered up my spine to seize my heart.
My body leaned forward—
—I shot up in bed, the blankets a crumpled heap of wool and sweat. Hitting the mattress, I growled.
I swallowed the spit pooling in my mouth while clutching my head. Fast movements made my mind swim and my stomach crawl. My skin, which had once been a warm olive, had drained away to a drab beige. I swung my legs over the edge of the mattress. Bones jutted out around the concave curves of my body. But, this fleshly prison didn’t matter. It only had to survive until I found a way around the Dream Weavers. Beings made from stardust and wishes, the Weavers guarded the dream-world from nightmares, protecting the minds of dreamers. Lucid Dreamers didn’t need guardians. We controlled our dreamscapes as easily as the Weavers controlled the dreamers.
The carpet was gritty under my bare feet. I closed my eyes, my head slumping into my palms. My breath pushed against creaking ribs as I sighed, it was hard waking up. Opening my eyes to the pink walls and boy band posters, knowing I had failed.
The muffled steps of my mother sounded as she paced outside my door. She meant well, but her hovering was tiring. I chewed my lip, I couldn’t let her stop me. Not now.
It had hurt when my mother’s expression echoed in the faces of my friends. The flash of disbelief as I told them about my dreams, that I was different. My fingernail scraped at the crusts formed in the corner of my eye. Their rejection had almost undone my resolve. Yet, each night in the swirling veil of my dreams he came; the sparkling whispers of his voice told me everything would be fine. It replayed in a loop, haunting my waking hours.
The world tilted as I stood. I stiffened my legs, keeping myself upright. Darker rectangles of pink dotted the walls. They were the lingering memories of the photos which had once filled the space. A reminder of the void my waking life had become. The friends which had tried to pull me from the dream world had faded away. They couldn’t compete with the dark paradise of his words. The galaxies that danced across his night stained skin. Nor the endless depths of his inky gaze.
I was his Lucid Dreamer, and he was my Dream Weaver.
A love born of dreams contained within a heart that sang his song. A burning elegy for the space which separated us pumped through my veins. He was a dream I refused to wake from.
“Amans.” His name fell from my lips with a breathless whisper.
Unbalanced steps brought me to the door. My fingers rested on the cold metal of the handle, stilled by reluctance. Outside this room held so much pressure. The desire of my mother for me to ‘get better’ filled the room until I couldn’t breathe. It was easier to sleep. To fall into a world I controlled, and to seek the Weaver they had hidden from me.
My mother’s haggard face creased with worry as I eased into the hallway. Her darting eyes cataloging every change. The sunken eyes, a flat brown, and dulled with disinterest. My dark hair was now lank and thinned with bald spots, and my teeth were starting to loosen in my gums. All of my flaws she compared to the image of the perfect, laughing girl I used to be. Each sweep of her gaze made her flinch. My mother aged before my eyes. Her shoulders stooping, her skin slackening, and her eyes unfocused. She turned away from me, shuffling toward the kitchen.
In the dream-world I was still beautiful.
At night her weeping and praying echoed in the stillness between our rooms. Hot tears would sting my skin until the sleeping tablets took effect. My eyes itched now, but I blinked back the pooling liquid. I knew what I looked like, how bad it was.
Disney had it all wrong.
Sleeping beauty was not beautiful, my skeletal appearance proved the lie.
Hot water scalded my skin as it rained down from the shower head. I leaned my cheek against the cool tile, breathing the steamy air deep into my lungs. The food my mother had made sat heavy in my stomach, grounding me to this existence. Even in this room, where the fluorescent light traveled on the thick misty air, my mother’s expectations settled on my shoulders. Water swished in the tub as I rotated to warm my back. Cold air slapped against my hot stomach. Hot to cold mimicked the temperature change of sleep, it should have triggered my mind into producing sleep hormones. It didn’t.
I relied on sleeping tablets to shake this consciousness. They were starting to fail me. I was running out of time.
The taps creaked as I spun them closed. My lavender towel scratched my skin as I dried myself. The rim of the tub clipped my foot as I stepped over it and wrapped the towel around my wet hair. I left the mirror fogged, I had no desire to see what it contained. A wet clump fell on my back as I pulled the towel from my hair. The strands tickled my spine.
My body was dying.
Drug-induced break from reality.
All the fancy university degrees in the world agreed there was something wrong with me. None of them listened, and none of them believed. They just took their money and stamped me with a shiny label, ready for the medicine market.
I padded into my bedroom, avoiding my mother’s face staring from the end of the hallway. The darkness of my room lifted the weight from my chest. Smiling, I climbed into bed. Fresh linen and sunshine wafted against my face as I pulled the cool covers over my flushed body. Mother must have changed the sheets while I showered.
My breath squeezed my heart. I dug around the base of the headboard. Cold relief sluiced over me as my fingers found the plastic cap of the sleeping pills. Mother had flushed so many stashes down the toilet. A familiar click and rattle sounded, then the soft drop of the smooth, round tablets fell onto my hand. I didn’t bother counting them anymore. It would scare me to know the exact amount.
Stagnant water from my nightstand helped me choke down a handful of pills. A plan blossomed in my mind, refining the latest trick for outsmarting the enemy Weavers who dogged my dreamscape.
I would find Amans.
My eyelids fluttered, weighed down with sleep. I was just a Lucid, they didn’t fear my ability to manipulate the dream-world. No, it was the ability to pass my power to a Weaver that filled them with dread. A Weaver who could control the dreamer and the world they dreamed in was a dangerous thing. None had existed like it since their last ruler. None of the Weavers wanted it to exist again, they preferred their freedom.
My heartbeat slowed.
We had planned this. How this would end.
I needed to find him.
My breathing slowed.
We would be together, our—
—The sun was dim as it filtered between the empty branches of the forest. The trees’ boughs clicked as they clawed the clouds, capturing streaks of mist to cover their naked limbs. Rain lingered in the air, stagnant and musty. I shivered, wrapping my arms around myself. A field of wheat smothered the edge of the forest, the golden heads swaying against a deep gray sky.
The mossy ground squished under my bare feet as I swung in a circle. Around me the forest continued, disappearing into a fathomless black. Silence loomed in the shadows, watching with hungry eyes. My stomach tightened.
Something was wrong.
I jumped as a lamb slunk from the depths of the forest, its bone colored wool dripping with droplets of water. My lip curled at the dank odor of its wet body. Flinching at every broken twig and crumbled leaf, my gaze followed the animal as it walked. It paused at the edge of the forest, a small pink tongue hovering between its lips as it bleated. Deep brown eyes turned to me, stark in its small white face. Hair stood up on the nape of my neck.
Slick leaves clung to my bare feet as I walked to the forest edge. Dreams were never straightforward, twisting in whichever way they pleased. But nightmares, they were almost uncontrollable.
Rubbing the clamminess from my palms, I joined the lamb. Stalks of wheat hissing as they moved. With a jump, the lamb ran into the field of gold. The shaking stalks showed its path. From the sky, a cacophony of caws stabbed the silence. Stuttering against my ribs, my heart sped up; my darting eyes searched the gray above. Circling in the gloomy clouds, five black ravens descended. The lamb bleated, a bleak, trembling sound which made my limbs weak.
Grasping the hem of my dress, I ran. The stalks scratched my arms as I pushed through, heading for the patch of quivering heads. Drawing from the core of my mind, I willed the ravens’ minds to fly away. Black wings darted low, ignoring my command, and the bleating sharpened into a scream.
My knees were stiff as I pushed them to run faster. Scratching wheat turned into grasping hands, tugging me back, slowing me down. No matter how hard I pushed against the minds of the ravens or struggled to free myself from the wheat, I got no closer.
Grounding my feet, I clenched my fists. Hands of wheat pawing my body with rasping fingers. Pressure built in my head and I screamed.
The world spiraled.
Wheat melted away, and the rocky ground slammed into my side as I fell. A familiar cliff edge had replaced the field. At its edge, the lamb lay bloodied, unmoving. The ravens cackled and hopped around the tiny body. I groaned, feeling sick.
Pebbles beside my face skittered across the ground, and a deep thundering boom rumbled. Black feathers twisted in the air. A golden mist poured from the lamb.
The lamb was a Dream Weaver.
Over the cliff, four other golden clouds writhed. The lamb had tried to lure me into the group. To send me back to reality. I scrambled to my feet.
I threw myself into the swarm of ravens, dodging the curling mist. The ravens’ sharp claws and beaks tore at my skin as they tried to get closer. I wrapped my arms around the small weightless bodies, encircled my will around his mind and pulled. With every cell I forced the parts of him back together. The birds shrieked. Feathers twirled in the wind.
The golden clouds prowled closer—
—I opened my eyes. My breath lodged in my throat, in front of me was the pink of my bedroom walls.
Tears blurred the wretched color.
I was sure it had worked.
Hair tickled my cheek. I slapped at it, in no mood for distraction. A sharp edge pricked my palm. I dug into the strands of my hair, pulling out a single black feather. Colors danced in its inky depth.
A raven’s feather.
Why are you crying?
Melissa lives in Mexico, where she teaches English online, blogs and writes novels. She still watches anime and has many sleepless nights fostering orphaned Opossums. You can find out more about Mel on her Twitter or website.