Novels

Sweet Dreams Raven 2

December 5, 2018

Exploring

 

How should I start, she wondered? There’s only one walkway; I can go this way or that. Getting off the path might not be a terrific idea, since Arthur made a big deal about it; I could get lost too. Who knows if I can find my way back to where I started? And there is that thing Arthur mentioned about going over the bridge, a little uptight about all the dumb rules; he reminds me of one of my stupid teachers at school with lists of rules to follow. I don’t see why I shouldn’t try the other side of the bridge. For all I know, Silas could be there and I’ll be wasting my time waiting here.

She followed the walkway, the ground cushioning her steps as she moved along. The shoes were very comfortable and she enjoyed looking down at them wishing she had a pair like it at home. The pants she wore had a nice sheen to them, sliding nicely along her skin, her top loose and airy, the temperature perfect for what she was wearing.

Ten minutes down the path was a staircase built of bricks and edged with ivy threatening to cover it. By its appearance, the steps had been there a very long time, multi-colored moss growing between the cracks. She could see nothing else interesting, so decided to follow where the stairs led her. Testing the steps, one at a time, she climbed up until she could see over the ridge. There were large enclosures of various shapes, surrounded by trees of different types and colors, not unlike fall in Vermont where her aunt lived. There were also a few imperfect shapes, odd since most of them were squares, rectangles and triangles. Curiosity got the best of her, her feet moving down the gravel path to the shapes below.

The first perfect square had a pretty wooden gate, the square completely masked by trees. The wooden gate wasn’t locked, so she entered hoping to find Silas. To one side, an old farmer sat on a stump with a duck in his lap, stoking it lovingly. He didn’t seem to notice as she approached. The pig lying close to his leg grunted, rubbing it head against the farmer’s leg.

“Excuse me,” said Raven. “Have you seen the dream person called Silas?”

The old farmer continued stroking the duck, not answering yet smiling with pleasure. Raven tapped him on the shoulder hoping to get some his attention and help.

“Oh!” exclaimed the old farmer. “You look a little old to be in this place. Generally, I see little children.”

“Who are you?” asked Raven.

“My name’s MacDonald and I have this here farm with a lot of animals, a quack, quack here and an oink, oink there, here a quack there a quack, everywhere a quack, quack.”

“You mean like Old MacDonald?” said Raven.

“Ah, I see you’ve heard of me,” he returned.

“I thought that was just a song.”

“Children see me in dreams all the time,” said Old MacDonald. “They like the song and seeing the animals. I love my animal friends.”

“They dream about you?”

“Of course they do, Miss.”

“Have you seen Silas?” asked Raven. “He’s on vacation and could have come back by now. I need to find him, so I can go home.”

“I’m sorry; I can’t help,” replied Old MacDonald. “I’ve never met Silas, though he has brought a lot of children to see my animals.”

“Maybe someone else here knows where he is,” said Raven, staring down as a goose wearing lace that happened by.

“This is not an age appropriate area for you, girl,” said the goose.

“Who are you?”

“Think hard,” said the goose. “You might remember me from along time ago, when you were the right age for this place.”

“Uh, not Mother Goose?”

“Yes I am, even though Old MacDonald didn’t have geese; we are all in the same square. Little children visit, you see, no one as old as you.”

At that moment a cute fuzzy lamb came by a nudged Mother Goose. It galloped about trying to illicit a little play.

“Oh dear,” said Mother Goose. “Little lamb is on the loose again. I must get Mary to take better care of him. Whatever you do, do not pet him; he’ll follow you all over the place. I had to bring him back from Hansel and Gretel’s gingerbread house, most annoying.

“Are all the squares and shapes like this one?”

“No, not at all,” replied Mother Goose. “Most are divided by age groups and some by special subject matter. This one is entirely too young for you and besides, dreams are on hold at the moment. You might try another square but I wouldn’t expect much.”

Raven walked back to the gate, spying a very high wall with an egg sitting upon it. It waved to her and fell on the ground, breaking into pieces.

“Humpty-Dumpty, no doubt,” she said.

The whole situation was impossible. She was trapped in a non-dream with things that didn’t exist, mid boggling to say the least. She scanned the large square and noticed and old lady sitting next to a cupboard with a dog beside her, an empty cupboard, to be exact. There was a boy jumping over a candlestick and two children walking down a trail leaving breadcrumbs behind them, heading for a house made of gingerbread, no lamb following them this time. Over to one side was a pretty girl kissing a frog, another girl taking to a spider. It was time to leave this square; Silas was not going to be found here, obviously.

She walked to the square to the left of the one she visited, peering through the iron-gate to see what was inside. Tiny toys and women who looked like moms stood or sat about looking very nurturing.

 

This must be the place for infants, thought Raven. Do they really dream like older children? I never remember dreaming as a baby.

 

Logic dictated a different order of progression in the squares containing young age groups. She moved passed several squares to her right, hoping to arrive at one that could help her. As she passed each square, she gazed through each gate to establish what was inside. No one ever came to the gates, most of the occupants either frozen in place or moving about in prescribed pattern. It was like watching a video game, before you pressed start. Raven moved on until she saw people her own age.

Some of the boys were playing football or baseball, while the girls road horses or sat at the beauty salon, indulging themselves. Another section looked like a high school gym, where music and dancing was taking place, no girls standing at the sides, each dancing with a partner, which was not normal; in reality many girls became wallflowers at school dances, the boys shy or picky. She liked to go to dances, though was rarely asked to dance; the popular girls snagged all the willing boys. She wasn’t a very good dancer but enjoyed moving around on the floor to the music by herself.

There was one girl leaning up against the wall watching, apparently not asked to dance. She appeared to be waiting for someone, not unlike Raven, who had spent several hours doing the same thing. She spoke to the girl but received no answer, only grunts and sighs; at least Old MacDonald spoke, even if it was a preplanned dialogue.

“Guys are really dumb, aren’t they,” offered Raven. “Pretty girl like you waiting to dance is really awful.”

“Are you talking to me?” replied the girl, finally recognizing Raven’s presence.

“Yeah, who else?”

“I’m not activated at the moment and not supposed to talk to anyone,” returned the girl.

“It’s just that you look alone and I find it surprising, considering how cute you are.”

“Of course I’m cute; that’s the whole point. I’m never alone for long,” she answered. “I’m every guys dream girl, more like a fantasy and dream combined. Girls like me are always with the cute guys, the jocks and popular boys. So the unlucky guys get to dream about meeting me.”

“Really?”

“Let’s face it,” continued the girl. “All boys want girls like me; it’s totally understandable. I let them hold my hand and tell them they’re cool; it makes them happy. Of course, in real life, that would never happen.”

“Doesn’t that sound a little, uh, unfair?” returned Raven. “None of them have real girlfriends. It must make it worse to dream about you?”

“Hey, I just do what I’m supposed to do; I don’t question. They want to dream about me, so be it.”

“What if they, you know, want to do something they’re not supposed to do?”

The pretty girl brushed her long hair over her shoulder with her hand, smiling at the accusation.

“I not in that square,” replied the girl. “The boys wake up before anything like that even begins to happens.”

Raven thought it was a terrible tease but supposed the boys enjoyed it on some level. When she thought about it, she wanted to dream about Randy Willet and didn’t care if it was real or not. Maybe it wasn’t a tease after all; maybe it was a way to get validated; she’d read about that in a teen magazine. She gazed across the field where several skinny boys stood in full sports regalia, ridiculous considering the spindly framework. None of them were moving, only standing in one place as if they were statues.

“What’s with the jock uniforms?” she asked, approaching one of the boys.

It took several seconds before the boy moved. He wrinkled his brow almost as if he didn’t understand the question.

“Hey, you’re not suppose to be here,” he announced. “We’re playing ball here and I’m going to be the captain of the team; we’re all going to be captain of the team. But as you can see, we are not in a dream yet, our purpose held in limbo.”

“Why would anyone want to dream of you?” she asked.

“I’m waiting for me to sleep and dream,” he answered. “My name is Anthony; I’m not waiting for anyone except the real Anthony because he’s smart, a real brain but wishes he could be a popular ballplayer, instead of an intellectual.”

“Oh, I see.”

“For now the game hasn’t started and Anthony isn’t dreaming. He’ll be back once he is assigned this dream.”

“Speaking of assignments, do you know where Silas is?” added Raven. “He sort of forgot to assign me.”

“Silas? I don’t think I know any Silas, only Anthony and these fictitious players on the team; none of them have names, which is just as well. I’d have to pretend I cared about them; I really don’t.”

Raven discovered most of the kids in the square responded much the same when asked about Silas. This particular dream square wasn’t proving useful. She moved on to some of the other shapes in the field. There was one rectangle with a gilded gate, the area beyond filled with flowers and a meadow of green grass; the skies above it were the bluest blue Raven had ever seen with rich white billowy clouds. She wondered if Silas might be in this shape, a seemingly nice place to spend time.

Slowly, she opened the gate, cautious in the event there was something that might grab her; one had to be careful in places they were not familiar with. A pair of white horses galloped her way, their hooves creating a terrible racket and making the ground shake. They ran by her, snorting and neighing, hardly taking notice, a multicolored horn on each of them. They both made a second pass, the stallion halting before her, stomping his hoof as a warning.

“Mortal?” he inquired snorting.

“Yes, a mortal, I’m called Raven,” she returned.

“Raven is a silly name for a mortal,” reported the stallion. “Everyone knows it is the name of a bird, an ugly black bird, that has a terrible voice. If one had to have a bird name, it should be something beautiful, like Dove, not Raven.”

“I beg your pardon,” injected Raven. “It is not and ugly bird. It’s quite a marvelous bird, in fact.”

“Harrumph! We are the most beautiful creatures, as many have written except the accounts of Marco Polo; he mistook rhinoceroses for unicorns, good explorer, terrible writer.”

“What should I call you? Mr. Unicorn?”

“No, no, the name I am called is Kirin. I have other names but that is a matter for the gods to decide.”

“I’ve never seen a unicorn before; may I touch you?”

“If you are a virgin, you must remove your clothes to do so,” announced Kirin. “No mortal is allowed to come near me, otherwise.”

“Take my clothes off? I will not, either. As to whether I’m a virgin, it is none of your business.”

“Listen to her Kirina,” said Kirin to his mate, a few paces away. “These mortals are such simpletons.”

Kirina pawed the ground and nodding her head in agreement.

“Is there really such things as unicorns?” asked Raven. “I was always told they were a mythical creature like the gods.”

“Shhh! The gods will hear you and then we will all suffer their wrath.”

“Now I think you’re making fun of me,” said Raven. “I asked a simple question; there’s no need to be rude.”

“If you must know, there are many accounts of our existence,” began Kirin. “The Greek historian, Ctesias described us in great detail, though he drank a bit too much wine, not as accurate as he should have been. The famous Genghis Khan was turned away from conquering India because we intervened. He thought we were the spirit of his dead father warning him to stay away, an incorrect assumption but effective in this instance.”

“I’ve seen photos of narwhals; they have a horn in the center of their head, just like you. Very beautiful.”

“Harrumph! They are simple sea creatures with no relationship to us, bird girl. We were so well known, a Scottish King James the III made two coins with our likeness on them. I believe he also drank a lot.”

“Well, I’ll take your word for it then,” she replied. “Are there others like you here?”

“There are no other unicorns, but there is the pesky Pegasus, who believes he is more beautiful than we,” said Kirin, rolling his head side to side. “A pair of wings does not make one beautiful. Pegasus is so stupid he can be caught and ridden. No one rides upon our backs unless they are pure and virgins. Did I mention naked also?”

“Enough with the naked part,” she answered. “I’m looking for Silas. I don’t even have an assignment for a dream and getting tired of all these squares and shapes.”

“Indeed, a bird girl without an assignment cannot be entertained in this universe,” returned Kirin. “It’s the law. Can’t help you much with finding Silas, though he has checked in on us from time to time. We used to think he was a god but apparently not, according to the other gods. No, there is nothing we can do to direct you.”

“Nothing?”

“Perhaps Griffin, though he’s is sitting on a pile of gold at the moment, that is, when he isn’t pulling Apollo around in a chariot. I doubt he knows anything of use. Strange if you ask me, can you imagine a part lion, part eagle pulling a chariot? It would make more sense for a horse to pull a chariot, though it would really be servile for us to do anything like that. Personally, I think Apollo drinks too much.”

“You know an awful lot about the gods and strange creatures,” said Raven. “One of them must know something about Silas.”

“There is an assortment of other mythical creatures, bird girl but they are minor characters in dreams. Besides none of them will speak to you. A mortal without an assignment has no business here.”

Pegasus could be seen overhead winging his way across the blue sky, white wings extending to either side. A man with white cloth wrapped around him was walking on the ridge his golden laurel tilting at a jaunty angle.

“You see!” announced Kirin. “Now you’ve roused one of the gods. Be gone before you cause further problems.”

 

Raven’s search continued with her peaking through each of the gates at each of the squares. It wasn’t until she saw something that horrified her, Randy Willet standing next to Gloria Caruthers at the mock up of a drive-in. They weren’t actually in a car but had a windshield mounted on a frame with a car seat placed on the ground.

Raven burst through the Dutch door gate, right over to where the duo sat, Gloria beaming with pleasure.

“What the hell are you doing here?” demanded Raven. “I can’t believe it; you dream about that cow, Gloria?”

Randy sheepishly raised his head, unable to move much, an apology written all over his face. He squirmed for a minute or two before he could conjure up an answer, his movement restricted due to Raven’s lack of assignment. Technically, he shouldn’t be able to answer at all.

“It’s not my dream, honest and I’m not really Randy but a manifestation of this girl,” he declared. “She just showed up and here we are sitting in a car watching a movie.”

“You’re not in a car, you idiot. It doesn’t even have sides or wheels.”

“I don’t make the rules. Somebody figures out what the dream is about and then we have to do whatever that might be. A lot of times we are doing funny things in funny places.”

“But what about her. Right now!”

“Oh, yeah,” he replied. “That’s not her. It’s just her dream character waiting for one of her admirers to show up, me, in this instance. They kind of put us together because we know the same people. All she does is sit there until some guy comes along and offers to take her out. She’s not always here, either. There’s a different square for the adult stuff; she goes there a lot.”

“What about you?”

“Hey, I’m just a dream character; I don’t control what the dream is about.”

Raven was bothered with Gloria and Randy sitting so close and chummy, the queen reining over all the boys. It was completely unfair that she should be controlling boys in dreams and the real world.

“You could move away from her a little, couldn’t you?”

“Neither of us are in an activated dream, so I’m afraid this is it. It’s where her dream left us.”

Raven didn’t like the answer but what could she do about it? This dream stuff rocked her to the core, the similarities amazing, yet not real. Should she be angry with Randy for being an inanimate person or shadow of a person?

“I guess if you prefer that slut in this dream world, I’ll leave you two to watch a non-existent movie screen,” she snapped.

“Wait!” Randy called out. “I think you should know something.”

“What?”

“Even though I’m not the real Randy Willet, I do know that he likes you. He’s kind of shy and is afraid to really tell you. In this place we act out dreams but sometimes we know the reality. Gloria will get tired of Randy, dumping him aside for someone else; he knows it and is prepared to cease being part of her dreams.”

“Really?”

“Uh huh.”

“In that case I need to find Silas and get back to my universe,” declared Raven. “Tell me; has Randy ever dreamt about me, not that it would matter a lot.”

“Yeah, a few times. If you look over by that hallway, you’ll notice you’re close to his dreams too.”

Not knowing what to expect, Raven took a step toward something that looked like the school hallway, a girl standing with her shoulder against the wall. It wasn’t just a girl but a copy of Raven, right down to the well-worn sandals she liked to wear. The girl looked miserable, waiting for something she felt would never happen. It shocked Raven to think that was the way she appeared to people.

“I look terrible. No wonder Randy doesn’t talk to me; I wouldn’t.”

“It’s okay; he knows how you feel. Try to act a little less miserable when you get back; it’ll help.”

Raven reached back to give the dream Randy a hug but was stopped by an invisible barrier.

“Yeah, you can’t interact with me or anyone else,” he reported. “You’re not in a dream. According to the rules, I shouldn’t even be talking to you.”

Her eyes began to water; the thought of Randy being so close but not real was getting to her. With a glance back at the scene, she headed out the gate to pursue the missing Silas. She moved to more squares and shapes, some frozen in place and others with activities that totally ignored her. Several gates further down the trail had red lights flickering over the gates; one look at those tableaus and she knew she would not find Silas in those squares. The tree-lined shapes were endless, each different from the other, each with unique dreams, many she had never thought of before.

She paused at one dimly lit pentagon, a woman leaning against a lamppost. She held an unlit cigarette in her hand, pretending to smoke it. There wasn’t anyone else in sight, making Raven more curious than ever. She ventured in the square, the gate made of worn out wood; perhaps it had been painted at one time, flecks of color barely visible.

“What kind of dream is this?” asked Raven.

The woman leaning on the pole didn’t say a word only sucked on the smokeless cigarette.

“Why are you holding a cigarette if you’re not smoking it?”

At first, the woman said nothing, then turned around to face Raven.

“I don’t smoke,” said the woman. “Never have. You’re not assigned, are you?”

“No, I’m not. I really want to go home but I can’t find Silas.”

“Ha! That bird is a strange one,” mutter the woman. “Kind of cute but I’m not his type; I’m nobody’s type. That’s the reason I stand here all alone.”

“That’s terrible,” said Raven. “You should try and dream of something happy with lots of people.”

“Oh, I don’t mind this so much. It’s quiet, peaceful like. It could be worse; I could be in a nightmare every night. But no, I just end up here, alone. It’s not so bad, gives me time to think about things. There are mornings when I don’t want to wake up. Your friend Silas kicks me out, whether I want to wake or not.”

“I’d talk with you if I was in a dream,” said Raven. “I’m alone a lot too. I read a lot and could tell you about some of the stories.”

“You’re young and pretty,” said the woman. “Get over that shyness and you won’t end up in here with me. Go on and find Silas; tell him to get me a friend, six-foot tall, brown hair; don’t care if he’s thin or fat. He won’t do it, though; he never has.”

Raven could feel the depression descending on her, the woman dragging her down in some way. It was definitely time to leave that square.

“That’s it!” she declared. “I give up. I’m going back to where I started and wait there. This isn’t proving to be any better than just waiting there.”

 

Temptation

It was a long walk back to the garden steps, Raven taking note of each tree line square she passed, so many dreams in the world for so many different people. Some of the squares didn’t speak English, which really wasn’t much of a surprise; people from other countries dream too. Why wouldn’t they? The idea of a dream universe seemed far-fetched when she considered it; but here she was in the flesh, pinched flesh, wandering through a variety of dreams.

The Greenwood trees were swaying in the wind, the hint of their minty aroma laced through the air, though Raven was unable to feel any breeze, very freaky. The squishy ground made it hard to walk fast, like trying to run in soft sand, her feet beginning to tire, her legs weary from walking. She stopped to rest her feet, sitting on a blue rock along the side of the path, a blister forming on the toe of her left foot; similarly, another blister was making a start on the back of her right heel. It wasn’t the fault of the shoes; Raven never walked much, never on surfaces like this. While she rested, rubbing her feet, she heard a whisper.

 

“Come along with me, the answers you’ll see, on dusty ground, your quest to be found. Seeking Silas your goal, beyond bridge and yon knoll, go now and hurry no need to pay toll.”

 

The strange little saying came out of nowhere, no person in sight, the path and surroundings completely empty. Raven called out to whomever recited the small poem; she did so two more times without as much as a hello or answer. Considering the whispered words, she noticed the bridge over the small stream and distant rise on the other side. It appeared very dusty on that side; her present path was anything but dusty. Was it Silas who called? It definitely wasn’t Arthur; his voice was high-pitched, almost squeaky. It had to come from the other side of the stream; she was sure of it.

So far her trek through dreamland had produced nothing, no Silas and definitely nothing helpful to get her back home. There was one small positive thing she discovered while wandering; Randy Willet had noticed her and liked her, a dream she never thought would come true. What she needed was to get back to her universe capitalize on that information; Randy moight change his mind if she tarried too long in this limbo of and lullabies. Who knows what lengths Gloria Caruthers would go, to snag Randy?

Warning or no warning, Raven had to find Silas and soon. It had been hours since she went to sleep; morning would come soon. Where will she be then? It was time to act, instead of reacting to the nonsense that permeated this place of dreams. After all, how bad could this Morti fellow be?

She stepped onto the bridge, a deep rumbling accompanying her footfall. At first it felt like an earthquake though nothing shook, only the thundering sound from sky and earth. Perhaps it was thunder; she remembered how terrible storms could be, frightening the most hardy of person.

On the far side of the bridge was a placard written in cursive.

 

Things that go bump in the night,

leave the faint and less hardy with fright.

A place of ghouls and scary nightmares,

with evil thick scales and lots of dark hair.

Enter my friend, if you dare.

Walk easy with silence, caution and care.

 

Whoever wrote this little phrase is really trying to scare me, thought Raven. I guess the person living here must not like visitors.

 

Once on the other side, the change was abrupt, the ground hard and rocky, nothing growing and all the color of gray or black infusing the landscape. The trees dotting the horizon were dead, gray and gloomy as was everything else. Raven turned to compare the colorful side of the bridge but saw nothing except a gray mist washing out where she had seen before. It was a bit eerie. When one considered the place, universe or whatever, dreams made no sense on either side of the stream. But she wasn’t dreaming, or so Arthur claimed. Did that mean nothing could happen to her in this dreary place?

There was no turning back, a pale gray, well-worn path etched into the ground, dusty by description without a doubt. Something inside of her told her this was a mistake; maybe she should have taken Arthur’s advice. But youth and curiosity go hand-in-hand, the unknown, frightening and exciting, both at the same time. At first glance everything was benign, harmless and lifeless. The narrow path led to the top of a rise, right along the ridge of dead trees. Below, on the other side, she made out similar squares and shapes to the ones she had investigated before, only there were distinct differences; the trees, which were all dead, the lined irregular shapes with boulders jutting out of the ground at random; it was as if they were trying to escape the earth. Plumes of smoke snaked from some of the squares, lazy curling clouds gliding into the gray sky, somehow sad rather than a cozy winter fire.

“Hello!” she called. “Does anyone know where I can find Silas?”

“Shhh!” said someone behind a boulder. “You’ll wake the dead.”

Her head snapped around to see where the voice came from. A small, pale looking man stood beside a huge dead tree, wearing a brown derby, brown shirt and red pants with yellow suspenders, a hideous outfit but the first color she’d seen since crossing over the bridge. He sported a wooden cane in the shape of serpent, marginally nasty looking, though nicely carved.

“Are you Silas?” she asked, a logical question since she did not know if Silas decided to have his holiday on this side of the bridge. There might be better places here than what she’d observed so far. It was quite warm, though the sun did not penetrate the grayness, the air decidedly stale with a hint of some unpleasant odor she could taste.

“I am not he,” returned the little man. “Though I would gladly take over his title should he wish to relinquish it. And who might you be?”

“Who are you?” returned Raven, confused by this strange man with an impossible fashion sense.

“I asked you first,” he replied. “It would be terribly rude of you to expect an answer from me until you’ve answered mine.”

“I thought everyone here knew who I was,” she countered. “Don’t you?”

“Apparently not. Please don’t belabor your response; I have many things to attend to,” he added.

“Raven.”

“Hmm, like the bird, I suppose? The big black one, my favorite color.”

“Yes, but I’m not a bird,” she replied. “The rude unicorn kept calling me bird girl; I wasn’t at all pleased with that.”

“Next question. What are you doing in this part of my dream world? I don’t recall you on any list and I would remember a name like Raven.”

“According to Arthur, I’m not supposed to be here,” answered Raven. “Something to do with no assignment.”

“Interesting,” he returned with a smile that did not suggest joy. “Arthur is a complete idiot, of course, a bean counter; I would pay little attention to the menial clerk.”

“So, how about telling me your name or is it okay for you to be rude?”

“Ah yes! Morti Mog, at your service.”

“Arthur warned me about you,” replied Raven. “He didn’t actually say why.”

“Ha! I would pay no attention to his warnings; he’s nobody, a keeper of records, a shuffler of paper.”

“Should I be afraid of you?”

“As you can see, I am not a terribly imposing figure; my function here is merely to monitor those who visit my realm. You could say I provide them with some degree of entertainment; we all enjoy a diversion now and then. Correct?”

“What possible diversions could you have in this barren place? Everything appears to be dead and yucky.”

“You’d be surprised what people dream,” he added.

“What about Silas; is he here?”

“I wouldn’t worry about him,” answered Morti, slithering closer to Raven. “He’s quite an irresponsible monitor, taking off on holiday while people wish for a dream. I, on the other hand, am always here and at your disposal. Though you are not assigned, I can make an exception. Besides, what’s the rush?”

“I’m sorry Mr. Mog but I really have to go and wake up. If I miss my test tomorrow, who knows when I can take the make-up test? My teacher is not the most understanding person in the world. Something like this adventure would not go over easy with Miss Krackenstol.”

“Yes, I know this person. She comes here often,” said Morti. “If you must, go back to your Arthur and Silas then. I can assure you there is nothing there for you to do, whereas…..” He trailed off, keeping his last words to himself.

“I think I’ll go back anyhow,” Raven responded. “This is not a nice place; it smells terrible and I can’t imagine anything better ahead.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that,” returned Morti. “Stay a while; you’ll get used to it.”

Raven turned back to where the bridge was or in this case, where it had been before. The gray veil that seemed to cover everything gave her no indication of a bridge or stream below. It had been there a few moments before but now it was gone. Morti looked pleased with himself.

“You can’t go back now, my sweet,” announced Morti. “You crossed the bridge and have to run the gauntlet before returning, my rules. I suppose that imbecile Arthur didn’t tell you that.”

“Gauntlet, what gauntlet?”

“The nightmare gauntlet, of course. What part of the dream world do you think this?”

Morti took off his brown derby to wipe his forehead, not surprising given the heat and humidity, his face alight with a huge smile, tiny horns poking through his mop of thinning gray hair.

“Are you the devil?” asked Raven, surprised but not shaken by the sight.

“Oh dear me no, child. That’s an entirely different universe, though we are related through marriage, several times removed. I believe a cousin of mine married into that family.”

“I suppose those horns are supposed to scare me, right?”

“These are nothing, mere nebulous nubs, hardly enough to mention,” he announced, fingering the points with one hand. “Most things here have much bigger horns, teeth and claws as you will discover. Anything you can imagine will be right here.”

“I’m not worried,” she replied. “This is just a dream; none of your nasty creatures can hurt me.”

Morti turned away, his smile broadening his eyes wide with delight. When he turned back he took his serpent cane and poked Raven in the ribs.

“Ow!”

“You see my dear, you are not dreaming, otherwise you would not have felt that. I would give wide berth to things with sharp teeth and claws, if you manage to get through our little gauntlet at all. There is only one thing that can protect you; but I will not tell you what it is. You must discover it for yourself. As for our conversation, it is at an end, my sweet. Tootles!”

Right before her eyes Morti changed his shape into a large red scorpion, arching his stinger toward her as if daring her. Instinctively, she ran from it, not wishing to be jabbed again, especially by something as sharp as a stinger. She wasn’t paying much attention to where she was going, only following a gray path that led into a valley, a valley with odd shapes and irregular squares.

 

You Might Also Like

No Comments

Leave a Reply