There are people everywhere around me; clinking globes of rich wine and tumblers of smooth bourbons, marveling over my masterpieces in slinky gowns and luxurious suits. My art hangs off wires, circling above me like doves, released from their cages, in pale, feathered frames, and perched on tall, thin pedestals overhead. Gowns and monocles crowd around me in droves, showering me in praised and admiration.
This is me, loud and happy, right? My mustache is impeccably artistic and wild, and my dark hair is slicked to perfection, glinting off the spotlights that follow me. I am the center of attention. I am the eccentric genius they adore. I am more than the man whom I should be.
This hall glows with a pulse fueled by the marvel, and all is heavenly as I eye the shadow creeping at my coattails. My grip tightens on my glass of water, but the rim doesn't move to quench my sudden thirst. I laugh along with the others at a half-hearted joke, and I'm certain I am being chased.
Somebody tugs on my cuff, and without a moment of thought, I'm pushing away from the lapels and shiny brooches for an exit. They cackle and howl, their jaws popping out of their faces to dangle their jagged teeth dangerously close to my fingertips. Their claws shred through my coat and scrape at my skin as I attempt to escape.
I need out. I need to get away from here. I need to get away from him.
He slithers, like a shadow, but he always slips ahead of me, before I can even catch up. His smiles, mannerisms, and footfalls taunt me silently like a curse.
I'll give back everything, even this talent, anything, to get away from him. To get away from me?
My art drops from their wires, slamming into the dirt and erecting walls to trap me. The familiar abstract and surreal scenes stare accusingly and the portraits glare from what I have stolen from such a legend.
"You'll never live up to my legacy; you're a fraud!" he hisses into my ear and I quickly turn away. "You don't have an ounce of my talent. I fear you don't exist."
The smile in his voice pricks the delicate web of my heart and I can feel the tears. My chest is starting to drown. The blood is clogging, suffocating, and I have to wonder if it's my own.
"..Dory, Salvador, dear, wake up," a whisper coaxes, but I can't quite hear her over the roar of this unknown blood.
There are hands on my chest, but I can't find my own to swat them away.
"Shh, Dory, calm down, relax. Let's get your fingers loose from your night shirt, shall we."
Looking down, and finally seeing through peeled eyelids, I realize it's my own hands tangled over my chest, digging around my ribs.
Right, these are my hands and my ribs. They're mine..
A crackle emits when I attempt to speak and I have to shut my mouth when a wave of nausea hits my raw throat.
She rubs my shoulders gently with a soothing touch I\ve relished over the weeks of my reoccurring nightmares. Her voice coos with soft words like the silk of my sheets, except the sheets have lost all warmth.
Like a waterfall, the tears awaken from the fright and I suddenly cannot stop sobbing. Pulling my hunched head towards her, she pets my hair. Her own blonde curls waft the scent of lavender and my trembling subsides. As if she knows what I have been yearning, she whispers the words I gave never heard.
"You exist, Dory. Hush, my boy, you have a soul, don't forget it. You're a pure, innocent soul, not alike to your original, not at all. Your talent is yours, your art is yours, and your perspective is your own. Now sleep, sweet Dory. Shh.."