He sits up and finds himself face to face with a city guard, and an angry one at that.
“Why didn’t you open the door! Why didn’t you help!” The guard is screaming and has Salem by the shirt. From elsewhere in the house someone calls for an Eric.
“How could you sleep! " Salem is still in shock and has no idea what is going on, so he remains silent and dumbfounded. The man lets go of him with one hand and punches him in the jaw. Brittle bones crack and splinter against the cold steel gloves of the guard, which would be audible were it not for the screams of pain.
“Eric! No!” The man is torn away and another takes his place. “My god you could have killed him! Look how frail he is! Your punishment will be severe! Get out, now!”
“Now! Or else!” Salem manages to sit up to see the hulk leave, hunched over and defeated.
“What are you doing in my house!” Blood is pooling in his mouth, and the words come out slurred and runny. The man hands him a piece of something to wipe his mouth with before he speaks.
“My apologizes sir, he is young and impetuous. His assault on you will not go unpunished.”
“Once again, why are you here! Why have you broken into my house, you heathens!”
“A neighbor reported a disturbance earlier in the night, so my patrol was dispatched to investigate. We came upon your house and found a…well we found a…”
“A body.” Silence fills the room for a moment.
“The hands are bloodied, and we found marks on your door that lead us to believe she tried her best to get you to open the door. We believe she saw the light from the candle by your window and thought you were still awake.” A candle had not been left burning in the window. He is sure of it. A terrible thought stirs something deep inside of him, growing from the pit of his stomach and spreading like disease through his body.It is something akin to fear but not the same. More refined, more direct.
“My man seemed to think you intentionally ignored the cries for help, though I know that is impossible. No one who was awake could ignore such pleas for help. You must have…” The mans voice fades as the dreamers mind is enthralled with the feeling he has, and its name: Terror. Streyer was right. The path has been reset through something as simple as a misleading candles flame and a mans own obsession with happiness.
He pushes the man aside and runs through his house and out the door and straight into the man named Eric, who unintentionally trips Salem. It is not the cool rough stones of the street that break his fall, but something soft that seems to move and shift under his weight. It is the body of a young woman, stripped down and bloodied, without even a crude or shallow grave to rest in.
Anguish fills him, his screams the air, as he looks upon his beloved Iris. Dying mere feet from his bed, and he used all his strength to ignore her. He has no idea what happens next, for the void rushes in to greet him as he slips into the embrace of unconsciousness.