In all my life, I had never been asked such a strange and agonizing question. If the hope of resuming life as it had always been was still there, even after being the full focus of the Dreamfeeder’s sucking, needful, reality-shattering energy, this was the moment when it collapsed, leaving behind but a husk, a lump of confusion, but, beneath which there was a persistently thriving flicker of purpose and hope. Perhaps this very spark lies always in every human heart.
Since our story first began, it was there, providing needed strength in dark primordial forests when those who toiled for our existence today glimpsed the eye-shine of cunning predators watching them with mad hunger from the darkness; always there, shimmering at the bottom of even the most cynical souls, hoping and striving for a future that is not bleak, for a fate of life and enduring love and hope. That everlasting light may never die, but some of us forget that it is there.
“I just want to stop this from getting any worse, I told Bluewind, trying to keep my face from screwing up with emotion as it rose. “I want this thing to die.”
The Indian shoved his hands into his pockets, and cocked his head, thus deepening my impression of him as birdlike.
“If you think killing and violence is the way to solve this, you are wrong.” He declared. “Just as my brothers were. They were strong and courageous, but they used only their physical strength. Your Dreamfeeder won’t succumb to human physical strength. It is pure will, and if anything it will be halted by the same thing. Now, we must go.”
He turned from me and shouldered through the doorway. I followed.
No calming voice spoke in my head, no Muse. Perhaps because there was no room in the midst of my own racing thoughts.
Emma was busily stirring rice and a few other ingredients in a large red bowl, humming an unfamiliar tune to herself. When she heard us enter, she asked, “You two leaving?”
“He wants to go see it.” I said exasperatedly. “I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
The Chief sighed and stopped, turning to face me. “If you drive me to see this Dreamfeeder I will show you what can be done. It does not involve running and hiding, and it does not involve killing. At least not for this entity.”
“Then what do you plan to do?”
“It is not what I can do, but what you can.”
“Please explain, Chief. I’m no good at riddles.”
“You have more understanding of this beast than I. Now are we going to stand here or are we going to act? Time is short.”
“All right. Come on.” I started to walk towards the door.
Emma regarded us worriedly. “Is there anything more I can do? Letting you two go off alone makes me feel just awful.”
“No one is ever alone.” Chief Bluewind explained, and again I was stumped on the meaning behind his cryptic words.
The impatient Indian almost seemed beyond fear. Perhaps, even though he had seen a Dreamfeeder and witnessed the dissolving of friends as they slept like I had, he had traveled to the mental realm beyond fear, beyond worries of the future and fate. From what I understood about him, his steely expressions and profound statements could have been a front, but his eagerness to see the Dreamfeeder suggested he knew a lot more about it than I did.
But why is he being so mysterious? The Muse suddenly piped up in an inquisitive tone. This is too important to withhold information. Does he expect you to figure it all out on your own?
I don’t know. Going back there without knowing is one thing I don’t want to do, but if I don’t go now, he might change his mind about helping me.
Then get in the car and go see what’s cookin, Molly.
I went up to Emma and we hugged goodbye, she told me to be strong and brave, not to regret anything, and that the high consciousness would ensure that all worked out as it should. I wished that I had been spiritual enough to have some faith in what she said, but not even a smidgen was there. In fact, those murmured assurances seemed almost like a subtle goodbye, as though she was aware of the possibility that she wouldn’t see me again.
As I let Solo out and put him in the backseat, the Chief slid into the passenger seat carefully, as though he were afraid some metallic maw might open up from somewhere in the car. He didn’t give me the impression that he was used to riding in a car, even after excursions from the reservation via hitchhiking. While Emma stood in her driveway and waved goodbye her hand flailing flamboyantly like someone watching a ship containing adventurous friends push away on a journey, I drove away.
The Chief said hardly anything on the way there, and though I asked several questions, he seemed not to hear. He merely stared out the window, watching the scenery we passed with intense interest. He regarded the cell phone towers as though they really were Martian tripods. At this point, if they had suddenly begun walking and obliterating cows, I probably wouldn’t have been surprised. Shocked, but not surprised.
Solo, curled up in the back, pretended to be asleep but occasionally he leaned over to study the Chief on the other side of his seat. He wagged his tail and smiled; the doggie seal of approval.
There was so much I wanted to know, but at the same time the prospect of new knowledge seemed poisonous, an even greater taint. Maybe something the Chief had to say would so deeply rock me that hope would be impossible, improbable. Maybe there really was no way to kill the Dreamfeeder, but if there was a way to stop it, I was game.
Only a few blocks from home, I began to get tenser. I repeatedly glanced at Bluewind, but he still made no haste to answer questions or clear up any fear. The dread I had for this entity exceeded anything I had ever been frightened of before. Even people, with their mindless rage, could usually be dealt with if others were willing to act, but the alien intellect of the Dreamfeeder and its vast power made it almost invincible. Surely it had a weakness. If it was fire, or bombs, I would use them as a last resort of that meant preventing the deaths of more people it intended to feed upon, but right now I wanted to protect the only home I had, because if there was another way to get rid of it, the home would be the only thing that let me resume the life I once had. Maybe this was a selfish wish; maybe it was a justifiable need for survival. Nonetheless, I pleaded with destiny in what seemed like a prayer. I asked for a way that didn’t involve destroying my home. Maybe, without sufficient faith, the most poignant pleas for assistance would go unheeded, but I tried.
As I turned onto the road only a few miles from home, Chief Bluewind turned to look at me. His eyes were unreadable, but his expression seemed pained. He took a deep breath. Then another, as though breathing had become harder.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
He closed his eyes, and mumbled something I couldn’t understand, perhaps in his native language.
Then I felt it too, an extremely subtle almost pulsing pressure in my head, in my guts. It felt like the air was thinner, as though we were in a higher altitude, and the closer the car went to the house, it seemed to get worse. Either this was tension, raw nerves at work, or the unearthly changes, even in small ways, had already begun.
“I feel its aura.” Chief Bluewind said softly. “It’s worse than I thought before. We must hurry.”
I pressed my foot on the accelerator, picked up speed, not yet over the limit but almost there. “Check the jar,” I said.
He had put it on the floor, near his feet, and when he lifted it up and showed it to me I saw not two but three tendrils, which no longer flopped spasmodically but quivered subtly, as though they were resting before they grew again.
“They can split apart and make copies of themselves like a damn ameba. And so quickly. That explains all the stuff on the walls and floor in such a short amount of time. God.”
“Molly, have you ever had any strange experiences at this home before?”
“No. Never.” I shook my head vigorously. “This just happened only a week or more ago…so suddenly. It started with dreams. Terrible dreams.”
His brow furrowed. He said nothing in response.
I tried to concentrate on not being afraid, to tell myself that after seeing this thing four times in all its hideous detail the fear should wear off. But this was a new kind of fear, a kind the old Molly would never have sunk to. It was purely superstitious, nameless primal dread of the unknown, of horrifying surprises this growing thing could spring upon us. Maybe it even knew we were coming. Maybe it felt the mind of the Chief, as well as my own. If we could feel its oppressive aura, surely the steadily widening reach of its telepathy could pick up on our fearful ones.
If we can sense it, this pressure, can other people? Does it extend for miles now? Is it becoming that powerful? I thought maybe that idea about this thing eventually dominating the world might have been paranoid rambling, overreaction.
Me too, Molly. I sure hope it still is. Surely the universe hasn’t become that much of a madhouse. Surely something overrules when it gets too bad.
Finally we reached the house. Apparently someone had taken the driverless vehicles, for they were gone. Everything had a deceptively calm look. The leaves were still falling gently from branches with each gust of wind. Squirrels played, chipmunks scampered, birds chirped, but there was an underlying wrongness that was more apparent than ever, more felt than seen. That pressure was stronger, evidently a real thing, and I felt it everywhere, even in my bones.
But I didn’t want to think about bones.
From the backseat, Solo howled piteously as we both got out of the car. When I opened the door, he stayed where he was, wanting no part of this place. After stroking and coaxing him, I finally gave in, shut the door, and let him stay.
The Chief stared at the house for a moment, stone-still. He was tense, as though sensing watchers of some kind and thinking they might attack. Nothing came, and then he did a peculiar thing. He reached into the pocket of his jacket and withdrew a brown leather pouch about the size and shape of a baseball. He opened it circled the house with it, sprinkling a coarse white powder around its perimeter. Following him, I didn’t ask why.
He made the stuff last, and then sprinkled the last and most of it around the cellar doors. The dead heart-like things were gone, and there were no signs of anything else growing in the dirt. A thick gluey mud had formed from the rain, and our boots made sucking-squelching sounds as we walked.
The Chief didn’t open the doors. Neither did I. We just stood there, feeling the vague pressure and the questing energy of the visitor.
Bluewind’s eyes were closed again, and his lips moved silently.
Praying again, of course...I just don’t think this thing is going to respond to anything like that, but it’s a nice thought.
“Before we go in, do you want to come inside, see if we can talk about how to…” I trailed off.
He nodded solemnly. “Let’s not take long.”
Opening the front door, I almost expected my house to be covered in alien vines, a canopy of frenziedly feeling appendages hanging from above while a second hungry sac peeled open and showed us our skeletons. But it was seemingly as I had left it, with not even any signs of human intrusion, although the vehicles were gone.
The Chief, when I told him to feel free to sit down on the sofa or chair, quietly dropped cross-legged onto the green area rug on the floor. I didn’t expect this, even though the term Indian Style had come from his people’s customs.
He looked so out of place in my little modern home, but I truly felt out of place. The pressure in the air came with that disconcerting smell. It was subtle, faint, but repellent.
I was about to use the kitchen faucet to pour water into the coffee pot, but then I thought of where the water came from and what might be in it. Even thinking about it inspired roiling nausea.
With that came the other feelings in a rush of despair and longing for the life I once had, as well as guilt and pity for my best friend, the oblivious paramedics, fireman, and cop. My old life seemed so innocent compared to this; even with its ups and downs it was far better than living like this. Even my abusive boyfriend, the first I ever had, never filled me with such dread when that icy reptilian rage swelled in his eyes without warning and sent hopes of Happily Ever After plummeting into an abyss.
In this sudden flood of emotion, the dam of numbness collapsed, and a feeling close to panic rose so strongly that I felt as though my legs were about to buckle. I gripped the kitchen counter for support as Kat had done. My chest felt tight, and the madness-plagued Molly suddenly screamed within me, in some other language louder than I had ever heard before. It was like a siren, an inhuman wail, then a lower more ominous tone like radio garbling, a voice whose words could not be discerned.
Clutching my temples now, as though these vile thoughts could be stifled that way, I said in a choked voice, “Chief. I’m…I…how do we stop this? How do we make it stop? How?”
“Molly, you must calm yourself before I tell you.”
“Just tell me.” I argued, wincing as the whispers and screams became louder, more intense.
“You must listen to me, not to them, Molly. Not to them. You can stop this yourself. You don’t have to listen to it. Tell them this is your mind and that they must leave.” The Chief stared at me, his eyes fogging with what might have been a measured fear.
“How do you know what’s going on in my head?” I wailed, becoming disoriented as a thick dark cloud formed in my vision. I was slipping into unconsciousness.
The Chief stood up, started to walk towards me, and I was clutched by a ridiculous, irrational fear that he wasn’t what he appeared to be, that he was in league with them. He was squinting, wincing, and his dark face distorted and deepened with the tide of shadows that flowed across my eyes. “I hear it too, Molly, but it’s going away. Tell them to go away.”
Then, a clear angry voice blared so loud, more like a real audible scream than a thought.
Why are you doing this? Why? Why? You’re making it worse, making it painful, making it MAD! Don’t make it mad, you idiot! Don’t you dare! Go down and see it! Let it show you. I want to see! I want to know, but you’re stopping it! You’re blocking its way in! I want to dream, have to, need to! You’re wasting time, making it mad! WHY? WHY? Damn you! How could you? You’re keeping us apart, keeping us away from the only happiness we can ever achieve. WHY?
Even in all its misery and stark raving madness, in all its blind demonic hate, that voice was mine, mine and yet of something else, something that was fighting me for control of my own emotions and perhaps my very mind. It drowned out the voice of the Muse, washed away my own thoughts, smothered Chief Bluewind’s urgent advice, almost sent me reeling with its sheer intensity and psychotic relentlessness. Then finally I shouted back at it, thinking as loud and hard as possible.
No! For God’s sake, just stop it! I’ll never dream. You’re not even real! Shut up and go away. You won’t do this anymore. You have no control over me.
Then it was quiet. Abruptly quiet except for my own thoughts, and it was such a wonderful feeling to be alone inside my own head. Even the whispers faded, and I was only aware of them subliminally, if at all.
I took deep breaths, deep breaths of that slightly tainted air. The Chief stood silently in the doorway between the living room and kitchen, his eyes cool and concerned and blue.
I reached into the fridge and pulled out lemon-lime soda, to wash away that unnamable taste in my mouth. Beads of cold sweat slid slowly down the nape of my neck. I was tired, so damn tired of fighting this thing. Sleeping seemed like such a good escape.
Molly, don’t you even think about it. That’s crazy Molly speaking back. Don’t invite her back in. Don’t.
I was distracted from these weary thoughts when the Chief went back to the living room and sat back down on the rug, again cross-legged. He closed his eyes, folded his hands in his lap, and began to chant in a low rhythmic murmur. Fascinated, but also slightly concerned, I watched him. The words were unfamiliar, and as it went on it seemed less like a chant than one side of a conversation.
“Chief?” I said, walking into the living room and standing near him. “You still with me?”
He didn’t answer. He was eerily still, his wrinkled face placid, free of emotion.
Is he connecting with that thing? Is he dreaming?
“Chief, what are you doing? It’s dangerous!” I warned.
Panic swelled at the thought of Bluewind suddenly going out of control under the influence of the Dreamfeeder. He would be far more formidable than Solo had been, far more violent.
I kept saying his name, and was just on the verge of touching his shoulder to wake him when he said softly, “Silence, Molly. Please. I’m not talking to it, not dreaming.”
Then about thirty seconds passed before the chanting started again. I sat in the armchair and waited, still worried that in this trance-like state his mind would be seized by the Dreamfeeder as quickly as Solo’s and Kat’s had been.
Maybe five minutes went by. I stared at the wall. He had stopped chanting and was silent, still.
The subliminal whispers could be heard more clearly now when focused on, but I couldn’t make out the context of what they said. I didn’t want to. My mind felt like a door held closed only by a flimsy latch and a frail deadbolt, and something from the other side was pounding, hammering, demanding entrance. I refused, afraid that the screams for rest would start again if I let my guard down even a little, that the power of this being would surge at me and force me to sleep.
Finally when I was about to lose patience and wake the Chief from his trance, he said, “It came in here through a vortex.”
“Huh? You mean like a…portal?”
“Yes.” He still hadn’t opened his eyes or moved anything but his lips.
“A portal from where?”
“Anywhere. We aren’t sure. That place it showed you, perhaps.”
“We?” Who’re you talking to over there?”
“How are you talking to them just by sitting there and closing your eyes?”
“It’s more than that. You have a lot to learn. No time for that now.”
“Is it telepathy?” I wondered.
“Whatever you may call it.”
We sat in silence for a while. Up on the wall, the black and white clock ticked steadily. It seemed to be mocking me.
The Chief stretched like a cat. His bones made small brittle popping sounds. His eyes still didn’t open.
“This place of yours, who did you buy it from? Do you know its history?” He asked.
“No, not really. I bought it from a guy named Joe Stanley. He told me it was renovated, brand new, only two tenants living in it before. Two ordinary families.”
He was silent for another long moment. Then I asked, “Where is this portal?”
“We don’t know. But we have to find it. This beast may not die, but we must try to send it back where it came from.”
Fear and uncertainty was suddenly accompanied with a giddy hope. Maybe the Chief could help me after all.
He finally opened his eyes and regarded me with a wary but compassionate stare. “Molly, there is something else I pick up as well. For years, you have been depressed and angry because of the way life has been for you, but you have been too busy to realize it on more than a subconscious level.”
My jaw popped open. I didn’t know whether I was frightened, confused, or astonished at what he said. Maybe it was a mixture of the three. How the hell did he know this?
“From the instability of your first boyfriend and the later sadness that ensued, to the loneliness, grief, and anger toward your father’s death and your mother’s indifference, all of which you’ve projected into your novels, you have unconsciously been sending out thought forms, to which this Dreamfeeder is attracted. Maybe this explains why it is in your cellar. Perhaps not. All I’m saying is, we must find this vortex and put a stop to the negative energy before this gets out of hand.”
For a while I could not speak, could not move. Even the internal whispers had quieted down. How the Chief could know so much about me when I hadn’t even told Emma so much, was not clear. It was a creepy, wondrous, baffling somewhat comforting feeling that this man I hardly knew and had sought help from could know about my life and how I felt. I realized that I may have written the novels to vent. They were mostly mysteries about murder and deception, and although they almost always had satisfying if not happy endings, the characters sometimes went through much strife and violence. I had never before connected this with my life, and was not aware of the similarities of these stories to what occurred within the chapters of my own.
But what jarred me the most was the notion that my own thoughts could have contributed to this whole mess. It seemed insane. But the strange truth of it rang too right.
“I don’t get this. How could I ever have attracted this thing?” I inquired, voice quivering against my will to steady it.
“Molly, you do not understand how truly powerful thoughts are. They have energy of their own, unseen substance, and since this entity gets what it yearns for primarily with its thoughts, it isn’t surprising that this would happen. The misery of my family when I was a boy, whenever we lost someone to disease or an accident, created negative energy strong enough to lure the thing into our world and allow it to take root in the cave without nature’s beauty and grace to restore the balance and send it back where it belonged. I know this is so hard to understand, but you must listen and try not to fear. We have to find where this thing came in, and figure out how get it out where it entered. It’s been done before, and that’s probably why I’m even alive today. You must become a spiritual warrior, able to take the arrows of this dark energy. We will find the way to transform this energy if you will only change your mindset and open your heart to love and peace.”
How in the world could a thing like this deserve any love at all?
“There are all kinds of creations, Molly. This Dreamfeeder as you call it is still a form of creation and has its place and purpose wherever it came from and belongs. Once we resolve its origins and return it to its rightful place, you will truly understand the evolvement of your own soul.”
These amazing, disturbing truths, told in that soft voice free of malice, spoke profoundly to the doubting part of me that still wondered about this man and how sincere he really was. I didn’t hesitate to believe what he said, but if he had told me before the Dreamfeeder arrived I would never have believed him. Even if he had tried to warn me not to go near such a monstrosity I probably would have laughed as the paramedics, firemen and cop had done, and descended to a doom born of pride, with a mind pickled in supposedly rational ideas.
The almost grandfatherly concern in Chief Bluewind’s eyes banished the feeling of being alone in such a terrifying situation. But I burned with shame because the deaths of five men were partly my fault and even the knowledge of why this happened could not bring them back to life and clear my haunted conscience. The Muse made haste to reassure me that this wasn’t true, but it did that with almost everything I found disapproving of myself. It was the optimist, the hopeful positive person that I should have been all these years, despite what happened to change me. Maybe if I had been none of this would have happened.
“Molly?” The Chief said. “Are you all right?”
“Yeah.” I replied, but he probably knew I was lying.
“You could never have predicted this. It’s foolish to think that. If not you, someone else would have brought it in. This was destined to happen. The Dreamfeeder does not care whom it uses as a doorway.”
“Those men died because of me.”
“Don’t think any such thing, Molly. You only tried to help your friend.”
“It tried to take me to whatever nightmare it came from.”
“Well, it didn’t succeed, did it?”
I could find no reply to that. Gradually my emotions settled, became less intense. The voices spoke up again, and still could not be understood. They seemed agitated.
The Chief said, “The thing does seem grotesque to us, evil and dangerous. But in its own world, it has its place. Just as Earth has not conquered the negativity inherent here, the world it comes from hasn’t, either. One day all evil here on Earth will be absorbed. We will have fought our battles and emerged victorious and strong. You must remain strong and absolute through this, and do not operate from any level of negativity. The Dreamfeeder hasn’t learned it can’t get its own way. It has its own forms of tantrums to get what it wants. It also desires attention in its own way, Molly.”
“Yeah— it desires to eat people, Chief! Come on! It deserves neither attention nor love.”
“You’re not considering the higher schemes and levels of Creation.”
“I just don’t want to be on the dinner menu, and I don’t want anyone else to be.”
“That is what I am trying to get to here,” he explained.
“The first way to conquer the danger is to understand it.”
“Yes, I understand plenty about it, more than I care to…and…I think if you want to see it, we should go now. Maybe if you do you’ll see how hard it is to use the-love-all-that-is-evil approach.” I said reluctantly. “But an insane part of me…deep down, does want to love it, to embrace what it wants to do. So I have to cling to my hate and fear for it so this need doesn’t become any stronger.”
He nodded, his expression cautious but seemingly free of fear. He probably wasn’t convinced of my need for hate and terror, but at the time I didn’t know what was missing in myself, which was the very same thing that aided Bluewind long ago during his first encounter with the Dreamfeeder.
“If this thing is more powerful than when I last saw it, if it can move better, we run, okay?”
He didn’t answer.
“I don’t know how yet to send it back where it came from, but I suppose it would help you to get a look and feel of it. Not too close though. Never get too close. Not with your mind, especially not your mind.”
We walked out to the side of the house and pulled open the cellar doors. The Chief winced at the sudden crimson glare, and I assume he felt the pressure of the pulse. I wondered why we hadn’t felt it like this in the house. Maybe it could get to us better when there weren’t walls or barriers.
The stink of it was worse than before, nauseating, suggestive of familiar things but too strange to be natural. The Chief went ahead of me, down the stairs. I didn’t want him to, but he insisted.
“Be careful.” I warned. “Don’t slip.”
He was as graceful as a cat, even on that slimy floor.
We went slowly further into its dark beating heart. The inner and outer pulse and its rhythm with the light seemed stronger than before, harder to resist.
I gripped Chief Bluewind’s hand, thankful that he understood why and was here to help me.
All over the walls, the root-like things were even thicker, nearly twice the width of human fingers, surely destined to become full fledged tendrils with dexterity to catch and hold. They curled up into the ceiling, as though trying to grow through it, and even more hung down limp, brushing against us as we passed.
As we passed the wine racks I saw two circular gray and red speckled things, each as large as softballs and sporting numerous twitching whisker-thin feelers, which stretched across the floor and writhed as we passed by them. I struggled to understand what they were, to no avail. They pulsed and jiggled, as though filled with some god-awful fluid and ready to burst. It would be easy to assume they were filled with malignant life even worse than what had already grown. Monster seeds.
The Chief seemed as stiff with fear as I was, which was disconcerting considering his knowledge, but he walked broadly, surefooted, such a brave old man. Maybe the Dreamfeeder of his boyhood hadn’t grown this much before it was thwarted. Maybe this was more than he’d ever seen.
Then we almost walked into a thick film of slime which hung over the doorway like a sheet of glass. It was partially translucent, not quite a liquid but not quite solid. The twisted reddened forms on the other side were blurred, and walking through such a disgusting door was too much to bear. Before I could say anything, the Chief reached into his pocket and withdrew some kind of dagger, and slashed the mucus. It fell away with a thick slithering noise and hung like broken gossamer strands. We were instantly blasted with the offensive odor and the grotesquery of the Dreamfeeder, which shocked me because it had grown again, a burdensome weight which huddled in the corner of the room, too fat to be supported by its own tendrils.
We stood there, out of its reach, and reacted with a flinch as the strong, eager, deceptively friendly-sounding voice of the Dreamfeeder spoke in both our heads simultaneously, as I later learned.
Molly Harland brought a friend. It’s a friend of Molly Harland. Hello, friend. Hello.
The tendrils, some as thick as anacondas, lashed back and forth excitedly. Indeed, this thing thought I had finally come to my senses and was bringing it a hearty meal.
My guts quivered and my heart thumped uncontrollably, but not too fast where it didn’t stay in the rhythm of the Dreamfeeder.
I squeezed the Chief’s hand and looked at him. His pale eyes flashed a constant bloody red. His lips quivered slightly as he took it all in.
Why won’t you come? Come close? The abomination invited teasingly.
We made no steps backward or forward.
The Chief pocketed the dagger, reached into his jacket, and pulled out a similar pouch to the one he used earlier. He whispered something about sage, and poured a pile of dusty powder into his wrinkled hand. Then he cast it into the room, chanting his own rhythm that went against the Dreamfeeder’s.
The tendrils seemed to draw back, as though surprised, and the bulging form in the corner shuddered.
You won’t come because you’re afraid? Afraid? Why? Why are you afraid of restful peaceful dreams? Don’t be afraid, ever. I am here. Come close. Come.
We made no attempt to neither respond and comply nor run away. This confused the thing terribly, I believe.
“Molly, I want you to pray with me right now, drown it out, right now.” The Chief whispered above the squishing-squashing organic noises and our own frantic breaths.
We joined hands and we prayed to the higher beings, to angels, to nature spirits, to everything we could think of that was good. The Dreamfeeder spoke too, trying to talk over us, telling us this was silly, pointless, but we ignored it, and that seemed to agitate it even further.
The small hanging tendrils above us were longer than before, and slid slowly and sickeningly across our faces and throats, but we ignored that too because they were still too fragile to do harm. The primal fear of creepy-crawlies spoke up loudly. I wanted to scream at this revolting attempt to get our attention, and it was hard to dismiss, but we kept praying. The Dreamfeeder kept protesting.
When we were done, it said, Molly Harland, you brought me a friend, but why, why won’t he come close? I only want to give him peace, why does he fear? I feel, I feel him fear. Why does he speak to them, those that don’t hear, and not me? Why do you, Molly Harland? Why do you? Strange and pointless. Strange. Please listen. Please dream.
There seemed to be an oddly beseeching note in its tone, and genuine perplexity. How could the damned thing really think I would bring it supper after I had so recently tried to kill it? What was the reasoning behind that? There was none. It was warped beyond human understanding.
As though reading my thoughts about my recent attempts to destroy it, the Dreamfeeder declared, I forgive, Molly Harland. I forgive. You fear but I forgive. Come close. Come. Bring your friend and come. There is still peace for Molly Harland, but come.
“No.” I told it firmly, so confused and frightened at its change of attitude, trying to talk some sense into a senseless void of a mind. “I don’t want to die.”
There is no death. No death. Just life, life if you’re ours forever. Don’t believe? Let me in and I will show you, show you what lies beyond here, beyond death.
“You will leave now.” Chief Bluewind abruptly commanded in a stronger braver tone than mine had managed to be, and to my surprise he held the dagger in his right hand. “This world is not yours. You do not belong here. You will leave. Go back where you came from. There is plenty for you there.”
No, Bluewind, no. Bluewind doesn’t understand. You don’t. I come to bring peace, only peace. Not death. You don’t understand. Foolish and strange. Pointless. Bluewind is strangest of all. Molly Harland understands, but not you. Why?
The Chief still clutched the dagger in his hand, and the thin tendrils were moving across its sleek blade and across his bony knuckles, as though feebly trying to gain possession of it.
Bluewind offends, threatens. Put it down, don’t use it, no. No use, no use for that. Wont work, just a toy. Wont work.
A sound echoed in my head. It was like some smug, crackling, bizarre parody of a laugh, or just the impression of one. Apparently it thought us to be amusing, didn’t see the truths we tried to convey, the simple truths that even a creature as simple as a dog could emotionally understand. This thing was not only of the darkness; it was insane, and I understood that other Molly felt so alien because it wasn’t me at all. Just a sliver of it which had crept in through some unguarded chink in my mind. The Dreamfeeder’s sick excuse for logic went against everything morally in the human realm, and this was perhaps more offensive than its horrid appearance that somehow mocked the physical bodies of every single creature on Earth. Part of my fear for it was quickly replaced with a hot, bitter loathing.
“Why the hell are you?” I asked it, maybe for no other reason than to hear my own voice aloud.
I am here for the plan, the plan of this world. The others have no need. They are done. You suffer, you need…me. You need me.
The tendrils twisted and squirmed more energetically when it talked, as though these movements were gestures.
The thing was impossible. In all my fear a dark humor crept in at the absurdity of it. In all its hideousness, there was something about it which almost seemed like a sick joke. An infinitely sick joke produced by a madhouse universe that made no attempts to scale down the humor for man to comprehend and laugh at.
I realized I was drifting into a daydream, losing control. Darkness swam across my eyes, a miasma of quick sinuous darting forms of various dazzling colors, particles that drifted like strange snow. I had to hate it, but I wanted to love it. I wanted to fight but also to relinquish control. I snapped out of it when Chief Bluewind put a steadying hand on my shoulder.
“I’ve seen enough,” he told me, and his voice seemed muffled, drifting in and out with the beating of the inhuman heart which strove to encircle mine. “Let’s…find the vortex, find its source….only thing to do.”
I nodded dumbly, and we turned to leave. The little tendrils groped for us, not strong enough to prevent our departure but stronger than before.
Where are you going, why? Stay, just stay, Molly Harland and Bluewind, stay and dream. You go where no one wants you, where you don’t need to go. Just stay and dream. You choose wrong, wrong, you don’t see, if you see you’ll know, wont ever have to fight, wont ever have to fear. Mine forever; I’ll take care…take care….take care of you.
I felt its fury rise, its potent, sudden fury like fire surging from a volcano. It was so mad that it couldn’t reach us, couldn’t grab us and pull us back and hold us there until we fell asleep. It knew its current limitations and hated us for not obeying. It raved and raved, growing angrier the farther we got to the stairs. I couldn’t block the impossibly loud thoughts out. Couldn’t get rid of the unclean feeling in my head. Maybe the Chief felt the same way, or maybe he handled it better. Nonetheless, he seemed just as eager to get out from this hole as I was.
When we reached the top of the stairs it howled, and we clutched the sides of our heads at the intensity. When the cellar doors fell shut, it became only slightly less so, and we hurried away from it. So crazy it was, trying to outrun thoughts.
When it finally lowered to a dreary whisper, we halted in the grass, gratefully breathing in the cool air and staring at the beautiful sky.
He turned to look at me, his eyes almost the same color as the relatively benevolent void that hung above.
“Oh, Molly.” He whispered, shaking his head. “How could you have faced this thing alone that long? How could you tolerate it without even knowing how to deal with it?”
Unable to find an answer that made sense, I responded breathlessly, “I had to.”
A shudder passed through me, and then another stronger internal chill that spread through my guts and robbed me of words. I collapsed to the grass on my knees, consumed with painful, violent retching.
I wondered if the Dreamfeeder’s air would prove to be poisonous in time, and if those exposed to it for long enough could suffer even worse symptoms than vomiting. Perhaps it even contained something that induced sleep, a gas that was the otherworldly equivalent of a sedative.
My stomach heaved, my pulse throbbed. Chief Bluewind patted my shoulder consolingly, and the Molly who loved the Dreamfeeder told me of the many excruciations I would suffer because I did not submit to their twisted bidding.