Saturday, April 3, 2010

Re: Nightmares

Another blog I read offered a challenge recently to write a short story of 500 words or less on the topic of a character experiencing a nightmare. As my current work-in-progress uses a lot of dreams, I thought I'd give it a shot, for practice. This one dips back into Stuff of Legends, and is less of a funny piece than my usual; feedback is welcome. (Countdown: 7)


In his dream, Jordan the Red is a young man again, the hero of song and story. He is walking along a country road between rows of poplar trees. The rustling leaves sound like the ocean, and the sunlight slanting through swaying branches lays waves across the road: light, dark. Light, dark. The tide carries him forward.

His pace is leisurely, as if there is no necromantic horror waiting for him. By the time he reaches the boneyard at the end of the road, it will be night; setting demands that he face the field of erupted graves by moonlight. He knows this, but cannot force himself to walk faster. All this is a matter of record. His feet can only move at their historical speed.

He wants to grab himself by the shoulders – turn around, fool. Run away, as fast and as far as you can go. But he has no power over himself, and cannot change his course. A glimpse of hell is ahead of him, a hell that is indeed other people: the ones he cannot save. The dream may end before he looks through that gate, or it may not, but the prospect of it does not scare him half so much as being trapped in his own body as it strolls inexorably toward his destiny of the month.

His lips part. He tries to make them scream, but what comes out is a cheery whistle.

The notes blend with the wash of the leaves into a serpent's whisper:

“Remember, you wanted this...”


Jordan doesn’t scream as he wakes; he has woken from this nightmare too many times before. He shakes out his blanket to lift the familiar sweat from his skin, then closes his eyes again.

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