The sun is not supposed to set for another hour and yet, night has already fallen, and with the mist that reaches out from the mountains with its pale fingers come the dreams. Quietly, they slither and float under the cover of the dark and haze.
“My grandmother used to tell us stories of when she was a child,” Nan said when first the dreams came to haunt us. With a shaking voice, she continued, “In the evenings, the mist would rise. It crept under doors and through windows. Children cried through the night, even dogs trembled and howled in their sleep and several people died as they deprived themselves of sleep.”
She sat there for a while staring into the distance—perhaps seeing something there which her failing sight could otherwise not reveal. Eventually, she snapped out of it and offered me a fig roll with a smile and almost casual advice. Almost…
But what good is advice when darkness disobeys the laws of nature? I can hear them like echoes of hoofbeats, like voices trapped in a void. I sense them like a breath whispering against my skin.
A sharp pain jolts through my hand and I realize that I have been gripping the wooden windowsill so tightly that my knuckles have turned white. I let go and a drop of blood falls from where a splinter has dug itself into my palm. The wood absorbs it, and it bleeds into a shape that spreads and seeps further into the wood, into the dark, into the night.
Like echoes of hoofbeats, I hear my heart pounding. Shivering I stand in the wind of whispers. And yet, that which waits in the dreams calls out to me and I close my eyes as my blood bleeds into the night, into the mist. A red river seeps into the landscape that stretches out before me.
Great structures tower into the sky; not quite fungal, not tree-like either. And I follow the river that turns from red to blue—liquid morphs into flesh. It writhes and pulses. It twitches, leaving wounds in the soil. As best as I can I avoid the trenches it digs into the ground and hold my breath whenever the tentacle lashes out in my direction. My heart skips a beat when it narrowly misses me, then re-joins the chorus of three other hearts.
Closer and closer I get to where they beat, until the forest thins. Hollow eyes lock with mine. But whereas all I can see is the blackness of their void, the creature that returns my gaze stares into my mind—my soul. And I hear its voice—wordless, worldless—in my soul, my mind.
Into sleep, I sunk to wait and watch ageless eons pass by.
From dreams, I rise to behold the decay of time.
Written by Merle Emrich.
Cover photo by Eric Jan van Dorp.