The story that I posted two entries to is about to take a very dramatic turn, when I get around to posting the next installment. That is the good news. The bad news is if you are enjoying the story, it might not be on this site for much longer. I have started posting it to deviatArt, and recently thought that, since I could also upload concept art from the story there, it would be better to keep it all there. I will post on this site when I add another installment, but otherwise, don’t expect a Part 003 on this site. If this bothers you, please tell me, and if you read the story on dA, I urge you to comment on it. If you want to see illustrations, just ask!
Malice laughed. “Bout time you woke up. Do you know who you are?”
I grunted and tried to get down. “Yes, I do. So put me down, you lummox!”
He laughed harder, but set me down. I stared up at him. “So where do we go now?”
He shrugged. “First, we need to figure out how to create new talismans for ourselves.”
I sighed. “As if it were that easy.”
“I know. But we won’t be safe otherwise. And warping like that fatigued us both. We need talismans soon.”
I nodded furiously. “I was lucky I didn’t have another nightmare.”
He stooped down so he was eye-to-eye with me. “I would have saved you. You know that.”
I felt my eyes water and I looked away.
He grabbed my chin and made me look at him. “I won’t let anything hurt you as long as I exist. I’ve sworn it to you before, and I’ll swear it again as many times as you need me to.”
I hugged his neck. “Thanks Malice.”
He laughed. “No problem, Aneen.”
I let go of him and looked up at him. He smiled sweetly at me. “Do you remember how we met?”
He got up and began walking. I followed, reminiscing.
“I didn’t know who I was or how I got there.”
“The only memory you recovered was your name.”
I nodded. “I was scared. Without a talisman.”
“You had survived a nightmare. No wonder you lost your memories.”
“And you found me there.”
“I felt needles—which was strange. I had never felt pain before, except for in minor instances, and I felt someone screaming for help. I followed my gut, and found you.”
“I cried for hours.”
“I probably would have too, honestly. Pain is no party.”
“You just held me and told me I was safe.”
“That’s all I could do.”
“Yep. You came home to my village. We decided to travel, to look for where you had come from.”
“I guess I had warped without my talisman, and the distance was too far for me to handle.”
“We looked for months.”
“No one knew me. It was like I had warped from a place no one else had been.”
“So we came back to my village, and everyone welcomed you.”
By now, we were reaching the village he spoke of. Houses looked like boxes. Due to special powers possessed by few of us, homes were storm-proof, leak-proof, and fire-proof. However, they all looked the same, so signs were erected to differentiate.
I breathed the familiar scent of earth, and of bread baking. “I missed it here.” I admitted.
“Me too.” He growled. “Those idiots who came after us… they better not have roughed anyone up here.”
I agreed, preparing the air around me to change into my weapon at the slightest provocation.
“Why did they want us?” I asked.
He shrugged. “They only wanted you. They weren’t too friendly about it, though. Taking us prisoner.”
I nodded. “Why didn’t you just back off and let them take me?”
“What kind of friend would I be then?”
“I could have warped away eventually—”
“I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if something happened to you. Those idiots…”
I quieted myself and focused on the village. The sun was setting already, to the North.
In my dreams, the sun always sets in the West. That shows you how fake it is…
I laughed to myself and walked ahead of Malice. “Let’s see if your buddies took care of your house while we were away.”
He nodded and picked up his pace. “Knowing them, they used it as a place to party.”
The house was blissfully clean, thankfully. The lady we had to thank for that stood ahead of us. She turned to us, and her long, thick braid of gold kept going when she stopped. I smiled at her, remembering not to stand too close to her when she was doing things that required movement.
She was the wife of one of Malice’s closest friends, and she had treated me with such kindness ever since I first arrived there. I almost considered her like family, even though I admittedly hadn’t known her for long. Then again, since I don’t know where I came from, she’s the closest to family I have.
Her grey eyes glittered, and her strangely deep, matronly voice emanated clearly and loudly from her relatively tiny frame. “I made sure the house was kept.” She said, giving me a hug. “I am so glad you’re okay.”
“What about me?” Malice teased. “Tora, you did a great job, but…”
“Yes,” Tora laughed. “I’m sorry. However, the people who took you made it clear they were only after her. I knew you could make it out, but I didn’t know if they hurt her.” She patted him on the shoulder. “I know you can take care of yourself.”
He shrugged. “You know I wouldn’t let them hurt her.”
I cleared my throat. “Tora, we lost our talismans and we had to warp to escape.”
She looked surprised. “Should I ask Dune to make you one until you can make your own?”
I nodded. “That would be great. How long?”
She shook her head. “That, I’ll have to ask Dune.”
I shrugged. “We can get a little sleep until then, as long as we take turns and watch whoever’s sleeping.”
Malice nodded. “You go first.”
I started to protest but he gave me a stony look. “I said you go first, Aneen.”
I whimpered. “I’m not tired.”
He sighed and sat down hard on his couch. “Was it the resting in the field?”
I shrugged. “I… I just don’t feel tired right now. Get some sleep, and I’ll talk to Dune when he comes.”
Tora’s husband, Dune, was Malice’s oldest friend. The two were almost like brothers. They even shared the same taste in weapons. Dune was talented, like a few others in the universe, in the making of Universal talismans. Normally, one can only make a talisman for oneself, but Dune could make one that works for anyone, if only for a while. Universal talismans last a week or so, and then they just stop working. No one really knows why. However, that would be enough time for us to make our own talismans. In fact, while I waited for Malice to wake up and for Dune to come by, I should have been thinking about how to make mine.
Instead, I ended up playing with the air around me, materializing my scythe, changing its shape, toying with its color. After all, I didn’t have any unique powers—this was basically the most I could do.
I glanced over at Malice, seeing his face slack and rested. I smiled. It was a rare sight to see him relaxed—even rarer to see him asleep. Unless he exerted himself, Malice could stay up for almost twice as long as anyone else. He also had about him this strange feeling that would spread to others. It was a feeling of intense intimidation—and that is why he was called Malice. Even though he was a very friendly guy, people who met him for the first time usually backed away from him as if he would tear their limbs off and beat them to death with them at the slightest provocation.
A knock at the door alerted me—and Dune came in, giving me a sly glance. “Stare at him a little harder, girl. He might bite your face off.”
“Oh, haha.” I grumbled, standing up. He gave me a hug.
“It’s good to see you still alive.”
I nodded, feeling awkward at how hard he was hugging me. I couldn’t move. “So…”
He laughed and let go of me. “Sorry. I just thought the worst when you guys got taken away. I was afraid that Mal would get in over his head, and that you would either come home alone or…”
I looked away. “We’re both here, though. You’re even more emotional than Tora was.”
He shook himself, and his short, sand-colored hair flew around. “Yeah, you’re right. You guys need talismans, right?”
I smiled at him and sat back down, next to Malice. He sat down in a seat nearby.
“We do. Ours were taken, so we wouldn’t escape by warping.”
He shrugged. “They underestimated you guys. That was a chancy gamble there, though.”
“It had to be done.” I said, thinking about how many of those guys were coming in either direction. “Although I think we could have taken them on, if he would just let me fight.”
Dune laughed uproariously. Malice didn’t react.
“You know he won’t do that. Although you learned fast, he is still terrified that you’ll get in over your head.” He laughed and looked at my sleeping guardian. “Though, to tell the truth… I think he’s just afraid he wouldn’t have anything to protect anymore.”
I grunted. “Well, we should be a team. I don’t like letting him do all the fun stuff.”
Dune hitched an eyebrow at me. “Eh, you still don’t get it.”
Indignantly, I glowered at him and asked, “Get what?”
He looked away from me with a grin on his face. “Aw, nothing.”
“What don’t I get, Dune?”
He whistled nonchalantly. He then cleared his throat, “Now about those talismans…”
“Dune. Answer me.”
He sighed and gave me a cold stare. “If you have to ask, then I can’t tell you. Either think on it yourself, or ask him when he wakes up.”
“What am I supposed to ask him?”
Dune threw his hands up in aggravation. “Ask yourself, then. Sheesh, girl.” He raked through his hair in aggravation. “Now look me in the eyes and let’s get on with the talisman-making.”
I grumbled to myself but followed directions. I stared into his tan eyes, and found myself thinking they looked more orange than tan. They looked so strange, and swirly. I could see the spinning of particles, much like planets around a star. It was my dream world, I realized, and then I found myself falling into it, reflected in his eyes.
I saw the world that only existed in my head, where America was a country, and so were Russia and China and so many other places. There were these big machines everywhere that allowed us to go from place to place, as well as smaller ones that pass the time and communicate with each other from a distance.
Dune blinked and I shook my head. “Done.” He said. He held something in his hand that looked like one of those small communicator-things in my dream. What was commonly called a cell-phone. Dune looked at it. “This thing looks kinda… useless.”
I shrugged. “My dreams.”
He nodded, “Send for me when he wakes up. I’m going home for now.” He got up and went toward the door. Without turning back, he told me, sternly, “Think about what I said earlier, though.”
I started to ask him more, but then the door shut behind him, and I bit at my lip, feeling confused and disgruntled.
I felt, rather than heard, the scream tearing from my throat. All went dark, and I found myself unable to breathe, unable to move. My fingertips felt like they were being pricked with needles, and the feeling spread inward. Under my skin, I felt those needles. I felt them in my lungs. There was no escape from this pain!
I was being shaken by someone. My eyes opened, seeing only darkness, and I flung my arms at whatever was touching me. My fist connected solidly with a man’s jaw.
“Ugh!” he grunted, but held my shoulders still. “Wake up.”
My eyes focused in the dark, and I vaguely saw the man who had shaken me from my nightmare. “Who am I?” I asked, fear overtaking me.
He sighed and let go of me. “You’ll figure it out. It’s always like this, you know. Every time you wake up from one of those damn things, you forget everything.”
I tried to slow my breathing and my racing heart. I stared at him as he got up. The clatter of armor made me jump.
“Here.” He grabbed my hand and hauled me up. “We need to move. They’re after us, and if we stay here for too long, they’ll catch up.”
“Who?” I asked, feeling tears prick my eyes.
He grunted. “Usually it wears off faster than this. Must have been a really intense dream.”
I gulped, recalling the full extent of the pain. I focused on running. I couldn’t see in this darkness, still, so he continued to lead me.
I heard a voice in my head. Aneen. I looked around.
“You coming around?” He spoke and breathed remarkably well for someone who was sprinting.
“My name is Aneen.” I stated.
“Yep.” He said, tugging me along. “I’m gonna have to carry you if you don’t speed up.”
I yelped and tried to catch up. “You.”
He made a noise. “Me? What about me?” He sounded playful.
He made an aggravated noise. He stopped, turned, and picked me up, holding me to his chest, an arm under my legs and the other under my back. He continued sprinting like I was not even there.
“How about I speed things up, a bit. Okay, Aneen?”
I nodded, still unable to see his face in the dark.
“I am Malice.” He took a long breath, and I realized I really was affecting his running speed and stamina.
“You’ve been protecting me.” I said, and he nodded, letting his breath out as steadily as he could. “How much farther do we have to go?”
“That’s much more like it.” He stopped. “Can you remember how to run like normal?”
I gave him a befuddled look and he sighed. “You can’t see me, either. That dream really screwed you up…” He put me down. “Think for a second. Does something feel out-of-place in there?”
I paused, and tried to comprehend what he was saying. I felt something there, come to think of it.
“That enables you to do things that you can’t do in your dreams. That is what makes you real.” He continued walking on, and I followed. “You’re thinking with your dream-mind. You need to stop that, and join me in the real world, here.”
I felt something click, and I smiled. “Okay. I got it. Sorry for taking so long, there.”
Now that I could somehow see, I stared at his back as he shrugged. Malice motioned for me to follow him, and then he resumed his sprint. I followed, feeling a small shock that I could move so fast when, in my dreams, I was always so slow and feeble.
I maintained my breathing and followed Malice closely. I began thinking back, making sure there were no more holes in my memory.
We had just escaped from our captors, who had taken us for reasons we didn’t know. We stopped to eat and rest, and in the process, I suppose I fell asleep. We were able to go days at a time without resting, even though in dreams, we seem to have to rest all the time. I pinched myself while I ran after Malice. Nothing. I smiled. In the real world, pain only applies to certain things. That’s why we are able to use our muscles to do things that we can only wish for in our dreams.
However, that only applies to dreams. Nightmares almost never happen when we dream—when they do, though… anything can happen. It is a world without reality, without sense—without boundaries.
That is why we have these great things—talismans—that we keep when we sleep that allow us to wake up before we are killed in the Nightmare. Our problem is that our talismans were stolen when we were captured.
“I think I’m back, Malice.”
“Good. I think we’re getting closer to the outside world.”
“Let’s hurry, then. I don’t want to be in this place. And we’re gonna have to fight our way out of the town, in any case.”
“Why did you mention fighting?” He asked, distressed. “You jinxed us. Arm up!” He yelled. A figure approached us from ahead, and I watched as Malice grabbed the air in front of him, and his trademark weapons materialized in his hands: dual Chinese scimitars. Well, that’s what they were called in my dreams. Here we call them ‘ceasers.’
I reached out, and felt the air change in my hands. A long rod extended, and I took care to keep the sickle blade away from Malice.
Malice attacked the guy, and I just stood there, holding my scythe. That was our basic formation. He did everything he could to keep me from having to use my scythe—but if more people joined in, I would unleash my full potential, as would he.
As it was, I could tell Malice was having fun slicing at the guard’s weapon. The guy was pretty good at guarding, but he was losing ground. Eventually, Malice became tired of playing around and knocked the guy back. He lost his balance, and Malice shoved him down. We raced past, and I regretfully put my scythe away.
The corridors we were running through echoed with our followers’ shouts.
“They’re ahead of us, too!” he groaned, slowing his pace. “We gotta get out now.”
I looked up at him. “But…”
“I know. It’s dangerous without a talisman, but we have to. You know where to go?”
“To the place where we met.” I answered.
He nodded. “I’ll see you there.”
We turned away from each other and then opened our arms to the rushing of air around us. Everything seemed to get all fuzzy… and then I felt myself fall backwards. The field. The trees. The stream. It was a place I trusted. It was something that felt right. The sun glared, pounding against my eyelids—
—I opened my eyes. Darkness greeted me, and I rolled over in my bed, pulling the covers over my face, inadvertently punching myself. I groaned as I rolled out of bed. It was weird; at first, I didn’t know who I was. Who else could I be but Zaiyo? I went into my kitchen to look at the only working clock in the house. Yep. I had been asleep for 30 minutes. I grumbled to myself and crawled back into bed.
I lay back down, turning on my stereo by my bed. I listened to the melody of some dark and angry song, and fell into it. My head felt dizzy. For some reason, when I closed my eyes, everything seemed too bright. I groaned and pressed a pillow to my face.
I urged myself to go back to slee—
—urged myself to wake back up. The sun had gone down, and I could no longer hear the stream. I realized that I felt numb, and, upon opening my eyes and adjusting to having woken up, I realized that I was being carried again.