Reuse, recycle, renew!
Skin Tones in Watercolor
Zen and the Art of Inspiration
To Sleep Perchance to Dream
News for January
Darkest Nightmareby Shannon Wolff
"I don't know if I can do this alone." Emma quivered, wringing her hands with anxiety as she glanced around her bedroom. "What if I get lost?"
"Lost inside your own mind?" Tracy raised an eyebrow as she spoke and leaned back in her chair. "You know how to do this Em. All you need to do is go in there and kick nightmare butt."
"Easy for you to say."
"Look, do you remember what you told me? All the times you woke up screaming? Drenched in cold sweat? Tangled up in sheets? How about all the times poor Jack got his face rearranged trying to wake you up? Any of this ringing a bell?"
"Of course I remember!" Emma snapped, giving her friend the dirtiest look she could muster. "I've never gone dream walking alone. You know that."
"Yeah, but what you need to remember is the fact the nightmare giving you grief isn't going to come out with me in your dreams with you. You have to do this alone or not at all."
"I know. But that doesn't make it any easier."
"You've been trained to do this, Em." Tracy sighed, resting her hand on Emma's and giving it a reassuring squeeze. "I'll be out here if you lose your nerve before you get there you can cycle back up and try again later. But the bottom line is this is your nightmare and that means you, and only you, can beat it." Tracy paused and took her hand back, while she'd never admit it, she had nearly as many knots in her stomach as her friend. "Ready?"
Swallowing hard Emma looked toward a plaque next to the door:
There is no darkness so great it cannot be beaten back by the smallest flicker of light.
Not taking the usual comfort from these words, Emma turned inward instead. What Tracy had said was true. For years now Emma had gone to sleep terrified of her dreams. She'd been to every specialist she could find and still the same nightmare tore through her dreams every night. It had gotten so bad she'd sought out alternative, even experimental, means to rid her of the nightmare once and for all. For months she'd been training for this dream walk so she could face her nightmare on even footing, to destroy it and take back her dreams. And now was her time, her time to finally take action.
"I'm ready." Emma said with new resolve as she lay back on her bed and pulled the covers to her chin. "I'll let you know how it goes."
"And I'll be waiting." Tracy cleared her throat with an encouraging smile.
"Cycling down... ten... nine... eight... seven... six... five... four... three...two..."
And with that, she was asleep.
Emma opened her eyes in the depths of her mind; iridescent colors shimmered through a thin mist as she started for the door. From what she'd been told everyone's mind worked differently. In her case she would have to travel through several rooms, finding the door hidden within each to get to the next, and eventually reach the nightmare's lair. Thankfully, she'd found the other doors on her guided dream walks. Emma grasped the knob on a glass door and pulled it open, not bothering to close it as she went through.
Through the rooms and levels of her mind Emma trekked. One room melted around her while another seemed normal enough if she was willing to overlook the fact it was entirely upside down. Rooms full of flowers, rooms underwater, rooms inside storybooks, and rooms made of nothing but air. Emma found the hidden door in each until at last she arrived at a small gray room, the furthest she'd ever gone on a guided dream walk. And trembled in spite of herself.
Before her stood the door to the next room, the nightmare's lair, and it was not hidden at all. The door before her was of heavy wood, barred, locked, and nailed shut, had she been in a joking mood she would have said there were more locks than door. All of it was her attempts over the years to seal the nightmare away where it would trouble her no more. But it had gotten out, just like it always did.
"Here goes nothing." Emma swallowed hard as the door with its locks melted away, leaving only a cavernous black opening. "I call on the sword and the shield." A sword appeared in her hand and a shield on her arm the moment the words left her mouth. "I get to be my own knight in shining armor." She added in a mumble and boldly stepped through, past the point of no return.
"Enter, I've been expecting you." Cooed a sinister voice, nails on a chalkboard to Emma's ears, as she entered a field of deepest shadow and the opening to the gray room vanished.
"If you've been expecting me then you know why I'm here." Emma forced the words past the lump in her throat, hoping her voice wouldn't break from fear.
"That I do. I know your purpose, your mission, your reason for entering my domain. You mean to slay me with your little toy sword. And I know you will fail."
"I don't recall that being decided already."
"Ah, but it is."
Before Emma could say another word a defining roar tore through the air. She had just enough time to turn and see a monstrous panther charging towards her. Raising her shield moments before the panther would have sunk its claws into her face, Emma cringed as the screech, the sound of claws against metal, rang through the air. Shoving the shield forward, she forced the panther back and stabbed at it with her sword, narrowly missing its ribs. Again the panther attacked, its claws sounding against the shield, and again Emma forced it back and counter attacked, her efforts rewarded by a scream as she sliced into the panther's hind leg.
No sooner had the wound been dealt than the beast transformed into black smoke and reformed into a gigantic spider, towering above Emma on long hairy legs, acid-like venom dripping from its mandibles. Holding her shield over her head she charged at one slender leg, futilely hacking at it while trying to ignore the sound of venom sizzling on her shield.
"You'll have to do better than that." Crowed the spider as the acid ate a hole in the shield, burning Emma's arm.
Crying out in pain Emma cast the shield aside, narrowly avoiding another massive drop of venom as she charged again for the indestructible leg only to hurl the sword upwards at the last moment towards the spider's soft underbelly. Her heart soaring with hope one moment and plunging to her feet the next, she watched her attack thwarted by another slender leg batting the sword away, leaving a black-hearted laugh ringing in Emma's ears as the sword clattered to the floor, shattering as though it were nothing more then sugar glass.
"I call on the bow and arrow!" Emma shouted as a bow materialized in her hands, an arrow ready to fly.
After only a moment to aim, Emma let the arrow fly towards her tormenter's tender underside. This time her aim rang true and the spider shrieked in horrible agony as it reverted back to smoke to reform. Before Emma could even blink, a humongous snake stretched out before her, quickly encircling her in its coils from the chest down, leaving her arms free.
Instinctively, Emma reached back for another arrow only to find there were none. Gasping she patted around, searching for more arrows to send to whatever passed as the beast's heart as the snake began to squeeze.
"Foolish day waker." Chuckled the snake as it squeezed harder. "You should have called for more than one arrow." It added, and suddenly pulled it's coils forward, causing Emma to drop her bow. "Now I shall crush you into submission!"
Emma desperately tried to pry the coils off of her, but all her efforts proved in vain. The world began to spin as she held out her hand.
"I call on the dagger." Emma called with her remaining breath and plunged the newly summoned dagger into the top coil.
Once more the beast cried out in pain and turned to smoke, releasing Emma from its grasp as it did so, leaving her to gasp on the ground as it reformed into something vaguely human. When next Emma looked up she saw a man made of oil looming over her, slamming it's dripping foot down on the flat of her blade before she could raise it.
"We can't have that!" He shouted and rocketed his fist towards her face, sending her reeling backwards as it made contact.
"I call on-" Emma started only to have her words snatched away from her as the oilman seized her neck with both his hands in a vice like grip and hauled her into the air.
"There'll be no more of that." The oilman snarled, tightening his grip as Emma kicked uselessly and fat drops of oil raced down her skin from the villain's grasp, leaving a trail so cold it burned. "Now, as I was saying. You can't defeat me, I who lurk in the darkest recesses of your mind, I who hold you powerless in my grasp. I own you! But I will have you know my name before I claim final and ultimate victory." Chuckling he stretched out his neck in a grotesque and unnatural manner, bringing his oil-slicked lips to her ear and whispering his name like some foul secret. "I am Darkness."
No wonder I failed. Emma thought, weaving in and out of consciousness. I've been fighting darkness itself. And how can anyone defeat darkness? Her head swam and strength deserted her limbs as a tiny fragment of hope danced across her mind. The smallest flickering of light.... I know what I need to defeat Darkness! New strength flooded her being as Emma gripped the oilman's wrist to pull herself up enough to get a lungful of air.
"I call...on the...light." Emma managed to choke the words past Darkness's grip as she held out her hand.
"No!" The oilman howled, releasing his grip and fleeing beyond the light's reach. "You can't!"
"I can and I am." Emma announced in a clear voice, the ball of light in her hand increasing its brightness as she spoke. "This is my dream! There's no place for you in it!"
Emma felt energy flow through her being. She wasn't powerless; she was through quivering under the covers hoping the monster in the back of her mind would slink back to its dark corner. Now she could drive it away. She was taking back her dreams once and for all.
The light brightened still, fueled by Emma's newfound power, and Darkness ran to escape its growing reach. Finally, it had no where else to run as the light grew stronger and Darkness began to shrink, trying to hide in an ever dwindling shadow, until the oilman was no larger than a small and frightened field mouse.
"This is my mind." Emma started in a calm yet determined voice as she walked towards the shadow where Darkness futilely tried to hide. "I am the keeper of my dreams, I claim this right by truth and light, and I hereby banish you forever!"
"No." Darkness shrieked once more as the light flared with Emma's words, obliterating the shadow it had been hiding in, and vanished in a minuscule puff of smoke never to return.
"I'm free!" Emma cried out, spinning with happiness as the ball of light flew from her hand to light the entire room, ensuring Darkness would never again have anywhere to hide. "And now to tell Tracy what happened and get some real sleep. Cycling up, one...two...three...four...five...six...seven...eight...nine..."
And with that she was awake.
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