The transition from waking to dreaming happened so abruptly that his first sentence in the dream came out, “That was interesting,” before he had time to register where he stood. A long bureaucratic hallway stretched out ahead of him, a dead end stood just behind, and no doors or connecting corridors could be seen. He knew immediately he was not alone, though he saw no one else. The meeting with Grey had kept him awake later than usual that night, and it appeared his tormentor had waited up for him. “That is odd,” the words were just thoughts in the dream, but the part of him that still felt Grey’s arms and legs enfolding him heard them said out loud.
The same part was answered with a question, “What is odd?”
He started walking down the dream way, thinking, “If he was already here, waiting for me to fall asleep, why did I not feel him before?”
“That’s an easy one. Why don’t you wonder something more interesting, like why you are wearing that bright pink monk’s robe?”
Morland scowled, noticing for the first time the long full sleeves, deep cowl, floor length skirts and a significant lack of anything else he wore in the landscape within his mind. A couple moments thought dressed him in trousers, shirt, shoes, and appropriate under garments, but he did not set aside the point made. “You constructed this dreamscape whole, did you not?” he said, not quite asking, and he felt his real shoulder patted, though the wrist was careful not to break contact. “Where does this corridor lead?”
“Go to the head of the class. There is a room at the end of the corridor, and if I do this right, the one haunting you should be inside.”
She paused a moment and he was about to propose another question when she added, “Please don’t ask any more questions. The one pulling your strings knows what he’s doing, and I don’t want to scare him away. This is not as easy as you think.”
Morland wanted to respond, “How would you know what I think,” but considering their method of communication and how obviously she occupied a portion of his mind, he aborted the thought unborn.
As is common in dreams, Morland kept walking for what seemed an unending age in the unchanging corridor until it suddenly ended in a heavy oak door. He reached for the metal ring which sat in the knob’s stead, but Grey’s voice stopped him. “Be careful once we are inside. I have been blocking out most of the effects as you approached, but once we engage, I won’t be able to spare that much of my concentration. Please don’t try to help me. What you’ll see is just your subconscious’ interpretation of a conflict happening on another level that I don’t have time or patience to explain just now.”
A trifle put out by her tone, Morland opened the door and stepped through into… his bedroom, and stared at himself, lying asleep on the bed. The heavy curtains he always kept tightly shut over the broad windows were missing, letting in a wide shaft of impossible moonlight illuminate his still form. At first, Morland thought he slept alone in the bed, but as he watched a translucent creature took shape out of the pale light.
Long fingered hands held his face and a bald, narrow skull bent down as if kissing his forehead. Without warning, the presence of the naked figure of moonlight grew opaque and solid. The monster and the pain of it’s presence within Morland’s skull both screamed with the change, sharp and merciless as a stiletto in the dark. The Peter Morland in the bed slept on, the face peaceful in spite of the ragged bleeding hole where the creature had fed. The Peter Morland by the door collapsed against the wall with both palms pressing against an injury not there, breathlessly not screaming in the agony the other did not feel.
Morland sat helplessly as pain blurred eyes caught the creature leaping from the bed towards him. Then there appeared the shadow of a second figure standing between them. Up until that point, only moonlight from the window and then the creature lit the room. The new figure brought with it a new light, etching her shadow more darkly on the wall. This was the light of a young sun made bearable by a gentle screen of leaves, crafted into curved shape of a sword raised to block the onslaught.
The creature almost impaled itself in the rush of its initial attack, but some how it managed to shift trajectory in mid arc. Between one thought and the next, the bedroom vanished, and the second Morland with it. The walls receded to reveal an overgrown coliseum. The rows of anxious teddy bears lining the stone benches indicated that the Grey shadow with the summer-sword initiated the change, not the bloody mouthed moonlight nightmare. The pain diminished slightly with the change in setting, which could hardly be taken as a bad sign.
The two combatants faced off before him and the glowing monstrosity lashed out, feinting strikes, with taloned hands. Morland recognized Grey only by her shape. The initial darkness of her form did not lighten. She stood motionless, her sword held in both hands high by her head, parallel to the ground. Morland was caught unprepared when the creature darted suddenly to Grey’s left, aiming full speed for him.
Grey’s sword again blocked the way, transported as if by magic. This time there was no facing off. The creature truly turned to her. The two intertwined into a seething knot of violence. It took Morland a long moment to make sense of the roiling movement, but the moonlight seemed unable to mar the shadow, while each touch of the sword diminished the creature. Still, the swift ferocity of his longtime tormentor began forcing Grey back toward Morland.
When it seemed inevitable that Grey’s next dodge would send her falling backward over him, Morland crawled out of the path. He helped her, just like she told him not to. In an impossible jump, Grey sidestepped a two-handed lunge, trailing her blade through where she should have been, or at least she would have if her foot had not caught Morland in the stomach instead of passing through empty air. Off balance, Grey could not avoid the back hand blow which tore away a chunk of darkness from her side, revealing a dripping redness.
A rumbling scream of rage was torn free from her as well. The dreamscape snapped back into Morland’s bedroom. An overhand blow removed the creature’s head in a flash of mingled lights, and she turned to glare down at Morland, suddenly as real and solid as he in bare feet, cutoff khakis and flannel shirt matted to her side with blood, with a plain steel sword in her hand dripping moonlight to puddle on the floor.