A Waking Nightmare
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Deep in the mind of all beings is a place. This place is without space, as space denotes a measurable area that physically exists. It is a plane with all the time it could want, beginning with the waking moments of the first universe and stretching into the endless, as even the dead can dream. It is the Dreamtime, plane of infinite possibility and empty inevitability.

In one of the many corners of the Dreamtime floated an errant thought, a small continent of imaginary dirt floating amidst an abyss of the unreal. And sitting on one edge was an unnamed nightmare, waiting for the moon to rise.

It watched a nearby island, ringed by a small ocean. Watching the rim of the ocean fall into nothing endlessly had become a small pastime for it. From the pile to its right, it took a small blue rock. For a moment it felt the rock's weight, and then it hurled the stone at the island. Rock after rock, it tried splashing the orange rimfall.

Eventually the moon rose. A massive ball of cheese rose through the nethertime, bathing the Dreamtime in cheddar light.

The nightmare stood. A crater in the moon bled crimson, and as the nightmare brought itself to its full height it was bathed in scarlet light from the blood orb hovering in the horizon.

Feet falling into lush purple grass, the nightmare traversed further inland. Across the plains other Dreamtime creatures — various other nightmares, muses, and fantasies — were also in search of ways into the minds of the Real. The nightmare stopped when it found a small gap in the air, the faint smell of fear wafting through.

A brief moment of meditation was all it needed. Something to remind itself why it did what it did. A reason to be truly terrifying. The thin hope that it would become a recurring nightmare, that it would find a good source of power for the Dreamtime. Tangling itself in a mess of joints, it pressed through the portal.

It was in a forest, full of tiny wildlife and protected by a sea of stars. Lush and, oddly, green. The trees held a distinct liveliness to them, and the area was blanketed in an ominous darkness that almost made them shine. The nightmare rose an arm and ran its fingers over the leaves. Soft, wet with dew, tiny vegetative veins lacing each one. The bark underneath coarse, detailed with chips and knots.

A truly powerful mind had sculpted this place.

Footsteps echoed off the foliage. Small footsteps, light but nimble. This was the mind of a child, likely. The nightmare waited, placing where his prey was exactly. After another moment of preparation it lifted the branch it had been inspecting, catching a look at the girl. She couldn't have been any more than four years old.

The nightmare took a thundering step forward, placing its other hand on another tree and uprooting it just by putting some weight on it. Lights in the sky twinkled out as it rose above the treetops. It tore away the crown of this first tree and tossed it aside. The brightness of the greenery dimmed as it reached for the girl.

She caught its hand, their palms pressed together.

There was a silence.

Light returned.

The nightmare tried to recoil, but she had wrapped its hand in her arms in a warm embrace. Heat raced up past a series of elbows and blossomed across the nightmare's chest. It picked her up, her feet dangling as she clung to its hand. Bringing itself to a height it had never achieved, it held her in front of its face. It tilted its head back and held her above it, taking in both her and the stars above. They seemed to be getting closer and closer.

The child released its hand and fell onto its featureless face. She hugged that instead. Stars scraped at its shoulders as the nightmare continued to rise into the heavens. She laughed and giggled and cried in delight as she climbed onto the top of his head, sitting like a queen on her throne.

With a foot the size of a stadium it flattened trees as it began trekking forward. New trees sprung to attention as it lifted its foot. After a few steps it lowered itself into a deep blue ocean, the water almost coming up to its chin.

Together they traveled, witnessing all there was to see on a sea of dreams. Lighthouses spearing the horizon to shepherd in ships from parts unknown, fish of all colors and shapes were caught from a rod she had pulled from nowhere. Ancient civilizations long since drowned were stomped underfoot, leviathan beasts wrapped around the nightmare's waist.

Slowly, a storm presented itself. Stars were blotted out as a dark cloud passed overhead, and the sea began to crash. The nightmare shielded his host from the rain. Lightning stabbed down, lancing into the water. It tickled, somewhat. On his head, the girl curled into a small ball. Where the nightmare had failed, the storm succeeded.

Thunder rolled across the sea and out into Realspace.

Tiffany Roads shrank into her blankets and tried to ignore the sky exploding around her home.

The nightmare found itself there with her, its back pressed between the space of her bed's headboard and the wall. Its legs sprawled out past and then under the bed, its arms hanging limply. Realspace poked and prodded at it from all directions, trying desperately to make him unreal again.

It hurt.

Pain was not something it had ever experienced before, and being Real and being in pain seemed to be synonymous for a Dreamtime creature.

The nightmare slowly lifted an arm and placed a hand over Tiffany. Whether it was for its benefit or hers, it wasn't fully sure.

Yet she relaxed. A small hand gripped one of his fingers. Tiffany curled up against its hand.

The pain didn't stop, but it seemed more bearable.

"G'night, Misser Sticks."

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