The shadows crept along the floor, casting shapes that only children ever feared. The young girl edged farther under her covers. The shadows laughed ‑ a wispy sound like ice that drew in the surrounding heat. The child’s eyes widened and she gripped the sheets. The laugh repeated. She dove for safety under a pile of stone-eyed stuffed toys sitting in the middle of the bed.
Sleep well, little babe. And dream of faraway. Where covers cannot save you, and night eats all the day.
The girl’s whimpers filled the air, and the shadows took a taste — much too bland. They slithered closer and drew in memories, random and shattered —
A doll with black coal eyes and a sparkling pink dress. It was dragged along the ground by the girl as she raced off to a new adventure.
The face, a woman’s face — a mother — always had a smile and brought warmth and comfort with a gentle embrace. The girl sat at a table as the smiling woman set down a tray of chocolate chip cookies.
The monster was a cartoonish wolf with large, too-blunt teeth. It was nothing more than a mild fairy tale, hardly worth half a mouthful of fear.
That would change.
With just a little twist, a bit of a turn, anything could become a meal. The shadows twisted into one another, forming a cruel parody of the girl’s mother. It stood tall in the room, sharp jagged teeth spilling from its mouth. Wolfish eyes peered down at where the girl hid, holding a writhing, living duplicate of the girl’s doll in a sparkly pink dress. The doll reached its cloth hands out, calling the child’s name in a soft, sweet voice.
Don’t hide away, my precious child. No harm will come to thee. Your little dolly’s calling you. Open your eyes and see.
The girl slowly pulled the animals away from her face. She opened her eyes, crying out at the twisted vision of her mother. The living doll screamed in the child’s voice, while the shadow mother brought it to her mouth and devoured it whole. The girl opened her mouth to scream, but the sound turned to icy mist and floated silently away.
There’s no one here to save you, or take you to their breast. The time of love is over, now comes eternal rest.
The child scrambled up, but shadows twisted again into a shapeless blob, blacker than night. Multiple arms formed and pushed her into the mattress, smothering her with a chill.
Tears ran down her immobile face and one drop rose into the air until it landed on a forefinger of the twisting shadow form. It placed the tear on its swirling lips and smiled. Delicious.
The shadows untangled themselves and seeped into her pores, bringing fresh new fears. These weren’t the nightmares of children, or even the matured terrors of those that called themselves adults. These were real — solid — the fears that fears were made of.
They gave her the awareness of what hid behind the edges of her dreams, behind the faces of her family, behind the faces of the world, and beyond. She saw the lurking, sucking, dying things that inspired hatred and fed off fear. She saw the string of lies they spun, choking the love that kept her warm, killing the light her parents showered her with. She saw the battle that was all but lost, how the hungry beasts of the world beyond had nearly broken through, and only a thin layer of wavering light kept them at bay.
The shadows showed her themselves and fed on the shattering of her innocence.
The Dream Surfer emerged from the burrow, coughing up foreign thoughts until he regained himself. The Dream Surfer wasn’t sure what to think of the tale. It was too strange, too new. It was as if he had stepped into darkness and come out the other end unharmed. It was a fun-house mirror casting the memories he’d seen before in a crooked fresh light.
Childhood. He didn’t remember if he had one of his own, but he’d experienced many childhoods of others. Happy children running to their parents, crying over skinned knees and lost balloons. The slow-building grief of encroaching adulthood, mixed with the exciting promise of freedom. There were innocent memories in this tale as well, but the shadows had twisted them into something misshapen and threatening. How much more twisted could the world get? How much more could it bend?
The shadows themselves were something new. He’d never encountered anything beyond humans. The Dream Surfer always thought he was the only non-human entity that existed. Were there other beings out there? Creatures far more strange and interesting than a couple of shades? Maybe he’d find things out here that he thought were only fiction. Or…things far beyond even that.
This journey was already starting to show potential. There was so much to learn, so many chances to find a way to finally gain his freedom. The Dream Surfer couldn’t wait to see just how much the burrows had to show.
He scanned the other burrows. One burrow had moss and grass spilling from the top. Dotted along the earth were sharp metal teeth, as if it was a mouth waiting to slam shut. The Dream Surfer dove headfirst inside.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish