Shadow

Posted: August 13, 2013 in Fiction

The blade appears when you call it, even when it’s not a blade.  It’s not always the ornately appointed sword from the first nightmare.  It is the stuff of dreams, and so it has been a hammer and a bow and every exotic blade you can name.  It’s been more than a few you didn’t recognize.  You adjust your messenger bag.  It slides ever so slightly as you weave your bicycle between cars.  You know that drivers in this city hate people like you, but packages need delivered, and you need to make rent.  A cab cuts you off.  You squeeze your brake levers.  The pads squeak as they try to hold the rims of your wheels.  It’s too late.  You were going nearly twenty miles per hour.

Your wheel hits the rear bumper of the old yellow Crown Victoria.  The back end of your bike travels upward.  You let go of the handlebars as you are launched.  You’ve never gone headfirst over handlebars before, but you’ve been stalking nightmares in your sleep for months.  You tuck your chin to your chest.  You draw your knees in.  Arms spread wide, becoming an axis on which you spin as the cab passes under you.  The world returns to upright, and you slam your worn black skate shoes down onto the hood with a bang.  You shrug your bag back onto your shoulder as you turn.  You’re still on the hood of the car.  The cabbie leans out the window, yelling, laying on his horn.

You apologize with a complete lack of sincerity.  You step off the hood, dropping to the street.  You stare at the angry man, letting his harsh words bounce off you like hail on a tin roof.  You seeth.  You pick up your bike, giving it a quick look to assess the damage.  It seems fine.  You mount up and ride off, but your glare stays fixed on the cab driver until after you’ve passed him.  You can feel the dreamblade crawling around under your skin.  It knows you’re mad.  It feeds on your fury.  You take deep breaths, not because of exertion, but because you are forcing yourself calm again.  The weapon eventually  goes still.

* * *

When you finally find sleep, the dream world is empty.  You wander the astral wasteland, searching for anything.  Have you really slain every monster?  Impossible.  Maybe you’ve driven them into hiding.  You search, wandering into a maze of canyons.  The walls are red stone, eroded by millennia of flowing water.  The sides of the canyon sprout holes that serve as nests for monstrous birds.  Thousands of demonic crows.  They stare at you with bits of amber glass for eyes.  As you walk, the dreamblade seeps out of your skin, coating you in imagined armor and dangling a wicked spiked flail.  One of the birds spits a rock at you.  It flies like a stone bullet, clanks against your armor, and falls to the sand.

You leap the full distance from you to the aggressor, spinning in flight, unleashing a hellish backhand swing with the flail.  The spined head of the weapon smashes into the bird, obliterating it.  Blood and feathers spray in an arc as you land in the gap where the thing nested.  The air goes thick with the screeching of the rest of the flock, and the sky blackens with their masses.  You spin your flail overhead, and leap into the murder.  Every crow spits a stone on you, but the hail doesn’t even slow you.  You latch a gauntleted fist onto the leg of the first crow as you smash the second one into a spray of blood and feathers.

The black swarm seems endless, but you’ve fought nightmares before.  The caws turn to screams, and rivulets of blood stream down your armor plated body.  Before long, the sky is clear, and the only sound is the harsh buzz of an alarm clock.

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