This story is by AJ Hunter and was part of our 2018 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
There is one question I ask myself each time I think about us, “Why can’t I remember you?” When I first met you out here in the real world, I thought you were a dream come true. Funny thing, it was the absolute truth. You are my love, my light and you say we’ve been dreaming about each other for years since we were little.
So I lay across my bed thinking about you again. Delving behind the locked door that stored my childhood dreams and memories, looking for the answer to the one question that plagues my mind.
I watch the sequences play like a movie in my head…
The scene was so familiar I wanted to jump to the next memory, but you drew me here, so here I’ll stay – for you.
The darkness grew thicker as I watched from my vantage point. I was afraid of the dark as a child. I sleep with a small light on in the bathroom. Did you know that? The fog rolled in with my demon – my personal monster. It whispered what I was thinking, ‘monster.’
No matter how many times I told myself I wasn’t a monster my mother’s words still echoed in my head. She was afraid of me, a five-year-old, of the thing I might become. I didn’t know what I was. I needed to learn to control it. And control it I did, but I didn’t blame her. When your entire family is ripped apart by the supernatural, you tend to be wary of any being who displays that kind of power. And when it’s your own child casting fire about like it was nothing, setting your house on fire, who could blame her for thinking I was a monster?
I told myself I was past this, but I obviously wasn’t. My dreams echoed my self-worth.
I knew what was next, and I wanted to turn away to leave this awful dream – the one I’ve had every night for as long as I could remember. But I stayed because you drew me here.
The first blow from the tentacle landed across my dream self’s back, and I bit back the yelp that threatened to escape as if the memory were happening now. It wasn’t real, but I felt it anyway. Even now when it wasn’t me receiving the beating, I felt it split the skin along my back. It was strange that when it was happening keeping quiet was easy, but now – watching I shied away, wanted to run, but I never did. Never made a sound, never fought back…
I hated this, and I wanted to leave, but it froze me in place. I couldn’t take it as I watched another blow land. And then another. But before I could close my eyes, I saw a figure in the darkness. A familiar voice echoed through the darkness. I knew it was you without seeing his face.
“Hey…,” you started to say and then your face grew dark when you saw what was happening. You flung the shadow from my dream. The demon was gone, the world brightened. The shadows lifted. There was only you and me.
I stood staring at you, relief on my face in both forms; but the younger me, he yelled. “What are you doing here?”
“I felt you call,” you said.
“You can’t be here. When it comes back, it won’t ever let you go. You have to go, Alex.” I pleaded with you. But you didn’t understand.
You looked at me confused. I didn’t blame you. This had to be the first time you found out what I was.
“You can’t be here,” I pleaded again.
“Talk to me, Nox.” You put your hands on my shoulders, and I winced in pain, but I didn’t shrink from your touch. I knew that touch, that love. I knew you would never hurt me.
“You’re a dream walker. It likes power, you can’t let it get you. You can’t come back here, not ever again. I won’t let it hurt you. Please, Alex.”
“Nox…” Your ice blue eyes were sad. “I don’t want to leave you.” And then you smirked. God, I loved that smirk, “What if it doesn’t remember me? Or you? I can make it forget, make us forget. I’ve done it before,” you said.
And as I watched I understood. I understood why you aren’t pissed at me for not remembering you, at least not as much as I would expect. You know deep down why I can’t.
“I’ll make you forget me. I’ll visit, but you won’t remember me. We’ll never use our names again, we’ll wear different faces. We’ll be someone else – always someone else. But I have to come here. You are my only friend.” You pleaded with me, and it nearly broke my heart.
“I don’t want to forget you.” I was on the verge of tears – then and now.
“We have to, Nox. I can’t know what you are. You can’t try to remember me. But I can’t lose you.”
I gave you a simple nod, and you laid your hands on my neck, and you pulled me close, and you kissed me. “I love you, Nox,” you whispered as the dream faded. I didn’t get to respond before I was ripped away from you in a roar of sound and the darkness surrounded me. And then my nightmare started all over again.
There was no point in trying to escape the dream. There never was. Every cry for help, every tear I shed only made it worse. Over and over again the nightmares came. I remembered them, every blow, every tear. They still happened, but I never remembered you. The nightmare came and ripped me away from you. Dream, after dream, after dream.
But you were safe, that’s all that mattered in the end.
My heart was racing as I lay on my bed thinking about us. Thinking about what we did and why. What happens now? I know you are real. I know your name. Can I protect us both?