He waited for an hour; Rolly tried not to be the kind of listener who just waited for their turn to speak, but the longer Rowan had gone on, the more the incredulity had loosened his tongue, til it was flapping about his mouth like a trout out of water and he could barely keep silent.
When Rowan stopped to take a couple deep breaths, Rolly shot his hand up in the air, quick as a pouncing cat. “Wait wait wait,” he said. “Before you go on, and I really want you to and I’m really sorry for interrupting you, but I have to ask you a question.” He took his own couple of deep breaths and glanced at Mara, who was looking at him with bemused encouragement, reaching her hand out to fold over his. “Did you keep a journal? I mean, like, a journal about all this stuff that was happening to you? Did you have your own Dreamer’s Chronicle!” The last question bulleted out like an accusation and Mara’s comforting hand squeezed his tightly in reproof.
Rufus beamed, his tutored pupil got the right answer on a pop quiz, and Rowan frowned at Rolly like an over-taxed older sister. “Jesus, what the hell are you yelling at me for? Yes, I did, in fact, keep a journal about the Nightscape. I was a regular old Martha fucking Stewart about it. If everyone already thought I was crazy, I can’t imagine what they would have thought if they had seen my construction paper nightmare collages.” She snickered at the thought, finding the discomfiture of others highly amusing as a general rule. “It was sort of like I had to. I couldn’t very well walk around with my nightmares running around my brain all day. The weird thing, well, like the eighth weird thing, was that after I would paste the freaky little bastards into my book, I never saw them again in my dreams. I mean, there were still, like, a gazillion monsters every time I had nightmares, but the ones I put in my journal never came back.”
She shrugged, her favorite default gesture. “I’d show it to you and we could all have a giggle down memory lane, but I lost it.” She thought for a moment, worrying her lower lip with her teeth. “Actually, I didn’t lose it, the damn thing disappeared one night.” Her shrug this time resembled more of a shudder. “It was really bad that night. It was, like, a monster council meeting or something. Some of scariest shit I’d ever seen. I’d never seen them look even remotely organized before, and here they were, standing around in a circle, talking to each other. They sure as hell weren’t speaking English, so I couldn’t understand their actual words, but somehow I knew it was about me. They’d noticed me, no matter how much I’d tried to stay hidden, and my nightmares were meeting to discuss me.” Her hollow eyes were aimed at Rolly. “You can understand why this was way more frightening than watching them rip each other to bloody pieces.”
He nodded mutely. Yes, he most certainly could understand that, very well.
“So I bit my tongue and pinched myself and dug my fingernails into my palms until I woke up. I was sweating something fierce, shaking all over, but I was determined to get out of bed and get as many of these dirty bastards pasted into my journal as I could, and hope I could make at least some of them disappear. Disband their council, and they can’t very well plan a war, right? It wasn’t there, though. My journal. I always kept it under my pillow, and it was just…gone. I don’t think I’d ever felt such disappointment as I did at that moment, my groping hand finding nothing but cool sheets. I gave up, I gave up and I gave in, and I cried until I sobbed and sobbed until I choked and choked until I threw up. My only weapon against my nightmares was gone.”
Rowan trailed off and sat back. Mara blinked back the tears pricking her own eyes, seeing the lost child with no hope left to cling to, shaking alone on her bedroom floor.
Rufus made an incongruous throat-clearing sound, and while it didn’t seem like much, Rowan zeroed in with a laser stare. “Oh, for Christ’s sake, Rufus. Did you take my damn journal?”
* * *
I think that this works, at least in part, as a stand-alone bit of a story, however – The Nightscape is the place where our demons and nightmares live. Rowan and Rufus are a part of it, on the outskirts, as no longer quite human. Rolly and Mara are a human couple that were pulled into it with no explanation, thusfar…
The Speakeasy is back in business after their summer hiatus, and I found that I very much wanted to get back in on the fun. This week we had a sentence prompt to use as our first line “He waited for an hour” and a photo reference:
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