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Dave tossed and turned in his gauzy sheets, sweating despite the air conditioning. His eyeballs twitched behind the lids, indicative of the deepest stage of dreaming. Dave’s mind roamed far away over the planes of the unconscious. Aware that he was dreaming, Dave opened himself to all the dream offered, any insights or omens which might be interpreted later. The encrypted solutions to many a problem had come to him in this way.

Dave found himself in a familiar setting, a wide field surrounded by thick woodland, a natural clearing in the primitive forest. The sun held steady overhead, a blinding white pearl, while rolling clouds revolved around it. Dave’s dream-self sat down cross-legged, waiting. This had been the scene encountered on his first vision quest, so many years ago. Dave found it now only on occasional, and always when some important message waited to be received. Dave concentrated on the tranquility of the scene, the sensory input: the smell of the pine trees, the warmth of the sun and the cool of the passing shadows traced by the clouds, the feel of the undergrowth against his skin. Eventually, as he knew it would, Dave’s spirit guide stepped from the woods into the light of the clearing. A majestic buck watched him with its clear black eyes.

“Good to see you, old buddy,” Dave said.

The deer watched him another moment, then jerked its head high, nostrils dilating, testing the air. It wheeled, charging across the field to again disappear into the forest. A warning, Dave realized. The clouds overhead darkened, gathering into a cluster on one side. Flocks of birds fled the growing storm as a rising wind began to rustle the trees. Dave watched the clouds grow blacker, blacker than clouds should ever be.

Movement on the far edge of the clearing caught his eye. Looking over, Dave saw a large panther, its coat a slick and gorgeous sable. In its jaws it carried a naked infant. Dave heard the child giggle, held like a cub by a protective mother.

“Brian,” Dave muttered.

The panther turned and fled, following the path of the deer and the birds. Dave understood. The warning was meant for Brian.

Looking up, Dave gasped. The clouds had assumed a different form, the effigy of a monstrous, misshapen, six-fingered claw reaching across the sky. It seized the sun in
its grasp. In an instant, all light, all warmth vanished. The forest burst into unseen flames that burned cold. The ground beneath Dave liquefied into boiling muck.

Dave refused to scream, avoiding panic. He withdrew from the vision, willing himself back to consciousness. He opened his eyes. His heart thundered in his chest. Tossing aside the sheets, he rushed to his door. As always, the doors were locked at night.

“Hey!” Dave pounded on the thick wood. “Hey, open up!”

Dave had grasped the urgency of the dream-vision, the capacity of the threat, the horrible proximity of evil. He had to reach Brian, warn him. His shouts echoed beyond the room, answered by another, then another. From room to room, men began screaming, beating against their own doors. Had they shared the same dream, Dave wondered?

“Open up!” Dave slammed his fist against the door. “Let me out!”

He froze. One of the voices, the screaming voices, seemed to reverberate above all the others, crying out in either fear or pain. Dave recognized that voice.

The scream was Brian’s.

The Evil had found him.

TheCheezman • June 3, 2020

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