The Child Dreamer:
A Dead Dreamer Prequel
Burning ice along my cheeks and chapped lips. The cold fire caressed my face as the hands held me down by my throat. Oxygen deprived, the slowly evaporated as I stared through the murky water at the man who refused to relent no matter how hard I thrashed.
Years later, I still felt the chill deep down, holding my heart with a firm grip; always keeping me from truly feeling comfortable. But despite the cold, a burning rage burned hotter, ready to take revenge on the world itself. As an adult, I look back at the child who was murdered by his father and I pity him. That child had no idea the chain of events that would set off by that one drunken action.
Yet, despite his actions, I awoke in the stream, coughing the remaining water from my lungs, forcing the air through. He left me for dead, but he never considered the impossible. His dead child resurrecting from the pity of another.
Too young to fully understand what had happened, I wandered back to the village that night searching for him. My father. The man who hated me. The man who blamed me for the death of his wife, my mother. I always felt his hatred, but despite that, I still tried to make him happy. Every son wanted to make his father proud. But instead of feeling his pride, I felt his rage; that need for revenge. And that night, he had taken it.
The fear in his eyes was apparent when he watched me wattling through the dark, empty square. I remember reaching out to him, urging him to come and pick me up. But the bottle only fell from his hands as he shook in fear. And he ran. But I gave chase. That night was the time when everything changed.
The local blacksmith found me wandering in the square the next morning. Taking pity, he took me in. The whole village had known of my circumstances and watched from a distance, praying for me. And despite knowing the truth, no one made an effort to help this small child. Only when I was alone did someone finally take action.
Though the blacksmith didn’t know what my father had done, he approached me with a small wool blanket. Carefully wrapping me up, he pulled me into his arms and carried me to his home. His wife helped me get clean and gave me a bowl of broth to warm my body. They doted on me as their children looked on, confused as to why I was there.
That night, they laid another blanket on the floor, close to the fire, to sleep until they figured out something better. The ground was hard and cold, but it was the first time in a long time I had felt safe. I laid there for some time, watching as the fire devoured the crackling wood.
As my eyes slacked from exhaustion, I slowly drifted to sleep for the first time since my murder. Yet the moment my eyes closed, I was suddenly standing naked beside my body. Confused, I tilted my head, watching as my chest slowly rose and sank with breath. None in the household seemed alarmed as I stood there.
Not understanding, I left their house, walking to the one place I knew I shouldn’t go: home. My father was slumped over the kitchen table, an empty bottle hanging from his hand. The moment I walked in, he suddenly twitched, jerking his head up. As our eyes met, he screamed, “Demon!”
Tears stained his dirtied face as he fell out of his chair, scurrying back as I approached. His ragged beard collected the liquid as he prayed in fear. He prayed for forgiveness, he prayed for a reprieve from the pain. At the time, I only wanted him to pick me up and hug me. But looking back, I realized now it was never going to happen. Though my father was a drunk and murderer, he felt immense shame for his sin and couldn’t live with himself.
Nearly breaking the door down, he bolted from the house, running toward the barn. I followed, realizing my body was floating, not running. The horses whinnied as he ran through the gate, grabbing one of the long ropes. The pigs, goats, and chickens all awoke to the noise, crying out in confusion.
I watched as my father climbed to the second story of the barn with the rope wrapped around his shoulder. Clumsily, he climbed to the top level, before tying the rope around one of the beams. That night, he took his last steps. As he did, a shadow flew from his back, into the night outside the barn.
His body jerked violently. I should have looked away, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the violent act. My father had blamed everything on me and took it out on me. But this time, he took it out on himself. His spirit fell to his knees on the ground, the mark of the rope still on his neck. When his eyes met mine, they surprised me. Pity. The shame was now gone. Only pity for his dead son.
Before anything could be said, a woman more beautiful than any I had ever seen with ember hair stepped out of the shadows. She walked over to me first and kissed my forehead, apologizing for not reaching me in time. But I was told not to worry, for my father would be given another chance to try again. He would get his chance to redo life again, after his time in punishment.
The tears never fell. Instead, anger burned inside of me. She was giving my father another chance. But that didn’t fix this life. The anger and hatred that burned sparked. Animals rushed past me, breaking out of their gates as flames ate the old wood around them. Everything burned around me and I watched with a smile. I wanted to watch as he burned, as my past burned.
But as the sun rose, I was forced back. My eyes fluttered opened, back at the blacksmith’s home with the house quiet. Inhaling the smell of charred wood eased the pain, but only for a time.
To be continued…