The Child Dreamer
A Dead Dreamer Prequel
When I returned to the tribe, my arms were tired from carrying the meat that Jeremiah had given to me. I even persuaded him to part with a small leather necklace with a small piece of amber tied at the bottom of it. As soon as I mentioned it was for Catori, he was more than willing to part with it. Although married, he still carried warm feelings for my mother figure.
Catori sighed in relief when I walked through the forest carrying my burdens. She was sitting by a fire on the edge of the forest as if she were waiting for me. Or waiting for the smoke to bellow from the other side. As I approached her, she stood to greet me with a smile. My hands fumbled to move the bags of meat to one side so I could fish out the necklace from my pocket. As I pulled it out, her eyes beamed.
“What is this?” she asked.
I held my hand out toward her. “A gift. It can’t make up for everything, but to say thank you for taking care of me as if I were one of your own all these years.”
She took a moment to fully process what I was saying before her hands reached for the necklace. Taking it, she held it up to get a better look at the rock, laced into the bottom of it.
“It is beautiful. Like your light,” she murmured before slipping the necklace around her neck.
She had no more questions for me as we made our way back to the rest of the tribe. The fact that I had returned with my trade items was enough for them to stay calm. The necklace had also brought the distraction I was hoping for.
That man. Lorcan. He promised to show me how they handled demons. Although I didn’t trust him, he was the first person who had ever praised me for the work I did. He seemed to be the only one who understood that what I was doing was a good thing. If anything, I wanted to find out if he was telling the truth.
Though distracted by the task at hand with their meal, both Catori and the Medicine Man watched as my soul emerged from the longhouse where my body slept. I greeted them with a soft smile and nod and walked slowly in their direction. Seeing my approached, they returned with their own warm grins before turning back to the tribe.
It was that moment, I took my opportunity. There was a trick within the Land of the Dead that neither Catori nor the Medicine Man ever knew about: the Veil. Whenever we were in the the Land of the Dead, lost spirits found Catori and followed her frequently, but they avoided me like the plague. I was a soul they feared. But I watched as they vanished from sight and I wanted to know how.
Little time went by before I realized how they did it. There was another section of this world hidden away even from the tribe. A Veil separated the two planes completely. You wouldn’t know about it unless you were looking for it deliberately. It wasn’t long before I found myself crossing through the billowy Veil and discovering where the spirits truly resided.
As Shades, they hid from even the beasts and beauties of the Land of the Dead. No longer holding their human form, the shades skirted across the lands, always searching for what they’d never find: redemption and freedom from this limbo.
Through the blurred vision of the Veil, Catori was with the Medicine Man as they were watching the food be prepared. Against her neck laid the piece of amber. Her fingers twisted as she continued to fiddle with it. Tempted as I may have been with their conversation, there were more pressing matters for this night.
Just as he had promised, Lorcan and Kieran stood only a mile from the village, waiting for me. Lorcan was scolding the boy for something, but I couldn’t hear it. The moment I stepped through the Veil and back into the Land of the Dead, they became aware of my approach. Quickly their expressions softened, shifting to false smiles and comfort as the forest rang silent. Kieran glanced towards me with a false smile, while Lorcan beamed.
“So good to see you, son,” he said as he held a small lantern up to get a better look at me.
My approach slowed as something began to feel off. A strange sensation of being pulled forward tugged at my soul and it wasn’t long before I realized the source was coming from Lorcan. “What are you doing?”
For a moment, his expression reflected his confusion. But soon clarity hit him. “Ah, I know what you’re feeling. It is all right. I won’t let you get absorbed. Kieran here has had enough practice around it to know it’s possible to avoid.”
From his satchel, he pulled out a small blue orb. The glow surrounding it cause a strange sense of calm to surround me. Like a moth to a flame, my feet began to guide me closer towards the object. As my hand reached to touch it, Kieran quickly ran in front to slap my hand away.
Before I could scold him for even touching me, he flinched back. “We will die.”
Lorcan eyed him carefully but made no move to punish him. Instead, he turned his gaze upon me again. “With this, we can collect the lost souls of the Fade. I’ve already collected plenty from around here so Kieran can show you what needs to be done.” He paused for a second before continuing, “Would you mind taking us to the demon door in this area?”
The orb continued to hold my attention and I barely registered Lorcan’s question. That is, until he cleared his throat. “Uh, yes. Follow me,” I stuttered.
Ripping my eyes away, I turned for them to follow. “What exactly is that used for?”
“I told you,” he said, “To do what needs to be done.”
His answer wasn’t very satisfying. “You didn’t answer my question.”
“Perhaps. Maybe it is because I believe this is something that has to be seen to understand. Words alone would not suffice,” he explained.
With only the sound of Lorcan’s footsteps crunching the in the leaves, it was beginning to make me uncomfortable. Wanting a distraction, I held my hand up, watching it ignite. Behind me, there was a tiny gasp before Lorcan realized what I was doing.
“That is a first,” he said in awe.
My eyebrows pulled together in confusion. “I thought you said the boy could start fires.”
“Yes,” he began, “But I’ve never seen him start a fire on himself before. Only on physical objects. I witnessed the fire you sent at that demons, but I didn’t realize it was attached to you. This is astounding!”
The demon door was up ahead by the time he was finished with his praise. With my hand still lit, I pointed towards the door. “There it is.”
The door was shut as it was not the night of their release. Lorcan approached the tree where it sat and placed his hand on it. He glanced down at Kieran who only nodded. Carefully, he set his lantern on the ground before turning to face Kieran again, orb in hand.
“You know what to do,” he said.
Lorcan took a few steps back from the tree, holding the orb out in front of him. I stood to the side to watch. The boy stepped in between Lorcan and the doorway. As he did, I noticed his eyebrows furrow together in concentration. As his small hand reached towards the orb, the energy all around us began to shift. The pulling sensation that I had been feeling earlier was expelled, and replaced with the sensation of being pushed away.
The force seemed to affect Lorcan as well. It created a wind that shifted the trees and flailed his jacket about. As the wind picked up, the boy began to pull his hand away from the orb. The glow that had been inhabiting it, moved. It followed Kieran’s hand as he began to rotate towards the doorway.
It was then I heard them. The voices. They were subtle at first, but still there. In the back of my mind, the voices of spirits began to infect me as they screamed. They screamed for freedom. They screamed to be set free from this unnatural trap. Whether or not Kieran could hear them too, I wasn’t sure. If they did, they made no move to acknowledge it.
In only a few seconds, the air calmed. The boy placed his hand on the door, transferring the energy he had been wielding from the orb. Small runic characters began to surround the door. Without thinking, my feet took me forward as I reached to touch them. Although I could hear Kieran telling me to stay away, I couldn’t. My hand lightly touched the marked door, only to increase the volume of the voice in my head. It felt like my entire body was being torn apart from the inside out.
The power. The immense power. It was greater than anything I had ever felt before. My other hand lifted, showing me the flames I had lit earlier. They were now dancing more violently than I had ever seen before. As I stared at the flames, my lips turned up in a slight smile, feeling the surge of power rush through me.
Behind the light of the fire, Lorcan stood, watching. He was pleased. His grin made that evident. But the boy was not. He hid behind the blue-eyed man, not wishing to be anywhere near the fire. My grin grew wider.
“You were meant for this,” Lorcan murmured.
“I am,” I said in reply. The voice were still screaming when I released the door. Within my mind, the runic markings flashed across my memories, as if they were imprinting me as well. It felt invigorating.
“Can – can you hear them?” the boy asked in a whisper.
“Yes,” I replied.
Lorcan shifted his gaze between the two of us. “Them?”
My hand shifted so I could continue to watch my flames as the power slowly died down. “The voices.”
“Ah,” he said, quickly understanding. “You mustn’t let those voices deter you. They’re merely a test for our Dreamers. To test if you have the strength to continue this work. They’re merely the voices of the demons, trying to tempt you to release them.”
“Of course,” I nodded. Even after stepping back a few feet, the voices continued to follow. On instinct, I knew Lorcan was wrong. But I didn’t care. They were easy to suppress, though this explained the nervousness of the boy. He was probably too young to handle the noise in his head.
Lorcan stepped closer toward me as I lowered my hand, extinguishing the flames completely. He glanced between myself and the boy again before grinning. “So, what do you think?”
My grin grew wider. “This was magnificent. The power from the runes was extraordinary. And the demons being sealed away will save me time from hunting every single one of them down.”
Though the words were true, they tasted a little bitter. Admitting Lorcan was right was one thing. But not being able to hunt the demons anymore left me feeling empty. Hunting them was my life’s work. Or at least, I thought it had been. The seal seemed easier to create and gave me such a power boost that it had to be the best option.
“I want to create a seal,” I said.
His grin grew wider at my determination. “Of course, son. But it will take some time to learn how to create one. We can begin your training whenever you like.”
The boy continued to hide behind Lorcan, never once looking me in the eye. My glare narrowed as I looked down at him. “I won’t need any training. I can create one on my own without help. Tomorrow night.”
The seal Kieran had created was fine enough, but I wondered if it could be made stronger. My need to be more powerful than the boy gave me the drive and determination I needed to betray the tribe. Everything we had just done tonight betrayed Catori and the rest of them. But it was too late to stop now.
“Tomorrow,” Lorcan said as he nodded in agreement.
When the two of the left to return to the village, I stayed with the door until morning, watching. The energy of the trapped human souls traveled through each rune. Each letter carefully etched into the wood glowed with a shimmering brilliance that left me speechless. But the voices continued to scream within my head. I pressed them down each time they tried to become riled up.
My eyes finally opened after the sun had shone through my soul, forcing me to leave the door behind. It surprised me when I sat up to realize the voices didn’t disappear when I was back inside my body. They were still there. My fist reached up to press into my forehead, forcing them down again.
“George,” a voice said from outside the longhouse.
Without bothering to move the bed back, I stood up and walked outside. Catori stood to the side of it, her fingers playing with the necklace I had given her. Her blind eye seemed to find me first as she turned to see me walking towards her.
“What’s happened?” she asked, calmly.
The voices screamed again as if to respond to her question. As they screamed, her eyes narrowed. She reached forward to grab my arm. “George. What happened?”
“Nothing,” I answered, coolly.
She reached to grab my face, this time with both of her hands. “Do not lie to me. Something happened with the dead. Something – something unnatural. Something evil. Tell me. Please.”
Shaking my face from her grip, I took one step backward. “A blessing occurred. There was nothing evil about it.”
Her eyebrows pulled together in anger. It was rare to see her lose her temper. “What have you done, George? What have you done?”
“You’ll see,” I said, before turning my back to her.
They would all see. This would be for their benefit. Everyone would be safe after that night. No one would suffer the way I did. No one else would be tortured the way my father was. No longer would the demons corrupt the minds of people. Tonight, I was going to seal the evil away.
To be continued…
Catch up on The Child Dreamer Chapters: