There are many heroes in our world. Firemen, policemen, even busdrivers. But the most important are those who remain hidden and protect us from the things we can't run from...our nightmares. But what would happen if one heroic dreamcatcher could not defeat the nightmare that faces her, could not escape the tormenting terror and could not place the evil that surrounds them? Will she manage to keep her soul or will her life be taken?


3. Chapter 2

“Hi” I mumbled breathlessly as I jogged up to a group by the porch. I took a look at the people in front of me.  A boy my age caught my eye - for the obvious reasons. He smiled at me, a little confused, a little indifferent and a little amused. I immediately noticed his dark eyes, and open friendly mouth that looked like it belonged to someone who smiled often. I smiled back, still gasping and waiting for my breath to catch up with me.

“Hey, you look... like a wreck.” He said sitting up and handling me a blanket. Our fingers met for a brief second and I couldn’t’ help but gasp at the softness of his touch. This was something I was unfamiliar with. In dreams I only usually felt a numb impact of something hitting me, or an injury that was supposed to hurt, but didn’t. I was so overwhelmed by this that I forgot what he was saying

“Pardon?” I asked like your average idiot. He smirked with a corner of his mouth, then covering it with his wrist and pointing at me. I looked down at myself and realised I was still in the burnt ( and a tad revealing) rags I arrived in.

“Oh... that” I wrapped the blanket around myself modestly ,and tired to not make a big deal out of it.

“Are you ok?”  He asked, the smirk disappearing from his face, a new tone of seriousness in his voice.

“Fine” I waved my hand at him. “But thanks anyway.”

“Don’t come any closer!” Came a voice out of the inside of the bunk. A short, thin girl, with fiery eyes and brown curly hair soon stepped out of the door,  with a weird looking contraption and a similarly weird expression on her face-something between determined, proud and scared-shitless. She pointed it at me, slowly stepping closer and closer.

“What the hell are you doing?!” I asked, pushing the machine away from me.

“Do you mind?! This is extremely important, it...” the girl started, but I held out my hand to pause her.

“Look, Cable sent me. He’s coming in a sec. I just need to get some rest. Somewhere quiet.” I said deliberately turning my head to the girl. She scowled at me, but backed away. The boy took a few steps forward.

“Aren’t you gonna tell us who you are? I’m Darwin” He held his hand out. I shook it, before I realised that might be a bad idea. His handshake was warm and firm, but of course, it wasn’t meant to last. My crazy dream powers kicked in.

“Ow!” he yelled snatching away his hand. “Did you just... ?”

“Give you an electric shock? Yeah...it would appear so. Sorry. I’m Leslirra. Les.”

“Nice to meet you, Leslirra.” Darwin said rubbing his hand against his jeans, laughing a little.  I smiled. I shouldn’t have. I should be meditating and trying to contact the tribe leader, but as I held Darwin’s chocolate gaze I felt my cares slip away.

“This is Mia.”  he continued, breaking eye contact briefly  and pointing his hand towards the girl with the machine. “And that’s Fred, and over there’s Ross...”
I should have cut him off there. He wasn’t even real. He was just a dream. Not even my own dream. But instead I just smiled like an angel as he pointed at the group by the fire and simply labelled them as “The Hudsons”.
“Oh, jeez, I’m sorry! I completely forgot about your wounds.” He suddenly slapped his head, and took me by the arm and lead me off in the direction of one of the bunks.
“They’re fine... really” I mumbled, but his touch left me lost for words and he was already dragging me inside one of the bunks . This one was made out of a combination of charred wood, bricks and a tin roof. Inside it was cool, if slightly damp.  Darwin pulled at a switch and a fluorescent lamp turned on.  I blinked a couple of times. We were in a sort of store room, full of shelves packed with various items. The few windows in the hut were glass-less. I shuddered, and pulled the blanket closer around me. For reasons-like the fire I first arrived in- they never fully turned off our temperature receptors. Darwin absent-mindedly threw me another blanket and busied himself with picking through the shelves, muttering to himself as he did so. I watched his tall lean body stretch across the high shelves in admiration. This was not the moment for this but I couldn’t help myself but think dat ass as he bent in his tight, black jeans.

“I’m sure it was around here...no... a little to the left...AHA!” he picked up a red first aid kit.

“Now you just sit right here and we’ll play doctor” he said in a menacing tone and once gain gave me that stirring smirk. I raised my eyebrows but willingly sat on top of a shelf. Darwin looked me up and down.

“Where shall we start?” his smirk continued to grow on his face.

“Are you always this creepy?”  I asked, narrowing my eyes in playful interrogation.

“What on earth are you suggesting? I’m just a decent guy, coming to save a damsel in distress. A ...radioactive damsel in distress. Here...” He said, his face softening as he picked up a water bottle and poured it down my red, blistered leg. “Let’s hope you don’t fizzle out.”

“You honestly don’t have to do this” I took hold of his hand before he started wiping up the mixture of blood and water on my legs.

“Relax. I’m an experienced first aider. Even got a badge to prove it.” He cocked his head to one side and looked me intently in the eyes. They were wild, playful, mysterious. And reminded me of mine.

“Yeah, probably from when you were like six” I said coolly, breaking eye contract to re-adjust a blanket, because his gaze was just too intent for me to hold it any longer.

“Five- actually. What can I say? I’m a natural life saver.” Darwin said without blinking and bent down to wipe up  my leg. I can imagine in a normal situation my leg would be stinging like hell at that moment, but instead I just felt Darwin’s delicate fingers move their way around my legs like ants.

“I don’t need my life saved” I said, trying to ignore the blissful feeling in my leg and keeping my tone neutral. He wasn’t real, I told myself. But he felt real.

“Sure you do. Everyone does.” Darwin carried on, spraying some disincentive, and then bandaging up my legs.

“And you make it your personal mandate to deliver and spare us?” I laughed lightly, though I was getting uncomfortable.  This was way too personal for a dream. Never in my life have I met a boy this fine in a dream before, let alone have a conversation with him, let alone have him fretting and fussing all over me.

“I do my part” Darwin answered my sarcastic question and smiled up at me.

“Me too” I whispered. After all, this was why I was here. Saving humanity from their own minds.  

“What?” Darwin stood up.

“Nothing. What are those?” I quickly pointed to a bunch of colourful bands on his wrist to change topic.

“These are... you know... just a little something.”  He grimaced as he repeated the cleaning and bandaging process on my arm.

“What?” I pressed, genuinely interested now, as a new emotion crossed his face as opposed to the playful cheeky attitude he’s been giving me since I met him.

“Each one represents someone I love who died.” He said quietly, focusing on my arm. I touched a couple of bands gently with my fingers. A black and blue plat of velvet stood out to me in particular. I placed it between my fingers.

“Who’s this?” I asked gently.

“Mmm.... that would be my aunt. My aunt Maebrit.” He said, taking a break from bandaging my arm. He breathed out a loud sigh before smiling a little. This was a different simile though, a reminiscing smile.   

“ Now she was a badass.” He continued.  “When I was little she used to look after me every fortnight when my parents went out. She’d invite all her friends round and let me drink watered down cider and play poker with them. My mother and she used to have terrible rows- something we seemed to have in common.”

“How did she die?” I knew I shouldn’t have been asking questions, that it would only make it harder for me later on when I finally got down to business and hunted the predator, but  I felt an unusual sympathy for this strange, skinny boy.

“She jumped off a building when she was being chased after zombies. I’m kind of glad. I mean, getting eaten- or worse, getting turned- would have been far too clichéd for her.”

I kept silent. I just didn’t think an “I’m sorry” would have cut it. Darwin silently moved on to my other arm.

 “You... you have a lot of these bands- don’t you?” I said after a while. He shrugged.

“As much as the next guy. Well, what about you? Don’t you have any family tragedies?” he said trying a little humour, but it sounded dry without his smirk matching it.

“Not really. My grandparents died before I was born. And my mum didn’t have any siblings. It’s just me, her and my stepdad.”

“Well I’m sorry to hear it.” He said putting his hand on my shoulder.

“Why?” I asked twisting around to face him. “I never knew them. They never really got a chance to mean anything to me.”

“Grandparents are important and all other extended family too-not to mention your dad. Well... That’s what I think anyway.”

“It’s not like I had a choice in the matter.” I said defensively.

“Guess not. Either way, my family’s all dead, so it’s not like it makes a difference. Anymore. In the end I guess it’s just more pain.” He said bitterly. I knew he disagreed with me, you could tell by his resigned tone. But you could also tell he found pain in talking about family.  He worked his way silently along my arm, then moving onto my back.

“It’s supposed to be worth it though.” I said after a while.  My mum always talked about how she wished for siblings and more family, and how she wished for me to have brothers and sisters. However, life never worked like that for us.

“Note the supposed”. He said sourly.

“Noted.” I said meekly. He chuckled at this, and I once again turned around to shoot him my warmest, kindest smile.  The corners of his mouth tugged up, first only halfheartedly, and then spreading until the smile reached all the way to his eyes that crinkled, forming two little wrinkles in the corners of his eyes.

“I have a feeling I’m gonna like you kiddo.” He said, returning to my back. 

“I have a feeling you might not get the chance to” I said sadly, before I managed to catch myself. He wasn’t supposed to know anything about me. The less he knew the better. I was still on a hunt.

“How come?” He asked curiously.

“I’m not planning on hanging around” I said vaguely. He scoffed.

“Where else are you planning on going? The city? Forget it. It’s worse than here”

I simply shrugged. “I’m not exactly sure what my plans are gonna be”

Darwin looked at me like I was a kid who just did something adorably stupid. “What exactly do you have to do? There’s nothing left.”

“There must be. I’m..” I hesitated before telling him why I’m here. For some reason I didn’t want to. I felt that he would see me differently if I told him what I really was. There was always the small chance he wouldn’t know what a dreamcatcher was. Cable did though. And he said it wasn’t that uncommon, that we weren’t hidden.  And Darwin was so honest with me about his aunt. I wanted to tell him.

“I’m a dreamcatcher. So, you see, there has to be something.”

“Ahh” Darwin said and nodded like this explained everything, and now he knew everything, and anyway he knew everything from the beginning but now I was just confirming what he already knew. It kind of annoyed me.

“All of my hard work for nothing” He said, putting away the first aid kit.

“My wounds could still get infected, and generally, look nasty.” I answered, smirking.

“Erm... we are not a beauty parlor” he said, sticking his tongue out. I reached out and hit his face lazily.

“Who’s we?”

“Me, myself, and I.” he put his hand on his chest as if reciting.  “Welcome to Anadale by the way.”

“Anadale? Is this what this world is called?”

“You sound like a ditsy mermaid that turned into a human and finds everything ever-so-magical” Darwin mocked me. I punched him arm. It would have been pretty light if it weren’t for the powers.

“Owww! Alright ,alright, newbie. Anadale is the country we’re in. There aren’t many countries left, and Anadale is the largest, but you know, that’s mainly because as more and more shit started happening to the world, more countries joined Anadale as they were the most resourceful or powerful and were most likely to be their salvation. OH yes, a little history of this dear, sweet planet. It all started with a famine. And not just lack of food, we’re talking contaminated crops and people eating those crops, thus contaminated people. And you can’t blame them for eating this –even though half the time they don’t know what they’re eating  is actually contaminated- because there’s nothing else left to eat. Then people started fighting over this food. Not the good food. The rotting infected food, that was most probably gonna kill them. One town takes from the other, the village folk get their pitchforks and storm on the other village-that kinda stuff.  All the while this famine is spreading. Everywhere. People are looking for cures- the strangest cures.” Darwin exhaled and flopped down on the table next to me.

“Shit.” I said.

“Yeah.  Anyway, you’re a dreamcatcher. I heard they’re usually quite good at coping with shit.”

“Coping with shit is what we do” I said casually, unwilling to admit that any talk of other dreamcatchers brought shivers to my neck. What sort of a dream was this where dreamcatchers were just your average joe, and where there was plenty of bad stuff, but I - the person who was meant to rescue everyone from that bad stuff - missed it.

“Well good, because we’re not even getting to the good bit.”

“What? When was this famine?”

“Years and years ago.  But let’s not get into this today. Cable can explain this much better than me, him being an academic and all”

Darwin walked around me, and took me by the shoulders. “Look at me Lira.” I looked at him obediently, hoping he couldn’t feel the butterfiles in my stomach at the mention of my name. No one has ever called me Lira before. I liked the way it lingered on his tongue.  I bit my lip. I would wake up and he would be gone.  I closed my eyes. This was getting to deep. I’ll hurt myself.
“Look at me.” His voice commanded me. I reluctantly opened my eyes to feel his face a lot closer to mine than I expected. He bent forwards and kissed my forehead.
“Stay. For a while. You’ll be safe here. There’s nothing to chase anymore. Nothing to catch”  He said as he kissed each of my cheeks, but I barely paid attention to this as the word rung out in my ears. Nothing to catch. Nothing to chase. Nothing

“I... I need to get some sleep.” I said slipping off the bench I was sitting off and heading out. However, I made the fatal mistake of turning around and saw his fallen face and sunken body. He thought I just blew him off, and this was so not the case. I felt a pang of guilt. I rushed back and kissed his on the lips, before realising what I was doing.  He caught me by the shoulders.

“Huh. Wow” he smirked, that grin once again lighting up his face.

“Quite” I said quietly, unable to even smile, but look into his eyes.

Darwin smiled and pulled me in as he kissed the top of my head and ruffled my hair, slowly stroking it down then resting his hand on the nape of my neck and the other across my shoulder.  I wanted to return the touch, but could only muster to run my fingers slowly along his sides, from his rib cage down to his torso. I wanted to cry. He already meant too much to me. I’ve only known him for a couple of minutes. I would only ever have these few minutes with him. HE WASN’T REAL. This thing that was going on between us wasn’t real. This was the thought that made me grab him and hug him tightly to me, tears rolling down my eyes. Over before it even began, that’s what this was.
“Come on”  I said after a while. “I’m tiered”.
“Ok” He said reluctantly, and lead me out of the bunk house. He coughed a little.
“Erm... just so that you know, I don’t do this with every girl.” He said awkwardly.
“Ok.” I simply answered. I knew this, really, but having him say it made me feel all the more special. And worse for knowing it was a dream. But curiosity got the better of me and I asked: “And what is this “this” that you’re doing?”
He shrugged and pulled his mouth in tightly, as if he was chewing something. I could tell he was slipping back into his jokey banter mood.  His eyes widened and to make his expression even more comically thoughtful he raised his hand and weaved it through the air as if he could find the right words.
“Getting emotionally involved” He said looking straight ahead then turning his head to face me and raising an eyebrow as if to make his statement a question. “In fact, I rarely get involved in anything now a days. Except to make smart-ass remarks and charm everybody with my beauty, poise and stunning cheekbones”
I laughed at this. Truly and honestly. I rarely laughed like this in real life. I was in awe of how he could do it.  He was so jokey so happy all the time, but clearly he’s had s much tragedy in his life.

“I don’t know how you do it” I said quietly. I looked up at him and caught him off guard. It was as if a mask had been peeled off. He was a wreck.  He noticed me looking at him and immediately shot me a smile.

“Well, the cheekbones I was born with so I can’t help you with that” he winked.

“I’ll bear it in mind” I answered.

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