Everyone we see in our dreams are people we’ve seen before in real life. So how is that someone I’ve never seen before keeps murdering me in my dreams?
I met this strangely beautiful girl by chance today who seemed oddly familiar. She claimed she wasn’t from Earth and needed my help sending her home. But, ever after I agreed to help her with her bizarre mission, not only are my dreams darker, but now reality is playing tricks on me too. I’ve seen people turn into snakes, fish swim in the sky, time jump forward, and strangest of all, I’ve made friends with the pretty new girl on the block.
I still can’t tell if I’m dreaming, though because Cassidy and I share an uncanny connection we can’t deny. We love the same music, books, and hobbies, but the strangest thing we have in common is our recurring dreams. She’s trying to save someone in hers, and I’m trying not be killed in mine.
The familiar stranger has now revealed her unsettling plan to sacrifice one mortal for the sake of sending a message to her home world. Now, falling asleep is nearly impossible. Do I stay conscious and protect the one person who matters most to me? Or do I fall asleep and take one for all humanity?
I’m not a brave man, but for you Cassidy Evans, I’d die a thousand times over.
Enjoy a sneak peek, read chapter one today!:
“Did you know that in your dreams you only ever see people you’ve actually seen in real life? Like, background people and everything? Every single person is someone you’ve seen before.”
“Why are you telling me this, Bradley?” Daniel dropped his spoon, a splash of milk and Cheerios dousing the table. He had that terrible nightmare again last night. He had drowned for the seventh time. He awoke in a bed of sheets drenched with sweat. Again.
“I just read it in my new Dreams and the Human Brain book. Isn’t that neat, Daniel?” The toaster ejected two slices of burnt toast stuffed in its gut. Bradley snatched them in anticipation. “That means even Alice could make an appearance in my dream!”
There was something about that whale from his dream. It turned the water into blood. It pushed him underwater with one giant fin. It enjoyed watching Daniel drown. It enjoyed it. Daniel would never forget those eyes; so strangely human. To whom did they belong? To Alice? Maybe they were Tommy Haddock’s targeting eyes.
Bradley snatched his backpack from the arm of the chair, whirling around for the door. “Did you know that giraffes give birth standing up? The baby falls seven feet to the ground when it’s born.” He hiked his canvas backpack further up his shoulder. “Dan- Daniel. What if we were born like that? Like- having to survive a seven-foot drop before we even take our first breath?”
“I think you did.” Daniel mumbled, pushing his beanie further up a massive thicket of auburn hair. His tongue fidgeted with the new piercing in his lip, just over a month old. It still stung; his lip still ached. Maybe the lady had pierced it wrong? He wasn’t sure if he liked it, but he wanted to. He wanted to be the person who wore a lip piercing convincingly.
The bus screeched to a stop before their road. It was the last week of school. Daniel sighed. Maybe Tommy Haddock wouldn’t see him today. Maybe Katie Harris would. But she never did, and Tommy had an impeccable radar. His stomach burned on. But it didn’t burn as much as his lip did.
The bus door swung open with a concentrated smack. “Mornin’ boys,” Alice muttered. A pungent cloud of Marlboro and Hennessy welcomed the boys. It was her preferred perfume over every other woman’s Chanel No. 5.
“Good morning Alice!” Bradley’s short legs lurched over every step, eager to stare his secret crush in the eyes, “Alice, did you know that the people you see in your dreams are people you’ve seen before in everyday life? Every single person is someone you’ve seen even just for five seconds. Not a single face is made up. That means you could be in one of my dreams! Did you know that?”
Her caked-on blue eyeliner darted up as her eyes bulged, “Am I driving you to school in your dreams too?”
“Ha, ha, uh- did you know that baby giraffes— ”
“God, Bradley, come on.” Daniel snatched the handle of his little brother’s backpack and shoved him down the cramped isle. The morning ritual began. Daniel kept his head bowed and eyes focused. He felt the countless eyes glaring over brown, ripped pleather seats heavy with phallic graffiti and curse words. He stared at his brother’s initials stitched into his blue backpack like he’d never seen such incredible runes before, like he wasn’t reading them for the millionth time: BRW. BRW. BRW. Sweat moistened his beanie.
“I heard he does drugs.”
“His mom’s a whore.”
“His dad’s in jail.”
Daniel swallowed hard. Just get to your seat. Just get to your seat.
One eager red-head jumped up, giant grin ready to swallow Daniel whole. “Hey, Wittiker! Your mom still sleeping with guys for money?”
Daniel kept his eyes focused despite his face burning red. It wasn’t true; mom wasn’t a hooker. She was a dancer. Perhaps she had slept around when she was younger, but that was common. At least, that’s what mom told him. Daniel pushed his brother faster down the aisle. Tommy reached over Daniel, snatching his book out of his hands, “Whatchya’ readin’ little girl?”
“Hey, come on.”
Tommy cackled, chipped front tooth jutting out, as he elbowed Daniel’s hands away. He examined the cover, smacking his gum, “Outcast of Redwall?” Tommy shook his head, “What the hell is this? A book about furry little animals in capes? God, you really are a girl.” He jeered, his gang mimicking in kind.
“It’s not – it’s a war story. Just give it back, please.”
Tommy blew a bubble, tapping the book in his palm. “If you want your chick lit back so badly then work for it, Danielle.” He dangled it high above his head. Tommy was the tallest kid in class and Daniel was no match for his reach.
“Come on man.” He stared at Tommy, not even bothering to try.
Tommy popped another giant bubble in Daniel’s face, holding the book up high, “Work for it, Wittiker.”
“Hey- hey Tommy!” Bradley pushed Daniel away, “Did you know that gum contains artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame?”
Daniel fumed. He knew exactly what Bradley was trying to do. Daniel could fight his own battles. “Stop it, Bradley.”
“Aspartame can cause brain tumors and even cause cancer,” He pushed up his thick glasses, “Is that why you act so stupid, Tommy? Because your brain’s full of cancerous tumors?”
Tommy stared at Bradley in fascination, smiling wide enough to show off both rows of yellowed teeth playing a game of twister in his mouth.
“Shut up Bradley.” Daniel tucked his big mouthed little brother behind him.
Tommy placed Daniel’s book under his arm. Great. Now Daniel’s favorite book stunk of Tommy’s unwashed armpits. He shoved Daniel aside and leaned into Bradley’s little peach fuzz face, chewing harder on his piece of gum, “You know what, Brain? Those fun facts actually spoke to me on a personal level,” He leaned back, feigning the image of a changed man, “In fact, I think I’ll quit chewing gum right now.” Taking out his wad of petrified gum, he pasted it between the pages of Daniel’s book and shoved it back into Daniel’s concave chest.
Daniel opened the book in disgust, watermelon Big League Chew stretching across the pages, “Wha- what the hell, man?”
Tommy cackled, “Oh come on now Danielle! That brother of yours is saving lives one fun fact at a time. You should be proud!” He opened up another package of Big League Chew and shoved a few pieces in his mouth.
Bradley narrowed his eyes.
“Mmm, Aspartame! My favorite flavor.” His eyes bulged as he rolled up the wrapper and flicked it at Bradley’s face. “Thanks so much for your help, Brain.”
“You’re not welcome, Brain Tumor.”
Daniel, steaming, grabbed Bradley by the collar and dragged him to their regular seat in the far back. “What the hell is wrong with you? Because of your big stupid mouth, Tommy ruined my favorite book!”
Bradley pushed up his glasses, glancing at the damage, “Yeah, but at least you got your book back this time.”
“You’re an idiot, Bradley. No one cares about your stupid fun facts, especially Tommy. When are you going to learn to keep your mouth shut?”
“Hey! At least I got you your book back! That was more than you could even do. You’re just a loser who can’t even stand up for yourself or me or anyone for that matter. And you never will.”
Daniel paused, registering the knife sinking into his gut, “For once in your life, Bradley, just shut the hell up.” Daniel, fed up with life before the clock even struck eight, suctioned his forehead to the smudged-up window. He ripped out his walkman and shoved the headphones over his ears. Nirvana. Highest possible volume. He tucked his book back into his bag, closed his eyes, and hoped the whole world might vanish around him. There was nothing Bradley said that he didn’t already believe himself. Yet, even inside his mind, there was no escape for Daniel. Those hideous eyes of the great whale taunted him again. They But they did not belong to Tommy. So, to whom did they belong?
The school bus vomited Daniel off early. Like some sort of cosmic blessing, the school had received a bomb threat and so South Lincoln Middle School had early dismissal. And so Daniel survived another day (if survival was the word for it). But his book met with an altogether different fate. Daniel stared at the sticky remains., stomach burning. It was the second book Tommy left his trademark calling card in this month. And still, his brother’s words echoed mightily in his head. Could he ever stand up for himself? Or anyone else for that matter?
Kicking a stone, he walked passionless toward home. His inner autopilot directed him toward the back door where he would be met with an empty house, an emptier fridge. There’d still be one eight-year-old television, one five-year-old stereo. At least some things in this house were reliable, so reliable they gathered inches of dust around their shoulders. Routine told him to ignore homework until the final hour and instead drown himself in a sea of Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and a stack of pristine Brian Jacques novels. Perhaps he’d even finish learning “Pennyroyal Tea” on his bass today. Daniel fidgeted with his lip piercing, staring at his apartment complex. The piercing scolded him like his history teacher, Mrs. Fleming, had. The lady had definitely pierced it wrong.
“Hey. Hey, you. Kid.”
Daniel glowered over his shoulder. A young girl stood there. She was his age, surely. But he had never seen her before. He took off his headphones, “Yeah?”
“What’s your name?”
“Are you deaf? I asked you your name.”
He blinked. “Daniel.”
“Daniel? Ugh. That’s- that’s so common.”
“Okay.” Daniel put his damaged book into his backpack.
She placed her hands on her hips, scanning him up and down, “Were you born here?”
Daniel studied her. Short, platinum hair boasted a unique shimmer. Giant, strange-colored eyes sat far apart on a perfectly round face, like two islands in a great ocean. They were permanent, resolute, like a fish’s lidless stare. Thick, full lips pouted in disappointment. She was a beautiful stranger. “Was I born here? Do you mean, like, in this apartment complex? Or, like, in this town?”
White eyebrows shot up her forehead while she tapped her tiny foot.
“I was born at St. Mary’s Hospital three miles away. Why? Who are you?”
She studied him for a moment. She pointed at her face, “Do you recognize me?”
Strange, long ears came to an odd point at the ends. Abnormally small hands. “No. Should I? Who are you?”
She crossed her arms, nostrils flaring, “Blisters! I thought you were the one.”
“What do you mean? Who exactly are you looking for?” He glanced back at the apartment complex, “I know everyone here. I can bring you to their apartment if that’s what you need.” Her intimidatingly pretty face would make him do anything. He was sure of it.
She walked up to him slowly, full lips twisting together. Giant eyes sparkled like a stone he had seen in Bradley’s Discovery book. She leaned over, staring him dead in the eyes.
Nervous, he withdrew.
“You don’t have any idea who I am?”
“If you need help finding someone I can— ”
“Did you have any dreams last night?”
The whale flashed across his mind again. He swallowed hard. Why would she ask such a question?
She cocked her head, smile appearing, “You did.”
“Why do you want to know?”
“What did you dream about last night?”
“Uh…” He wanted to forget and only forget that reoccurring nightmare, “…A whale.” He glanced down, embarrassed, “It was huge. Massive. Like… the size of the whole ocean.” He swallowed hard. Why am I telling her this? “And I was swimming next to it. Its giant eyes stared at me. It was like the moon was staring at me. The whale became angry, so angry that the water turned hot and boiled like a pot of water. It turned into blood. The whale pushed me under water with its giant fin. It knew I was drowning but it didn’t care.” Daniel’s heart pounded in his chest, “And I was boiled alive like a lobster.”
A smile flashed across her face. She stood tall before him, “Look at me, Daniel.”
He swallowed hard. Never before had a girl wanted Daniel to stare at him, never mind command him to do so.
“You do recognize me, don’t you?”
This time he studied her. Her face: so round, so pure; it glowed like the pearls on his grandma’s necklace. Her frame was full, hips mature like a woman’s, feet compact like a girl’s. His eyes strolled up from her feet to her hips. He dared to glance there, after all she did ask him too. Full breasts. He swallowed hard, eyes leaping back to her face, cheeks burning like they were set on fire. Her eyes; there was something about them. That glow they held lulled him into a comfort he found only in books or music. Now that he truly examined her, there was something strangely familiar about her.
“Daniel,” She whispered, warm fingers whispering across the hair on his forearm, “You do know me, don’t you?”
“Yeah… I- I think so.” But he didn’t. He had never, ever seen her before. So why was she familiar?
Her shockingly strong fingers gripped his forearm, “Do you have any siblings?”
“Yeah. A little brother. And one older half-sister; but she’s in California and she’s like twenty-three.”
“Your brother… he lives with you?”
“Yeah. Bradley. His name’s Bradley.”
“Bradley,” she whispered like it was a forbidden secret, “He too was born here?”
“Where is he?”
“Okay.” Rushing passed him, she snatched his arm, “Take me there.”
“What?” Daniel dug his heels into the ground. But she was too strong; she had to be even more powerful than Tommy. “We can’t go now!”
“We have to go now.”
“Why? What’s happening? Who are you?” He dug his combat boots deeper into the earth in vain.
“I need to be certain.”
“Ugh! Your kind asks too many questions!”
Your kind? “Look, even if I did take you to Bradley now there’s no way you’d be able to talk to him. He’s in class still. And come on who the hell are you anyway?”
Her head fell as she released an impatient sigh. Turning around, her eyes flashed like a thousand glittering stars, “I’m going to try to put this in terms your kind will understand.”
There was that phrase again.
Her fingers laced together, face softening as though she were entertaining a puppy. “Have you ever seen a fish in a pond swimming right at the water’s edge?”
“Have you ever tried to snatch it with your bare hands because you were so certain you could?”
His dad took him fishing once when he was eight. This was his only memory of his father, and it was so awkward, so uncomfortable, that he pledged to forget the day altogether and conclude it to be a bad dream.
“I’m that fish. And someone has snatched me out of my pond.”
“Wait, what? Are you saying you’ve been kidnapped or something?”
She busted out in hysterical laughter, kneeling on her legs for support and everything, “Oh, my Dessians! Your kind is simpler than I thought!” She gasped for air, studying his weak frame once more, “How old are you? Fifteen, maybe eighteen thousand years old?”
“Thousand? What? I’m fifteen!”
“You’re only fifteen thousand years old?”
“No! I’m fifteen years old, just fifteen! My God, are you kidding me? I mean, really, is this some kind of joke?”
Her tiny hand covered her mouth, “Dessians above. So you’re only fifteen years old? You’ve just learned to walk then, haven’t you?”
His head jerked back, brow furling in confusion.
“How long does your kind live for again?”
Daniel pursed his mouth. Had Tommy paid this random girl to prank him too? Or maybe this was a middle finger from Liam McCormick. Daniel’s hand came over his chin, wiping all the way up to his beanie. He sighed, “Look, I know this is probably hilarious for you but I’ve had a really long day. So just tell whoever paid you to do this that you got me good.” Daniel turned, shoulders hunched under the weight of embarrassment. God, I hate my life.
“Paid me?” She echoed over his shoulder, “What does that mean?”
God, is she kidding me? Daniel stomped onward, head down, toward apartment twenty-one. But she flung him around violently and he stumbled to regain his footing. The girl was but inches from his nose, “Listen to me Daniel. I’m not from here, okay? I need to get back home. And I’m dead certain you’re my ticket back.” Her eyes fell away from his, “I’m getting what’s owed to me.”
Daniel stared at her. Her features seemed less and less human all the time. Was this even really happening? Whatever this was, it was better than the reality waiting for him at home. Daniel sighed, “Okay. I have no clue what the hell any of that means, but I’ll help you. What do you need from me?”
She pushed her shoulders back as her hands situated themselves on curvaceous hips, “Okay, take a good look at me again. Do you have a scroll? Oh, sorry I mean a notebook? Right? That’s the term your kind uses nowadays, isn’t it? A wide stack of paper all hooped together? That’s a notebook, right?”
He smirked. “Yes. I have a notebook.”
“Okay, I need you to draw me.”
“You want me to draw you?”
“That’s what I said. Go on, then.” She waved him on, striking a pose.
Daniel swung his messenger bag around, yanked out a bent up notepad packed with band pictures, lyrics, and overdue homework. He grabbed a pencil and knelt down. Time passed rather quickly, as Daniel was not fond of sketching. “Okay… now what?”
She ripped the pad out of his hand, eyes scouring the image. “What? What is this? This is garbage.” she ripped the picture out and crumpled it up.
“Hey, come on, I really tried! Sorry I’m no Van Gogh but what did you expect?”
“No Van Gogh is right. Now his mind was brilliant fun to mess around with. No wonder I drove him to— ” she stopped short, glancing at Daniel, “Okay well, there’s still one other way. Do you have one of those things- it’s like a small, rectangular thing,” Her fingers desperately made a shape in the air, “Your kind loves to smile at it and make odd faces at it. Do you have one of those?”
He shook his head, scoffing. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
She stomped her foot, groaning. “Okay, it’s like a gadget of some sort. It’s one of your kind’s higher-end inventions. Like, okay, so you put it to this mandible-” Her fingers snatched Daniel’s ear and the tug made his heart skip a beat, “-And you talk into it. What is that thing? You should have one. All your kind does.”
Daniel laughed out loud this time. “Seriously? You’re talking about a mobile phone? How do you not know that?” He whipped his out of his back pocket, a scuffed-up Nokia with a dark screen. “What do you want with it?”
“Those things take copies of your faces, right? Take a copy of mine with it.”
He raised it up. “Ok. Smile or whatever.” Daniel snapped the shot.
She snatched the phone from his hands and glanced reluctantly, “ It’ll do,” her fingers closed his around the phone, “Okay now study this image all day if you have to.”
Gladly, he thought, “Why?” He asked.
“You need to remember it when you go to sleep tonight.”
I will regardless, he thought, “Why?” He repeated.
“Oh, and you need to show this picture to Bradley too. Make sure he studies it.”
“And one last thing,” She gripped Daniel’s fingers tighter. She could have asked him to jump off a building and he was sure he’d enjoy the flight down, “You must sleep beside your brother tonight.”
Daniel blinked, “What.”
“Yes, you must. You have to. And you must hold hands when you go to sleep.”
“What?” He yelped. “Why ever do I have to do that?“
“Explaining it would go right over your fifteen-thousand-year-old little head.” She dismissed the thought with a wave of her hand. “Now remember if either you or your brother spots me in your dreams tonight, you must remember to repeat these words,” She raised Daniel’s arm and snatched the pen from his messenger bag. Rolling up his plaid checked shirt, she wrote the words Felite Ara Finis Staros on his wrist. Daniel repeated it back, confused as ever.
“Yes very good. You’re a good reader.”
Daniel rolled his eyes. “Okay so if Bradley or I see you in our dreams tonight, we must say this?” He realized just how insane (and naïve) he sounded.
She smiled for the first time. It was gorgeous. “Yes. Now promise me you’ll do all that I asked of you, tonight.”
Daniel sighed, swallowing his pride. Both went down like a horse pill. She was so pretty and Daniel hadn’t had this long of a conversation with any girl before, ever. He wanted it to happen again. “Okay yes, I– we will. Promise.”
“Okay, and every night too.”
He deflated. “Oh come on now I have to do this every night?”
“Yes! I’m not sure when I will see you again in this realm. The timing here and in my realm are so vastly different it’s difficult to tell a minute later from a century later so you have to do this every night until you see me again. Chances are you may see me in your dreams again first so you must say this phrase or I won’t see you and it won’t work.”
“It won’t work? What won’t work?”
“Daniel. Just promise me you’ll do this every night. I want to hear you promise.”
Daniel finally remembered the gem her eyes looked like from Bradley’s Discovery book. They were like two glistening opals. “I promise. Every night.”
“Okay, Daniel Wittiker, until next time, sweet dreams!” She smacked a kiss on his cheek and darted into the forest surrounding the apartment complex. Daniel froze, incapable of processing what just happened. His hand came over his cheek.
”Oh and don’t drink anything blue- or – or orange!” She yelled desperately over a thicket.
“Okay.” Daniel’s hand fell. Who the hell was she and how did she know his last name?