The walls were curved. Even the flattest surface had a bit of curve, and even the sharpest angles were rounded. I don't think there was a single straight line anywhere in the palace. I drifted along, staying away from the walls. It wasn't just that I was afraid of the curves; I was, though I can't say why. There were also things on the walls: the life of this place, oozing obscenely back and forth. I did not want to come into contact with them, even as a mist.
I knew that I was moving deeper into the palace, but again I can't say why. Was I being guided by something? Was I driven by curiosity, or just a desire to keep moving? Was I looking for something in particular? Those questions belonged to the waking world. Here in the dream, I approached the center of the palace because that's what I was there to do.
The throne room was a massive sphere, its surface puckered by the passages that converged there. The far side was hidden by the thing that hung, or sat, or... I don't know, filled the center. Massive tendrils extended from that monstrous, obscene ruler to the walls around it; I wasn't certain whether they held the thing in place, or whether they held the palace in place around its ruler. They did not remain still, but moved constantly, writhing from place to place.
By the time I realized that one of the tendrils was moving towards me, it was too late. It split and expanded, dividing in two, flattening as they curved around me. For a moment, I was completely enclosed, and I found myself looking at... it might have been yellow mask... which seemed to be pushing out from the wall in front of me. For a moment I saw - really saw - the shape of it.
In that moment I was aware of the walls around me: paint and plaster over wood, bed and carpet and padding and concrete. I was laying on my face on the bed, with a pillow tucked between my extended arm and my right cheek. Claire was beside me... but not completely. I could feel her, too, the gross movements of breathing and the flow of blood through veins and arteries; the constant, microscopic movements of a living organism, almost a vibration unto itself.
But I could also see the mask, feel the curved walls that were no kind of life that I recognized, but still some obscene sort of flesh. I remember wondering what sort of being would compose a body out of that, and I remember the mask moving closer, extended by some obscene limb or organ. The walls were moving closer, concentrating the mists of my body and driving me towards the mask. And while I was utterly aware of Claire lying beside me, I was equally aware that she was not here.
I woke up screaming.
Claire startled awake beside me, and the cat left the bed as if he had been fired from a cannon. I caught myself, trying to slow my heartbeat - it was going so fast that I was afraid of having a heart attack. Claire grabbed me, and after a time my breathing slowed and my heart returned to something like its normal pace. "Nightmare," I told her.
She looked at me strangely. "Must have been a bad one."
I nodded, though she didn't know the half of it. The worst details were already leaving my mind - I couldn't remember the shape of the mask, for example, or even the nature of the things that had squirmed along the palace walls - but I'd come awake in time to see my left hand expand in mist... and then coalesce back into a hand.
There are other things that happened in the last week, but nothing to compare with this. As soon as Claire was asleep again, I went and wrote this down. I wish I remembered more of the details... but then again, I'm also glad I don't.
It's four in the morning. I'm going to see if I can go back to sleep. The idea has no appeal at all, but now that the adrenaline is leaking away, I can tell how tired I am. Tomorrow is going to suck.