Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Child's Nightmare

Weldon Charles stood beside the crying child at the edge of the cliff. In the distance, not quite lost among the clouds, a black shape floated in the air, growing smaller as it moved away. "I lost it!" the child said, and inhaled a mucous sob. "I lost my tower."

The child looked to be about eight; a boy, slender and handsome, his face showing the first traces of adulthood. Weldon hadn't meant to help him; he hadn't meant to be here at all, and felt very much an intruder as he stood on the edge of the cliff. There were trees behind them, and trees far below; but this rough stretch of rock was utterly barren. Still, he knelt down and reached into his pack, rummaging...

His hand closed on something and he pulled it out. It was a chess piece, black like the tower, only this one was in the shape of a horse. He handed it to the boy. "If you hurry," he said, "you can still catch your tower."

The boy took the piece, but only stared at it.

"It flies," Weldon said quietly. "How else do you think it goes over the other pieces?"

The boy's eyes widened as the chess piece grew and changed, becoming a horse he was sitting on. The boy screamed in pleasure -- something that was almost a war-cry -- as his mount launched itself off the cliff.

Weldon stood for a moment longer, watching the boy and his new horse gallop away through the sky after his tower. Then he stepped back out of the dream...

...And woke in his tent. He cursed, but without any particular rancor. He didn't much like camping, and had only come this far out in order to be alone. With other people around, his dreams were never his own. He could sleep, but it was only when he was far away from everyone else that he could truly rest. It was harder every year to find some place that other people weren't, some forgotten corner of the world in which to lay his head. He didn't have the money to travel as far as he needed, or anywhere near as often. Still, it was hard to be angry with a child, who doubtless hadn't come out here alone, and certainly hadn't meant to pull Weldon into his nightmare. And with the boy dreaming happily, he might even be able to spend the rest of the night in his own dreams...

...If he could only get back to sleep.

Continued from here.

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