This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental
Published by Twisted Kae Books
© Copyright 2017 Latonia Edwards
© Cover art by Terry McKinnon and LowDallas
Editor Writing by Design, Donna Poole and Kimberlee Kiefer
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Kyle has always been alone, orphaned as a child he grew up in a harsh and lonely world. He has done his best to find his footing in the world now he fears that he may be on the verge of a psychotic break. Kyle has been plagued by the same nightmare every night for more than a year; he is desperate to find answers. Losing touch with reality, it’s getting hard to distinguish his dreams and the real world. Now a man who he thinks may just be a figment of his imagination is chasing him.
Thump! I feel as if I’ve been dropped on the bed from the ceiling. Opening my eyes, I still feel exhausted. How long have I been asleep? Sitting up, I try rubbing the sleep away from my eyes and focus; through the doorway, I see what looks like the figure of a man. His silhouette looks huge! Bigger than anyone I know. Quickly, I switch on my lamp; but it’s just a coat hanging on the door. I’m in a cold sweat; I’m still groggy.
Rubbing my eyes again, I try to wipe away the remaining thoughts of this nightmare. I can smell the earthy scent from the cave, and the sulfur from the dragon’s breath still lingers in the air. My alarm is going off; it sounds like a dying cat, and it’s one of the most annoying noises I have ever heard. I hit it trying to make it stop, and knock it from the nightstand onto the floor. Ugh, the same dream again…I have been having the same dream every night for over a year. What does it mean? Coughing, I feel like I am choking from the smell of smoke.
Every night, the nightmare feels more and more real. I reach for the glass of water next to where the alarm clock was. My fingers are clumsy; I knock the glass off the table, and it falls to the floor. The glass explodes on impact. I lie back down, staring at the ceiling. Inhaling deeply, my mind races. It is the same thing, over and over. I’m not sure how much longer I can go on like this. Each time, I am a little further into the cave, closer to the dragon. The dreams are getting longer. Sighing, I don’t understand what “Draco et Lupus,” means. The dragon repeats that same phrase in every dream. My eyes feel heavy; I’m still tired, even though I slept all night.
“I need to get up,” I say out loud as I drag myself out of bed, hoping that hearing the words will make me move. I still feel nauseous from the smell of sulfur. Fumbling around in the half lit room, I accidentally step on the glass I knocked off the nightstand, and I slip in the water.
“Damn it!” I whisper under my breath, cringing in pain as I walk to the bathroom to get the first aid kit.
I reach up to turn on the light, and for a split second I think I see someone standing behind me. I whip around quickly, but there’s no one there. I rub my eyes again. I must not be fully awake yet.
“I’m imagining things,” I tell myself, still groggy from the dream. The light from the bathroom creates a pattern on the floor of my bloody footsteps leading from the bed. There is a lot of blood; I wonder to myself how deep is this cut? I tend to the wound as best I can, but I may need stitches. Finding my pants, I try to dress as quickly as possible.
Stumbling down the stairs, still in a daze, pants half on, and trying not to put any pressure on my foot, I miss a step and hit the floor hard. I rest on my face, and inhale deeply before sighing deeply. I think I’m losing it. I lie there for a while, trying to not concentrate on the pain and attempting to clear my head before picking myself up from the floor. I can barely breathe; every inch of the loft smells like smoke.
I make my way to the kitchen. My stomach is growling. When was the last time I ate? I can’t remember. Lately, I haven’t had much of an appetite. The fridge is empty; I haven’t been shopping in weeks. I’m losing track of time; the days and nights have begun to blend together.
If I get any rest at all, it is from pure exhaustion, and every time I sleep it’s the dream. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I have been everywhere I can think of, trying to figure out what the dream could mean. I’ve tried doctors, psychics, hypnotists, and even mediums, each time hoping for an explanation, and each time being disappointed. None of them have been able to give me a definite answer, only opinions and the occasional pill. My doctor thinks I’m crazy, and I’m starting to agree.
I’ve been seeing a psychologist. When I started seeing her, my primary doctor told me she was the best in the field of oneirology. I can only hope if she can’t give me answers then she’ll at least be able to help me stop having these dreams.
I need to eat something, but my throat feels like it’s closing. I try to choke down a stale banana nut muffin I found in the cabinet. Still nauseous, I can’t eat. I can’t think in here. Maybe I need some fresh air!
I hurry out the door; the sun blinds me. What time is it? Have I been asleep half the day? I look at my phone; it’s already 10:30 a.m. I’m late for my appointment! I was supposed to be there already. I run down the stairs and onto the sidewalk.
Turning to head for the train station and trying not to bump into people who are walking past, I catch the gaze of a man standing in the middle of crowd. He is motionless, staring in my direction. He looks unkempt, almost wild and animal-like, with bushy hair and disheveled clothes. He is a little way away from me, but I can see every detail of his face. A scar starts at his hairline and trails all way down the left side of his face. His left eye and the left side of his mouth are also scarred. He is across the street in the crowd, but I feel like he is right in front of me. I can feel his breath warm and heavy on my face. His gaze is unyielding. I’m not sure why, but his eyes remind me of my dream.
I’m already late; I don’t take any more time to ponder why he’s staring at me; there are some weird people in this city. I turn the corner and hurry to the train station.
As I board the crowded train, I’m pressed near the door trying my best not to be pushed out of the door as it closes. I notice a man is staring at me from the platform. Wait, is that the same guy? It is! It’s him, standing motionless in the middle of the crowd, staring at me. As others walk by, no one seems to notice him. Did he follow me? I can see his mouth moving; I can’t make out what he’s saying. The door closes, and the train starts to pull away from the station. People walk past, hurrying about their day, and he vanishes into the crowd. Puzzled, I try to look up and down the platform, but he’s nowhere in sight. I tell myself I’m imagining things! Maybe I am making too much out of this. I must be losing it!
I walk into the psychologist’s office. Her assistant is talking on the phone; her voice is shrill and annoying. I tap on the desk to get her attention; she looks up momentarily giving me a halfhearted smile and holding up her bony finger, looking back down before I can say anything. I tell her my name even though I’m sure she is not listening.
She says, “You’re late.” Without looking up again, she continues her phone conversation rustling through papers as she talks. I’m not sure if she’s talking to me, but then she uses the same bony finger to point to an empty chair in the lobby. The skin on her hand looks paper-thin. I can see the blue veins running from her hand into her arm and disappearing under her shirtsleeve.
“Are you going to sit down?” she asks, momentarily looking up from her conversation. I’m surprised she notices me still standing there. I walk over to the chair thinking to myself, Dr. West must spend very little on trying to make her patients comfortable while they wait. The chairs are hard plastic, and the magazines are all a few years old. She could at least spring for a few cushions.
Sitting in this frustratingly hot little room in this uncomfortable chair is making me feel more anxious than I was when I came in. I can hear the second hand on the clock ticking on the wall above my head; it seems like the time between each tick is stretching. The sound of the ticking is like listening to water dripping from a faucet. Tick, tick, tick.
I can still hear Dr. West’s assistant on the phone. Her voice seems louder now than when I was standing in front of her. I close my eyes to try and block out the noise. I can’t keep my eyes closed for long; I am so tired, and I don’t want to fall asleep again. Readjusting myself on this horrible little chair, I look up at the light crackling above me. It sounds like one of those bug zappers. The fluorescent light pours down on my face; between blinks, I can still see the light through my eyelids. With my eyes closed, I can see blue lines popping off the light. The traces of light linger.
I start to feel bugs crawling around my feet, onto my shoes and up my ankles. I can hear them crawling around on the floor. I open my eyes; I can’t start hallucinating. I have to stay focused. To pass the time, I start doodling on a blank page in the back of a pamphlet I found on the table in front of me; I don’t want to forget anything about this morning.
As soon as I start to write I hear, “What are you writing?” It’s the doctor’s voice, but I don’t look up. I can tell she’s standing in front of me.
“I’m writing notes about this morning and about my dream; I didn’t want to forget anything before you were ready for me.”
“I’m ready for you now; my assistant has been calling you for a while. You didn’t answer, and you looked very focused when I came out here.”
I keep writing, almost completely zoned out to what the doctor is saying.
“You don’t want to forget a dream you’ve been having every night for over a year? It doesn’t sound likely that you would forget. May I see?” she asks, picking up the paper. Dr. West looks at it for a moment, then folds the paper in half and puts it in her pocket. Turning to walk toward her office, she doesn’t say anything to me, but motions for me to follow.
Her office is completely different than the waiting room. It reminds me of a day spa; the couch is a soft tan leather. The scent of her office always relaxes me. Even though there aren’t any flowers, it smells of freshly cut lavender and jasmine.
“Where do you want me to start?” I say as I lie back, expecting her to tell me to start from the beginning.
“Why don’t we start with the dream you’ve been having? What parts were you trying to make sure you didn’t forget? Your primary care doctor referred you to me some time ago, and he told me that you are having the same dream every night. While I am glad you decided to start coming to see me, all this time you’ve been coming you haven’t mentioned your dreams at all. You know different dreams can have different meanings, even though they don’t usually mean what we tend to think they mean.”
I try to muster a smile. I’m relieved I don’t have to give her all the details or keep thinking of ways to avoid talking about this dream or to talk about what I have been experiencing.
“What happens in your dream?” she asks. “Start from where you remember.”
I make myself comfortable on the couch and start from the beginning of the cave. I think the other parts of the dream don’t matter much.
“I am in a cave, and it’s dark. It’s always dark. The darkness in the cave is so intense I can barely stand it. ‘Again…’ I hear a voice echoing off the cave walls. It sounds like my voice, but I wasn’t speaking. The sound of the echo penetrates my body. If I try to leave the cave, I always come back to the same spot. I take a step forward since I already know there’s nothing behind me. There is something crumbling under my feet. As I walk, I can hear a crunching that I hope are leaves and twigs breaking under the weight of my feet. But it’s not leaves; it’s bugs. It’s always bugs. Then the silence again, it drapes over me like a blanket. The crunching is gone now, along with the sound of my footsteps. I can’t even hear myself breathe. I know I must be breathing heavy; I can feel my chest heaving up and down. The deafening ring of silence engulfs even my breathing. It’s like a vacuum sucking up all the sound around me. Then a deep, monstrous voice bellows in the dark, cutting through the air ‘Kyle!’ The sound radiates through my entire body. ‘KYLE!’ Each time it’s louder. The cave starts to rumble; the ground shakes and rocks around me tumble from the cave wall. It feels like something big is moving toward me. The earth underneath my feet shakes. ‘KYLE!’ it calls out again. Afraid to move, I’m frozen. My feet suddenly feel like anchors attached to my legs, each one so heavy I can’t lift it. ‘KYLE!’ this time the voice is so loud I have to cover my ears. It’s still moving toward me, each step moving the ground beneath me.”
“The entire cave shakes as this monstrous creature moves closer. ‘KYLE!’ I stand there, too afraid to answer, too afraid to move, even to breath. Then fiery orange eyes are glaring down at me from the darkness. The pupils look like dancing flames. I half expect the flames to shoot out of his eyes and consume me. I can feel his gaze peering into my soul. How does he know my name? ‘KYLE!’ my ears feel like they’re bleeding; they ache from the sound.”
“I still can’t move. I look down and see my feet are sinking into the ground. I try to answer, but my voice has left me. I remember earlier it bounced off the cave walls. It must have been escaping. I wonder why my voice is trying to get away from this place, away from this monster that’s waiting for me. The air is thick around me; my mouth is dry, and my throat feels like it’s closing. I’m struggling to breathe. I try to answer again, nothing. I can feel my mouth moving, but it’s like I am still covered in the blanket of silence. As the sound escapes my mouth, the rings of silence surrounding me swallow it.”
“Trying to force the words out, I choke on the powerful aroma of smoke filling the air. The smell of smoke and sulfur is agonizing, my nose and throat are on fire. I’m suffocating. Suddenly the darkness dissipates as the towering figure standing before me begins to take shape. The creature takes another step, and I can see him.”
“‘A…a…dragon!’ I gasp, almost choking on my words as they finally come out. ‘This can’t be real,’ I say aloud, trying to get the fear to go away. But that thought quickly disappears as the creature’s deep, crimson, armor-like scales reveal themselves. The scales have cracks and scratches all over them. His wings are gigantic; they stretch to the roof of the cave. They have long tears and holes; it looks as if it has been in some gruesome battle or like it’s being tortured. He takes another step closer; the ground beneath me shakes again, and the walls of the cave rumble; the sound is unsettling. In front of me, with every breath, I can see what looks like fiery orange lava flowing beneath the thick, blood red armor of its chest. Lava flowing almost like blood. Bigger than anything I have ever seen, magnificent and fearsome.”
“‘Kyle,’ he says again; this time in a hushed voice, almost a whisper. As he breathes in, I can feel the air around me being sucked away; as he exhales, smoke fills the air.”
“My voice shakes, but I begin to speak: ‘Ye—Yes? Who…who are you?’”
“The dragon lies down in front of me. His enormous body makes a thud sound on the floor. ‘Kiyon’ he says in an exasperated voice. I can hear despair and frustration as he speaks. ‘A great evil is coming; you must release me.’”
“Now I can see the shackle around his neck; it’s thick black iron with symbols etched into the metal. The chains coming from the shackle don’t seem to go anywhere, almost disappearing into his armor. Each time he moves, the symbols glow a strange red color. ‘How?’ I begin to ask him, ‘tell me…’”
“‘You are in danger,’ he says. ‘This world is in danger!’”
“I try to speak again, ‘Please, tell me; how do I—’”
“Frustrated, he picks his massive tail up and drops it on the ground, making a thunderous sound, shaking the rocks and earth around me, knocking me down. The ground around my feet loosens. ‘There’s no time, boy.’”
“I start to pick myself up, pulling my feet out of the ground where they were stuck. Music begins playing in the distance. ‘No time?’ I ask. The music is getting louder. The dragon begins to fade. The music is blaring now.”
“‘Draco et lupus’” he says as he turns to ash and blows away with the wind. Even though I’ve changed the sound on my alarm so it doesn’t play music, in my dream it’s always the same song playing in the background.”
Snapping back to the present, I feel like I have been talking forever; I wonder if Dr. West is actually listening. I glance over at her. She stops writing and looks up.
“Is it the same dream every time, every detail?” she asks. “What’s the name of the song that’s playing?”
I sit up, expecting some insight I haven’t heard before. “No,” I answer, “everything is not exactly the same. Sometimes he says his name is Kiyon, and sometimes he says Draco. The song is the same, but I’ve never heard it outside of my dream.”
“Have you ever tried to control anything in your dream?” she asks me. “Some people are capable of lucid dreaming and can control or change things about their dreams.”
“No!” I answer quickly and emphatically. “I don’t think I can do that.” I hope she’ll tell me how to control my dream, but instead she asks another question.
“What does this mean?” she asks as she hands me a note from her pocket.
I look at it, trying to make out what it could be. I’ve never seen this before; confused, I ask, “How should I know what this means? It isn’t even in English.”
She holds her out her hand, reaching for the note. “You don’t recognize it?” she asks. “It’s the note you were writing out in the lobby. Do you know what it means?” Dr. West takes the note back and puts it in the top drawer of her desk
“I don’t remember writing that,” I reply. “It doesn’t even look like my handwriting.”
The timer goes off before I can say anything else. She notices the confused look on my face and smiles as she stands up.
“We can talk more next time,” she says. “We will figure this out together, yes?”
“Yeah…” I reply.
I leave her office feeling more confused than when I went in. Time seems to be skipping ahead at a pace I can’t keep up with now. I should have been at work two hours ago. I take a cab since it’s faster than the train.
I try my best to sneak into the office without being noticed, and I start work as if I had been there all morning. As I sit down at my desk, my co-worker peeks his head over the cubicle; I lean my head down and start typing, trying to pretend I don’t see him. I am trying my best to ignore him and that stupid smirk on his face, but he keeps staring. I can feel his eyes peering into my forehead, but I don’t look up.
“Kyle, did you come into work late again?” he asks. “You’re going to get fired, if you keep coming in late. I won’t say anything, but…”
As he babbles, a familiar aroma starts to fill the air. I take a drink of the juice that’s been on my desk for God knows how long, trying not to choke on the smell in the air. The juice is spoiled. My gagging doesn’t seem to bother my coworker, or he doesn’t notice. He just keeps talking but his voice is fading. I turn to answer.
Suddenly, I am in a field. My desk and co-worker is gone. There’s a huge black and grey wolf in the field with me only a few feet away from me. The biggest wolf I have ever seen; it has a scar down one side of its face. It starts to walk toward me, its head down, hair standing on its back. With each step, its huge paws leave footprints in the tall grass. I know I am not really in the field; I can’t be! I’m at the office, sitting in my cubicle, but this feels real! I can feel the wind blowing, smell the grass and flowers in the field. The scent of jasmine is overpowering. The wind is blowing hard. The sky is dark and stormy. I hear a low rumbling growl as the wolf approaches. I feel the same fear from the cave washing over me.
“Kyle, are you listening to me?” my coworker’s voice floats through the air.
I can’t believe he’s still talking; his voice is distant and muffled. I can’t make out the rest of what he’s saying. I try to convince myself this isn’t real. The wolf leaps into the air. Just when I think it’s is going to land on me, my coworker grabs my shoulder, and I am back in the office.
Almost relieved to see him, I smile, but instead of my coworker, it’s the man from earlier standing in front of me. He has tattoos and strange symbols on all of his exposed skin. The symbols on his hands and forearms, look familiar, but I can’t place them. His eyes seem familiar for some reason; it feels like he’s staring into me. His face is rigid. When he opens his mouth to speak, his teeth are sharp and jagged, like the wolf’s fangs.
Half growling and half talking, he says, “Release him!”
My voice quivering, I reply, “Don—Don’t touch me!” I yell and pull away, falling over my chair, pulling my laptop and phone onto the floor in a crash.
The man is gone, and my coworker is standing in his place with a startled look on his face. Everyone is looking over their cubicles now, whispering. My coworker is in shock; before he can say anything, I start screaming, “Stop harassing me!”
Overhearing, my boss walks over and asks, “Is everything alright, Kyle?”
I get up from the floor stammering, “I…I can’t work like this, him always talking to me and touching me. It’s not cool, not cool, man, and I’m going home!”
I get up and walk away as fast as I can. That should keep anyone from asking questions for a while at least, any excuse not to have to try and explain what just happened. That felt too real to be a hallucination. I don’t know what’s happening to me!
I exit the building and dash to the train station. I feel like someone is following me. I can’t trust my own senses, so I try to ignore it and hurry as quickly as I can without drawing attention to myself. In a passing car window, I catch a glimpse of his image. It’s him again.
I walk faster. He is keeping pace with me. I feel like he is close enough to reach out to grab me. My pace is more than a slow jog now, and he is still behind me. I can’t take it anymore! I look back ready to confront him; I’ve never been in a fight before, but I have to do something.
I turn around, hands up, ready to defend myself, but there’s no one behind me. There is no one even near me in the street! I shake it off and make my way to the train station. Thankfully, most people are at work; the cars on the train aren’t as crowded as this morning.
The car I get into is empty; right before the doors close, a few older women get in the car with me. Even though there are plenty of open seats, one lady sits so close to me she is practically in my lap. The others sit in front of me. They all have shopping bags with strange logos on them.
The way the bags are positioned almost make the logos look like the tattoos on the man’s arms and hands, but that can’t be. I’m making something out of nothing or imagining things again. I move around to the seat behind them.
They must have been to a restaurant; the scent of food makes my stomach start to growl. I still haven’t eaten. I’m so tired and hungry; I am not sure how much longer I can go on. Leaning my head back against the seat and trying to block out their chatter, I close my eyes. I overhear one of the women talking about trinkets they bought at a shop that sells antiques and oddities.
Then, a raspy voice says, “Draco et lupus.”
This can’t be one of the women’s voices; it doesn’t sound like an old lady talking, but I don’t open my eyes. Instead, I tilt my head further in their direction, straining to hear the conversation, without them noticing I’m listening.
Again, I hear “Draco et lupus.”
With the noise of the train car, I can’t make out anything else, and I may be imagining things. I can’t take it anymore.
“Sorry to interrupt,” I say as I turn around, but I don’t see the women. I’m alone. Was I dreaming again, or did they get off the train at another stop? I wondered what else I have been hallucinating about. How long has this been going on? I start thinking back to the note at the doctor’s office and the thing at my job.
Growing up, I had an overactive imagination, but maybe this is more than that, or maybe now it’s getting the best of me. When I was younger, I would have the wildest fantasies about all kinds of magical creatures. Daydreaming was a regular thing back then. All my dreams seemed so real, and I could control everything that happened in them.
Maybe that’s what the doctor meant by lucid dreaming. I used to depend on my imagination to keep me entertained. But, what’s happening now is different; this dream is different. I am desperate to figure out what Draco et lupus means.
Draco et lupus, I think to myself over and over, still trying to decipher what it could mean or what it is. The words run around in my mind like a skipping record. It’s probably not even real, I tell myself, but at this point not knowing is driving me crazy.
I hurry to the nearest Internet cafe I can find before the memory fades. The cafe is small and quiet; I find a seat in the corner near the back. I shoo the waitress off after she brings me a cup of water, trying not to lose focus before anything else strange happens.
An Internet search brings hundreds of possibilities. None of these searches seem right; maybe I’m spelling it wrong? I’ve been here for nearly an hour, and I’m not any closer to finding out what Draco et lupus means.
Thinking out loud I say, “Drakoo en liuoopus” as I try to sound out the spelling.
“Excuse me?” a voice says from over my shoulder. “Were you speaking to me?”
I turn and see big pearly white teeth smiling behind a pair of oversized glasses and a black and purple bang that covers almost half her face. I smile back. “No, I was talking to myself I guess. I can’t figure out how to spell the name of this place I’m looking for.”
She leans in closer, smiling even bigger. “I’m learning Latin in my studies while I’m here in America. What you just said sounds like Latin, but I think you’re pronouncing it wrong. Maybe I can help! I have been waiting for a chance to practice my Latin outside of school.”
I give her a halfhearted smile since I don’t have time or energy to entertain practice sessions. Her purple hair flops down, covering the rest of her face as she gets up to walk over to my table. Bouncing as she walks, now I see it is more purple than black. Only the bang in the front has black in it.
She sits down at the table as if I invited her, or we know each other, not even noticing the bewildered look on my face. “I think you mean Draco et lupus,” she says. “D-r-a-c-o e-t l-u-p-u-s. It means the dragon and the wolf,” she continues before I can say anything. “Where did you hear it? I don’t think Latin is very common around these parts. In day-to-day language I mean. Usually only priests, doctors, and—”
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