4. Pulled into Your Flame
Standing in front of the mirror was an alien I didn’t recognize. There stood a girl blotting foundation over shadows under her eyes. A girl tying and untying her hair as if she couldn’t decide if up or spread over her shoulders looked better. In front of the mirror stood a girl who wasn’t me and I hated her. I wanted to reach into the mirror and strangle the vapid girl who was a step away from a giggling mess. Though I tried to deny it, that vapid girl was me. She started taking residence in front of the mirror far too frequently for my liking. I grumbled as I made my pony tail and spun from the mirror, determined not to change it again.
I picked up the robotic baby crying on my bed and rocked it in my arms. At first I was excited but after a month of caring for a fake baby, I wanted to join a convent. Josh had dubbed our baby Rip, an acronym for Really Important Project, and we’d agreed to take turns caring for the child. We’d switch baby duties once a month. Our project depended on how well we, as well as whoever we “hired” to be our babysitters, cared for the baby. It had an eternal clock which shut off during school hours and at a specific time at night. Otherwise it acted like a real baby. Dirty diapers, crying, feeding, the whole experience and it wouldn’t let me forget.
Josh came to my house to pick up the baby the first month. Whenever I’d ask about going to his place he went back to changing the subject. After asking daily, I gave up on the topic until he called me to schedule the second baby exchange at his house for a Saturday brunch. That prompted the most recent girlish freak out in front of my mirror. Not since I was five, meeting Charlie’s parents for the first time, did I suffer extreme anxiety at meeting a parent. Add my exhaustion from the rising lack of sleep with my tension and I was a hot mess.
Every night the man invaded my dreams, laughing at me and taunting me. Sometimes he wouldn’t stay long before a flash of light annihilated the dreamscape. He’d scream and be pulled out by an unknown force seconds before I’d wake in a sweat. Other dreams he was the focal point. I’d find myself in a painted fantasy world. Unicorns, fairies, and creatures I didn’t recognize wandered the world freely. They were fighting each other. Blood and ash rained on the paint, staining it with death. Few of the creatures sided with him, attacking unsuspecting villages and killing people without a care. Those dreams scared me the most.
The nightmares seemed so real. Flames burned my skin, my lungs choked on hot air and ash. The sky itself filled with lava, burning redder than flame. Earth trembled at my feet, tossing me around like a bean bag. My mystery man stood amidst the chaos. His fingers curled against the top of a wolf’s head as it sat obediently at his feet, his free hand rose to point at me. Cackles which hissed with the cracking flames flowed from his lips as easy as words themselves.
Packs of wolves guarded him as if he was their prince. Any creature attacking him met with a swift and violent death. Their screams pierced my ears, making me curl in fetal position and hide from their pain. Blood drenched maws turned and snarled at me after each kill. Razor sharp teeth glinted in the firelight of the burning villages. The man stopped urging me to go with him, especially in the brutal dreams. Instead he changed even the nicest of dreams into those of pure terror. A dream of me spending an enjoyable day at the beach with Josh turned to decay and horror. Water became lava which melted rocks with a single touch.
He never admitted to his goals when I asked, but I guessed he was trying to beat me down with fright. Hoping I’d succumb to his desire because I wanted the destruction to end. I refused. After several nights I gained better control over the dreams and forced him out just as soon as he showed his face. Visions of me throwing a lance made of ice which pierced his heart or conjuring up a storm that sent him floating away like lumber empowered me. It was my dream and I continued to know without a doubt I could control it. If I kept it up, soon he’d never invade them again. My ability to wipe him from the dream angered him just as much as it fascinated him.