Part 4

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Dreaming While You Sleep

CHARMIAN LAY IN her bed that night, staring at the moonlight forming patterns on the ceiling.  What a weird day.  She'd used to enjoy going to see Miss Anne, but now she wasn't so sure.  The lady was obviously crazy.  And it wasn't a very long step from crazy to dangerous, was it?

The storekeeper had been insistent that she buy a couple of tickets to the Island and set out "at the time of the next big fog."  But that was just as crazy.  It was September already; she had school to attend, homework to do.  She couldn't spend her time traipsing around on some island.

Best to just forget everything the woman had said, get some sleep, prepare for the day ahead.

She sighed and shut her eyes.  In the brief moments right before sleep a variety of colors swirled around beneath her eyelids but she could pay them no attention as she was unconscious already.  It was time for rest now, not to think about all the strange things that had gone before.

Time passed.

Or did it?

This was odd.  She never noticed the passage of time when she was supposed to be SLEEPING!  Wasn't that just a bit...abnormal?

Her eyes came open again and she frowned.

Then she frowned harder at what she saw.

Where is my ceiling?

Her ceiling, before studded with flecks of moonlight, had disappeared.  In its place was something stony and dark.  Something--lamplight?--torchlight?--flickered beyond her field of vision.

She sat up with a gasp, casting a wild glance around the room. wasn't her room anymore.  She was in...a cave?  Crystals, some bigger than her head, lined the walls in areas, though in other areas the stone was bare and smooth.  She'd been right, torches lit the space at the far side of the cave.  She was no longer in her bed, but on a slab of rock.  The thing that shocked her the most, though, was the sudden realization that she wasn't alone.

Something...some creature...stood not too far away, watching her, its eyes glowing in the dimness.

Charmian screamed!

In response the creature's ears folded back and its head pulled away slightly, as if Charmian's shriek startled it.  She had no doubt it did; she'd never screamed so hard in her life!  She felt she had plenty of reason to do so now, though.

This...creature...wasn't human.  It didn't even approach being human, except for that it stood upright.  That was where the similarity ended.  Even in the dimness Charmian could make out its head--wolflike, with large ears and a long slender muzzle--its body, large and covered with fur--the broad wings spanning from its back, the long thick snake tail curling around its ankle.  Its feet looked like a rat's feet, claws and all.  And what was somehow worst was that it had horns growing from its head.

No...she'd been wrong about one thing.  There were two more things that were humanlike about it.  Its hands, for one thing--furry and clawed, but human hands, nonetheless.  And number two was its eyes.

They were green and red, and glowed like coals; but there was something...human about them.  Something intelligent.

On seeing this, Charmian abruptly stopped screaming.

The creature's ears rose back into their normal positions again.  It held up a clawed hand to one, rubbing it slightly, then looked at Charmian again.

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