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I'm not a big one for rules. I think there should be very simple, defined reactions to every action and screw the paperwork. People make things way more complicated and—racist as this will sound—white people are especially good at fucking up the simplest of things. Let's do an example: pedophiles. The ideal punishment: chop their balls off, feed them their own penis, and let them be beaten to death. White people logic: perform a sub-par investigation, take him to trial years after the incident, possibly let him go or convict. If convicted, they spend around five years in prison—if that—and are soon paroled through treatment programs and therapy bullshit. Waste of fucking time and effort!

That, of course, doesn't mean my people didn't make up stupid rules of their own. We did. Like women not being allowed to touch weapons or men's belongings while on the rag. Bunch of horse shit, that. But hell, in some tribes, a woman got to spend the whole week away from her whiny husband and bratty kids. Not that bad of a setup, ladies.

Circling back to the point, I was one of those assholes that did the picking and choosing of which rules I would or would not follow. Like that one time some dumbass stole one of my dreamcrafts. Idiot didn't know I could still get into the dream. Saw his face, marked it, used it in a dream for one of my buddies. Kid had a busted face a week later. That's justice.

Point is, my rules are the only ones I follow and the rest are cannon fodder. And it took much longer than it should have for him to realize it. Once he did, it was too lake to go back.

I was mobile. He was stationary. One more difference between us, apparently. Which I was grateful for, considering I told D and Sarah in no uncertain terms that I was taking the van the next morning and would be back before nightfall. They'd looked flabbergasted, but what could they say? That they weren't going to watch my booth or continue to make money while I tracked a lead to the guy inside my head? Yeah, right.

It was the first time in months that I was eager for sunrise. Of course, I should have known that not everything would go according to plan.

I hadn't meant to slip into the second dreamcraft. But I'd also been determined to avoid the first one. I'd seen far too much of it in the past couple of months, and the second one I'd kept out of. It felt the most personal. Seeing the crowds in the street when the buildings collapsed on top of them. Watching men and women rush past me through the corridors of the burning palace. Gazing down at the planet from afar as entire cities were snuffed out like a candle flame. All of it felt strangely ... prophetic.

As the dream reached its expected end, I could feel the hand on my waist tighten and I carefully stepped out of the embrace, knowing that he had joined me once again. For several long minutes, we did nothing but stare at one another. Or, as much of him as I could see. The shadows were in fine form again.

"Did you think it would be so easy? That I would not notice another dream walker meddling with my work?"

So, he'd felt me touch the tattoo. While it had basically hissed at me, it'd also sent out a homing beacon to Daddy. I wondered if my dreamcrafts would react in a similar way if he touched one.

"I'm sure it would. We are not supposed to mix our talents, and it leaves a nasty taste in your mouth when another puts hands on your work." His tone was a mixture of censure and distaste. As if he could still taste it. Lovely.

"Is that why you never stuck around to take these two off my hands?"

Almost, I caught a sardonic grin. I think. His voice was certainly dry when he said, "I didn't know then what I know now."

So he never intended on taking the dreamcrafts. He just meant for me to make them. Why?

"And what do you think you know now? I'm not just talking about our work aversions," I added, in case he wanted to play dumb.

"I know you're growing stronger."

"How could you know that? This is the first time we've shared a dream in months."

Was that another smirk? "I can still smell the smoke and taste the ash."

"You weren't there when the palace burned," I murmured.

"The dreamcrafts were made for me. I see them as you do."

"Why did you come to me? Why have me make them in the first place?"

He shrugged. "I found your website. Found the one person in the world that could do what I did. Tell me, what did you intend to do now that you have the name of the tattoo parlor I once worked at?"

Well, there went that fucking hope. "I was going to go there tomorrow. Track you down or at least find a name for you."

"Exactly. Your first and primary goal is to find me. As was mine when I learned of you."

"That doesn't explain why I have two dreamcrafts hiding out in my tent."

"I wanted to see how you did it. The only way to do so was by having you do it to me."

"Why the second one, then?" I demanded.

There was definitely a smile in his voice as he said, "You found a way to push away the first. How else was I to keep an eye on you?"

My eyes widened. "You were watching me through the dream, even before..."

He nodded. Slow and deliberate, so I could see it. Well, that explained how he kept finding me. Before a dream even began, it sort of uploaded data into it, that way it could sift through it and figure out what to use and what needed to be worked through. As I entered his dream, my mind would have already taken preliminary measures, and I would have been thinking about where I was currently located.

"Do you still watch them?"

"You don't come here often enough anymore," he said with perfect casualness. Still... Was that...? He couldn't be miffed could he? Ha! Did he think he had a bigger impact and I would be unable to move on from the two dreamcrafts in such a short time?

Was that why he was so chatty tonight?

"But you still haven't come to give me a third," I remarked. Not that I wanted one, but it seemed like the kind of thing he would do.

Again, he shrugged. "I told you to grow stronger before you sought me out again. What need was there to visit you prematurely?"

"You considered those visits?" I grumbled.

For a second, the shadows shifted enough that I could see his eyebrows raise. "You have no idea what is happening here, do you?"

"Well, I consider this a conversation, but if you want to call it something else, I'm all ears."

He shook his head. "Either you are really ignorant of everything, or you're a great actress. Which is it?"

"Let's cut the shit, shall we? We both know I have no clue what you're talking about. As far as I knew four months ago, I was a solo act. No one else could do what I do, and I was pretty damn okay with that. Until you. So what is it that you know that I don't? And how the hell do you even know it?"

His entire body stilled for about three seconds. Then he said, "There is never a solo act. When one has dreams, they must also have nightmares. What they are never meant to have is both at the same time."

And just like that, he dropped his cryptic little bomb and vanished.


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