Chapter 6: Stealing A Dream

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Moonlight filtered through the window, dancing on dust motes. Ashley was already asleep, but Max's nerves kept her awake. If only she'd had a chance to tell somebody her plan. To go over the details and be certain it would work. To be absolutely sure she could save Mama. No matter how she thought of it, it was a risk. So many things could go wrong.

Perhaps the dream-silk would slip through her tendrils, evading her. But she'd thought of that already. She knew how to hold on tight. She'd changed dreams before. More likely it simply wouldn't work, she wasn't strong enough. Maybe Mama would be safe for tonight, but what if it was only temporary? Could she bear to change Papa's dreams every night, to keep her alive in his memory as long as possible?

The worst that could happen? She couldn't bear to let herself even think about it. She'd come close to it before, one of the times she died in the dreams. 

After all, it was only a tendril-- a single tendril of her wisp-- that held her soul to her body. That time she died, she'd let go. She'd cut loose her tether and ran away. In the end, she only found her way back because Ryan had seen her and caught her. If he hadn't, who knows where her soul would be, except lost to the wind, fluttering aimless in the dream-space forever.

But tonight, Ryan was not here, and Ashley would not be able to catch her if she fell. 

So she wouldn't fall. Max didn't feel certain at first, so she wove the certainty into herself. She could do more than see the colors of emotions, she could change them, and it was a simple matter. Push away the sour doubt, build up layers of sky blue certainty like watercolor paint. Careful, now. Change the aura slowly. Can't let the certainty grow into overconfidence. Can't push away any trace of perfectionism, she'd need that. 

Max closed her eyes, letting the new certainty wash over her. She was ready. She repeated her plan to herself again and again, memorizing the words as deeply as she could so that even when she couldn't think, even when she'd forgotten words, she'd remember what she had to do.

And then she let herself sleep.

There's a sensation of falling, if one is aware as they drift to sleep. This is often the deciding point for a dreamrunner like Max. Either she falls directly into deep sleep and dreams nothing at all, sheltered from the dreamer's realm for a night, or she falls past it and into the dreams. 

Max is practiced. She's done this all her life, after all. She controls her fall, pushing herself past her own empty dream-space and into the inbetween realm.

When she emerges, finally, on the other side of the barrier, she is Darkness. The nightmare's colors have already begun to tint her dream orb permanently. Instead of silvery wisps, her tendrils throb with black ink, leaking from where her tendrils ripped away from the nightmare in her rush to escape yesternight. 

Some part of her is aware that it's happening, but it's not a priority. There are more important things to worry about.

Finding Papa's nightmare tonight is easy. All Darkness has to do is settle herself and the dream's gravity calls to her. The pull is insistent and irresistible. It doesn't matter that her waking body is more than a mile from Papa's. Space doesn't make much difference here. Time doesn't either. There is no Before, no After in the dream realm. Everything happens Now.

At first, in her eagerness, Darkness gets too close to the dream. She almost falls directly into it. She gets flashes-- The thump as Tommy's body crumpled to the ground was amplified against the relative silence. Her father cried and shouted, soundless, over the fallen man. A woman appeared. Mama.-- Darkness must act now, before the dream completes its course for a second night.

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