• Lucid Dreaming - Dream Views

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    1. #1
      Join Date
      Jan 2004

      The Nightmare. (LONG)

      So, time of everynight lucidity are over, the story is finished. I thought I'd share...
      (the picture below was my inspiration...)

      The Nightmare

      Fog. Cold. It's here. I get a glimpse of a darker shape and start running in the opposite direction, but I already hear the breath, the steps like deadly whispers, heat of fire, pain or ripping my body apart.

      I wake up, sweating, whole trembling make myself a coffee, don't go back to bed.

      Four years later.

      - Hey, Mulder, I got something for you - Cortez shouted from over the computer. I didn't mind the nickname, everyone called me like that anyway. I loved mysteries, secrets from the outworld, I was a great fan of the "X-files". Job of a detective in metropolitan police didn't offer much of this kind of opportunities. I walked up to the computer.

      - What's that?

      - The new system allows us to find situations that are suspect. I told it to look for clusters of similar interesting events and it got something you could be interested in. May be just an accident, but if not, there's a case just for you.

      - These people... Deceased four years ago. Ah, I see. All deaths the same night.

      - Same night, at most 2 hours apart. Stroke. Three students and their professor.

      - Other deaths the same night?

      A moment of tapping on the keys.

      - One suicide. And... See what we have here. Another stroke. A woman, doesn't seem to be related to the group in any way.

      - Let's see what we can make out of this. Print them out for me and I'll have a look.

      - The suicide too?

      I nodded.

      I first called the families of the deceased. That didn't help much. I only heard some sour words from one of the mothers of the students, she apparently knew about deaths of the others and wanted the police to investigate, but they refused. Coroner's report stated clearly: Natural death. At least I learned the three were close friends.

      I went to the university and got names of other students attending the same class as the three. I found those who stayed in the city and visited one that looked most promising. A journalist.

      - Hi. Clara Peske? Detective Max Towsky. I'd like to ask you about some events on the university, four years ago.

      Clara looked like she was over 30, though her record said she was 27. Red hair, glasses, narrow mouth.

      - Now, now, what a reflex! They needed four years to decide it was not a natural death after all?

      - Maybe they just finally employed the right person for the job.

      - Listen to me, detective. I knew very little and now I know even less. Maybe I don't want to. Maybe I just want to live. Those who knew, are dead.

      - Knew... what?

      - Some experiment. We were on fourth year of psychology. Less of actual studies, more of academic work. Professor Otto Herman was a psychotherapist, specializing in dreams. Three of our students were helping him in experiments. They found that guy, with some kind of... nightmares, and professor was injured during the first experiment. He was taken to hospital. The next day the three organized some kind of action, to show support to professor. Donating blood. We all loved him, he was the best teacher we had, so the response was overwhelming. The next night they were all dead. That's about all.

      - That experiments...

      - I put enough effort in forgetting what they were about to never try to recall them.

      - Did you... receive any threats?

      - Will plain "yes" satisfy you?

      - But...

      - No "but". If you want me dead, push harder. Good-bye, detective.

      I just nodded and left. I went to the hospital. It looked like a government's plot to hide some tricks they played on that guy's mind. I checked professor's record. "Internal injury" was listed as the reason. Two blood transfusions, surgery. I asked about the surgeon who operated him. He still worked there, finding him wasn't difficult.

      Still with some blood on his gloves, he greeted me, and when I showed him the record, he just nodded.

      - I think everyone has one such case in their job, that boggles their mind forever but is never explained. This is mine. No external injuries of any kind and bitemarks on his liver.

      - Bitemarks?

      - Like from a big dog. At least that's how it looked. Four holes, symmetrically placed. I've seen many bitemarks in my life and that's how it would look like... except there's no way a dog could bite the liver without breaking skin. It wasn't a hard surgery, but... Anyway, he had stroke two or three days later.

      - Three of his students died from stroke the same night.

      - No, no, no. If it was a murder, our security would catch it. No way to sneak in at night.

      - Thanks. Can you add anything?

      - If you find out what bit him, let me know. That case still boggles my mind. Besides that - nothing. I didn't know him or any of his friends. Ah! One thing. The day before his death, and the day after, a bunch of students and several academic workers came to donate blood. We were sending it to other hospitals, we had more than ever before.

      - What happened to it?

      - Just what happens to all donated blood. Transfusions, blood-based medicines. I assure you we don't have vampires that would drink it.

      I bid him good-bye and went to check on the woman's workplace. I thought if I find what connects her with it, I may find the key. A big financial company, her department, a bit of asking around and I knew where to find her boss.

      - Yes, that was a strange day. And a blow to our division. One essential employee dead, another goes to asylum.

      - Asylum? Who?

      - Michael Yearlings. He was a really good colleague, and he didn't look like that. He had some problems with his... dreams, I heard, but last day I met him, he said he had it all sorted out. And the next day Sandra is dead and he leaves me a voice mail message that he has to quit and go to asylum because things got out of control. Can you explain me that?

      - Sorry. Except I can confirm things must have definitely gotten out of control. Four more people died that night, just the same way as Sandra. Do you know where he is? It seems he plays the key role in this.

      - Luisa! - the boss pressed the button on intercom - Find me where Yearlings is now.

      - Yes, boss.

      - What could you tell me about that Yearlings guy?

      - He was a great employee. Except during health crackdowns, but he always managed to make up for it.

      - That health crackdowns...

      - He had a major one about four months before that events. He looked like a walking shadow. Then he changed a doctor and got better in matter of... well, he just came to work the next day and did his past week's worth of work. Then progressed in perfect condition for the next four months. Then two days of serious depression, I gave him a week off, he came to work in Friday, and said he had his things sorted out. It all happened the next day. I... That won't help much because I don't remember anything from that, but when I talked with him, he was making some strange innuendos that were driving Sandra crazy. He said... he was to meet some girl... Yes, a student girl.

      - Driving her crazy? In what way?

      - Ah. How could you know. These two were lovers. Nothing serious, just occasional evening now and then over previous two years. Maybe she got jealous or what. Two singles not interested in any long-term relationship. If I was religious I'd say God punished them for living in sin.

      The secretary walked in and put a post-it note on the desk. - That's all we have on him besides his old record. - she said. - Officially he's even still employed, just on... long vacation. Shouldn't we do something about it?

      - Why? Does that cost us anything? If he gets well I want him back.

      - Ooookay, boss. But he supposedly called...

      - He never signed his resignation. And considering his past record I didn't lay him off. Any problem with that?

      - Well, no. So, I leave his files as they are, right?

      - Right. If we owe him any raise for time of employment, give it to him. It will eventually come into effect after he's back anyway.

      - Yes boss.

      She left and he handed me the post-it note. Asylum of St. Escobar. Michael Yearlings.

      I thanked and said good-bye.

      So... asylum. Far suburbs, big, pretty, white manor with red roof. Wind, cold autumn day, clouds running through the sky, plains of dry, yellow grass. Some conifers around the building. Despite the smart looks, it felt creepy.

      I parked my car next to two others and a bit unsure, entered the building. Inside it looked more like a small exclusive hotel than a hospital - modern reception desk, many plants, nice paintings on the walls. It was my first visit to such a place, so I was really surprised.

      - How may I help you? - the nurse behind the reception desk asked. I showed the police badge and asked if I could talk to one of the patients. I gave her the Yearling's name and she called a doctor.

      - So, finally someone got interested in him? - the young doctor greeted me with a smile. - I guess he's been waiting for someone like you. We still have... - he looked at his watch - about half a hour till he wakes up... of course if you're not in hurry, but he really hates to be woken up without a good reason.

      - What could you tell me about him?

      - Not much. He showed up one day, made a bank order to pay monthly fees, said that he needs some calm place to sleep where he wouldn't have to worry about anything. He would seem perfectly well psychically, except he sleeps 23 hours a day. He wakes up in the morning for breakfast, washing and shaving, then sleeps till afternoon when he eats dinner and does some activity like watching the news or reading a bit. Then he sleeps till three AM when he drinks a glass of water and goes to the toilet. That's all. Sometimes, rarely, he asks for drugs to help him fall asleep. It seems he's very anxious to do that. He's very annoyed whenever someone wakes him up without a valid reason, he just won't stay awake for more than half a hour a time... He seems very worried. He had an obsession for the first half a year. He wanted the local horse slaughter closed. He was calling his lawyer to pull some strings to get this done. But it seems he gave up on that.

      - So he's both psychically and physically fine except he sleeps a lot?

      - Did I say... Oh, I haven't. One of most curious things about his physical health. He has some red marks on his arm, like burns, all the time. Sometimes, especially after he's awake longer than usually, parts or all of his body covers in network of red lines. The thin lines vanish, the spots on his arm don't. They are similar to burns, they seem harmless, though he says they hurt a little. He didn't agree for examining them or applying any medication though.

      - Do these marks on his hand look like bitemarks?

      - No, why? Ah... now when you mentioned it... Actually, you could consider them such. Two reddish spots on his forearm, not far apart. I never thought of them as bitemarks though. More like cigarette burns.

      - Do you have any of his older medical files? I mean, from before he came here?

      - Not really. He brought a box with some documents, tapes and such, and he said these are recordings from his meeting with psychoanalysts, but he left it in deposit and didn't agree for us to look at them.

      - Did you try to heal his problems with sleep?

      - Not really. He didn't agree. He said somebody needs to sort out some problems with the real world, and then his problems with sleep will be gone. By the way, it's almost time.

      He led me upstairs, then to a small single room in a far wing. A bed, two chairs, a table, some ivy plant in a pot on the window, a glass, a bottle of mineral water a small framed picture on the table. There was some kind of monster in the picture.

      - He says it's his girlfriend - said the doctor. - I wish I was sure he was joking. - Okay, I'll leave you. A nurse with dinner will show up in a moment, the smell of food wakes him up.

      I smiled to myself at the mystery of incredible biological clock revealed. The man on the bed was nearing fifty. Neat hair, clean. I sat on the chair. I looked at the picture. Now that was one creepy best. "You have backed me into a corner. Try pushing a little harder." read the sign below. A nurse pushed a cart loaded with plates with food.

      - Oh, hello. Mister Yearling rarely has any visitors. Okay, this should wake him up. Hot cabbage salad, some potatoes, a big pile of carrot salad. We don't have many vegetarians here.

      - He's a vegetarian?

      - Yes, I am. Hello.

      - Good afternoon, mister Yearling. Detective Max Towsky. - I reached to shake his hand.

      - Just Mike. - he shook it.

      - Call me Mulder then. Everyone calls me that way.

      - Ah, I see. Mysterious cases, secrets, FBI.

      - Actually, just metropolitan police. But there was a series of unexplained deaths and you seem to be the only person who could shed some light on them.

      - What series? I don't recall anything like that anytime recently. - he said calmly, while starting to eat his dinner. The nurse left.

      - Well, not recently. Almost four years ago.

      - Ah, that series. Oh well, in this case I won't be able to shed much light on them... unless you do me a favor.

      - And what would it be?

      - Get the horse slaughter that operates near this city closed.

      - You still haven't abandon hope?

      - Oh, I never did. Actually, I would be able to solve the problem myself in some... ten years. But you see, this room is not the kind of place where I'd like to spend next ten years and you could speed up things a lot.

      - What does that slaughter have in common with that deaths?

      - Not much. But it's very important from other point of view.

      - What point of view?

      - First close it.

      - That's... not quite an easy task.

      - Do you have a notebook?

      - Yes, why? - I took my notebook.

      - Write. - he began thinking. - 17th January, this year. At night. 13th October, last year, shortly before midnight. 14th November, the year before. And... 16th May, the same year. About 8PM.

      - What are these dates?

      - Deaths. Check in your files for missing people. These died on terrains of the meat factory or the slaughter itself.

      - Who were they?

      - No idea.

      - How do you know?

      - The deal.

      - Excuse me?

      - We got the deal. You get it closed, I tell you everything.

      - There is a... journalist. She seemed very afraid and she meant something along the lines that if I learn the truth, I will die.

      - I can't exclude this possibility, although that's not very likely.

      - But I'm not bound to die?

      - Next time you visit me I will tell you if you're bound to die or not.

      - Thank you. - I shook his hand and left.

      Not for long.

      I was back in the morning. I met him awake. He was shaving.

      - This material you gave me... A real bomb! - I said.

      - Really? - he asked calmly.

      - Yes! The whole factory is property of Marco Magrioli, a local mafia boss. Two of the people missing were his enemies. Two others were to be witnesses in cases against him.

      - Oh. - he said without emotions, while wiping his chin with a towel.

      - I hoped you could give me more informations. Like, where you got that info from, and...

      - Sorry, I can't. - he said, lay down on the bed and covered himself with a blanket. - Now would you please excuse me, but I have my inner beast to feed. - and he closed his eyes.

      Now this was a hard task. I was shivering at thought how Magrioli was disposing of corpses. Considering most of city's meat supplies came from that factory, I didn't wonder why Mike was vegetarian. I personally pondered giving up meat.

      I began pulling strings. First, all kinds of inspectors plus internal control inspectors of their organizations, so any corruption wouldn't pass unnoticed. Then getting some of our people to check the place. Unfortunately all ended up with ridiculously low fine for mistreated animals. I visited Mike.

      - I tried my best, but he's a pro. We can't do much. Maybe if we caught him red-handed...

      - Can be arranged.

      - You'd give us an info when he wants to kill someone?

      - No. Only when he killed someone already.

      - That will be too late. A day after murder there will be no evidence.

      - And half a hour after murder?

      - You can inform us he killed someone half a hour after he does...

      - Actually, maybe two minutes after he does.

      - ...but not before... - I was sitting with my jaw dropped. Now I had an X-files guy. - You can tell when somebody dies there? - the idea loomed on me. - You can tell when anything dies there. Now that must be one terrible feeling.

      - You're almost right.

      - Almost?

      - The deal.

      - Ah. Okay, so, how do we do it?

      - I don't know how you manage it in the Police, but I can give you a call a minute or two after our victim goes flatline. With some luck, maybe even a minute before.

      - So if we are really fast, we could save him?

      - No. If I do, it means you won't save him, no matter how hard you try. By the way, you're not death-bound. Of course that doesn't mean you can't die. It just mean you have a good deal of chance of surviving next several years.

      - Now I'm glad to hear that. Okay, here's my phone number - I gave him my visit card - Call me. I'll mount a team.

      - That may last a year or more...

      - I don't think so. There is a new case against Magrioli in court. And new witnesses. Honestly, I'm sorry about the one who has to die.

      - We can't do much about it anyway.

      - We'll do as much as we can.

      We did. And we won. Magrioli in prison, for much heavier charges than originally, including first degree murder. I didn't have to pull any extra strings, once his method of disposing of corpses got to the press, the whole factory went out of business. A coffin full of sausages spoke harder that any vegetarian propaganda. I got a call from Mike. He invited me to visit him in his flat, he also asked me to keep him anonymous.

      I excused myself from banquet after the great victory. I was happy about the promotion I got, but I couldn't wait to hear the promised truth. I went to Mark's home, a small flat on second floor of an old building. The flat was very usual. Typical living place of a single man. The only thing that felt unusual, was a big picture of the monster, just the same as in the hospital, only much bigger, hung on the wall. Coffee, biscuits... Mike prepared me for a long story.

      - This... monster...

      - Beast.

      - Okay, beast. What is its meaning?

      - This is her story...

      Four years earlier

      - Doctor, I need help. It's my second week. I'm walking dead. I sleep at most three hours a night, and then that recurring dream...

      - Every night?

      - Over last two months it was happening occasionally. For last two weeks, every night the same thing.

      - And you took your medication?

      - It only made it worse. I couldn't wake up and felt my body ripped, piece by piece, devoured by that monster. The pain... - I rubbed sweat off my forehead - unbearable. I need help! Doctor, I can't stand that much longer!

      - It's a very difficult problem, mister Yearlings, and I don't know if I could find a solution. Classic medicine did about all that could be done. We could try hypnosis, that's not really scientific...

      - I don't believe that if you tell me to dream about something else, I would. It's just too strong...

      - You know this is a rare case and not really covered by science. It's certainly dangerous, but as far as I can tell, not much else can be done. Either this, or we surrender.

      - Okay please, do this then.

      - I'll consult my colleague, who knows much more about hypnosis than I do, please see me tomorrow, I should have some arrangement by then.

      - NO! Doctor! YOU MUST HELP ME!

      - Okay, okay, let's see what I can do.

      Doctor picked up his notebook, looked for something for a while, picked up the phone and dialed some number.

      - Martin? Robert's here. I've got a... rather desperate patient who is in some serious distress. Recurring nightmares, heavy sleep deprivation, yes, yes, only made it worse, prolonged feeling of genuine pain. Yes, he is in very bad condition. I can tell just by looking at him. What? Ok. Mister, where do you see this beast attacked you? Which body part I mean?

      - It shredded my body to pieces, devoured it bit by bit. It attacked my neck first, from behind. And slashed my back.

      - Could you remove your shirt and show me your back?

      - But that was a dream, doctor?

      - Yes, but please just do it.

      I removed my suit and shirt. Doctor came up and looked at it for a moment, while still holding the receiver by his ear.

      - Yes, Martin, I see them. Four red spots on his neck, two on each side, very clearly visible. And rather vague triple slash across his back.

      Doctor touched my neck. It hurt. I didn't realize that before.

      - Ouch, that hurts, doctor!

      - Yes, they are painful. Look like some burns. So... How soon could you do it?... But could you do it today yet? Yes, he's very bad. Deep shades under his eyes, two-three hours of bad sleep a night, for two weeks. Okay, moment.

      - Does a visit at his home, at 9PM suit you? Martin will try to hypnotize you and watch your dream.

      I agreed.

      Later that day I drove to the house in the suburbs.

      - My god, you look like a ruin. - A man in his late forties greeted me, opening the door. - We are to work together, so just call me Martin.

      - Mike. Good evening, Martin. I hope this will work.

      - Yes. I have some plan. Let's sit down, have a tea and I'll present you my idea.

      We walked to the library. It was a big room, dimly lit by a single, artistically carved green lamp, walls covered with bookcases, a big desk, two deep armchairs and a couch around a table.

      - Please, have a tea. Sugar? - asked my doctor.

      - No, thank you - I took the cup and sipped slowly.

      - So, my idea. We can't delete it, we can't block it. You must face it. - said Mike.

      - But how? All I can do is running.

      - Have you heard about lucid dreaming?

      - The name rings a bell, but I don't remember...

      - A dream, where you are fully conscious it's a dream. You can use this knowledge to your advantage. You're mostly omnipotent. You can wish to be invulnerable, infinitely strong, you can make things happen with your own will.

      - And I can kill the beast? But what about the next night?

      - If you succeed tonight, it's almost certain that as soon as you see the beast again, you can beat it just the same.

      - Seems like a plan, I'm deadly scared, but...

      - Hypnosis. We will support ourselves with hypnosis to induce the lucid dream. I'm not going to use anything really sophisticated that would easily fail, I'll use an old, trusted technique, reality check, only with little support from hypnosis to help it.

      Martin put me into the trance, but told me to remember everything and so I did. It was simple, he turned the light on and off several times, quickly. That was easily recognizable through closed eyelids. I was told that this means I'm most probably in a dream, and if something chases me, I should turn, face it and beat it to the pulp, because it can't hurt me and I'm way stronger than it is.

      - So, now just go to sleep, on the couch here. I will watch your sleep and if we see you're getting nervous, I will give you the flash signals. Just for a test, close your eyes...

      I closed my eyes. I saw the light flashing and the thought of unreality of the dream struck me hard and reassuringly. And then some really awful doubt came...

      - Doctor... That marks. They are real!

      - Your mind makes them real. You certainly heard about stigmata. Saints who thought about Jesus so hard, that wounds were appearing on their hands. This is just the same. The strength of the dream, belief in its reality. Your brain hurts your body. You need to understand it is NOT REAL! It's only hormonal reaction of your organism. Your belief in existence of the wounds is so strong that organism immunity system activates all defenses in the area, and the system unable to find the infection chews through your own body. All you have to do is to disbelieve the pain.

      - Now, try to have some sleep - said Martin.

      I lay down on the couch. It took me quite a while to fall asleep.

      And so I was there, in the fog. I didn't even need the light signal, I was lucid. I knew it's a dream, I knew the monster lurks somewhere in the fog, that "out there" there are two doctors watching over my sleeping body, that I'm the god of this place and that I will fight. Just for a test I wished to levitate a bit and that was quite easy. Come, beast. Face me. I won't run tonight.

      Yes, I was afraid. This is a scary place. Cold fog. I wished for the fog to be gone, but it didn't obey. And then I felt the chill, the feeling of fear so overwhelming and reaching deep to the bone, cold that in a strong wave rolls through all your muscles, makes your hair stand on your head. It came, faced me and looked in my eyes. The beast with big, curved fangs, cold look, long muzzle, legs bending in grotesque way, ribs showing through skinny flanks, short mane standing along its neck, short, pointy, shagged ears. It was walking up to me, quietly. I gasped in terror, unable to run.

      Flashes! The flashes! I have to fight! I can fight and I must fight!

      I rushed at the beast. I hit it on its head with my rock-hard fist. It backed up. I was walking up to it and it was going back. I wished for walls, they enclosed us, and I kept going. The beast, snarling stopped and looked at me with hate. I felt a thought in my head: "You have backed me into a corner. Try pushing a little harder." And so, as I did, the beast attacked, but I was prepared. I hit it again, and again, until its face was a bloody mess. I straddled it, grabbed the shagged head and pulled it, ripping it off the long neck. Blood gushed from it and from the broken neck, spreading on the white floor of the fog world.

      I stood aside and wished for fire. It covered the corpse and left smoldering ashes, dirty spot on the floor. Wind blew them away.

      With one thought I dismissed the whole place. Relax. An oceanside plaza, good restaurant, food, pretty women, soon I forgot it's a dream, but I had fun, I slept well, I was rested.

      When I woke up, I paid both doctors their hourly rates for whole night, but I didn't regret it. That was well worth it.

      The day was terrific. At work I got all the past week's overdue work done, caught up with the schedule and even went a bit ahead of it, ate a healthy lunch at an expensive restaurant, flirted with Sandra, - secretary of our division, talked to the boss about my past problems and assured him that they are gone, back at home fixed leaking tap, washed windows, read some book, watched the TV for a while, but when they showed a document on slaughter horses, that was so disgusting I just turned TV off.

      I felt some thrill about going to sleep. This time there will be nobody to blink the light. And what if I get overwhelmed by fear again? But I wasn't very afraid. I was pretty confident I can handle that.

      And I did. Really quickly. I didn't even see the beast. I located it in the fog with my will, crushed it, squeezed like a lemon, feeling its bones snapping in my remote grip. I discarded the dead body, called for a dream with easy, willing, pretty women. It felt sooo good.

      And it lasted. I was having a good time. After two weeks I got a promotion and raise at work. I spent a few nights with Sandra. I paid back the loan on my car and started looking after purchasing another one. And in dreams, the fog world and the beast were recurring every night, but they were the most welcome moment, when I can pick what nice dream comes next. Sometimes I was squashing the beast at once. Sometimes I let it live, dismissing the whole world, sometimes I chased it, it tried to run from me, but you can't run from the omnipotent. Sometimes, especially after a worse day, I tormented it, with fire, with spikes, skinning it, making it suffer. It was the kind of perverse pleasure you have while killing a gnat.

      Once, while eating lunch in restaurant, I met Dr. Martin. I invited him to take a place at my table. Of course he asked me about my dreams.

      - I have them every night, but they aren't a problem. The beast is the victim now.

      - Very interesting. They should be long gone now!

      - God forbid! They are my pass to lucidity! Thanks to that I have lucid dreams every night, and it feels really good.

      - Really interesting. By all means they should be gone, but if they keep recurring and you are okay with them, I guess that's just perfectly fine.

      - More than fine. I'm very happy, doctor.

      - Martin.

      - Okay, Martin. I can dream about everything I desire! I can smash my enemies, I can be a celebrity, and every day, when I walk down a street and see a pretty woman, I know I can have her the same night night!

      - Fascinating. Don't let them dim your real life though!

      - Come on, doctor, err, Martin. I'm not stupid, I can tell the real thing from a dream. I have a career and I chase the opportunities, not overdoing it, at healthy pace, but climbing the ladder. There is a woman I meet quite often, I'm not into a long-term relationship, neither is she, but I keep my sexual life healthy. I don't eat junk food and try to stay fit, swimming pool twice a week... I don't drink, don't smoke. As a doctor you could show me as an example of perfect psychical and physical health. And dreams are a perfect way of unloading my daily stress, getting rid of my aggression. The beast is a perfect object for that!

      - Impressive. If all people were like you, we, psychotherapists would be starving. I'm still very curious about the origin of that dreams.

      - Maybe remains of your hypnosis?

      - No way. It held only the message about the light signal. Without the light you're all on your own. It was a really simple, shallow, flat trance with very simple, easy order.

      - So what is your opinion?

      - I honestly don't know. It certainly sits somewhere in your deep subconsciousness, but what does the beast represent? Your hidden fears? Your dark side? Anyway, it's hidden deep and let's better not dig in there, or we could dig up something we don't like. The beast might, I emphasize, -might- be a sign of some disease developing in your body, so just to be sure I'd recommend a thorough medical examination, but that's just my thought, it has no real scientific confirmation.

      - Well, I shouldn't be driving doctors out of business like I do now anyway, should I?

      Martin chuckled, nodded and we just got to eating, without talking much more. By the time we were finished, I made a suggestion.

      - If you are really interested in origins of that dreams, well, if you wanted to perform some experiments, I wouldn't really mind submitting my psyche for the good of the science.

      - That's fantastic!

      - Just maybe next month or something like this, I'm rather busy at work now, besides I'll follow your advice on that medical examination. You will have my complete medical profile by then too.

      - Here's my business card. Just call me when you think you're ready. Ah, and don't hurt that beast of yours too much, who knows, maybe it could come in handy someday! - he joked while leaving.

      I did as I planned. As the highest work rush was past, I even took two days off just to pass some really obscure examinations. Doctors were looking at my data, shaking their heads, wondering. They asked me to allow using my data in school books as the ideal specimen of health. I agreed.

      The beast didn't run anymore. It just waited for its fate. I stopped having fun while killing it, if I wanted violence I was creating a criminal movie style dream instead. I was just routinely smashing it with my finger, just like one smashes a gnat. I didn't look, didn't bother.

      And one night I found the beast isn't moving. It made me curious. I went to it and saw it lying on the floor of the fog world, gasping, much more skinny than when I faced it last time, looking up at me with fear. It gathered some strength, crawled up to me, looking up fearfully.

      - Okay, okay, I won't hurt you. - I looked at it. I just dismissed the image, got into my favorite Bahama dream, but it didn't feel right. I still remembered the fearful sight of the beast.

      The whole day I was in bad mood. I couldn't concentrate, I couldn't get any work done. I left early, went back home, watched some dull TV show without really paying attention. I kept thinking of the beast.

      The next night the beast was worse. It barely raised its head, looking at me. I crouched, looked at it, but didn't dare to touch the dark, shagged fur.

      In the morning I called Martin.

      - Martin? I have a problem.

      - What kind of problem?

      - I know you're not a vet, but... I think my beast is sick.

      - Now that's an interesting problem. So, you'd like to heal it? I'd never think... it would come to that.

      - If we could do this quickly, the beast gets weaker each night. And I have a bad feeling that when I lose it, I will lose something really important.

      - Okay, I'll try some heavier hypnosis, why not? This evening?

      - Great.

      I called in sick, spent whole day roaming the city, trying to get my mind off the beast. I was at Martin's home even before he came back from work, but after short waiting he arrived.

      - Hi, Mike. You look bad. What's the matter? - he asked, while getting out of his car.

      - I'm worried.

      - You kept murdering it on daily basis without a second thought and now you're worried it will die by itself?

      - Yes, I'm worried it will die. That all wasn't for real. Now it would be.

      - For God's sake, that is not for real! That's just a dream! - Martin argued while unlocking his front door. - Please, come in. Would you mind if I got something to eat before we start? I didn't eat since lunch and I didn't expect you so early.

      - No problem. - I said, while taking my shoes off. He gave me a pair of slippers. - But I'm worried this is pretty real. Do you remember as you said there is no reason why these dreams shouldn't pass? What if there is some reason they didn't? I believe there is.

      - And what would it be?

      - I don't know - I shrugged. - I hoped you could help me to find out.

      - That could be very difficult. If there is any reason at all, other than some chemical instability in your brain.

      - Here's my medical record - I handed Martin my briefcase. - You don't need to read it, everything is in perfect order. Suspiciously perfect, as one of the professors described.

      Martin went to the kitchen and started the toaster, while flipping pages of my record.

      - Ah, would you like something to eat?

      - No, sorry, my stomach is completely clutched, I couldn't squeeze any food into me. Actually, I haven't eaten anything today, but I'm not hungry.

      - In this case, you definitely should eat something. And I'm telling you this as a doctor, not as a private person. Here - he took a pot and a put a teabag in it, then flipped the automatic kettle switch on. - You will drink some hot tea with lemon, and eat at least three toasts. Peanut butter? Honey? Ham? Cheese?

      - No, thank you, just a grain of salt.

      - But really!

      - I always have my toasts just with some salt and coffee, but I guess tea in this case would be better.

      A moment later we were sitting by the kitchen table, and I was squeezing a bit of toast down my throat, flushing it with sour, bitter tea.

      - So... tell me about the changes in the beast. How can you tell it's sick.

      - It lays down, barely breathes. Two days ago it was still able to crawl, today it just looked at me.

      - Crawled away from you?

      - No, it crawled up to me. Looking at me with fear.

      - Did you kill it then?

      - No, I just shifted dreams.

      - Shifted?

      - Changed. I call it like that, when I'm lucid I just recall certain scene and I'm in it. I didn't enjoy the dream.

      - And the next night?

      - The beast raised its head, looking at me. I forced myself to wake up. I had a coffee, then went back to sleep, had normal dreams.

      - Try to describe the beast. - Martin took a notepad, and when I started describing it, instead of writing, he was trying to draw, following my description. I was telling him about the beast from the day of our meeting. I told him what the beast said and he wrote that down. The picture was nearly perfect image of what I had seen.

      - And what are the changes?

      - It's more skinny. Much more. Just a skeleton.

      - So, maybe... it's hungry? You said it was devouring you alive before, now for quite a while it didn't eat anything.

      - So... should I just let it kill me again?

      - I don't think we need to take such far-going measures. Maybe just imagine some food, or give it a few drops of your blood?

      I sighed.

      - Right now I wouldn't mind it killing me in that dream, just to save it.

      - Aren't you pushing that a little too far?

      - That's just a dream, remember?

      - Right. But at least try milder things first.

      - So, what's the plan?

      - I take you into a deep hypnotic trance, let you fall asleep but remain in contact. With some luck I should be still able to communicate with you and I will be able to wake you up. I can give you the light signals if you get lost somewhere outside lucidity too, but getting things done is all up to you.

      - You say we should be able to communicate? How?

      - Just talking. This will be difficult, but you should be able to speak and hear me.

      - Good. So, when do we start?

      - Anytime now.

      - Now?

      - Why not.

      It all worked. The first dream was some odd orchard with dry flowers. I almost always had some dreams before the beast but I almost never remembered them. I was lucid, I could hear Martin and I could perform tricks with my will. I tried recalling the fog world. The world, the beast. I wished it to get better. It did, looking all dangerous and wild. I told it to go. It obeyed. I reported my situation to Martin.

      - That was easy, wasn't it? - he smiled as I was taking my suit on and calling for a taxi home.

      - Yes, what did I worry about so much? - I wondered.

      I left, but when I waited for the taxi, I felt a cold spike in my heart.

      That was just too easy.

      I felt I'm sweating, as the taxi driver was taking me home through the empty city at night. I didn't even notice when it started raining. In my apartment I lay down on my bed. I watched the drops of rain on the window. A silly thought, why the hell did I take a taxi and left my own car by Martin's house dawned on me quite a while later. I couldn't sleep. I stood up and circled the apartment for a while. The cold was spreading. Like a fever. I had left the beast in much better shape than when I saw it first. Maybe it grew too powerful and now eats me from inside? Maybe it now waits for me, lurks in the fog and will strike me, breaking my will?

      I felt a weak cry. A cry of a wounded animal.

      I must sleep! Now!

      No worse way of falling asleep than trying to force self hurriedly. I lay on my bed with my eyes open, tried closing them, then opened again...

      Yes! I ran to the bathroom and found that old, almost unused bottle of sleep pills. I took three at once, drank some water from the tap. I got back to bed. They worked.

      I was annoyed with my "preliminary dream". Some train that kept going and going, never stopping. I wasn't lucid, but I was very impatient to get off.

      And then the fog world. The beast is here and it's dying.

      I knelt by it and stroked the big, black head gently. I wished for it to get better, but it didn't. I wished for a dead deer, it appeared by the beast's muzzle, but the beast didn't move. I touched the muzzle with my hand and felt warm tongue on my palm. I pushed my hand between the jaws. "Bite", I thought. The teeth clutched with effort.

      The pain. I didn't remember how much the beast bite hurts. But I saw a spark of life in its eyes. Fighting with will to smash the beast, to push it away, to wake up, I lay there, on my back. The beast struggled to me and bit into my stomach. I felt it gobbling my liver, I felt it crushing my ribs. I wished for the pain to stop, and mostly, it did. I felt light stinging as the beast was feasting on me, but it wasn't the maddening experience like with my hand. The hand did hurt a bit though.

      I was still alive and conscious, when only my head was left. The beast's blood-covered muzzle lowered over my face and gave me a big, friendly lick before taking the last bite.

      I tried to wake up, but instead I ended in another dream, a common, boring and silly.

      In the morning I woke up with headache. My hand hurt me and I saw large bitemarks on my forearm. But I was relieved. From now on: Regular feeding of my pet. And no more violence. I tried to get up, and yelped, my whole body was aching. I was glad I had called in sick.

      With quite a bit of effort I managed to get up and stumbled to bathroom. I saw myself in the mirror - my whole body was covered with red traces where my flesh had been torn. They felt a bit sore, but nothing I couldn't stand. I smiled at the memory of the warm tongue. Now this will make Martin curious. And all that stigma-style markings! And those exquisite bitemarks on my cheeks!

      Why didn't it work at Martin's place? Why did I fail then? What did I do wrong?

      I slapped my head. - Of course! Lucid dreaming! Fake fog world! Fake beast! I should have been waiting for the fog world to come, but I just recalled a dummy instead. I wanted the beast and so came a beast, I wanted it healthy and so my wish was granted, but not on MY beast.

      Ouching and hissing I pulled the shirt on, with trousers it was worse, the "neutered pain" area was in much better shape than what the beast ate with my full consciousness. I called Martin and told him about the events. He was quite calm until he heard about the bitemarks covering my whole body. Apparently a vision of a pretty article in a professional paper, with some color photos seemed very attractive. Oh well, I owed to him, that was him who got the idea the beast was starving. He asked me to come in the evening. I ate a good breakfast and decided to spend the day outside. Trying to get my sore body used to walking, I headed towards the city borders. Recreational areas. Parks, sport stadium, swimming pools, horse racing track, speedway track, places for skateboarders, theater. Sunny autumn morning, families with kids on a walk. I enjoyed the fresh air. I bought a soda at a booth, sat on a bench by the path, watching clouds pushed through the sky. I heard someone sitting by me, and saw it's Sandra.

      - Hello - she said.

      - Hi. Did you call in sick too?

      - No, boss just said this is a slow season and I can just take a day out, there is no work whatsoever. So I felt like having a walk... And you, just... Oh, you didn't play truant. What's that?

      - That? Oh, just some bad rash. I'll see a doctor about it in the evening.

      - Come on, such a regular rash? Just tell me what is that.

      - You wouldn't believe anyway.

      - Why?

      - That are bitemarks.

      - What?!! No, you're kidding me again.

      - I told you you wouldn't believe.

      - But.. but... that would have to be a tiger... or a lion...

      - Worse.

      - What could be worse? And why are you alive yet then?

      - Let's give it up. You will think I'm a freak.

      - I already do.

      - So... I'll better get going before I make it any worse. - I stood up.

      - Just tell me, what did that to you? - she stood up too.

      - My own imagination.

      - Oh come on.

      - I dreamed of a beast who kills me in my dream.

      - And it caused... that? Come on.

      We started walking slowly further away from the city.

      - Remember me from four months ago? The wreck I was?

      - That was the same thing?

      - Yes.

      - But then, you didn't have any... things on your face. And you were a real wreck of a man.

      - I had. On my neck. That's why I was such a wreck too.

      - You mean...

      - I learned to fight the beast.

      - But... judging by these marks... you didn't win?

      - Actually, I did. It was a tough battle.

      I decided telling her I willingly submitted myself to the beast would be a bit too much.

      - So, you are safe?

      - For another week or so.

      - But I thought you killed... did you?

      - We both get reborn every time.

      She pondered this for a while.

      - That would make a good story. A man fights his inner beast. Or a movie. No, that would be a crappy movie. - she fell silent for a while - I wonder how would it end.

      - I wonder too. Could you do me a favor?

      - Yes?

      - Could you support me on that rash story at work. That stuff may repeat from time to time.

      - That must be terrible!

      - No, not really.

      - Really?

      - Gives me the macho man feeling.

      - Oh, come on! - she giggled. - How does that beast look like?

      - Like a... - I stood still, looking at a group of riders racing through the horse racing track in the distance - ...a horse. Oh, no, not like a normal horse. More like a some demonic dog with horse head and long fangs.

      - Aww, really?

      - Come on, that's just a dream. That was scary at first, but now... - I grimaced. Now it's somehow pretty, I finished in my thoughts.

      We walked off the alley and towards the track, through meadows.

      - I find it hard to believe that a dream could cause that.

      - It's the same mechanism as stigmata of the saints. A doctor explained it to me. False alert, increased organism immunity system activity in affected places.

      - That dream must be very vivid.

      - And hurts like the hell when I get hurt.

      - Really? So what about pinching in dreams?

      - A false urban legend. Pinch yourself in a dream.

      - And did you get hurt?

      - I lost my left hand! See? - I pulled the sleeve up.

      - Oh my god! - she covered her mouth with her hands. - How did you win?

      I chuckled.

      - Nobody messes with my right uppercut! - I punched the air.

      - I didn't know we have such a brave hero in our office!

      - Who fights with his own dreams?

      - Come on, I'd piss my bed. Did you see a doctor about that?

      - Yes, actually I really have an appointment for today evening.

      - What kind of doctor makes appointments for the evening?

      - One that that's busy with straightening your dreams?

      - Do you sleep at his place?

      - Yes, sometimes. Sometimes under hypnosis.

      - Hey, isn't that a miss doctor or something?

      - Nooo, he's a man, slightly older than me. And not a gay.

      We came up to the barriers of the track. The group of riders was galloping in our direction, apparently making another lap.

      - So... he hypnotizes you?

      - Yes, so I'm still conscious while dreaming.

      - So you can do what you want?

      - Everything I desire.

      - Now that's something...

      A loud squeal of a horse broke our discussion. The lead horse suddenly stopped and began backing up, other horses were protesting under their riders just the same. The riders fought to regain control, beating the horses, one horse managed to drop his rider and galloping ran away. A rider managed to get his horse to get by the inner barrier by us, as the horse got a bit further, it went into full gallop, without any more protests, yet another just jumped the inner barrier and carried the rider through the fields. The remaining riders managed to get down and hold their horses, but they couldn't manage to calm them down.

      - Interesting, how do you think, what happened? - Sandra asked.

      I looked at her in silence.

      - My God. Let's go away before something worse happens.

      We walked away quickly. I looked through my shoulder, the horses were calming down.

      - This is getting out of hand - she said. - You need to do something!

      - What?

      - I... I don't know! Kill the beast permanently, get exorcised, I have no idea.

      - For now I'll maybe just see the doctor.

      - Yes, right. I... I must go now.

      - Want me to walk me to your car or somewhere?

      - No, no, really... - she was smiling, but I felt it. I didn't insist. She was deadly scared. In fact, so was I. WHAT is the beast? What happened to me?

      I strolled to the trees of the alley and went further away, to the city limits and beyond, through the woods. Without thinking, I was walking some narrow paths between trees, this area so close to the city wasn't nearly as deserted as I wished it to, many people took the opportunity for a walk. Once I was passing by a group with a small dog on a leash. The dog started barking madly at me. The owner apologized.

      The forest was getting wilder, the paths more scarce. I walked through a glade and felt some unpleasant smell. The path led me to the other side. I walked between the trees, heard a lot of flies. Maybe two steps from the path a deer corpse lay rotten. But that wasn't the only source of the noise. Several steps in the other direction I saw some other unidentified shape, another dead animal. I turned back. I didn't like this place at all. A dead bird by a tree. I entered the glade and saw some bones in the deep grass, a rabbit. What I had thought was an anthill appeared to be another, almost completely decomposed deer. I ran towards the point where the path enters the glade. The sound of crackling under my foot was probably some rodent. I couldn't help looking around, and this place was one big animal graveyard! Run! Run away! Get out of here! I stumbled on something and suppressed wave of nausea as the smell suddenly rose. I reached the edge of the glade and kept running for a while, seeing more animal corpses I hadn't noticed before. I kept running, until I couldn't catch my breath anymore, then I stopped and looked around. Again! No, that's just a stump. That pile, no, that's just a pile of leaves. I shook the shock off me. I hurried back to the city, looking behind me more often than I'd like to.

      I practically ran through the alley. The Sun was hidden behind some clouds, it got cold and windy. I found a taxi, got in and shouted my home address.

      - Excuse me sir, but... what have you been doing? You stink! I'm sorry but I don't want that smell in my cab!

      Only now I noticed the smell. I got out as fast as I could, looked around, looked at myself. Remains of some animal corpse, black goo on my shoes. I ran to my home on foot. It started raining and as I entered my house it was pouring already. The smell was unbearable. I stopped by the trashcan, threw my shoes into it, then noticed stains on my trousers and took them off, and after checking the pockets, discarded them too. Just in socks and boxers I ran upstairs to my apartment.

      I closed the door behind me and gasped hard. I could still feel the smell, but it was much weaker. I emptied all my pockets, took all my clothes off, and loaded them in a plastic bag, tied a knot on it and went to the shower.

      Hot water made all the bitemarks burn. I washed myself thoroughly, then stood for several minutes in the hot water with closed eyes. I opened them. The bathroom was filled with steam, obscuring my view to length of my hand. I closed the valve and looked around. Now, this looks all too familiar. My heart was pounding loudly. I got off the shower cabin, stumbled where the door should be, felt the familiar cold of wood with my hands and shoulders, opened them, ran to my living room, turned around, looking at the clouds of steam coming from the bathroom door, ready to face the attack. I gasped hard, stood there and waited.

      - Come on! Come! Show yourself!

      Nothing happened. Two minutes later the fog was almost gone. I stalked to the bathroom door. Looked inside. Nothing. I turned around, feeling it's behind my back. Nothing again.

      I was exhausted. I closed the bathroom door and stumbled to my bed. I fell on it, rolled onto my back and practically against my will, fell asleep.

      And there it was, almost immediately, the fog and the beast. I was curling with fear, powerless, unable to fight, and the beast just walked up to me, with its terrifying jaws at the level of my mouth. I curled deeper, awaiting the pain.

      And it didn't come. Instead, I felt the warm tongue on my cheek.

      The beast was still skinny, but nothing near dying. It lay at my feet and looked up to me. I stretched my hand fearfully, then touched the mane between the equine ears. It looked at me, but didn't move.

      - Why are you doing this? Why are you doing that thing with my life? - I asked.

      I saw sadness in the eyes. "Help me. Heal me. Set me free. I'm lost".

      - Who? What are you?

      The beast raised its head and lay it on my knees. I took the big head in my hands. "Don't hurt me. Oh please, don't hurt me anymore", pleaded the beast.

      I caught the head firmly and turned it to face me.

      - Stop. Doing. This.

      "Please. It's not my fault. Help me."

      - How?

      The answer was just a quiet, helpless shriek.

      I lowered my head and rested my face against the black neck. I extended my arm, put it in front of the terrifying muzzle.

      - Drink.

      The beast looked into my eyes.

      - Just drink my blood. I can't give you more today.

      The hungry eyes were so thankful. It almost didn't hurt.

      I woke up refreshed. Most of the morning stigmata were gone, just the hand, face... and two new dots on the opposite forearm.

      I took some new clothes on, caught a sniff of rotten flesh, it filtered even through the plastic bag, I swept from the table into my pockets everything I usually carry there, took the bag, went out of the door and locked it behind me. Downstairs the smell from the trashcan was piercing through my lungs, I got outside and caught a deep breath. I took the clothes to chemical laundry and asked for thorough cleaning. I took a taxi to Martin's house, it was almost dusk, but I decided not to go there yet. I just got into my car and drove to the recreational area.

      It was cold and cloudy. The alley was almost deserted. Ignoring the signs I drove it to the end, to the forest. In quick pace, trying to get there before the dusk, I rushed through the forest to the glade. When I saw first dead animals, I turned back. I didn't want to investigate much, just to confirm it was real and that I remembered the way. I went back to my car and drove back to Martin. I left the car just in the same place and rang the doorbell.

      - Greetings, Mike. Ouch, that looks terrible! - he grimaced at sight of my hand. - You say this stuff covers your whole body?

      - Not anymore. All the lighter bitemarks went off this afternoon. Just this and my arm. And two new.

      - Two new? How?

      - I had a nap in the afternoon. Maybe I'd better tell everything in detail.

      - That would be best.

      He invited me to the library, there was tea and biscuits, I told the whole story, starting from the fear as soon as I left his door, including the taxi, the struggle for sleep, the annoying train dream, the pain and later my walk, the horses and the dead animals. I told him about the terror with the steam, and how the beast didn't attack me.

      - That thing with the glade could be something normal, somebody discarded some poison there and animals eat the grass or poisoned animal bodies. But that story with horses... I find it really scary. I'm not sure if you did right by letting the beast live.

      - But... it doesn't mean harm to anyone else...

      - I wouldn't be so sure. That dreams of yours had a strong impact on me. Last night I had a nightmare too. I dreamed I was running from your beast. But I made it, I got on a plane and it can't fly.

      - She can't fly.

      - She?

      - She. It just dawned upon me now. When you said Nightmare. That's what she is. A nightmare.

      - But you don't have any arguments to confirm your theory?

      - If you mean if I looked under her tail, no.

      - So... what's the plan for today?

      - You're the scientist. The situation, save some abnormalities with my life, is rather stable. Good opportunity for some scientific research if you wish.

      - Would you mind me taking photos of that... stigmata of yours?

      - Why, no problem at all.

      - I'll get the camera. And some more equipment.

      Martin walked out, a moment later I heard him rummaging through some other room.

      - I got that idea - he shouted - to get that marks of yours on video, as they appear. Like, I record your hand as you sleep and then you let the beast bite it.

      Some more rummaging.

      - Damned tripod, whole entangled in christmas lights. Okay, I also stay in contact with you, and ask the beast a few questions, through you, if you don't mind.

      - She's wasn't very responsive, you know.

      - Worth a try anyway!

      Martin strolled into the room, loaded with equipment. A tape recorder, a rather old video camera, a big Polaroid camera, a tripod and a bunch of cables.

      - Wait a moment. - he vanished in the doorway after leaving this all on the floor, a moment later appearing with an EKG device and an empty cardboard box.

      - Hope you don't mind? Too bad I don't have EEG equipment. Stupid me, I could have borrowed it. I should have recorded your tale too. Too long since I did any scientific research...

      - Nothing is lost, if you don't find it boring. I slept during the day so I'm not sleepy really. I can retell it whole from the very beginning - I suggested, while Martin was inscribing my name on the cardboard box.

      - Great. But first the photo. I'm not sure if the movie isn't old and if I shouldn't go buy a new one.

      I rolled my sleeve up and exposed my hand. As he aimed his camera, the same thing struck us, we looked at each other momentarily... then the flash and we both began staring at the picture, as details began appearing from oblivion.

      Martin sighed loudly. - Nothing. Just a normal picture. We both watch too many horror movies.

      Martin shot a few more photos, including close-ups of the bitemarks on my cheeks. He plugged in all the equipment, turned "record" on on the tape recorder, opened a cabinet on the wall, revealing a TV set with video player, then tested the video camera for a moment, tried playing the tape in the video player, it worked okay.

      - So, are you okay with the idea of feeding the beast with yourself for the good of the science?

      - Absolutely. Which limb should I sacrifice?

      - Does that turn you on or something?

      - No - I chuckled. - But I learned to like my beast. I somehow understood I'd be missing something important without her, so I'm ready for some sacrifices.

      - Something where it would be visible...

      - Like, no old bitemarks? Right now only my legs are bitemark-free.

      - I think the hand with just the fang marks will do. For now I will ask you to tell me the whole story.

      He took a thick notebook, scribbled something across the front page, wrote something near top of the second page, removed the tape from the recorder, wrote something on it, put it in the box, took another one, rewound it to the beginning and pressed record. For a while he described my profile - name, age, habits (or lack of thereof), then shortly characterized the problem and asked me to tell the whole story from the very beginning.

      From time to time Martin was asking some questions and I found them most interesting... Why was the beast always skinny? - Probably because it can feed only when I'm conscious. Even while I was the prey, it barely managed to take a few bites off me before I was waking. This suggested that now the beast was stronger than ever.

      - I keep making one, very unscientific mistake - noticed Martin. - I keep referring to the beast as a live being, and treating it as such, not just as a creation of your brain. You've been very suggestive in your tales, but we can't forget that creature is just a dream. We shouldn't assume it's consistent, like when it feeds, it grows stronger, when it starves, weakens and such.

      - But it is surprisingly consistent though.

      My phone rang.

      - My boss.

      I answered.

      - How's that health of yours? Better?

      - A bit, there are some small problems yet, but nothing that would stop me from work if I'm needed.

      - Just opposite. There's almost nothing to do until the end of the week, but then we get a major contract and I'll need you fully operational. So I want you to take this week off to cure yourself and show up fully operational next Monday. I gave a few days off

    2. #2
      Join Date
      Jan 2004
      - Oh, right! Thank you for reminding me about it. With pleasure. - he began searching for it in his desk drawer. - Here it is. I forgot it, and if I opened the desk and accidentally saw it I'd die from heart attack.

      I carefully put the picture in the notebook, thanked Martin for help, he led me to the door, still apologizing, but I assured him it's all right and asked when will he find that young researcher. He promised it will be two days at most.

      It was early after midnight. I went home, not really touched. In fact I had a warm fuzzy feeling that my beast is more than a dream.

      Somebody apparently emptied the trashcans because the smell was gone. I went to sleep, and met the beast. I cuddled its head for a long while. I wished for a small, sharp knife, lightly cut my forearm and let the beast lick my blood. In the morning there was no trace of any kind from the cut.

      I put the picture of the beast and the EKG in my briefcase and went to do all I had planned to do. First things first. I found the number of the forest rangers' office, called them and informed about that strange glade. I couldn't give them exact directions, but I agreed to lead a ranger there. They gave me the address of their quarters, and I made an appointment, in a hour. I visited a photographer and asked for three normal photocopies of the picture and one nice, big zoomed copy. I asked for the zoomed copy to be framed. Way better than lousy xero.

      - Now that's one vile beast - commented the photographer, looking at the pic.

      - It's quite nice once you get to know it better - I said.

      - No kidding.

      - Really! - I smiled, took my receipt and went to the laundry.

      The bill was higher than usually. They had to run my clothes twice through the machines to get rid of the smell. I left the clothes back at home, drove to the rangers office, then one of them took me by a jeep to the area I had described. He was very doubtful about my story, and despite the fact I was there twice, I still wasn't quite sure if that wasn't a bad dream. We stopped by a path I had walked, and I led him on foot towards the place. I lost my doubts when wind blew in our direction. The ranger covered his mouth. I told him it's really close, and asked if I could wait by the jeep. I gave him simple directions and turned back. Soon I saw him running in my direction, holding his hand by his mouth.

      - That place is one big cemetery! Get into the car!

      - Why? Is something chasing us? - I said while getting in.

      - No, but I don't wish to stay near here any while longer. - he said, while jumping in. He turned the engine on, made a narrow turn, and quickly driving away from that area turned the radio on.

      - Ranger base, do you read me?

      - We hear you, what's up?

      - Send some decontamination squad or something to quarter DE43, north-eastern corner. You can't miss it, stinks two quarters around. I don't know what is that, but, the guy was right. The place is full of rotten animal corpses. With enough luck we can have an epidemy here. And see whose patrol area is that, it had to be going on for quite a while, somebody's gonna get it.

      - Understood. Get to the base. Over and out.

      He stopped by the base.

      - Thank you, mister. Would you mind giving your phone number or some other means of contact if we needed to talk with you? And of course if you wanted to be kept up to date with the case progress.

      I gave him my phone number, he wrote it down in his notebook, then hurried inside the building.

      Next point. I drove to my physician, and asked him to look at the graph and tell me if that's really dangerous.

      He shook his head, grinning. - That guy had apparently too much paper for his machine. How long is this graph? Ten minutes? Twenty?

      About fifteen I think. The interesting part is near the end.

      - This mad curvature? Did you move then?

      - I don't know, I was asleep.

      - What kind of examination was that anyway? What kind of doctor?

      - A psychoanalyst. It was a study about some interesting dreams of mine.

      - So why EKG? EEG would be much more appropriate.

      - He had only EKG machine.

      - Anyway, these bumps are probably results of your moving in your sleep. I wouldn't worry about them. If you want we can check your heart here, but I'd say there's no need, the rest of the graph is perfectly normal.

      - That wouldn't do much good anyway, I know my heart is in pretty good condition and this supposedly happens only in a very special moment.

      - What kind of moment?

      - In that dream, when I... get hurt.

      - Ow, that must be terrible. Do you have such dreams often?

      - Not really. I mean, not really terrible, though I have that dreams on regular basis. Thank you doctor, I think that's all. The doctor who made this, is certainly a good psychoanalyst but I wanted to ask a physician for interpretation of my EKG.

      We said good-bye and I went for a lunch. My phone rang. It was Martin. He had an appointment for me, for 5PM at the university. He gave me the name and room number of the person I was to meet.

      Three hours left and I don't know what to do with my free time. I pondered asking for trouble and trying to follow that invisible guide that had led me to the glade with corpses. I even tried to find that special feeling, but I failed, so I just went home.

      On my way I got another call. The rangers.

      - Seems you have uncovered a sensation of the year of our area. The military is there, they found a broken container with potassium cyanide. Nobody knows how it got there, but there was enough of it to kill whole city. The whole area is contaminated. If you want, turn on TV. I hope you didn't take anything from there?

      - Just some rotting goo on my shoes and trousers. I discarded them already though.

      - Could you please give us your home address? I'd tell the officers to check for signs of contamination.

      - Of course. Just tell them to hurry, in two hours I leave.

      I gave them my address, and didn't even get to take my anorak off, when I heard some heavy boots in the staircase. I just opened the door and greeted the soldiers.

      Half a hour later they were gone, after checking my suit (fortunately finding nothing wrong), loading the trashcan on a truck, and sending another patrol to the laundry.

      I turned the TV on, and switched it to local news. The reporter was talking with a ranger.

      - What scares me even more than a lost can with one of worst poisons known to a man, - said the ranger - is people's indifference. There was a path through that glade! That means that at least five-six people a day were walking that way! The corpses are deeply rotten, they must be months old! They couldn't miss them, yet nobody cared to call us until today.

      - We want to remind, that the ranger responsible for patrolling that area, was notoriously taking a "shortcuts" and simply never visited the place. Ranger station manager told us the ranger will almost certainly lose his job, but he may face other consequences as well. The army's special squad is decontaminating the area.

      That was one warm fuzzy feeling. Come on, beast, I thought, I don't know if that's what you wanted, but that was certainly the right thing to do.

      The beast didn't respond. Oh well.

      I didn't really pay much attention to the news, truck tracks in the gravel of the alley, interviews, people in hazard suits, close-ups of the container. I was tempted to go to sleep and try to meet the beast, but less than two hours didn't seem to be enough to make sense. I chuckled, thinking, how much the beast has became my obsession. During the last days, everything I did was connected with her. Schizophrenia. Imaginary friend. Aren't I too old for that? Maybe I should buy a pet.

      I remembered the horses. That wasn't normal. Maybe I was asking wrong people for help? Maybe I shouldn't count on scientists? Did I actually need any help? I was doing perfectly fine with my nightmare. Now I even found a way to feed it without really getting hurt.

      I decided I can't stand sitting in my flat. I roamed the city streets for quite a while. I dropped in to the photographer. The photos were supposed to be ready the next morning, but I hoped he did them ahead of time, and actually he did. He put the big one in frame while I waited. I brought them home, hid the original with my most important documents, put the small ones in the box with other nightmare-related materials, then occupied myself with looking for a good place to hang the big one. Fifteen minutes later it was hanging on the wall next to the TV set.

      I remembered my medical files could come in handy, so I loaded all the results from the recent thorough examination into my "evidence box" and drove to the clinic where I consulted a doctor about the nightmare first. I asked for a copy of my whole file and waited for it for quite a while, a bit nervously looking at my watch - this time I was afraid I would run short on time. Finally with whole file which I promptly put in my "evidence box" I drove to the university. I arrived 15 minutes ahead of the time, luckily too, because it took me over ten minutes to find the building and room.

      I took a deep breath and knocked on the door.

      I was almost sure the scientist I was referred to, will be a female. But no.

      - Come in, please! - I heard an elder male voice.

      I walked in. It was a small room, with nice touch. Flowers in pots, a desk in the corner, a bed in the opposite corner, two armchairs and a couch by the opposite wall. There was some electronic equipment on a small table by the couch, a worn-looking computer on the desk. An old, almost bald man in round glasses was sitting behind the desk. Three young people, a smart-looking girl and two boys, one more "neat", one more "wild" (leather, earring), students probably, occupied the armchairs and the couch. One of the students moved to a small, three-legged chair from the couch making room for me.

      - About that... dream problems? - asked the elder man.

      - We could call it that way.

      - Otto Herman - he introduced himself. - Or just Otto if you prefer.

      I introduced myself and set the "evidence box" on the floor by the desk.

      - These three there are Claudia, Mortimer and Ralf. My students. I've never seen anyone of my profession so scared of visions of his own patient, as poor Martin, so I decided I'll ask these young people for help. Through the movies, games and such, they are more seasoned in handling fear than anyone from our generation, and besides that, in group it's harder to get scared. So, what is that problem that was too hard for Martin to handle?

      The girl began making notes in her notebook. Ever since, she was writing down everything that was said.

      - Well, I'm not sure if Martin told you, but in fact I don't feel I have a problem. Not anymore at least.

      - But Martin was deadly scared of some kind of YOUR dream.

      - I think he just panicked a little. Absolutely unnecessarily.

      - So, what was Martin's problem, then?

      I pulled the photos from the box, handed one to Otto, other to the students. I put the third one back in the box.

      - She was.

      - "She"? What is "She"?

      - A nightmare.

      - Uh. Unpleasant beast. I can recognize Martin's drawing style. So, "she" appears in your dreams. How often?

      - Every night. Sometimes more often, like during an afternoon nap.

      - And what could get Martin so scared?

      - She talked to him.

      - It talks?

      - Yes.

      - Scary.

      - Not at all.

      - Why?

      - She doesn't say any bad stuff or anything like that.

      - In this picture, it looks very nasty, the sentence isn't the friendliest either.

      - It's the last time when she fought back. I was the master of the situation ever since.

      - Tell us all from the very beginning.

      - Maybe we could just run the tape. You see, telling the same thing over and over gets boring with time, so just if you don't mind...

      - Mortimer, run to the store room and bring a tape recorder. And while we are at that... the video camera, a TV set, two blank video tapes, a box of blank audio tapes... Ralf, help him. And... And anything you see that could come in handy. Here's the key.

      - So... what have we here? - he picked the box, put it on the desk and unloaded all the contents.

      - Claudia, take this - he picked Martin's notebook - cut that pages you have filled already and paste them in. We don't want two separate notebooks.

      - Yes, professor. - she began browsing his desk drawers for duct tape and scissors, apparently not the first time.

      - So, you said you don't have a problem, so... what did you want from Martin, or he from you...?

      - It was scientific. A... specific case. See the photos.

      - Yes, looks like burns.

      - That are bitemarks.

      - Bitemarks?

      - Of the beast.

      - Most interesting. But you said you don't have a problem with the beast.

      - I don't. I got them willingly.

      - Are you some kind of... masochist?

      - No, not at all! But you see, the beast feeds with my flesh and blood. Hungry gets very weak.

      - Let me guess. First you were the victim, then you consulted a doctor, the therapy brought effects and you won. You starved the beast to threshold of death and decided to save it, so you fed it. Right? Couldn't you in your mercy just kill it?

      - I killed it multiple times before. But it didn't have any impact on its health the night after. And I felt starving it to death would be some kind of... other death. More permanent.

      - So, you fought with that beast in the past?

      - It's hard to call it a fight. Martin used hypnosis to get me lucid. Mostly omnipotent. I could kill the beast like - I snapped my fingers - this. And then wish for any dream I'd desire.

      - Hypnosis... Well, we use scientific methods here.

      - It was very effective. Still, as soon as I get to the fog world, I become lucid.

      - The fog world?

      - That's where the beast lives. Fog, white floor, the beast, me. Nothing else. Ahhh - I grimaced. - I just remembered how awfully red looked the beast's blood on that white floor when I ripped her head off. Now I feel really bad about that.

      The students pushed a cart filled with equipment in and began setting it all up.

      - Besides what you ordered, we got a normal photo camera and this - one of them, Ralf I think, raised a sharp, anti-vampire style stake. - I don't know if you can stake a nightmare but just in case... - he chuckled.

      - Don't you dare hurting my nightmare!

      - Ah, so it works that way! - said the young man and put the stack down. - Sorry then!

      - Well, Martin thought otherwise, that's probably why he got so scared. He believes the nightmare is ruthless and evil...

      - But no matter how it is, it's just a part of your imagination. - Otto cut in.

      - Well, not quite.

      - What do you mean? It exists?

      - Listen to the tapes, watch the video.

      And so they did. From time to time I heard an "ooh", "wow", "nice" from the students. When I came to the point with that glade of corpses, the girl snuggled up to one of the boys, shaking a bit.

      - Wait, I heard in the news. They found that place! Somebody told them!

      - I was at the ranger station in the morning and told them about it.

      - Whoah! I'm scared! - chuckled Mortimer (or Ralf?)

      - So, let's see the video.

      - Do we get to see the beast?

      - No. Just my hand for most of the time.

      - Your hand? Why?

      - The bitemarks - explained Claudia. - You can see when the beast bites him.

      - Ahhh. Spoilsport, reveals the climax of a good horror movie. The Hand - complained the student in leather.

      - Mortimer, stop this.

      We watched the movie in silence. When I heard the broken pot, I just said what the beast told him.

      - Now, I'd piss my pants. - said Ralf.

      - Would you please stop? Now watch the hand! - Claudia took initiative.

      - Eeep! That's it? Whoever made FX for this movie, should be fired - commented Mortimer.

      - Do you still have that bitemarks?

      I just rolled my sleeve up.

      - Cool!

      - These are better than any piercings! Genuine beast stigmata!

      - Okay, bunch - interrupted Otto. - We have some research to do.

      - Yes, so what do we do, professor?

      - That's right. What do we do? Mortimer?

      - Err...

      - Rules.

      - Ah! Set the target of the research. Ask the questions we want answered.

      - That's it. So, what questions would you ask?

      - Is the beast evil?

      - Come on. You're a scientist, not a kid.

      - Ah. Of course. Victim, motives, tool of murder. Prove or disprove existence of the beast.

      - Disprove only. We are scientists. More?

      - Find reasons behind its err... nonexistence.

      - Find reasons of patient's recurring dreams. - corrected Otto.

      - Find cure...

      - No, I don't want a cure.

      - Subquestion: Motivate the patient to cure the... problem?

      - That would be about all we need, I think. - said Otto. - Just the standard closing questions.

      - Evaluate dangers and gather any available data in order to gain insight into the problem and then... reevaluate the questions.

      - That's it. Priorities?

      - Disprove the beast. - said Ralf. - I can't wait to fail on that.

      - What do you mean?

      - Prove the beast.

      - Stop joking. How are we going to do it?

      - I'm not joking. How do you explain that horse event?

      - I don't know, but there could be many other reasons for that. So?

      - The bitemarks.

      - Stigmatic marks. Can't be used as a proof of existence or nonexistence of the beast, only of existence and intensity of patient dreams. I'd like to see them, but they don't prove the point.

      - Let's ask the beast to prove itself, and failing to do that, we will assume it nonexistent - suggested Ralf, causing chuckles in others.

      - Serious ideas please.

      - And you, professor, do you have any?

      - I have one. A weak one. I'm counting on you.

      - Expose statistically significant number of animals to presence of the patient, examine reactions, compare to average.

      - Not bad, except we don't have the statistically significant number of animals. Unless we borrow mice from the zoology.

      - A walk in the zoo garden.

      - Could be arranged. But first this would prove some nondescript anomaly, not the beast. And second, you still keep trying to prove it, not disprove it.

      - Ask the... That won't work

      - Finish, maybe we can make something useful out of it.

      - Ask the beast questions we can answer, the beast can answer, but the patient cant. Again rather around the motives of proving than disproving, but the beast can either refuse to answer and that proves nothing, or fail to answer and that means it only has patient's brain for the job, not its own. The tricky part are the questions.

      - Pretty much useless. - commented Claudia.

      - Not really! - interrupted Mortimer. - The nightmare should know the lore of nightmares. Human beliefs, traditions, opinions, no matter how false. You listen to what they say about you, even if they are totally wrong. Amount of information an average mortal of - excuse my rudeness - age of our patient just can't know. Unless you've been playing role-playing games. Did you?

      - No, I didn't. - I said.

      - See?

      - We have no warranty the beast knows anything from our world. Including rumors about itself.

      - But if it does...

      - Then we can prove its existence. Right?

      - Sorry.

      - Okay. I give up.

      - Me too.

      - And me.

      - So here goes my idea. - ended Otto.

      - Yes?

      - Ask the beast.

      - Ask it what?

      - How could we prove or disprove it.

      - Now this is an original idea. Ask the enemy how we can kill it.

      - The beast should feel obligated to pick the gauntlet. Ask, what kind of real world information could it gather.

      - So that's the question you want me to ask the beast?

      - Well, yes. Wait a moment. - Otto picked the phone and dialed some short number. - Security? Building F, Floor 3, eastern wing - please stay quiet. No knocking, no phones. We will be performing a dream-related experiment. Yes, yes. Room 317.

      The students began installing the equipment, and I lay on the couch. The camera, the electroencephalograph, some strange goggles. - These detect eyeball movement - explained Mortimer. - when you see the beast, look left and right 5 times and we will know you are there. Left-right, five times. Okay?

      - This feels so crude compared to hypnosis.

      - If we manage to convince Otto the beast exists, we will convince him to use hypnosis.

      - Do you believe she exists?

      - I... I want to believe.

      - So. The questions about its possible interactions with the real world, and the proof for or against. Expose your forearm. For the camera. Yes, like this. Ralf, you take care of the camera.

      - Good night.

      The sleep came surprisingly quickly, and I didn't even remember the preliminary dream. When I saw the fog, I performed the arranged signal.

      - Beast! You are so beautiful!

      I stood amazed. Yes, she was beautiful indeed. The fur no longer shagged and hard, now was shiny, clean, soft. The curved back straightened some, the claws shortened, fangs mostly hid under lips. She still looked scary, but she wasn't the miserable creature she used to be. She gained some height due to more proud position and looked... noble. She came up to me and touched my chest with her head.

      - I'm so happy to see you. I missed you.- I hugged the big, black head. I sat down and asked the beast to lay beside me.

      - They are waiting up there. Let's show them something. All right? - Bite - I extended my hand. The beast looked in my eyes. - Oh come on, you know I don't mind.

      The beast took my arm in teeth gently.

      - Aren't you hungry?

      "Just a little bit. I don't want to hurt you, master."

      I touched the soft mane and closed my eyes.

      - Don't worry.

      Pain was sharp and sudden, but welcome. The beast began licking blood dripping from my hand.

      - Do you have a name?

      "Only if you give me one"

      - I'm already used to calling you Beast. Doesn't make me like you any less.

      We stayed in silence for a while.

      - They want you to help them prove or disprove your existence. We are curious if you can somehow communicate or influence my world.

      The beast gently licked my hand, never letting a drop of blood to fall to the floor, but I knew she was weighting her answer.

      "I sense death. I cause death."

      I looked at her, slightly shocked, but a while later I got used to the thought.

      - So can they, say, bring some lab rats...

      "I can't."

      A while of silence.

      "Humans. Horses. Big, strong, proud animals."

      - The glade...

      "a moose, a wolf, a human."

      - Dogs?

      "lost pride."

      I stroked the head for a while.

      "Master, don't ask me to kill. Please."

      - What do you know about my world?

      "Your knowledge. Little more."

      - Tell me about your world. How you got here.

      "Very different. Hard to describe. I... I can't describe it"

      - Why?

      "No words, no analogies. A poet could. Not me."

      Another moment of soft silence.

      "Master, don't free me. Not now. Not soon. Let it last."

      - You mean I shouldn't try to kill myself? I didn't really think of that... but now, when I come to think... Thank you.

      It was a warm and pleasant feeling.

      - I wonder... This world of fog... is it your prison? your trap? What if I took you to other dreams? Can I?

      "I crave night... Starry sky."

      And that's where we got. Grassy plains, far mountains, sky full of stars. I felt the beast almost cried.

      "Ride me. Ride my back."

      I got on the beast's back and she ran. She ran tirelessly through the plains without end. I felt ecstasy of the ride. Wind on my face, whisper of the grass under the claws.

      Then the world lost focus. Everything was getting thinner, less real, less solid.

      "Goodbye, master" - I heard yet, but I hardly understood it.

      A gentle touch woke me up.

      - You met it again! - I heard excited whisper. - I saw the bitemarks!

      I opened my eyes.

      - Yes, I did. She's much prettier than in that picture now. More noble I'd say. Why did it end?

      - You entered the ALPHA phase. REM ended. - explained Otto.

      - You slept for quite a while. - added Claudia. I noticed several glasses with or without coffee, empty pizza boxes stuffed into trashcan, apparently they spent a long time, waiting.

      - And the questions? Did you ask the questions? - demanded Ralf.

      - Doesn't know human lore, can't describe its own world, lacking words and analogies. And some disturbing news... Can communicate with our world... through death.

      - What do you mean? Clinical death or what? - Otto demanded answers.

      - No. Let me cite exactly: "I sense death, I cause death".

      The students fell silent.

      - We got it. Lab rats. - Otto was enthusiastic.

      - I got the same idea. Sorry, but that won't work.

      - Why?

      - Only high lifeforms. Humans and "big, strong, proud animals". - suddenly I recalled something. - Can you check local news?

      - It's 2 AM. You won't get any news at this time. What for?

      - They should find a human body on that glade.

      - If we start the laundromat, we could get some news - said Ralf.

      It soon appeared, that what he called laundromat was the computer on the desk, and not without reason. The old computer was howling madly and making all kinds of awful noises. Soon it confirmed my news - about 8PM the decontamination team discovered a body of a young woman.

      - You could have seen the body, maybe you felt it only subconsciously but didn't realize and only now...

      - Professor, you're in denial. That's a solid proof. They found it at 8PM! After good eight hours of searching the area! He was there only a few minutes, then since 5PM he was here, without access to the news! He just couldn't have known!

      - Nonsense. Either this man is seriously misguided or just a stupid prankster and I'm going to prove it. Come on! Get the beast to kill me!

      - But... No! Are you crazy?!

      - It does not exist! It can't harm me! Nothing can happen!

      - I don't want to harm you, professor!

      - Professor, do NOT do this! We got the proof of the opposite. Do not deny the facts! - stated Mortimer.

      - Yes, please, professor - pleaded Claudia.

      - Ah, bunch of pussies! - Otto was getting angry. - I asked you to take part in this experiment because I thought you are brave. I've seen cases of schizophrenia harder than this in my life. There is nothing that could go wrong! He goes to sleep, he gets his stuff done, he wakes up. The fact he chooses me, means nothing!

      - We can't talk you out of it?

      - No, you can't!

      - Sorry, Otto, but in this case I will plainly refuse to participate in the experiment. I don't intend to kill you!

      - My god, are you all crazy? Do you really believe this thing is real?! You could have guessed someone died on that glade. That was very probable!

      - Professor, can't we perform this experiment on more safe basis? Kill a big animal?

      - Safer basis. You don't know what you're talking about. What are the chances of failure? This is not some damned science-fiction! This is the real world! Such things don't happen and that's it!

      - I'll ask the beast, but if she refuses, you can jump to any conclusions you wish, I'm out of this experiment.

      - Professor! I'll go for it for you - declared Ralf.

      - No way! It's my thing!

      - So... you admit there is some risk?

      - You miserable trickster! No! There is no risk. But you are already shitting your pants and you could twist all the results if you changed your mind in the middle of the experiment! That must be a calm person and in this room the only calm person is ME!

      Ralf rolled his eyes. - So be it. - he sighed. - Suicidal instinct.

      The whole aperture was back in place. It took me over half a hour to fall asleep again. The preliminary dream was terribly dumb, something about my job and sending letters in bad envelopes... but then there I was, not in the fog world, but on the grassy plains at night. The beast was far, very, very far, but I got there in a flash. She turned back and stopped by me.

      "Master, I feel it. You want me to kill."

      - I ask you to kill. You are free to refuse.

      I saw the beast's eyes started glowing.

      "I feel him. I can talk to him. I will try to talk him out of that"

      - You can talk to him?

      "Death is upon him."

      - What do you mean?

      "Lethal sickness. He will die soon."

      - And... And Martin?


      - So that's why he... Yes, try talking him out of this.

      "Please... Let me rest"

      I sat down, the beast lay her head on my knees. She closed her eyes.

      It lasted. I saw red glow from under the closed eyelids from time to time. Her muscles tensed as in a bad dream. Then I saw her teeth getting longer, her mane shagged, her ribs showing through. I hugged her head, shook it hard, pushed my cheek to the mane.

      - Wake up, beast. Wake up! - I whispered into her ears.

      She did.

      "Master, I beg you. Don't tempt me anymore."

      - Feed - I lay down, exposing my whole body - This exhausted you. You need to recover.

      "Take me back to the fog. This isn't my place anymore." I did so. Then the beast fed on me. I lived through all of this, didn't mind the light, stinging pain of bits of my body torn out. Her flanks filled, but she didn't recover the noble posture. She thanked me before taking the last bite. Then I was woken up.

      - The paramedics took professor, but he's alive. Will he live? - asked Ralf in trembling voice, while Mortimer was taking the electrodes off me.

      - No. - I took a deep breath - He won't.

      - The beast...

      - No. Not the beast. He's deadly sick.

      - How do you know? - asked Ralf. Claudia just looked at him and he sighed.

      - Okay now, what happened? All I saw was Beast in some sort of trance. She was to talk professor out of it.

      - The, the... - Mortimer tried to explain, but he couldn't find voice. Claudia just took the tape from the camera and inserted it into the video player. For a while she sought the moment when my dream with the beast starts.

      - The brain activity calmed down. REM, but inactivity. - I heard Claudia's voice from the video.

      - Look! Professor! Quick, camera on professor!

      Some quick movement, I saw Otto, image a bit shaky, camera apparently in hand. His stare quite blank.

      - Yes, I called you. - said Otto - And I think this is a telepathic trick. The fact that I hear you means nothing.

      a short pause.

      - You're just trying to excuse yourself! Pathetic parasite of mind, you don't exist, you are just his imagination! Come on! Do it!

      another pause.

      - I, the prey? - I saw professor standing up from his seat. - Come! Do it! See? Tasty flesh! What do you want? My liver? My heart? Come, it's all yours!

      Suddenly he opened his mouth. A muffled yelp, he collapsed, holding his stomach. He convulsed violently again. Claudia ran to him and held him tightly, I think Mortimer ran to the desk and began dialing some number, somewhere out of the field of vision.

      - We... We have an emergency here - I heard. - Our profesor... had attack. The university, building F, floor 3 room 317. It's very serious! It looks like he's dying!

      Suddenly professor gasped and just stared blankly without moving.

      - He's dead! Oh my god, he's dead! - shouted Claudia.

      - Reanimation! Now!

      - He's breathing.

      - Thanks god! Check for injuries!

      - Below his ribs! Internal bleeding!

      - Let's take him downstairs, it will take hours till paramedics find us here!

      - Drop that camera and help me!

      The image shifted and began showing just the floor, wall and the door at some strange angle. I saw the students carrying professor outside.

      Claudia ran the tape in fast forward for a while. She stopped when legs of the students appeared in focus. Ralf picked the camera up and directed it at me.

      - So what now?

      - We should wake him up.

      - My god, look at his hand!

      - His legs!

      - The beast devours him! We must wake him up!

      - No! Wait! Look at EEG!

      - He's calm.

      - He's feeding it.

      - Take the blanket off, gently. Light, not too much.

      - Just look at this. It takes bites of his chest!

      - That must hurt!

      - What happens to us when it finishes with him?

      - No, no. He should just wake up.

      - But if...

      - Then we will carry you out, okay?

      - Okay.

      - Do you think he feels it?

      - Barely. He did this before.

      - But he should be long dead by now!

      - He dies only after the beast bites his head.

      - So, we wait till it reaches his head?

      - Exactly. Watch the EEG.

      - See that small pulses? Must be moments when the beast bites him.

      A while of silence. The camera showing as the marks follow up my body. They reach my neck.

      - Now...

      Four spots next to the already fading old ones appeared on my face.

      - He doesn't wake up...

      - Alpha phase. He passed into alpha phase. I think we can wake him up.

      Ralf was mounting the camera back on tripod, while the others were waking me up.

      Claudia turned the video off.

      - So that's it. We have our proof.

      - And professor is dying.

      - Martin will die first.

      - When?

      - I don't know. Sooner than Otto.

      - How?

      - I don't know.

      - Can we prevent that?

      Silence fell.

      - I don't know what you think about it, but I just want to wake up - said Mortimer.

      - Mort, R.C. What does it read? - Ralf held up some book he picked from the desk.

      - Journal of psychology and psychiatry.

      Ralf lowered the book and raised it again. - Now what it reads?

      - Journal of psychology and psychiatry?

      - You are awake. - he looked at the book for a moment. - so am I. - Claudia? - he showed the book to Claudia.

      - Journal of psychology and psychiatry. Journal of psychology and psychiatry.

      - What are you doing? - I asked.

      - Reality check. You can't read in dreams. The text never reads the same twice. We just confirmed it was all real and we aren't dreaming.

      - Why oh why... Why the first paranormal being I meet in my life must be evil? - complained Mortimer.

      - She isn't evil.

      - Now you're in denial. After all it agreed to kill professor.

      - No, she didn't.

      - So what was that?

      - I asked her to talk him out of this.

      - But despite this...

      - When she was back, she asked me not to tempt her anymore.

      - But still... Do you think we should try to destroy... her?

      - No. - said Ralf. - She's the only bridge to the... I don't know where.

      - This reminds me scenes from Alien - sighed Claudia.

      - You mean we should try to kill her?

      - Sorry, but I strongly disagree - I interrupted. - She was never aggressive to anyone, except when really strongly provoked. Besides, when I saw her today, she was nothing like that monster from the picture. She was a truly noble creature. She changes.

      - So, she changes for better, but despite that she tried to kill professor. By the way, why didn't she... finish?

      - I stopped her. I woke her up from the trance...

      - Why? You said you didn't see...

      - She was changing. For worse.

      - So... No, this is just too much for me for today - complained Mortimer.

      - We need to rest and think of it. Let's better go.

      We left the room, Ralf locked it, and we went through the dark, deserted building, making plans for tomorrow - we decided to meet in the afternoon in hospital, to see professor. Before we said goodbye, Mortimer stopped me.

      - Please, when you meet her, ask her not to haunt us, okay?

      He was serious.

      I went home. I slept. I met her. She was hungry again.

      - You didn't want my blood before. Now you crave for it. Why?

      "I changed."

      - Can you change back again?


      - How?


      - You guided me to that glade, did you?

      "I did. I'm sorry for that"

      - Can you still do that kind of things?

      "You have forbidden this"

      - I... I'm sorry. I guess you were right. I was just scared. Do what you think is right. Just don't hurt people.

      "Thank you, master. There is that place... It hurts me."

      - Where?

      "I will lead you. Just let me guide you."

      - What happens there?

      "Many horses die. They suffer."

      - Maybe it's a slaughter? In that case I can't help much. Death hurts you?

      "death of my kind."

      - So, you are a horse?


      - The nightmare.


      - Sent for vengeance?


      - I thought wraiths seek revenge.

      "I did."

      - Tell me about it.

      "Another time, please, master"

      - Okay, another time. You talk very little, as if it was an effort.

      "It costs. Hunger."

      - Rest. Feed. - I made another cut on my hand with a razor blade, just next to the one the beast was licking.

      I let it last. A long while later I asked.

      - I felt I'd lose something important if I let you die. What would it be?

      "Nothing. Just me."

      When I began losing consistency of the dream, I just said "Guide me" and forced myself to wake up.

      It was still almost dark. I looked through the window - it was raining. I forced my aching body to get up, took some warm clothes on, prepared a raincoat, decided to make myself a coffee before I go, but before the water began boiling, I felt the urge to go. I just turned the kettle off, took boots and raincoat on and went on my way. I didn't plan my route. I just walked in some particular direction. Once I found myself in a dead end, I had to retract my steps and go to some other crossroads. My way led through residential districts, through a large part of the city, then along the highway. My legs began aching a bit, when I felt I should cross the highway and take a turn. But I didn't need to. I saw it already, buildings, billboard. "Meat industry factory". I called for a taxi back home. While waiting for it, I saw a truck with horses slowing down and taking a turn towards the slaughter. I thought that Beast has all the reasons for vengeance.

      "I was"... Does it mean she will start anew when I die? Even if so, I couldn't blame her. I just started thinking of some way of stopping the slaughter. I couldn't think of anything. The taxi arrived, and took me home. I tried to go to sleep, but I didn't meet her. I felt terrible, not only because of my whole body aching anew, but because I felt so helpless.

      I dragged my feet to the car and drove to the hospital. Mortimer met me in the entrance lobby.

      - He's conscious and feeling better, though he lost much blood. He got transfusion though. They allow visitors since 1PM, that's in half a hour. I tried gathering some info on the nightmare lore. - he picked his backpack he had left on one of seats by the walls and invited me to sit down. He pulled a rather big book in hard cover.

      - Role-playing games bestiary. About the best source of info on all fantastic creatures one can get nowadays. - he opened the book on a bookmarked page. A picture of a black horse with bones visible through bat-like wings was drawn.

      - Can she fly?

      - No. - I remembered Martin's tale. - She can't. But she can run very fast.

      - Fiery mane and tail?

      - No, black shiny fur.

      - Teeth?

      - And claws. You saw the picture, it's really good one.

      - Any signs of... fire?

      - No... Yes. Her eyes were gleaming red when she attacked Otto. And I remember some feel of... something like fire, when she hunted me.

      - When what?

      - Long ago. When I was the prey. I kept running. Back then, I didn't ever see her, never dared to look back.

      - So... fiery look during attack.

      - What do you need that info for?

      - I try to... understand her motives.

      - Do you have wraiths in this book?

      - Yes, why?

      - She's a kind of wraith. Wraith horse.

      - Now that's a completely different approach. Werewolf, wight, worg... here. Ah, by the way. There's something wrong, in the original meaning, the nightmare didn't mean a horse. I looked it up on the net and it was some kind of demon... well, the wraith nature could explain it. Okay, bound by strong emotions, anger or despair, seeks revenge, filled with hate... not quite like your?

      - I asked if she's looking for revenge. She said "I did".

      - A retired wraith?

      - Or lost.

      - Hello, Claudia, Ralf - the two walked up to us and Mortimer greeted them. Claudia carried flowers.

      - How is he?

      - Better.

      - Got anything new?

      - I had a rather long talk with the beast.

      - And?

      - How can I stop a slaughter from killing horses?

      - Now this is something different!

      - I guess... investigate and find something, and send inspectors to shut them down. - said Claudia.

      - Burst inside, loaded with guns and change it into... err, never mind.

      - Or drive it out of business by means of competition. Or buy it and simply shut it down. Is that what the beast wants?

      - Yes, that's it.

      - Its mission here?

      - Not really. But a wish.

      - Not an easy task if you ask me - said Claudia. - Though noble. If you find some way, you can count on my help.

      - And mine - added Ralf.

      Mortimer was thinking for a while. - Count me in too. One o'clock, let's go.

      A while later, Otto greeted us from his bed.

      - Now, now, I'm still alive so the beast is not real - he waved to us. - No, I'm just joking. I can't deny after SUCH a proof. I got what I was asking for! So, what's the story?

      We told him the story in detail. I told about my talk with beast, about the slaughter and our doubts.

      - So she really had reasons to dislike me. I way too often buy horse salami...

      - By the way, did the doctor say what kind of injury was that?

      - Bites. In my liver. He was scratching his head for quite a while and asking how I got a dog to bite my liver without biting my skin.

      - So, what are the plans for now?

      - First off, from now on, end with salami. Now this is a habit to drop!

      - Profesor... - interrupted Claudia. - I know, you try to keep high spirits... But we know one thing more. The beast can't talk to humans...

      - But?

      - ...unless they have little life left.

      Otto shook his head a bit. - So you know. A tumor. I have about half a year of life left.

      - And Martin?

      - What Martin?

      - He supposedly has less.

      - I didn't know?! He never told me! Now this is an ugly coincidence and please don't seek some hidden motives behind it. I will be here for another week or so, until the wounds heal. And about that slaughter, don't worry. I think I can help.

      - How?

      - Some people owe me a few things.

      - Professor, we must go. A lecture. - said Mortimer. After a short good-bye they left.

      - Now we have to talk seriously. - he said to me. - They are fascinated by the idea of meeting some... alien. I'm far less thrilled about it. It tried to kill me and almost succeeded. We don't know what motives it has, what it wants and why it does what it does. We know it can kill. We know your death is profitable for it. We know it gains power. It found out it can't win by force, so it used a trick to gain your sympathy. Now as a parasite it feeds on your pain and uses you as its own tool for its own purposes. In short: We must destroy it before it destroys you.

      I was shocked by this change, but I didn't show it.

      - Can you kill it?

      - Yes, but she... it gets reborn.

      - Can you kill it permanently?

      - I can starve it to death.

      - Do it. I don't want to see a new bitemark on you. They are probably very harmful to your health anyway.

      I realized I didn't tell anyone about my method of feeding the beast without biting. I decided to leave it that way. Better! I didn't tell anyone the beast can read in my mind!

      - Were you serious about the slaughter?

      - Why? Why should we fulfill its wishes?

      - Distraction. It's pretty strong now. Stronger than ever before. I can excuse myself from feeding it for a while, bad health, work, pain, that stuff. But starving is a slow process. It lasted three months since I learned to fight until it was nearly dead. If it finds out before it's weak enough, we both can get in trouble. Such an action would certainly calm it down.

      - Burn down a national park in order to steal a pack of potato chips? But true, this is not a pack of potato chips. But can't you fight it?

      - I prefer not to check. Besides, I remember once I met the beast without being lucid. Not long ago. If it attacked me, I would be in deep trouble then.

      - If I get that slaughter closed, will you cooperate?

      - Yes.

      - Starve it. And keep it secret. Try to find out as much as you can.

      - What about the students?

      - Don't tell them.

      - Right. So... the beast will ask about the slaughter. What should I say?

      - First I get out of hospital. We don't rush things. Time is on our side.

      "Not on your side", I thought, but I nodded. I thought that if beast starved at the same rate as when I was killing it, probably Otto would die first. But then I realized: Beast was starving faster. Something has changed. When she was in noble form, she wasn't hungry. Now she craved. Feeding blood was not enough.

      What caused the changes?

      Attack on Otto made it worse.

      The glade.

      Good and evil.

      What good can I do in her name?

      The slaughter is obvious. But that will take time. If I was to hide any bitemarks, I had to do something else, smaller, but fast.

      The beast is a horse. Horses are most important to her.

      The idea loomed in my head.

      Save some horses.

      - Is that all? - I asked.

      - Go now. Report if anything unusual happens.

      - How can I contact the students?

      - Through me.

      I cursed in my thoughts. Claudia seemed to really jump on the idea of closing the slaughter. She had to know some organizations. Oh well, I will seek myself.

      I left. I decided to talk with beast before I undertake any steps, so I went home. A light lunch, sleep. Fog world.

      - Will that help you?

      "No. Sorry."

      - Why?

      "Not my idea. Not my deed."

      - So... Think. Just tell me what to do.

      The beast fell silent. She licked blood seeping from my hand, but ribs were showing through worse than before. The beast raised her head a few times, but the sparks in her eyes were vanishing as soon as they appeared.

      "Give blood"

      - I do.


      - How? Whom?

      "Those who need it. People."

      I thought for a while. - Like, donate blood? In hospital?

      "Yes. That will help. A little."

      - Consider it done. Think more.

      I thought too.

      - Can I give you small hints?


      - I have money. More than I really need. I wouldn't mind donating them to some charity.

      "Save horses."

      - But you said... Would that help you?

      "No. Them."

      I hugged the big black head, feeling tears in my eyes.

      - What should I do with that stupid Otto?

      "I'm afraid of him."

      - Think.

      A long while.

      "Plant trees."

      - Interesting. I'll ask the rangers when they plant trees and join the nearest action. How does that help?

      "Powerful lifeforce. Helps."

      - But if that's in a month or two... Not much point in buying seeds and planting trees tomorrow, is it?


      - I should grow long hair and buy a colorful shirt and several necklaces. - I smiled.

      "Never too late" - I saw the beast smiling to me.

      - Don't smile, it gives me creeps.

      That made things only worse. I hugged her head, smiling. But then beast looked in my eyes.

      "Stop eating meat."

      - Now you're asking much. Will that help?

      "a lot."

      - As soon as I wake up, I'll throw all meat from the fridge away.

      "No. Just don't buy more."

      - You're talkative today.

      "If you are going to do this all... I can afford it."

      - So blood, trees, meat, horses. I should write this down. Argh, even if I do, when I wake up, the notepad will be gone.

      "Convince others."

      - To what?

      "Blood, trees, meat, horses."

      - Now if I could find the students.

      "I wish I could help".

      - I'd prefer you couldn't.

      The beast looked at me, asking.

      - Better we don't find them... using your skills.

      "Tasteless joke." - she looked at me, hurt.

      - Sorry - I smiled. - I can't get used to a wraith with sense of humor.

      I saw my hand losing consistency.

      - I'm losing it. Good bye! - I hugged the beast's head once again, as it melted into void in my arms and the next thing I lost was consistent thinking.

      I woke up very early in the morning, refreshed and in good mood. I used up last of eggs and bacon for my breakfast, smiling at thought these may be the last I eat in long, long time, if not ever. I drove to the hospital, registered as a honorable blood donor, successfully passed all the tests and donated blood. I was feeling a bit dizzy, but happy. I dropped into the hospital bookstore and bought a book about vegetarian food. I called the rangers station, they greeted me warmly and promised to let me know when they plant trees, but that will be in December... Meat, blood, trees... Horses! I smiled - that's supposedly not what helps beast, but... makes her happy. Now I needed some pointers and I didn't really know where to start. I called the horse racing management but nobody answered. I pondered finding some vets, but I didn't think it would be OK to call them, and I wasn't sure how a waiting room full of sick pets would react to my presence. I decided I need to catch Claudia and thought the hospital entrance lobby is the right place, but... not at 10AM. I checked the visit hours with the reception and having absolutely nothing else to do, drove to work. Friday... Supposedly the rush starts with Monday so some preliminary work could help.

      Boss was nicely surprised. Yes, there was some work. Not much, at least not enough to recall me from holiday, but enough to keep me occupied for two hours. I greeted Sandra, she seemed friendly but she avoided me. When boss asked me if I'm better, I just couldn't help to scare her a little, just for fun.

      - So-so. I'm fine, the doctor is worse.

      - The doctor? - asked the boss.

      - A psychoanalyst, had to go to hospital after examining my mind. - I chuckled. - No, seriously he just got some problems with his liver during my visit and they got him to hospital. - I couldn't help grinning, looking how nervously Sandra stacks some papers on her desk.

      - So, are you better?

      - As you can see. A little rash from time to time and I had a small depression but I consulted specialists, had a lot of sleep, had some long walks, and it's perfectly okay now, without any medication. I'd better get to work now, I want to leave some time before 1PM, to meet someone. She's a student at the university...

      I couldn't help bursting with laughter when I saw Sandra's face.

      - Oh come on, Sandra, don't you see I'm just teasing you?

      Boss looked at Sandra, at me, chuckled - You're nasty.

      - That's NOT funny! - fumed Sandra.

      When he left, she came up to me. - So, what's the situation?

      - The beast? Cease fire for now. And the girl is assistant of that unfortunate doctor.

      - So he DID have an accident?

      - He will be fine.

      - But that was related to the beast?

      - He was really asking for trouble.

      - What do you mean?! It hurt someone! Someone real! It could go and kill anyone!

      - It's not that simple. He took some pretty far-going measures to meet the beast.

      - You're just too careless - she shook her head, going back to her desk. - Don't ask me out until you get rid of that thing!

      - Understood.

      Actually, I preferred when people didn't believe in the beast.

      I finished my work, got to the hospital and met Mortimer in the entrance lobby. I greeted him and shared the news - that I was at work, that I donated blood. I said the beast gets hungry at a quick rate. He liked the idea of donating blood

      - After all, we all should somehow repay the people who helped saving professor. - he said. He asked about it for a while, then told me to wait for others and tell them to wait while he donates his blood. I was just grinning widely.

      He was coming back when Claudia and Ralf arrived. He began actively encouraging them to donate blood.

      - Wait a moment. This is a nice idea - Claudia smiled and began entering a text message on her phone. - Let's show professor that we all think of him. Whole class!

      - Wow! Cool! - Ralf was enthusiastic. - Now that's an original gift! And goes well along with the theme!

      - Here. Sent. - Claudia smiled. - Let's make a good start.

      We still had some ten minutes left so we all headed to the donor center. Claudia received a message on her phone. - They are asking if people from other groups can join in.

      - Of course! - The more the better!

      I didn't say a word. I was flabbergasted. Oh well, maybe I won't have to give up eating meat?

      Mortimer and I sat in the waiting room, while Claudia and Ralf were registering for the donation, but they told us to go. While walking the corridor back to the lobby, Mortimer greeted two young men walking in opposite direction.

      - Now that's a fast reaction! They are coming already!

      We got to Otto. Mortimer told him about the blood donation action. Otto smiled and thanked him a lot, but I noticed he is secretly very displeased. He asked Mortimer to leave us alone for a while.

      - What's this madness? The beast told you to do this, didn't it?! It wants to weaken your body!

      - No, really! I... I was early, I didn't want to waste time and I... I was curious, after all that biting and bleeding in my dreams, how does that feel really!

      - Did you feed it?

      - No!

      - Good. Now just think how to stop that madness with blood.

      - Do we need to? It isn't anything... evil. People need blood.

      - But all that attention, all that show. I'm sure it will end up at least in our university newspaper. I wanted to keep this thing quiet!

      - I... really didn't intend to. It just slipped out of hand!

      - So it's too late. I hope I will get to keep my students from telling this all to the reporters! Call Mortimer.

      He hoped in vain. Mortimer went in, accompanied by Claudia and Ralf.

      - Good afternoon, professor - smiled Claudia. - Guess what?! We will have a four-page article in our newspaper about that all!

      I had hard time suppressing laughter when I looked at his face.

      - It's not my fault! - I exclaimed.

      - Now what did you tell them? - he asked Claudia.

      - Not much. That we found a man who has contact with some... abnormal creature, and that it was the creature who wounded you during experiments.

      - I told you all so many times! No press until we have hard evidence!

      - And your liver? Is that not enough?

      - So should I pull it out and show anyone who asks? Or install a glass window in my belly?

      - The surgeon will confirm.

      - The surgeon can lie. The vultures will rip me to pieces if that gets outside, to the scientific circles. I will be finished as a scientist!

      - Okay, okay! I'll straighten it out! Carla should be still in the donor center. - Claudia rushed out.

      - Good. Now I don't want to hear a word about the beast anymore today. After what you did, probably crowds will roll through this room today anyway.

      - Well, there's not much else I could talk about... - I said.

      - I want to meet you in my lab when I'm out of here. Until then, there's not much I or you can do.

      - I'll be going then. - I said.

      I walked out and watched out to catch Claudia as I walked towards the lobby. She ran from behind a corner, ran past me, exclaiming "It's all right!" and I barely managed to call her. She stopped, gasping a little.

      - Yes? Any problem?

      - Horses. Do you have any contact with some organization that helps saving horses?

      - Yeah. Viva! Here! - she dug up a leaflet from her bag, handed it to me and ran to the room.

      I looked at a photo of a terribly skinny horse, staggering against a wall and trying to walk down a ramp from a truck. There was a sign - "Not in my name" below it. There was some contact info too. I put it in my briefcase with a thought that if Otto fails to shut down the slaughter, I may need my money for that, but on success I will give a big donation.

      A group of students walked by me. One of them staggered a little, but others supported him. Smiling, I went to do some shopping. I may not have to switch to vegetarianism, but why not give it a try? I looked up some interesting positions in the book and bought the ingredients, plus some random fruits and vegetables. I took this all home. It was not very late afternoon but I felt quite tired and sleepy. And I just wanted to see beast.

      I got right on time. She didn't move. She lay on the white floor, her eyes filled with madness, ribs, skin... I ran up to her, sat by her, I raised her head, putting it on my knees, knife, quick, deep cut, hand in her mouth, blood flowing into her throat. A spark of life appeared in her eyes.


      - Rest. Feed.

      It lasted, and I saw amazed, as her fur starts shining, as her fangs retreat, as her flanks fill at amazing rate. I saw claws morphing into hooves.

      "So much blood. So many saved lives. Master, take me to the plains, so I could feed there.

      "Feed some more here, then I will take you there."

      "Master... Grass! I don't need blood anymore!" - I saw as beast licks my wound once again and it heals.

      - You gained some power...

      "If any evil happens because of me, I will lose it."

      I thought of the plains at night. With some changes though: Deep, juicy grass. A group of apple trees with ripe apples. Crickets. A lake and a river in a far valley. Far mountains and far sea.

      And beast was no longer beast. Neither she was that noble, strong creature. Now she was just a pretty black filly, prancing in the grass. She ate some apples and last of her past look was gone - no more fangs, tail of soft, long hairs, a nice gleam in her eyes. Prancing she ran up to me.

      "Now this is a place I love! Master! You are wise, noble and generous! I'm so happy you guessed the rule!"

      - The rule?

      "Any good or evil I cause, directly or indirectly, returns to me."

      - Why didn't you just tell me?

      She stood in dark silence.

      - It's another rule, right?


      - And one of the rules is you can't tell me the rules unless I guess them myself?


      - Who set the rules?


      - Can you break them?

      "No. They are... basis of my existence. Like rules of physics."

      - You owe me something, remember? A story.

      "Now I can tell you... as much as I can."

      I picked a few apples, put them on the grass, lay under one of the trees, she lay next to me.

      "I was just a filly. One like you see now... but my life was full of suffering. Cruel people, cruel treatment. I won't go into details... They are bad. Really bad. I was bred, then sold, then suffered more. I was sold to slaughter. I gave birth in the truck. They killed me and my foal."


    3. #3
      Join Date
      Jan 2004
      As I was driving back home I was thinking of the beast. What an invaluable resource. Last years taught me to look at everything and everyone as resources or obstacles. And while the beast appeared to be invaluable in climbing the lower steps of the ladder, over the last weeks I just couldn't stand thought that her stronger side, much more powerful, goes completely unused. A waste of resources...

      And now the situation called for using it desperately. Luger had 47% of votes, I had 33%. The rest of the votes was evenly distributed between other three candidates. Now only a miracle could change the results... and I happened to know how to cause one.

      I just lost a friend, gained an enemy. Unpleasant feeling. I didn't hope he would change his mind when I fulfill all my promises. I really intended to. At least to keep the beast in good condition for other... jobs. I thought every politician should have such a beast that like a barometer shows whether he does more good or more evil. If everyone did just enough to keep their beasts in shape, the country would be flourishing. I thought my beast would stay on the bright side... though the unpleasant feeling remained. Feeling, that I was willing to fulfill all my threats in case Mike wouldn't agree, wasn't pleasant either. But... politics requires sacrifices.

      I got to my office and gave orders - Changing the campaign style. We bash the weaklings, we get closer to the leader's opinions. Cease fire, support him.

      - But... but that's a political suicide! He will eat us alive!

      - Calm down and do what I say.

      Mike hated delaying things. That was quick and clean. Heart attack. My supporters gathered around me, watching with jaws dropped, as the camera focused on coroner's car, reanimation team, people gathered around the body.

      A boy looked at me with shock...

      - You...

      - I knew. I wouldn't start in the first place, if I didn't. In this game there's no prize for second place.

      - You... knew he would die?

      - They call me Mulder, you know. I know... things. Now, get back to work, we have elections to win!

      Most of people moved on, the boy stayed.

      - But you could have...

      - What? Warned him? Would he listen?

      The boy left. I walked out, to greet my supporters and fans gathered outside the office. Giving out badges, T-shirts, assuring about my support... Half a hour later I was back, quite exhausted. I washed my face, then turned the news on. Yes - now I was the only reasonable candidate.

      Then the coroner's car. I though they repeat the news but... Luger's lawyer and right hand had heart attack too.

      Well, not a surprise. If my boss died a few days before his life's victory, I would be a bit shocked too. But then...

      But then the reporter cuts in announcing third death. Luger's brother. The two were always working together, though Luger was the boss.

      I picked the phone and called Mike. No answer. I tried again.

      - Yes? - I heard a bit sleepy voice.

      - What the hell are you doing?! I said only Luger!

      - I said only Luger too.

      - And? - I began realizing the situation.

      - And Beast went to kill him. I haven't seen her ever since. What happened?

      - Luger's lawyer and brother are dead.


      - Do something! - I shouted.

      - Like?

      - Stop her!

      - How?

      - I don't know! Just do it!

      - I don't know either.

      - You're supposedly omnipotent in your dreams. Just find her and stop her!

      - It doesn't quite work that way. If I don't see her and I wish to find her, I will find a beast. But not her. Just illusion, a dream. Either she comes back or...

      - Or what?

      - Or I don't know what.

      - Listen, Mike. If I need to free her in order to stop her, I will!

      - I doubt that would stop her. I feel she's on rampage. She won't stop until she starts starving. Then she will come back to me. And even then I'm not quite sure if she will be tame again.

      - You... knew from the very beginning.

      - There's some evil in each of us. I told you not to tempt us.

      - Mike, you will be condemning her!

      - Most of my life will lie in ruin. I will have to face the enemy again. But I feel I can save her... of course if you let me. If you cancel releasing the book, won't destroy the ranch...

      - I won't release the book! Only if I die it would be...

      - That's it - Mike cut in, with his infuriatingly calm voice. - When you die.

      - You mean...

      - She hates you. If you have that hypnotists to teach you how to defend, you'd better start learning now.

      - But if I die, the book will be released! She won't...

      - She will. She's not that soft cuddly mare anymore. Now she's a mad monster. Only hunger can stop her, and it's long till she feels first signs of it.

      - So why on earth should I cancel releasing the book? Why not have my revenge on her?

      - For your own good? We know there's more beyond. And we know good and bad actions influence what happens to those who died.

      - You mean I should... save my soul?

      - It's too late to save the body.

      I was sweating, walking in circles.

      - So, how long...

      - No idea. Maybe a week, maybe right now. I told you, I don't know where she is.

      - What if... I induce hunger? Release the book now?

      - I'm not sure if you tackle the conception with the book. And the form of the risk. It may last months since the release till enemy strikes.

      - I will go on rampage myself! Not stopping me should be bad enough.

      - So the sooner you will be stopped.

      - There is... no rescue for me?

      - Pray that Beast remembers, pray for her to forgive.

      - What?

      - It's all up to her now. She might... have some mercy left.

      I hung up and dialed the hypnotist.

      - I need this service we talked about, now.

      - Now? But...

      - Double pay.

      - Okay. But we can't do this at my home. Family arrived.

      I heard him arguing with wife for a moment.

      - Hotel Preskin, this evening.

      - NOW!

      - I... I have no idea?

      - A motel outside the city. These are quiet during the day.

      - Okay. My car is broken, could you pick me up?

      - I'll be right there.

      I was wrong about the motel. It took us almost three hours to find a quiet, calm place where I could be hypnotised... which was an abandoned, ruined ranch. It took the hypnotist another hour to get me calmed down enough to get me into the trance.

      He wanted me to try my strength. To battle a fake beast. So I called the world of fog. I recalled a beast like I had seen on Mike's picture. It attacked, and with some effort I got it killed. I tried again. No problems. One more...

      And then I felt it.

      The real one came. She was different. Shiny, black fur, noble posture of a big horse... but long fangs in her mouth left no doubt.

      She trotted up to my fake beast. She closed her teeth on its neck, shook her head and threw the body away like a rag doll. She turned to me and walked very slowly.

      Fight! I must fight! I wished for two walls of spikes to close on her. They did. The spikes broke, falling away, the walls fell off, the beast was unharmed. A weight, 200 ton metal block... it bounced off beast's back like styrofoam. I thought of myself as a powerful, invulnerable fighter... and there I was, pinned to the ground with merciless Beast's will. She stood over me, lowering her mouth to my face. I was struggling. I heard distant, muffled, scared voice of the hypnotist.

      She snapped her teeth in front of my face.

      "I delight in your fear" sounded in my head.

      - Nnno! It's impossible! You can't do things like that! It's just a dream!

      "I grew powerful since the beginning. I'm much stronger."

      - Please! I beg you! Don't kill me! I will do whatever you want!

      "How pathetic. Your fear is so delicious... it would be pity to end it that fast. But a day of fear... Tomorrow at the same time."

      She lowered her head to my face. I yelled in pain as her jaws were smashing my skull. I woke up.

      My whole face was hurting. The hypnotist gave me a pack of handkerchiefs.

      - You're bleeding - he said.

      I took one handkerchief and put it against my face. Blood marks on its sides, near my ears, on my cheeks and chin... I felt taste of blood in my mouth, found my palate bleeding. Some blood dripped from my nose.

      I stood up and stumbled to the car.

      - I'm sorry! It wasn't me! I... I... - he mumbled.

      I took the passenger seat and told him to take me home. I pulled several high-nominal notes from my wallet and handed them to him.

      - If not you, I would be dead. - I said.

      - So... you're safe?

      I didn't answer.

      At home, I took care of my wounds using basic first aid kit. Somebody called concerning the campaign, I told them to cancel all the meetings within next 3 days, and not call me anymore. Then, another call. My old friend, now the police boss.

      - Mulder, I don't know what's going on! Luger, his lawyer, his brother, then two big shots from Magrioli family, a Caribbean drug courier, president of food trade association, a horse trader an a completely random clerk. All had heart attack within last six hours! If anybody knows what happened, it's you.

      - I do. But that doesn't change a thing.

      - Why the hell?

      - Because there's no way to stop it.

      - There must be a way! It can't be that everyone dies!

      - Not everyone. Just every scoundrel within 100 miles.

      - Hey, but... we both know... you aren't a saint.

      - She saves me for dessert.

      - She? What a "she"?

      - Forget it. Forget I said anything.

      - What?! If that's some woman who does that, we can stop her! We can at least try!

      - She's a wraith. Satisfied?

      - What!... No, oh shit, tell me you're kidding me. No, a paranormal creature goes on rampage in my city! Only you could think of something like this. - his voice was getting more desperate. - Any, any way to stop it?

      - If you are asleep and meet her, beg for mercy. She sometimes listens.

      - Mulder... No, this is not a talk for a phone. Let's meet somewhere.

      - I'm not moving anywhere from home. If you want to talk, come here. And remember, by talking with me you get yourself on the hit list.

      - Shit! You tell me that now?!

      - Aren't you on the hit list already?

      - No, hell, there's nothing I could blame myself for.

      - Closing an eye on stuff?

      - No! I always did as much as possible!

      - Receiving... gifts?

      - I always told anyone who tried, to go to salvation army.

      - Any side businesses?

      - Nothing to be ashamed of.

      - Eating horse meat?

      - What?

      - Did you eat or help in production or trade of horse meat?

      - What kind of evil activity is this?! Hell, no, I didn't!

      - So better just hang up and take a few days out.

      - I will just stay here, and stay put. By the way... president of food trade association... Why the hell does she hate people who deal in horse meat?! Wait! Don't tell me. I don't want to know. Thanks for advice. See ya.

      - See ya at the funeral.

      - What funeral?

      - Mine.

      - Shit. You're serious about that, aren't you?

      - Bye.

      I hung up.

      I pondered my options for a while. I was tempted to go to a brothel, then drink and fuck till I go numb, and die unconscious. Then I decided otherwise. I called my lawyer and told him to come with all my documents. He was twenty minutes later. I ordered to have my last will and testament changed. No hostile takeover of Mike's farm, no releasing of the book, and giving most of my property to Mike. It took until midnight. I took my cheque book, and wrote cheques paying back all my old debts to my friends. Then I turned my computer on, logged into banking, took almost all my campaign money and gave them to a charity, leaving just enough to pay leave for everyone employed. I called head of the campaign, informing him of my move.

      - No, I don't resign from running for the place. I just cancel the campaign. I hope people will value my gesture more than badges and T-shirts. - I explained.

      I got into my car and drove to Mike's farm. Not to his home, I didn't want to annoy him with my presence. Just to the first of pastures where horses were grazing. I walked up to the fence, a dark filly ran up to me. I could tell from her shape she was pregnant. Now one pretty who won't have a reason to become a wraith. I cuddled the soft nose for a while, thinking how Mike felt while cuddling his beast. I stayed there for several hours, watching happy, safe horses. I thought it's partially thanks to me. After all I healed beast, I let Mike build this. I thought of that far times. Back then I wasn't bad. I went back home, answered several calls, confirmed I will take part in the debate in three days. I didn't want anyone to know I knew. At least yet... while being alive.

      I went to sleep, hoping to see Beast before she kills me. And I saw her.

      She watched me. Standing with hunched back, dull, shagged fur, long fangs and claws. I saw first signs of ribs on her flanks.

      - Beast... - I said - After you kill me... Go back to Mike. He misses you and he's worried.

      She walked up to me, slowly. I lay on my back, exposing my chest. I knew... a bite in the heart of the victim. Quick death.

      - I won't ask for mercy. I didn't deserve it. Just do it quick.

      She stood over me.

      "So, Master... What should we do with him?" I felt her thoughts, but not directed at me.

      - It's your decision. It was your idea. - I heard Mike's voice. I saw him walking off the fog.

      "Live. Run for the mayor. Do good. Don't do evil."

      I looked at her, at Mike. She stepped back from me.

      - Mike... you... freed her?

      He came up to me and gave me hand, helping me to stand up.

      - No. I'm alive and well. Over the years Beast taught me a few tricks though. She's smarter than you thought. We found several loopholes in the rules too. You heard her but you're not death-bound.

      - You never... lost control? And those people?

      - Beast thought a little clean-up in the sphere of "untouchables" would help you in your career.

      - You never really wanted to kill me?

      - Wrong. When you blackmailed me, I really wanted to kill you. Thank Beast for mercy.

      - I'm sorry. I'm so sorry - I walked up to Beast and hugged her head neck. - Beast, you are wise, noble and merciful. Thank you for opening my eyes.

      "Wake up now. You have work to do."


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