An edited and improved version of this story is now available for purchase as part of the ‘Prophecies of the Drowned Oracle’ collection.
A boy walked through a forest. His pink hair contrasted against the dark green of the plants. His steps were determined, confident. His shoes looked like new, even though he must have been walking for days now. Even his clothes still looked pristine. As if the soft flowing fabrics managed to dodge every hooked thorn, every grabbing branch. As if they flowed right through them.
Through the trees towering high above him, a light shone. His pace increased. That’s where he needed to go. Although the forest floor was covered in dry leaves and branches, he didn’t make a sound as he walked. There was complete silence. Not a single bird sang in the darkness.
He stopped in front of a monstrous house. Towering pointed roofs, walls made of dark stone, dark windows. Enormous double doors like a giant mouth. Even here the trees didn’t let any light through. Only one stained window was lit up. The doors opened for him as he approached.
He stepped into a hallway as dark and menacing as the outside of the house. Rotting wooden stairs on stone, dark emptiness around. He climbed the old wooden stairs without a sound. At the top stood another door. Golden accents reflected the light coming from underneath. Muffled clinking of tableware broke the silence. The last step creaked. The door swung open without as much as a gesture.
He walked into a grand wide open hall with high ceilings, steps echoing on marble floors. The hall was bright, lit up brilliantly by a glittering chandelier hanging above a table that stretched the length of the hall. People sitting at the table raised their glasses to him. He didn’t recognise them. They didn’t have faces. He sat down at the head of the table and took a sip of wine. It was sweet. He paused, frowned. Something was wrong.
He scanned around the table, examining the faceless people one by one. He stopped. His eyes turned flinty. A face. A girl. Sitting right in between the faceless people. She studied him intently, bright eyes moved from his pink hair to his well-tailored clothes. He didn’t have the patience to pull the same charade. “How did you get here?” he asked. His voice, while not loud, seemed to echo through the hall. The girl snapped out of her inspection but didn’t answer.
He put down his glass. Around the table, the faceless people continued their meal. “This,” he said, leaning over the table, “is my dream.” He loomed over her, lowered his voice to a deadly whisper. “I want to know what you’re doing in my dream.”
The girl didn’t answer. Just kept watching him with wide-open eyes. He had her pinned down with his glare. She sat frozen, not even daring to breathe. His nostrils flared. He pushed himself up, snapped his fingers. The faceless people around the table, who up until now hadn’t reacted to the commotion at all, turned their blank heads to him in unison. He gestured to the girl.
“Wake her up.”