|AN: This is part of a larger story, so if things don't make sense, you're probably looking for something I've made a point about in a different part of the story.
Vague summary: Kainen, King of Darkness, has Christina trapped in his kingdom, Darkness, in some magical place, and won't let her go home. They make a bargain; if she can give up her dreams, after he's through twisting them to the sickest point, he'll let her go. These are a few of the nightmares he's induced.
A gust of wind whipped into Christina's face, and she thought at first that the window had flew open. She opened her eyes and saw that the setting had changed completely.
If not for the single burning torch some few yards in front of her, she wouldn't have known that the circle that surrounded her were trees. In their harsh darkness, she could faintly make out their outline, and the gnarled shape of the bare branches. They seemed to reach out to her rather than up to the sky, which was a black stain without stars or a moon, parallel to a glistening cover of snow.
In front of Christina, on her left, was a bed. It was narrow, dressed simply with white covers and two white pillows. There was a little girl kneeling on the side of it, her arms on the bed, her chin resting on top of her hands. She had dark hair, her skin pale even in the illumination of the fire, and an overweight body. She stared up at the sky dreamily.
Christina shivered. It was not the cold, but the sound of the voice that cut through air—cut through the brutal wind. A somewhat familiar voice, yet there was something very alien in it.
It was a child's voice, but nothing a child's voice should sound like. It was too eerie. Too grim. Something in Christina's chest hurt to listen to it. No, not hurt, because there was nothing there to hurt. Hollow. Empty.
The voice was empty. No life. If it was a life, it was one filled with nothing but sadness. Brokenness. Empty dreams. Dreams forgotten.
"First star I see tonight—"
Christina drew in a breath, and took a step closer to the child near the bed, and a step to the side so she could see the child's face. Her dark curls veiled most of her face, but dark lips were smiling.
"I wish I may—"
Wish? Christina thought. Her mind spun with the forest around her. She closed her eyes to fight off the dizziness. Wish?
"I wish I might—"
Don't wish! She wanted to shout it to the child, but she couldn't manage more than a breath. She was trying to fight down nausea. Don't wish! It's a trick. He'll keep you.
"Have the wish I wish tonight."
A laugh rose up around her. A malicious laugh—deep and slow, and still managing to be as sharp as a whip lash. It echoed around her; laughs from everywhere. More than one person laughing. Many. Children, laughing joyous, carefree laughter.
Christina opened her eyes with a gasp. The child at the bed was now sitting cross-legged on the sheets, hugging a pillow to her chest and nuzzling her chin into it. Christina could see the child's face. A round face with sapphire gems for eyes, a small and pointed nose....
It was her. She remembered when she looked like that, only about seven years old. She remembered....
I remember...my parents. I remember school. Her mind was filled with dozens of memories; random, happy, painful. Those children.... Oh, those children, they were so mean to me....
Tears filled her eyes as she looked at the child. The child didn't appear to see her, staring off blankly. But Christina knew the child was thinking, profoundly, and hurting. The child's knuckles were white from the strength she used to clutch the pillow. Christina flexed her fingers, feeling them stiff and aching. She didn't realize she had been clenching her hands.
I remember.... I remember...wishing. I remember dreaming.
Christina released a long breath. Visible in the cold, the white smoke danced in front of her face, swirling higher up, and spreading out like reaching fingers. Before it dissipated, it glittered like a map of stars.
I wished every night. Every day. But not out loud—never out loud.
Christina wrapped her arms over her stomach, willing herself not to throw up. She wanted to walk forward, towards her younger self, wanting them to be able to comfort each other. She didn't move, because she knew she would fall.
There was a timid tugging on her jacket, and she sharply exhaled from holding her breath. She looked down.
Children. A dozen of them. They all dressed similarly, girls in white nightdresses and boys in white pajamas. They had sweet faces, smiling, laughing, and Christina found herself smiling back. They grabbed onto her clothing, pulling her hands away from her, begging her
forward with them.
"Come play with us," they said, their pleas clashing over each other's. "Come with us." "We want to show you something." "We have something for you." "Please play a game with us."
Christina gave a small head shake, trying to draw away from them. "No.... No, I'm...I'm too shy."
She looked up in surprise—why did I say that?—and met a familiar gaze that sent a chilly fear shooting through her. Blue eyes. Her eyes. Her younger self, huddled on the bed, was staring at her. And when Christina spoke, so did her younger self, her child's voice in perfect unison with what Christina was saying.
Then, horrified, Christina realized that she was the one echoing the words. The child was the one speaking, through her.
The children persisted. "We want to play a game. Why won't you play? It's okay if your shy; we'll play nice, and share with you."
Christina hesitated. "No.... No, I don't want to."
"You can pick the game, if you want."
"Well...maybe," Christina replied unsurely.
"Ever so stubborn, precious girl," a smooth voice purred, amused.
Christina froze, and peered past the children, into the darkness of the forest. She faintly made out a black silhouette that cleverly concealed itself just out of the firelight's reach. The figure stepped forward, bringing the darkness with him. It draped over his shoulders, rippling behind him, swirling out at the ends, alive. More darkness pooled under that, incasing him. His hair was silvery-white in stark contrast.
The children cheered, and half ran over to him, while the other half stayed behind to try and coax Christina forward.
"No!" she cried in panic, one hand shooting forward, as if she meant to pluck the children back to her side. "No! Get away from him. He's dangerous."
Kainen laughed jovially, the children hugging him tightly from all sides. He put his gloved hands on their shoulders. The dim fire made his eyes dark, glittering pools.
"Dangerous?" he repeated with shock. "Oh, how dreadful! To think me a danger to any child. I love children." He smiled, teeth showing, and looked down at the children with adoration. A hungry wolf appraising his next meal. "Children have...such imaginations. Wouldn't you agree? They dream so sweetly."
"What are you doing with them?" Christina demanded.
He blinked, expressing complete innocence. "Why, Christina, we're just playing. Just playing, and then the children will be off to bed"—he stooped down and starting tickling the nearest one, making them all laugh with delight—"because it's already far past your bed time! You should be dreaming by now." His voice lowered to a murmur, his eyes flicking back to Christina. "Deep in dreams by now, safe in the wonderland of your own imaginations. Christina, my princess...won't you join us?"
She swallowed thickly and shook her head. "I can't.... I'm too shy."
Kainen laughed and stood up carefully, gathering his cloak around him. "Pity." He turned his attention to the child, alone, sitting on the bed and watching the rest of the children longingly. "And what of you? Christina, my little princess.... Would you care to join us?"
The child uncurled from the bed tentatively, and started walking towards him. The snow was too high where she was. She was tripping, but she was determined to get to him.
And the rest of the children had joined hands, creating a ring around Kainen, pirouetting back and forth as they sang.
"Once upon a time,
There was a maiden and a King,
And in this funny little rhyme,
Happily ever after is no such thing."
Christina found her voice and cried out to her younger self. "Don't go, Christina! Stop! Please."
The child turned to Christina, and very deliberately took Kainen's hand. He smiled victoriously as the child leaned into his side, clearly taking comfort in him.
"Why not?" the child asked Christina softly. "He's always been my only friend."
* * *
Christina screamed against the vicious wind, falling onto her hands and knees. Tears of rage fell from her eyes. The snow she sunk into was so cold it felt like her skin was burning. Her hair curtained her face as she lowered her head and closed her eyes.
She didn't know how long she remained that way.
What do I do? she thought, equally despairing and panicking. What do I do?
She clenched her hands. The tips of her fingers dug through the soft earth. Which was...wrong...because the ground was frozen and covered in snow. But she felt the plush grass rising up between her fingers, all around her, and the snow melting away.
She cautiously raised her head, opening her eyes. The sun shone brightly above her, on what was now a beautiful meadow. The circle of trees were now in bloom, and decorated with vines of roses. Though the branches were still horribly twisted, it didn't look as menacing or unnatural anymore. It was beautiful.
She stood up, amongst the tall grass and wildflowers, and let her eyes roam around her, before they stopped on where the white bed was supposed to be.
It was a coffin, shining silver on a pedestal of roses and ivy. The cover was closed, and it was made of glass. The sunlight glared off of the surface, straight into Christina's eyes, blinding her until she moved forward a bit and—
"Oh God!" she choked in horror.
—she saw that there was a person inside it. It was a woman, because all she could see was a pretty, gold, lacy dress. Kainen was hunched over the other half of the coffin, staring at the woman's face, and preventing Christina from seeing. She warily walked up behind him.
"Who is it?" she asked, her voice a whisper.
He slowly turned to her, his face expressionless, his eyes downcast. Her eyes fell down to the rose in his hands, the rose that he was picking apart, very slowly. She couldn't help but wince for every petal—the pick, pick, pick of it being the only thing in the silence. It was nearly bare—it had been white—and what was left was dark and half-burnt petals.
Kainen looked up, slowly took her wrist, and drew her close to him. He gently tucked her hair behind her right ear, and proceeded to twine the flower's stem into a lock. She flinched and clenched her teeth at the sudden sting of the thorns scratching her ear as he fixed it there, but she didn't pull away.
A faint smile played around the corners of his mouth, one that didn't touch his eyes. "There. Such a rose's beauty pales in comparison to you."
Something was wrong. Wrong about her being there—wrong about him being there—wrong about his comment, and his smile, and his eyes.... But she couldn't think about that, because there was a coffin behind him, and someone was in it.
She tried to look around Kainen, but he was persistently blocking her way. "Kainen, please. Who is it?"
"Christina, don't—" he warned.
Hysteria began to bubble in her chest. Who died? Someone she knew? Was that why he wouldn't let her see? Then anger. If it was someone she knew, it wasn't his right to keep her from that. She glared at him as hard as she could, while trying to strengthen he voice as well.
"Who. Is. It?"
Kainen stared at her, and sighed, giving an indifferent shrug. With a flourish of his cloak, he stepped to the side.
She hesitated fearfully, but walked up to the coffin. She looked in.
The woman seemed to be middle-aged, and had copper-colored hair. Her blue eyes, once bright—because Christina knew the woman—were dulling by the second. The color—the life—was draining from her eyes—her hands are moving—because she was alive, and she was suffocating.
Christina wanted to scream, but she couldn't take in a breath. She couldn't breathe.
"No!" It was a strangled sob she managed with the only breath she had left. In her mind, she screamed it. No, no, no, no, no!
She ripped her gaze away from her mother and looked at Kainen, choking, and pleading. Crying. She sucked in a small, shuddering breath and said, "Please." Kainen either didn't hear it or ignored it.
"She took a bite of the apple," Kainen said, looking at Christina's mother, whose broken nails were scratching at the glass with an excruciating screech, screech, screech that left blood marks on the clear surface. "But she refuses to dream," he sighed wistfully.
Christina shook her head, coughing, and gagging, and slammed her hands down on the glass. She squeezed her eyes shut as something jolted through her entire body. She tried to bring her hands to her face, but they wouldn't move, pinned to her sides, and she could feel her body laying straight and stiff, and she still couldn't breathe.
She wheezed out another plea, barely hearing herself. When she opened her eyes, she realized why she couldn't breathe or do anything. She was stuck inside the coffin, the glass gleaming over her. She looked at her reflection; wide, blue eyes that were dulling—
* * *
Christina screamed and drew back from her reflection, and tripped over her dress in her haste, falling back against the wall, gasping wildly. The tiles of the bathroom wall were hard, and she hurt her head and elbow on them. As oxygen returned to her, she looked down at her body. She was wearing a golden dress, pretty and lacy, and back-baring (because she was sure her back was bruised but the cool tiles felt good against her skin).
She looked all around the tiny bathroom before she stared at the mirror above the marble sink, just in front of her. She took hold of the counter to help pull herself to her feet.
Why am I so weak?
She shook her head before raising it to meet her gaze in the mirror. Instead, she met the gaze of two dark, mismatched eyes. She exhaled sharply—
Why can I see my breath?
—and whirled around. There was nothing behind her, just black and white tiles. She absently wondered if there should have been a door in the room.
She turned back, looking into the mirror. Kainen was still there, standing just behind her.
Behind my reflection.
He wasn't really there. He was in the mirror. Only in the mirror. Her reflection was still there too, and she watched as he touched her reflection. She watched it like a show.
His touches seemed so light, feather caresses from black leather. He stroked her bare shoulder, and pulled back her hair to kiss her neck, kissing ever inch of bare skin from behind.
She couldn't feel his touches, and she longed to. The girl in the mirror was clearly enjoying it, and she wanted to, too.
Kainen knew this, because his eyes never left Christina's, shining through the mirror at her. He was completely aware of her. He was silently teasing her.
The girl in the mirror moaned, and Christina whimpered. She reached out without thinking, and laid her hand flat against the glass. It rippled.
She could no longer see her reflection. He smiled widely at her, knowingly, and raised his own hand to the glass to meet hers. They simply looked at each other, with only the glass separating them.
His hand fell back to his side as he laughed. She couldn't hear his laugh.
Her reflection bounced back into the mirror, and smiled at Kainen. She said something—asked something—that Christina couldn't hear. Kainen responded with a shake of his head and something that made her laugh in returned.
And then she turned to the mirror, and started applying mascara to her long eyelashes.
Christina found herself leaning into the mirror, repeating the gesture. She was holding a bottle of mascara—when did I get this?—and brushing up her eyelashes.
And she realized that she was the one in the mirror. She was the reflection, not the girl next to Kainen. The girl finished applying her makeup, Kainen watching, and Christina mirrored the movements in prefect synchronization.
The girl turned from the mirror and bounded out of the bathroom. Before Kainen followed, he blew a kiss to the mirror, to Christina.
Christina watched herself run off, and she screamed for herself to come back. She banged her fists on the mirror, as hard as she could, but all it did was ripple.
She cried out again, and clasped both of her hands together tightly, and swung sideways as hard as she could. The glass broke into large shards, falling out of the silver frame, and everything around her plunged into darkness.