Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2316609-Shadows-Torn-Asunder
Rated: E · Fiction · Action/Adventure · #2316609
Damon & Rayne confront dark secrets in a world where dreams hold the key to life and death
Prologue :

Dreams. Nightmares. The place that exists in between. As long as there have been dreams, there have been Dreamwalkers. We are an elite team of warriors who fight to keep nightmares at bay, and to keep the living alive. Die in a dream, and you’re dead in the real world. We live in the real world too, but we sleep in shifts, and when we do we enter the dreams of non-walkers and guard them with our lives.

The cycle is endless, the nightmares are never defeated, nor are the demons who orchestrate them. They wear human skin too, and sleep the same as everyone else. Some people believe that the war of dreams will never end, that sleep without terror is only a dream of the day. I don’t know what I believe, all I know is that it can’t last forever.

Chapter 1 :
Echoes of Dreams


The sunset is brilliant against the sky, awash with oranges and purples. The cliff I’m sitting on faces the ocean, and happens to be one of my preferred places to be alone. The night is approaching, and I can’t help but feel the apprehension that comes before the night. I am a Dreamwalker. It is my duty to ensure that the non-walkers survive their nightmarish dreams for yet another night. I know my brother Elias will be here soon, once he wakes from his own shift. The world never stops spinning, the non-walkers never stop sleeping. Once we’re born into the Dreamwalker community, we’re trained for this purpose alone. A death on your watch is a heavy badge of shame.

“There you are, brother. I thought maybe you’d felt like ditching me for a double shift.” Elias is a good-natured man with a kind heart and what he considers to be a great sense of humor. I snort as he sits down next to me. There are only a few minutes to spare, but I spare them anyway, not ready to leave the moment quite yet. “Are you okay?” he asks.

I pause for a moment. Yes, I’m okay, would be a lie, but at the same time, there’s nothing particularly wrong, per say. I’ve just been lost in thought today, lost in questions.

“Do you think the war will ever end?” I ask, curious as to his own thoughts on the matter. The Dream War has waged long before our generation, and several back. At some point in our history, demons emerged from their chasms and took human form. It took humanity a long time to understand why people were mysteriously going to sleep and dying, but eventually we started to put pieces together. It also became apparent that some of us were skilled with magic and the ability to morph pieces of dreams to suit our needs, or our safety. We are the Dreamwalkers. Nightmares can’t invade our dreams, because when we sleep we don’t dream, we are called into a non-walkers dream.

“I don’t know man,” Elias says, rubbing his gloved hand over his neck. “It’s not like anything is new or changing for better or worse. I think this just is… what it is? If that makes sense? I don’t see the point in thinking that way. We destroyed the world and now we’re stuck with the consequence, and it seems like that’s living and surviving alongside the demons.”

I grunt. The demons were released in the old world when humans were just humans, and they fought each other with technology that has since been lost to history. The world is an overgrown shadow of what it once was. Great cities are sinking into lush forests, the roads between them are breaking to allow nature to reclaim what was once its own. Sighing, I push to my feet. Duty calls.

I push open the tattered canvas flaps to my tent and step inside. I shrug out of my clothes of the day and into a pair of loose black pants. In the corner there’s a table topped with a chipped pitcher with water, I splash some over my face and look up into the mirror above it. My amber eyes look back at me, and I run my hand over the flyaways of my braided back chestnut hair. My beard is long past it’s usual five o’clock shadow, and brush the water out of it. Grabbing the small face towel I dry my face off and toss it back on the table. The single person cot squeaks as I sit on it, then lean back and roll into the rough woolen blanket. I stare at the ceiling of the tent for a few minutes, then close my eyes and slow my breathing, preparing to enter. I drift off into the darkness.
When my eyes open, I’m in uniform and am laying on a cot within a stone room. There’s a window looking outside with bars on it, and through it I see that it’s raining. The air is warm, I’m grateful for that at least. Standing I head towards the courtyard where I see the rest of my shift forming up. I slide into ranks and wait for the rest of the walkers to show up and muster. The courtyard is soaked, and we’re getting drenched waiting for the Captain. I nod in acknowledgment to a few walkers as they join. We’re all seasoned, but we know that one mis-step and it’s game over.
The Captain walks out and stands in front of the rows of us. The speech he gives used to put chills down my spine, purpose in my step. Now it’s just another part of my day that I endure almost begrudgingly. The younger soldiers are excited and pepped up for today’s work, I see it in their body language. Most of the time I’m paired with one of them, as are most of the seasoned walkers, but today for some reason I’m told that I don’t have a shadow assigned with me. All the better, I’m not in the mood to baby some wanna-be hero. This is dangerous work, and while everyone has to be new at some point, I enjoy the prospect of a shift of solitude.
I set off at a jog, wasting no time getting to the portal hall. I know better than to let my charge, whoever they are, wander alone for too long. Demons can present as anything from someone they know or knew, to a potential romantic partner, to someone they’ve never met, even as walkers. That’s the biggest danger to us, when they get too close wearing the uniform of our brothers. Many a younger walker has fallen prey to these disguised demons, despite warning them that the only walker they can trust is the one they’re assigned with. Any walkers traveling alone know to steer clear of any other working walkers unless they self-identify with their walker mark. It’s a tattoo on the collarbone that when exposed lights up to other walkers. I’m standing before the portal and I can make out a murky landscape before me of a city. I cross my arms as the view begins to close in on the cityscape and stops on a young woman with black hair and dark eyes. She visibly tenses, and looks directly up at me. I never know who it is I’m going to protect, or whether or not I know them in the waking world. I’m positive I’ve never seen this one before, and I’m shaken for a moment by her direct gaze, but it has to be a coincidence. She’s a non-walker, and they can’t sense our magic. She goes back to walking, and the view quickly zooms out, giving a bit of a trail of how to get to her. The woman didn’t look like she was in immediate danger, but I jump forward anyway, landing on one knee with both gloved hands on the ground. Portal jumping feels like falling from an intense height, and it takes the wind out of me every time I land.
The city is eerily silent around me, too still for comfort. The buildings are in ruins, the roads broken and sunken in. I keep close to the buildings as I navigate what looks like the remnants of a battle scene. I can feel the woman ahead, almost like a glowing warm light. My head is on a swivel, anything that could potentially present as a danger being catalogued by my visual inspection. I glance round the corner and my eyes focus in on her location. A black cat is walking across the street towards her, and she’s naively coaxing it even closer. I silently cross the street as quickly as I can and pull my crossbow from the holster on my back, keeping as still as possible. The telltale glitch of the cat figure is it’s giveaway, and I aim carefully for where the heart should be. Exhaling, I pull the trigger and the bolt flies towards the animal. The cat sees the bolt too late, and it impales the body. The girl lets out a scream and turns to stare at me in horror. Her dark eyes are as wide as saucers and her black hair is braided over her shoulder. Tendrils of loose hair frame out her face, and she is more beautiful than anything I’ve ever seen. My shock holds me in place temporarily as she pushes off the sidewalk and bolts away from me and down an alley. I regain my senses and call out to her while I start moving.
“Wait! I’m not going to hurt you!” I say stupidly as I race around the to the alley to follow her. She’s scrambling up a fire escape floor by floor until she gets to an open window, and ducks inside out of sight. I’m immediately behind her, flying up the staircase. As I go, I see the nightmare cross past the alley, and I can only assume it’s heading towards the entrance to the building. My feet fly faster, and I can’t help the small fleck of fear that starts to pound in my mind. I slide into the window with a bit of a struggle, I’m not a small man by any means. The room inside is a kitchen and breakfast nook, and the door to the apartment is wide open. I close my eyes, slow my breathing, and listen. I would be able to hear her moving, yet there is silence on the floor around me. She’s still here somewhere. I open my eyes, now adjusted to the nearly black interior of the room and see a shimmer of that light to the right, and there is a closed door. Turning the handle, I find it locked.
“Girl, I am not here to hurt you. I was sent to protect you.” I say gruffly. “You were inviting a nightmare to you and it would have changed the moment it got close enough.” Silence is my only answer. Knowing that we only have moments before the thing emerges onto this floor and finds us, I cross the room again to close the apartment door as silently as I can, and slide the locks in place. I pick up a large chair and force it underneath the doorknob. When I return to the locked door, I turn and kick it in with one hard side kick. It slams open and the woman shrieks at the bang. She’s in the bathtub, her arms wrapped around herself and hiding her face. Kneeling next to her, I gently touch her arm. She flinches and looks at my hand, then at my face. “It’s not safe for you here. I’ve got to get you out of here.” I stand and offer her my hand to stand. She’s still now, glancing between that hand and my own face. “What is your name?”
“Raine,” I repeat back, with a curt nod.
“Where are we going?”
“I have to get you out of this part of your dream,” I help her to her feet and out of the tub before letting go of her warm hand. Immediately I feel this urge to touch her hand again but I refrain. “What do you know about nightmares?” She looks up at me curtly.
“They’re bad dreams? I figured this was one, I don’t usually dream about the real world.”
“This isn’t the real world, this is a dream,” I say, ushering her quietly across the floor and back to the window. We climb out and quietly make our way to the street below, moving away from the apartment building we’ve just left. I keep her next to me and she’s very attentive to the subtle directions I give for us to get as far away as we can. There’s always a risk of another nightmare appearing, but they don’t tend to hunt in groups, they’re more of a lone wolf and keep the kill type of beast. I nod towards a stairway down to the subway and she follows me. The subway comes shortly after, and I load her onto it. She looks at me with confusion, as if to ask what about me?
“Stay on the train, it will keep you safe until you wake. If you sleep and land here again, try to find your way to a station. There are other ways out, but this is likely the easiest for you to find.” She stares at me, still not seeming to grasp that I’m not going with her.
“What is your name?”
“Damon.” I say as the doors close between us. Relief washes over me as the train speeds away. Our eyes don’t break contact until I can’t see her anymore in the darkness, and I don’t turn away until I do. There was something strange, something oddly familiar about her. The non-walkers don’t usually ask questions, or have any real qualms about us when we leave them to their safety. I can’t shake her eyes, or the way she looked at me though. She was so much more… aware. I shake my head as I walk back up the stairs and make my way back to the portal drop. The rope ladder rolls down from it and I climb my way up and through, pulling the ladder back up with me. I drink some water from my pack, then ready myself for the next assignment on my shift.

Chapter 2 :
Echoes of Dreams


The man - Damon- disappears as the train leaves the station. I can’t help feeling an edgy curiosity towards this man who saved my life. I should have known better with the cat, and I scold myself for letting my affection for the animal cloud my judgment. I unbraid and re-braid my hair into a tighter hold, it came loose as always. I lean against the back of the seat and my eyes start to feel heavy. Waking up, this had to be waking up.
My eyes open to darkness and flit around my surroundings. Everything is where it should be, everything is quiet. The sounds of nature at night sing in their own quiet way, and my twin brother is softly snoring next to me. I roll onto my back and stare up at the dark gray tent fabric above me. What just happened? My mind seems slow to process, then his face comes into my mind as clear as a memory. Damon. His braided hair made him look like a viking warrior, and his features were harsh but handsome. His dark eyes had felt as if they could see straight to her soul when he’d looked at her. There was something different about him, about his energy.
Phoenix starts coughing, then sits up abruptly. “Rayne?” I glance over at him.
“Everything’s fine, just a strange dream is all,” I say, swinging my legs over the edge of the cot. He rests his head on his hand while he continues to look at me, almost expectantly. “Really, it’s fine okay?”
“You look awful,” he replies flatly.
“And you’re looking radiant,” I roll my eyes at him.
“Tell me about your dream?” he says, approaching from a new angle. I eye him warily, then give up and rest on my elbows.
“Okay so… have you ever had those dreams that you swear you were living, rather than just watching?”
“Um, yes actually. Like your heart rate is skyrocketing when you wake up and you feel like you never slept at all?” I nod
“It’s so weird. This guy…,” I pause, unsure of how far to go into my dream. I don’t usually keep secrets from Phoenix but this seems almost, intimate? I don’t know. I could be making a big deal out of nothing. “Nevermind, it was just a dream.” My brother chuckles.
“Oh come on, Rayne. Don’t leave me hanging like that. Spill the beans. What guy?” he says, waggling his eyebrows teasingly.
“Fine, fine. He was just some guy, probably my brain making up a random person. Nothing special, he just felt real.”
“Sure. I bet he was a dashing prince come to rescue you from the clutches of evil, right?”
“Dashing prince he certainly was not. This guy was gruff, grumpy, and bossy.” But he had saved me. Especially when I hadn’t been able to save myself. The thing is that with most of my dreams, I can tell they’re dreams. The people either are people I know or don’t, but the events aren’t actually happening. I don’t feel the adrenaline of danger, of threat. “You’d get along well.” I say back to him, my smile dripping with sarcasm.
“You must be mistaken me for someone else. I am quite charming and companionable.” We stare at each other for a few moments, then burst out laughing. “I’m sorry it shook you up Rayne,” he says. I stand and look outside the tent flap. It’s still pitch black outside, not a trace of the coming dawn yet.
“I don’t know about shook me up, so much as just left me wondering. Go back to sleep,” I nod at his awaiting pillow. “I’ll be fine.” He lays down as bidden and I climb back into my own cot. My eyes drift closed and sleep overtakes me.


I stand before the portal longer than necessary lost in thought. What is wrong with me? Why am I so distracted. I know better than to enter the next assignment with my mental focus so clouded. Rayne’s dream had been easy to navigate and we’d avoided disaster with minimal effort. We’d been damn lucky. Most nightmares are far more predatory and aware of their target. I store that information away, I’m sure I’ll examine it later. I’ve got to clear my head. Grabbing my pack, I sling it over my shoulder, then leave the portal behind me.

“Damon!” I stop dead in my tracks as I hear the voice of the Captain.

“Sir?” I say, turning.

“Finished already?” he asks. “You’re the first one back.” I nod once, a bit uneasy. Normally I would have jumped right back in to the next assignment, and then another. “Anything go wrong?” My mind wanders to how the nightmare didn’t hunt us down, and how different the woman had seemed.

“Just another dream as usual,” I quip. “Got the girl out on the subway nearby.” He claps his hand on my shoulder.

“Good man.” I watch him as he walks away. I’m not usually one to break protocol. We know the world we live in, the dangers of it. The dangers of different. Different leads to death, for either the dreamer or the defender, and if it’s bad enough, both. It doesn’t feel right to tell him though, or to even talk about it when it could be nothing. The trail I follow leads back to the room I woke up in, and I drop my pack on the floor.

“It doesn’t change anything. Just go back, do what you’re supposed to do.” I grumble at my own thoughts. The air is beginning to chill, and I hear a bell sound. Another defender back. I wonder halfheartedly who is back second.
© Copyright 2024 Cassandra Christie (cchristie at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
Writing.Com, its affiliates and syndicates have been granted non-exclusive rights to display this work.
Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2316609-Shadows-Torn-Asunder