Sunday, January 27, 2013

Quicksand, Part 31

They had started walking again. Sally didn't know where to, but she was too exhausted to ask. She realized that in nightmares it was nearly impossible to get to where you wanted to be and that the sluggishness she felt might be a reflection of that. Maybe if she didn't want to be anywhere, it would be easier to get there.

“Don't drag your feet,” Daisy Chain told her. He had his hands in his pockets and his head down as if trudging through a strong wind.

—but there was no wind. The sidewalk they were on had broken up and turned into rocks and stones and twigs and dirt and it was now a path through a forest with trickling stream.

“I can take you home,” Daisy Chain said, after a while.

Sally perked up. “You can?” She was about to hug him. Her arms were already stretched out. “Wait. What about the guys that are after me?”

“They'll still be after you. I'll try to find them here before you need to sleep again.”

“What if you can't?”

“Then you'll just have to try to remember – and run.”

Sally thought it over. “So... say I do go back. When I sleep I come back here?”

“To Nod. When you wake up, first thing, draw a picture. A place in Nod. Not the one we were attacked in. Somewhere where you felt safe.”

Sally wanted to say that she hadn't felt safe since seeing Daisy Chain beckoning her into a dark alley, but what she blurted out instead was, “I can't draw!”

Daisy Chain shrugged. “You're going to have to. And you're going to have to look at it every night before bed, until you fall asleep. And when the raiders figure out where you're going to wake up, you'll have to draw a new picture and erase the other one from memory.”

“And how long do I need to keep doing that?”

Daisy Chain shook his head, the way he did when he was trying to dislodge a particularly stupid or childish question from his brain. “What? Forever. As long as you're alive.”

“So you're saying, every time I sleep, for the rest of my life—”

Daisy Chain clapped his paws together twice, slowly. “Now she get's it.” He looked a little friendlier and added, “It's the best I can do, Sally.”

Sally walked on in silence.

“What if I stayed?” Sally asked after a long time. “I don't mean forever. But what would we have to do to make it safe for me to sleep?”

Daisy Chain pondered this. “Stick to the original plan. Find the raiders that are trying to kill you and kill them.”

“That's it?”

“Isn't that enough? When you're up close, Sally, it's not like watching some cartoon character get crushed by an anvil.” He stopped, grabbed her hand and pulled it to his chest. It was warm, soft, moving. She could feel his heartbeat, rapid, more rabbit than man. “We're real. We're alive. And when we die, we die. It isn't pretty.”

As delicately as she could, Sally pulled her hand away. “I know,” she told him. “I get that.”

“We'll need help,” Daisy Chain said.

“From where? I thought everyone here was—you're going to say Minty, aren't you?”

Daisy Chain looked taken aback. “Minty? No, that poor girl has enough of her own shit to deal with without getting involved in mine. We leave her out of this.”

Sally was relieved and tried not to let it show.

“We'll go see Charm-Charm.”

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