It had been an eventful day. Between the cake tasting, the dress shopping, and Kennan thoroughly ravaging me I was exhausted. By the end of the day all Kennan wanted to do was sleep. I didn’t fight him. I was absolutely done for. Kennan’s warmth behind me comforted me until I was pulled into a deep slumber. With him at my side I had nothing to fear.
I was in the forest and the wolves were tracking me. I knew this dream. I had dreamt it back at the lab. I knew this wasn’t real, but it did not stop the terror from seeping deep into my bones. I looked around the fog trying to find the comfort that had aided me the past few months. There was none of it to be found.
I turned and ran trying to escape the predators. Knowing that this was just an echo of my past, a remnant of my terror, did nothing to dissuade my fear. The fear sank deep into my soul until all I could think of was to run. I had to find an escape. The memory of the wolves tearing my flesh from my bones fueled my escape. I couldn’t do it again. I couldn’t live through this again.
I came to a stop looking in all directions. I couldn’t find a way out. I spun around and came to a stop facing a man I never wanted to see again.
“You aren’t real!” I shouted at the phantom.
“They are coming for you all.” Xavier wheezed before fading into the fog.
As soon as he disappeared from sight the wolves descended upon me. I felt my flesh begin to shred away from my body. My own scream ripped me from the dreaming.
Kennan was staring down at me when I awoke. His eyes were filled with worry.
“It isn’t over.” I breathed out as tears filled my eyes.
“Yes it is my love. It was just a nightmare. You haven’t had one in a long time. Have you ever thought that maybe you are afraid of being happy? You need to stop waiting for the other shoe to drop, babe.” Kennan rubbed my back as I tried to calm my breathing.
Somehow, I knew it was more than just a dream. It had been real. The terror was palpable, not a distant echo as it would have been in a mere dream. I swallowed my fears and set them aside. Perhaps Kennan was right, maybe it was just a dream and nothing more.
“You’re probably right.” I shook my head trying to shake off the last of the fear. “Let’s try and get some more sleep.” I smiled weakly at him. I turned my body to face the wall and breathed out slowly. I hoped he was right. I tried not to think of my fears as the dreaming swept me back under.
“The time is coming when you must face a great burden.” a man whispered from the fog. His robe shielded his face, effectively masking his features.
“Who are you?” I asked. His voice seemed so familiar yet so foreign.
“Soon, perhaps too soon, you will need me and I will come. For now you must prepare yourself. Rest Izzy, for soon you shall find no refuge in either the waking or the dreaming.” his voice was a balm to my weary soul. Even though his words spoke of great hardships ahead, I felt no fear towards this man. Just an unsettling sense of familiarity.
I moved toward him in the fog. His body was as still as a statue. I lifted my hands up to the hood of his robe and tilted it back away from his face. Inhumanly blue eyes gazed down upon me.
“Who are you?” I asked with my brows furrowed. I had this tickling sensation in the back of my brain. I somehow knew this man, yet I could summon no memories of him.
He lifted his hand to my cheek in a gesture that seemed so familiar. His large hand emanated warmth into my chilled soul.
“Brush me from your mind Izzy, for you will find me sooner than you expect. Instead remember my warning. Prepare yourself. Your burdens will be great and your obstacles many. Dream now of pleasant things for the nightmares will soon return.” He whispered pleasant words as my soul gently drifted into a peaceful sleep washing all memories of him aside.
“Izzy. Wake up. It is past noon.” Kennan was shaking my shoulder trying to pull me out of my pleasant dreams.
“Ungh.” I replied.
“Rise and shine sleepy head. Molly is on the phone. She wants to talk to you about Ian and something about dresses.”
“Ungh.” I muttered holding my hand out for the phone.
“Here she is Molly.” Kennan snickered as he handed me the phone and left the room.
“Hello?” I mumbled half into the phone half into the pillow.
“I am going to kill him.” Molly screeched into my ear.
“What did he do now?” I turned over so my voice could be somewhat audible. I still refused to open my eyes.
“What didn’t he do? He is completely ridiculous Izzy. You can’t expect me to spend the rest of my very long life with this walking fashion victim in tow.” Molly fumed.
This was the same conversation we had been having for months. It was a never ending circular argument. Molly would call complaining about how unreasonable Ian was. Ian would call complaining about how stuffy Molly was. I would be expected to play the referee in the never ending war. It was exhausting. I wished the two of them would just kiss and get it over with. I knew Ian had feelings for Molly, but instead of acting like an adult he had taken on the persona of an elementary school boy pulling his crush’s pigtails. With everything Molly was going through I knew that his joking was grating on her already frayed nerves.
“Molly, I can’t change who he is. You just need to find a way to cope with him.” I wasn’t awake enough for this conversation. I needed coffee. Just like that Kennan magically appeared with a steaming cup of liquid perfection. I covered the receiver saying, “I love you so much.”
“Just talk to him. Maybe try and convince him to at least wear coordinating colors when we are in public.”
“I will try.” I knew it would be pointless. I still had no real idea why Ian dressed the way he did, but it made him happy. Who was I to rain on his parade? “Kennan said you needed to talk to me about a dress?”
“Yes! Did you find it?” Molly’s voice raised and octave with her excitement.
“Yep. It is glorious. I will send you a picture later when Kennan isn’t in the house. He is going to till up a garden plot for me today.” I got up and moved to the window to see that he had already started. He was shirtless and the heat had caused sweat to bead on his body. I had to walk away from the window so that I could concentrate on what Molly was saying.
“Wait. You are going to attempt to grow things? I foresee this going really well.” Molly snarked.
“Did you really See it or are you just being a pest?”
“You know my visions are offline right now. So, no, I am just basing this information off of my intimate knowledge of you and your city slickin’ ways.”
“Hardy har har. You keep this up and I will put you in the most God awful bridesmaid’s dress you have ever seen. You will make Ian look positively stylish when I am through with you.” See what sassy comment she had now.
“Let’s not get excited. It is all in good fun.” Molly used her calming voice. I knew it all too well. She had used it on me quite a bit back at the Council when I was such a basket case. “So, is there anything else going on with your right now?”
“Nope, why do you ask?” I hoped that she couldn’t tell from my voice that I’d had another nightmare.
“Well, let’s see. You are asleep until noon for one. For two you seem evasive. I hear it in your tone.” I was a fool to think I could pull anything over on Molly.
“It was just a dream. I think it is just from the stress of the wedding. I’ve felt off since that night of restful sleep. Like someone is watching me, waiting for something. I don’t know how to explain it. Maybe I am just not used to things going well. I think I am probably overthinking everything and freaking myself out.” I sighed. I had just talked myself in a huge circle coming back to the same conclusion I’d had last night, I was going insane.
“It probably is just stress. Why don’t you have Kennan block the dreaming for a while? It isn’t going to hurt you to be separated from it.”
“NO!” I shouted forcefully. For some reason the thought of being separated from the dreaming made my stomach turn.
“Ooooookay.” Molly drawled. “I was just trying to help.”
“Sorry, Molly. I feel like I need to be there. I feel like something is coming. I am probably wrong, but whatever. We will see. I better get going. I have a garden to plant.”
“Right. Try not to hurt yourself. Oh, and talk to Ian. I am begging you.” Molly pleaded through the phone. I could see her down on her knees begging me.
“If you both keep bugging me, I am going to stick ya’ll in couple’s counseling. See if I don’t!”
“Whatever, I will talk to you later. Oh, and let me know when I need to go to the shop to be fitted. Love you.”
“Love you, too, Molly.” I hung the phone up and threw on some shorts and a tank top. It was time I got my plant on.
It had been two months since the first nightmare. At first they were few and far between, but the past week I had been struggling with the fear of falling asleep. It was almost a guarantee that I would face some new horror with Xavier at the center. I wondered if it would ever end. I had done my best to hide it from Kennan. I didn’t want to worry him. For all I knew, I was suffering from some sort of PTSD. It was entirely possible.
“Are you okay, Red?” Kennan’s voice was laced with concern. I knew he was starting to suspect something was wrong with me. I had been secretive, if not downright evasive.
“I’m fine. Really. I think the wedding is just stressing me out. It is coming up soon.” I widened my eyes at him before sliding under the covers into bed.
“We can wait, if you aren’t ready.” Kennan wrapped his arm behind my head and started to draw lazy circles on my arm. It broke my heart that he thought my hesitance was caused by him in any way.
“Absolutely not. Kennan O’Malley, I cannot wait to be your wife. Don’t ever think that.” I smacked his chest before turning my lips toward his. I kissed him quickly before turning on my side. I needed to get my crap together before I drove him away. “I just need sleep. I love you.”
“I love you, too. You better not be keeping anything from me.” Kennan turned pulling my body against his.
“Mmmhmmm.” I pretended to be half asleep. I didn’t want to lie to him. I just didn’t understand what was going on.
I laid there listening to the sounds of his breathing grow heavy. In moments he was whisked away into a peaceful sleep. I envied that. I knew that he would come into the dreaming with me if I asked him, but I could not bring myself to do that to him again. I had scared him so much after the lab that I was afraid to drag him back into my insanity. It was time to face the music.
Oh great. It was the wolves’ nightmare again. I really hated this one. I always felt exhausted by the end of it. Perhaps I would just let them eat me and get it over with tonight. Maybe if I didn’t run they wouldn’t chase me. I stood still listening to the forest around me.
The fog was a thick blanket moving across the land. It weaved in and out of the trees obscuring anything that might come for me. Then I heard it. The second wolf howl, the signal to attack. It was time to run or stand fast. I wasn’t sure I had any run left in me.
I stood looking out into the fog determined to hold my ground. “Come and get it you miserable excuse for a phantom. I am so tired of these games. Just tell me what you want.”
Laughter echoed through the trees accompanied by the sounds of the wolves. I saw their glowing eyes as they stepped through the fog towards me. With them, the figure of Xavier emerged. Only this time he looked a bit stronger. Something had changed. Perhaps I had finally gone completely mad.
“It has begun.” Xavier laughed lifting his hand in the air as the wolves charged me. “I am coming, Izzy. Nothing you can do will stop me.”
“WATCH ME!” I screamed as I threw myself to the ground. I curled into the fetal position as a blinding blue light ripped through the dreaming. I refused to open my eyes. The wolves would be on me at any moment.
“You can’t interfere.” I heard Xavier shout in disgust.
“Watch me.” I heard a calm voice reply.
“It is against the Code. You are forbidden.” Xavier was becoming hysterical. I sort of wanted to open my eyes to see what had his so worked up. I dared to peek out of my arms and looked up at a tall robed figure.
“I am not breaking the Code. I am forbidden from directly interceding. It does not follow that I may not assist. Your end draws nigh Betrayer.” The man turned towards me and reached out a hand to help me to my feet.
“It doesn’t change what is coming. She isn’t strong enough to stop it yet.” Xavier disappeared back into the fog. His words echoed through my head.
I looked up into the face of my savior and gasped. Who was this man? I felt the strangest sense of déjà vu when I looked at him.
“Thank you.” I squeaked, dropping my hand from his in the process.
“It is time to stop running, Izzy. You must face what is coming. Your time of peace has passed, now is the time to fight. Wake and rise your Guardian.” the man reached his hand to my face and cupped my cheek.
“But, what is coming? And more importantly, who the heck are you?” I was so over the man of mystery thing. I wanted to know why I felt like I knew him.
“Forget me, Izzy. For in less than a weeks’ time we shall finally meet on your plane. Until then forget me, for I am not important yet. All you must remember from this dream is that you must go to the Council. The time for hiding is through. Now awaken.” he brushed his lips across my forehead and I was thrown from the dreaming.
“It is time to fight.” was my last thought as reality bled back in.