Authors: Ginna Moran
Copyright © 2014 by Ginna Moran
All Rights Reserved.
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
/ by Ginna Moran
ISBN 978-1-942073-03-1 (soft cover)
ISBN 978-1-942073-04-8 (mobi ebooks)
ISBN 978-1-942073-05-5 (epub ebooks)
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Printed in the U.S.A.
Cover design by Silver Starlight Designs
Cover images copyright 123RF
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Encinitas, CA 92023, USA
TABLE OF CONTENTS
For those who believed in my dreams.
1. A TERRIBLE HOST
The room spins and my stomach lurches. I feel so sick from hunger that I can barely stand. I grip the small wooden table in the hallway and blink until my vision restores.
My chest tightens and I drag my feet forward. The lobby to the dormitory is empty this time of night and the only light glows from a flat screen television that was accidentally left on.
I keep my feet moving. If I stay out here any longer, I won’t make it back to my room at all. I cross through the lobby and a glass door slides open into another hallway. The ceiling is much lower and the air is stuffy.
“Twenty more feet,” I say out loud. “Keep walking. You can make it. You’re not hungry. You’re not hungry. You’re not hungry.” I chant the words over and over like an anthem, but it doesn’t help.
I stop at my closed door and touch my hand to the doorknob. I don’t twist to open it, but instead turn to face the closed door behind me. A small whiteboard is nailed to the wooden door. A red heart is drawn on the whiteboard and the name Alyssa is written across the heart in black block letters.
Just go in quietly. Alyssa said you could use her anytime you needed.
I wish Alyssa never made the offer in the first place. She doesn’t understand what I’ll do to her. She’s going to despise me for it. I hate that I let my hunger get so out of control that I’m outside my best friend’s dorm, dying to give her nightmares. Creating nightmares is my sustenance.
I run my finger along the door and count to myself. I stare at my plaster white fingers. My long nails are tinted blue and dark purple veins pulse on my wrist. I haven’t been outside in daylight in weeks, and it shows. I’m bound to the night the longer I resist. But it’s okay; I love the night.
The door swings open.
A small nightlight shines from below her desk and casts shadows across the wall and her bed. She doesn’t stir when I click the door shut.
I swallow hard. Alyssa is hidden under her dark brown comforter. On her night table is a stack of books and a small reading lamp. Tacked to her walls are hundreds of sketches. They’re so full of detail and accuracy that the drawings could be mistaken for black and white photographs.
I glide across the room, my feet above the threadbare carpet, and run my fingers over a drawing of a moon setting on water. Below the glittering path of moonlight, a body lies in the sand and a giant fishtail cuts through the waves. It’s surreal and magical, and I’m not sure if it was a vision or her imagination.
I plant my boots on the carpet. I’d give anything to leave the Creature Council’s compound. If my father didn’t work here, I’d go somewhere else far from this place. But, he’d never let me leave. It’s his way of protecting me. He doesn’t want to lose me like he lost my mother. The images Alyssa sketches will always be of faraway places to me. Places I will only ever see in dreams.
I look away from the wall. I can’t torture myself anymore with ideas of the outside world. This, standing in Alyssa’s room while she sleeps, is my world. I just wish I didn’t hate it so much.
I kneel next to Alyssa’s bed and tuck my white hair behind my ears. It’s lost all its pigmentation during my failed attempt at a hunger strike. When I don’t create nightmares, it reveals me as the monster I am. I’m frightening enough at the moment that everyone in the compound is uneasy around me. Once I eat, I’ll look more human again.
I pull back the dark brown comforter just enough to see Alyssa’s gorgeous red hair sprawling over her pillow. Her creamy complexion is flawless and she looks as beautiful asleep as she does awake. She’s so alive and full of life compared to me, with my withered, stringy hair and gaunt figure.
You’ll look less like a nightmare inflictor soon.
But I am a nightmare inflictor—just like my father.
I run my hands over Alyssa’s hair and press my thumbs to her temples and rest my fingers on her scalp. My vision fades despite my open eyes. My whole body trembles as I force my way into her head.
I’m overwhelmed by a falling sensation as I manifest myself into Alyssa’s dream world. Gray fog swirls around me and I wave my hand, blowing it away. As it clears, my eyes widen in wonder. Dreams are always so magnificent and breathtaking. I wish I could dream on my own.
I stand in the center of a vibrant valley speckled with red, yellow, and orange poppies. A crystalline waterfall rushes over a black rock cliff and into a translucent lake. I glide to the pebbly shoreline and peer at glittering silver fish swimming with a gracefulness I wish I had.
Stop messing around.
I pull my hands from my pockets. This is the part I love and hate the most. It’s why I’m called a nightmare inflictor—because I ruin the best dreams. I destroy them and devour them.
I shift and force my feet to touch the ground. I’m no longer an observer to Alyssa’s dream, but a participant, and by the time I’m through, she’ll regret her offer. Even the toughest people can be frightened by their dreams.
My cracked lips curve into a smile. I taste the sweet chocolate flavor dripping onto my tongue just from breathing the air. Every dream tastes differently, but they’re all mouthwatering and fulfilling. The deep, insatiable hunger starts to subside the moment I run my hand over the crystal clear lake.
The water churns and darkens and the fish pop up to the surface. Their dead bodies smell rancid and I turn away toward the field of poppies.
Each step I take leaves an oily footprint that seeps into the vibrant green grass, killing it. I bend over and tap the blossoming flowers and they shrivel up and disintegrate. Everything I touch rots and decays, turning this beautiful paradise into a hellish place fit for monsters like me.
Laughter echoes through the air and I jerk my head in its direction. I crave the very noise I’m hearing and it cuts short, leaving me in deadening silence. I stomp up the hillside and smile as every plant dies around me. The azure sky darkens as gray clouds roll in. Thunder booms and I lick my lips, sensing a tinge of fear coursing through the air. I breathe deeply, sucking it into my soul.
“We have to run for cover, love,” a deep, masculine voice says.
I reach the top of the hill and peer into a forest of tall redwood trees. The trees are taller than the hill I’m standing on and yet I didn’t see them from the valley.
Stop getting distracted. Find the dreamer and leave.
I follow the voices deep into the forest. My boots crunch on dried leaves, turning them to mush. I smack my hands against the reddish-brown tree trunks as I pass. They dry and crack, and dead leaves rain down as if I were standing amid a raging storm.
I pause, leaning against a dying tree trunk wider than a car, and stare through the thick greenery at a couple sitting on a red blanket. Between them lies a wooden picnic basket with a baguette protruding from it. The boy drops a green glass bottle and it clatters to the ground, shattering into a million sparkling green pieces. His mouth gapes open, but he doesn’t scream. Instead, he reaches over and picks up the neck of the broken bottle and points it at me.
I can’t help smiling at his bravery.
He jumps to his feet and steps in front of Alyssa who doesn’t move. She stares at me without emotion. In this dream world, I’m not Nadia Petrov. I’m Alyssa’s worst nightmare. I stop ten feet away and cock my head to the side.