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When the Center Falls Away, Part 2 of 2

by Luc Reid

This is the continuation of a rare Cabal two-part story, begun yesterday here.

And there Chico was, staring at some kind of lumbering, horned, monster-woman over the crumbled remains of the person whose dream he was in. Except that the dreamer couldn't just die and crumble away--

The woman lurched at Chico, her jagged fingernails stretching out at him. He tumbled backward onto the floor of the elementary school cafeteria, slipped as he scooted backwards, then turned and fled.

There was nothing to worry about, he thought, fleeing in panic. He was perfectly safe. It had to be--aha! It was his own dream. He was the dreamer … he was just dreaming he was in someone else's dream.

The monstrous woman's feet crashed down on the linoleum behind him as she pursued. Chico tried to run faster.

And if it was his dream, then now he was aware in his dream, dreaming lucidly, which meant he could do anything he wanted--just fly away, if he pleased. So he leapt into the air, looking for a door or window to fly out of…and landed, skidding on his face, on the dirty floor. He couldn't fly. Which meant it probably wasn't a lucid dream. Which meant it probably wasn't his dream. Which meant …

His flight stopped in a dead end corridor, where all the doors were locked. The woman had kept up with him. She was skinnier now, and her horns were gone, but she had huge horn-like claws and she was reaching out for him.

"Wait!" Chico said, realizing. "Wait, you don't have to do this."

She stared at him … silently … for a long time.

"Yes I do," she said finally.

"You can just walk away," Chico said. "Try walking away. Try letting go of your anger for just a minute, just put it aside for just a second and walk away."

"You'll be drawn to me and I'll have to kill you," she said. "It happens over and over and over."

"Not this time," Chico said. "This time you can change it."

She eyed him suspiciously, but she backed away. Chico felt the drag of the dream protagonist, the drag he had thought originally was coming from the boy-figure: it was coming from the woman. As she moved away, he could feel himself tugged in her direction. But however strong the pull was, he had to give in to it for it to work. He wasn't a usual dream person; he was special, a true being, an anomaly. He had some power.

The woman gained confidence as she moved further away, and her claws had begun to dwindle, the fierceness to migrate out of her face. Chico felt like he was being torn apart. The woman smiled at him.

Then the force was too much and his dream-self ripped apart, torn and scattered, ended. His last thought in the dream was that surely he would wake up now.


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