Written by Lilith
Heart in his throat, he ran. The pounding of his increased pulse thumped through his frame, tightening at his chest like the start of a heart attack; his breath was ragged and painful and his legs ached, but he was hardly aware of any of these sensations second to the fear that gripped him. Never looking back, he plunged through the darkened streets in a direction that he hoped was homewards. Somewhere off in the distance, four paws skittered towards him.
His sprint faded to a stagger as he reached the crest of a hill. The roads were lined with streetlights, but all were extinguished and the only light he had to guide him was that of a low moon, almost full, and a few twinkling stars clinging to the heavens. The road ahead forked and he had a split second to choose a direction, but the right felt more familiar. He plunged down the street, his momentum increasing as gravity picked up the slack.
The breeze tasted of salt and the chill of the sea. To his right, trees whispered in the wind – a park, perhaps? Home was nearby, he knew it, and after a few more panicked paces he veered left. The quiet back street before him was barely any more than an alleyway, and he stared at the faded doors lining the way with confusion. They all seemed the same; peeling paint and rusted hinges, and the numbers engraved nailed just above the door knockers meant nothing to him.
He shoved his hands into his pockets, searching frantically until his thumb scraped across something sharp. A key! He grabbed it and stared at it in the near darkness, trying to make out the number scratched onto the surface. Was that a 10? A 20?
At the end of the street, the paws scrabbled to a stop, and something in the darkness snarled.
The key fell from his hands as he turned to run. Home was forgotten. What he needed was to get away, anywhere that was away from that monster. The burn returned to his lungs within seconds, and his legs screamed in pain, but he didn’t care so long as he could stay at least a few steps ahead.
The thing was on his heels already, he could hear its ragged breathing close behind him. He didn’t dare look, instead keeping his eyes on the street ahead of him, tasting the sea air and wondering if maybe, just maybe, he could make it to the cliffs before it got to him.
Up ahead, a dark figure stepped out onto the street.
He could barely see it in the pale moonlight, but he could see enough to know that it was human, and before he knew he’d opened his mouth he was yelling at it, screaming for help.
“Please! Help me! It’s going to-“
A streetlight flickered on. The woman stepped into its light and smiled gently.
“Gabe, it’s OK. It’s just a dream.”
“Help me! I can’t run any-“
The breathing behind him had stopped, but he ran on towards her.
“You’ll be OK, honey. Come on, come back to me. Wake up.”
Her face was almost glowing under the streetlight. She was somehow familiar, and so, so beautiful…
He woke in a cold sweat, with Rosa stroking his hair and shushing him, and for a moment he really believed that everything would be alright, until he remembered the truth – that the same thing would happen again tomorrow night.
Perfectly suited to our theme of Beginnings, Lilith’s prologue for Gabe the Dreamwalker is an intriguing start. A recurring nightmare, of being chased, of fearing the unknown. It’s scary but familiar since we all feel it, we all encounter it at some point in our lives. Sometimes the dream world is safe, but sometimes it’s the root of our deepest fears. If you enjoyed Lilith’s introduction here, feel free to check out her other shorts such as, ‘A Hedgehog Named Barry‘ and ‘Rain Men‘.
Featured Image CC // Clement127