Me'thinks I've been looking at too many dream related things recently. Dreamkeepers, Klonoa, and Inception, among others, have been jumbling about in my head for a while now, and it's been bugging me to the point where I decided I had to write down something of my own. Hence the gradually developing work you now see before you. Literally, this was the only way to put my mind at ease...I can be weird like that at times. It's likely that those of you familiar with the works I just mentioned will see where I drew some of my inspiration from, though I hope none of it appears too similar or anything like that. Don't want no plagiarism 'round here. I hope to keep at this one for a while, as I'm planning on making it a three-parter of sorts, though I may just put 'em all together in one post for the sake of not spamming up the thread and getting my ass banned, but, one thing at a time, I gotta actually get the first story written first, always a daunting task... As I'm still very much a novice and need all the help I can get, comments and criticism are both welcome. Prologue: “Sky’s red today…again…” “Been that way all week, hasn’t it?” “You think it means anything?” “Not sure what it could mean if it does…” The two youthful creatures engaged in this conversation had kept their focus on the bright crimson atmosphere as they spoke, both intrigued, and both concerned. The sky had never retained a single color for such a long period of time, and this particular shade of red was quite rare, enough so that some of the younger children had never seen it like this before. Yet, now, it was all any of them could ever see. “Call me crazy, but, I’m really startin’ to suspect some outside force here…I just can’t think of any other explanation…” One of the two eventually remarked after a brief silence befell them. He was a slender fellow, with radiant white fur all over his body, aside from the dark grey circles that surrounded his bright yellow, reptilian eyes. His large, hedgehog-like ears twitched as he brought up his usual theory. This was not exactly the first time he had pinned the blame on some ‘outside force’, and his companion knew this more than anyone. “We’ve all been calling you crazy for ages now, why bother bringing it up again?” He responded, shaking his head. Unlike his friend, he had a dark brown coat of fur, with large wing shaped ears that hung down behind his head, looking much like long hair. He had the same eye structure however, and this was really all one could use to identify them as the same species. The Usetts were very diverse like that, and it wasn’t very easy to mistake one for another. “Mock me if you want, you always do, but it’s not like we don’t encounter otherworldly powers on a regular basis.” “That doesn’t imply any connection between the two, and you know it. Anyways, if you ask me, those things aren’t even worth all the effort. We break our backs every day and night; risk our lives, and all to protect what? A bunch of crummy little patches of grass that only some so-called ‘gods’ can actually put to good use?” “Hey, hey, watch yourself. You don’t know if they’re listening!” The white one said nervously, looking around in an anxious matter for any potential eavesdroppers. Badmouthing the dreamers was not something to be taken lightly. They were such a mysterious force, and their motives were so puzzling, that they were seen by the majority of the Usetts as nothing lesser than omniscient deities. Still, there were some that didn’t think of them with such reverence, and this long-eared Usett was one of them. “I don’t give a damn if they hear me! In fact, I hope they do! Give ‘em a reason to leave us alone! All this trouble we go through, all the pain we suffer, it’s all on account of them! Just think what we could do with all these glades that could benefit ourselves! Our towns could expand, our resources would skyrocket-” “-And the Influxes would level it all to ash. Those glades aren’t just there to help the Dreamers, Tasel; they’re there to keep all that energy they generate from wiping us all out.” Tasel didn’t have an immediate response for this. His friend spoke the truth; simply standing near an Influx while it was transferring a Dreamer into its glade was enough for one to feel the immense power coming from it, like a massive heat wave burning fiercely into the skin. This was intimidating enough, but the fact that there were millions of these Influxes all over the Weald, their home planet, made the very notion of letting that power loose absolutely terrifying. Not keeping it all contained would bring nothing less than Armageddon. “…I just don’t understand why…Why do they come here, Nyas? Why do they always come here?” Tasel eventually muttered, his expression turning from aggravated, to forlorn. Nyas knew full well why this all troubled his fellow Usett so much, with all the struggles he had soldiered through, all the sacrifices he had been forced to make…It was only natural he felt this disdain for the Dreamers. “I can’t answer that, my friend, none of us truly can...but…perhaps they don’t know why they come here either…Maybe they’re just as confused about it as we are…” “Always looking for the sympathetic route, aren’t you?” “I just don’t want to judge what I don’t understand, and I don’t think you should, either.” The two went quiet once more after this, watching as the sky began to grow darker, only for it to suddenly light up in a bright glow as another Influx came careening down from space and collided with the waiting glade on the surface; Yet another visitor. “Boy, what I would give if I could just ask one of ‘em in person…” Nyas murmured. “Maybe I’m just being cynical here, but, I really don’t think I’d like what they’d have to say…” Tasel responded with a sigh. Perhaps he was just looking at it from a pessimistic view, but it really didn’t matter to either of them. It was a hypothetical thought, and nothing more. Dreamers and Usetts never encountered one another in the hundreds of years this had been going on, and there was no reason to believe that trend would ever change. “Well, it appears no one else is on patrol around here at the moment; we should probably get over there and stand guard. You think you’re up to it?” Nyas asked, averting his focus from the bright light in front of them and back towards Tasel, not wanting to force him into going along with him if he didn’t have the motivation to do so; a despondent guard was rarely ever an observant one, and in this job, that was nothing less than an absolute necessity. Tasel, however, merely looked down at the ground for a moment before looking back towards Nyas. “Yeah, I’m good... doesn’t really matter though, this being our sworn duty and all that…” He answered back, rolling his shoulders back and cracking his neck. “…And there’s always the possibility we’ll be seein’ some action. Running a Skemma to the ground is always a good way to relieve stress.” He added with a light smirk, getting a chuckle out of Nyas. “You can get pretty damn brutal with them at times, you know.” He said as they began their walk towards their new post. “Serves ‘em right for messing with the best.” “Just make sure you don’t get too carried away with one and leave me to fight off the rest of them alone, okay? Frida still hasn’t forgiven you over that little fiasco a few weeks back.” “And I keep telling her she’s overreacting! She took all five of those bastards out easily anyways.” “Her broken arm says otherwise…” Nyas grumbled, having already received an earful from Frida about it the evening before when he went to check on her. Tasel opened his mouth to argue in his defense, but, knowing he had none, wisely decided against it. “Well…It’s not like they always show up anyways. More likely than not we’re gonna just be standing there doin’ nothing, as usual.” He eventually murmured. “Dreamers can stick around for a pretty long while, Tasel. I’m getting a feeling this is gonna be one of those nights. Besides, we’re due for some excitement by now.” Part 1: The First Hour Chapter 1: *Thunk!* The sound came without warning; blunt, loud, painful even to listen to. It jolted Ted awake, the boy feeling a faint dizziness as he shot upwards into a sitting position. It was a very bizarre dream he had just experienced, one that felt so real…beyond any realism he had ever witnessed in his previous dreams. He remembered everything so vividly- the heavy rain, the man with the baseball bat, the struggle, that thunk sound as he hit the pavement, it was all intact in his head. As real as it had appeared though, it was apparently just another figment of his imagination, like all his other nightly visions. After allowing the adrenaline to leave his system, Ted slowly pushed himself out of his bed, drowsily getting up on his feet, which felt strangely confined for some reason. He made for the door up ahead, but stopped himself before reaching the handle. Something felt really off about all this; concerning what in particular, he didn’t know yet, but there was definitely something abnormal going on. It was then that he finally got a good look at what he was wearing: drenched grey khakis, mud-covered sneakers and a white windbreaker with the right sleeve torn off, revealing a large, bleeding gash on his forearm…This was exactly what he looked like in his dream, down to the very last detail. As if the clothing wasn’t reason enough to panic, Ted found himself recognizing the room he was currently occupying. This wasn’t his room; this wasn’t even his house, not anymore at least. The family had sold the place and moved away months ago, and he was beginning his first year of college at his new dorm, hundreds of miles away from his old residence. How the hell was he suddenly back here? The surreality of the current situation made the boy’s muscles stiffen, he started sweating and his breath became erratic. This was all wrong, this couldn’t really be happening. He wanted to get out of this place, and fast, but he didn’t want to find out what was beyond that door. For a few seconds more, he just stood there, a hand shakily hovering over the handle, another over his mouth to keep him from screaming out in complete horror, partly because he was worried that whoever was responsible for this would be listening, but also because he was afraid of what kind of sound he would make. If everything else was so botched up here, then who’s to say his voice wasn’t as well? Seeing no other option, Ted shut his eyes and threw open the door, charging into whatever scenery awaited him, but finding no ground to run on as he tumbled into an abysmal descent. This time he screamed, and for whatever consolation it was worth, he sounded the same as always. The stomach-churning drop lasted long enough for the terror-stricken young man to assume his own demise once he finally hit the ground, but once he did so, he felt almost nothing, as if he had just tripped and fallen over himself on the sidewalk. Scrambling to his feet, he now found himself in his old high school’s cafeteria. His eyes were wide open, and he was clearly, and understandably, showing quite a bit of distress over what was happening, not at all put at ease by the sight of his former classmates casually seated at the tables all around him, along with others, such as his teachers, but far less expectantly, his parents, friends from other schools, even a few complete strangers he happened to remember passing by. All of their mouths were opening and closing as if they were in conversation with one another, but none of their words were reaching Ted’s ears. Just as they suddenly appeared, following a jarring sound of static, they vanished, but the cafeteria remained, occupied now by the missing voices, floating around without their speakers in sight. The muffled sound of chatter coming from all directions grew steadily louder, and the pitch of the voices began to rise. For a moment, it was as if the entire place was filled with helium, but the voices got even higher in pitch, until they were beyond any remaining comprehension, taking on the sound of a single high pitched beep as the school began to fade to white, everything disappearing in a heavenly glow that felt far more like the opposite place as far as Ted was concerned. He fell to his knees as the beeping sound drilled mercilessly into his ears, feeling like his head was about to burst at any moment. He clasped onto his ears in vain to block the noise, the pain becoming nearly unbearable. “Stop it! STOP!” He screamed, unable to shut his eyes, forced to stare into the white void that entrapped him. “Please, god, just SHUTUP!!” As if something was waiting for those magic words to be said, the noise ceased, the white faded to black, and the traumatized victim was gone. --- “One…In the nine hours that influx ‘graced’ us with its presence, we had one skemma show up, and he went down in seconds…Have I mentioned before how much I hate this job sometimes?” Tasel growled as he leaned back in his chair, tired, grumpy, and just altogether unpleasant. It was indeed a rather uneventful watch the night before for the duo, and unfortunately, it was one that didn’t end until daybreak, wasting the entire evening. “How do you want me to answer that? The number of times you mentioned it last night, or just the grand total? Because I think the latter is in the high thousands by now.” Nyas mumbled back, lying face down on the floor. He probably would’ve tried putting in a few words of optimism like usual to brighten their spirits, but there was no way that was going to happen today, not in their current condition. “You know if you wanna borrow my bed for a little while, you can. It’s right upstairs.” Tasel offered. As cheerful a guy as Nyas was, he wasn’t a morning person, even on a regular basis. All-nighters, naturally, did not sit well for him. “I’m not getting up…way too much effort.” Nyas grumbled. “Fine, whatever, do what you want you lazy-ass.” “Just shut up and let me die…” Tasel’s home was of considerable size, being one of the more hardworking and distinguished Usetts in his town, a rather ironic reputation, considering his own contempt for his work. It was a large, spacious cabin with the normal sort of rooms the average household would provide- a kitchen, bedroom, living room, et cetera. There were hardly any luxurious items around, he never really saw a need for them, so it was seen as a bit empty by others, yet that was how this particular Usett preferred it. It was a place primarily for eating, sleeping and recuperating. Everything else he’d usually do either in town or out in the glades, which were a mere stone’s throw from his abode. This made it at least a bit easier to tolerate such days like these…though only ever so slightly. The two continued to lounge quietly, undisturbed, until this moment of tranquility was harshly interrupted by an abrupt cracking sound that echoed through the place, followed by a faint sound of someone screaming something incoherent. This unexpected noise jerked Tasel back onto his feet in alarm, though Nyas merely rolled over to face the ceiling. “What in the name of the great Edict was that?” Tasel exclaimed, running over to the window facing the sound in which the noise came from to try and pinpoint it. “Hell if I know…some kinda new fireworks or something?” Nyas answered back haphazardly. “No one’s stupid enough to set off fireworks in the glades…” He was certain of this statement too. Not even the dumbest of Usetts had such a death wish. From his window view, he noticed a particularly bright, purplish light in the distance. It was an influx, he was sure of that, but something was up with it. From where he was watching, it looked almost as if it had overshot its glade…That never happened, but, that only made the possibility all the more horrifying. “Something’s wrong. I’m gonna go check it out, you wanna come with?” Tasel asked as he ran over to the door, watching as Nyas didn’t bother to get up. “Maybe some other time...Just not right now…You can tell me all about it later…” he answered before quickly falling asleep. Tasel merely gave a shrug at this, leaving his friend to get some sleep as he hurried over to the sight of the unusual bright light in the distance. Yet, as he pursued it, the light vanished without warning, as if nothing were there at all. This caused the Usett to stop in his tracks and he began to reconsider if this really was anything to fret about. Thinking it through, he still felt wary about that noise, and because of this, he decided to continue onward. If anything, this could at least assuage his fears that something was amiss. --- As the light faded and the horrible noise went with it, Ted fell forward in exhaustion, expecting to, and almost wishing by this point, to end up floating in some dark abyss forever. When he felt the unanticipated sensation of fresh grass on his face instead, he pushed himself right back up in bewilderment. Replacing the silent blackness was now a pleasant field, full of green grass, with some sort of town off in the distance, and a forest adjacent to it. Perhaps most out of place however was the violet sky above him, a lot like the sort of purple he would sometimes see at dusk, but in a far more vivid manner. It was all brilliant scenery, but he was quick to remind himself that he wasn’t here to sightsee. He had to find out where he was, before something like that earlier episode decided to torture him again. Standing up, Ted decided to try his luck with the denizens of that town up ahead. Perhaps they knew what was responsible for his current conundrum. Running a hand through his hair and taking a deep breath, just to try and shake off the lingering terror still running through him, he began walking towards the town. His dedication for some much-needed answers kept him from noticing the strange scarlet goop slowly creeping after him from behind, silently forming itself into a more humanoid form, with a large katana shaped blade jutting out of its neck. Swiftly, the blade shot out from the strange entity’s neck, aiming for the back of Ted’s.