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The Unknown Power
Author's note: I was inspired because of a short story I was writing for an online Duke class I was taking. This idea came to mind when I was in Arizona and I was admiring the different dream catchers that they had. It is almost impossible for me to write something that is short, so I took this idea and ran with it.
They were catching up to me, the disfigured creatures that were tearing after me through the field. My braid had come loose, and windblown strands of hair stung my eyes. I could hear their rasping, shallow breaths as I sprinted away from them, faster than any human should be able to run. But still, they kept pace, their red eyes gleaming in the night. Twisting my head around, I saw two glinting eyes running at me from the front, looking to the right and the left I saw more monsters approaching. I was surrounded. Having no way to escape, I stopped. They came closer and closer, until I could smell their repulsive stench. The leader stepped forward, twirling his sword in his hands. In one swift motion, he pulled it above his head, and drove it into my heart.
I jerked up in my bed, drenched in sweat. My sheets were tangled around my legs, and I had one hand under my pillow where I was clutching my dagger, its silver point digging into my palm where I gripped it. Taking a few gasping breaths, I slid out of my bed. As my feet hit the cold, wooden floor, I walked to the foot of my bed where my dream catcher hung. I played with the dark feathers as I had when I was a little girl, before I had realized the true meaning of the inky feathers. I was a Dream Catcher. No not one of the Native American made crafts, but a girl who was put in the world to rid others of haunting dreams. I have killed demons, vampires, werewolves, and even ghosts for strangers I didn’t know.
I was trained in the proper way of killing these creatures, and the rules that came with my job. I was to not trust anyone with my secret, I was to do my job even in the face of death, I was to be alert at all times, etc. etc. The biggest rule was not to love, because doing that would weaken my mind, and allow these haunting figures to kill me off as fast as they would a human. If any of us Catchers were to fall in love, the consequences would be fatal. I, Chelsea, may look like a human, but I have powers humans would not have; I have extraordinary speed, strength, and a way to close off all pain and feelings that any mortal person would feel. I was carefully made, with the blood of all the things I kill, known as Night Creatures, put in me before I was born, mixed with human blood, giving me these incredible powers.
There are only ten of us remaining in the world, we are a dying breed. Once we are gone, all those nightmares will sneak back into human minds and kill you little by little. Nightmares are a curious thing, they are very much real. The creature will get into a human mind and literally kill them before they know it is real. Most bodies of victims of these killer nightmares have been found with their mouths agape in a quiet scream that no one could hear, except for the vile creature who had taken their life. It is my quest to remove the foul creatures from the world before they can terrorize any human brain, therefore catching all of the bad nightmares before they can get into human brains. Slowly, I drifted back into a pleasant sleep.
I woke with a start; I had fallen asleep on the floor at the foot of my bed, still holding my dream catcher in one hand, and my dagger in the other.
“Congrats, I think that is the most uncomfortable sleeping position ever, you should win a prize.”
My head snapped around to look at the sarcastic speaker. It was another Dream Catcher, the same age as me. His silver eyes glinted in the ray of light that fell on him from the window, making them dance and sparkle. His hair was a dark brown and it hung around his face, framing his eyes. He cut it himself, and it was messy layers above his ears. He was charming and stunning; every human girl threw themselves at him. I regarded him with a scowl and a glare, as I stood up and brushed imaginary dirt off my clothes, a nervous habit I’d picked up.
“Besides for the fact that you have made it your life mission to annoy me to death, is there another reason you’re here Alex?”
He flashed his pearly white teeth in a perfect smile, “Aw, come on, can’t I just be dropping in to see how you’re doing?” As my scowl deepened he stopped smiling, his silver eyes stopped dancing, and become blank and serious.
“The Raven is coming back Chels, he heard about your new, uh, power, and wanted to come check it out for himself. I think he’s just jealous, but Sabrina wants you gone, she thinks he wants to kill you, and we can’t afford to lose any more Catchers at this point. She wants you to hide out elsewhere until she gets things sorted out.”
His eyes had emotion now, so raw and painful I couldn’t look away. He looked as if he was the one who was being sent away, not me. I could not understand this new expression of feeling right now, and I did not have time to analyze what it meant. The Raven was coming for me, and it did not sound good. He used to be a Dream Catcher, like us, but he had become part raven part man, due to a curse put on him by a warlock. He had the body of a man, and the head of a raven, his fingernails were talons, and his eyes were as black as night itself. He didn’t catch dreams anymore, but he kept us in line, anyone found breaking the rules he killed. He was on our side, yet we were more scared of him than any Night Creature out there. I shivered, even though I was sitting in a patch of sun.
I ran to my closet and started throwing things into a bag: clothes, weapons, food, drinks, everything I needed to live on my own for a while. Zipping up the bag I ran into the hall and down to the main room, where Sabrina sat. She was in charge of all of us at her Institute, only four of us to be exact. She would teach us everything we needed to know, feed us, clothe us, and tell us what was necessary to know to survive in our topsy-turvy world. Her pale, blonde hair hung down to her thighs, and her eyes were a milky purple, without any pupils, the eyes of a faerie. She was not one of them however; she simply had more faerie blood than the rest of us, making her more like one of them then like us. She hid her expression well, but I had grown use to the ways of reading her. I could tell she was nervous and upset, rare emotions for her. She walked over to me and laid her hands on my shoulder.
“Good, you packed your bag. I have put some healing potions and spell books in your other bag for the trip, they will come in handy out there.” Her eyes held mine for a moment and I saw the regret in them. “I’m sorry it has come to this Chelsea, but you have a rare gift. No other Catcher has ever had the ability to never miss their target when they throw a dagger like you can, and I knew the Raven would be interested as soon as he heard about you. I would lay low for a while, don’t go drawing attention to yourself. Keep moving, don’t stop no matter what. He will try and track you and only distance will be able to make tracing you harder. I have Shadow Thief saddled and waiting for you. Ride hard and strong, don’t let fear and despair get the best of you.”
That was the best goodbye I could ask for from someone who had hid their emotions for many years. She sat down and looked out the window at the black rain clouds rolling in, and I knew she had called them to create shadows for me to hide in.
I took a deep breath and ran down to the stable towards my ride. Shadow Thief was a beautiful Pegasus that was such a deep black that he looked like a shadow himself. I swung into my saddle and leaned forward to whisper in his ear, “Ride hard, ride fast, ride towards the shadows and hide us there.” He started off in a smooth, gliding gallop, unlike any mortal horse. He took me into the forest, hiding us in the shadow of the trees.
I watched her run out the door, her thick black braid swinging as she ran. I followed Chelsea out, carrying my own bag on my back. My footsteps were not audible over the gusty blasts of wind, and I for once in my life was glad we lived in the middle of a forest. I approached the stable and hid in the shadows, listening as she told Shadow the familiar chant she used when she wanted to be hidden from sight. Her usual luminous, green eyes had a look of determination in them, and her pink lips were set in a firm line. Her skin was tan, setting off the beauty of her hair and eyes. The tank top she was wearing showed her feather tattoo between her shoulder blades. Her long, athletic body was settled into the saddle, her leg muscles tensing as Shadow lunged forward. Creeping into the barn, I ran over to Angel Song’s stall. Instead of a normal neigh and whinny, Pegasus’s sang their own unique song, if you could understand their ‘words’ then that was the one chosen for you. Her pure white wings stretched out as I approached in happiness. Her words sang a hello to me, scolding me for wanting to follow Chelsea when I had no right to. I vaulted onto her back and spoke the same words to her, knowing she would follow Shadow for me until she dropped dead. And then we were off, galloping towards the girl I was forbidden to love.
I could remember the day I first met Chelsea, we had both been seven, and trying to figure out what was wrong with us, why these weird creatures kept coming after us. We were shipped off to the house in the forest, more like a mansion than a house. Sabrina took us under her wing along with several other young kids the same age as us and taught us everything we needed to know. She trained us until we could kill something with our eyes closed, and taught us until we could repeat our knowledge in our sleep. She would let us choose which dream catcher spoke to us, to hang in our room. Each one represented a different thing, some meanings could be peace, strength, or recovery, and it helped us when we battled. We were given a tattoo the same color as the feather on our dream catcher, as a reminder of what our job was. This life as a Dream Catcher became a part of us, embracing us with a hug and giving us something to live for. My name was Alexander, and I made sure everyone called me that when I was younger, thinking it made me sound superior. Only Chelsea was allowed to call me Alex. As we got older, and spent more time together on hunting missions and other such events, I realized I had feelings for her. I knew just admitting to myself that I loved her was breaking every rule set up to protect me, but I didn’t care.
When I heard the Raven was coming for her, I knew I needed to follow her wherever she ran. I was the first person she trusted enough to admit she had an extraordinary talent, and I felt it was my duty to protect her. As Angel fell into a rhythmic gallop, I daydreamed about the life I wished I could have, one where Chelsea was more than a friend, and I didn’t have to kill horrible, mutant creatures as a part of my daily life. I sighed, and cleared my head as I had been taught to do, focusing on catching up to Shadow as I whispered “faster” into Angel’s ear.
I knew I was being followed. I could sense the intruder behind me, gaining speed to catch up with me. My hand moved to my belt, where my dagger was, its intricate carvings shining bright as they do when a Night Creature is around. I smelled the sour, rancid smell of a water demon before I saw him. He jumped out of the bushes in front of me, his empty eye sockets facing in my direction, his hollow nose tilted to sniff the air. His bones were clearly visible, and flabby wings protruded from his back. Shadow came to an abrupt stop, and I jumped cleanly onto the forest floor, my dagger in my hand. As I pulled my arm back to throw the dagger into his still heart, he spoke.
“Come with me into the shadows. Follow me to my master, he is expecting you.” His voice was as unpleasant as fingernails on a chalkboard. It seemed to grind into your brain, his gasping breaths and gravelly voice. I looked about for an escape route, only to see I had been surrounded by demons of all shapes and sizes. The one who had spoken smiled, revealing row after row of razor sharp teeth, knowing I was trapped. I took a shaky breath and cleared my mind, ready to fight if I had to.
“Tell me what purpose your master wants me for,” I spat at him. “Or are you just his faithful dog who does his every command?”
“He wants a few words with you, a proposition to make.” He smiled again, ignoring my jab. He bent his skeleton finger, beckoning me to step forward. I flung my dagger at him, sinking it deep within his skin. With a screech he fell to the floor, and the demons surrounded me. I lashed out with my hands and feet, taking two down before I felt a sharp blow to my head, and I fell into darkness.
Waking up in total darkness, I was aware of a throbbing in my head. Shutting myself off from the pain, I waited until my eyes adjusted to the dark. I was sitting in a cave, apparently in the great hall of the demons and their master, who was sitting right in front of me. I pushed myself up so I could stand, and stuck my chin up in defiance.
“What do you want from me?” and “Why have you brought me here?” were the words I meant to say, but I found out I could not speak. Cackling, he walked down to stand in front of me, and pushed me to the floor.
“When you were asleep I gave you a potion to bind you from talking. I have enough to say without your constant grumbling and whining.” His white eyes glared into mine, and I looked away. Looking in his eyes would cause you to see your worst fears, and I needed to keep my thoughts together. He looked like a human, except for his pale, white eyes, and black wings that were folded behind him. He was a demon and a shape-shifter, he would reach into your mind and pull out your nightmares, turning himself into your biggest fear. He chuckled, a low, rumbling sound.
“You must be wondering why I brought you here, but it is quite simple. You are by far the most dangerous of all Dream Catchers with your new power, and special blood.” My expression must have been quizzical for he said, “Oh, you mean to tell me Sabrina never told you about your blood? Well, that is quite unacceptable! You see, unlike the others, you have a bit more Night Creature blood in you, giving you more of our powers.”
My heart froze at the thought, it couldn’t be possible. How dare he say I am more like his foul creatures! A low growl filled the air, and I realized it came from me. I glared up at him, and spit on his shoe. Laughing, he continued his speech, gladdened by my anger.
“Now, we simply can’t have someone as dangerous as you running around against us, which was proven as you killed my main child in the forest out there. So, I have decided to make you a proposition from all of us children of the Night.” He paused and smiled down at me. “You can join us, and kill off the final Dream Catchers, or you can die.”
As his final words hung in between us, I stared up at him in disbelief. My brain seemed to shut down, and I could not focus. As I started to come back to my senses, I heard a gagging from across the room. Looking over, I saw a crumpled figure thrown against the wall, silver eyes glaring at Diriel from across the room. I gasped as I realized who it was, Alex. Cackling again the white eyes turned back to look at me.
“I see you do recognize him. After you were knocked out, he came barreling in the middle of things, killing many of my children out of fury for you. Of course, they overpowered him and brought him here. I guess Prince Charming isn’t as invincible as he thought. Now my question is, why would he risk his life just to protect you?”
My thoughts were racing, why would he come after me? I remembered him in my room this morning, and the expression on his face when he told me to run. Could it really be possible?
“Ah, see? You are as smart as I thought you were. Why don’t I help you out a little? He loves you, and is willing to risk his life to protect you. Now how sweet is that?” He grinned at the disbelief on my face. I turned to look at Alex, whose eyes were fixed on me. The corners of his mouth turned up in a small smile, looking more like a grimace from the pain he was in. I wished I could speak and tell him it would be ok, that we would make it out alive, but Diriel grabbed my arm and hauled me up into a standing position.
“I am going to let you go, but I am giving you exactly one day to make your decision. At midnight tomorrow, my children will be coming after you, and will bring you back to me. Choose wisely, young one.”
The last thing I remembered was his cunning smile, like a cat smiling at the mouse he’d trapped, before I was knocked back into darkness.
The canopy of trees shaded me partially from the rain, but a few drops snuck through and pelted me in the face, waking me up. I was slumped against a tree, my bag laying a few feet from me, with Angel nowhere in sight. I slowly stretched and tensed every muscle in my body, checking for any injuries. Finding none, I looked down at the crumpled body of Chelsea in front of me. Her eye was black from where a demon had struck her, but she still looked beautiful. Deep in thought, I barely noticed her green eyes staring at me.
“Oh, I-I-didn’t know you were, uh, awake.” I stuttered, blushing.
She groaned, and rolled over on her back, throwing her toned arm over her eyes to block out the sun.
“Why do our lives have to be so complicated? Why do we have to be what we are? Why can’t we be normal teens who live normal lives, who get to fall in love and have fun, and not worry about killing these creatures? I just want to be normal Alex, I want to be like all the other sixteen year old girls out there!”
“But Chels, I thought you loved being a Catcher, why this sudden change?” I wiped the tear that had escaped from her eye, and saw her flinch away from me, like I had stung her.
“What Diriel said in the cave, is it…true?” her voice was barely a whisper, and she would not meet my eyes.
“Yes, what he said is true. He read in my mind the greatest fear I have, losing you.” My feelings for her were in the open now, and I knew I would be in danger if the Raven ever found out I had broken a law, but I didn’t care. I stood up, and helped her up as well.
“Come on Chels, we better start running and put some distance between us and the demons.” I turned to go, hoping she would say how she always loved me, how risky our love would be, but she said nothing. She brushed something off her shorts as she had done earlier, and walked after me, as we disappeared deeper into the forest
The sky turned inky black in a couple of hours, and I was aware of the things stirring underneath us. We were perched on a branch of an old oak tree to get out of sight from the Night creatures down below, and to catch our breath. A lone werewolf ran up to the base of our tree and looked up. His chilling, wolf eyes caught sight of me, and he revealed his long, pointed teeth. Throwing back his head he released a howl, calling others to him, announcing who he had found. In his leering, growl the wolf barked, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your long hair.”
The other wolves and creatures that had arrived laughed, their crows, howls, and cackles filling the full-mooned night. I pulled out my dagger, and the runes glowed a light blue. Next to me, Alex pulled out his sword. Silently I counted to three and gave the signal; we dropped out of the tree and unto the backs of these filthy, stinky creatures, digging our weapons in deep. I pulled out a whip to further arm myself, and dropped into a defensive crouch, daring them to make a move. One of the demons flew at me, my whip cracked over my head, pulling him hard into the ground, his neck breaking with an audible snap. One by one, we tore through the pack, until only three remained. With a growl, they tore off into the forest. Trying to catch my breath, I heard the distant flapping of wings drawing closer, Shadow and Angel broke into the clearing. Jumping on their backs we took off again, trying to distance ourselves from the cave.
My mind was racing, everything I heard in the cave kept repeating itself in my head, like a broken record player. I glanced over at Alex, he was deep in thought. Love was a foreign thing to me, and I wouldn’t know if I loved him or not, thanks to the training of hiding our emotions. Since it was forbidden, Sabrina didn’t even bother telling us what it felt like, so how did Alex know he loved me? I thought long and hard on the subject until it seemed like my head was about to explode. Trusting Shadow, I leaned against his warm neck, closed my eyes and drifted off into a dreamless sleep.
When I woke up, the first thing I was aware of was a rock stabbing into my back, and blood trickling down my face. Opening my eyes, I saw Shadow and Angel tied up, their wings tightly bound against their bodies. Next to me, Alex was still passed out, his normally perfect face cut up and bleeding, a deep cut crossing from his left eye to his right cheek. Our hands were bound behind our backs and our legs were tied tightly together. Magic caused the rope to burn into our flesh, it felt like fire wrapped around my wrists and ankles. I resisted the urge to cry out in pain when I realized where we were. We were back at the cave we had run from, thrown in one of the lower caverns. An ogre sneered mockingly at me from across the room, his large hands holding a club. Alex moaned, and his silver eyes looked at me.
“What happened?” I questioned
“They shot us out of the air, literally. Shadow and Angel got hit and fell, and they shot us with a poisoned arrow, knocking us out before I could yell at you to wake up.”
The guard growled at us, and hit the club against his hand threateningly. I shot a look at Alex that he interpreted. As Catchers we had to learn how to ‘talk’ with our eyes, so I knew he understood. I scooted closer to him and laid on my side, my hands facing him. Using his teeth, he loosened my restraints, and I wiggled my hands free. When the ogre turned around, I quickly cut his hands free with my dagger, and freed our ankles. Jumping to our feet, we were ready for action. Alex crept behind the ogre, and jumped onto his back, digging his sword all the way into his back, severing his spine and killing him. I ran to the main hall, coming face to face with my own living nightmare, Diriel.
“You two really are incredible, you know. But tell me, what did you plan on doing once you killed the guard? Coming and finding me to give me my answer I hope, because I decided I want it right now.”
Glaring at him, I put all my fury into my words, “No, my answer is no.”
“I had a feeling you would say that.” He countered, his eyes traveling behind me to Alex. “And it is such a shame too, I didn’t want to have to waste such precious lives.”
With a flick of his wrist, he sent Alex flying against the back wall. I heard the snap and my anger was unbearable, an unknown feeling seemed to bubble up inside me, and I resisted the sudden urge to run over to him. Instead, I picked up Alex’s sword from my feet where it had fallen, and twisted it in my hands, loving the feel of the cold metal in my fingers. Diriel pulled his sword out as well, and swung it at me. I ducked and returned the blow, back and forth we swung at each other, moving slowly towards the back wall were Alex was crumpled on the floor. My thoughts kept racing back to him, and I would just barely manage to duck out of harm’s way when the sword came my way again. This feeling that had come up was foreign to me, it felt like I wanted run over to Alex and sit next to him, to care for his broken bones, and stay with him until he healed. It was a burning sensation to stay with him at all costs, and to fight for his revenge right now. I started fighting with more rage than before, my sword was barely visible, as it slashed through the air. I swung with all my strength, but I could feel my muscles tightening and getting tired. Diriel grinned at me again, and easily knocked Alex’s sword from my hands, throwing it across the room, like he hadn’t truly been trying before.
“Sabrina was always right about you. She used to say how different you were, and how determined you were to do well in everything. She said you learned your lessons fast, and you were the model student. What would she think now knowing you were defeated because your thoughts were too jumbled thanks to a boy? Think about how sad she will be when I send word out that I killed you, all because you realized what love was at the wrong time, and decided to think about Alex instead of fighting. It truly is a shame that this is how your life is going to end. You’re so much better than this.”
As he spoke, I slowly started backing up, until I could hear Alex’s gasps for breath directly behind me. Tears were burning my eyes, and I let them fall, cutting a path through the dried blood on my face. He was laughing at my tears, and turned his back to address one of his vampires, knowing I was no harm without any weapon. I crouched down next to Alex, running my fingers threw his messy hair. He groaned out of the pain he was in, and his eyes fluttered, trying to open.
“Sh, Alex it’s only me.” His body relaxed then, and a small smile flickered on his mouth.
“I was hoping I would be able to talk to you one last time.” He whispered.
“What do you mean one last time? We’re going to make it out of here, together. I love you Alex, and I promise to find us a way to be together once we make it out of here.” My voice choked up, and my tears were falling on Alex’s face.
“ I’ve always loved you, and I hope what you said is true, but I think it’s too late for me. My body is broken, and my heart is threatening to give out. I don’t think I’m going to make it out of this cave alive. But you can, and I want you to Chels. Don’t give up just because of me. Keep fighting.”
I held his hand, and closed my eyes, willing the tears to stop. My voice failed me, and I had nothing left to say to Alex.
“Well, well, that was a very touching scene to say the least.”
My eyes snapped open, and a fire blazed in them. I stood up and walked over to stand in front of Diriel. Hatred was running through my veins, and I knew I would rather die than live without Alex. I also knew I wouldn’t die without taking this monster with me. Fingering my daggers handle under my shirt, I bravely made my last stand.
“You say all of these things about me like Sabrina told you, and I know she would never talk to you. So how do you know about me?” I asked, trying to buy some time.
“Ah, see that is where you’re wrong, she did tell me. I requested a meeting with her a couple months ago to discuss some information I had heard about you. I pulled everything out of her that I could, using her biggest fear, which was losing all of her students. I used it against her, I blackmailed her, and she told me everything I asked for. I told the Raven about your new interesting power, knowing she would kick you out. And it worked, here you stand. And I think I’ve told you enough, so I believe I should go ahead and kill you now.”
As he raised his sword above his head I grabbed hold of my dagger, holding it in my hand. I knew pulling it out now would not do any good, my only hope of killing him was to let myself be killed as well. I stuck my chin out in defiance, standing firm in my spot, as he pulled the sword from over his head, and drove it into my heart, so the fine point only barely pierced it instead of stabbing it all the way through, giving me more time to act. I fell to the floor, blood gushing out of the open hole in my chest. I only had a minute until I died, and I had to act now or never.
“I am truly sorry about that, it’s such a waste having to kill you, there was so much you could have done.” He shook his head in mock sorrow and turned around. I looked over at Alex laying crumpled on the floor and saw a slight rise and fall of his chest, he wasn’t dead yet. I thought of Sabrina and everything she had taught me, I thought of my dying breed, and most of all I thought of that black dream catcher at the end of my bed, and how it represented power. From somewhere deep inside of me I used the last of my strength to pull my dagger out and hurl it at Diriel’s neck, piercing his windpipe, with my last never missing throw. I heard the choking gasps of breath, and saw the black blood begin to pool out of his neck, and then he turned into a black mist and was gone forever from this world. I choked out another breath and turned to look at Alex, whose chest wasn’t rising anymore. Closing my eyes my last thoughts were that love was not the killer, instead it drove you to impossible feats. I really hoped Sabrina would get that lesson right one day for the rest of the students so they could learn to love and trust because that is what truly drives you in the end.