He knew he was dreaming.
The landscape felt both familiar and vague with no real details. He had no idea how he had gotten here or what he was doing. Somehow he was in his old classroom–the English classroom or was it the Math one?–and outside it was sunny with green trees. Somehow this was not strange, despite the fact that he was now forty and working in another country.
Yes, this was definitely a dream he thought to himself while he sat in his old chair.
“A-are you real?”
The question made him jump. It came from right next to him. How had he not noticed the strange little, goblin-looking creature sitting next to him in the classroom? Bare skin stretched tightly over a skull-shaped face with large child-like eyes all combined to inspire a strange combination of fear, revulsion and pity when looking at the little creature.
“Are you real?” the little creature asked again looking directly at him, grave near-comical concern over its ugly little face.
“Ye-um, no,” he paused before shaking his head, “This is a dream, none of us are real. I’m not real and neither are you.”
The little creature looked away. It almost looked sad and he felt a silly impulse to hug it. Before he could do anything it looked back at him. The classroom was getting dark. It was nighttime now.
“Are you sure you are not real?” the creature asked softly, almost threateningly showing some pointed, sharp teeth in its mouth, “I am certain I am real. How do you not know that what lies out there is not the dream? Why can’t this be real and the strange place you think you live in be the dream?”
Lightning began to streak in the sky outside. Shadows were rising up in the corners of the classroom with menacing eyes peering out from them. And, just as he was about to answer, the bell rang.
He woke up in his bed covered in sweat with his heart racing. He shook his head. He was sitting in his bedroom a million miles away from the classroom. He was forty years old and had long since left that school.
What a strange dream.
The next day dawned and he fell into the bustle of the weekday routine. All day, though, he could not stop thinking about the strange, goblin-like creature in his dream with its large, child-like eyes and pointy teeth.
In fact, as the day went on, he thought more and more about the creature. What a strange thought? What if he was currently dreaming now? What if this was the dream and at night when he fell asleep, he actually woke up in the real world? What if he was a teenager dreaming that he was a forty-year-old man? What if the creature was right and he was really there? What if all of this was not real? What if he was a child dreaming that he was an adult living in another city?
These thoughts had started as mental itches. But as he scratched them, they had gotten itchier. By the end of the day, sitting in traffic on the way home, these thoughts were starting to circle around and around in his head. By the time he opened the door to his small apartment open, the thoughts were all he could think of.
Faced with the dark emptiness of his apartment and life, he suddenly felt tired. He felt exhausted. He was completely drained of every ounce of energy. If this was a dream, he did not want to be in it anymore. It was a miserable dream and he wanted to wake up.
He collapsed on his couch in his living room. He could not even summon the energy to turn the light or the television on. He just slouched down into a crumpled heap on the couch and–in the growing darkness of evening–he drifted into a deep sleep.
“A-are you real?”
He was standing back in the classroom, only it was a little different. Perhaps it was the French classroom? Maybe the walls were a different colour or the room a different size? There was more detail in the room this time.
But none of that mattered, as the little creature with child-like eyes and pointy teeth stood before where he sat.
“Are you real?”
“Y-yes,” he stuttered, trying to desperately remember why he was here or where he had come from, “Yes, I am real. I know I am real,” and then he remembered the other dark, dreary dream and added, “I do not want the other dream! I do not!”
“Then if I kill you here, you will die,” the little creature whispered menacingly. He was suddenly aware of how he could barely move and how sharp the claws on the little fingers of this creature were. The hairs on the back of his neck were beginning to rise. A cold shiver ran down his spine.
“Y-yes, I th-think so,” he stuttered, barely able to move his mouth as a fearful paralysis crept up his helpless limbs and his mind became blank.
“Goooood, goooood,” the little creature cooed wickedly, rows and rows of sharp, pointy teeth appearing in his mouth as it began to grin, “For I am the Dream Eater, liberating the sleepers from their false dreams of light and life. Come, let me show you the true dreams of darkness and death…”
A gurgling sound rose up from his throat as he tried to scream, but could not. He could not move, his limbs did not exist. His mind was frozen and the darkness was closing in. The classroom suddenly looked terrifying. Flashing lightning and pounding rain sounded outside, as the Dream Eater floated closer and closer to him with its sharp, pointy teeth becoming all he could see…
The police found him two days later when a family member called them. He had not shown up for work for two days without notice. Work had then called the family and his brother who lived in the same city. After numerous calls and no answers, his brother had come over to see if he was alright and had not been able to get into the apartment. It was then that his brother had called the police, who had kicked the door down in the attempt to see if he was alright.
He was not alright.
He was curled up on the couch. He was pale white like the very life had been sucked from him. His eyes were wide open and glassy, like a blind man. Most terrifying, though, was his face. It was contorted in a silent scream that no one in this dream had heard.
For this is how the Dream Eater hunts and that is how the Dream Eater feeds.
Good night, sleep tight and don’t let the Dream Eater bite.