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Nightmares from Zhalàr's blog

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"Nightmares"

© 2006



Panting, gasping for every sulfurous breath, the man traversed the nightmare landscape. His gait was not the easy, long-legged lope of a man accustomed to dancing for hours on end or distance running for pleasure. It was the ragged, panicked flight of a terrified animal.

Blood oozed from numerous shallow cuts and scrapes, each burning as sweat found those wounds. Every step was agony to his lacerated feet. Stumbling across the broken ground, he cast a fearful glance over his shoulder. Dark things pursued him. They stayed just out of sight but he knew they were there. The flash of glowing eyes or a braying laugh let him know all too well that they were toying with him.

Still, he doggedly fled the pack of demons set to harry him. He would play their game for as long as he could. Time was his currency. The more time he could afford, the better it was for his friends to make their own escape.

Dim faces danced through his mind. Friends. Lovers. Even acquaintances who had joined together on this perilous journey into the depths of the abyss took up a moment of his thought. How many of them would survive? Would they accomplish their mission?

Looming above them all was the darkly handsome figure of the demon lord of this particular slice of the nether planes. He had a surprisingly graceful figure despite being nine feet tall and well muscled. Even now the fleeing man felt an unwelcome pang of desire for that black-skinned demon whose eyes gleamed with baleful green light.

Names eluded him and this strange omission gnawed at him like a starved rat. At the very least he should remember the names of his lovers! But, he could only conjure forth blurred faces as though seen through a frosted window. Once more the fanged visage of the demon lord intruded upon his thoughts, shattering his already fragmented memories.

His body responded like a trained animal. Burning hands. Hungry mouth. Pleasure and pain intermingled. These fleeting sensations hovered at the edges of his conscious thoughts. Desire and revulsion warred in his gut. Had he willingly given himself to this nameless demon? Or was he a victim of some terrible seduction?

Leaden feet seemed to grow heavier with every shambling step. The demons circled him, gibbering and hooting their derision of his human weakness. Their hunger was a palpable thing. It was a miasma that hung in the air, choking the man until he staggered to a halt. Swaying on his feet, he ran a hand through his unkempt mane of black hair. It was an unconscious gesture and somehow soothing to him despite the inanity of trying to make any improvement upon his scorched and dirty locks.

The demons inched closer. Some drooled, licking their fanged maws in anticipation of dining upon manflesh. Others were obviously aroused and flaunted their unnatural endowments, be they grotesquely large, prehensile or even barbed. The man trembled, more with sheer exhaustion than fear.

He faced the yawning void of his own mortality and prayed. Stillness filled him even as the demon lord approached. The demon’s underlings parted like the ocean before the prow of a stately and elegant ship. Richly dressed, the demon’s fine cloak billowed behind him like a crimson sail. The lesser demons cavorted about their master in a pitched frenzy. The towering demon lord surveyed his prey, taking in every injury that marred the bronze flesh. It was with both amusement and pleasure that the demon met the man’s bold gaze. Eyes the color of a cloudless summer sky caught and held those which gleamed with viridian light. Even in this moment of utter despair, something caused the man’s mouth to quirk with a barely suppressed smile and the light of mischief to dance in those crystalline blue eyes. That subtle and unconscious defiance was a siren call to the demon lord and he looked forward to a long future of breaking the man.

With a faint nod of his head, the demon lord unleashed his minions. Howling, they pounced upon the man. He thrashed, trying to escape the many clutching hands which splayed his arms and legs wide. Sharp claws dug into his chest, bringing forth a startled cry of pain. He bucked and there was another jab of claws to his belly, this time accompanied by a plaintive yowl.

Gasping, Zhalar bolted upright in bed. The sheets were a damp tangle about him. Scrubbing at his eyes with the heels of his hands, he sucked in great draughts of air. Clean air. Untainted air. Blinking, he struggled to make out the room in the darkness. Only a thin blade of light from the streetlamp outside penetrated the shuttered window. A scolding meow came from the far corner where his cat groomed herself indignantly after making her escape from the bed.

A nightmare. It was only a nightmare. Only one of hundreds he had dreamt before and would probably dream again. It was almost always the same. Sighing, Zhalar flopped back against the pillows and kicked at the sheets in a feeble attempt at neatening them without rising and making the bed again.

“Tch, jelmek, Jumanah,” he crooned to the cat in his native tongue, patting the bed next to his hip.

The feline paused, one paw raised in mid-swipe over her head. She considered her pet human’s request with all the dignity reserved for royalty. With a twitch of her delicate pink nose and pristine white whiskers, she deigned to grant him the pleasure of her warm, furry company. Purring, she kneaded the mattress and his thigh as he obediently massaged her ears.

“Iyi kizlik,” Zhalar praised his cat in a sleepy voice. Closing his eyes, he soon found a deep and dreamless sleep.

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