Cover by A. R. Shellnut
Here’s another chapter! I almost can’t believe I’m posting two chapters in two weeks. It’s a great feeling.
I’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback for The Dreams lately. Knowing that my writing is being enjoyed by others is a huge source of motivation. I have plenty of chapters waiting to be editing so I plan on posting a chapter a week for at least quite a while.
I write for me, but having the support of others makes a huge difference. I would like to thank my supporters for helping me reach for even bigger and brighter goals for my writing. If you enjoy my writing and want to help me afford nice things like cover art please check out my Patreon. It doesn’t take much to make a big difference.
She had another dream.
They were coming more and more frequently now. Some she remembered more clearly than others, but she was aware that she was dreaming every night now. Before she probably would have said she only dreamed once every few months.
Not any more.
At least once a night was a more accurate description now.
The ones she remembered too — those dreams did not fade away. As far as Rina knew dreams were supposed to be the brain working through some subconscious issues or something along those lines. Dreams were not something that needed to be stored in the waking memory, so they typically faded away soon after waking up, but now she had dreams that she remembered as clearly as what she’d eaten the day before. Sometimes some of the details might be fuzzy or she might forget part of it but she was confident she remembered it happening and she got the general idea of these dreams right.
She found the subject matter of these well remembered dreams to b a little odd. They seemed so ordinary. The only part she could really consider to be truly odd, considering these were dreams, was that she was not in them herself at all. It was not even a matter of being herself, but someone else at the same time. She was experiencing the life of someone completely separate from herself while she was asleep, and that person was, while definitely a person, not a human being.
As she often did when she did not understand something she turned to the internet to start her search for answers. Her search suggested her dream memories might come from some sort of anxiety in her life causing her sleep to be disruptive and somehow this anxiety might be causing the dreams as well. This seemed like a possibility to her. Some days she did wake up in the morning feeling more tired than she should for the amount of sleep she got, but she had just chalked that up to being a teenager in college. Everyone around her was exhausted too so it did not seem to be anything out of the ordinary.
Her search for explanations for the subject matter of her dreams proved to be a more difficult task. She found herself dropped down the rabbit hole into a myriad of links to pages providing instructions on lucid dreaming. None of it seemed to actually have much of anything to do with having dreams that did not even include her as some part of the dream. She knew she would probably need to do some psychological digging to get an explanation for what was going on in her mind. Even then she doubted she would get much of an explanation since she was pretty sure that most of the studies on dreams came to a lot of similar conclusions that no one really had much of an understanding of what was going on in the dreams people had. She would love to be wrong about this though so her search would continue onward.
She struggled to put her motivating force into words, but she found it to be extremely compelling. The logic behind it pretty much could not even be called logic in any real sense. A better word for it would be a compulsion. She felt a compulsion to figure out where these dreams came from, and why she was dreaming about someone other than herself.
Thinking of it that way made her feel as though she was being very self centered, expecting all of her dreams to be about herself, but to her it felt strange to be dreaming about someone she did not know. These dreams did not make it so she was living the life of someone else while still in some way herself. As far as she could remember there was no trace of herself to be found in this dream world. She was not sure she wanted to find herself, if she could.
This was a matter she knew she could easily spend hours dwelling on, but she had more important, or rather more responsible things to do with her time. Going to class was one of those things, and if she did not hurry she would end up being late to her first class of the day.
The last thing she needed after all of this confusion and dead end research was to walk into the class room after the lecture had begun and have the entire class’s eyes on her as she took her seat. Just the thought of it gave her chills. Having any group of people watch her for almost any reason was enough to get her nerves frazzled. She felt an annoying jolt of panic race up her spine just thinking about it.
She shook her head. There was no sense in getting worked up over something that had not happened. She had within her the power to prevent from happening at all. She would just have to hurry and get to class before it was too late. There was no reason she could not do it.
Her only hope was slipping out late at night when the rest of the family was deep in sleep. Not even her parents were awake this late.
At first she had been afraid that she would not be able to stay awake long enough to get out undetected, but once she started trying to stay awake she found it to be remarkably easy. Her nerves made it so that the idea of sleep seemed to have flown right out of her head. Chickening out and going to bed like any other night was out of the question now that she was wound up into a tight little ball inside.
There was no way for her to guess the exact time when she decided she could safely make her attempt at sneaking out. She could not remember a time she had been awake at this late hour. The moon was out and nearly full, fortunately this lit her way out into the common grounds and would help keep her from stumbling. She just hoped she really had waited long enough and she would not be spotted by anyone that might see fit to alert her parents.
Getting out of the house was a bit more difficult than just staying awake. Somehow her father knew she had done something to break the rules and had taken further measures to make her miserable. She was being punished by way of sharing a room with three little siblings who were splayed out in all directions on their shared futon. It took all of her coordination to pick her way through the heads, arms, legs, and tails without stepping on anyone.
Somehow she managed to make it outside without making so much as a peep. Even so she was shaking like a leaf. All of her planning told her to just lie if she was caught out here, but now all of those little lies had flown right out of her mind. She would probably just stare at anyone that caught her as though she had completely lost the ability to speak. That would do her absolutely no good, but it was inevitable.
The only hope she had at this juncture was to make her way to Souma’s home entirely undetected. With no practice in the stealth department she could not gauge how well this plan would work out.
She took one step away from her house, and the next thing she knew she was all the way across the communal lawn and practically on the doorstep of Souma’s mother’s home on the edge of their little village, nearly in the forest.
The house was very small, and visibly patched up even in this dim lighting. Yuzuki had a harder time making her way across this unfamiliar territory as the moonlight did little to illuminate the unfamiliar rise and fall of the ground beneath her feet.
Her breath was caught in her throat and her heart was pounding in her chest as she walked right up to the door of the house and whispered Souma’s name.
She waited. Nothing. Her voice had been little more than a squeak so she could not blame Souma for not hearing her.
She gathered up the remaining crumbs of her courage and called out again, louder this time. This time she heard movement inside the house and knew that she had been heard. She could only hope that Souma had heard her and understood what was going on.
There was always the chance that he heard her but he did not know it was her and would promptly go back to sleep. Her heart filled with hope that he would prove that he was brave and independent enough to be willing to step outside in the middle of the night without too much hesitation and trepidation.
She could not bear to risk allowing him to go back to sleep without stepping outside and seeing her so she called out to him again. This time there were more decided sounds of movement coming from inside the house.
Her ears were trained, listening for any sounds that might give her an indication as to whether or not she should make a run for it. All she heard other than the slight sounds from the other side of the wall was the distant sound of insects chirping in the trees.
The sound of the door sliding open made her jump after the peaceful silence that had settled around her. She turned quickly, her breath catching in her throat when the possibility that she might be facing Souma’s mother rather than Souma himself entered her mind. His mother still terrified her thanks to the vaguely awful rumors and stories she had heard since her early childhood. Like so many of the other young children of the village she followed the lead of those who came before her and did everything in her power to avoid the woman.
Fortunately for Yuzuki she found herself face to face with Souma. She let out a sigh of relief, and felt herself devolving into a shaking mess. There were so many things she had meant to say, and now she could not find the strength to say them.
Souma placed a hand on her arm to steady her.
“Yuzu? What are you doing here? Is everything okay?”
“I…” she started. “No. Everything is not okay. I need your help.”
He guided her to sit down on the edge of the porch and took a seat next to her. “What can I do for you?”
“I need to leave. I can’t stay here anymore. My father…” she trailed off.
She had her suspicions, and she had heard enough to know she should be worried. Her fear had paralyzed her for a long while, but now the same fear spurred her into action. The latest punishment from her parents had left her with time to think, and by thinking she came to realize her fears and suspicions had merit. Now she was taking action, and rapidly discovering that acting due to fear left her with a distinct lack of courage.
There was a degree of shame in it for her too. She feared these things were true, and if that was the case then she was the product of incest, and now her father appeared to have aims to continue the incestuous history of their family with her.
“What did Takeshi do to you?” Souma asked with a sharp edge to his voice.
“Nothing!” she snapped back at him.
She was so nervous she spoke with more force than she intended. Her anxiety was at such a level that she practically lost all self control the slightest implication that her father had actually done something to her. Now she was starting to shiver from the stress of just holding herself together long enough to get the words out.
“Those rumors about my father… I’m afraid they might be true.”
That was the best she could do. It was not even the full truth as far as she understood it, but saying any more would probably cause a complete break down. She needed to keep her composure.
He remained silent. She could feel him waiting for her to continue to speak. Fear kept her silent — a fear that she would lose control of her tightly reined emotions. She gathered up her courage to push on and put her thoughts and her gut feelings to words.
“Souma,” she hesitated. “I’ve noticed the way my father looks at me, and it isn’t the way a father should look at his daughter. I’ve heard the rumors. I’m afraid of what will happen to me if I stay here any longer. Will you please help me to get away? I know I can’t make it out there on my own.”
He looked at her for a long while. He had urged her to leave with him before, but she had no way of knowing if that offer was still on the table. Against her own expectations she found herself growing a bit calmer in the mean time. Finally she felt confident she had made the right choice. Although he had not yet agreed to help her in any way she felt better just for having someone she could express her fears around, and his thoughtful consideration instead of resorting to a knee jerk reaction bolstered her faith in him as a confidant. Now she was just left hanging on a limb hoping that he had not changed his mind in the intervening days, and he could take her away from this awful place.
He spoke very quietly and very slowly. He chose his words very deliberately and each one was punctuated into her mind.
“Yuzu, I want you to go home and get some sleep,” he began.
She wanted to interrupt him here, but she was too shocked to find use of her voice. Instead she waited for him to finish.
“After you get some sleep you are going to go about your day as though nothing has changed. When you get a chance I want you to pack up your things — only bring what you absolutely can not leave behind. We have to travel light. Then you will meet me at the first clearing west of here at sundown.”
She nodded to him mutely. He really had all the answers, and now she would be getting out of this place. She was going to escape. She would be safe from all of this, and she would not have to be alone.
“Now go home and get some rest,” he ordered.
She smiled and nodded.