This is the world that, almost always, you forget, the world of wishes, and horrors, the world of missing thoughts, and scattered memories. This is the world of dreams.
Although, yes, dreaming is attributed to your subconscious, that’s really not it at all. It is a place, with people and lives. It is simply a lost and forgotten one. It was truly a place, once, but time wore at it, and nothing can stand forever. We refused to give in, refused to let our city crumble, the last of the mages used their power to move the planet to a land out of time, out of anything.
Of course, unplanned dimensional travel is rather hard to get right on a good day, and it was most certainly not a good day.
We got trapped in limbo, never aging, never changing, and getting the oh-so-fun added bonus of being where people dreamed.
And although, sure, you have the occasional good lovely dream sometimes, most days they are confusing or scary. So we get all the monsters under the beds that you can stand. And they’re not like the demon geese that you can just spray for, either. All those monsters and nightmares have little changes, unintentional personal touches, you might say. So you can’t just generalize them. At best you can toss them into one of the few categories to be noted down, has a solid form, has no solid form, sometimes had a solid form, and oh hell get it off of my facduvdcyiavciuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu.
It’s rather annoying.
I digress, this is the place that you travel when you sleep, and whatever you dream about appears here. This is pretty much the world that your brain uses for a dump.
It is difficult, but we have learned to adapt. Living up high usually helps, although those winged-bear-chupacabra-armadillos are a menace, and really make you wonder what whoever dreamed it was on. I mean seriously, where do you even get that?
People come here too sometimes, more often than not as a discard from a dream that wasn’t bad, but occasionally from the real world, falling through the dreams.
But all the monsters and oddities aside, the most annoying things are the lucid dreamers. I don’t mean the people who manage to control what they see and do a little bit, I mean the people who can control it all. They are like really bloody annoying, inconsiderate, all-powerful gods.
It is infuriating. They don’t know that this is a world, they just think it’s their subconscious so they don’t care if they completely re-sculpt the environment and wipe out twenty-seven percent of the population because they want to fly over an ocean, not the forests. That jerk killed nine hundred, sixty nine thousand, four hundred, eighty three people.
But, we learn to live with it.
And we do wonder about where we dream.
I wandered the battlefield under the darkening sky, searching for any survivors from either side. If there was one from our side, well I would have to evaluate their injuries, see if they could be saved. And if it was one of those things, that’s what the gun in the holster on my waist was for.
I was a medic, so it was my job to go out here and either put our men out of their misery or save them. The bugs were just collateral.
I wasn’t even sure why I’d taken this job, except that the pay was ludicrously good. I could see why. If you want people to do this hell the pay has to be exorbitant. Honestly, pay or no pay, if I had known that I would be wandering around a chillingly quiet battlefield in the dark, five months ago I would have thrown the pen in the face of the person holding the contract instead of signing it. There are days where being a gun, or bandage, for hire sucks.
But there are also days where it’s great. Traveling, seeing the stars. And on the days where a job goes well, or I and those working with me actually help someone, when we’re sitting on some craft with the stars shining all around us, I thank God, or whatever deity might be out there that I hadn’t ever wanted to have a desk job.
And there are days where it’s hell, where you lose a friend, or a chip of your sanity. Where you know that you did more harm than good, and you’re sitting planet side, not a star in sight through the haze of smoke in the bar that you decided to go to get good and drunk, although by the time you get there all you do is nurse a beer all night. Those are the days I wish I had taken a desk job, or something stable, that holds very little risk of serious injury.
Then there are days like this, the ones that will hold something more even though you don’t know it yet.
I was startled out of my musings by a…rattling….skreeking….sound. One of the bugs.
I came upon it, and looked at the thing. I was a bit like a dragonfly, mixed with a nightmare. Those bulbous, faceted eyes that seem to watch you wherever you are freak me out. They seem just humanoid enough to be highly unsettling, like retro video games that had the graphics in the “uncanny valley”, that place of rendering and pixels that is human enough to be realistic, but not quite human enough, where something is…off.
It tilted its head at me, legs pulled to its thorax and wings furled up, those tails of theirs never seemed to move unless they were impaling you with it, and it was in no position to do that right now, with one of its legs trapped under a flipped ground-ship.
I reached for my gun, and something stopped me. Perhaps it was the way the light from the stars seemed to glint off its eyes, or the way I had been thinking earlier, about doing good, but it suddenly seemed afraid. And almost human.
It was the first time I wondered if they had feelings, opinions, thoughts. It hadn’t been determined whether or not they had a hive-mind, but it was simply assumed that they did. They were bugs after all.
I wondered if they had mercenaries, and contracts, and payments, as well. If they had good days and bad. Or fear. Especially fear.
And so I figured out a way to get it out from under the ship, a well-placed lever is a wonderful thing, all the while wondering if this was a very stupid idea. It probably was.
I pulled it up, and it looked at me, it clearly looked at me, then it…bowed…said something in that language of its kind, and flew off. I finished my sweep, and turned in my resignation from this particular job as soon as I got back to base. I didn’t care that it would leave a bad mark on my ratings for hire.
It seemed like the thing to do at the time, and it still does. And if I’m faced down by a million of the bugs one day, with vengeance in their eyes for the wounded I had killed, well, I wouldn’t know whether to feel foolish or terrified. But until then, I would be glad of my choice.
The first thing everyone learns, as soon as they can understand the simplest of concepts, is (of course said in the adult voice that demands the utmost respect and listening) do not, under any circumstances, no matter how dire, life threatening, or generally horrible, let a Genie give you a wish.
Don’t make a wish, don’t give them money, handouts, or help, don’t even talk to them if you can help it. Not even ‘I want nothing,’ ‘cause if you say that, you get nothing. No house, no belongings, no spouse or significant other, no clothes, no money, no major internal organs, you get the gist.
You just have to ignore them, like the sad puppies in the pound on West Chester Street, you know the ones with their cages against the window that you walk right by on your way to work, with the little orange signs saying when they’ll be euthanized, and it’s all you can do not to go in there and adopt all of them. Yeah, you know.
It’s like that with the Genies. Say you just lost your phone, and you really need to get a call about where the meeting is scheduled, but you can’t get it and you’re worried about getting fired, so you say to the Genie ‘I wish I knew where my phone is.’So you know where it is, but there were no guarantees that the Genie didn’t move it to the bottom of the Atlantic. They could move it because they were given the power to manipulate it so that they could find it, so they can keep using the power for a bit longer.
I hear that some universes just have strange men in trench coats who try to sell you knock-off watches, or sex, or drugs in some dark, dingy ally. But at least they’re not Genies. I hear that there’s a universe where the homeless shadows try to peddle you tiny dragons, adorable things really, cuter than kittens and almost as smart as humans, they can teleport you as well, anywhere you want to go, for the low, low price of your soul. Grade A free-range soul, they love it, eat ‘em like candy, they’ll almost certainly get it when you die anyway, so why not start early? There’s even a universe where the Great Squishy Giant Omnipotent Tentacle-ey One-eyed Landsquid (the GSGOTOL for short) will buy off your firstborn and give you someone else’s, most people don’t even understand that one.
But the point of that is that they’re not those thrice-cursed Genies. Sure it’s not common, but sometimes someone does make a wish, usually when they’re not thinking clearly; someone they loved just died or is about to, they’re drunk (alcohol is banned for this exact reason), they got fired, they’re injured, sleep deprived, insane, or just otherwise mentally and logically compromised. That’s when it gets messy.
We had a zombie epidemic a few years back for just that reason, some poor sap’s friend died and they wished to bring him back. The problem is that every once in a while it works, you get what you wished for, you hire a good enough lawyer to write a wish with no conceivable loopholes (although the Genie usually finds one), or someone gets the rare (and I mean rare, rarer than diamonds in asphalt) good Genie, and then everyone is making wishes. You can probably guess how it ends.
So, hopefully you see why we say not to wish to Genies.
The things rushed forward, thought and logic lost, for the scent of prey, of fear, of life. Screams were heard from the battlements, and the great gates shook in their foundations. The darkness was something unstoppable, like the ocean, or the wind.
They fought, brave survivors with no chance for life, and they knew it. They fought back with the ferocity of beasts, but still, inches were lost, and with each one, people lay down their lives, their blood, their souls, for that inch.
And yet still the things came, feasting on the lives lost on the ground they now overtook. They reached the gate, that had stood for long, but nothing stands forever.
Wood bent, and stone cracked, great chains twisted open like nothing more than paper links. At last, with the sound of death reminiscent of the long fallen space whales, the gate gave.
The city had known that it would happen, and yet they had not been expecting it. But as unfathomable creatures swarmed their city, they had to. Nameless things, better unknown, came forward. Creatures of shadow and empty rooms, creatures of silence and leaf-covered graves, creatures of death and creatures of ending.
There were spots of still in the chaos, a million tiny eyes of an endless tempest.
A mother holding the things off for far longer than she should have been able to, to protect a baby born only days ago.
A man holding a broken piece of rubble, prepared to defend an alleyway as creatures surrounded him on all sides.
A woman walking into the sea of things, a long forgotten holy sword from a dead religion glowing with the light of determination before she was overtaken.
And so the world was lost, save for the dark, simply craving the emotions that they could never feel, but for the hopes, and fears, and dreams, and terrors of their prey.
And so they fall, and so they forget, and so in the far edges of the forgotten a space whale cries and a mother holds her child.