Notes on notes.
Notes from a fallen island is an unfinished project. That is important to remember as you venture forwards. It has been lightly edited, and is largely ‘first draft’ stuff. I am posting it to demonstrate how an idea can just run out of steam, and at 35k words, it’s a large idea to lose!
Some things work, and some don’t. I may go back to a few of the themes in the future, but the story itself will never be finished. There will be a few paragraphs at the end to explain the direction I was heading in, and the ideas that I had. I could never quite get the timeline right. I wanted to start at Brexit being a catalyst, but that wouldn’t work well with the other themes in the tale.
It was originally going to be released month-by-month on my website, so parts do work ‘standalone’ at times, and I enjoyed reading it back as I prepared to post this.
So enjoy what Brexitopia brings, and don’t fell too bad about Dave the dog, he was going to come back!
Chapter 1: The Present.
Dawn had broken when Dave woke me; we’d been travelling for six days, and this was the first time his slobber dragged me from the land of dreams. There have been many times when I would have pushed any dog away and moaned about being dripped upon, but when you’re all alone in the wilderness, it can be comforting. It’s easy to forget how nice it feels to have someone there with you; I’d forgotten it before. Loneliness is a cruel mistress; I had been living alone for so long that I didn’t realise how much I missed the company of another living being. Dogs are said to be man’s best friend, and there is more than a little truth in that. Having become used to his lethargic, almost lazy, morning routine, it made me jump from my sleep; I was jolted awake and alert abruptly. I sprang up, so I was sitting, and my eyes opened in a flash.
Feeling lightheaded, I pushed my hair back from my eyes as a smell wafted through the air, but nothing else felt unusual. I was a little stinky because I hadn’t been able to wash, but the odour was not from me; it reminded me I needed to clean myself. Dave didn’t seem bothered, but I set myself the target of finding a steam or river. The dog may not have cared, but I have basic standards. I was snapped from my thoughts on cleanliness by a realisation of noise, or rather, lack thereof. The usual noises were inside the tent as Dave and I moved, but I didn’t hear anything from outside. On previous mornings, I’d listened to the snapping of branches or other sounds that animals make, but today I heard nothing. The sound of life would have helped. That was something; silence can be the most unnerving of things. A creaking door in a horror movie has never scared me, but the quiet before a killer strikes; that suspense always makes me hold my breath. The lack of noise, that feeling of dread when you expect something, has a way of tingling the spine that nothing else ever can. I placed my hand on Dave’s back, and his fur stood on end like a flat top from the eighties. I tried to calm him with my hand, but I could hear and feel his low growl. A rumbling of the thunder of disorientation and confusion. It was only outside the tent that seemed devoid of sound and full of nothing; inside, sound travelled as usual. The Outlands had been bristling with wildlife but now sounded dead.
I shook myself from my overacting imagination as I had to do something; sitting here and worrying forever would achieve nothing. Rocking backwards and forwards with my knees under my chin like a child in the dark, no matter what, I would have to venture outside eventually. If nothing else, it would not have been fair to Dave, and I’d need the loo sooner or later! I rustled his fur and spoke far more gently than intended, “It’s okay, Dave; I’ll check it out.” Checking it out was the last thing on my mind, but I could sense that Dave didn’t want to do it. I had to be rational; what could be out there? Even being in the Outlands and away from my Sector for this short while had spooked me and given me the willies. I had to pull myself together and act my age; sitting here would resolve nothing.
Holding the zip at the front of the tent between my finger and thumb, I listened. I heard nothing, so I let the plastic zipper slide along its track with what seemed an amplified clickety click. The noise seemed louder inside the tent and swallowed by whatever was outside. The Outlands were eating the noise, each click disappearing into the ether. Upon reaching the halfway point, Dave dashed past me and out of the tent. Oh, now he wanted to look and see! I attempted to catch him as he rushed away; my grip failed, and he vanished through the opening. Forgetting my fears, I hastily unzipped the tent and ran outside. The world had changed. Gone were the greenery and lushness I had seen before, and what replaced it was bizarre.
Plants and fauna, like I had never seen nor imagined before, had appeared overnight. The smell I had first encountered in the tent still loitered, and I wondered if it could have emanated from the alien plant life, but I disregarded that idea because it smelt no stronger out here than it had inside the tent. It lingered with me and followed, but I was sure it was not coming from me. It was a wet, damp staleness, like old sweaty socks left in the corner of the room to mature into the full ripeness of stinkiness. The trees were covered in a green coating, like moss, but not. A velvet-like material, the branches purple with hairs. I walked to one tree, and the fibres seemed attracted to me, like static with a balloon. Marvelling at the actions of the strands, I was careful not to get too close. Something warned me to keep my distance. I turned to call Dave, but both he and the tent had vanished.
I stood, mouth agog, and stared at the space where the tent and dog had been. It doesn’t only sound mad, it was mad, but my mind had two thoughts gushing through. I was scared, but I had a feeling of calm and relaxation at the same time. With a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other, I had two emotions fighting to be freed. Longing to take over and be in control.
“Panic! What’s happened? Run! Escape,” one screamed.
“Chill out, man. So what. It’ll all be okay,” the other meandered.
Standing statuesque for longer than I can remember, I did nothing as the voices in my head bickered about my choices. Then I heard it. I had other things on my mind, and the silent world had monetarily fallen backwards in my worries. The sound should have been amplified, with nothing else to drown it out; it should have travelled with ease, yet it came to me almost like a whisper swimming beneath the surface of bathwater. I tried to listen and make out what the noise was, closing my eyes and concentrating on it. It sounded like drops of water on a metal plate, solitary raindrops falling at their own pace and landing on thin metal, or the pings of an old music box that had slowed and needed rewinding. The noise was hypnotic, and I relaxed with my eyes closed and took it all in. I should have been terrified but found my fear was being suppressed, holed below the waterline, out of sight. Something pushed it back under every time it threatened to bobble above the surface, drowning my fear and subduing my dread.
I opened my eyes and saw nothing. The world was gone and replaced by darkness. The strange and vibrant world I first encountered had vanished, and nothing had taken its place. Now I panicked. The angel and devil that had been with me had run from this nothingness and left me alone. I was trapped with just my thoughts and nothing but this darkness. The dark has always scared me; sounds silly, doesn’t it, with me being a grown man? But it’s the truth. I have always put it down to my overactive imagination; I can rarely see a good outcome. Even as a desperate man, when I weighed the possibilities for this trip, I can only see it ending in one way, and it ain’t going to be happy! Trying to calm myself, I listened for the sounds I had heard before; if I had a way out of this strange place, I felt sure it would involve that noise. I tried to focus on what I could hear rather than what I couldn’t see. Holding my arms down and to my side, I tried to push the fear from my mind. It was something I’ve never been good at doing, but as I’ve grown, I try to control it more. The knotting ached in my stomach, and anxiety grasped and twisted like a towel being wrung out; I could feel the beads of sweat growing from my hairline, but there it was; I had reconnected with the noise.
I looked around, and, at first, I continued to see nothing; the world I knew had been replaced with a blank black slate. With this… nothing but the noise I had heard. As I listened to the tipping and tapping of the noise, things slowly started to change. Tap-tip-tip, the sound vibrated the horizon, rippling it as each drop hit; I took a tentative step forward as the rippling slowed. A little scared, but now, like a cat, I was curious. I had to know what that noise was! The infernal tippy-tap-tap felt like it was being broadcast straight into my head. Welcome to Radio Hell, now coming through on your metal fillings for an audience of one. I know what ultimately happened to the cat, but I could not control myself. Like I was travelling on a moving walkway at an airport, I felt the need to move forward. Tip-tap-tap; the surrounding darkness rippled again along with the tips and taps.
A single tip came next, and I walked onwards. It was strange then, and it feels odd now I’m writing it down, but I felt no fear. I was walking on clouds of peacefulness. Maybe that is how you get caught and imprisoned, and you let your guard down in this strange place, and then wham! Before you know it, you are being sucked dry and eaten by some creature from a nightmare! I was walking trance-like in this world of nothing. Tip. The darkness that surrounded me rippled once more with the mysterious noise. Losing my cautious steps, unwilling to play the game that was revealing itself, I ran toward the horizon; I didn’t know if that was where the sound originated, but I felt pulled in that direction. I can only imagine being blind is like this. The inability to see and be guided by sound and instinct, it was not something I’d experienced before and, truth be told, not something I want to suffer again. Until that moment, I don’t think I ever truly appreciated what a gift our senses are; it was a lesson I had now learnt.
Tap-Tap, and then silence. I could see and hear nothing. The walls of this place were now still and lifeless. I was grateful that strange, musty old sock smell was still travelling with me. It was a familiarity with the world I had been in, with the one I knew, and it told me that my senses were not dripping away from me with each metallic tip and tap. I continued walking in this sightless and soundless world, venturing ever onward toward nothing. The sense of foreboding continued to linger, like the smell, on my long walk; I wanted to stop, but something continued to push me ever onwards. The Devil and Angel have deserted me, but their influence still guides me. Scared but unable to stop, the feeling of claustrophobia blew through the world, and I felt the walls closing around me.
My heart slumped to my stomach and rested there as the feeling of being locked in a dark, dank, small container traversed my mind and body. I wanted out, and I needed to escape this hell. This whole time, I wondered why I continued to walk forward, but, now I wanted to run, I found myself grounded and stuck to the spot. Planted and with nothing to see or hear, I didn’t know why I felt the way I did, but I thought it and felt it, nonetheless. I turned my head to look for anything that could help make sense of what was happening, and I saw nothing. Whatever, whomever was doing this had me wrapped and trapped, and I could see no way out. Then I started to fall.
The invisible floor that I’d been standing on vanished and I fell through the air. It will come as a surprise, but this was a relief. I had been feeling the fear of this place, and now I was falling through nothing and into darkness. Even thinking and writing it now feels wrong, as I should have been shitting myself, fear should have been racing through every inch of my body, but I felt nothing but serenity. The calmness that arrives when fear subsides can be a powerful force, and it held me firmly. My hair and clothing stayed in place as I fell. It was as if there was no wind or forces of that nature in this strange void, almost like physics had ceased to exist! Then, abruptly, I stopped and hung in the air.
The world around me took form as I struggled to free myself from the invisible chains that held me in place. Old wooden beams and the stonework of an old corridor formed from the darkness. Cobwebs hung from the beams, and dust sparked in the air as the stone floor formed below. The passage itself was never-ending in both directions. It stretched as far as my eyes could see. I had been scared, fearful even, until this point, but this was something straight out of the worst depths of my imagination. A corridor straight out of an old horror story that seemed to lead both to and from nowhere.
Whatever force it was that held me deposited me carefully to the ground, and I stood alone and afraid in this tunnel of nothing. The ceiling, where I had been floating, filled in above me, and for the briefest moment, I was alone in the dark, but then wooden torches grew from the empty space and illuminated the tunnel. Freed from the constraints that had bound me, I looked again in both directions and saw only the darkness of the tube lighting as each torch formed. The channel itself was endless. The same pattern of bricks, wooden beams, and torches down an infinite kaleidoscope of tunnelway.
Then I heard the noise. Not a tip, or a tap, this time, but the dull scraping of metal against stone. The direction of the noise was evident, it came from behind me. I turned and looked, seeing nothing at first, but then it came. Like walking from a doorway that wasn’t there, a creature entered the corridor dragging a long anime-style sword. It was like something from the nightmares of Dr Frankenstein, no, from the mind of the creature itself, and the monster looked at me. Human from its feet to the torso, but then things turned into a warped mishmash of what I can only imagine being of Hell itself. A butcher’s apron, discoloured with long dried blood, hung over its neck. The hand on the right arm had been severed, and a sword grafted into its place. Large, rusted bolts drilled through the exposed bone and metal of the sword, holding it in place. The left arm was human, muscular and tattooed down to the hand. Dark sigils and writing I could not decipher were drawn on its body. Nails protruded from the hand in all directions, on both the front and back, like a pincushion for a woodworker. They appeared to have been hammered through randomly and scattered across the flesh and bone, poking out randomly. Its wolf’s head upon the body’s shoulders looked at me; the crisscrossed and zig-zagged stitching that held it in place looked like it had been sewn with no care or precision. I turned, and its keen yellow eyes followed my movement.
I ran, with the choice being an endless corridor or that monster; it was no choice. We all have choices to make, and some are simple. Fleeing down the passageway, I dared not look back; I didn’t need to. I heard the roar of the creature and the banging and scraping of the sword on the uneven and rough stoned floor as it gave chase. As I ran, I didn’t think about where I was going; I only thought I had to escape the monster. The beams of the endless pathway passed me like unlimited fence posts as I ran, and the creature continued its chase. It roared, and it was more of a high-pitched squeal, pig-like, but mixed with the growling of a wolf. Each ear-splitting growling screech bounced and caught up with me before fading to nothing. Not looking back, I couldn’t be sure, but it sounded like the monster was smashing its left hand against the wall and then howling in pain as it pursued me. The scraping of the metal nails joined the noise of the sword; it felt like it was getting ever closer, running me down, as I had nowhere to go.
Nowhere to hide. Even had I seen an aperture, or a post sticking out, the channel was straight, I’d have been seen hiding. My eyes darted to the left and right, even up and down, as I looked for a way out, but I saw nothing. This endless purgatory of a passageway could have been drawn from the mind of many novels. I stumbled but righted myself as my pace slowed. The racing of my heart and quickening of my breath told me I was fighting a battle I could never win. How do you escape a shadow in the night? The monster under your bed? It goes with you wherever you go; how do you free yourself? I was on the brink of stopping when fate intervened.
I tripped, spiralled, and fell over my feet, landing with a thump on the ground with a thud reminiscent of a bag of flour falling from a sideboard. Scrambling backwards, I pushed myself with my feet and turned so I was on my back, looking at the creature; it had stopped. The moment I had fallen, it had given up the chase and was suspended in time like a stuck pendulum. I pushed myself backwards, and as I moved, the creature did too, as if we were linked, and I was the winder; it was the machine. Each twitch I made allowed the monster to move a little; as I pushed backwards, it moved forwards; when I edged closer to it, the creature, in turn, moved backwards. I lifted myself from the ground and stood still. I took a step backwards, and the creature moved towards me. Not wanting to take my eyes off the beast — I didn’t want to turn and run — I continued to step backwards, one hesitant step at a time. Tortuous small steps as the creature followed my every move.
The creature mimicked my actions as I walked backwards. With each movement I took, the creature copied; it followed like a puppet on strings. We seemed connected by an entanglement of invisible cords, and I felt mocked by the monster and wanted to turn and run, but I dared not. What if it was taunting me, and the moment I turned, it pounced? The only part of the beast that didn’t track were its eyes. They followed me with the keenness of any predatory animal stalking its prey. An owl hunting a mouse at night or a crocodile carefully watching you from a riverbank. I’m prone to overthinking, but I couldn’t help but wonder what was happening in that animal head. It looked trapped within the body, but its mind wanted to come and play with its food. Was I a mouse being stalked by a feral cat? I needed a way out, and as I shuffled backwards, that was all I could think about. How was I going to escape this bizarre creation? How does one escape a being from your nightmares?
Then I saw it. It was the slightest thing, but I saw its eyes look, not at me, but to something on its left. I had been continuing to shuffle ever backwards, but with that look, I and the creature stopped. It knew I had seen it glancing; I am sure of it because the moment I stopped, all the beast’s attention was back on me. Its look clawed at me, and I am sure it would have liked to rake those nails in its hand down the side of my face. I tried to look without turning my head, stretching my eyes and pushing them to the very limits of the sockets. Ultimately, I had to tilt my head slightly rightwards, but then I saw it! I saw what the creature had seen; it was a door! How, where, what, and why the door had come about didn’t cross my mind. I was only relieved at having an escape. Where it led would come later, but it couldn’t be any worse, could it? It had to be better than this purgatory of never-ending corridors.
As I took another step backwards, I watched, but this time it was different. I took one step, but the creature took two, and that was the moment I knew it had been playing with me. Like a mime in the high street, or one of those performing statues, it was waiting for me to make a move; when it was ready, it would take me. I shuddered at the thought of what it might do to me. Was I to end up an experiment doomed to wander these halls until the end of days only to be captured and turned into a beast? Is that what happened to it? Was it once a man wandering and alone in these dark tunnels? My mind, once again, was setting the narrative; determined to overthink and make things worse. The dark and my imagination are my two worst enemies.
I took a step backwards but then stopped abruptly. I had an idea but was unsure if I had the courage. It is easy to think of these things but less so carrying them out. The creature had been mimicking me, so I wanted to do something it didn’t expect before running for the door, before scarpering and hoping to escape. I stepped forward, and the creature hesitated slightly before stepping backwards. It then pulled its lips back and exposed its saliva-covered teeth. The long beastly tongue flopped out, and it ran it along the teeth and the creature snarled. I felt it knew precisely what I would do and that I could do nothing about what it would do. Had it played this game before? I suspect it had, many times, and I was the latest in its nightmare. I feinted moving forward again, then twisted to face the door I’d seen. Being ever helpful, my mind told me that the door would have vanished, but it was still there, and I grasped at its handle. The handle turned, and I heard the beast let out a roaring bark; I dared not stop and look. I only thought about my escape and nothing else.
The handle turned with ease, and I threw the door open. I could hear the beast’s feet slamming as it ran down the corridor. The thud upon thud of heavy footsteps rattling the passage. It should have been right behind me, yet I sensed it wasn’t. I wouldn’t look, and I ran into the room without looking and slammed the door closed; I held the door shut and pushed all my weight against it. The nails from the beast’s hand slammed into the door with tens of little pricks; I could hear every stab and feel the force of the beast’s blows against the flimsy wooden door. I knew I could not hold out if it used the sword, but then it stopped. Everything fell silent, and I was alone with my thoughts. Silence had invaded, and with it came a fleeting feeling of familiarity, and the smell of musty socks had returned; I am unsure it ever left; my attention was, understandably, elsewhere! I turned, and before I knew it, I found myself sitting at a table.
Everything felt perfectly normal. I am aware that it was not, but it wasn’t until I started writing about it that I realised how abnormal it was, but at the time, I didn’t see it. Sitting, as I was, at the table and eating toast, I felt at home. The red and white chequered tablecloth felt familiar and friendly, as did the slight noise of birds chirping in the background. I looked up at the clock to see the time, but all the numbers were garbled and jibberish. “Why did you do it?” a voice asked, and I knew instantly it was my daughter’s voice. Some memories will never leave me, and my children’s voices are one of them.
“Do it?” I asked. I didn’t know what she was referring to. It wasn’t so much that it had slipped my mind but more that I had never wanted them to go. “Forced mother to leave with us?” she replied. Tick-tock, said the clock as it played on my mind. Why was it wrong? Why couldn’t I read the time? “I did no such thing,” I said to her, and it was true. Her mother I cared not a jot for, but my children? Oh, there is not a day that goes by when I do not think about them. “Then why did you beat us?” my son asked. My attention snapped from the clock and back to the table. My son had also appeared and was sitting opposite; they were unchanged from when I’d last seen them. “I never,” I replied. It was true; I had never beaten them. I was a strict parent, and I did smack my children, but mistreated them? Never. “We remember it,” they said in sync, talking as one. Repeating the lies in unison. I had often wondered what their mother had told them. I was never a perfect parent, far from it, but that I never did. Any other time, I would find it fascinating how the lies can become the truth if repeated often enough. We all have memories, don’t we, that we can’t entirely be sure are real? Something we have exaggerated, but then that exaggeration becomes the truth, or is that only me? I don’t know.
I never wanted them to hate their mother, so this was a tricky subject. What could I say, “You’ve been brainwashed by the evil witch hag I once loved!”? I could feel the lump in my throat and the water in my eyes. Here I was, with everything I wanted, yet I knew it was fakery. Even if it wasn’t, I was now being accused of abuse! It couldn’t be real, my brain screamed. Tock-tick, Peter, the clock spoke, isn’t it time that you…
“You drove her away,” my daughter interrupted the thoughts in my mind.
“You forced her to run. She couldn’t live with you,” my son added. Twisting the mental knife, I felt a tear running down my cheek as freely as the accusations flowed from their mouths. The horror of the creature that chased me here was nothing compared to the mental anguish I now faced. Being cursed and chased by something is a thing you can run from; sitting and seeing all that you ever loved scorn you was something that would stick forever. I’d much rather the pain of the physical over the… And then it hit me; I had a way out of this. When I ran into this room, it had been of my own free will; if I could enter, I could leave. I talk about choices a lot, but that is because we all have to make decisions sometimes. If we think, we can make the right choices. My eyes peeled away from the creatures that claimed to be my children, and I turned my head. I felt more fear in that short-lived, teeny, tiny second than I had in the entire period in the corridor. After all, the things we love often hurt us the most.
The door had gone, replaced by red-and-white tiles that filled the entire wall from the floor into an endless space above. The grouting between the tiles ran with a black, oozing slime as I looked hopelessly at the wall. The goo dripped and ran down the tiles like snot from a toddler’s nose. Then the wall arched forwards; it had seemed to go on forever, yet I saw it bend and shape itself like an archway above the room. Drips started falling from the peak of the wall. When each hit the floor, a sound like wind chimes in a breeze echoed in the kitchen. Tap-tip-tip, tip-tap-tap, tip, tip, tap-tap. It made no sense to me, but nothing in this world did. The drips fell and landed, but each sounded the same combination. Each individual drop sounded the same tipping and tapping. I tried to ignore the noise, but it flooded the room, and as I turned to look back at my children, like the wall, they too were dripping away; unlike the wall, their drips were coupled with bile and poison from their mouths.
Their faces dripped away to the floor like ice from a frozen sculpture; each drop fell to the floor with the same tipety-tap. My mind, so often the cause of my problems, now started to fight back.
The words of their mother dropped from their mouths as they dripped apart. Each statement was more twisting of the knife; acidic verbal poison was directed at me and designed to eat away at my soul. But now my mind was working things out. It was piecing together the puzzle.
The flecks of skin from their face had all but completed falling, and all that was left were the words scribbled in white on a black background. They had both become scribble creatures, each created from hate and driven by projection. Powered by my tockety-tickety fear and…
DARVO. Deny, attack, and reverse victim and offender; it’s a long-established practice, and — I suspect — had been used against me by my ex-wife to explain her actions and divide the children and me. Nightmares, tockety-tick-tick.
It wasn’t that the words had ceased to have an effect; every one of them struck like a snake biting its prey and dosing it with venom. It was the smell that had lingered for so long dispersing, and with it, I felt my head clearing, and I understood things. Was that why my mind was now fighting back?
“Debased,” the squiggle creatures that were once my children spat out across the table. But now I knew; now that nightmare had been revealed to me. The shadow had been cast out by sunlight, and, like a magic trick, once you know how it is done, the illusion feels cheap, and you can never have the wool pulled over your eyes again.
“You’re a nightmare,” I replied. I should have seen it sooner; I felt so stupid once it had occurred. The beast outside was a manifestation of pure horror; the creations here were mental torture. My mind was fighting both with me and for me. Creating all of this but also giving me hints throughout. “But why?” I asked. “What has condemned me to this hell?” I didn’t expect an answer, and I wasn’t disappointed. They continued to regurgitate the insults like a record stuck on repeat. I felt a pull on my chest; it was barely noticeable at first, but then it pushed.
The words of the scrawling, jotting demons exploded. Letters floated and scattered about the room as if someone had ripped a dictionary apart and thrown the pieces into the air. Spewing letters and anagrams that made no sense fell around me to the surrounding floor. I stood from the table, knocking it to one side as I did so. The hows, whys, means, and wheres ceased to be important as my chest felt compressed. Like dropping through the sand in an hourglass, I fell through the floor and left the alphabet world behind. My chest crushed as I passed through an invisible neck, and then the pressure released.
Suddenly, my eyes opened, and the dream vanished. I was lying in my tent, and a body lay across my chest. The man was thin, bone thin, and his clothes were ragged. An arrow stuck out from his left eye, and blood pooled beside me. I pushed him from my chest and felt the pressure release. “Alright, mucker?” a voice asked. I sat and looked at the entrance and saw a living man there. He was wearing a slouch hat and a smile. “Thought I’d lost you for a minute,” he said.
“Who are you?” I asked as I tried to pull myself together, “and who is that?” As cheerfully as the friendliest old woman in a store, he replied, “I’m Reg, Welshy sent me to find you, and that, well, that’s a Leecher.” I stood and walked past Reg. I needed to get outside and away from the body. “A Leecher?” I asked.
“Aye,” Reg replied, and pointed to a hose on the ground. The hose stretched from a tree and into the entrance of the tent. It came from a machine with the words ‘Dweem Machine’ written in a childish sprawl on its side.
“Leecher,” Reg said again. “They pump you full of that shit. Derived from shrooms, and then they feed on your emotions. I had to air out the tent; I’m glad I found you in time.”
“They can do that?” I asked, both shocked and interested.
“Not a fucking clue,” he replied, “but that’s what they think. They pump you full it, and then feed.” He used his fingers to quote the word feed. “Then they chop you up and eat you more traditionally,” he concluded. I felt like I could throw up. Had I come this close to death so early on? I knew the Outlands were dangerous, but creatures that can feed on your emotions? That I’d never expected. Could they really, or was it part of a delusion? Did it matter? I ran my hands down my chest as if removing some invisible remnant of the Leecher. I walked to the machine that had been used to conjure my dreams. Reg seemed to pay scant interest to what I was doing; perhaps he had seen it all before. He was dragging the body from my tent. I found a large, sturdy branch that had been broken from a tree and picked it up. The branch crashed down upon the machine; I wanted the thing destroyed and gone. The metal of the ‘Dweem Machine’ bent easily and fractured as I smashed the wood into it. “That bad, huh?” Reg questioned as I hit it again. He had dragged everything from the tent and was now washing the insides down with a bottle of water.
I didn’t reply as I hit the damned machine again. The memories of the nightmare lingered longer than many dreams would have. My children and what I feared had happened to them would live with me forever. Was it true, or just a manifestation of what terrified me? I still can’t know for sure. Reg wasted no time, and he was now disassembling my tent. Dave watched him, fascinated. “Welshy told me to find you, and I have, thanks to your dog. He wants you to do a job for him, and I must take you there,” he explained.
“We’ll get to that,” he replied.