Thursday, November 03, 2005

Third Day

We'll come back to Jaden soon, but we've got some new stuff here tonight. These two chapters are a matched set that I dreamt (some of) a couple weeks ago. My word count lead is now extended to over 300. Which is good, since I will probably write less tomorrow night if I go to FNW.

Chapter 3

Malcolm was dreaming. That the inhabitants of the dreamlands can themselves dream does not always make a lot of sense, and that is why most of them generally don't. Malcolm wasn't precisely sure what his dreaming meant, and was a bit embarrassed about it in case it was something bad. Perhaps it was okay for a demon of his stature? But he also had a nagging feeling that it might only be for the lower classes. Safer then not to let his Master know. In secret, he enjoyed his dreams.

A Tyrannosaurus Rex, that's what he was now, with no need to think about his Master, or the court, or any of his waking life. (Is it really waking life if you live in the dreamlands? Tyrannosaurs don't think about those sorts of things, either, so there.) He gave an experimental roar, and the forest around him trembled. He lashed his tail, and turning his head he saw a small tree torn from its roots forty feet away. Excellent. This was his favorite form, what he really should be. It was time to go hunting, and let the world beware!

This being his own dream, prey was of course obligingly abundant. Malcolm headed to the edge of the forest just in time for a herd of leaping Struthiomimuses to bound into view across the plain. He let them approach until their path brought them nearest the forest, and then he leapt out and in a few enormous strides he was among them. The smaller bird-like dinosaurs shrieked in terror, and the ones at the edges of the pack bounded off out of range. But just as many were impeded by their companions, all trying to run in different directions at once. Malcolm tore through them, crushing some under his massive clawed feet and knocking others flying with each running stride. He bellowed a roar that would have left the nearest Struthiomimus deafened, if it hadn't immediately afterwards had its torso crushed in Malcolm's jaws. Its neck whipped around and snapped as its body was shaken briefly and then tossed through the air to knock other panicking creatures to the ground.

Malcolm caught a second victim, worried it, and threw it as before. He was slowing down now, though, and the fleet footed smaller animals were dispersing out of his reach. But he didn't care. The fun here was all in the surprise and flurry, like a child running into a flock of pigeons, only a couple orders of magnitude larger and with considerably more blood. He wasn't even going to bother going back and eating the ones he had killed.

Already, as the adrenaline of his brief chase was barely cooling, a new scent had caught his nose. It was strange. Different somehow. The massive olfactory super computer that took up so much of his Tyrannosaur skull was having trouble describing it in terms his small and crowded brain could fully grasp. It didn't seem to be part of his dream, was the only way he could explain it. So what was it doing there? He took off in pursuit.

He followed small molecules of the scent wafting through the air for a mile or so, and it grew stronger as he approached the river at the point where it entered the forest. He slowed now, peering ahead carefully though somewhat short-sightedly. The creature was there, crouched at the river bank and lapping at the slow moving water. It was smaller than Malcolm, but far larger than any cat had a right to be with Tyrannosaurus Rexes around. The wind shifted and it raised its head to sniff the air, and sunlight glinted off a long, saber-like tooth.

Dream Malcolm lunged, though somewhere in his small dinosaur brain, waking Malcolm worried. Was attacking entirely a good idea, given that he didn't know what this thing was or how it had gotten into his dream? Too late now.

The giant cat twisted under him and Malcolm's feet gouged the ground where it had crouched a moment before. He gnashed out with his teeth like steak knives and this time inflicted a long gash in the cat's shoulder as it dodged. It snarled, trapped with its back to the river, then made a lunge of its own in desperation. But in close quarters it was no match for the Tyrannosaur's size. Within moments it had been buffeted to the ground and trapped under one large clawed foot.

Malcolm lowered his head, jaws gaping, to deliver the final blow. But then he paused. Something was wrong. He could feel the cat's blood seeping between his claws, but instead of trickling down into the ground, it seemed to be crawling up his leg. It began to burn. In horror, Malcolm saw the cat's body and his own leg beginning to dissolve, as though covered in acid. He tried to shake it away, but it was too late. Drops of blood scattered and spread where they landed. He burned and crumpled and faded into nothing.

* * * * *

Malcolm awoke, sweating and clutching a tattered sheet beneath his chin with two clawed hands on short, skinny arms. He heaved a sigh of relief, then got up to pace around the stone floor of his small room. He didn't want to go back to sleep just yet.

In appearance, Malcolm was actually very much like the Tyrannosaurus Rex of his dreams. The fact that he was only four feet tall, however, had a rather detrimental effect on his fearsomeness, as did the tie and the short sleeved button-down shirt he always wore, even to sleep. He didn't like the shirt and tie, but couldn't get rid of them. It's hard enough to deal with clothes when you only have short Tyrannosaur arms, but when he did manage to get them off, he'd only ever find identical garments underneath. This probably accounted for the expression he usually had on his face. Inasmuch as a Tyrannosaur with its curved jaw and gleaming teeth can look embarrassed, Malcolm did a fairly good job of it.

He wondered what the dream meant. When one lives in the dreamlands, one always has to take these things seriously. He didn't think it was good, though, and he worried that it was somehow his fault. With a twinge of guilt he wondered if it was related to the errand he had had that day.

It had been a very important errand, he was sure of it. His Master had a new trophy from the Other Side and he surely wouldn't have entrusted it to anybody but Malcolm. Well, probably Lozi or Bratch could have handled it, but they were away on other jobs when he had repeatedly called for them, so it had gone to Malcolm. "Take this to the collection rooms," he had said. Just like that! Right to Malcolm, his faithful and trusted advisor. "Take this to the collection rooms and have the steward set up a new chamber for it." And Malcolm had done just that.

The trophy was a hand. A man's hand, medium sized, with slender fingers that twitched slightly, as though dreaming. It was connected to a wrist, which was connected to a forearm, which ended in a smooth, rounded surface before a nonexistent elbow. Malcolm had picked it up carefully in his small, double claws and cradled it like a baby to his chest as he hurried off to the collection rooms in the lower level.

It was so beautiful, he thought. For all that he tried to maintain his ferocious Tyrannosaur exterior, he had a bit of a soft spot. Poor little hand, all alone, no body to attach to. He stroked it sympathetically, which was a mistake. With his clawed hands, sympathy is more likely to bring stitches than comfort. A cut opened up on the underside of the forearm, and the hand clenched in pain. Mortified, Malcolm apologized, then quickly looked around to see if anyone had spotted him talking to the hand. (Could a hand hear without ears? He didn't know, but he felt like he should apologize anyway.) He dabbed blood away from the cut with the end of his tie. Luckily it wasn't serious, but he hoped it would heal before his Master noticed it.

He had deposited the hand with the steward, who gave him a suspicious look, and then scurried back to the court, to hear his Master finishing his tales of the latest hunt. He missed most of the story, but from what he could tell it had been a very important event.

Malcolm decided to keep both the incident with the hand and his dream to himself, and went back to bed.

Chapter 4

Ixy was dreaming. She did wonder whether she were simply conscious, rather than dreaming, but never having experienced either one before, she really couldn't say. There were vague pseudo memories of a self made of cloth and stuffed with cotton batting, which clashed noticeably with her current body of flesh, blood, fur and claws. But mostly, she had a hunch that it was a dream, and she also had a hunch that what she was, was a cat, and that cats should follow their instincts and intuitions. So a dream it was. Call it that for now, anyway.

Whatever it was, Ixy liked it. She felt powerful. She stood up, walked, then bounded and ran, just for the feel of it. She retracted her claws in and out, first all at once, then one at a time, which was more difficult. She lashed her tail.

She was in a forest, and she prowled around until she startled a vole from beneath a bush. She pounced on it, and trapped it between her feet. She toyed with it for a bit, batting it back and forth between her paws, before dispatching it with a careless bite.

Then a new scent came to her, strange and different. She dropped the vole and began following her nose. The scent grew stronger as she trotted through the undergrowth, stronger and more reptilian. She came to a fallen, rotting tree trunk and peered around its upturned roots, looking down its length.

A few yards down the trunk, a lizard was sunning itself in a patch of sunlight. With her quietest tread, Ixy crept up slowly, but the lizard's bulging eyes on the sides of its head gave it almost a full circle of peripheral vision, and it caught her movement. It skittered in place, made a false start, then tried to dash off just as Ixy pounced.

She pinned the lizard under a front paw, with her claws digging in as it struggled. Sun-warmed lizard blood oozed out around her claws, and then, strangely, up her paw and into her fur. Ixy was perplexed. Granted, she didn't have much experience in this area, but still she didn't think this was supposed to happen to lizards. She looked at the lizard, and saw a scared, confused expression on its face, at least inasmuch as lizards can have scared and confused expressions.

The blood burned, spread, burned more, and Ixy dissolved with the lizard. When it was over, a small stuffed animal sat tucked away in the corner of a closet, where it had spent most of its time for the last several years. It was a gray cat, with a white mark on its chest, shaped something like an "X."

A most peculiar night, Ixy thought. Or would have thought, if thinking were the sort of thing toy cats could do.