Prologue: The Dream Realm

Mia glanced around herself in fear. The mist was thick, making terrifying ripples and movements. Every movement caused her to jump and squeak. Her heart pounded hard against her sternum, and she could feel the sharp pulse of adrenaline-spiked blood, flowing fast and hard in her icy veins. The blood was paining her.

Thunkthunkthunk. The blood drummed in her ears.

Mia couldn't tell if this was a dream anymore. Had she Travelled? If she had, where was she? Which Realm had she reached this time?

A dark shadow loomed in the mist. Mia wanted to run, but was paralyzed by terror. Her pulse beat incredibly faster as the shadow took form.

The blunt, disk-like head snaked eerily out of the mist. It's body was followed, each segment slithering out grotesquely. Mia's nose wrinkled, disgusted by the pungent smell of the disgusting, decomposing creature. Supporting the beast were tortured limbs, like a mix of spider and human legs, attached to a snake-centipede hybrid body. The creature's milky-pupiled eyes, rimmed with a milky lavender iris, fixed on her, and the wide, crook-toothed jaw gave a chilling impression of a smile.

"Ahhhhh, an Up Worlder. How pleasant," the being hissed, it's nostril holes flaring, an it's snaggle-toothed smile growing wider.

Mia's lungs locked down, her breath stuck in her throat. The stench was overpowering as it slithered further out of the thick mist.

"What's wrong, Earth Child? Afraid of a Dream Demon?" The Dream Demon crooned in it's harsh voice. It's rotten flesh twitched and quivered with excitement.

Black spittle hung from it's fearsome jaw. Mia could feel more adrenaline shoot into her body, screaming for her muscles to get her away. They didn't respond.

"Come, now. Can't we speak?" The Demon hissed joyously. "It ruins the fun of the game if you don't speak." The figure circled Mia, it's cruel entertainment at her fear almost as unbearable as it's scent.

Mia finally unlocked her voice. "Where is this place? To which Realm did I Travell?"

The incantation, taught to her by her aunt at the age of six, forced any Other Worlder to tell her which Realm she had entered. The truth, and nothing but.

The Dream Demon smiled, it's black-stained, jagged teeth making her shudder.

"The Dream Realm, my dear Up Worlder. The Realm which contains the most horrible nightmares ever to have been spawned."

Mia gasped, her body quivering like a tree in a storm.

"You poor Earth Child," the beast hissed, it's sarcasm harsh and filled with an evil glee, "You can't even escape. You belong to the Dream Realmers now."

It's face twisted into a harsh grin as it tightened it's circling pattern.

"But don't fret, Up Worlder. I will take it upon myself to kill you before the rest of the Dreamers can get to you."

Mia couldn't breathe anymore. The noxious fumes choked the oxygen from her lungs.

The creature chuckled, "Don't worry, Earth Child. This won't hurt." It's grin turned nasty, "Very much. Your delicious, Up Worlder scent will be washed away by the next acid rain."

Mia felt a familiar tingling shooting up her spine. The tingle that meant she was Travelling. Unusually, she embraced the convenient escape. The tingles spread to her ribs, then to her arms and legs. She could feel herself falling through the very atoms of the Dream Realm.

The last thing Mia heard was the furious shriek of the Dream Demon as she jolted back to Earth.