"Are you awake?!"
Terrible screaming echoed in his ears as the dream receded into the darkness it came from. His mother called again from the kitchen.
"Derrick, wake up!"
He threw his legs over the edge of the bed. Just another tired day like any other lately. Finally Derrick made it to his restroom. He turned on the shower quickly to spare his mother another yell. He watched himself in the mirror as steam grew from its edges. His face was thin and narrow. His features pointed at his nose, chin and ears. His hair was a mess of black, blue and red, showing off his latest attempt in his anti-care movement. The dark circles under his eyes had grown with evidence of no sleep.
The hot water cascaded down his slender body helping to wake him up. The water felt akin to him as he remembered the last night's dreams. It started out in the water as it always did. He was swimming in its warm embrace in the moonlight and a smile spread across his lips.
The pure enjoyment of it was enough to make him never want to leave the dream but it always changed for the worse. Suddenly the thick slick skin of whatever awaited him beneath the dark water slid across his foot. He jerked remembering the eerie feel.
It always circled him, revealing only parts of itself like a snake slithering through the water. Never had Derrick caught a view of its entire body. He didn't really know how big it was, but he guessed it was large as it caused a whirlpool as it circled him faster and faster.
Then she would arrive. Suddenly the snakelike monster would swim faster and Derrick would feel himself being sucked into the whirlpool it created. She angered it and he didn't know why. She would raise her hand and point her finger to the monster. Derrick never understood why but she wanted him to make the monster go away. Eventually, she would do something and the monster would leave after sickly running the length of its body across Derrick's back.
He would then swim quickly to the shore where she stood shaking and nervous. She always made him nervous the way she studied him so intently. In the dream, they knew each other as great friends would know each other. Only, there was something more there. She would kiss him on the cheek and tell him "Next time, maybe".
Derrick had a theory that she was trying to teach him something like how to be powerful. It was a silly thought but he had the same dream every night for the past two years. So that gave him some space for theories that went beyond the norm.
Sometimes he would have lucid dreams in which he could talk to her. He learned that asking her questions only made her go away. So he had to be careful what he asked. A few nights ago, he got the courage to ask another question.
"Do you love me?" he said. She looked at him with wonder and a smile as bright as the moon that lit her face. She ruffled his hair. "Of course, silly, what kind of question is that?"
Still he didn't know if the love she admitted to was that of friendly love or eternal love. He hoped for the latter but never would know until he met her.
Meeting her…certainly she had to be real. Was she? Turning off the shower, he pondered on the thought. It was when he reached for his towel to dry off that he noticed the single bone chilling word on the mirror. A slim finger had traced out three letters in all caps. RUN.
Without the breath to speak, Derrick whispered, "From what?"
Like someone was fogging up a bus window on a cold day, the word slowly faded into the steamy mirror. Derrick watched in both horror and amazement as the letters formed. FROM HER.
From her? His dream girl? The one person he hoped loved him more than a friend. His heart sank then skipped a beat as the door to the bathroom swung open.
"Derrick! You are going to be late to school son." Derrick quickly grabbed the towel to cover himself. "Mom! Hear of knocking?"