4

4

VII.

I had a dream that night. I'd been wrong when I thought my waking world was the worst nightmare. No, as soon as my eyes closed, a totally new version of terror enveloped my mind. The barriers barring the most frightening thoughts from my mind disintegrated, assuaging my unconscious with schizophrenic psychosis. I heard voices, though the sounds were muffled and separated, emanating from widely smiling mouths like a badly dubbed foreign show. They whispered to each other excitedly, and pale, sunken faces stared at me through wide, lidless eyes. Before my horrified gaze, the skin melted from the blank, waxy cheeks, revealing still grinning skeletons. Psychedelic colors flashed and rotated, nauseating my dream self. Typical of dreams, my limbs refused to move, leaving me unable to do anything but unblinkingly observe the distorted and sickening display, unable to cover my ears and block out the demonic, impassioned chanting.

Then, the voices' volume lessened, and a figure appeared in front of me. It wasn't someone I'd seen before, but his face was malicious, his eyes a pitch black. From this pupil-less expression I immediately recognized the characteristic of a demon. Unlike Belial and Beelzebub, this demon had no semblance of humanity. His figure fluctuated with each millisecond, taking on no particular form, one moment bearing four arms and horns and the next, waving two tails and sporting six wings. A fanged sneer fixated upon me. "Welcome to my realm of nightmares," a lilting voice crooned. "You recognize me as a demon but I only take on that guise because it is what you fear the most." The nameless being stepped—no, glided— no, flew— no, walked… his form of transportation differed by the second as well. Since I was unable to move, I remained stationary as he appeared directly before me. His sour breath encroached on my face, sending nauseated shivers into my stomach. When I thought it couldn't get any worse, the creature morphed again, this time taking the shape of Belial. But the wild grin that crossed the creature's face was not anything remotely close to any expression I'd seen Belial wear. It was pure carnal joy, not the smooth amusement the incubus exuded. My fear transformed to confusion.

"You don't know how to feel about this form, do you?" the nightmarish beast taunted, beginning to walk in a threatening circle around me. "You hate him for containing you, you hate him because he's evil… but you also pity him, don't you? You feel sorry for him, because you relate to his low status, his desperation to prove that he is more than his name. This is how you feel, isn't it, Lucy? This is a devil… it's difficult to tell evil from good when evil can be so beautiful. Little lady of 'light…' your heart is enshrouded by darkness." A six-fingered and clawed hand reached out towards my chest, and I opened my mouth to scream… his nails tore into my skin and finally my knees gave…

I hit the dusty ground with a thud, a scream still echoing in my throat. Cold sweat mixed with terrified tears flowing uncontrollably down my cheeks, and I gasped for air, trembling as I pressed my back against the wall, clutching my arms around myself. The images from the nightmare flashed on constant repeat, and I struggled with my pounding, racing heart. I couldn't feel my limbs, couldn't stop crying, couldn't stop my mind from cruelly carving my doubt into my heart. Everyone has nightmares but in the pitch black of that horrid house's quarters I wasn't sure what was real and what wasn't. My terrified sobs caught in my chest, causing me to cough and splutter. Dissolving faces, eager anticipatory chants, the sharp points ripping into my flesh—

Out of the darkness a pair of hands grabbed my shoulders. Again, the adrenaline fueled by fear shot through my body again, filling my veins with the instinct to fight back. Almost instantly I tried to wrench free from the grip, but the fingers that captured me didn't give. A familiar voice shouted over my crying; "Shut up and calm the fuck down! It's just me you idiot!"

Thinking back on it, I'm not sure how Belial, a demon trying to sacrifice me or something, thought that his presence would calm me down, but for some inexplicable reason, perhaps it was the fact that his irritated voice was grounded in my vision of reality, my body went limp. My heart rate calmed to a fast gallop instead of a breathless sprint and my muscles relaxed slightly as my eyes adjusted to the dark. Silver hair and narrowed eyes gleamed from the blackness. "What's your problem?"

I mouthed silently for a few seconds, trying to wrangle my thoughts into decipherable words. "N-n-nightmare," I choked, still shivering.

"Try to breathe," Belial ordered, staring at me as though I was some kind of weirdo for having a bad dream. "Can't have you dying before this is over, Satan would kill me for sure." He tilted his head to the side, scrutinizing me. "What was the dream about? What did you see?"

"Bad things," I told him, not sure how to describe the events of the dream. "Weird…people things… and I heard crazy voices and this…this creature thing…spoke to me…"

Suddenly interested, Belial leaned forward. "What did it say?" he pressed.

Remembering the form it had taken, I skirted the reply. "I don't remember," I lied. The incubus realized immediately that I wasn't giving him the truth and clutched my arms tightly.

"Spit it out," he demanded with the slightest hint of a snarl.

"Why do you care?" I retaliated, shaken by his response. "It was just a dream."

"They're never just dreams," Belial hissed. His body was almost as tense as mine, I could feel it in his fingers. "What did it say?"

I swallowed, sensing the fear return. Shrinking against the wall, I stammered, "Stuff about the shit going on in my basement." After a moment, knowing Belial wasn't going to let go with that unsatisfactory answer, I added, "and my mind."

"Damn, this is happening too soon," Belial cursed, almost to himself, as he released me and stood up, an air of frustration about him. "If Mammon is trying to screw around with my job this is going to blow."

"Who?"

"Nobody," the demon snapped. "Stay in your room, don't come out, and if you disobey that, stay away from the basement. If you disobey that, you'll die." On that note, he turned away again, but not before I caught sight of something that looked a bit like fear flit across his face. Dreams, nightmares, demons, angels, I didn't understand anything of it and I was starting to wonder if I was losing my grip on reality, or if reality had already abandoned me and left my mind to wander in a realm of insecurity and doomed demented desperation.