Hello readers!

I've got a bit of a different story here today, this is a story based on some nightmares I've been having (I really need to stop eating sweets before bed) and I wrote this during those sleepless nights. It's a bit dark and angsty (Heart Shaped Wound level angst) but I hope you enjoy it all the same. I also hope I can get some sleep :) (Maybe a positive review will help?)

Have a great day and thank you for reading!

...

Dreams are wonderful things.

They allow you to live out your fantasies, become the hero of your mind, and even change the course of events.

But for me the dreams test the limits of the life I have built for myself.

Dreams, nightmares… after suffering them night after night they become the same, with nary a difference between them. That's when he's the strongest.

A Monster that lurks within me, lurks within all of us really, the antithesis of all I stand for. I see myself as a good guy. I make all the right choices, help people who need it, and I'm as loyal as a dog to those who have earned my trust. I work hard, fight harder, and do everything I can to make the people in my life happy. I am a champion of order, the hero of my own tale, the brave-hearted and loyal friend.

Yet this Monster only stands for the destruction of all I build, it delights in the suffering of my friends, and it promotes lying and evil deeds.

In the daylight I can ignore it, it holds no power. I'm much stronger than I think I am in the mortal world, I can calm myself down before I lose myself to it. My friends, loyal as they are, stand with me in keeping it under lock and key.

But when the night falls and sleep claims me in its embrace. That's when it goes to work.

It preys on the one weakness I have, the weakness that is ironically my greatest strength. The weakness that even my worst enemies wouldn't even dare to touch. The weakness that my friends hasten swiftly to repair at the slightest crack, and they bring their wrath upon those who break it.

This too large beating heart.

I've been told I care too much, and I accept that.

It's part of my personality that I can't turn off, regardless of how much I try, sometimes the big heart just spills over. Compliments just flow out of my mouth like water, and my hands itch with the urge to do something kind for someone. Usually, a girl, because I can't seem to resist a friendly and pretty face!

So I work hard, work hard to find those moments where my big heart can be the most effective. My ears pick up the barest hints of whispers of small things that a girl might like and I throw myself into them, from the barest formation of an idea or plan to its implementation. Songs, stories, dances, flirting-I'll do anything for my friends. I create traditions… if a girl can't hear a song without thinking of me, or hear the last dance of the night without wishing I was there, or go through a bad crisis without calling me for a shoulder to cry on, then I consider my mission a success.

I tend to become a homing missile, focusing on one target and shutting out the rest of the battlefield. The girl is all that matters to me.

Despite all this work and kindness and maybe even a little obsession on my part, I always find myself foiled by the very vessel that gives me my strength.

The girls I care about always seem to go for another guy, sometimes it's because they see me as only a friend, sometimes because circumstances bring them together, and sometimes it's my fault. My fault for not being daring, for being outrageous, for simply being too nice and getting walked over like a doormat.

The monster beats me for these choices I make, beats me internally and rips my heart apart… only to have it reform much later. It becomes a never ending cycle of lows and highs, and the pain never stops.

And the Monster temps me as he berates me, forces my mind into its own dark dank corners and lets it lurk in the darkness of my own private thoughts. The thoughts, the possibilities, the choices not made. They jab at my sanity like sharp daggers, but in the day I'm not alone, I'm not weak. My friends seize me and pull me back parrying the daggers with shields and swords, Gods intervene with thunderbolts of love and righteousness, common sense even lands a few blows in keeping me good.

But dreams are the worst because when I sleep I'm all alone and the daggers charge at me again. They make the nightmares worst… particularly the one this night.

…..

I sleep in the mortal world, but I am awake in the astral plain.

This is where the monster is the strongest, in my dreams. It tempts me with thoughts of changing the choices I make every single day.

Brady… don't you ever get tired of being good? It asks soothingly, its voice coming from everywhere and nowhere at once. The tone of the voice is as deadly as poison and as sweet as honey at the same time, and it tempts me.

Visions flash before my head, every single moment where another guy steals a girl away or the girl lumps me into the friend zone. They form like bubbles, miniature worlds that I can charge into and alter their history.

I wonder what would happen if I charged into one of these worlds and altered the history. Every rule of time travel would be shattered, and even in a dream that is monumental.

Uncharacteristically, I've found that I don't even care.

Do it… The voice screams Just one change…

So I charge into the first scenario.

I enter the dream as if I'm reliving it, just going through the motions.

I'm at a park with Anna, about six months ago now. She was my best friend, extremely pretty, and someone who trusted my judgement completely. I remember this day, but the thought had never entered my head that I could use her trust to manipulate her.

She's talking to me and it takes me a second to remember the exact conversation. It's about Peter, the all-around football star. The Homecoming dance is coming up and she's asking if I think Peter likes her.

I remember this conversation, and I remember the outcome. I said yes, she went with him, and suddenly I was cast aside and forgotten.

You remember the pain, don't you? The monster in my heart crooned well now here is your chance to spare yourself that pain… just one lie.

So I turn to her, knowing she is only a figment of my imagination and nothing more, and I lie.

"I don't think he's your type," I say, struggling to swallow the lump of guilt that has formed into my stomach.

"Oh, okay" She nods, before squeezing my hand "You know who I think is… You."

Then the dream vanishes and I'm alone again, alone with it.

See, you lied to her and things turned out well for you. What if you did that in real life? You just harmlessly eliminated the competition and got the girl.

I'll admit I'm at ease with what I did, and knowing it's a dream just makes it easier.

Taking a dip in the dark side doesn't make you evil, as long as no one sees the scars.

For a second I find myself believing the monster, believing that this inner darkness could be controlled and used for my benefit, then I snap out of it. Peter was a great guy, Homecoming was the best night of Anna's life, and they were still together to this day. She was happy and my integrity was intact. I was hurt but happy for her as well.

Then I am thrown into another dream.

….

I'm dancing with Caroline, at one of her church dances, and I remember how happy I was. I had just launched into my sappy and sentimental monologue that left her tongue-tied and blushing and she was struggling to regain her bearings. I was patient, waiting for, no needing her to say, thank you.

Then Mark walked up and her hands fell away from mine, I was shoved out the equation and Mark stole her away… I didn't even get to hear her thank you.

Well not tonight!

I bit down on the urge to punch dream Mark in his dream face and instead use my words, cutting off their conversation.

"Caroline, " I say, seizing her hands "Can this wait until after the dance, please?" The song was almost over, so it was alright for me to keep her.

She turned back to me and her eyes widened in embarrassment for forgetting me "I'm sorry, I'll see you in a moment, Mark."

Then the bubble closed and it was just us again, and it was perfect when she thanked and hugged me, tighter than ever before.

The dance fades and I smiled softly to myself. I'd always hated the men who cut in and break up dances when I'm involved like I'm just a placeholder for the more handsome, tougher, long lost friend.

It felt really good to stand up for myself, even it was a bit rude.

See… taking what you want is harmless, now imagine if you had done that during the dance.

I thought back to the moment of the dance. Caroline and Mark had a history of a long friendship and that night it was rekindled, she was happier after that night, and knowledge of that was more than enough to soothe the pain of losing her.

Still, I could have made her just as happy, and I wouldn't have had to deal with the pain at all.

You're a good man, but what's the point of doing right by everyone else if you're miserable in the end?

Then I am thrown into the hardest dream of all.

…..

The scene materialized around me slowly, as if the monster seeks to torment me by dragging it out. It knows the dream is painful, it knows I haven't fully recovered from the emotional agony.

It was in a restaurant, one of those outdoor places with tables set up, and I was taking Brianna to lunch. The excitement of the date was still bubbling inside of me, she'd agreed to lunch and I felt this was a stepping stone to a relationship.

She was just as nervous and as flustered as I was, but it didn't matter. None of it did.

Until the local bully, Griffon, walked down the street accompanied by his cronies. He saw Brianna and smiled a gap-toothed smile advancing towards her. He shoved me aside and into a railing, and despite it being a dream I felt the pain… just as I had that day.

"C'mon Brianna, you'd don't really want to go on a date with this loser do you?" He asked, roughly seizing her arm. Her yelp of pain is like a knife, shearing through my own pain.

"I guess so" Brianna muttered, giving me a look of pity. Staring into her green eyes, I see understanding… I see "I'll go with him so you don't get hurt." As if she had shouted it.

I knew how it would play out, Griffon would take her to lunch, and become a smothering presence in her life until she cut off all contact with everyone who wasn't him.

I also knew that eventually, she'd get the help she'd need, Griffon would get a signed restraining order, and she'd live the rest of her life happily. Time would eventually fix everything for her.

But not today… today I saw red.

So I stood up and shoved Griffon back.

Funny thing about the fights in your dreams… you can do no wrong in them. I have only a basic idea of how to fight but in this plane… it's more than enough.

I pound the bully and his cronies into the ground, then send them running for their mothers. Every blow is fueled by rage, rage at myself for not being strong enough to protect the people I care about.

I know that if I were in control I'd probably attempt to talk Brianna out of the situation, but I'm not. The monster is calling the shots and guiding every single blow. Every single blow fuels the rage, feeds the beast, and pulls me deeper into the darkness.

I don't care.

When the fight is over I turn back to Brianna, she's hugging me and asking if I'm okay, kissing my wounds, telling me how brave I was.

I was the knight in shining armor, and I had slain my dragons. But had I lost my soul?

….

The dream fades and it's just me, breathing heavily, trying to keep the beast from snapping its chains and swallowing me whole.

I've taught you a lesson Brady… You can delve into the darkness, you can use your anger and stand up for yourself, take whatever you want, and finally be happy. The Monster is happy, here in this dream world. I can feel its gluttony and despite it all, it wants more. It wants to be free.

Much like a fantasy movie, it wants to wreak its havoc on the mortal world, using me as its vessel. All I need to do is set it free, and become evil.

How hard could it be anyway? I'd just stop looking out for others and look out for number one, I'd fight back when I was pushed down, and if I wanted something I'd take it. It was successful in the dream world, why wouldn't it work in the mortal one?

The outcome was too tantalizing to comprehend, but if I let the monster take control, I'd finally be happy.

…..

I wake up in shock, with the alarm ringing in my ears, and the dream fading away into the back of my mind.

It doesn't matter, I remember enough of it to have made my choice. Dreams aren't like the real world, I have as much power as the monster does in this realm.

Besides, in the dream world I was happy. I had everything I wanted and I could will everything to go my way. That was the decision for me, the choice between being happy and freeing the Monster inside or being miserable and watching others be happy, but keeping the beast under wraps and my integrity good.

I'd choose being good every single time, sometimes heroes just don't get happy endings for themselves, but they help others with their happily ever after.

That's good enough for me.