Kiyoko jolted awake, gasping.

Her vision was still blurred with sleep but she recognized the gray stone walls of her base.

You fell asleep. What did you forget?

She scrambled forward on her hands and knees towards the indistinct pile in the center of the room, disregarding the dirt staining her silk dress. It was nothing more than scraps now.

Her vision had started to sharpen when she reached the center. She grabbed the larger of the two bags, yanking the ties apart, and turned it upside down. She barely heard the clatter of the contents spilling onto the floor above her panicked heartbeat.

She scooted into a ray of light from a crack in the wall and picked up the first she could grasp, mouthing its name before moving on to the next.

Map. Candle. Pencil. Rope. Matchbox. Journal. Knife. Bandages.

She faltered at the last one. It looked like a pin with an odd hat, thread wrapped around its stem so that it looked like the muscle of an arm.

She couldn't remember its name.

She lunged for the journal and flipped frantically through it, nearly ripping the pages. She only stopped at a set of drawings. She held up the thing she couldn't name to each one, hoping to find a match.


She sat back heavily, relief rendering her limbs limp. Her heart finally began to calm enough that she could hear the wind coming in through the wall and the flapping of the dragon's wings. She took some of the thread and tied it around her wrist like a bracelet. Hopefully I'll remember you next time.

She went through the journal slowly now and landed on the last entry. Her past self had attempted to go up to the eleventh floor only to find the stairway had collapsed. The end of the entry trailed off into illegible scribbles then finally a straight line off the edge of the page. She turned to the next page to find it blank.

Her shoulders dropped and she shook her head, tossing the journal back onto the floor. Still no closer to understanding what was causing the sleep or the memory loss, much less getting past the dragon. Frustrated tears began to tighten her eyes and throat.

Her mother's voice sounded softly in her mind. The harder things are, the calmer you must be, Kiyoko.

The words felt like a soft caress atop her head and she closed her eyes to relish the memory. Maybe if she breathed in deep enough, she could smell the roses that seemed to always linger on her mother's shawl.

But there was only stone.

She opened her eyes and tucked the memory away, deliberately not thinking about whether or not she would be able to remember it later. Okay, memory check done. Now for today's route.

She picked up the folded map and spread it out in front of her, careful of the creases that threatened to become tears in the paper. She didn't consider herself an artist, but it took more memory than talent to draw a map. With her fingers, she traced the route from the last entry. She started from her home base in the middle of the tower on the seventh floor to the X on the stairwell underneath the eleventh floor. At least she'd had time to update the map before falling asleep last time.

She chewed on her lip. There were many X marks on the map and thenumber of possible routes to the top were thinning out. She looked at the floors beneath her home base and noticed an odd mark two floors down. She leaned closer towards the map, unsure if it was intentional or one of her half-asleep scrawls.

Everything would be easier if you went to sleep.

She ignored the hiss of that warm voice, shaking her whole body to loosen the hooks of sleep. Anything easy is often not worth having. Her father's stern voice rose up from within her as if in answer. She smiled, picturing his eyes. They always seemed to be a curious mixture of softness and steel.

She looked longingly to the top of the map. A ladder sprung up from the highest point into the sky. And at the end of the ladder, at the very edge of the map, was her own name. She had written the Chinese characters her parents had chosen for her. The first meant to wake and had always reminded her of someone running. The second meant world. The last was simply child.

The characters were not only her name, but also her goal.

The waking world.

She nodded to herself and wrote her plans in the journal. Then she put the extras in the smaller bag like her parents had taught her, leaving the rest in the larger bag. They had gone over this ritual many times but it had been in the comfort of her rooms, full of dolls, silks, and pillows.

She took stock of the empty room of her base, the stones holding neither memory nor warmth. She would be happy to forget this place.

She set down the staircase, counting each floor. She had just arrived at the fifth when her shoes splashed against water.

Her brow furrowed. The water had been marked at the second floor on her map. She studied the still surface of the water but it held no clues to why it had risen.

She crouched down to peer into the room. The water was halfway up the walls but the reflection of light off the water helped her spot the small opening in the wall that had been marked on the map.

She shrugged and took the rope from inside her bag. The water may not be a good sign but she was going to take advantage of what she could. She tied the end of the rope around what may have once been a torch holder. She stepped down into the warm water and swam with her head above the water. It was unnerving for the ceiling to be so close to her head but she kept her eyes focused on the opening, biting her lip to fight the sleepy pull of the warm water.

She had to jump to reach the edge of the opening, but her managed to get a hold to pull herself inside. Darkness. She swallowed and let out a slow breath to calm her nerves. Light. She unwrapped the matches from their waterproof covering and struck one against the wall.

The brief flame showed her very little, just a narrow passageway leading up with stones jutting out of the walls, more like rungs on a ladder than stairs.

The match sputtered out, leaving her back in darkness, but her mind was clear.

She tied the end of the rope around the stones in the wall for her return. Then she took a deep breath and began to climb.

It took but a couple of stones for the hiss to return. It wove its lullaby around her, adding to the warmth that had already seeped into her from the water.

It always felt like she was being pulled out of herself, one part of her falling asleep, the other screaming for her to wake up. From somewhere above herself, she saw her grip slacken.

A sharp pain at her wrist pricked her awake, returning to herself with quick breaths. The spindle.

She shook her head, trying to clear it. She had to keep herself awake. She started to count each stone but the numbers melted into a childhood memory, her voice counting aloud in the garden, her cousins' laughter making her lose her place.

The counting then became her mother's voice, timing her tying knots in the quiet of the rose garden.

The rose garden became her father's study, where at ten, she had hidden in the shelves during a round of hide and seek. Her parents had entered with serious faces and low voices. She had only heard a handful of words - her own name, cruse, sleep, death - but it was enough for her to realize that the "games" they played were no mere games.

They were preparation.

At twelve, she let them know she knew. At fifteen, she carried her bags everywhere.

She didn't remember sixteen. She hoped she would be back by then.

She felt the air stir. She froze, unsure if it was her own wishful thinking. It came again. A cool breeze against her face. Air. Fresh air!

She climbed faster, scrabbling at each stone until there were no more and she was pulling herself up into a half-collapsed room.

She edged towards the doorway. Outside, she could only see splotches of gray and white.

Her breath caught.

She was at the top of the tower.

On instinct, she looked up. Her vision blurred with sudden tears. Mirrored above her in the sky were the lands of her kingdom, the gardens, the castle, the tower where at the very top where the ladder ended, was her own self, asleep in a glass case.

The waking world.

Her home.

Her heart pounded in her chest. The ladder was just a few steps away. No dragon in sight. This was her chance.

She launched herself at the ladder, jumping up the first few rungs and climbed as fast as she could. She ignored the burn in her arms and back.

She was so close. Each rung brought her closer to the castle. Her parents. Her cousins. Her room.

Silks instead of stone.

Sleep without fear.

She could feel the air changing and she could smell the roses, could see the reflection of her own self in the glass case.

But then she heard it.

Air separating in a rhythm too steady to be the wind. Coming closer.

The dragon.

A desperate cry escaped her lips. Her hands were shaking but she kept moving, kept pulling herself up.

But the clouds began to tighten around her, the wind a gentle song that whispered in her ear. Warmth crept into her bones, hissing of sleep.

Somewhere in the distance, she thought she heard her own voice, but she couldn't understand the words.

Her vision began to darken. I'll just rest for a little while.

Her fingers slipped from the last rung.

It felt as if she was floating, warm and deep.

She jolted awake, gasping.

Her vision was still blurred with sleep but she recognized the gray stone walls of her base.

You fell asleep. What did you forget?