Dreams are strange things, indeed.

They are wondrous and atypical, and defy the very laws of reality that we accept.

For good or ill, they challenge our loose grasp on reality, and push our imagination ever onwards into the abyss of our mind.

And yet, even in those rare circumstances in which that unreality is realized, that the dream is known, what can we do but dive further?

What can we do but climb further down the rabbit hole?

OOO

"Ughh…where am I?"

As my eyes open, I let out a groan as I rub the back of my head. It didn't take long for me to realize that I'm on a medical gurney, the kind with straps to hold down 'difficult' patients.

"Speaking of patients…why am I wearing this?" Rather than the sweats I'd gone to sleep with, I was only clad now in a dirty white hospital gown.

Looking around, I noticed that the room I was in seemed particularly old-fashioned, with velvet curtains and ornate wooden furniture. Even the gurney I was laid out on had a Victorian style to it.

Gingerly pulling myself off the gurney, I hesitantly looked around the room, seeing nothing of interest. The amount of dust caking much of the furniture pointed to the fact that this place had long been abandoned.

Eying the curtains, which neatly shielded the windows, I took a deep breath and pulled them back slightly, if only to get a glimpse at the world beyond this small room.

"My god…" I whispered in horror, red light reflecting off my eyes as I stare out at the empty plains. The moon was adrift in the night, full and so red that it stained the sky like blood.

"Not exactly." A voice spoke out from behind me, and I whirled around with a gasp. A woman had propped herself up on a cabinet, clad in black robes. With a timeless, slightly amused smile on her pale face, she brushed her short, black hair back with her gloved hand as she hopped off the cabinet. "I imagine things are pretty confusing."

"…That's one way to put it." I swallowed nervously, breathing heavily.

"Well, I'm not here to eat you, if that helps." The strange woman grinned, extending a hand. "You can call me Sasha."

Briefly hesitating, I cautiously shook her hand.

"Uh, I'm—"

"Olivia. But you prefer Sparrow, right?" Her purple eyes flickered towards mine knowingly, and I mutely nodded. "So, I'm sure that you're telling yourself that this is a dream, that any minute you'll wake up in your bed. And you wouldn't be totally wrong."

"This…is a dream?"

"Precisely. Except that you're not going to wake up." Sasha admitted with a shrug, and I stared at her with wide eyes. "Not at the moment, I mean. You could, you're not stuck here forever."

"What *is* here?!" I exclaimed, rubbing my eyes in exasperation.

"Look, uh, this is going to be pretty confusing. It took me a long time to get my head wrapped around it, and it's my job." She explained, gesturing for me to look out the window. "This place is what people call Somnus. There's the place you came from, you know, Earth. Light and cheery, for the most part. Then, on the other end of the spectrum you've got…darker places."

"What, like Hell? I'm in Hell?!" A flare of panic must have shown in my eyes, but Sasha shook her head quickly.

"Sweetheart, you would know if you were there, believe me. And you wouldn't have this stunning company like myself to greet you, either." She chuckled unevenly, her expression faltering slightly. "…And believe me, there's worse places than Hell. Deeper places in the darkness."

"I-I don't understand. Why am I here?! Who are you?! What *is* all of this?!" I blurted out, smacking my hand against my head in a desperate attempt to force myself to wake.

"Look, kid, I'd love to tell you that you're just here for a short trip. A lot of folks make it here, actually. Always by accident, of course, and they never realize what really happened when they wake up. But you didn't drop in for a visit." Sasha held up a hand to calm me, her face still peaceful as can be despite my hyperventilating as I collapsed onto the floor. "The truth is, you're here because I pulled you."

I paused, looking at her in silence as she stared back at me coolly.

"I need your help, Sparrow. The world needs your help…and if you don't succeed tonight, it's going to mean a lot of people getting hurt." Sasha's voice changed slightly, becoming more authoritative and forthcoming. "People you care about. And people I care about. So, for the sake of everyone at stake here…please, hear me out."