Contessa slowly opened her eyes, a bright red sky coming into view. She shot up, surprised at the amount of air in her lungs. Contessa's gaze ran over the land around her. She had to have been dreaming. The winged creatures flying above her could not have been real. The bat-like wings and the black horns looked as if they had come straight out of a movie. The demon-like statues surrounding where she was standing looked fake. She was just making this up. That had to be why nothing looked authentic. The fire could not have floated around the sky in real life. It was impossible. She had to wake up. The awful dream made her grimace. Did she lack that much creativity?

"Contessa Moreno, correct?" Contessa spun around to the raspy voice behind her. The man looked reaper-like with his black cloak that covered his face. He was extremely tall, towering over Contessa's five-foot-four body—but he looked very frail.

"Uh—yes. That's me," Contessa answered. "Who are you?" Contessa held back a laugh. She was creating a conversation with a made-up character in her dream. She was really beginning to lose her mind.

"Welcome," the figure greeted, ignoring her question.

"Exactly where are we?" Contessa asked, hoping he wouldn't disregard her inquiry again. He looked at her—or at least she believed he did—then slightly shook his head.

"To your resting place for eternity," he began. "Have fun in Hell." Then he was gone in a blink of an eye, leaving Contessa shocked and alone.

Hell? She couldn't have been in Hell. The previous events of the day flooded into Contessa's mind. She had suffocated. Or possibly ran out of air and began hallucinating. Yes. That had to be it. There was no way she was in Hell. No—freaking—way. When she died she should go to Heaven. She had done nothing but kind deeds in her life. She'd made the honor roll, she'd fundraised for sick children, she'd assisted people—including the ones that had never been present to help her. If she went anywhere, it would be Heaven. No doubt about it.

Contessa sighed. If she was going to be stuck in a lucid dream, she'd at least look around. Contessa walked forward, thankful for her working lungs as she proceeded up the red gravel hill. The buildings Contessa passed were red, matching the rest of the world she had created, and were practically burning. Contessa read many articles about how dreams showed the dreamer the truth about their mental state, yet Contessa had no idea what this said about her. She had no thoughts of becoming an arsonist, so the burning buildings must've had some other meaning. The statues of two devil-like creatures, whom she assumed were a couple, did not help her much either. The statue of the man had his arms and wings wrapped around the woman beside him, and her head was laying on his shoulder. She wasn't a fan of romantic, cloying stories. When it came to deciphering a piece of text, Contessa wasn't a neophyte. But she had absolutely no idea what her dream had meant.

Shouting emerged from an alley, causing Contessa to jump. She peered towards the noise, seeing a large circular area past the alleyway. Contessa slowly tiptoed towards the shouting, a large group of people coming into her sight. The group was forming a large circle, surrounding the two men on the inside of it. 'Men' as in large man-like creatures with black wings on their backs. Contessa shook. She never would have thought of something like this while she was awake.

"Fight! Fight! Fight!" she could hear the people chanting. Although she wasn't sure that they were people either. The winged man on the left chuckled. He was large. Much larger than any of the men she had ever seen. He gave Thor competition. His grey-black hair laid in a messy way that Contessa still seemed to find attractive—along with his muscular arms which were shown off by his tight black t-shirt. His silver eyes became predator-like as he reached for the two knives he had strapped across his chest. No, no, no. She had to stop this. Contessa ran forward, her long, copper hair flowing behind her. "Um—excuse me," she said, trying her best to speak louder than the chanting. Everyone stopped, their eyes narrowing on Contessa's small figure. "Hi—hello," she began. The silver-eyed-man-creature looked at her with a gaze full of humor. "Maybe you shouldn't be fighting. Someone could get hurt, and—"

"That's the whole point!" a voice shouted from the crowd, along with agreements from the fellow chanters.

"I wasn't finished," Contessa snapped. She wasn't going to allow someone to treat her badly anymore. She had learned her lesson with Amity. "You should just stop. It isn't a smart idea. You could cause a lot of trouble." Contessa stood tall. She would get her point across—she knew she would.

"Well, well, well," the other winged man began. "You must be new here. We haven't gotten many newbies in the fighting circle lately. Let's see what you got." Contessa's mouth went dry. She couldn't fight against one of them. They were all so large and muscular. And utterly terrifying.

"No. I will not be fighting," Contessa stated. "I was just trying to prevent you from getting your head bashed in."

The silver-eyed man laid his arm across Contessa's shoulders before she had a chance to dodge him. "Come one," he said. "It'll be fun. Get some blood coursing through your veins." Contessa's legs shook. No. She was not going to do anything he asked of her. "Or outside of your body. Whichever works," he added, leading her towards the center of the circle. Just great. She was going to die in her dream. The silver-eyed man stood her in front of the man he had been about to fight.

He whispered into her ear. "Dodge and punch. There's nothing else to it." She tried to run away but the circle became tighter. The crowd began chanting and the large man-creature in front of her pulled out a sword that looked longer than her. Contessa reached into her pocket, but she had nothing. Some part of her had foolishly hoped a knife would magically appear for her. The man leaped forward and Contessa clutched her face, forgetting about her other body parts. She was knocked to the ground. The man took advantage of her vulnerability and dealt a blow to her face. Contessa heard a crunch and silently prayed her nose wasn't broken. She chuckled. A low, dark chuckle. Praying wouldn't help her in a dream.

"Had enough?" the man growled, clutching the collar of the dark red t-shirt Contessa had no recollection of owning. It was a dream—Contessa could do whatever she wanted. She placed her feet on the man's stomach and thrust her legs forward. He clutched his stomach, giving her just enough time to crawl out from beneath him. She wiped her nose with her arm. It was bleeding, but it wasn't painful enough to have been broken. The man shot up and thrust a dagger at Contessa. She was barely able to dodge before the knife was able to go through her stomach. Contessa's gaze traveled to the silver-eyed man, who to her surprise was smiling. She had no idea what he found amusing about her suffering. Quickly, Contessa clutched her feet as the man-creature charged towards her. He flipped over on his face, and Contessa hurried to the other side of the circle. How she was doing that, Contessa had no idea. If possible, Contessa kept interactions with other people to a minimum. Physically attacking someone was a thought that very rarely crossed Contessa's mind, and if she actually must fight she'd likely be out of breath before even standing up from her bed anyway.

"When does this end?" Contessa asked as the man rose from the ground.

"Usually when one of the fighters is almost dead," the silver-eyed creature explained. Contessa had a feeling she would be the one that would be ripped to shreds. Contessa quickly hurried to the silver-eyed man. He would do whatever she asked, it was her dream after all.

"Let's go," she ordered, tipping her head back to make eye contact with the man.

"Excuse me?" he said. Contessa had hoped he would listen to her the first time.

"You're going to take me wherever I ask," she tried again.

His brows drew together. "I am?" Why do dream characters have to be so difficult to control?

"Yes," she said, grabbing onto his arm. "Right now." Behind her, Contessa could hear the man-creature growling as he prepared to attack. The silver-eyed creature looked at her, then to the man. Within seconds he had Contessa in his arms and shot into the sky. Contessa prayed she didn't vomit during the flight.