She was the only one up in the entire building as everyone else slept. So it had to be. She peered out of the window, making sure she didn’t let light out. It would be bad, drawing them towards the place. The sky was turning already dark grey. Dawn was well on its way, and she only had to be up a couple of hours, and someone would release her to go to bed and have her shut-eye.
She watched all the empty buildings, all rundown by the lack of care. There was no time to fix anything. Keep moving was what kept them alive. But sometimes, seeing the abandoned city landscape made her beyond sad. She couldn’t any longer remember what was the normal before everything went ape-shit. Maybe it was better if she didn’t even try to remember. But she couldn’t quite forget her. Brit had been the first to go before anyone knew what was happening. Unnecessary death.
She lowered down and pushed her back against the wall. There was no need actually to watch; they had the building monitored. All the entrances had sensors to map any movement. Not to take any chances, the streets around the house were mapped too. It was the only reason she alone needed to be up to sound an alarm if necessary. Others could safely sleep. If anyone anymore slept well for the matter, she didn’t. Not even after monitoring shifts when she knew the rest would be up, and they protected her dreams from the snatchers.
She could still see Brit’s mummified body lying on their blue velvet couch. If she closed her eyes, she could still hear herself crying and feel her hand around Brit’s paper-thin skin. Back then, no one knew what was going on, and Brit had just taken a nap after coming home. She should have been there. She could have shot the fucking thing and save Brit. But she wasn’t, and she didn’t. That was how they got inside you, through your dreams, and then they fed until…until you weren’t. Early on, some argued that those who didn’t dream were safe. And they boasted about with it, taking unnecessary risks. But soon people found out that even if you didn’t remember your dreams, you dreamed. It is the rare who do not truly dream. Maybe it will be different if it was a heritable trait, or the weak died and strong stayed. None of this mattered for now.
She took the monitor from the floor to glance over the systems. Squirrels and other animals made things difficult. Sometimes they triggered the sensors, and she had to alter everyone. It had to be done. No one wanted to take risks, and they had learned to use the animals for their advantages. The dream snatchers were clever. And they didn’t eat smaller animals, only giant mammals, and humans. So no beef burgers for anyone anymore.
The perimeter was fine. The sensors hadn’t picked up anything, and the traps had kept all the critters away. She put the monitor back down. There was a shotgun next to her, leaning against the wall. They could be killed. Compared to humans, they were willowy and frail, but they hunted in packs, and they could sense the brainwaves when people or animals fell asleep. Easy picking. No one was sure why this was so, and why did they hunt the dreamers, but she guessed no one had tried to catch one to study it. Everyone was too busy surviving. All the networks, the power, the supply changes had gone down. You couldn’t keep maintaining them if you were on the move. The swarm of the dream snatchers was deadly even for those awake, especially those without guns or something sharp and longer than a hand. She and the rest had seen no swarms lately. Speculations went around the community, saying they had found settlers somewhere and were attacking them. But that didn’t bring hope. It was more like a nasty reminder this nightmare would never end.
Sometimes she wondered if she should stop struggling and let herself be taken like Brit was. Then she remembered her hollowed cheeks and shriveled body, and she couldn’t die that way. Also, she was too cowardly to take her own life.
Two hours and the rest would be up. She pushed against the wall and dragged herself to look out from the window. The sky was already bluish. It would be a beautiful day. Days were saver. You could almost forget the hell they were living.
She heard shuffling from the corridor behind her. She spun around and drew the shotgun against her shoulder. She put the tip of her shoe on the button to sound the alarm. She only had to push, and everyone would be awake. She could taste metal in her mouth as she waited. The shuffling got closer. She steadied the shotgun. Then a figure painted against the darkened wall of the corridor.
“Vow, it is only me, Kristie,” Mila said.
She lowered the gun and took her feet off the button. She slumped down against the wall.
“Bad night?” Mila asked.
“You could say that. You?”
“I couldn’t sleep. You know how it is. Thought to come to keep you company. Here I brought you a bowl of soup.” Mila offered her a steaming bowl, and she took it more than eagerly.
The other woman sat next to her and took the monitor from the ground. Mila put her head against her shoulder while she slurped the tomato soup, or love-apple soup as her granddad used to say.
“It is going to be a beautiful day,” she said.
“Good,” Mila replied.
Thank you for reading, have a lovely day ❤
© K.A. Ashcomb