What is a dream?

Many people have different ideas of what a dream is. Some people assure that it is merely the brain trying to make sense of the random firing of synapses. Others assess it as the brain sifting through thoughts and events of the day, "spring cleaning," so to speak. Those who walk a more spiritual path believe that it is the key to our past lives and our future ones.

Demons do not dream. It could be argued that it is because their brains do not function as those of humans and even dogs and cats do (for dogs and cats do dream). However, it could also be because they do not sleep. Demons do not need to rest and restore themselves because they feed off negative energy, which is everywhere.

But maybe demons don't sleep because they have nightmares.

~~~

Kaligo remembered everyone he had ever killed. Demons have infallible memories; they remember their victims, their enemies, and their allies. It comes in handy. Demons often live long lives.

Sometimes Kaligo slept. He didn't have to, he knew, but he did. Sleeping conserved energy, and considering how little he fed, he needed it. It wasn't as if he had to remain awake, anyway. What did he have to do? He had no territory to consolidate, no enemies to plot against, no wars to begin.

So he slept. And he dreamed. Or rather, he had nightmares.

--hungry hounds that race after the hare bow wow bow wow yo yo yo yo! the shadows shift and play and move and ripple sunlight against the moss like water and waves lapping and curling and feeding and receding. you can see them there in the distance red and brown coats flashing through the undergrowth like a dream like a penny dropped into a pool appearing and disappearing flickering here and there disappearing reappearing in out in out in out. the hare she runs with her ears flat against her back chest heaving seeming to float above the ground feet barely touching the dirt seeking safety seeking refuge anything to get away. and suddenly a fox breaks from nowhere fangs agape saliva dripping his breath hot and moist stinking of blood and meat and death she tries to run but he seizes her effortlessly breaking her back and she screams like a human would scream--

--he can hear her screaming and he is screaming too because suddenly he is the hare and he can feel himself paralyzed as his back snaps and then the fox is off to escape the hounds with his stolen prize. and he is still alive he can feel everything but he cannot move and he is in pain and he is hurting and he wants to die just to make it stop and he can feel it when the fox stops and drops him at last and tears his belly open to feed. he can feel the warm spill of his guts and the flesh being stripped off the bones and he still can't seem to die oh god was this what it was like when he killed them the dragons and stripped them of their scales and listened to them scream--

Kaligo did not sleep for the next four nights.

"What's bothering you?" asked Alexandra. The stew could simmer on its own for a while; now she sat at the table across from Kaligo. He looked pensive, sitting with his chin propped up on his hand, staring at the wall behind her but not really seeing it.

"Nothing," he answered.

Alexandra knew he was lying. She knew he had been having nightmares. She also knew that he hadn't slept the last four days because she hadn't heard him waking with screams. Instead he had been sneaking out of the cabin, going for runs in the woods, taking walks by the seashore and flights over the cliff tops.

"What do you dream about?" Alexandra asked gently.

Kaligo shrugged, dropping his eyes to the tabletop. He traced the pattern of the grain with his free hand as he tried to gather his words. "A lot of things," he finally said. "But mostly about the Wars. The people I killed." He sighed and let his eyes close, dragging a hand across them wearily. "It makes it. . . difficult to sleep."

"I see." Kaligo did not look up at her. "What was it like?"

"It was terrible," Kaligo whispered. "I could feel myself dying, but I wouldn't die. If that's what if feels like, then I--I don't ever want to do that again."

He was about to look up at her, his eyes helpless and pleading, but suddenly something strong seized him around the neck. It took him by surprise, choking off his air, and then he could feel claws digging into his neck. Black, sticky blood began to run down his neck, down his collarbone, seeping into his shirt. He tried to speak, to ask her what she was doing, but he found that he couldn't make a sound.

"Did it feel like this?" Alexandra asked viciously, and her eyes burned gold like the scales of the dragons he had killed. "But I'll do you a favor. I'll kill you quickly. You never did that for them."

And she broke his neck, just like that, with one hand, and threw his crumpled body against the wall.

Kaligo thought that he might not be able to sleep ever again.

He wandered around the house that he now shared with Kitsuki, flipping idly through outdated magazines and raiding the well-stocked refrigerator occasionally. But nothing appealed to him, though he ate many oranges and drank several cups of coffee. Sometimes he ran aimlessly in circles outside, breath steaming in the frosty night air. Other times he flew, envying the silent wingbeats of the owls.

But he always came back, because he had nowhere to go.

Sometimes he thought he saw ghosts. They weren't like the ghosts you see in movies, where they look more or less like they did when alive, only translucent. In fact, he couldn't even really see them. But he knew they were there, and if he did not look with his eyes he thought he could even make them out.

You killed me, he thought he heard one of them say once.

"Yes, I did," he replied, because he could think of nothing else to say.

Couldn't you at least say sorry?

"I'm sorry."

Empty words.

"They're all I have to give."

Once, when he accidentally dozed off, he woke several minutes later to find a ghost standing over him. He looked like an old, old man. Kaligo remembered him. He remembered all of them.

I'm going to kill you now, said the ghost.

"Kill me?" said Kaligo. "How? You can't even tou--"

He didn't get a chance to answer, because suddenly the ghost was on him, hands locked around his neck. Then there were dozens of them, no, hundreds of them, swarming the room, climbing on top of Kaligo. They couldn't kill him, not really, but they could certainly try. Their ghost-claws raked his flesh, and it felt as if he was being torn open, but when he looked there was nothing there. They bit him and pain tore through him like fire, but he couldn't feel dripping blood, and he knew that if he looked he would still be whole. He could feel nothing but the pain.

"No, no, please, stop!"

Did you stop when we begged you? the voices howled down at him from the past. You laughed! You laughed while we screamed! You laughed at our pain! You drank it like water, you drew out our deaths just to watch us writhe! And now he could hear them laughing, all of them, pointing and jeering from the places in the realm of the dead.

Then Kaligo woke, and he spent the rest of the night staring at the ceiling.



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