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Welcome To My Nightmare

Even though the gently falling snow made no sound he found it impossible to sleep. His wide blue eyes watched as the tiny lace-like snowflakes drifted from the dark sky. He had always loved the snow, but this was different.

This was Christmas snow.

With a smile he slipped out of bed. Pulling on his favourite dressing gown, the scarlet one with the black piping, he crept across his bedroom floor. He eased open the door and peered into the gloom of the hallway without.

All the lights were out, Nanny must have gone to bed. His eyes took on a mischievous glint as he noticed another figure making its silent way along the hallway. He followed silently, quickly closing the distance between them.

He clamped his hand around the other figure’s mouth as he twisted one arm up its back. He could almost feel the being’s eyes widen, he could hear the faint scream that escaped its lips behind his hand. Then he felt the elbow in his stomach, forcing him to released his captive.

“Edward!” A voice hissed quietly at him in the darkness. “You are such a creep!”

Edward’s already wide grin seemed to grow even wider. “And just what are you doing out of bed, Clair?” He asked, keeping his voice low as he glanced at Nanny’s door.

“Well…I…” Clair stammered. “I thought I heard something…”

“Hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa?” He asked in a mocking tone. She just glared at him. Edward may have only been five years old but he had always been a realist. He put no hopes in dreams. And besides, it was just so much fun to needle his twin sister.

They both started as the heard a noise from the floor below them. Exchanging a quick glance the pair tore for the stairs. They poked their heads through the balustrading.

“Santa…?” Clair breathed quietly as the pair searched the darkness.

“Don’t be a twit.” Edward sighed. “It’s probably just Mum and Dad getting home from their Christmas Eve party…and they’ll mostly likely thrash us if they find us out of bed at this hour.”

“What’s the matter, Edward?” Clair sneered. “You scared?” With a toss of her piggy tails she began to bounce down the stairs.

His face set in a scowl, Edward followed.

In the sitting room everything looked normal. The fire had been put out, for Santa’s imminent arrival Nanny had said, and the room was fairly dark, the only light coming from the street lamps outside. But there was a strange coldness in the air.

The twins watched as the brightly decked Christmas tree began to sway from side to side, moments before it toppled completely over. In its place stood a huge grinning creature resembling a cat. Its glowing red and yellow eyes fixed on them.

“That is not Santa Claus…” Clair said in a terrified whisper.

“I don’t know about the Santa bit…” A voice came from the darkness. “But his name IS Clawz.”

The pair screamed as one and clung to each other tightly as they took in the sight of the creature that was and wasn’t there, its form only noticeable by the spiky-hemmed cloak it wore. It too had an evil grin plastered on its face, or rather where its face should have been. It glanced at the nightmarish cat that it had identified as Clawz. “This is gonna be a piece of cake…”

The cat leapt forward, pinning a terrified Clair to the wall. Edward dove for the fire poker, standing in its bracket by the fireplace, and swung it at the creature taking great pleasure at the sound it made as he brought it down across the creature’s back.

“Get your filthy hands off my sister!” He demanded. He let out a tiny squeak as the creature released Clair and turned towards him with a low threatening growl. He brandished his makeshift weapon in front of him, amazed that he was managing to keep the massive cat at bay with his simple piece of iron. He began to move around the creature, gesturing towards Clair to join him as he kept his eyes locked on the snarling creature.

“You’ve got spirit, boy.” The other one said as it drifted towards the cold fireplace. “Wizeman’s gonna love that.” Clair frowned as it scoped up a handful of soot. “Still…as much as I’d like to test your mettle…we’ve got a deadline to meet.”

It blew the black powder from its outstretched palm into Edward’s face. The boy shrieked as it stung his eyes. Clawz took his momentary distraction to leap, slashing him across the side of the head. He heard Clair scream, but it seemed so far away…

“Edward…?” Clair’s worried voice broke through the darkness. He struggled to sit up, and immediately regretted it. Putting a hand to his head he could feel the blood that matted his dark hair.

“Where are we?” He asked his sister groggily.

“I don’t know.” She admitted with barely contained terror. “I wanna go home.”

Edward looked around him. They were in a small, ornate cage made of some kind of vibrant blue material. There didn’t appear to be any ground below them.

“He had better not be permanently damaged.” A musical voice said. “Wizeman will have our guts for garters.”

“Hey,” the familiar voice of the other creature replied. “We’ll just tell him the truth…it was Clawz.”

“Wizeman can’t carry out his plans if the boy dies…” the musical voice countered.

The twins exchanged a worried glance. Plans? What plans?

“Not to worry, Puff Ball.” The partially visible creature smirked. “Looks like our boy’s back in the land of the living…so to speak.” The twins scampered back to the far end of their tiny prison as the creature leered at them. “Kinda puny, aren’t they?” It said to the other one.

The round, rabbit-headed creature gazed at them thoughtfully. Its rather ample cleavage indicated that it was female. “You can’t always judge something’s worth by its appearance.” She said finally.

“Indeed you cannot…especially when you’re dealing with perfect dreamers.” A new voice entered the conversation. Neither of the twins knew who this newcomer was, but the fact that the other two seemed to all but cower at the sound of the voice it was obviously somebody extremely important…and extremely terrifying.

Edward looked up at the new creature’s face, way above them. It had to be at least a hundred feet tall he guessed. Its head was encircled with a bizarre looking crown of jagged spikes, its face was deceptively serene, but strangely it possessed no eyes. At least not on its face.

Half a dozen disembodied hands drifted around its massive cloaked form. In the palm of each a large eye gazed out, seemingly seeing everything at once. One of the massive, unattached appendages drifted in close to study the tiny captives. The eye narrowed as it took in the matted hair and blood smeared on the side of the boy’s pale face.

“Why is this one damaged?” The massive creature demanded in a soft but threatening tone.

“Ah…” The caped one began. “He put up a bit of a fight…so we had to…”

The massive being began to chuckle. “Little one has some spunk, eh?”

“You better believe it.” The caped one chuckled back. “You should see what he did to Clawz.”

“Indeed?” The massive creature pulled the tiny cage apart and wrapped a hand around Edward’s rather frail frame. Clair began beating on the hand as it stole her brother away from her. A second hand descended on her, scooping her up as well.

“It would seem they both have some spunk.” The creature chuckled. “Hear me little ones. I am Wizeman the Wicked. I am your master.”

“Like hell you are!” Edward snarled at him.

“Edward!” Clair was shocked to hear her brother use such a word.

The massive being chuckled, ruffling the boy’s unruly hair with a surprisingly gentle fingertip. “I do believe that you will fit in nicely here.”

Edward jerked his head away, immediately regretting the action as his vision began to swim. His head pounded from the wound on his temple.

“Time is of the essence.” Wizeman said, turning his head and four hands towards the heavens. “The convergence is upon us.” He turned his attention back to his two tiny captives. “It is time to remake these little ones to my own design.”

The twins shared a terrified glance. Neither liked the sound of that.

“Everything has been prepared as to you specifications.” The rabbit-headed one said with great reverence.

“We’ve rounded up one of each Minion like you said.” The other added with a grin.

“Excellent.” Wizeman smiled. “Let’s get the guests of honour in position.”

Wizeman dropped each twin in a separate crystalline chamber, sealing them in. Both began pounding on the chamber walls, both desperate to escape. Though they didn’t have the slightest idea of what this strange creature had planned, they both knew that they didn’t want to be a part of it.

“You’ll find those chambers quite unbreakable, my little ones.” Wizeman informed them. “And escape quite impossible.”

Clair sunk to the floor of her prison, hugging her knees in despair.

“It’ll be all right.” Edward called to her, his voice bouncing back at him off the crystal walls.

“What are you basing that on?” Clair said, looking at him sharply.

Edward was at a loss, turning away from his sister and their helpless situation. He caught a glimpse of his reflection on the chamber’s wall. He cocked his head to the side, raising one eyebrow as he studied his face. He was pale from his injury and smeared with soot.

“I look like a blasted mime.” He mumbled to himself as he tried to distance himself from his predicament by trying to clean his face. He only succeeded in smearing the soot even more.

The smaller creatures, the cackling one, the rabbit-headed one and the cat-like one, which glared pointedly at Edward, came forward, each carrying several small cages, each of which contained a strange looking, nightmarish creatures, except for two, which held tiny creatures that resembled angels. They locked the cages into place above the children’s heads.

“It is time!” Wizeman announced, raising four of his hands towards the heavens. The other two he placed on the crystalline chambers. The twins cried out as a sudden pain gripped them both. Somehow, Wizeman had pulled a scarlet sphere of light from each of them, without even touching them.

He brought two hands down upon the twelve unfortunate caged creatures, crushing them with ease into a sparkling mist. He gathered the mist into a glowing maelstrom, tossing in the ruby spheres for good measure.

“Work on these two…” He said as he directed the maelstrom towards the twins. “Work on their fears, their nightmares, their darkness…remake them into worthy denizens of Nightmare!

“Make them children of Wizeman!”

The maelstrom wrapped around the crystalline chambers, neither twin could see the other. The mist began to somehow seep through the chamber walls. Edward brushed at it as it settled on his clothes, as it began to burn through. He heard Clair scream, calling for him to help. But there was nothing he could do to help her. There was nothing he could do to help himself.

He could feel the mist in his sinuses as he couldn’t help but breath it in. He doubled over in agony as it coursed through his system. He felt a concentrated pain in his hands and fingers. He stared at his hands, watching in horror as wicked looking claws erupted from his fingertips. His hazy memory recalled that one of the caged creatures had possessed claws like these. Had he somehow absorbed the creature along with the mist?

He slapped his hands against the chamber’s wall, trying to hold himself upright. He opened his eyes, squeezed tight from the pain, to see his reflection in front of him, noticing the twin sooty tear trails on his cheeks…

Reala awoke with a start, a clawed finger unconsciously tracing the black mark beneath his left eye.

He took in a few deep breaths in an effort to calm himself.

He had no idea what it was he’d just experienced. These images that had come unbidden to him while he rested. It was almost as if he’d had a…

He frowned.

“I am a Nightmaren.” He chided himself. “I CAUSE nightmares, I do not HAVE them!”

But if it wasn’t a nightmare, then what was it?

He uncurled himself, flicking his tail casually to raise himself from the ocean floor. The metamorphosis that occurred whenever he plunged into the watery depths, miraculous as it was, was so second nature to him that he didn’t even notice it.

He headed for the small opening between the rocks, pausing as he reached it to make certain Gulpo was not about. He was feeling a little shaken and had no desire to do battle with one of Wizeman’s underlings at the moment.

He had made the little underwater cave his home for sometime now, knowing that only Gulpo had a chance of finding him here. NiGHTS could perhaps, but he had no concerns about running into his fellow renegade. Even if they were not allies, they certainly weren’t enemies. Not anymore.

Ascertaining that the coast was clear, he quickly made for the surface, feeling a sudden need for the warmth and light of the Nightopian sun. He paused once again just before he broke the surface to make sure none of the other Maren were in the vicinity. He hated having to hide from them, but he didn’t fancy taking them on alone either.

He burst from the water in a reverse dive, his mermaid-like tail transforming into his usual long legs as soon as he broke the surface. He spun around quickly, spraying water in all directions to dry himself off.

He drifted lazily to the shore of Splash Gardens, dropping down on a grassy bank with a sigh, wondering about his bizarre experience. He wasn’t sure how old he was, it seemed he’d been around forever, but he knew he’d never experienced anything like it before. At least not that he could remember.

Jackle, Clawz and Puffy had all been in his vision…he refused to accept it as a nightmare…perhaps one of them could shed some light on the situation? Finding them wouldn’t be difficult, after all, they were no doubt looking for him. But he couldn’t approach any of them without the risk of being captured and turned over to Wizeman. And Reala shuddered at the thought of what his former master would do to him if her were to get his claws in him.

He sighed again, lying back on the grass, looking up at the clouds floating lazily by in the clear blue sky.

‘Does it ever rain in Nightopia?’ He wondered.

He hadn’t spent much time here when he’d been under Wizeman’s control. The Nightmaren couldn’t stay here very long, the air just didn’t agree with them, or something. But somehow he and NiGHTS seemed to be immune to whatever it was. Reala had often wondered about it, and right now was thankful for it.

It was wonderfully warm in the sun, though a little too bright for Reala’s liking. He closed his eyes, despite the risk of ambush. He’d just about drifted off to sleep again, when a nearby shriek awoke him.

He sat bolt upright, rising slightly from the ground as he did so, his large eyes searching for the sound. It wasn’t repeated, but he could hear some rustling in a nearby clump of trees. He didn’t know what it was, but he didn’t want to risk the possibility of being discovered. He drifted over silently to investigate.

A trio of Minions, a Gaa, a Snip and a Verol, were squabbling amongst themselves, about what Reala neither knew nor cared. A rather familiar, very evil smirk curled his mouth. He’d been hiding for so long, it’d feel good to take out some of his frustrations on the little Maren.

The trio suddenly forgot their bickering as his shadow fell across them. They let out a collective shriek, and bolted towards the distant boarder. Reala chuckled to himself.

“At least my reputation is still intact.”

His attention was drawn by something nestled in the long grass. The object of the Minions’ arguing no doubt. He frowned. He glanced back the way they’d gone, knowing that they’d be back with the first high-ranking Maren they found. But curiosity got the better of him.

He reached down and plucked up the object. It was fairly large, about the size of his head, and fairly heavy as well. It wasn’t quite a sphere, and was marked with blue and white bands. He frowned as he turned it around in his hands.

“Why is such a thing of such great interest?” He mused.

It rocked in his fingers and he instinctively dropped it. A large crack appeared on its surface, but on the top, so it wasn’t caused by the fall. Pieces began to quickly fall away, revealing something else that had been curled up inside.

It moved, blinking its eyes in the light. It looked up at him.

Reala recognised it right away. With its pointed little head and delicate pink wings. There was only one thing that it could be.

“A Nightopian?” Reala frowned at the tiny creature. It was much smaller than the Pian he was used to. “A baby Nightopian…”

The newly hatched Pian’s little face spilt into a delighted grin as it reached out its pudgy little arms to him. Reala backed away from it, uncertain, and a little disgusted. It began wailing.

“Quiet!” He commanded. “Something might hear.”

It stopped, reaching out for him again.

“You have got to be joking.” He said to it, folding his arms across his chest.

It blinked at him, obviously figuring that it was not going to get any comfort from the lanky creature, and began wailing again.

Reala let out an exasperated sigh and picked the creature up, holding it at arms length. It let out a delighted gurgle, smiling inanely at him. It suddenly discovered its tiny wings and began to flap them. It lifted out of Reala’s grasp, hovering a little unstably.

Reala sighed with relief. If the blasted thing could fly, it had no need for him. As he turned to leave, the little Pian zipped over, hugging him as best he could with his tiny arms, cooing as it rubbed its cheek against Reala’s.

He pulled the Pian away, fixing it with what he hoped was his cruellest glare. But it just continued to smile and hold its little arms out to him.

“What do I have to do to make you go away?” He asked it. He dropped it, but it just flew up to him again. Reala sighed loudly.

“I am a Nightmaren.” He told it. “The meanest, nastiest, cruellest, evillest Nightmaren that Wizeman ever created. And every single other Nightmaren is hunting me down. You do NOT want to be anywhere near me.”

It stared at him for a moment, then let out a delighted squeal. It zipped up to him again, settling in the hollow of his collar. Cooing happily, it began batting at the tip of Reala’s cowl.

Reala knew he’d never win this battle.

“Have it your way.” He growled at the Pian. “It will be your funeral.”

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