The Five Realms


I had an unusually dream intensive night. This happens to me occasionally, when I'm on progesterone and I'm fortunate enough to have a proper night's rest. The downside, of course, is that I typically only have nightmares.

This time I was lucky. While several threatened to become nightmares, none of them reached that point, save for one. The dream itself was verging on being frightening, a state that I can often recognize in the dream and force myself awake. I tried to force my eyes open, I chanted to myself, "Wake up. Wake up!" Usually this has results within minutes.

My technique didn't work this time. I couldn't make myself wake up. This was actually more terrifying than the dream itself. A total, complete loss of control. The dream itself wasn't enough to wake me, and my own lucid self wasn't enough to force myself awake. Is something wrong with me? my dream-self asked. Am I in a coma? Why can't I wake up? I was growing desperate, the nightmarish imagery that drove me to this point temporarily forgotten.

Eventually I did manage to succeed. My dream self felt so small, a diminutive woman pushing open an enormous eyelid with her both feet and both hands. I remember thinking, It's so heavy! Why can't I open them easily? I caught a fleeting glimpse of my darkened bedroom before I lost my footing and the lid snapped shut once more. After several attempts, I managed to pry them open fully, and re-assume my fleshy host. 

Thinking about it now, I must have been in a deep REM state. I only managed to barely rouse myself despite all my force of will. I must have fallen asleep again shortly thereafter, because a new dream began.

My character and four of my character's friends were somehow thust into the Shadow Realm. One of five realms in this universe. This realm featured twisted inhabitants and the most delicious neo-gothic-architecture-on-LCD. There were few people around save for us. Everything spoke of neglect and decay, and soon we found out why.

The Darklings, appropriately named, are amorphus entities with the texture of living cloth bordering on the shape-shifting. It could float and ripple in heavy air, but it could move and stretch itself like something made of the thickest oil. They would use this contradicting aspects of their being to form weightless bodies and menacing appendages. The denizen's of the Shadow Realm were skiddish with reason: The Darklings attacked anything that wasn't them.

Up until this point we had been trapped in a maze like apartment complex. When we finally saw the shimmering, bronze dusk, we found it filled with Darklings. We ran. We were separated. Each of us were chased down and cornered. Yet, we all somehow survived. Each of us somehow managed to find ourselves back in the original room in which we appeared. Taking a dusty, spider-infested stairwell, we ran toward a clearing where we believed we would find a portal back to our world. I was the last to make it to the stairs, and saw the fluttering, solid and liquid form of a darkling making its way up the staircase.

I cried out to warn the others. Perhaps they ran faster, perhaps they didn't hear me. For reasons I didn't know, the Darkling did not notice me. I bounded up the stairs and found myself outside, on the roof like-ledge of the building. Hundreds of feet below me was black earth, the concrete wall of the opposite building, my four friends, and a shimmering pool of light. 

I knew the portal was the way out, but something felt wrong about it. The light coming from the event horizon was a frigid blue. One of my friends reached the portal and dove in. I jumped from the concrete ledge of the building and watched as the ground drew close to me. Oddly, I landed on my feet without injury. As I ran toward the portal, the Darkling appeared. I watched as my three remaining friends fought and ran against the thing's many ink-like tentacles. It grouped them together, and with a metallic sound it took the form of a sword plunging into it's black body, leaving no sound nor trace of my friends. 

I ran toward the portal, attempting escape, but the light had faded. There was nothing there but concrete and cold earth. The Darkling has disappeared. I thought if I waited the portal would recharge, but nothing happened. I noticed an inset panel in the stone wall and tore it away. I found pipes and a inner brick wall dusted with frost. The surface of the inner brick wall was icy cold. I found a set of small bricks and pressed them in, hoping to find an exit from this nightmarish world.

The two small bricks moved and dropped away with a snap. Behind them were two differently colored eyes on a worn and pallid face. My character must have recognized these eyes as belonging to the Ice King, but my inner snark made a comment about Santa Claus. I must have been waking up.

The Ice King confirmed my fear, this wasn't the portal to my world. My friend was safe in his care, although he had nearly froze to death before they had discovered him. I begged to go with him, anywhere from this world. He told me, with a certain fear in his eyes, that I couldn't. I had been infested by a piece of the Darkling that had killed my other three friends, and I could not leave this world. 

As I woke, the imagery of the Ice King, the sound of his horse and tired voice became fluid. The particulars of the dialog were changed and shifted as my internal editor began to wake. And finally, it was just a dream.