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In Aching Dreams

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It was all dreams. That was what mortals never dared to understand. Whether they were of the ever slumbering Azathoth at the heart of the universe, all the way down to the tiny stories humans told themselves to sleep their way through reality, it didn’t matter.

No one knew the ways of dreams better than the Caretaker. He and his sister had both been born half in another world. They had always been two halves of something more – he wandering a thousand worlds of wishes and of fears, and she caring only for their mother’s plane.

He never knew what happened to Miranda. She would never tell him the whole truth even when her soul lay in the dark silence between worlds with no one but him to listen.

This much he was sure of – that Miranda had chosen a human name and with every step she took, walked deeper into the dream of the Earth. She fell in love, just as their father had, and made the choice not to wake. Even when she died screaming, calling him in her mind, begging for his aid, she couldn’t leave the dream she had slowly drowned in.

And so he became the Caretaker of what was left of her – her bones and her beloved. His old name, never fit for human lips, was discarded along with his wandering ways. A ship cannot sail when the star it steers by is snuffed out.

Her soul still sang to him in certain dreams, and so the Caretaker set the course which was half a plan but mostly hope. He dreamed up a handful of pills; each a token buying entry to a grieving brother’s nightmare. If a human had damned her, then perhaps a human could save her just the same.

A hundred mortals walked the path to the house or mansion or twisting maze in the forest. The furnishings came from their own minds, but this much was constant – Miranda, the victim of a murder; the token she wore about her neck, lost and then regained; and always, always, the human would be a butcher:

The Catholic girl, as she had been before she would swallow or inject anything to beat the memories back for a few days, had said a Latin prayer and reburied Miranda with a cross at her head. When she awoke, the old priest who had haunted her every sober moment for a decade lay dead in a shallow grave.

         In her sleep, Miranda stirred for the first time.

One man had tried to ease the pain of a failing marriage with whatever tablets he could find. He had chosen vengeance, and even as he tried to kill the evils of the past, his hands closed around his wife’s throat.

         Miranda’s lips mouthed a handful of words as she tossed in an unkind dream.

Only two teenagers had got their hands on the Minotaur pills, and they were siblings in every way that mattered. One of them was the first to stay with Miranda’s beloved Joseph. The other solved the mystery and set the house aflame.

They and their parents dies in their sleep. Smoke inhalation, the coroner’s report said.

         The Caretaker brushed a tear from his sleeping sister’s cheek. One day, she would wake.