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Dream caster shadow, p.8
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       Dream Caster_Shadow, p.8

           Adrienne Woods

  “I’m fine.” My heart was still beating like a jackhammer.

  The sides of the hippogriff refused to open. No matter how hard Hoarse tried, they remained stuck.

  At length, the dark started fading, making way for the bright, shimmering gray.

  Natalie and St. Phillipus stood outside the hippogriff. St. Phillipus’s hands were covered with the brightest shimmering gray sand I’d ever seen, washing away the darkness on the hippogriff.

  The door sprang open and I got out. The minute I was out, the compartment’s flap closed again. In a flash, Hoarse maneuvered the hippogriff back outside the pod.

  “Don’t be an idiot,” St. Phillipus called. “Your host isn’t going to make it.”

  But Hoarse didn’t return. He was too far gone.

  “What happened?” Natalie sounded worried.

  “He went to show me another dream and then suddenly they were there. They changed the dream. I could feel all the goodness draining from it. It was horrible.” The entire experience had been so fearsome, I wanted to weep.

  Natalie wrapped her arms around me and hugged me tightly. “You’re safe now, Chas.”

  I knew I was safe, but Reeves, Spike, and now Hoarse were all down there, fighting off the Shadow Casters. What if one them died?

  And what was with that voice? Fear. I’ll consume you. I shuddered at the memory.

  St. Phillipus moved back to the bow of the pod and blew on the flute.

  I could feel his sand pouring from the pod and the light explosion when it smashed onto what I assumed were Shadow Casters.

  “I hope this answers your earlier question, Chas.”

  I knew exactly what Natalie was referring to. I nodded. Shadow Casters were cruel and mean. They chose to be dark, chose to be evil.

  “You two should strap yourself in,” St. Phillipus barked over his shoulder.

  I took a seat next to Natalie and strapped myself in. I was sure Selene was going to have an aneurism over tonight not going as planned.

  I closed my eyes and willed the rocking motion of the pod away, but nothing helped.

  I wanted to go home, I wanted my cat to be okay, I wanted my mom. But most of all, I just wanted to be normal again.

  I must have drifted off, because when I opened my eyes, I was at the lake. The lake in Russia, the lake in the boy’s dream.

  The wind was howling, and the air was so thick it was hard to breathe. It felt real.

  I looked around me, but couldn’t see anyone. Apart from the wind and the trees swaying, it was completely silent.

  I felt it then—hollow stomps on the ground. Someone was making their way toward me, but I couldn’t figure out from what direction.

  I turned around slowly just as Leigh broke through the trees.

  I was elated to see him. I hadn’t seen him in weeks. But my smile fell when I saw the shock and fear on his face.

  He was shouting, but I couldn’t hear a sound. All I saw was the movement of his lips, forming words Run, run away.

  I jolted awake, but didn’t open my eyes. My heart was pounding.

  Soft voices spoke around me.

  “She felt it before it happened,” whispered Hoarse. Even his whisper was deep and croaky.

  “It means nothing, Hoarse.”

  “Don’t be naïve. I swear to you, old man, she felt it before they were there. Only their kind can feel it.”

  “She has a choice.” This voice belonged to St. Phillipus.

  “It’s a crock of shit, and you know it.”

  “Mind your tongue, Hoarse,” Reeves interjected. “If St. Phillipus says the girl has a choice, then let her make that choice. Give her a fair chance.”

  “Selene will have all our heads if this comes out.”

  I opened my eyes. They were not standing within earshot anymore. Hoarse knew what I was. He knew my dark secret. He was going to tell Selene.

  Was the dream I had just had connected to this? And if it was, how did Leigh already know what was happening?

  I wasn’t going to take my chances this time. As soon as I got to my room, I was going to pack my bags and leave.

  Late that night, the pod landed in Revera. I was still in awe at how time differed between the Domain and Revera.

  Hoarse refused to look at me, though the others all acted as if nothing was amiss.

  Natalie gave them our thanks. She was far better at making things sound sincere than I was. I always spoke my mind, and though the night had been among the best damn experiences I’d had in Revera, I wouldn’t be able to lay it on as thickly as she was...

  I now understood all the little aspects of dreaming. Every dream was carefully chosen, created, and then ensured to reach the dreamer safely.andrealized it wasn’t just the person’s subconscious.

  We’d just slipped up with the last dream. It changed into a nightmare

  Hoarse left without saying a word, but Spike smiled and took my hands in hers.

  “Don’t mind him,” she muttered. “He’s just a bit shaken up. We haven’t run into something like that in a long time. Thank you, Chas.”

  I frowned. “For what?”

  “If you hadn’t sensed them, this could’ve turned out quite differently. I will always be in your debt for saving my brother tonight.”

  I nodded. I hadn’t even known they were related.

  “Goodbye, Natalie.” Spike gave her a one-armed hug. “I truly hope we see each other again.”

  “Me too,” Natalie said with meaning.

  We watched Spike as she walked away.

  “So, did you two enjoy tonight?” Reeves asked. “Well, apart from that last bit.”

  We both nodded, though my smile was flat. I couldn’t even begin to think how bad the damage was, considering the fact that Hoarse refused to look at me.

  “Come.” Reeves’ voice broke into my thoughts. “Let’s get you back home.”

  We followed him to the exit.

  “Just a sec, Reeves,” St. Phillipus said. “A word, Chastity.” His face was gentle, friendly.

  “We’ll wait for you outside,” Reeves said and took Natalie into the walkway.

  I turned to St. Phillipus and he gestured for me to sit on the seat closest to him. He sighed deeply before turning his eyes on me. His face was filled with compassion. Just looking at the kindness on his face filled my eyes with tears.

  I was so tired of hiding my secret.

  “How long have you known about your dark sand?” Well, he sure didn’t beat around the bush.

  “Since the night of the attack,” I lied.

  “You know you can always choose, Chas. Dark or light. The dominant one will always be present.”

  I nodded again.

  “Can you even see color?”

  I shook my head.

  “How do you get by?” An encouraging smile.

  “My cat.” I sniffed and wiped at the tear that ran down my cheek. “He’s my Anitule. He was always close by and hopefully he always will be.”

  St. Phillipus cocked his head to the left. His brow furrowed. “You’re a Tula?”

  I nodded.

  He laughed under his breath. “You really are a remarkable young lady. Chastity, you need to remember you have a choice. You don’t need to be dark.”

  He winked at me as I got up and walked to the door.

  “May I ask you something?” I asked just as I reached the door. St. Phillipus nodded, so I forged ahead. “Why I could feel it?”

  He stared at the still-whirling gears on the wall for a moment before looking back at me.

  “It seems your darkness somehow senses its own kind, and your light acts, guiding you before it’s too late. I’m sorry for Hoarse’s behavior. He has been in a very similar situation than this one before, Chas, and he ignored it. The consequences were severe for him. I hope you understand where he is coming from.”

  I nodded, even though I didn’t quite understand.

  “He won’t tell Selene, though, I can promise you that.” He smi
led. “Now, run along.”

  “Thank you. It was really nice meeting you.”

  “Likewise.” He nodded once and I exited.

  I found Reeves and Natalie around the corner. Reeves winked, and though Natalie still radiated with excitement, I could see she was exhausted.

  “Have a great night?” she asked as she hooked her arm in mine.

  “Funnily enough, I did, even the last part. Casting dreams is fun and extremely dangerous.”

  She laughed. “I told you, everyone wants to be a Dream Caster, but only the best do.”

  The corner of my lips tugged upward. I was beat. I could barely keep my eyes open.

  The minute we stepped inside the control room, Cassy embraced us.

  “I was so worried.” Her voice was high, like she was still a ball of nerves. She pushed us both away and held us at arm’s length to take a good look at us, then pulled us in for another hug.

  “Relax, they’re fine. We know how to take care of our cargo,” Reeves joked.

  She slapped him hard on the shoulder, each slap punctuating her words. “They. Are. Not. Cargo. How are the transporters?”

  “Barely made it. Hoarse and Spike are going to have a hard time fixing them up. We might have to take a few nights off. Do you think you’ll be able to manage?”

  “Not like I have a choice.” She turned back to me and Natalie. “Well.” She smiled. “At least the two of you are safe.”

  “Just the two of them?” Reeves ask with mock hurt, but I could hear the teasing in his tone.

  “Fine, you too,” she said with a hint of sarcasm.

  “Good,” St. Phillipus walked in. “Just the woman I need to see. Enjoy the rest of your evening, girls.”

  “I’m going to hurt a pillow,” Natalie said as we waved goodbye to Cassy and St. Phillipus.

  The look on his face wasn’t one of pity; it was a look telling me to make the right choice.

  On the drive back to school, I tried to fall asleep, but my mind was too preoccupied for that to happen.

  I needed to pack. I’d have to leave Natalie behind and possibly Mr. Grey too.

  It wasn’t going to be easy, but Leigh had never steered me wrong before.

  What did he know? What had he found out?

  If only my nerves would allow me to fall asleep, perhaps I would dream of him again and get some answers.

  I was exhausted. Would it be safe to get one good night’s rest in before I left? Maybe tonight, Leigh would tell me in detail why he was so worried, why he wanted me to run, and where he wanted me to go.

  Leigh didn’t show up. I was too tired and I slept a dreamless sleep. I hadn’t told Natalie the reason why I had been able to detect the Shadow Casters. I’d already burdened her with so many things, and I didn’t want to place even more on her shoulders. When I found her chatting with Lisa and Jessica in an excited ramble, I knew I’d made the right decision by not telling her. I didn’t want to detract from her good mood.

  I started to pack. I’d decided to give Mr. Grey until noon to get back. I didn’t want to leave him here, but I needed to run away like Leigh had admonished me. Mr. Grey had been gone for three weeks, and part of me was telling me I was holding out hope for no reason.

  A knock on my door made me jump. I quickly stashed my bag in my closet before I swung open the door and looked straight into Mrs. Irwin’s crow-like face.

  She gave me a warm smile. “Sorry to bother you, Chas, but you have a visitor downstairs.” She didn’t say who it was. My heart flipped in my chest.

  It’s not Selene. She is nobody’s visitor and she doesn’t sneak up on a person. Besides, Mrs. Irwin would’ve said Selene is here to see you.

  I chanted that to myself as I went down the stairs.

  It’s not Selene. It’s not Selene.



  “Chastity,” Dianne greeted me below. It wasn’t Selene, but her right-hand woman. Dianne gave me her most dazzling smile. Everything in my gut told me I should run.

  But if I did… where the hell was I going to go?

  So, I smiled instead and greeted her back.

  “Selene wanted a quick word with you and Natalie about last night’s Dream Casting. She’s livid that you were attacked by Shadow Casters, and she’d like to hear the about it from the two of you as well.” She smiled again.

  Just then, Natalie bounded into the living room. “Oh hi, Dianne,” she greeted her, last night’s enthusiasm still radiating off her. She immediately jumped into storytelling mode and rambled Dianne’s ears off about last night’s events.

  “And that is exactly why I am here,” she said when Natalie came to the part involving the Shadow Casters. “Mrs. Irwin, do you mind if I steal the girls for a few hours?” she asked.

  “Not at all.” Mrs. Irwin smiled warmly. We followed Dianne into the broom closet, which I knew wouldn’t be a broom closet at this very moment, but a doorway straight to Selene’s quarters.

  The bright light at the back of the closet highlighted the outlines of Selene’s furniture. As we stepped through, the swirling of light lasted a bit longer when we entered her apartment.

  The scent of warm chocolate filled my nostrils and I saw Dianne holding a cup of cocoa in front of my face.

  She smiled as she handed each of us a cup.

  “Come,” Selene said. She was standing in front of a houseplant, watering it. “Sit down. Let’s get to why you’re here so you girls can go and enjoy the rest of your weekend.”

  I settled next to Natalie on the six-seater sofa as she started babbling away again. I was genuinely impressed that Selene could keep up with her rambling and equally impressed that Natalie didn’t spill the beans about me being the one who had detected the Shadow Casters.

  “And that was our night.” She sighed and fell back into her chair. “It was an amazing experience I’ll never forget. I desperately want to become a Dream Caster.”

  “Then work hard on those grades, Natalie, and you will succeed.” Selene poured herself a cup of tea from the teapot on the spindly table next to her, then settled her gaze on me. “You’re exceptionally quiet today, Chastity. Is there anything you’d like to add? It must have been nerve-wracking when the Shadow Casters showed up like that.”

  “It was,” I said. “But then again, I am used to them just popping up.”

  She pursed her lips before she realized what I meant.

  Ever since I found out what I was, the Shadow Casters had been part of my experience in Revera, just as much as they had been a part of who I was.

  “You are right,” Selene finally said. “Natalie hasn’t dealt with them as much as you have.”

  She sounded sincere, but I pictured Leigh in my mind’s eye, urging me to run.

  “I guess that is that.” Selene smiled. “Chastity, would you mind staying just a bit longer? There’s a small matter I’d like to discuss with you.”

  I nodded as Natalie rose and left with Dianne through the same doorway we had entered through.

  For some reason, the air around me became stale. Without Mr. Grey around to tell me the colors around me, I knew I was taking a big risk. What if Selene asked me what color something was?

  “Would you like another cup of cocoa?”

  I shook my head. “No, thank you.”

  She put her empty teacup on the tray next to her and folded her hands.

  She knows, she knows, she knows. Calm down, Chas. Deep breaths.

  My heart started to calm as Selene simply stared at me.

  Then, she finally cleared her throat. “I don’t know how to put this delicately, or even if there is a way to put something like this in a delicate way,” she spoke in a serious tone.

  “I spoke with Margot right before she left for the Outer, and...” She seemed to be searching for words. She knows.

  “She told me about you and Leigh.”

  It felt as if someone had punctured my lung. I deflated like a balloon. Fi
nding out about Leigh was better than her finding out about my dark sand. Still, I kept myself as collected as possible.

  “What did she say?” It sounded like the correct thing to ask, even though I was certain I knew what Margot had told her. She didn’t like that Leigh and I were so close. She secretly had a thing for him, and he didn’t feel the same way and now… she was jealous.

  “That you and Leigh became quite close. That you were concerned about his welfare.”

  “I see.” I nodded.

  “I’m going to ask you once, Chas, and I would like a truthful answer. How deep are your feelings for Leigh?”

  I thought on her words. I couldn’t imagine life without him.

  “I see,” Selene said and got up. “Sometimes, silence is best answer you can give. I’m so sorry you also have to go through this.”

  “Through what?”

  “Have you ever wondered why Margot is so infatuated with Leigh, why she struggles just with the mere thought that he likes you? The similarities between the two of you… Well, I used to have dark hair when I was younger. The blonde came after we couldn’t go back. I wanted to bring Leigh with me so badly but he wouldn’t have made it. He just wasn’t special like Darius, Magdalena, and me. So I had to let him go. It was the hardest thing I had ever done.” Her eyes were soft. “Do you get what I’m trying to tell you, Chastity?”

  I did, but I didn’t want to say it out loud.

  “Leigh isn’t real. He is a figment of my imagination. A stupid girl who couldn’t let go of the guy she was supposed to be with forever.”

  “He was yours?” I barely managed to get the words out.

  Selene nodded, gazing out the window. “And then Margot came and Leigh was crazy about her. I only found out months later—when she almost lost her life—that she’d spent so much time in the Virtual Realm. We can never be part of his world, Chas. The Virtual Realm is not compatible with our bodies long-term. I had to reboot him again and make him forget about Margot. I programmed it so he believed he’d never liked her. It broke her heart, but without Leigh’s affection, I guess it was a wakeup call, a cruel one, but she’s alive because of it. Leigh will be getting another reboot soon.”

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