Aspen and the Dream WalkersCaroline Swart / Fantasy / Romance & Love
Aspen and the Dream Walkers
Copyright ? 2013 by Caroline Swart
Pam Berehulke, Bulletproof Editing
Second Edition, Revised, September 2014
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
Aspen stared at the startling lime-green grass that covered the wide field. White daisies were scattered about, breaking up the expanse of green, and wisps of puffy clouds floated high in the pale lemon-colored sky.
"Where am I?" she whispered, but she couldn't remember a thing. Her fingertips were cool on her forehead as she reached up to soothe the dull throbbing between her eyes.
Birds chirped as a hot breeze caressed her arms. Enjoying the summery countryside, she breathed in the fresh smell of grass and watched colorful butterflies flit from flower to flower.
Soon she began to walk, and her waist-length hair brushed against her arms while soft blades of grass tickled her bare feet.
A grouping of enormous weeping willow trees stood in her path, and she stopped to admire their graceful branches. Water burbled over smooth pebbles in a small stream that ran peacefully between them.
Aspen knelt down, and her reflection stared back at her from the water. Long blond hair framed her thin face, and an old-fashioned cotton sundress hugged her body. Her lips were full and soft, and pale blue eyes peered back at her in the heat of the day.
The water looked inviting, so she stepped into its coolness, enjoying the gentle current that spilled over her toes and swirled around her ankles. She dipped her hands into the sparkling water and touched the multicolored stones that lined the riverbed.
"I know I've been here before," she murmured. "If only I could remember." It hurt to think, and she splashed icy water on her forehead to ease the pain.
As she watched, the water became murky. The clear stream darkened, and she looked up to see the sky transform slowly from lemon to lavender and then to a dark purple. A blast of cool air replaced the warm breeze and she shivered. The sleeveless sundress she wore didn't offer any protection against the cold, and a rash of gooseflesh prickled her arms.
She heard an odd high-pitched sound behind her and spun around. Her eyes widened and she screamed in absolute terror.
Hundreds of spiders crawled out of the pliable bark of the willow trees, tumbling toward her in a mass of hairy legs and beady eyes. Differing in size and color, they headed straight for her on scuttling legs. With a shudder of revulsion, she screamed as loudly as she could.
More spiders poured out of the surrounding trees and crawled over one another in clumps. They spun out in a wave, pouring over the small stones and grass in their hurry to reach her.
There was only one escape. She had to turn back and cross the stream to get away from them. The little brook that, until a moment ago, was tranquil and calm had become a raging torrent. As she splashed through the water, it dragged at her skirt, and she struggled to keep from being swept away.
Hundreds of spiders crawled toward her and, undeterred, sprang across the water to cling to her clothing. She spun in a circle and beat at her dress, trying to brush them away, but there were too many of them. The current tugged at her thighs and she couldn't escape.
Black eyes gleamed hungrily at her, and she screamed hysterically as the spiders' hairy legs skittered quickly up her body and toward her face.
- - -
"Aspen, Aspen, wake up."
Her mother shook her shoulders as she spoke softly to her. "It's just a dream, honey. You're all right."
With a sob, Aspen wrapped her arms around her mother. "Get them off me, get them off!"
"Get what off, sweetie?"
She lifted her head and risked a quick glance at her thighs. Her white quilt was the only thing that covered her legs.
"Where are the spiders?" she wailed.
"There aren't any spiders, honey. You had a bad dream."
After gulping back a final sob, Aspen wiped at her tearstained face. "Are you sure?" She peered down at the bottom of the bed.
"Absolutely sure, now lie down and go back to sleep. You've just had a very nasty dream. It's over, don't think about it anymore."
Reluctantly, she released her grip on her mother's shoulders and leaned back on the bed. She glanced at her legs again in fear. Her mother fluffed the pillow before her head sank back into it. The quilt fitted snugly under her chin as she tugged on it.
"Norma, what's taking so long?" Stephan, her stepfather, shouted down the hall. "I don't want you keeping me awake. Some of us have to get up and work in the morning, you know."
She winced and glanced up at her mother. He was very strict, and Aspen didn't want to upset him.
"Don't worry about him," her mom said softly. "He's being ridiculous. If Miriam were having a nightmare, he'd make me spend the whole night in her room."
Aspen gave her mother a wan smile. Miriam was Stephan's real daughter, and he spoiled her and would do anything for her. He treated Aspen like an intruder, but Miriam could do nothing wrong.
Her mom pressed something small and cold into her hand. "Here, it's a kinetic flashlight. Shake it, it charges automatically. Switch it on if you're scared. I hope the bulb won't fuse, but it doesn't use batteries so you shouldn't be able to break it," she teased.
Reaching out for the plastic flashlight, Aspen gave her mother a grateful smile. For as long as she could remember, whenever she touched something electronic, it exploded or fused, and the flashlight was just what she needed now. She slid the small device neatly under her pillow.
"Thank you, Mom. And thanks for waking me. I think you'd better go back to bed before Stephan gets too mad."
Her mother rolled her eyes and sighed. "I know. Good night, sweetie. I love you."
Quickly, her mom placed a kiss on her forehead and rose from the bed. She switched off the light and pushed the door slightly ajar behind her as she left.
Aspen ducked her head under the quilt, then grabbed the blue flashlight and clicked on the power button, grateful for the faint glow. She held on to it and watched her breath move tiny dust particles past the bulb. The flashlight was still clutched firmly in her hand as she fell asleep.