I had a nightmare last night. I’m not a chronic sufferer but I do get them, now and then. It’s hard to say you’re truly hunted until the hunter hunts you in your dreams. Until you can’t even escape in the world where the impossible is supposed to be possible.
In the dream, the four of us are together again. Benjamin, Winston, Hans and I. We’re just traipsing through the forest when we come across a clearing with a wooden pyre in the middle and my wife tied up in the middle of the pyre. Hans gestures grandly to the wooden tangle.
“In ancient times, this is where my ancestors burned witches. Observe.”
He snaps his fingers and the pyre goes up in flames, as is the nature of pyres. Soon the flames reach my wife and her screams are mingling with the smoke.
“Help me! Help me, Marcus, please! Please!”
To one side, there’s a bucket of water, so I tear past the others, knocking Benjamin to one side as I do, and lunge for the bucket. I throw the whole bucketful of water on the fire but it evaporates before it can even get close to my wife. I drop the bucket and get another, right where the other one was, but the same things happen. I must do this about fifty times before it’s too late and everything, the whole pyre and my wife’s body, has been burned to indiscriminately grey ash.
I fall to my knees to cry but before even a single tear can escape, I feel myself being picked up and thrown against an invisible obstacle. It’s the accident that crippled me happening all over again and I fall to the ground, my legs once again useless. I feel the weight of a boot on the back of my neck as my head is forced to the ground. Hans’ voice rings out from above, like a bell from a belfry.
“You would not walk through the flames, so now you will crawl through the ashes.”
And I do. I crawl, like an animal, through the dusty remains of wood and my wife. I am about halfway across before I see what I am crawling towards. The Tree Walker is standing at the other side, silent, sightless and stiller than any living thing should be. I don’t stop crawling when I see him. Rather, I crawl all the faster. The faster I get to him, the faster he can break me and my pain can end forever. The pain of knowing I’ve made mistakes and being powerless to change them. The pain of having my wife torn from my arms. The pain of knowing that the only feeling I will ever feel below my waist being the warmth of my wife’s blood on my lap as she dies before my eyes, and that even that feeling is just imagined.
I woke up to find I had fallen out of bed and crawled to my window. Or climbed out of bed and crawled. The sly bastard thinks he can trick me. He underestimates my commitment to never leaving this house. He underestimates me.