In a region of the country where dreams walk and nightmares are not confined to the dark its dangerous to let your mind wander. This is especially true if you are one whose thoughts have a way of getting loose.
Addni remained motionless as his ears searched for signs of his pursuer. He could hear them. There was more than one. The scales sliding on concrete betrayed their master. Addni recognized the sound with ease, he had heard it many times before. He hated snakes.
He twisted around at the same time as he withdrew his katana and wakizashi pair from their sheaths at his sides. In a flash of steel there was death for a serpent. Fangs the size of his forearm dripped a black venom from the decapitated head and it sizzled as it hit the ground. The second snake coiled its length and lunged at him. With a swiftness that should be impossible for a creature that large it bridged the distance and was upon him. Addni twirled and both of his blades drank the serpent's blood as they pierced it and shredded it lengthwise. The creature seized as it lost control of its muscles and writhed around in spasmodic horror.
Addni walked away from the corpses with a calmness that screamed. Scavengers would claim them soon. He still had a mission to fulfill. He popped a pill that should help and continued though the urban wasteland.
A dozen little white creatures that were no more than a big jaw with teeth balanced on tiny feet raced down the other side of the street. Those looked weird, not one of his nightmares, they must be someone else's that got loose. Not his problem.
Anything loose on the streets was no one's problem. Unless they came after you. Then it became your problem. Most people never risked the streets even in the daylight. They lived in fortress like skyscrapers that had security teams to keep nightmares out. They were self contained in their homes. Addni thought of them as voluntary prisoners. It was better to live with some risk than to live in a cage, no matter how soft the cage was.
There were people that lived outside of the protection of the skyscrapers. They were just as dangerous as the nightmares they created sometimes. Everyone accidentally let out a little nightmare every once in a while. Taking pills to prevent your mind from wandering helped a little when you were outside. The pills were not effective for long on Addni but they helped a bit.
Addni wondered where he was headed again. He had a tracking device that told him where to go. His destination was on the outskirts of Old Gothic, a section of the city long abandoned by the majority. It was filled with relics of the old religion. The empty cathedrals were bastions of faith until the massed people gathered in them seeking sanctuary from their own demons became the victims of their own imaginations. Now this area was a left over husk, waiting to decompose. It was also crawling with infestation.
Before entering this area Addni closed his eyes and repeated his meditation ritual. He sought inner peace on a daily basis. His nerves tingled and renewed calmness spread over his body. He let his senses open wide to the world around him. He swept away the intruding thoughts that threatened him and looked for the quiet place within himself. Within himself he recognized a disturbance from without. He opened his eyes and looked at a burned out post office down the street. He knew something was there. Best not to disturb it. Postal workers had a reputation for some pretty hardcore personalities and it was safer to leave whatever lingered there alone.
He walked down another street, this one the buildings were not so tall but the street was narrower. A whiff of something rotten tugged at his nose. Addni had experience with most of the common forms of nightmare created by mankind. It was if men had a limited imagination and they kept dreaming up the same things, or maybe it was just our culture that taught everyone to be afraid of the same fears. This was no exception. He smelled the undead.
The undead appeared in a graveyard across from a church. It was very stereotypical. The walking corpses had the slow, awkward gait of a Romero inspired zombie movie. Addni hardly understood why these were the source of nightmares for so many people. He could walk through them without effort, with only an occasional need to sever a head when one got too close. He passed through untroubled and left a dozen dead-again corpses for the others to feed on. With zombies it was necessary to decapitate them, or cause some other severe trauma to the head. It was the best way to make sure they stayed down.
A thought entered his mind, he thought it would be funny if some crows pecked out the eyes of the shambling zombies he passed. He didn't notice how long he let his mind wander on the idea until he actually heard the cawing cry of a crow. Addni shook himself out of his reverie and focused on the present. The pill he took earlier had already worn off. The pills were practically worthless now, they had such little effect. His mind was undisciplined and he had trouble staying centered. Addni concentrated on his breathing, taking a slow breath and feeling himself steady. This was a problem that would one day lead to his death if he could not control his mind. The only time he didn't have a problem was when he was practicing his martial arts. And many of the times he was forced to practice was because he had slipped and some manifestation of his unconscious was on the loose.
Not all manifestations were bad, but it was the nature of things that most of them were. Neutral daydreams were sometimes made true, but positive dreams just didn't have the raw energy behind them that made them into life. It happened but it was very rare. Some people contained more energy than others and had a higher tendency to have their thoughts come alive. Addni was one such person.
.... There is more of this story ...