There is a reason some do not remember their dreams. That they fall at night into darkness only to awaken then again from it. A pitch, a blankness, a void where dreams once danced. Before Helzibab paid a call.
He hunched now in his cavernous hollow, the stone walls blooming orange in the light of the crackling fire, teetering on his aging legs, the many years of his labour a cloak now for his withered frame. Still, he mixed his potion with care, the blood and oil swirling, entwining, until the liquid formed a single mass. For a single goal. Tonight, like every night since he fell, Helzibab voyaged into the dreams of man and stole them for his master.
Helzibab took the metal bowl and set it beside the fire. Scraping then at the hot coals, he delicately placed the vessel amidst the flames, the embers like claws grasping at its prize. He watched the liquid slowly begin to bubble, scratching absently at the withered stumps on his back as he coughed at the vapour that circled around him. Lifting his wizened hand, he dug into the back of his eyeballs and plucked them one by one from their gaping home – the optic nerves dangling in his fingers as he placed each sphere into the sizzling broth, and sliding the flaccid skin over his empty sockets, released his mind to the night.
He was no old man in dreamtime, in the silky strands of sleep, he was instead a monster. Slipping into the hidden halls of the subconscious, he feasted on that which took shelter there. Memories, hopes, the last possibility of salvation. Ever since the fall of angels, their meddling and their malevolence, humankind had lost nearly all connection with its creator. Year on year becoming less, believing less, living less like the divine creatures they once were. Yet in dreams there held a possibility, the final thread, the last hope of return. A liminal space where God had one final chance to save his children from the reaches of darkness. But thread is easily cut, not even the realm of dreamtime safe from the teeth of perdition.
Helzibab could feel his teeth now, the blades not as they once were, slowing with each bite. He could only extinguish so many each night. Devouring the dreams of his victims, he felt each yearning, each memory, the light of hope as it shone its final rays too much for eyes that slowly regenerated as he destroyed. Until he was forced to take his leave and return to the depths, to his master.
“You have done well this night, Helzibab.”
Helzibab could only nod, his eyes weeping in the amber glow of the chamber.
“Thank you, my Lord. We advance always, slowly but surely.”
“Indeed. One day they will all awaken and realise, the gates of Hell are but a blink away.”
Helzibab bowed his head as low as his weary shoulders would carry, and, dragging his tired legs behind him, made his way back to prepare once more for the night.
I woke with a start, my breath quick as I sat up sharply in bed, hands clammy on the cold sheets.
“Hey,” a sleepy voice drifted over from the other side of the bed, “you ok?”
“Yeah, sorry.” I ran my fingers through my hair, trying to place the feeling that sat heavy on my chest, the shadow that lingered. “I must have been dreaming.”
“Oh yeah, anything good?” Arms reached over and found their home around my waist.
“I, um. I dunno. I can’t seem to remember it.”
“Weird, I never remember mine, but you always remember your dreams, no? Maybe it will come back to you.” A nose nuzzled softly into my side, arms pulling me back under the blankets.
“Yeah, strange. I’m sure it will come back.”
Claire Loader was born in New Zealand and spent several years in China before moving to County Galway, Ireland. A photographer and writer, she was a recent winner in the Women Speak poetry competition and blogs at www.allthefallingstones.com. Her work has appeared in various publications, including The Sirens Call, Massacre Magazine and Dark Moon Digest.