He looked at the old oak tree and realized immediately that he was dreaming. Those days were gone and would never be back except to haunt him in the nights.
He smiled and looked the tree briefly up and down. It had a thick, twisted trunk, covered with faint scars after being the subject of quite a bit of scythe-training in the past. The thicket of emerald green leaves at its top told him it was summer.
Rob had told him long ago that dreams were only his brain spitting out incoherent jumbles of his subconscious thoughts while keeping him drugged enough not to question what he saw, but now the drugging had not entirely succeeded, and with his faint consciousness he smiled at this.
He looked around, seeing only the plains and the looming forest of Ruxido. There were no Scyther and no prey. Apparently this was a lonely dream.
When he had lonely dreams, they were usually set in Rob’s gym, often with the moon unrealistically large outside the window, the city replaced by the infinity of stars and the battle arena enlarged so that it seemed to stretch almost endlessly into the shadows on both sides. There would be no door on the opposite side leading to the welcoming, warm back room where Rob would always be there to comfort him with a few cans of beer. There would only be him, the arena, the window and the moonlight shining brightly off his scythes. And he would feel the terrible, nagging, biting guilt that drove his scythe ever closer to his quivering neck, cut it and then left everything to fade away into sweet, hazy nothingness.
But worse were the other lonely dreams, set right there under that tree. Dreams just like this one, where the Scyther were gone from the plains and all that was left was him, alone to think about his crimes against everything they stood for.
He eyed a yellowed leaf floating slowly to the ground out of the corner of his eye. He turned sharply, only to find the tree shedding its leaves by the second as the grass around him paled and dried; in a matter of seconds it was autumn.
And with autumn came the one who never appeared but in the very worst dreams, those that would make him wake up and immediately put his scythe to his throat, nearly needing more reassurance not to try to end it all than to.
With the cool northern wind she came, seeming to materialize from nothing; indeed, it was as if she was the wind, quick, beautiful, sharp, powerful, but oh, so biting cold. One moment it was the wind blowing on his face and gnawing at his armor, and the next it was her scythe striking him down and the icy breathing that seemed to freeze the inside of his nostrils as she exhaled. For she was not a living being of warmth, but dead; there was naught left of her but his fading memory, her real, physical form long having been lost forever. No, the Scizor that still lived was a fake, a mere shadow of what had once been truly the most perfect Scyther that had ever and would ever live.
His faded awareness was in no state to deny the will of the subconscious. He closed his eyes, felt the needles of ice make his breathing increasingly difficult and prayed that the dream would never end. To feel her so close to him, her body touching his, her breathing on his face – what did it in the end matter if she was only close so that she could hold him down, only touching him in order to draw his blood, only breathing to torture him, suffocate him, slow down his death?
For he was as much a servant as anyone to the fundamental instinct of life, that pathetic, uncontrollable need that those afflicted by it so persistently referred to as love.
“Nightmare,” he whispered, and when he opened his eyes they were standing opposite one another in soft snowfall, hardly shielded by the bare branches of the tree.
“What is it?” she replied calmly, sparing him a short look of disinterest.
He looked at her and chuckled. “I’m conscious. I know this is all in my head. I know you’re in my head. I know I can manipulate you just by wanting it.”
She looked at him again out of the corner of her eye.
She never seemed to look straight at him; it was always through a sideways glance, always only momentary before flicking her pupils off to something else. He was never worthy of her undivided attention.
“I can bend you to my will, make you do whatever I please…”
And he wanted it. How horribly, mindlessly, painfully he wanted it. It was, after all, what he was ultimately born into the world to do before he returned to the soil, all in the service of the immortality of his genes. But he had so many other things clouding his mind from that goal as unfortunate side effects of more evolutionarily valuable qualities that the step he took towards her in the snow now was only one.
And there he stopped and blushed, because ultimately, if he manipulated her to his will, it would not be her, and what was the purpose of it if it wasn’t her?
“Thank you,” she said softly, not even sparing him a glance this time, but keeping her gaze flickering around the snow at her feet.
He did not answer. He felt unworthy of her thanks because he had considered it, and even now he struggled with his instinct. It would not have been so difficult had this not been a dream where it seemed so irresistibly easy and harmless. She would never know. Nobody would ever know.
But what stopped him was a curious little concept that bizarrely reached far beyond reason and even beyond the abyss of desires and opportunism.
It was respect.
He could not bear the thought of manipulating even his mind’s reflection of her to do something that her real self would not.
He chuckled again in irony and wondered just what it was that made him feel that way.
“I guess I don’t have as much control over lucid dreams as I’d like to.”
All of a sudden she looked at him, straight at him, unlike she had ever done before, and she smiled. He felt his heart jump uncomfortably.
“Maybe this is just how you want the dream to be.”
He shook his head and looked down. “This is not really you. It’s me being optimistic. A whole dream and you haven’t mocked me once?”
She laughed. “What do you think you know of me, having spoken to me once as a bumbling idiot? Of course I mocked you then. You were a moron. You were begging to be mocked.”
He chuckled, shaking his head again. “Then why did you spare my life back then?”
The snow was melting under their feet, sinking into the soil to nourish the grass. The smell of spring wafted through his nostrils as she considered the question; tiny leaves began to open their buds and start their life-giving photosynthesis.
“I guess,” she finally said with one of her little sideways glances at him, just as the shadow of the fully leaved branches fell on her face, “I felt it was a shame to make you die a moron.”
He closed his eyes and laughed softly, feeling the spring breeze stroke against his face.
“I don’t regret it,” she said simply, although he could have sworn that in the shadow of the tree, he saw her smile. “You did grow up.”
The only thing he could think to respond with was a dumb smile. She laughed.
“You’re still a silly little Scyther,” she said, looking straight at him for the second time. “But I think if we met today, I might actually like you.”
And with those words, the soft wind swept her away as quickly as she had come. He looked around the grassy plains as he had done at the beginning and again saw no life, but this time felt no dreading of nightmare.
It was a good dream.
He sat down with his back to the tree of his childhood, closed his eyes and let his consciousness leave his imaginary self.
A wonderful, wonderful dream.
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