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Try as she might sleep finally stole her away from the world. She was a self-enforced insomniac, using as many methods as possible to reduce the amount she slept, much preferring her waking thoughts to those she battled within the darkness of slumber.
When her eyes opened she surveyed her surrounding as she always did, everything was as it was before she had fallen asleep, including the discarded socks on the floor and her kindle by her side having fallen from her hand as she dozed off. The signs were good. She’d slept and she’d woken, this would be a good day.
It was when she decided to sit up that she realised things were not as they seemed. She could move but everything was in slow motion, her limbs were heavy and one simple movement enveloped her in a lethargy that reduced her to complete stillness once again.
In the waking world, she could not move at all, her body paralysed as her mind wandered through a world she could not save herself from, she knew she was at the mercy of the world that lurked beneath the surface of dreams and she was terrified. The terror was such that she screamed, in the waking world the scream rang out, with no one to hear it as she slept alone. In the dream world her mouth opened but no sound escaped, she could not run, she could not scream and she could not wake. All she could do was wait, and hope he would not visit.
Visit he did though. Ripples moved through the atmosphere when she arrived and called him to her. Sometimes he couldn’t go to her, and this was always most regretful. When he could go though, what fun they had. She was his longest-serving visitor, stupid as she was to think these nightmares, never figuring out that she walked between two worlds and that understanding that would be the key to changing her experiences.
She was brighter as a child, which irks him. He enjoys the level of control he has over her visits now but he can’t deny the challenge her younger self presented in the face of such a fearful place, that she knew to be real, was exhilarating. Yes, she had once figured out that she was a walker, one that straddled her own world and his. She had understood that the things she saw were real, and she was prepared to fight them.
As she grew older she let the ignorance of her world wash over her, falling into the belief of nightmares. She tried all the advice offered to her in preventing them, and when nothing seemed to ease her troubled sleep she resorted to sleeping less and less. Foolishly not realising this made her even more susceptible to visiting his world, so now he got to torment her even more than before, and it was delicious, but in many ways far too easy.
This time she did not need to open her eyes to know she was trapped in the dark dream because she could feel him, as she always could. Deeply malevolent as he was his aura surrounded her, suffocating her as she breathed him in, the dark, smoky tendrils of his being seeming to flow into her, wrapping around her, body and soul, gripping, squeezing, that unrelenting evil taking hold.
He has no face, in fact, he has no discernable features at all. Which if anything made him all the more frightful. His tall, broad frame resembled that of an adult human male, his voice, soundless except for when it crept unbidden into her mind, low and menacing. Looking at him is like looking into the darkest of nights, with all the stars and light sources sucked from existence. At his core, there seems to be a black hole of despair and destruction, it emanates from him resulting in the wispy outer edges of his being. It is those wisps that move into her and lock her into the darkness she has become so afraid of.
There are a few scenarios which he can trap her in, his favourite though has to be when she is immobilised in the same surroundings she fell asleep in. Everything is so familiar and comforting, that lulling her into a false sense of security is easy, then he watches as she tries to move. Weighing her limbs down he laughs inwardly as she realises horror-struck that it is happening again. When the effort used for one small movement forces her to give in to the intense lethargy he summons inside of her, he moves to the foot of her bed, ready to greet her when she wakes.
For most people, he morphs into something else, something more familiar from their world. Humans, even the walkers, who have seen darker worlds than their own, are incredibly narrow-minded when it comes to what frightens them. This one though responds quite favourably to his true self, which is perhaps what makes her his favourite.
He pins her down, wisps of his shadowlike edges weighing heavily upon her chest. When she wakes in the real world she will move her hand to her breast, gasping for air, tears streaming down her face, fear gripping her as she tries to compose herself. Friends, family and even lovers will comfort her with words of her vivid imagination and how she is safe in her bed. They are wrong and somewhere inside she knows it, but they convince her it is not real, that he is not real and they make it even easier for him to stalk her as she walks between the worlds.
When she wakes in his world though she will see him and within him every soul-destroying thought and feeling she has ever had. He will remind her in one visit of every sadness she has experienced, every loss she has felt and the sorrow and fear he elicits in her will feed him in a way no other walker can. She doesn’t realise how strong she has made him, he has grown and evolved alongside her, as her fear nourished him, especially on those days where she carried thoughts of him into the waking world. The strength he drew from those days was incredible.
She hears a muffled scream in the distance and in her desperation to find the source her mind begins to connect the dots and she realises the sound is coming from her own mouth. With this, she fights her way back to the surface of her real world self, the last lingering moments of her scream echoing in her own mind as she searches impatiently for the lamp, needing the light to cast away the last shreds of him she can feel still clutching to her. The rest of the night will be spent with the lamp on, dozing fitfully as she fights the deep sleep where he can find her. She can still feel him though, his residue clings to her skin, his image etched onto her eyelids.
They all tell her he’s not real. Even lovers who have tried and failed to wake her when she is in his presence. Lovers who have seen her in the grip of terror as she wakes, crossing from one world to other, breathless, tired, confused. She agrees with them all, of course, it is just a terrible nightmare, created by her own imagination. Except …
She remembers being a child, she remembers how his awful laughter rang out as she declared defiantly that she knew what he was. Despite all her fear, she fled from him, hid from him, discovered as she did so all the awful secrets of his world and as terrifying as he is, he is not the worst thing she has seen and she cannot venture into the depths of the darkness again. She knows deep down she is a walker, but the cost of walking in two worlds might be her sanity.