Strange Tales of Aeran: Mad Man's Dreamings

Eventually The Figure was forced to sleep. Despite his drive that could only get one so far before the body required sleep lest madness sink in its claws and never let go. Especially in a place like this. Lacking any true indication of time the only system was a rudimentary, solar phase device. A long strip of clockwork device that had a miniature facsimile of a sun and moon that moved across the long device. Lunar cycles weren’t taken into account as it was impossible to tell here without returning to the normal world and tracking them, complicating the device even more.

Before lying down he’d instructed his assistants to begin working on an improved lantern design. And he turned in, sleep taking him almost immediately. The night's rest was seemingly going to be like every night's dreams. A void of nightmare filled with the same darkness that greeted him in the waking world. A sleep of being caught between hypnagogic and hypnopompic states. But tonight was different. As The Figure floated in the liminal space of his dream he felt something strange. Warmth hitting his face, and a sharply stinging light against his eyelids. Then he felt a soft warm hand brush his cheek. A voice started to speak his name but all The Figure heard was a sound akin to the white noise of waves crashing the shore in a storm. His eyes shot open when he realised the source of the voice. The Figure blinked against the harsh rays of light beaming through the window. Finally adjusting to the light he saw a pair of large brown eyes looking at him through bigger round glasses. She spoke again the same static when she spoke his name “you need to get up, we have work to do.”

Confused, The Figure reached out towards her, seeing not his gloved hand but skin. In a panic he touched his face. His helmet was missing. His hands touched his long hair.

“Dear…” Theodosia said concerned “Is something wrong?” She came to the side of the bed and kneeled slightly. “Are you running a fever?”

“No…” The Figure said, sitting up. “I just had a bad dream…it felt like it went on forever.” he said, “Don’t worry about it.” he said, kissing her forehead. “You said it yourself, we have a lot of work to do.”

The Figure got out of bed and stood moving his toes against the hardwood floor, a feeling once taken for granted and a fact of life now almost alien against his bare skin.

Theodosia stood near the door watching his strange behaviour, pushing her glasses up her nose with her middle finger tilting her head slightly. “Dear, are you certain you are feeling up to this today?” she asked, “One more day of rest won’t hurt, the dig site isn’t going anywhere.”

The Figure nodded. “I’m certain, I…as strange as this sounds I want to be positive I am awake.” he said as he dressed. “I felt like I was under for…well ever.” he said knowing it sounded crazy as he said it.

He walked over to the door to meet her, grabbing a mask from a hook near the door, made of a hard leather that covered the lower part of his face with holes sealed with woven wool filters, before putting his mask on The Figure gently grabbed her by the chin with his thumb and pointer and kissed her. Dream or Reality he wouldn’t miss this chance fate gave him. He slipped on his mask and adjusted the strap. Theodosia affixed one like it to her own face. Stepping out into a landscape of strange black rock and sand, that was far too soft to be either wholly natural or even actually rock for that matter. The pair had learned breathing the dust was painful in a way that was hard to explain or place.

The strange thing was no matter how much of this spongy slightly damp dust they moved, there always seemed to be more. Like water slowly trickling in through a hole. Theodosia knelt down and scooped a bit onto her hand. The Figure leaned on his shovel, always loving watching her at work.

Theodosia’s eyes came alight with a bright cyan glow as sparks of the same blue and yellow danced around the mass of sand in her hand until the mass of black dust began to blow a luminescent white. Beginning to reshape itself. The Figure watched as she focused her magic, tiny droplets of sweat forming on her forehead as the mass shaped itself by her will. There was then a bright flash, causing The Figure to blink, and when he opened his eyes in Theodosia’s hands lay a five centimetre by five centimetre cube of a metal that looked like a greenish tarnished copper. “I can never get over how you can just do that.” The Figure said.

When Theodosia stopped putting her focus on the cube it suddenly wiggled like jelly and burst back into the dusty sand like material. “I just wish I could make it keep its form.” she said, a bit defeated.

“Well.” The Figure started digging again. “That’s why we’re here. To make sense of all this.” he said, sinking his shovel in hitting something solid, hard enough he took a step back. “Strange. Have we run into anything before?” he asked Theodosia.

“Not that I recall, not in the pit at any rate.” She said, also moving a shovel full of sand away, her dug divot filling in almost immediately. Theodosia sighed and dug out another shovel full.

The Figure picked his shovel back up and jabbed at the new hard spot. “A rock?” he wondered. After the fifth or sixth strike against the solid surface his shovel and himself suddenly plunged forward as if nothing was there. Falling forward his chest and chin slammed against something hard, but his arms dangled free in, like they were hanging from a ledge or a cave opening. The air was still in the strange space his arms hung in but the air was cold, colder than anything he ever felt. The difference in temperature between the sandy landscape and this hole might as well have been from here to the sun. The Figure pulled himself free with a scream of pain, but once his hands were free they felt perfectly fine.

The Figure blinked, staring at his hands, Theodosia came running over looking at him panicked. “What?! What’s wrong?” she said looking at his hands.

“I…I don’t know.” The Figure said, but quickly without saying more started to dig at the spot with his hands. Finding the hard spot again and quickly uncovering the smooth black slab of mirror like rock. He could see himself and Theodosia in the jet reflection. “There was a cave here…” he said, confused, placing his hands on the stone. “I felt it. The air was colder than any ice I’ve ever felt.”

“I’m sure there is an explanation.” She said, but paused as she watched The Figures hand slip into the rock, like it was the surface of water. “Look…” but that was all The Figure heard before falling head long through the stone, falling and falling watching the doorway size rectangle of light shrink to a star sized pin prick, hitting the ground and somehow surviving The Figure looked around at the expanse of black in ever direction, but the darkness was anything but normal. But before he could get a good look around he felt a burning feeling in his lungs, like he was drowning. As he started to see stars he snapped awake. His true form floundering for air, had he taken his helmet off? Was he truly finally losing his mind? In a blind fumbling panic he managed to find and replace the helmet, with a loud hiss the seals re-engaged and he took a breath of real air.

Struggling for a moment to catch his breath and for the motes of light to stop flittering across his vision. “I need to find answers…and get out of this place…” he said, focusing on composing himself and finding what his assistants had managed to finish during his rest.

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