Chapter 1 What drives people's dreams? What kind of demented subconscious would position itself in a situation where escape is impossible and where its doom is inevitable? Where the escape is a ladder, always winding up, always to the top, black and oily with the blood of past selves, other people in other dreams that didn't make it to the top, that didn't make it to salvation. You always find yourself in one such ladder, a grotesque imagining of your own inner thoughts, come to life in the nightmares that haunt your sleep. You find yourself there and you know, without even looking down, to the black pits from where the ladder sprawled, that a monster is coming up, an abomination of lost hopes unachieved dreams and past mistakes, kept alive in the deepest recesses of your psyche, alive and forgotten. Until you dream that is. You always run, climbing the ladder, your eyes an amalgam of tears and fear, your ears refusing to believe the inhumane, terrible noises the beast makes as it climbs along with you, trying to get to you, trying to devour you, to crush and pound you, to feast on your bones and scatter your life's juice to the floor along with that of those that came before you, your other mistakes, your other selves. Most perish on the way to the top. Some are not so fortunate. My therapist used to say, that nightmares are a cathartic of the soul, a way for the subconscious to let off steam and re-boot itself. That's why there's no release in nightmares. That's why you have to suffer in them. That's why you have to lose hope as you get to the top and find no way out, a few meters above the ground or a few million. Differs from man to man. It's the fall that comes after that brings you peace. It's the experience of death that delivers you. Either by the beast that you hide deep inside or by the fall to the rocks below. You experience the hopelessness and the inevitability of death in your sleep in order to come to terms with it, in order to function in your waking hours. You have to die. Every human alive or dead has at some point in their lives experienced such a nightmare. Every human in their lives have at least once felt their flesh rendered by the beast or their bones crushed by the impact to the ground and woke up in their beds, hearts racing, sweat dripping from every pore in their bodies. Every man but me. It's what baffled my therapist the most. I too have found myself on that ladder, i too have reached the top of the structure in which it resides. And i too have jumped off of it, searching for my release, for my deliverance. Only i never fall. Instead of plummeting to the ground, i find myself lifted up, towards the black swirling fog that you'd hate to call a sky. Up and up till the structure that i tried to fall from is but a blur on the ground and the howls of the beast that i escaped from are nothing more than whispers in the currents of the wind that lie above. Up and up until there is no air anymore, just quiet and stillness as the planet that housed my soul is reduced in size, small enough to rest within my palm, big enough to still cause me horror. I remember trying to breathe but there being no oxygen to fill my lungs, and i feel thankful for that. Because i wanted to be devoured by the beast, i wanted to fall off the ladder, i wanted to be human, to live like one and die like one. And now i was leaving everything behind. My family, my friends, my life. I wanted to suffocate. But i never do. Space embraces me and i feel warm in the absence of heat. I feel air in the absence of atmosphere. I feel fear in the absence of reason. After a while i go past the moon, right next to that flag someone raised as a tribute to some nation's vanity and then the moon's gone too. I always accelerate at that point, going past planets that i know nothing of, until they become star systems, nebulae, galaxies. And then...nothing. I know instinctively i have reached the end of the road, where the map ends, where in not so ancient times people would put a "here there be monsters" sign. A fish looking at the world outside its bowl. But there is no world outside the fish's bowl. Just me. Or something that looks a lot like me. I can always see him smile gesturing me forward and i....i always start to take a step towards him when i realize i am back in control of my self. I always hesitate. I know that if i join him i'll lose myself, that i will never wake up. Still i yearn to go to him, to break the bowl and escape and *know* why i'm different, why i have to suffer, why the nightmares follow me when i'm awake. But at what cost? My self outside the bowl catches that hint of hesitation. I start to back away. The smile on his face vanishes and he looks at me, oh dear merciful god, he looks at me and i see the fire in his eyes, eyes so foreign in that young face, betraying an intelligence that witnessed the birth of time. "Death is for humans, Cor. And you are no human. One day you must traverse the threshold. One day you must remember." The same words each time, thundering between my eardrums bleeding my sanity almost to the point of no return. I wake up on the chair in my study, more tired than when sleep stole me away. I am breathing heavily and sweating and trying to push his words from my mind. After a while my sight clears up and i wipe the tears from my face. And the first thing i always do is check my watch. The time is 17:12 of the 21st of December 2013. This is the day that i die. ----just a small project. I was in the process of writing another story when this idea popped in mind. Since i really don't have the time to write two at the same time, i figured i'd write this one here wherever i got the time and see where it goes from there.