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  1. Dragon Nightmare? Only two more centuries. I’m never going to make it. Quarter to midnight, six hours left. Kay Linda Taylor worried she wasn’t going to make it and then jumped when her mother came to check on her. Angrily she said, “Why are you up? You don’t have to worry about me, I can worry about myself. It’s my own fault I have to cram for this history test.” “You and Mary had fun taking care of Grandpop, before he died. There is more to life than A’s,” her mother said. “If you’re Mary, and are rich with a legacy, there is. But not me. If I want to go to an Ivy league school I have to get As. All As. But you wouldn’t understand because you don’t understand the value of a private school education.” “You’ve had straight A’s your whole life and this one class won’t break your record. Plus, I’m sure you’ll end up with an A.” Kay knew her mother wanted her to agree, but instead she was glaringly silent. “Ok, but don’t stay up too late. You need your rest.” “If I go to sleep now, not only will I fail, but all the stress will cause nightmares.” “Oh, honey. I worry. You are too young for all this stress. When this test is over, I want to go with you to your next appointments with Dr. Ong.” Traditional nightmares were child’s play, Kay’s were horrific. So, Dr. Ong, Kay’s therapist, who used her patented Lucid Dreams Therapy to teach Kay to control her chronic nightmares. In Kay’s nightmares she had learned to defend herself. In one she splashed jacuzzi water on visiting friends who turned to monsters melting them into smelly, black puddles. In another, a teacher threw Western Taipan snakes at her. Kay knew that one bite has enough venom to kill one hundred people in 30 seconds. She turned them into harmless corn snakes. One night, she was running and fell into a tank filled with tiny Irukandji jellyfish, whose venom causes excruciating pain. She turned them into Swedish fish and ate them. Last week, two T. rexes ripped her to shreds. While she lay on the ground in pieces bleeding out, they played tug of war with her large intestine. She pulled herself together, picked up a stick, and threw it miles away; the rexes ran off to fetch. Kay’s mother asked if she could get her a cup of coffee, but Kay gruffly told her to just go to bed. Her mother offered a kiss. Kay did not accept. When the door closed she felt guilty but instead of addressing the guilt she addressed her studies. Jarred by a loud sound, Kay bolted upright. She listened but heard nothing. She rubbed her eyes and picked up her phone. Two a.m. She realized she had fallen asleep and tried to find where she had left off in her History of the World text but was startled again by the noise, hurricane winds rushing through a barely open window paired with an electrical screeching so loud she could feel it in her spine. A shimmery light appeared across the room between the window and the closet, like thermal waves above the road on a hot summer’s day. Suddenly, the originator supplanted the shimmery light. That makes sense. I told mom this would happen if I went to sleep. She turned off her study lamp to focus the waning gibbous moon shining through the second story window on whatever had entered her room. It stood on the other side of her curtained four-poster bed, so she didn’t have a clear view, but the outline looked like a dinosaur. Kay smiled. A beastly representation of her history teacher Mr. Humbert, she thought. What should I do with this beast? She needed to know what this beast truly was and find out its intentions, which was difficult to see in the dim light. She tried to will the room brighter where the beast stood. When it didn’t work, she reached over and turned on the overhead lamp and adjusted it to dim with the remote. The beast was crawling toward her. As rounded the bedpost, she saw small, collared holes, close to the scaly skin on the side of its head reflected in her full-length mirror. It had a long jaw, horse-like, but flattened around the mandible, lizard-like. Inside the beast’s mouth large, sharp, white teeth reflected in the moonlight. It had two strong back legs and thinner arm-like legs in front. It stopped at the foot of her bed to look around the room, showing no obvious signs that it had seen her yet. One of its sharply clawed hands grabbed the bedpost as it came around to her side of the room. Kay saw wings connected to its broad shoulders and a ridge of triangular shaped plates that ran down its back. The arrowhead-shaped tip of its muscular tail whipped back and forth as the beast moved toward her. It saw her sitting at her desk, raised up on its knees, and bellowed in a thick, baritone voice “Where is Diseeodis?” Unbelievable, it talks. That’s different. Kay realized she had never dreamed of a talking animal. But if it were a manifestation of Mr. Humbert, it would, wouldn’t it? Because he never shuts up. She stood up, cleared her throat, gave a shrug, and in a calm and polite tone, said, “I’m sorry. I don’t know that person.” Remembering her manners, she added, “Uh, Sir.” Then she forced a small polite smile. Dr. Ong’s treatment taught her nightmare individuals were more manageable when treated with calm, polite, and self-control behavior. “Did you not activate the time-space re-fracturer opening the portal between the Dragon Dimension and the Human Dimension so that Diseeodis could enter?” the beast interrogated. “Do not lie to me, for I will reduce your home and all within it to ash before your lie is complete!” Kay shuddered. Nightmare characters had threatened her, and she learned to keep her composure, but this one seemed so real and so dangerous. Now, she thought, it couldn’t be a mental representation of Mr. Humbert. She wondered; what could have caused her mind to create a dragon? Then she remembered her mom had brought home an old album, Comedy Caravan, from the Thrift Store where she worked. It had a bunch of old guys doing funny radio skits. One skit, called St. George and the Dragonet, was a detective story about a cop arresting a dragon. “Well? I need your answer, human. Now!” The dragon shouted. She tried to turn him into a Whip tail. No luck. “Please, Sir, I’m telling the truth. This is the weirdest nightmare I have ever had. I don’t know this Diseeodis dude, and I didn’t open any dimensional portal. The only portals I know about are in video games. I’d like to help you find your friend, but I don’t know how to help.” “Diseeodis is many things to me but assuredly not my friend,” the dragon replied vehemently. He moved his green scaly face close to hers and peered into her eyes. She was startled by the smell of smoke and garlic on his breath. She’d never had a dream smell so real. It was unnerving to have this giant face with its impressive set of teeth so close to her face. After a long look, she saw his eyes soften. He stood up with a thoughtful hum, nodded, and said, “I sense truth, human girl.” His eyes darted back and forth as if struggling with a complicated word problem. Finally, he said, “I am Jiuristus. I am tasked, by Queen Regina to retrieve Diseeodis and take him home.” “Who are Diseeodis and Queen Regina. I have never heard of them,” Kay said. “Queen Regina is the ruler of Criloune and Diseeodis has come into this dimension without permission and must be returned to the Dragon Dimension as soon as possible.” After another thoughtful pause he said, “Right then, there is nothing for it except to take you back with me. I think that would be the best course of action and the only one to satisfy the Queen.” Kay tried to change the beast into a large talking rabbit. Still nothing. Then she tried to get it to say, “Just kidding. Go back to what you were doing, and I will go home.” She had no control. A nauseating fear soured her stomach. This is a nightmare. It must be a nightmare. If it weren’t someone would have heard the noise and come by now. Should I run for the door? Could I even make it to the door? Being grabbed by those claws would hurt. But, as Dr. Ong says, nightmare can’t hurt you. But they do like to mess with you. When I open a door there will be another scary nightmare thing to deal with like an endless pit. Oh, great, now there will absolutely be an endless pit. Kay tried to clear her mind and think of something pleasant. Field of flowers, field of flowers, field of flowers. She decided to play along. “OK, you want to take me back. Take me back, where?” “I must take you through the portal to Criloune in the Dragon Dimension,” said Jiuristus. Dr. Ong said dreams are where movie ideas come from. She thought she’d like to see this in the theater, but she didn’t enjoy being in the scene. “Well, I don’t want to go with you. Is there another possibility? I mean it sounds like an adventure, but you should know I am not an adventurous person.” Kay said. Jiuristus’ head tilted, as if recalculating. “No, I cannot think of any other satisfactory course of action. If I leave you here, Queen Regina may think you have deceived me to protect Diseeodis. Plus, you may have information, even information you are unaware of. The Queen can extract such information, and it could give us the key to find Diseeodis,” said Jiuristus. “How will she extract information? Torture?” “No, not torture. Queen Regina can tap into your subconscious.” Finding the polite façade ineffectual, she tried a different strategy. Kay screamed, “Well, I am not going. So there!” she said balling her fists and stamping her foot. “Please, human girl. Please control yourself.” “I can’t go. I have a very important test tomorrow.” “You will be back before tomorrow. When you return, you will have missed no time. Unless, of course, you are misrepresenting the truth, in which case the temporary dimension will close without you, and you will not be returning,” Jiuristus assured her. “Well, I’m not lying!” she said, stamping her foot again. Feeling the boards under feet and the rush of adrenaline made her question the reality of the situation. She rejected reality and embraced the dream. “And I’m not going with you,” Kay said. “If you do not go your whole human race could be in grave danger. Diseeodis has come to the your dimension to take revenge for the slayings of the fifteenth century, and he must be found and taken back to our dimension before he can hurt anyone or everyone.” “What? The slayings of the fifteenth century. That was a long time ago. Why now?” Kay asked. “He wants to be King, and he thinks this will make him a hero,” Jiuristus said. “I am not asking you to help us catch him. I am only taking you back in case you can help with information that will help us catch him.” “OK. Let’s say I go with you. Will I be hurt?” Jiuristus’ face softened. “You will not be tortured, and you will not be hurt. You have my word, human girl. No one will hurt you, as long as you tell the truth.” “What if I just run, run to my parents, right now?” Jiuristus looked astonished. “I assumed you understood the state of things because you did not run when I showed myself. That is also why I assumed you were the operator.” He searched her eyes. “You really have no knowledge of dimensional laws? Interesting. If you had run, you would have frozen in the temporary dimension. Go, see for yourself, but stay close to me, or you will get frozen in time.” She ran into the hall and saw her mother and father coming out of their room. She called them. And they shouted “Kay,” in unison just before she felt the dragon’s hand on her shoulder pulling her backwards. As she fell, she heard Jiuristus say, “You got too far away and froze. I had to pull you back into the temporary dimension.” “I didn’t freeze. I saw my parents. See, right there. They spoke to me,” Kay said. Kay pointed at her parents and saw that her father was reaching out to her and her mother was tying her robe. But neither moved. “They were coming to save me,” Kay said under her breath. “You were outside of my dimensional bubble and fully in the Human Dimension. I pulled you back. Please do not get too close to them again. When you reanimate them and if they reanimate inside my dimensional time bubble and see me then I will have to take them to Criloune with us. With so many humans affected by this situation, I am not sure you all will be able to return.” “So, you are saying if I go, it will help save the Human Race, and I will be back before tomorrow but if they go, we will not be able to come back ever? That seems a bit random.” “You must take my word. Or you could reanimate your parents, I can take all of you, and we can see if you can return.” She wanted to claw him, but she was afraid he would claw back. Through the bedroom door Kay could see her father’s vintage alarm clock, on the nightstand which usually buzzed loudly and showed time by flipping the hours and minutes. But it was quiet, and the minute's flap was stuck midway between 2:00 and 2:01. Her hope that she would wake her parents and have this all end up in her sleep journal was waning. Kay ran to her brother Tom’s room. He was in a deep sleep and the family cat, Muscipula, was at the end of the bed frozen in the act of jumping off. Kay took a defeated breath then turned to Jiuristus. “I don’t understand what’s going on. But I want it to stop.” “Human girl, for you to return things to normal, you must come with me to see the Queen. She will make an assessment and may more fully explain what is happening. But the most important thing is that we go now if you want to get back before your big day tomorrow.” Dredging up every bit of self-control she had left she said, “My name is Kay Linda Taylor, not human girl, and you can call me Kay. What did you say your name was, Jee-your something?” Kay smiled to herself when she heard the phrase. He told her his name was Jiuristus. She tried to repeat it but stumbled. He told her to call him Jiuri. “OK, Jiuri. You promise to bring me back before tomorrow and my family will be, OK? And I will not be hurt?” “Yes, Kay, if you are telling the truth, I can assure that you will be returned safely to your family and that none of you will be harmed in any way.” He nudged her toward her room. As they faced the distortion, ready to step through, Kay asked if his ‘word’ was any good. “It seemed like you were here to kill me when you came into my room,” Kay said. “I did not intend to scare an innocent, I meant to scare the human who helped Diseeodis open the portal to your dimension. I will stand by my ‘word’ and will do everything in my power to return you to your home,” Jiuri said and his supportive, kind face made her unwittingly assured of his sincerity. “Wait,” Kay said. She turned up the overhead light, went to her closet, and closed the door. When she reappeared, she had changed into jeans, a light blue t-shirt, a cardigan, tennis shoes, and a jacket. “I don’t want to go through a portal to another dimension in my PJs.” As they prepared to enter the portal, Jiuri reached out for her hand. It was warm and soft. His long bulbous digits had claws the size of her fingers, which, because of the cautious way he held her hand, didn’t poke or scratch. Hand-in-hand with Jiuristis reminded her of crossing the street with her mother when she was little. But, unlike her mother’s, the dragon’s thumbs had no center joint and was conspicuously smaller than the other three fingers. Her gaze followed the arm up, up, up. In the now lit room she saw that most of his body was covered in iridescent green scales, each no larger than the head of a tack. His chest scales were three times larger, teardrop-shaped with a raised center shaft from which a rainbow of colored lines extended, like feather barbs, and soft white down peeked out here and there. She wanted to touch them to see if the scales would separate like feathers. Jiuri’s wing feathers were long, green, and red, tipped with royal blue. In sum, a cross between a lizard or snake and a bird. She thought, maybe I should use Ong’s dream trick to turn him into a real bird-snake or maybe I should try the pinch test. The pinch test she’d learned long before Dr. Ong nightmare therapy, and she knew that if she felt the pinch she this was not a dream. Kay decided not to try either. She thought it best to keep believing it could be a dream, if only to prevent fear from taking control. Because if this was real, she would have to accept the fact that she was leaving her home and family to go to an unknown place, a place unimaginable on any map, with a beast by means of an unknown transportation. Her eyes and nose pinched, and she could feel clouds gathering in her eyes preparing for a storm. Her hands were clammy, and her stomach felt as if it had flipped. If she couldn’t control the environment, she would have to control herself. She blinked the tempest away, took a deep breath, and smiled, encouraging herself to enjoy the story her mind was creating as they stepped into the distortion.
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