The jewellers lay dark and quiet, as sound asleep as the people in the buildings all around. Gone midnight in the middle of the week; hardly the time for party animals to be abroad.

It was however the perfect time for Lisa to be about.

In her all black outfit with her oversized hood pulled low she was little more than a deeper shadow moving in the darkness. This was always the bit that gave her the biggest thrill. The start, when anything was possible. Maybe, just maybe, this time she’d be caught, but that wasn’t likely. It certainly wasn’t likely enough to worry her.

She walked past the front of the building to check it over one last time. All the lights were dark apart from a handful of spotlights in the window displays, although now they illuminated only empty alcoves. There was no night-guard and her daily excursions had mapped out most of the cameras.

Time to get to work.

Lisa slipped round to the back of the building which was no less barricaded than the front. The windows were barred and alarmed, the back door had multiple locks and a separate alarm system. And that would only be to get into the place. From there any intruder would still have to get past another half-dozen door locks and a safe.

“Good thing I’m not just any intruder,” Lisa chuckled to herself. Practise and experience had made her cocky, and the rush of adrenaline at the start of a heist didn’t help. It was like taking candy from a baby. No- like taking candy from the bully at school. Getting one up on the system, wasn’t that what everyone dreamt of doing?

“And speaking of dreams.” Lisa pulled her headphones out from where they tucked into her hood and leant against the back door. No pressure sensor, but that hadn’t been likely given it was an exterior door. With a last breath of chill night air she put the headphones in.

As soon as she heard the music her eyelids felt heavy and with the ease of practise she started to fall asleep.

Except she didn’t. Not entirely at least.

Half-asleep, half-dreaming she could still sense the world around her. But this was a dream world, and here anything was possible, if only she had the skill to make it so. With a thought she dreamt herself through the door behind her and took two steps backwards. The hardest part was waking up again, and she slid her hands along her cheeks and ears, popping the headphones free.

Without the tune lulling her to sleep Lisa was wide awake again, now standing inside the jewellers. She couldn’t resist a grin as she turned and headed off through the building.

In the dark it took a while for her to navigate, but there was no hurry. She still had hours until dawn, and the job itself would only take minutes. Better to go slow than risk any lights that would make it easier for the cameras to pick her up.

The vault was easy to find. All she had to do was follow the line of heavily-locked doors and alarms, ‘dream-stepping’, as she called it, through each one. And to think, when she first realised she could do this she just used it for messing about with her childhood story books characters. There were so many more… practical applications for it.

Lisa was down at the vault now. Paperwork lined the shelves along with a selection of smaller pieces the jewellers carried, but that was pocket-money stuff to her. There was no need to waste her time on that stuff, not when she could get right to the good bits.

‘Dream-fishing’ was her term for the next bit, and it was harder than dream-stepping. Trying to keep enough awareness to manipulate objects while balancing the need to stay in the dream world was a fine line. The stakes were even higher right now as well, when she was putting her hand through a solid barrier to do it. Her actual dreams- her genuine nightmares- were about her getting it wrong and having her hand cut off. She didn’t know if that would happen, and she’d never met anyone else who could do what she did, so she’d never had anyone to ask.

Still, it was safest not to risk it. All she had to do was stay focused.

It took longer than she’d expected to clear the vault out. The trays of diamonds had been fiddly to move, and she’d managed to knock a few of them off, but at last it was done. Running her hand along each shelf she couldn’t feel anything else. Time to go home.

With her goods stashed in her bags and none of the alarms any wiser for the fact the shop had been robbed Lisa dream-stepped her way up to the main shop floor. It was a risky move she knew, but so far there hadn’t been any reports about her robberies. There was no way she could explain what she did to anyone, and in truth she was scared to even admit it out loud. Some recognition would be nice though, and what was better recognition for a thief than a news report? Maybe if she left through the front door she could taunt them into admitting what was going on.

Lisa ran her gloved hands over the display cabinets as she walked through the shop. Would a wave at a camera be too much? Or was it time to find a signature, some message to leave behind each time-


The single word echoed around the empty room. Or not so empty, apparently. Lisa jumped and spun round, eyes wide and pulse racing.

In the gloom it took her a while to locate the person, sat in a chair tucked off in one of the corners. When she finally saw them they waved a hand in greeting.

“Hello,” they- he- said again. “Taking a little late night stroll?”

“Something like that,” Lisa replied, her voice higher than usual but not deliberately so. As soon as she spoke she bit her lip. She should have masked her voice, or not spoken. Would they be able to identify her by voice, like a ‘voice print’ or something?

The man chuckled, and from the casual way he spoke Lisa got the feeling that this wasn’t his shop either. No-one in the trade would be that casual about bumping into a thief. He stretched his back out and Lisa wondered how long he’d waited for her.

“That’s a pretty neat trick,” he said at last. “Walking through solid walls. You can dream-walk, can’t you?”

“I call it dream-stepping.”

“Same thing I suppose. I don’t know if there’s an organised naming system yet. I suppose we should work on that.” Despite their situation he was utterly relaxed, talking as if they were discussing the weather. That didn’t calm Lisa down though.

“What do you want?” she snapped. Her hands were shaking and the room suddenly felt very small. Dream-stepping, dream-walking, whatever it was called, required a certain level of peace and meditation. She wouldn’t be able to do it if she had to run, even with the music to trigger it.

“You can exist in a world halfway between awake and asleep, yes? Where you’re still dreaming, but the things you dream are real objects and you can influence them?”

“Yes. I… I thought I was the only one.”

“It’s a hard thing to pull off. But no, you’re not the only one who can do it.” At last he stood up and strolled over, still as relaxed as ever.

“So what do you want?” With each step the man took towards her Lisa took one away, and in the shade of her hood she desperately looked for some way out or a weapon.

He noticed her growing panic and stopped moving, putting his hands up in front of him. “I just want to talk. That’s all.”

What choice did she have? They were stood in a locked room and she was at his mercy. “Okay. Then talk.”

“Thank you. How did you discover your ability?”

“When I was five. I came down with a fever and had some pretty bad dreams. When I woke up though all the things I’d done in the dream had actually happened. My parents put it down to the fever, but I knew it was something else. It had felt different, you know? From then on I started trying to do it again. Managed it when I was eleven, and I’ve been practising ever since.”

“That’s impressive. And dedicated, I’ll give you that.” He gestured about the shop. “And this is what you do with it? Steal?”

“Well, sure. Why not? It’s not like anyone’s going to catch me.” For all her words though she was fast going off the idea of being a thief. The charm and thrill of it had shattered when she actually had to face someone.

“But you could do so much more. It’s a great power- think of all the good you could do.”

“Seriously? What, as some superhero, saving the world with the power of dreams?” Lisa laughed, before she remembered where they were and clapped a hand over her mouth. When she’d gathered herself she took it away, but not without another snort. “Give me a break. I’d be locked up and studied. Besides, it’s only good for little things. Getting into places, things like that. Not much call for heroes breaking and entering.”

“Not true. You could get in and see to captives, dream-walk around bombs-”

“Whoa! Hold on there mate. I’m not going anywhere near a bomb, dream-walking or otherwise.”

“Okay, okay, bad example. But you see what I mean. There’s loads of things that we could do, for the better. Or are you happy being a common thief your whole life?”

“Hardly common,” Lisa said with a wide grin.

“You're something special, don't throw it away. Just think about it at least. Please?”

“I have. And no. I can live perfectly happy like this, with no danger to myself. Why would I risk all of that, and what for? The praise of a few locals? You really need to work on your sales pitch.” Lisa turned to leave, her hands steady once more.

“If that’s your choice, I’ll have to stop you.” The man’s voice took a harsh tone, but his childish ideas had ruined his credibility.

“So stop me.” Plugging one headphone in Lisa leant back on the front door and began to dream-walk, dream-step. It was her ability, damn it, and she’d call it what she liked.

“So be it.”

She was halfway through when she was yanked back into the room. The man kept a firm grip round her wrist, and in her panic she was flailing with every other limb. Dream rules applied, and it didn’t matter that she didn’t have any feet on the floor.

The pair of them tussled, scrabbling at each other as they navigated dream and reality. Neither of them full left the dream world, Lisa still being dragged in by the music in her ear and the man staying there to stop her drifting off. He knew more about this world than she did, and made a determined effort never to let her go. She took that as a hint, and struggled even harder to escape.

They were on the floor, still kicking and punching, Lisa even biting once as his fingers tried to reach for her headphones. She stretched out, trying to find a weapon, anything to get this damn do-gooder off her. Her fingers touched something solid, she claimed it and made it incorporeal, then she brought it down hard on his head.

As soon as it made contact he went still. He fell to the ground with a thud that she felt even in the dream-world.

For a moment there was nothing but the hazy background noise of the dream and the hypnotic melody in her ear. Her hands were shaking again as she ripped the headphone out and woke up.

Now there was just the silence of the shop, the gentle hum of all the useless alarms about them, and the panting of her own breath. The man was still.

Lisa shoved him away and crawled into a corner. The room spun about her, and she couldn’t tell which world she was in.

There was no way to tell how long she sat there, but at last she realised that she had to leave. Keeping as much space between her and the man as she could she edged her way round to the door, kicking the bloodied tape dispenser away as she went.

When she got to the door her only way out was to dream-step, and it was the hardest one she’d ever had to do. Even with the hypnotic music in it took minutes for her to fade enough to make it through, and the man’s body lay there the whole time, a weight on her soul.

Out on the street the cool air hit stunned her back to reality. With a muffled cry she put her head down and ran away. Two streets away she ripped her music player off and tossed it over a wall, before running as fast as she could.

February 29, 2020 02:06

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

Yes, you! Write. Format. Export for ebook and print. 100% free, always.