I was nine when it first happened. The ethereal dreams. Before that, I had the same dreams everyone did. Filled with anxiety about forgetting homework or being murdered by killer clowns. I quite enjoyed the ones with dancing zebras.
This time, it was different. When I drifted off to sleep, I wasn't presented with a stream of strange images from my subconscious. There was no fog over this dream. Instead, it was vivid, bright and brimming with vibrancy. Lifelike but somehow more than that. Like eating a bazillion candies but without the sickness.
I was in a shopping centre. I didn't recognise it but it had been crafted by my brain with remarkable detail. The floors even had sticky stains left by fizzy drinks. But I knew it wasn't real. My body was translucent and hazy in sharp contrast to the crisp definition of my surroundings. Plus, an old lady walked straight through me, her wooden cane slicing through my legs. I was a ghost. After a little investigating, I found that I could touch things, move them around even though no one could see me or feel me with their hands. Only if I touched them. I poked a middle aged man in the back. He whirled around, looking for the culprit, not realising he had stuck his hand through me.
Giggling, I flew up into the lights. It's no small exaggeration to say this was the greatest moment of my life so far. There was nothing to stop me from doing anything I liked, no adults, no pesky laws of the universe. Though, it was just a dream, it was better than any reality.
While I was lounging upside down, I saw a mum with five kids drop her grocery bags, sending a cascade of fruits and vegetables spiraling everywhere. Her kids didn't try to help her, too preoccupied with annoying each other. She bent down to pick it but there were the beginnings of frustrated tears in her eyes. My teacher always taught me that you should help strangers and I was an obedient child. With a flick of my wrist, all the produce rolled back into her bag. The woman, while confused at the sudden reversal of gravity, no longer looked as if she was about to burst into tears. I smiled to myself.
Then, I woke up, having toppled out of the bed and onto the floor. The glow from my dream faded away and I was back to being me.
For about a week, I chalked up the experience to my "over-active imagination", as my teacher liked to call it.
But then I had another dream.
They were sporadic, sometimes appearing only once a month. I'd end up in various locations, sometimes halfway across the world. Vicarious travelling through dreams. Other times, I was only five minutes away from home. There was often a time difference, though, between when my dream would take place and what time I was actually having the dream. Most of my dreams took place in daylight.
They never lost their sheen of excitement. Every time I had one, it was a rush. I was something more in these dreams. I only had to think and I could do anything.
After a year of having these dreams, my world shifted.
There were flames flickering around, trying to bite into my skin. Instinctively, I screamed before remembering it was only a dream. There was no heat, nothing that could touch my skin. The fire was actually quite pretty from this close up. I couldn't stay and enjoy it for long, though. The sound of sobbing reached me. I hunted for the source of the noise. It was a little boy, around five years younger than me. He was trapped under a wooden beam and the fire was getting closer. Without pausing to think about it, I lifted the beam up off of him and wrapped my ghostly arms around him. Carefully, I carried him to the exit. He tried to cling onto me, but he couldn't see or feel me. Once we reached the door, I set him down. He wrenched it open and ran straight into the arms of his mum.
When I woke up, there were happy tears streaming down my face. But after a few moments, I realised it was just a dream. I wasn't really a hero, just a silly child.
By coincidence, or something more, I switched the TV on at the exact right moment. They showed the boy's face, talking about how it was insane he had managed to escape that fire. I dropped the remote onto the floor with a shocked gasp.
Surprisingly, though, the revelation that my dreams were real didn't change much for me. At least not materially, I couldn't see a way to translate my magic powers in my dreams to my real life. But, I did start doing small good deeds when I could. There wasn't an abundance of burning buildings to save people from, but on occasion, grandmas and grandpas would fall down in front of me. I'd lift them back and help them on their way. During this time, I also stopped a pickpocketer, and helped a kitten down from a tree.
My real life started to become secondary to the dream world. who cared about school, when I could save a child from being ran over. It seemed so small to me, waking life. But I still didn't have control over when my dreams would come. So, I slugged on with boring reality.
I was sixteen when I fully realised my potential.
In an alleyway at night, a woman with bouncy brown curly hair was walking, her head down and her stride strong. From the shadows, a man grabbed her and wrestled her to the ground. I was frozen in shock, until the woman yelled for help. It took no strength at all to pull him off of her and throw him into the nearest wall. The woman ran away, her fingers dialling the emergency number.
Over on the floor, the man wasn't moving. I floated down and lifted his chin so I could see him. There was a large gash across his head. He gurgled blood at me.
And then, he stopped breathing. I let go, and woke up in my bed.
I thought that I should be horrified by the fact that I had killed someone.
But I realised, that this was why I had been given these powers. Why else would I have been there at that exact right time, if not to stop him? If not to end his life?
I had been fooling myself, doing small things this whole time when I should have been saving the world.
So I set out and did that. Now, when I fell asleep, I didn't waste time flying around cities. No, I looked and I found that which needed to be fixed. Kidnappers were thrown into oncoming traffic. Murderers found themselves on the wrong side of the blade.
And with every kill, there was less guilt. More peace in me. The looks on the people I saved, the happy way they embraced their family, that was all I needed to see that I was doing a good thing. I was saving the world, one person at a time.
My real life suffered, of course. I flunked all my exams, too busy trying to see if naps would make the dreams appear. They didn't. At nineteen, I ended up working a crappy convenience job. And for the first time, I wondered why I stayed in reality. I dismissed the thought when it appeared. In the dream world, I would be resigning myself to a life where no one could ever see me. Or touch me. Or know me.
But the thought lingered and festered in the back of my head.
At the age of twenty, my decision was made for me. There was an attack, in the cinema just opposite the store that I worked out. Eighteen people dead from gunshot wounds. Eighteen people I could have saved. But I was awake. I was awake, watching TV while people died.
That evening, I picked up a bottle of sleeping pills.
That night, I fell asleep and never woke up.
All my life now is dreams. I wander this world, making it better, molding it into the perfect one. I save people where I can, and I punish those who deserve it. The guilty aren't safe anymore in this world. My first victim was the man who had shot up the cinema. I came into his prison cell and I killed him. Before he died, I wrote on his arm using his own blood that he was being punished. The fear in his eyes proved to me I was doing the right thing.
I answer prayers when I hear them whispered in the quiet of night. I soothe children when they sleep.
People claim my actions as miracles. I don't mind. I'm not doing it for credit, no, I'm doing it to save the world. I don't need the validation. I only want to help the innocent.
But for those who don't believe in retribution for their sins, I'm sorry that I'll be coming for you. Not now, not yet, I'm still growing my power. But one day, you'll realise I'm here. You won't see me or feel me, but you'll know in your soul.
And when I deal with you, you'll wish you were asleep so you didn't have to hear your own screams.
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I was brought to your story via the critique circle. First of all, I liked the story, and I was surprised with how your character turned out. I didn't expect your character to become violent. It made for some good suspense. Just some advice: Aside from minor grammatical errors, I think the characterization could be refined a little bit. I noticed your character didn't have a name, and I felt a lack of connection with the character in that aspect. Then again, maybe not having a name was the point of your character's ability. Overall, ...