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Fiction Suspense

This story contains themes or mentions of mental health issues.

It was the fourteenth day in a row Daisy found herself animal tracking in the forest. By her feet was another clump of brown fur. She kneeled to pick it up, rolling the tough strands between her finger and thumb before allowing them to settle in her palm. A short gust of wind lifted them from her hand, and she watched as they spread across the air and into nature. The surrounding trees towered beyond sight and lined deep in every direction, but the thick greenery that shrouded them cast no shadow, allowing light from a blazing pink sky to illuminate the paths around her.


"Where are you?" Daisy whispered into the forest.


A flutter sounded from the trees as another light breeze passed through. Clumps of brown fur passed like tumbleweeds in all directions. Daisy felt stiff but stretched her arms and fingers wide, and the breeze softened the dull ache weighing on her shoulders and back. The breeze brushing her face made her smile. Pulling in her arms, she held up her palms, marveling at the pink light twinkling in each wrinkle. Turning over her hands and back again and again, she watched as the various patterns glistened, stopping only when pain overwhelmed her wrists. She walked over to a tree that leaned impossibly to one side. The bark was dark and jagged but soft to the touch. She took comfort in the smooth tickle on her hands. There was a calm.


"You must be here somewhere?" Daisy asked.


A blue sun hung in the pink like a watchful eye. Daisy tried to bring it into focus, but the squinting made her skin crack. She closed her eyes, and the pink light, though dulled, pervaded her eyelids. Brown fur was blown into her face, making her laugh, and in the wind, she began to dance. Twirling in the warmth, she traversed left and right, back and forth, amongst the trees but collided with nothing. After several minutes, breathing heavily, she stopped and sat down on the floor, crossing her legs. The grass was green but metallic green, and pink reflected like sparks on the sods. Small and large clumps of brown fur were dotted around and woven into the turf. She ran her hands through the grass, which, like the tree, was soothing to the backs of her hands and wrists.


"Are you meditating?" asked a voice ahead of her.


A startled Daisy opened her eyes.


"Hello, Daisy. Are you meditating?"


Daisy blinked and looked again. Ten feet ahead, standing six feet tall, with brown fur, was a rat waiting for her response. The fur was dark and familiar, but on the rat, it glistened in the sea of pink light. As it approached, it swayed from side to side while its tail ran endlessly up the path behind, coiling and uncoiling. The rat stopped five feet away. It began twitching at the snout and sniffing the air.


"Kind of... I try to," replied Daisy. "Do I know you?"


"Why meditate when you have all this? This beautiful sky, these trees. What can be in the depths of your psyche that beats this?"


Daisy pushed herself up awkwardly and walked towards the rat. 


"The sky sure is beautiful. Is it real? Are you real?"


"I can see you and hear you, and I sense your pain… So, I must be real."


"I don't think you are."


She looked again at her hands. The wrinkles on her palms glowed as they shifted like worms. Looking back at the rat, she saw sympathy in its beady eyes.


"I should be scared of you, but I am not."


"Does that mean I am not real?" the rat shrugged.


"Yes… I am dreaming."


Daisy and the rat stared at each other for a minute. The rat tilted its head to the left, and Daisy mirrored the movement. The tail was swaying above and behind. It was hypnotic.


"Then did your dream just become lucid, Daisy?"


Daisy thought for a second. "I know the tricks to lucid dreaming," she said. "I know how to become lucid and how to be sure. But I would always wake up too quickly like the adrenaline rush was too much to embrace the dream."


"But here we are."


"Well, like I said, I have to be sure."


"Then do your checks!"


"Hmm, let's see," Daisy began. "I have four checks. My first check is to drink a glass of water. If I drink and I am still thirsty, it is a dream… And I thirsty right now.”


The rat sniffed the air. “We have no water in this forest. It has been dry for days...”


“...My next check is to look at a clock, look away, then look back. If the time isn't the same, it is a dream."


"There are no clocks here, I am afraid," the rat lamented. "Though our time is precious..."


"...Then I check my palms for movement. I checked them earlier. The wrinkles were moving, but maybe it was just because of this pink sky."


"I see," said the rat. "Our pink sky is strange, but it keeps us strong."


"My final check is the sun. I looked at the sun for any strange movements, but it was so bright my skin was cracking."


"Well, have you seen our moon?" The rat pointed up to the sky, where Daisy now saw a glittering silver moon spinning clockwise.


"I see it!"


"Now look again."


"With her left-hand, Daisy made an oh with her thumb and index finger. Through it, she spied the spinning glitter moon. The spin was now anti-clockwise. Daisy felt a wave of excitement pass through her and she turned to the rat. “I am dreaming!”


"And what have you learned about lucid dreams, Daisy?"


"That they are not real! I can do what I like with no consequence."


"What I do has consequences. Would you like to get to know me?"


"Can I trust you?"


"Why wouldn't you trust me?"


"Because I don't know you."


"I am your ally in this forest… With me you are safe. Even from our spiders."


"Dream or no dream, I hate spiders!"


Daisy scanned the forests to see armies of spiders crawling down from every tree. They scampered down the trunks, edging closer and closer to the ground. By the hundred, they reached the floor and began to approach. The rat held out its paws, facing palms to the floor, and the spiders halted, but they formed a circle like an ambush. Daisy held her hands over her face.


"You see," said the rat. "I can hold them at bay. Just breathe."


Daisy breathed but trembled.


"They won't harm us. Just breathe."


Daisy began to breathe deeply. She swallowed, but her throat was dry. Lowering her hands, she saw the rat staring back at her and the spiders still at a distance. The rat lifted its paws to the sky, and the spiders scurried back up the trees. "You see, Daisy. All gone."


"But you brought them down," Daisy snapped. "You endangered me!"


"Maybe I did. But now you trust me."


"I trust your power, but not necessarily your behavior."


"My behavior is my strongest asset, so you should listen to me. I would never hurt you, Daisy. It was merely a demonstration. Now look me in the eye." The rat took two steps forward, but Daisy backed away.


"I would never hurt you. I would only empower you."


"I don't… I can't," snapped Daisy, covering her face again. "I'm confused." The rat stepped forward and gripped Daisy's wrists. She felt its warmth running down her arms. With the rat's guidance, she lowered her hands. Up close, its fur was patchy, and she watched as clumps blew off into the forest.


"You see this forest?" the rat began. "It is one of hope. The two of us are under this beautiful pink sky together. The blue sun shines, and the silver moon glitters. It is a noble sky. It is pure. Nothing can hurt you with me around."


"But you don't look well." Daisy ran her fingers over a bald patch on the rat's shoulder.


"But I am strong… and if you trust my judgment, you are strong. My methods are dangerous but necessary. You are necessary."


"We are necessary?"


"Yes, Daisy…"


"Your fur is everywhere. I have seen it. It is blowing all over the forest. You are falling apart!"


The rat looked down at its shoulders, which were patchy and worn. "But others will find my fur and know of me… I am an idea, and if you believe in me, more will. For that reason, I stay strong.”


A thud could be heard from above, startling Daisy. The rat reached out and pulled her into its chest, holding her tightly. The thud sounded a second time.


"Wake up!" said a voice bellowing from the sky. Thud, thud, thud.


Daisy nuzzled into the rat's chest, and the rat caressed her hair. Its tail began to coil over her body like an anaconda. Thud, thud, thud. Daisy held on more tightly. “I don’t want to leave.”


"Wake up!" thundered the voice from the sky. The surrounding trees shuddered.


Daisy gritted her teeth. She released her hold and looked down at her wrists. Twisting them back and forth, they ached and stung until the pain became unbearable. She looked back at the rat, whose face remained defiant.


"Be strong, Daisy. You are strong because I am true."


"Rat?"


"Yes, Daisy?"


"I think I know where I am now."


Thud


***


Daisy awoke. The room was dark and musty. It was lit by a burning lantern sitting centrally on the floor. She could see surrounding walls of dark stone, and the far corners of the room were lined with spiderwebs from ceiling to floor. Directly in front, ten feet away, was a worn wooden door with no window. Dry spots of blood covered everything. Looking down, she saw her half-unbuttoned shirt, frayed and torn. Her legs hung out in front, with only her heels touching the floor. There were cuts and bruises from her knees to her ankles.


"She should be awake now, the voice said from the other side of the door."


"Well, open it," said a second, deeper voice.


Daisy wriggled, feeling her back to the wall. She attempted to move, realizing her hands were shackled. The metal shackles and chains were rusty and felt cold; her hair was matted and stuck to the wall behind. After another final bang on the door, it was unlocked, and two uniformed men entered the room. One was taller than the other and held a glass pitcher of water. The two approached her.


"How are you feeling, rat traitor?" the taller guard asked, lightly tapping her cheek three times with his cupped right hand.


"She seems happier than yesterday," said the other. "Crazy bitch"


Daisy hung there, staring into space. Her cracked mouth remained still. She blinked but continued to stare.


"Come on, give it to her. We have a whole block of these rebels to deal with."


The taller man lifted the pitcher to her mouth, placing the spout on her lips. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply.


"Come on bitch. Drink it like the treacherous rat you are!"


After several seconds, she began to drink.  




November 01, 2023 23:07

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13 comments

Kailani B.
17:25 Nov 05, 2023

But what happened next? Why is she a rebel? Or was she set up? Is she going to turn into a rat and escape? Don't leave me hanging, Tom!

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Alexis Araneta
08:10 Feb 11, 2024

Another gripping and very unique story from you, Tom. I love how creative you went with the imagery, Well-executed too!

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Tom Skye
10:17 Feb 11, 2024

Thanks Stella. I had been interested in lucid dreams for a while and I wanted to fit it into something. I think I spent quite a bit of time on that one compared to some others. Glad it worked out ok. Thanks so much for going back and reading that.

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Alexis Araneta
10:22 Feb 11, 2024

No problem at all! I'm enjoying your stories so far!

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Michał Przywara
21:49 Nov 06, 2023

A dream's always a bit of a risky story, but this one seems like more than just a dream. Even when she realizes it, even when it's lucid, it's still not her dream - the rat's in control. Of course, on another level, she *is* the rat. As are all the rebels. (And then there's another meaning for the dream - the dream of a better future, presumably, driving the cause.) So the dream seems to be escapism on the one hand, a break from her bleak conditions. On the other hand, she's wrestling with her convictions, wondering if it's worth it. The...

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Tom Skye
22:09 Nov 06, 2023

Thanks so much for the close reading Michal, and for your pretty nailed on interpretation. I have been reading a bit of Carl Jung and wanted to have a bash at something different. Glad it made sense. I appreciate your time.

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AnneMarie Miles
14:45 Nov 05, 2023

Wow that was an incredible story. The pink sky, the glittering moon, the talking rat - I kept thinking this is so creative, I don't know where Tom got this idea! And then executed it so well. You presented us the details of her dream world so well and really trusted to reader to go there with you. Lucid dreaming is a fascinating concept, and when we learn where Daisy really is and why she is there, the entire dream makes sense. Even her attempt at lucid dreaming. The rat controlling the spiders felt very symbolic of Daisy's desire to contro...

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Tom Skye
15:14 Nov 05, 2023

Thanks AnneMarie. I wasn't sure how this one would be taken. I wanted to try something a bit bold. Dream stories can be tricky to write, because I think you lower the stakes a bit. I hope if people do read the make it through to the end

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AnneMarie Miles
15:35 Nov 05, 2023

I agree. Dreamworld, fantasy..they're all out of my wheelhouse. That's why I was so impressed by this. My dang brain is so logical and reasoning sometimes it's hard to imagine glittering moons and talking rats! And then to tie it in in the end with a darker reality. That was really wonderful. I'm sure people will make it to the end. It was so curious I couldn't stop reading and really wanted to know how it concluded.

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Danie Holland
12:09 Nov 03, 2023

It's wild how much our dreams can take from our surroundings and also how much we can take away from our dreams. The shift between the dream and reality are startling. It seems as though she's going through something traumatic. Very deep conversation she seems to be having with herself through her dream. It's as if she is trying to give herself the strength to go on in real life. It's actually very touching. no water, no clocks, the spiders, the sun, pain in her wrists (shackles) - carrying over from her confinement in reality. Is the sun ...

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Tom Skye
12:29 Nov 03, 2023

Thanks so much for the deep analysis Danie. It means a lot to me. I went very light with the Halloween story so want to try something a bit different. Your interpretation was pretty bang on. A conflict between enduring misery for a cause, and questioning whether it is worth it. I also wanted to play on the idea of those who make a stand being reduced to animals/vermin by those in power. Thank you so much for reading. I knew this one was a bit 'out there' so I appreciate your time a lot.

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Mary Bendickson
20:08 Nov 02, 2023

Lots of confusion. Thanks for liking my Run Forest Run

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Tom Skye
16:21 Nov 03, 2023

Thanks so much for reading Mary. I appreciate it a lot

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