..."you sick bastard"...
..."you'll never do those awful things to anyone ever again"...
Decker tumbled out of a red haze and back into conciousness. His head swam and most of him hurt. He wiped the blood off his face and looked around. He was in an alleyway. Three bodies lay in a pile nearby. Another was slumped in a doorway.
"Do not worry. They are merely asleep, although I don't imagine their dreams are particularly pleasant."
The shadows extended a pale hand that glimmered in the moonlight. Decker grasped it and stood up with some difficulty. The darkness around the hand took the form of a tall, pale figure dressed in a black cloak. Stars fled across his long jet-black hair, stars that none would ever see in any night sky. But his eyes were what held Decker's attention. They were the colour of Dreaming, and out of them looked a myriad of strange worlds.
"You can call me Mister Sleep," said the figure. His voice was that of the night sky, and brought to Decker's mind images of sleep and dreaming shadows. "You don't belong here, Decker."
"You are not the only one. I too am a stranger here, and there is one other. You know of him."
Decker frowned. He was aware of no familiar faces in this strange place.
"Eleven," said Mister Sleep. "He is part of that danger, and it is part of him. Beware. There is something deeply wrong with this place, and it is tied in with his and your presence here. The key to its salvation, and indeed your own, may lie in your finding a way of leaving."
Decker did not understand most of what the wraith-like figure had said, but he now felt as though he had some sort of purpose. That he had something stable to hold onto in this strange place. Suddenly, the shadowy man looked up at the sky.
"I must go. Be careful. Do not stare too long into the lights in the mist. In them lies madness."
And then he faded away into the back of the mind, just another fleeting shadow in the darkness.
Just as a footnote; I'm aware of, as Withiel puts it, the "knowing melodramatic" tone of these stories, and I thought I might as well explain it - for my own sake as well as for others'. Part of the reason is because I want it there. It brings something to a story that I feel wouldn't be as good without it. Mostly, however, it's because of dreams. Dream-logic is understandably difficult to translate into normal prose, and it's especially difficult to make that prose not sound pretentious or knowingly dramatic, simply because of the way dreams work. Things occur in them that are totally outrageous and defy all sane logic, yet make an eerie kind of sense while it's happening. It's sometimes hard to put to pen what makes perfect sense in my head, and I guess a side-effect of that is the overall tone of it. Of course, there's also the added joy of torturing Withiel as he attempts to translate into comic form the sound of "dreaming shadows".*
That said, I hope you enjoy it, and the next piece of fiction I write will be much more down to earth.
*It must be said though, he did a damned good job on that owl.