[Just a little dream …]


Almost a year had passed since Vandrysse’s dreams had changed. Long gone were those recollections masquerading as nightmares, where brave men and women died horrendous deaths; where she relived the bitter, guilty taste of being paralyzed by fear, watching her friends eaten alive by the Scourge. It was a period where Vandrysse could barely sleep, if at all – when she drank herself into oblivion not to forget, but to simply reach a state where the trauma subsided to a dull roar. On those rare occasions where she did sleep, she’d awaken to the sensation of being covered in hot blood, only to realize after a few panicky moments that it was just her imagination. Sometimes, when she was wide awake, Vandrysse was haunted by noise (the way the geist had chewed through that dwarf’s gristle and flesh), and food became chunks of corpse. Sometimes, she would go days without eating.

In almost a year’s amount of time, Vandrysse learned how to embrace her trauma – instead of running away, she ran to it, peeling back the skin to expose every ugly thing underneath. The horrors lost their fright, became grotesque creatures of comfort. Her demons became her friends.

And the dreams? They have become something else entirely – mind wanderings, twisted visions of the past and future, glimpses of things that could have been …

I’m being led down a darkened corridor, the worn stone blocks mold-stained and dripping damp. Mage lights illuminate the passageway, but barely, as if the shadows here are too powerful for any light. It reminds me of the Vault, or maybe deep inside the Dalaran sewers.

There are four others with me. We are all dressed alike, in somber dark robes with hoods that hide our faces. I am being escorted to a room, maybe it’s a cell.

A memory suddenly rises to the surface – I can’t help but wonder if old man Dalziel is waiting for me, just like he was on that fateful day. Perhaps I’ll earn the ire of the dead, but if he is here I won’t hesitate to break his goddamned face in again.

But it’s not the old warlock that awaits, it’s someone else, a person I don’t know. He’s chained to the wall and an utter mess – filthy hair hanging in oily clumps, tattered clothes that are dirty, bloodied and soiled. Light, does hereek. My escorts are speaking, but I can’t understand their conversation, I can only hear senseless sound. Blah blah blah.

You can make him talk. The voice is familiar. The Mage Warden? No. Vincentus? Maybe. Maybe it’s both. Maybe it’s more.

The man smiles at me, showing off a mouthful of crooked and missing teeth, and I have to do a double-take because for a moment it is Dalziel, after I punched him in the mouth. It’s obvious he’s been beaten, broken and healed, too, prepped for this interrogation.

“They’ve tried everything they could, don’t think you can do any better.”

Go on, the voices urge.

Had this happened several months ago, I would have denied my part. But so much has changed. It’s not only because I want to please one of those voices …

It’s because I want to do this.

And it gets easier and easier, doesn’t it? All I need is a crack, a slip – the most minute of handholds to get inside. I could be gentle, but that’s a privilege I save for certain people in certain situations. I find the embarrassing thoughts. I amplify the painful memories, dredge up things he surely thought were long buried and forgotten. Perhaps as a woman I should be more conscientious of my actions, but nothing is off limits as I violate his mind, and I take every opportunity to make him feel it.

Whatever information he’s holding comes spilling out in between pathetic sobs and mutterings. I like it in his mind, like the mess I’ve created. There is so much more I could do to him. With great reluctance I withdraw, vaguely aware of approving nods, the whispered promise of a reward later on.

But I’m not done with him yet. Either my friends think me naïve or have decided they’ve asked enough of me.

“Do you wish him to remain alive, or dead?”

The ring leader of this macabre circus tilts his head at me thoughtfully; there is just enough magelight to illuminate the smirk playing across his lips.

“If it amuses you, kill him.”

He had every intention of fighting the bitch off. Instead, he openly wept. Shamefully pissed himself. Every mistake he’d ever made, every fear he’d ever felt, all of the bad things he’d always tried to deny were dragged out into the open, paraded before him, mocked. The woman’s presence was frigid and cruel, and if disturbing those memories wasn’t enough, his mental space had been invaded by shadows that taunted and whispered madness. They talked in a chorus of dead voices, sang of lost stars and the great darkness beyond.

The cloaked figures pulled back their hoods, revealing raw, rotten faces of the Scourge, wet meat covered in wriggling white as the maggots worked, insects crawling through darkened sockets and gaping wounds, depositing their eggs. The stench made him vomit until there was nothing left but acidic juice that ruined his throat.

He might have reached that point of shock where nothing else could touch him, but when they dragged his wife out (who had been dead for many years, but such a minor detail didn’t count when it was replayed as if real), did things to her and butchered her; he fell over the edge, into the abyss – and there was no coming back. He couldn’t save her, he could only scream and yell and retch some more, could only stand there chained to that wall and listen as sharp teeth pulled her to pieces, skin ripping like fabric, could do nothing to stop the squelching sound as her innards spilled onto the floor, could do nothing to block out thescent of her death.

They turned on him, all five, bloody and gore-caked fingers pointing, and while he may not have been able to do anything about his wife, he could surely do something about himself if only he had the courage …

Perhaps they’d expected Vandrysse to smite the man, infect him with some kind of necrotic plague, or withdraw a hidden dagger and stab him to death. They waited, but the defiled priestess never even attempted to lift a finger.

Instead, they watched as the man went insane, letting loose a terrible howl and throwing his head back with enough force that it cracked against the wall. Over. And over. Bone shattered, a dark crimson stain painted the point of impact. One more time, and the man slumped in his chains, a fat sloppy drip drip drip as curdles of brain tissue splattered against the floor, his mouth solidifying into a crazed grin that announced to the world: You can’t get me.

Once upon a time, Vandrysse talked to a thin gray man about nightmares.

So much had changed in almost a year. She doesn’t have nightmares anymore. She’s learned how to give them.

Before she rouses out of her sleep, leaves the dream, the voice whispers one last time:

Good girl.