by John Andreula
For much of the past several weeks Sierra Stewart had been avoiding sleep. Her mother, Janice, hadn’t failed to notice the dark circles under her silent daughter’s eyes when she entered Sierra’s room.
As she always did after she had woken up, Janice showered and then had her first cup of coffee in the silence downstairs. Stephen, her husband and Sierra’s father, had left for work before Janice had awoke.
Sierra’s eyelids twitched and then drooped lazily. The girl was awake, but in an obviously exhausted daze. Sierra had been desperately avoiding sleep because sleep meant dreams. Dreams hadn’t been very good to her since that creep had infiltrated them.
Every time Sierra slept she dreamed, and every time she dreamed she couldn’t resist the urge and impulse to use her dream and reality altering ability. Each time she chose to use her power since that night when she resurrected the ladybug, the purple figure had penetrated her dream, and each time a bit more deeply than the last. It always threatened and teased the quiet girl inside her dreams.
This morning Janice got Sierra dressed as they normally did. Janice brushed the sleep out of her daughter’s eyes, brushed the knots from her hair, and brushed her teeth.
The two then went downstairs to the kitchen. Sierra sat at the round wooden kitchen table with her back to the windows that looked out at the street in front, as she did most mornings. She would bring a different book each morning from off Janice’s bookshelf in the basement. This morning it was Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman. Sierra read quietly from the large tome.
Janice was always somewhere between amused and curious if Sierra was actually absorbing anything from the words on the pages she stared at. After all, the girl had just turned five, and Janice read to her plenty, but Sierra never spoke, so the girl’s mother could never be quite sure.
Janice put on her white lace apron and hummed while she made some scrambled eggs and toast as she did most mornings. She flipped the eggs and buttered the toast before placing them on hers’ and her daughter’s plates. She squirted a dollop of ketchup on Sierra’s eggs. The air coming out of the bottle sounding like flatulence. Janice chuckled as she looked over to Sierra. She expected to see the girl amused. The girl didn’t bat an eyelash, let alone raise her eyes from the page they were set on. Janice sighed heavily.
Shortly after the two set out for their daily trip across town. Janice was caretaker for an elderly couple. She was lucky that the couple was pleasant enough around Sierra and willing to let her stay while Janice cooked and helped the two into and out of their chairs in the living room or bedroom. It didn’t hurt that Sierra was so quiet. Most days the couple’s growing senility made it that they didn’t even notice the girl was there at all.
Janice and Sierra had to take the bus back across town to get to the Macarthurs. The bus stop wasn’t far from the Stewarts’ residence, so Janice and Sierra walked to it each morning that the weather wasn’t outrageous.
The girls put on their fall coats and sneakers. Janice grabbed an umbrella just in case that ominous gray sky meant rain. She place the umbrella under her arm and fumbled to get her key in the door knob, before locking the front door.
The two climbed down the four stairs from their house and set out to cross the quiet cul-de-sac. They rounded the grassy circle where the other neighborhood kids would play after school and on days off. Sierra and Janice walked leisurely past the several other identical townhouse buildings before they arrived at the paved hill at the end. They climbed it and turned left down the street at the top.
Two houses down from the end of the girls’ street they arrived as always at a mid-height chain link fence. Janice breathed deeply as she prepared to pass the house and yard beyond it. Sierra glanced up at her mother for a brief moment.
Janice instinctively and reactively clutched her free hand to her chest and prepared herself. They hadn’t gone three paces along the fence when a familiar growling came from the far side of the house just beyond. A large brown bull mastiff rounded the corner of the small gray-walled two story. It began barking as it ran right in their direction.
Aside from this house and its dog, the community was quiet and peaceful. Their walk would have been as well, however each morning, and again in the afternoon, the girls would be accosted by this large canine beast.
Janice’s mind would fill with terror as she recalled previous incidents as well as the unrelated past dog attacks from her youth. The large brown beast would bound at them, as it did right now. Each time Janice would instinctively jump back in a defensive panic.
As the mastiff reached the fence it violently slammed its front paws against the wire fence. It reached high enough that Janice assumed it could leap over it if it really desired to.
Thankfully the heavy dog never did, but the loud sound it made as its weight slammed against the metal links only served to make her imagine what the weight of the dog would be like if it jumped on her.
Janice couldn’t decide what was worse, the fright she received from the large dog and its enmity, or the presence of its aging overweight owners, sitting idly by in witness. The two sat in their ugly white and blue patio chairs in the front of the house, underneath the second floor overhang. The man and woman seemed to relish the spooked reaction Janice produce each time she had to pass.
This morning Janice murmured to herself and ambled on. Sierra stopped her gait and just stood staring at the barking dog up against the fence. The bull continued its bombardment of barks and growls in attempt to threaten the little girl. Sierra was unmoved.
The girl moved her gaze past the jumping and barking mastiff to the fat owners smugly chuckling on the cement patio. Sierra stood for a long moment, statuesque.
The woman stopped laughing first, and contorted her face into a wrinkled frown. The man stopped laughing just after. From their body language it was obvious that the two were uncomfortable by the ensuing silence.
“She’s a creepy little thing. Ain’t she, Harold?” the fat woman intoned. Harold nodded his head slowly, and just stared back at the small girl.
“C’mon, baby.” Janice had only just realized that Sierra had stopped following her. Her daughter was still near the angry animal. “Leave that dog alone, ‘fore it eats you.”
She doubled back and approached Sierra. The mother reached out her fingers and tickled Sierra’s belly and growled. Sierra looked up at her mother with that typical impassive expression.
Janice took one final look at the dog. “Jeez!” she said, more to herself than to Sierra or the dog. The bull was still growling, but it had run out of the energy it needed to continue jumping and barking. Janice gently grabbed Sierra’s arm and pulled her along.
That afternoon the obese couple was nowhere to be found, but the dog still accosted Sierra and Janice. They hurried past the fenced-in yard.
The girls arrived back at their home and had an uneventful afternoon. There were chores and cooking for Janice, and quiet playtime in the townhouse’s grassy backyard for Sierra.
Janice had brought up Sierra’s lack of sleep to Stephen over dinner. Stephen agreed. He recognized that he couldn’t miss the fact that Sierra had consistently been awake when he decided to call it quits for the night, despite the long off-hours he had spent in his basement workshop,. It didn’t matter whether it was 1:00, 3:00, or 5:00 AM.
Janice voiced her unease at the situation, “It’s not healthy for her not to sleep. Her little body needs rest. It cannot regenerate itself without sleep.” Stephen nodded, but his mind was elsewhere. Janice shot a disappointed look at her husband. She knew he was in his own world.
Stephen distantly responded moments later, “We’ll take her to see Dr. Feld…Maybe a sleep specialist as well…And VIM might have something that can help her as well. I’ll ask around tomorrow”
“You know how I feel about too much tech in this house, Steve,” Janice answered back. She had already moved past her prior disappointment, “especially around a growing and developing child.”
Stephen didn’t respond. He just picked up another bite of Janice’s baked ziti and chewed it thoughtfully. Janice sighed deeply. All three finished the pasta and salad in thick silence.
After dinner Stephen got Sierra ready for bed. He helped her change into her unicorn print pajama pants and her “Every day is a gift!” tank top. He sat on the edge of the bed and guided Sierra in between his legs facing away and brushed her long, beautiful golden hair.
The two went into the bathroom and brushed the young girl’s teeth. Stephen pulled something out of the medicine cabinet. He peered down the hall outside the bathroom door in both directions. Once he had decided Janice was not within earshot he ducked back inside and filled a glass with water from the bathroom sink. He then opened a small orange tube and dropped something inside the glass. It quickly dissolved as bubbles rose to the surface at the top.
Stephen grabbed Sierra’s hand and walked her back to her bedroom holding the glass. “Cici, baby, drink this.”
Despite him being unaware of it, Sierra understood what her father had done. The girl was so very worn out. She felt her body telling her that she needed the rest. She hoped whatever he had dropped in the water would send her into a deep enough sleep that she couldn’t possibly dream. She drank the whole glass down without pause.
“Good job, sweetie.” Stephen commended his daughter. “Now lay down and go to sleep. Have pleasant dreams.”
Sierra was wrong. She would not sleep deep enough to avoid a dream this evening. She would sleep, and she would dream…
And Stephen was wrong. Sierra wouldn’t have pleasant dreams either…
Similar to most recent nights, Sierra tried to resist the pull of her exhaustion and sleep. The pill her father had dropped into her water was just too strong though. A few minutes after he had turned the light out and left, she began to do the repetitive dance of dozing and shaking herself awake. Eventually her tiredness won out and the girl fell into a deep drowsing slumber.
This night Sierra dreamed of her home. She was on her front porch. Everything seemed so familiar. Except it wasn’t. The backgrounds blurred along her peripheral vision as she rotated to take in the scene. Everything was black, white, and shades of gray.
Her neighborhood was usually quiet during the day, but now it was eerily silent. There were no birds singing in the trees beyond the fence. There were no cars zooming past the end of her street up the hill above. Everything was still, vacant.
Sierra recognized that she was in dream. She immediately resisted the impulse to effect the dream with her mind. She knew that the purple figure would come if she gave in to her urge. She decided to just go along and see where the flow of the dream took her.
Sierra instinctively knew she was meant to walk up the street and up the hill, as she and her mother often did, so she did. Step after step, the girl allowed her feet to carry her along. The townhouses, landscaping, and trees in the background moved by at an atypical, sluggish pace.
Sierra made her usual left toward the bus stop a block down the road. She arrived at the familiar chain link fence and the large mastiff was there awaiting her. It was now a hue of dark gray, instead of its normal shade of brown. The dog was silent and still as it watched the approaching young girl. The dog stared through cold, blank eyes at Sierra as she stopped and stared curiously back at it.
Just as Sierra decided to continue on, the dog opened a huge, gaping mouth and bellowed a loud, deep, echoing bark. Sierra cold almost make out the air vibrating around each bark as they escaped the dog’s open mouth.
After another snarl, she decided she definitely could see the ripples in this reality. Interesting, the young girl thought to herself. She stopped mid-stride to observe the monstrous animal. The now gray mastiff ambled up to the fence, seemingly in slow motion. It raised to its hind quarter and slowly slammed its front paws against the wire. The fence bowed out towards the girl.
The dog continued its slow, low forceful barrage of barking. Sierra felt the waves in the air as they struck her face, neck, and chest. Each were transparent, but they were also as solid as any pane of glass she had ever placed her hand against. The force of the barks didn’t hurt, but Sierra could feel the threatening intent in each. Sierra knew the huge dog would hurt her if it got its chance. She was unafraid regardless, as she knew what she was capable of here in her dream.
Sierra continued to stare as she did earlier during the day. Despite its surreal unmoving pace the dog still looked quite ferocious. More barks and rigid intention shot from the dog’s mouth at the young dreamer. Sierra remembered the fear her mother had felt. She felt a sensation inside herself that was unfamiliar. She felt something similar to when she harmed the ladybug in one of her previous dreams. Sierra was torn between not wanting to hurt the large dog, and the thought that she should protect her mother from future assaults from the animal. She arrived at a decision.
Sierra close her eyes tightly. Wrinkles appeared around her eyelids, cheeks, and forehead. She reopened them an sent a look more malicious than any that the dog had sent back at the animal. The bull mastiff closed its mouth and let out a low, soft, echoing whimper. It dropped its paws off the fence and landed on all fours. It turned slowly away from Sierra.
The animal moved as if a scene in a flip book, one moment at a time, until it was about three yards away. Then it fell over, still in slow motion, onto its heavy side. The ground shook in ripples around the canine. The dog went still. the dream world had become silent again.
The silence shattered as pink-purple lightning shot across the gray sky above the row of houses in front of Sierra. The girl felt another returning sensation. Tingling flexed throughout the young dreamer’s body. She knew at once what it was happening. She was feeling her fear.
A dark, raspy laugh echoed all around. Another bolt of the lightning struck upwards into the sky from the ground just behind the chain fenced house. A thin purple tear remained where the lightning had ascended to. The tear hung in the air in front of the swaying sky in the background. Another laugh collapsed across the dream scenery.
At once Sierra felt the urge to run, but her body did not respond to the impulse. Sierra stayed frozen in place. The downed mastiff was prone just beyond the diamond-shaped fence links. A familiar slit opened slightly in the sky, like the twisted smile on a sideways mouth. Sierra had seen this image before. Each time the experience was worse than the last.
This time the slit became wider, and larger than she had seen previously. She knew before she could see, that that familiar eye was just beyond the tear. The hole opened and Sierra could see the familiar purple face just beyond. the face had purple irises and white sclera within its eyes.
The face emitted another creepy laugh. Sierra could make its still white teeth and purple tongue and tonsils inside that dark smile. Before now she had only seen just its eyes and mouth. Now the entire face was clear as it pushed through the boundary of her dream world. It stretched the tear and squeezed in attempt to squeeze its face through. Fingers squeezed around the face and pushed outward, stretching the sky’s tear further. Quickly the fingers became full hands. Sierra could make out the dirty brown fingernails as they turned inward, and tried to force the sky open further.
The figure beyond became forced its whole head through the opening. It had clumps of gray hair scattered around its scalp that looked like the coat on a mangy mutt. Sierra stared up at the figure. It looked back down on her. The purple man’s mouth didn’t move, but another throaty laugh permeated the space around. The purple hands continued to push outward. Sierra could just make out darkness and smoke past the head and its now exposed bare purple chest coming through.
“Hello girl,” the void spoke to her. It was the same voice that had produced the laughs. The girl could tell it was emanating from the purple man. “Hello. Hello. Hello, my sweeeEEETT!!!!” it broke into more of the maniacal laughing. It began pushing its shoulder and torso through the torn border of the dream.
Sierra’s fear became manic as the purple interloper was starting to cross over. It was through all the way to the burlap shorts it wore covering it’s waist. Sierra automatically squeezed her eyes shut once more. She opened them again and shot one of her intense gazes up at the purple man. It winced in agony, then flinched backwards through the opening, and buckled over to one side.
The purple being casually rose back upright and held its hands at the edge of the tear. A more cautious, frenetic look appeared upon its face. The face twitched three times in succession, each with a different pained expression. “Whoa, girl!” the voice spoke again, without moving its lips. “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” It laughed some more, failing to mask its apparent discomfort.
It had decided against another attempt at crossing into the dream. “That stung!” he went on. A mischievous smile overtook the face. “You almost killed me…Your power is so exquisite…So succulent!…I must have it!”
Sierra wasn’t sure how to process her power not doing what it did with this scary purple man who invaded her dreams. It had never not worked when she tried it before! The being pointed its long, slender index finger, with its ugly brown fingernail down at the frightened girl below.
More raucous laughter filled the dream, and then the voice returned. “Pretty sure you’d have done me in if I’d have crossed over completely. That’s new. I must see how you did that, little girl.” The chuckle of an insane person filled the air again.
The purple man considered for a moment, and then shifted its gaze over to its outstretched hand and index finger. The arm started to grow and stretch out in length. Its eyes followed the hand as it stretched further and further. It was reaching down towards the frightened girl below.
Sierra tried to jolt the figure again. The body outside the tear was unaffected. The arm on shivered slightly, but continuing to grow out onward. “You are mine, my sweet dreamer!”
Sierra’s eyes betrayed the fear behind, but she reacted in the moment. Her body carried her back toward her street and down the hill in the direction of her house. The outstretched purple arm rose above the trees and townhouses and followed as close as it was able.
Sierra ran without looking back at the crazed purple face smiling down from the sky. The girl reached her front stoop at a full run and bound up the four cement steps. Just as the hand swiped out to grab her she flung the screen door opened and slammed it shut behind her.
The exaggeratedly outstretched hand balled into a fist and slammed against the dream version of the metallic door in an earth-shattering thud. Then it banged on the door next to the glass as if it were about to invite Sierra outside to play. Sierra watched in terror.
The purple hand clumsily grabbed for the black metal handle, and then pressed the latch button at the top. More laughter. Sierra slammed the wooden door inside and the monochrome world of her dream faded into dark nothing.
Sierra awoke sticky and wet with sweat. She lay there for a few moments. The girl thought of her dream, and of the dog, and the purple man and its laugh. The girl rubbed her eyes with balled up fists and sat up in her bed.
She climbed down the stairs all the way to the basement. She pulled over the old chair and grabbed another of Janice’s books from the top shelf. She sat down and read. It was all she could do to distract herself from the disturbing memory of her dream.
Just before the sun came up Stephen arose from his workshop and quietly locked the door behind him. He turned around and jumped back, startled at the sight of his daughter sitting hunched over a book on the floor a few steps away. Stephen had expected his daughter to sleep soundly for at least a few more hours. Janice had been right. Something was seriously wrong with the girl.
Stephen picked up his silent daughter. She was unusually warm to his touch. He carried her upstairs to her room as she clung onto the book she was staring into. He entered her bedroom and pulled the horizontal blinds open. He sat on the edge of the bed with his daughter on his lap, and stared out the window.
Stephen watched the sunrise. Sierra even took a moment to look up from her reading to stare into the disappearing darkness and oncoming daylight. After the sun had fully risen, Stephen laid Sierra back against her pillow and placed the girl’s book on the desk just out of her arm’s reach. “Your mother will be up shortly. I have to leave for work now,” and with that, Stephen left the room.
Minutes later, Sierra could hear her father’s crossover start up and pull away from the house. Ninety more minutes later Janice entered the room prepared to rouse the daughter she thought was still asleep. She wasn’t entirely surprised to see Sierra laying there in bed, unblinking.
Janice dressed Sierra, and then brushed her hair and teeth. The two went downstairs. Sierra took her usual place by the window and read some more. Janice put on her familiar apron and made her familiar eggs and toast. The two ate in familiar silent company. Afterwards they set out on their familiar walk away from their home. Up the hill and out of the familiar cul-de-sac they went.
Two houses down they reached that familiar wire chain fence. Two familiar obese figures were hunched over a brown unmoving mass on the lawn. The fat couple was grieving and crying over their beloved, dead pet. Janice didn’t respond outwardly, but Sierra could see some form of emotion beyond her mother’s stone face. Janice pressed on in silence.
Sierra stayed and observed the teary-eyed elderly couple. She felt that regretful tingling sensation in her chest and mind, but it was mixed with mild satisfaction at the thought that she had protected her mother as well.
The fat woman looked up and used her sleeve to wipe tears from both of her rosy cheeks. She looked at the little blonde girl staring back at her. They held each others’ gaze for a long moment before Janice returned to corral Sierra along the road. The girl averted her gaze and followed her mother down the road toward the familiar bus stop.
In Dream is part of an ongoing fiction epic called The Dreamer.
Sierra’s tale is where the whole story started.
The whole story starts here.
Look out for more of The Dreamer coming very soon!
John Andreula is a writer and dreamer residing in the foothills of Colorado.
More of his works of can be found at:
Moving On Upwards & Failing Upwards
Reach him for commission work or media requests at: