I stood alone on a pristine green field. A cloud of smoke hung heavy in the cool night air and I smelled the freshly cut grass beneath my feet. Off in the distance, a deer with an impressive set of antlers spotted me and bolted away as fast as he could. As the wind blew, I caught an echo of voices…
“Who are ya? Who are ya? Who are ya?”
I turned to my left and circled around expecting to see a crowd of people, but no one was there.
Then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed something moving toward me. A chill went up my spine as I saw a blurry, shifting mass. It reminded me of a badly out of focus photo, but it was constantly fluctuating and seemed to be taking the vague shape of a person.
It first appeared as a Spartan warrior, then became a giant version of his helmet. Next it appeared as a five-pointed star, and then finally returned to its original shapeless form.
I don’t know why it was there, but I got the vague feeling that it wanted to fight me. After a few minutes of nothing happening, I decided to walk away. The mass followed and I could tell that it was trying to shape itself in my image but was failing horribly.
I ran, reaching a wooded area with tall trees. Dead leaves crunched underfoot as I moved deeper into the forest. I was alone once again.
Except, that is, for the animals that called this place home. In the moonlight I could see a squirrel climbing down from its nest.
When it caught sight of me, rather than running away it came right up, slowly growing and growing as it got closer. It stood up on its hind legs. With the voice of a prepubescent boy it began to speak.
“You suck,” it said.
I responded with the universal statement of the bewildered.
“I said you suck. Your team missed the playoffs, your stadium is a pile of rubble, and your city is dead.”
Reflexively, I responded. “Well it’s true we had a down year but we’ll bounce back… Wait! You’re a squirrel. Why am I arguing with a freakin’ squirrel?”
It continued, undeterred. “You don’t even watch the games. You just go to act tough and get your picture taken. Your team can’t defend the counter. Your club will be gone in a few years.”
On he went, staring at me with his beady little eyes. Suddenly he lunged at me, baring his sharp teeth.
A mighty ax appeared in my hand and I rose up to defend myself. The shining steel shone in the moonlight as I swung it downward, cleaving the rodent in two. Its halves transformed into little whiffs of black smoke and vanished.
When the smoke cleared I noticed that I was in a clearing with a line of trees on either side and an island of them in the middle. I heard the rumble of hundreds of footfalls as a grand army of blue and white marched from right to left across the field. On and on and on they went in a seemingly endless mass.
I stepped forward, and as they took no notice of me, I walked alongside to get a better idea of their numbers. Much to my surprise, they were marching in a circle around the island of trees. From my previous vantage point, this had given the illusion that their host was many thousands strong. I now realized that the actual number was much lower. I’m not sure who they were trying to fool, but I knew their ruse wouldn’t be effective for very long.
Suddenly, I felt myself falling. Down and down I went, the previous visions flooding my mind, twisted and distorted.
With a flash of light I found myself on a field much the same as the first, yet here the midday sun blazed down and I felt a stifling heat. The setting seemed idyllic. Up above, strips of clouds lined the sky – rows of light blue and white stretching to the horizon.
Taking a step forward, though, I realized that the ground was littered with corpses. Some were fresh, others just skeletons that appeared to have been there for years. All wore shirts of darkened red.
I bent down to get a better look at the poor fellow closest to me. An eerie feeling crept over me and my heart began to race.
His eyes opened.
Shocked and horrified, I recoiled and stumbled, falling backwards. Everything went black.
I awoke in a cold sweat, gasping for breath, my heart still pounding. Sitting up in the darkness, my mind was filled with the images I’d seen. They seemed so real, but they couldn’t have been… Could they?
I reached for the rouge and gold scarf hanging from the bedpost and pulled myself out of bed. Those things must’ve been products of a fever dream, terrors of some forgotten past that never really was.
I walked to the window and drew the curtain. It was early and quiet. The first light of day turned the horizon into a swath of purples and blues as it began to chase the darkness away. Wrapping the soft scarf around my neck, I caught the scent of sulfur in the air. My pulse returned to normal and I felt a growing warmth within.
A new day had come.