Week 13 - Novel - Dreams Part VII - August 26-September 1

To her great relief, the wound didn’t actually look that bad. She could make out the claw marks, which definitely had pierced her skin and left her bleeding, but it didn’t look like they had penetrated that deeply. The blood had mostly clotted, it seemed, and none of her internal organs appeared to be exiting her body. Things were okay.

At the same time, being faced with irrefutable visual proof that she did in fact have very real physical claw marks on her back unsettled her immensely. She considered the various possibilities this implied. Either she was still dreaming, and this was all a hallucination as well, or something about her dream had actually somehow crossed over into reality. She wasn’t sure which possibility frightened her more.

She slapped herself in the face. It stung. She wasn’t sure if this was irrefutable proof that this was real life, but at least it certainly felt that way to her. Then again, her dreams had felt pretty real to her too.

“There is something seriously freaky going on, and I am not okay with it,” Jo announced to herself. It made her dizzy to think about what all of this meant. Were her dreams real? She couldn’t even begin to comprehend how that could be possible, but she also couldn’t think of how else to reconcile the facts of her present situation.

“I need to lie down and think about my life,” she muttered to herself. The adrenaline was wearing off at this point, and had started to be replaced by a dull, throbbing headache. Despite having taken a nap, she felt even more exhausted than she had before she’d fallen asleep.

She pulled open the medicine cabinet, found the first aid kit, and removed the gauze. She wasn’t sure exactly how to dress a claw wound inflicted in a dream, but figured she’d do her best for now and then worry more about it later. She wrapped the wound with the gauze as best as she could, then stumbled off to her room.

Sighing, she pulled off her t-shirt and replaced it with a nondescript white blouse. It crossed her mind briefly that if she did in fact find herself in the dream world again, which seemed like more than negligible possibility at this point in time, the blouse, while not perfect, would stand out less than her graphic t-shirt had. It still wasn’t clear to her exactly why her clothes had carried over to the dream world this time around, when every time in the past she’d been dressed entirely differently, but her mind stoutly refused to entertain any more thinking. She collapsed into her bed, and almost immediately fell back into a deep slumber.

“You awake?”

Jo heard the words vaguely in her half-awake state, and mumbled something incoherent in response.

“Hey. Jo. Wake up.” Someone or something nudged her gently.

She turned, not entirely willingly, and peeked an eye open. Tan was sitting next to her, staring at her with concern.

“Tan? What’s going on?” she mumbled, still not fully awake.

“I’m not really sure, to tell you the truth. That’s why we need you awake. Elvir insists on not telling us anything until you’re up. Thank the stars you finally did wake up. I was really worried for a while there. Ardin, too.”

Jo groaned, and willed herself into a sitting position. She opened both eyes. She looked around. It was dark, with Tan illuminated only by a lamp he held by his side. She couldn’t see much else. She seemed to be sitting on a makeshift bed made out of a few rolls of padded cloth.

“Where are we? Where’s Ardin?” she asked.

“Ardin’s okay. He’s still with Elvir, trying to get some answers out of him. As for where we are, it’s a cave of some sort. Elvir brought us here after the earthquake in Tach. I have no idea how he did it, and he refuses to tell us where this cave is, so I really can’t tell you anymore. If you’re feeling up for it, though, we can go find him and you can ask him yourself.”

Slowly, Jo’s mental capacities returned to her. “Cave. Earthquake. Right. The last thing I remember is falling through a crack in the Earth towards oblivion and then claws piercing my body. And now we’re in a cave. Got it. Okay.”

Tan chuckled. “Yeah, that’s about right. It’s been a weird day. Want to go see Ardin and see what we can get out of Elvir?”

Jo nodded. Tan stood up and offered her a hand. Then, he pointed into the darkness and started walking. Jo trailed closely behind, afraid of being left alone in the darkness. The fact that this world, real or not, had consequences that carried over into her own, was slowly sinking in and causing her to consider her actions much more carefully.

The cave narrowed, becoming a small passageway. As they walked, Jo could hear voices murmuring in the distance. She recognized the deep boom of Elvir’s voice. She realized, suddenly, that she was much more afraid of Elvir now, knowing that he might very well be real. The claw marks on her back, which throbbed dully now, reminded her viscerally of that possibility.

Soon they approached the end of the tunnel and entered into another cavern, this one much better lit with a series of torches mounted across the span of the cavern walls. She could make out Elvir and Ardin at the far end of the cavern. Elvir was resting on his haunches, seeming calm and composed. Ardin paced back and forth restlessly, and kept wringing his hands together.

“Jo’s awake.” Tan called out to them as they walked into the cavern.

Ardin stopped pacing and turned his head up sharply, then ran over. Elvir sat up far more slowly, but also made his way over.

“Jo! Are you alright?” Ardin asked as he came over. Before she could reply, he unexpectedly spread his arms and grabbed her in a tight bear hug. “Gosh, you had me worried for a second. You were really knocked out cold.”

 
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