Chapter 23: Dreams and Nightmares

What was there to be said about nightmares?

Well, a lot, really. At least that they were often unwelcome and plain unpleasant. Some people used to believe that they were demons who sat on people’s chests and caused sleep paralysis or even death. One could argue that demons had better things to do, but – unfortunately for both the victims and the demons – they didn’t.

Not that all nightmares were really caused by demons. Sometimes they could reflect a person’s fears or even wishes, and sometimes they were just random.

Sometimes nightmares had a purpose, and some may even like them because they could inspire something great.

In the case of young Emily Sato, however, all they inspired was an abrupt awakening and a scream.

She wanted mommy. But mommy wasn’t here. The people who took care of her now had tried to explain that mommy was gone, but she would come back, right? She couldn’t just go away! She would come back to her and chase away the nightmare monsters that made everything red and scary.

She screamed again, finding the word she could say even in her sleep – and often did:

“Mommyyyyyyyy!”

“Oh no, not again!” said the voice of Laurel Grisby, “Hey, hey, it’s alright now. You’re safe!”

Emily felt her new sister’s arms around her, comforting but not comforting enough. She sobbed and screamed again.

Tad looked almost tired when Amelia went to see him in his room. He looked like he had just walked in and crashed right on his bed. Amelia smiled sympathetically.

“Long day?” she asked.

“Do you know how many species die out on average every day?” Tad mumbled in response.

“Uh… many?”

“Yes. And today was an especially busy one. I should have known that one relatively calm day would mean something like this. Not to mention that today contained many unexpected cases.”

“Like… unexpected to you?” Amelia frowned, “I thought you always knew when… it happens.”

“I do. But things can sometimes change so abruptly that I am not alerted of them until it is already happening. It makes everything feel hectic,” Tad stared at the ceiling, or possibly through it, “Have you ever accidentally skipped a step while descending a staircase?”

“Yeah. Many times.”

“That is kind of what it feels like, I suppose.”

“Oh, yeah, that is unpleasant,” Amelia said, “But you know what? I’ve got some news that might make you feel better! The Grisbys called and asked if they could bring Emily here tomorrow, and I said yes!”

Tad blinked slowly. Then he smiled.

“I cannot wait.”

Then he closed his eyes, and for a moment Amelia thought he had actually fallen asleep. But Death never slept. He couldn’t.

It was quite fortunate, then, that sleep wasn’t the only way one could dream. Sometimes, Death liked to daydream, to think about all the good things in the world – though right now he just let a part of his mind sink into uneventful darkness. Because sometimes even daydreaming was more difficult than one might think. And sometimes it was far too easy. So easy, in fact, that one would occasionally surprise even oneself with it. That was what happened to Novak Sanguine that day.

He’d spent most of his time just walking around Riverview, occasionally trying to figure out what he would do after this whole thing was over and done with. Most of the time his walks would lead him somewhere where he could discreetly find info on the Deacons and whatever else he needed to be a good self-appointed part-time information broker for Death. Today had been no exception, except for the fact that once he had sat down on the grass in a currently empty playground and opened up his laptop, his mind had started to wander without him even realising it.

He thought about the madness that had led him to this small backwater town and working for the Grim Reaper. He thought about the promised reward that he could use to pay off his debts and be at least a bit freer from the strings that he couldn’t seem to shake off no matter how far he ran or how many times he changed his name.

He thought about freedom and the open, unexpected road and the challenges he could properly focus on accepting just because he wanted to. Maybe he’d celebrate by scheduling a random bungee jump off a bridge or something just to get high on adrenaline. You know, when he didn’t have to constantly look over his shoulder anymore.

“I like your hair,” said a young voice that made Novak jump. He was halfway into self-defence mode before he realised that the person who had sneaked up on him was just a teenager with a friendly smile and no visible weapons. He allowed himself to relax, but stayed alert; usually the least threatening ones were the most dangerous.

“Thanks,” he said and glanced at the teen’s own dreadlocks, “Likewise. That your real hair colour?”

“Yup,” the kid replied, “Did you know hair dyes cause cancer?”

Novak closed his laptop and stood up.

“Uh-huh. Did you know you can also choke on an apple?”

The boy clapped his hand over his mouth.

“I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to start fearmongering! It’s just… you know how it is when you read so many articles about something that the next time you see anything related to it something just slips out?”

Novak didn’t answer, but apparently he didn’t look too offended or hostile, because the boy extended his hand.

“I’m Basil Hewitt.”

Hewitt? That sounded vaguely familiar.

“Novak.”

“Cool. You’re new here, right?”

“Yeah. Do you just randomly go around town talking to every stranger you meet, kid?”

“Pretty much,” Basil smiled, “I like meeting new people. I was just passing by right now, though. I’m going to pick up some stuff from that shop over there.”

He pointed over his shoulder at the light blue house that boasted an old-fashioned shop sign next to its front door. The Remedies of Nature.

Then it clicked.

“Son of a bitch,” Novak muttered under his breath. He knew that store, even though he’d never physically been there. He definitely remembered the witch who had come all the way to Bridgeport just to complain about Novak “misusing” her merchandise. And now Novak also remembered why the name Hewitt sounded so familiar.

“Wait, so you’re from that supernatural commune? The Ley Line Nexus?”

Basil’s eyes widened.

“You know about that?”

“Yeah, I read an article about it,” Novak said and conveniently neglected to mention that he had also used the Nexus’s address to order the spells he’d needed for the burglary, “It’s an offshoot of that facility that treats troubled supernaturals and gives them homes, right?”

“Yeah,” Basil said, “So… you’re one of us? Wow, that sounds weird. I mean, we’re all us, but you know what I mean.”

“I’m in the loop, yeah. Pretty obvious by now.”

“Nice! I wish I could chat more, but I’ve got to go. Vanja’s closing up soon.”

“Sure, go ahead.”

Novak watched while the kid crossed the street to the store. Basil didn’t quite make it to the door, and Novak couldn’t quite decide what he had been planning to do before his mind had started to wander before the door to the witch’s shop opened and the witch peeked out.

“Hi, Basil! Hurry up; I’m about to close. I’ve got your usual purchases prepared, but you can still browse…”

Novak felt a strange burning sensation in his forehead when the witch stopped talking. A second later Novak realised the burning sensation came from someone glaring at him quite murderously.

“What the hell are YOU doing here?!” Vanja Leifsdóttir screeched.

“Aaaaannd that’s my cue to leave,” Novak muttered. He was running before he even checked whether the witch with a capital B would try to zap him or not.

He reminded himself to leave the daydreaming for when he could actually afford it.

Lydia Deacon, however, didn’t daydream. Or so she said. She set goals, and then tried to fulfil them as efficiently as she could. Most of her goals revolved around influence, success, and becoming more than she already was. It had started when she had been little, and when her disappointed parents had realised that she had no magic. When father had shut himself off into his room for three days just to brood, and then made it clear how much of a failure she was.

She remembered poring over the old spellbooks in the house when she had been only eight, when Gaius had just been born. She’d tried everything she could to become what her parents wanted. She had read everything in their library, tried using the artefacts and potions they had lying around, and had even tried to summon some kind of spirit to help her and as a result almost burned down their east wing. But nothing had worked. When she had turned sixteen she had stopped trying and turned to science as a way to break free of disappointment and to become better. To show her parents and to leave that musty mansion filled with belittling, doubting looks.

And yet, she hadn’t come nearly far enough. She was still partly dependent on her family’s fortune and the multiple houses the Deacons had purchased over the years. And yes, she was still trying to prove herself to her father. It was annoying, but it was also something she couldn’t stop at this point before she had made the final point.

And then, well, she could freely move on and become something… more powerful.

She let her hand brush the necklace where a piece of the gemstone she had stolen was embedded in. Her family had always been about power. And even though she wanted to leave a lot about her family behind, there were some things that had been repeated so many times that they made too much sense to her. And now she really had something that so many people wanted. She also possibly had Fate on her side, though so far she wasn’t convinced that Fate was as sincere as she tried to appear to be. Sure, she had told them about Death’s mortal entourage, but that wasn’t much in the long run. And Lydia was still certain that Fate would at some point rat her out to something. She really needed to look into ordering some of those experimental spectral bullets one of those crazy magic-science people had been developing, just in case.

“Sis’?”

Lydia looked up at Gaius, who stood a bit uncertainly at the doorway to the living room. She could have easily hated her brother for how blatantly her parents favoured him. Hell, father had even made a portion of his speech at mother’s funeral about Gaius and how great it was to have him there. But Gaius was the only one in the family who actually loved them all. And he especially adored Lydia.

Even when Lydia had tried to be an aloof big sister in the beginning, Gaius had latched onto her like a puppy, following her around and being so happy whenever he learned something new from Lydia. And despite him being so enamoured with necromancy and wanting to follow in his father’s slightly dubious footsteps, Lydia couldn’t help but care about Gaius too. Even when he kept fidgeting and being nervous about their plan – which he had nevertheless agreed to go along with.

“Alright, what’s on your mind?” Lydia asked.

“I was just thinking… of going out. Is that okay?”

Lydia shrugged.

“Just be careful and be back soon. And I mean careful. Maybe fire up some cloaking spells to be sure.”

Gaius sighed.

“Okay… it’s just…”

“You’re getting as stir crazy as I am?” Lydia said, and Gaius nodded, “I can’t say I’m too keen on being cooped up here and going to our family bunker just to have business meetings through video calls either. But hey, at least we get out of the house for a few days when the Altos throw that party they’ve been sending messages about for weeks.”

Because the Deacon family seriously had their own bunker (for when those zombie experiments went really wrong). Gaius frowned.

“Are you sure that’s okay?”

“The party? Yes. My business needs it, and we need it. And we definitely need the connections if we want to distance ourselves from father’s underworld contacts. And just because we are on top of a lot of things in the supernatural world doesn’t mean we’ve got everything covered.”

She stood up from the couch she had been lounging on, put aside the book she’d been reading, and turned to Gaius.

“And besides, now that we’ve got Fate on our side – sort of, maybe – we can breathe just a bit easier. Hell, the party could even be a likely chance to see exactly what we’re dealing with here and get the jump on Death and his people if they do show up.”

“Or then it’ll be a disaster.”

“We’ll just have to make sure it isn’t us the disaster strikes,” Lydia trailed off when an idea hit her. They tended to do that often, “In fact, maybe we should give Fate a little bit of help in helping us.”

“Like what?”

“Well, Fate told us that the burglar we hired to steal the gemstone has switched sides, right?”

“Yeah?”

“And remember why we picked him?”

“Because he was good at his job, and desperate?”

“Exactly!” Lydia smirked, “He didn’t make it obvious, but I could tell he was definitely on the run from someone. Probably some powerful crime boss. The independents tend to get in trouble with the big leagues. I’ll do some digging, and if things go well, I can maybe find something we can use… Just in case.”

Gaius stared at Lydia with the adoring little brother -look he had perfected over the years.

“You’re always so confident,” he said with both confusion and amazement in his voice.

“I’m just determined.”

Determination and striving to constantly be better at everything she did were actually what compensated for Lydia Deacon’s lack of confidence. It was hard to build a healthy self-esteem when one spent one’s entire childhood and teenage years being a failure.

So Lydia set new goals in her head, and got back to work.


The Grisbys arrived in the afternoon of the next day. They seemed to be radiating friendliness like they always did, and Emily immediately detached herself from her new parents’ hands when she saw whom they were meeting. She let out a small chirp that Tad assumed was of happiness and walked again right into Tad’s arms. Maybe one day such absolute trust in him would get less astonishing.

“That never stops being cute!” Amelia said.

And it was apparently “cute” as well. Tad had noted that said quality had been attributed to him much more often when he had started using his human form. He wasn’t sure what to make of it. He supposed it was nice, if perhaps a bit… odd and not very fitting for what he was. He lifted Emily up, and she gripped his shirt like she had back when he had first picked her up and things had got complicated. Tad tried his best to act natural in a situation that was still so very unnatural to him.

“We’re just happy that she feels safe here,” said Mr. Grisby, “I hope you don’t mind that we brought her here mostly to get used to being out of the house.”

“No, not at all,” Tad said, “It is… good for her to see different places.”

“Isn’t she already in the kindergarten?” Amelia asked, “How’s that going?”

“That’s what we’re here for too. We figured you’d want to know,” Mrs. Grisby smiled, “But maybe we can talk more inside.”

“Oh, of course! Come on in!”

Amelia stepped aside to let everyone in. They didn’t make it farther than the hall before Mrs. Sprigg practically flew to them.

“Hello! It’s so nice to meet… oooh, you are such a cutie! Très jolie! Kind of like Amelia when she was little! Oh, I have so many pictures of Amelia when she was just a toddler! I can show you if you like!”

“Mum,” Amelia whispered, “That’s… not really why we have guests over.”

Emily looked questioningly at Tad, and then at Mrs. Sprigg.

“It is alright,” Tad said quietly, “Mrs. Sprigg is forward, but she means no harm.”

“Oh, where are my manners!” Mrs. Sprigg exclaimed and turned to the Grisbys, “I’m Julia Sprigg. Amelia’s mother. Amelia told me there would be some guests, and I definitely don’t mind. I’ve read about you in the papers! You are those foster parents to all those lovely children!”

“Yes, we are,” Mrs. Grisby said, obviously unfazed by Mrs. Sprigg’s rather unnerving enthusiasm, “We met Emily through your daughter and her tenant here, actually. Well, sort of.”

Mrs. Sprigg put her hand to her face in a rather theatrical display of sympathy.

“Oh, c’est vrai! I read about it in the news. Poor girl. Such a tragedy. But she looks so cheerful now! So cute! I just can’t get over it! Oh, I wish I was still young enough to have some more kids of my own…”

“I think we should maybe sit in the living room and talk,” Amelia said.

“That’s a great idea!” Mrs. Sprigg said, “That’s where our photo albums are!”

Mum!”

Tad was getting the distinct feeling that Amelia was very uncomfortable with the way her mother was acting. He supposed he might be too. Although he couldn’t be sure. He didn’t have a mother, or any other family either. The closest thing he had were the others like him. Concepts, Emotions, and Truths. But even they were just mostly distant colleagues. He also didn’t have baby pictures. When he had been born, he had been just barely self-aware, metaphorical mist in the chaotically forming universe. That was nothing to take adorable pictures of, really. And there was also the fact that cameras hadn’t been invented until billions of years later.

So he tried his best to imagine what it would be like if he had a mother who suddenly started showing cute pictures of him to random strangers.

He supposed it would be quite embarrassing.

“So this one winter Amelia just loved to play in the snow,” Mrs. Sprigg was saying while she pointed at a picture of a very young Amelia dressed like a bunny in waist deep snow, “She was almost swimming in it!”

“Mum?” Amelia groaned, her face hidden in her hand, “Maybe we should go get some coffee and tea for our guests?”

Mrs. Sprigg paused and then smiled.

“Oh, I’m sorry! I’m being the embarrassing old mum again! Don’t worry. I’ll leave you alone and get those drinks right away! Have fun, kids!”

The Grisbys looked at the retreating Mrs. Sprigg with the sort of polite bafflement that Tad usually felt in most social situations. Amelia was blushing furiously as she sat down on the now vacant couch.

“Well, that was… something I imagined wouldn’t happen again ever since I turned sixteen. Anyway, let’s forget about that and talk about… something else. Anything.”

Mrs. Grisby chuckled, but it was a good-natured sort of laugh. Probably meant to say “Don’t worry, we all know how you feel”. Even if they all didn’t.

“Right. So, we really hope you don’t mind us barging in,” Mrs. Grisby said, “We figured Emily would like to see you again. And you her.”

Tad glanced at Emily, who had been distracted by a stuffed dinosaur while Mrs. Sprigg had been embarrassing Amelia with photographs. Emily looked back at him, looking for… something. He didn’t know what. Emily lifted the dinosaur up as if to present it to him, and Tad had a brief flashback to a time when the Earth had been very different and when giant lizards had roamed it. His memory quickly shifted to the end of that era. That meteorite had caused a lot of overtime work, so to speak. He remembered sinking into a century-long, burnout-induced depression after that.

He heard Mr. Grisby mentioning nightmares and realised that he had again managed to get lost elsewhere while he was supposed to be somewhere. He forced himself to focus and only stopped to feel the pain of someone being shot in the heart before he returned to the Spriggs’ house.

“Nightmares?” he repeated, because it was really the only word he had caught in the last… how long had he been wandering billions years in the past?

To his surprise, it was Emily who nodded a bit shakily. Mr. Grisby looked at her, sadness in his eyes.

“Yes. Emily’s been having some bad dreams. We think going to the kindergarten so soon may have made them worse. You know, new situations and environments and all. It’s just a theory, though. It could also be a delayed reaction to… you know.”

“So we’re thinking that easing her into this all even slower is worth trying,” Mrs. Grisby added, smiling at Emily, “Go on, you can explore and play if you want. Uncle Tad can go with you.”

“What? Me?” Tad said, “I uh… if that is okay…”

He looked at Amelia, who nodded encouragingly.

“There’s nothing too dangerous for a four-year-old in here.”

In Tad’s experience, anything could be dangerous to a person of any age, but he didn’t have time to dwell on it more, because Emily actually put the stuffed dinosaur down and started walking away after a few more encouraging nods from Mr. and Mrs. Grisby. Tad was following her before he even realised it.

Emily’s steps were hesitant, though a bit less unbalanced than they had been not too long ago. Apparently some aspects of her development had been delayed because of the isolation and lack of experiences, but she seemed to be improving quite fast in many regards now. She kept looking over her shoulder to see if Tad was still with her. She glanced at the staircase leading upstairs, but then continued on past it. She briefly walked around the dining room, hiding behind the curtains and giggling happily, but then she found the door to Tad’s room. It was ajar – because Tad had taken small, almost subconscious steps to integrating to the Sprigg household – so Emily could easily push it open. Her eyes immediately fell on the guitar Tad still kept in the room even though he rarely attempted to play it anymore.

She walked up to it and sat down. She ran her fingers across the guitar strings and smiled with delight when a few slightly off-key notes drifted forth. She repeated the motion many times, letting out a chirping laugh.

“You seem to like that,” Tad said and sat down on the floor next to her, “I tried to learn how to play, but I am not good at it. I was mostly just pretending, really. Now I think I have other things to tie me here.”

Emily stopped playing and turned to him, a questioning look on her face.

“Oh, sorry,” Tad said, “I should try to be clearer. Especially with you.”

“Music…” Emily said. Her voice was frail and clear like crystal. She had started to speak more, but her sentences were still mostly fragmented and short, and she still didn’t like talking around most people.

“That’s right,” Tad said, smiling, “Do you like music?”

Emily nodded.

“So do I. You know what? When you grow a little bit, you can have that guitar if you want. You can learn to play it. Not just pretend like I did.”

“I… have it?”

“Yes.”

Emily looked at her hands, which had a moment ago managed to create sounds with such simple movements.

“Mommy played music,” she said.

Tad felt something cold settling into his chest. He knew what was coming. He had faced too many of these kinds of moments during his existence, and it never got any less painful for everyone involved. And now it was Emily… the lovely girl who trusted him. That made it hurt all the more.

“She did?” Tad managed to ask.

Emily nodded.

“When… mommy coming back?” she asked.

“Didn’t Walter and Yvette tell you?”

Nod.

“Said she doesn’t. But… mommy wouldn’t leave…” Emily looked up at Tad, her eyes shimmering with what Tad hoped weren’t unshed tears, “You helped mommy. Where is she?”

“Is that why you have nightmares?” Tad asked and knew that he was avoiding Emily’s question. But… he really didn’t know how to explain himself to such a young child. And if he did… would she fear him then? Would she hate him? So many people did. Or worst of all, would it scar her? Make things even darker for her? He looked at Emily’s young, malleable and bright soul and hoped with all his heart that it wouldn’t scar. No matter what happened.

“Monsters,” Emily whispered, “Mommy played music to chase monsters away.”

“Doesn’t your sister play music?” Tad asked, “Laurel, I mean. I have heard her play. You can ask her to help.”

Emily sniffed.

“Want mommy!”

Tad sighed and, without even thinking about it, lifted Emily into his arms. She clung to him again.

“I am so sorry, Emily,” he said, “But your mother is not coming back. She cannot, for she is in a place one can only go once, and never return.”

Well, never was a bit of an overstatement, but things were complicated enough without bringing up all the ways things could be resurrected. Emily looked at him, eyes wide and teary. Her small fists clenched around Tad’s shirt collar even tighter than before.

“Why?” she asked.

Tad had absolutely no idea what he was supposed to do. So he kept talking, and hoped he wouldn’t mess up too badly.

“That is just how things are. Because things cannot stay here forever. It may not feel fair, but it isn’t trying to be fair either. Your mother did not want to leave you, but she just had to.”

Emily didn’t seem to understand. She pressed her head against Tad’s shoulder.

“Everyone… leave?” she asked in a very small voice.

Tad hugged Emily in what he hoped was a comforting gesture. Her heartbeat was strong against his shoulder.

“No,” he said, “There are people here for you. And… and no matter what happens, you can always count on me being here, at least.”

He knew that wasn’t a very reassuring thing to say in most cases. But maybe to Emily – one so young that she hadn’t even properly begun to understand the concept of death – it actually was just what she needed to hear. Her small arms wrapped around Tad’s neck, and she sighed, almost as if in relief. Tad closed his eyes.

“I will never go away. I can promise you that.”


It was evening when the Grisbys left. They had chatted, eaten cookies, and drank coffee and tea until Emily had started to look sleepy and Yvette had to carry her to the Grisbys’ car. Amelia had quickly put the dishes into the dishwasher and then hurried to join Tad and mum in saying goodbyes.

“Oh, I do hope they’ll visit again!” Julia said when they watched the Grisbys’ car drive off, “They were such nice people. And little Emily was such an angel!”

Amelia hoped that next time would include one hundred percent less childhood pictures of her.

“She is a very sweet child,” Tad said quietly, and seemed to regret it immediately once Julia spun to excitedly wave her arms and step a bit too much into his personal space.

“You were so good with her!” she gushed, “One day, I’m sure you’ll become a great father!”

“I… uh… what?”

“You know, once you meet a girl that just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.”

“I… do not…”

“Or a guy, I’m not too old-fashioned! There’s options now!”

“I…”

“Mum,” Amelia said when she saw familiar quiet panic in Tad’s eyes again, “Personal space.”

“Oh,” Julia immediately backed away, “I’m sorry. I got excited again. And really, no pressure. You’ll know when you find the right one, Tad.”

“I… doubt it?”

“I’m sure you will! It just hits you, like… when I met Amelia’s father, it was like magic! Especially after- well, Amelia probably doesn’t want to hear about her parents’ intimate life.”

“I really don’t!” Amelia managed to say in a very mortified tone, “And I doubt Tad does either.”

“I am not even sure what we are talking about anymore,” Tad said.

Julia laughed.

“Just about people who make you feel safe and happy. People that you know will accept you and that can always kindle a spark of something warm within you. See, that wasn’t so bad, was it? I’m not about to go into any physical details. I have taste.”

Amelia sighed.

“But since I’m again being the embarrassing mum,” Julia went on, “I’ll just leave you be and eat some of those leftover cookies before anyone else gets them! Ciao!”

With that, she was gone. Amelia blinked.

“Sometimes I just don’t get my mum…” she muttered, “But I guess that’s normal. Hey, Tad, don’t worry. Mum’s overly romantic. Well, I’m too… but at least I acknowledge that not everyone’s even looking for the one. But she was right about you being good with Emily.”

Tad shook his head.

“Emily asked me about her mother.”

Amelia’s slightly embarrassed but mostly pleasant mood screeched to a violent U-turn.

“Oh. Wow. What did you say?”

“I… what does one say to a child about that?”

“Beats me.”

Tad sighed.

“I just hope I did not scar her for life.”

“She seemed happy enough when you brought her to get some cookies.”

“I suppose. I told her I would never leave. And it is true. I will always be here. All the way to the end, perhaps even after everything else will be gone… I know that might sound morbid to you.”

Amelia thought about it.

“Maybe it would have a couple of months ago, but now… it’s actually kind of reassuring. Not in a way that I’d want to die, but in a way that I know someone lovely and good will take care of me.”

Tad looked surprised. He laughed in almost disbelief, and then turned to watch the setting sun like he was seeing something Amelia couldn’t. It was something Amelia had already got used to.

“You know, what your mother said, about the one… Even though I cannot actually feel ‘the spark’ the way I suppose she meant it… well…”

“Yeah?”

Tad suddenly almost-smiled.

“Never mind.”

There was perhaps a hint of a wish, a dream, in his words. They made Amelia confused, mostly because she caught a part of the hint and didn’t know what to make of it.

In the end she decided that it was nothing. That Tad had simply wanted to ask her more about what her mum had meant.

Still, the words vexed Amelia quite a bit all the way into the late night, when everyone was going to sleep. Everyone except for Tad, who hadn’t had time to take care of his garden during the day and who didn’t need to sleep anyway. Tad, who spent his nights awake and working and probably hoping that those who could sleep wouldn’t suffer too many nightmares.

Amelia finally forced herself to fall asleep to confusing dreams about lost little girls and equally lost beings made of darkness. They were dreams worthy of putting into a dream journal and trying to figure out later, but Amelia didn’t have time for such things.

Because early in the morning Novak Sanguine barged in through their front door, looking very pleased with himself, and told them that he’d finally found something about the Deacons.

Author’s Note: Aaaaaand so much mood whiplash! A stylistic choice or simply incompetent writing? You decide! Also this chapter is trying to establish tons of things that haven’t been established yet and masquerade as a semi-meaningful character-building chapter at the same time. So yay? Also if you like character chapters, then I’m sorry to say that at least the next four chapters will be focused on the gemstone plot. But I’ll try to cram in some character moments because I love writing them too much.

Also: even though I didn’t really state Emily’s age anywhere, and just had Amelia estimate her to be three years old in chapter 12, I had written Emily as a three-year-old, but now I retconned it to four and a half. And yes, I am aware that there is quite a difference development-wise between these ages, but I’ve kept the stuff mostly vague and stated that at least Emily’s speech development is very much delayed anyway so I suppose it’s convincing enough. :/

And since we are talking about ages, here’s a glimpse to my “age cheat sheet” in case anyone’s curious:
Amelia: 33
Tad: Don’t even ask. At least as old as the universe. Human form’s apparent age: 22
Vanja: 35
Novak: 29-33 (the sources aren’t clear)
Emily: 4 ½
Lydia: 36
Gaius: 28

I have the next few chapters written (though they still need some editing) and mostly screenshotted, so that’s great because I’ll probably be very busy with school’s practical training and its massive report assignment so I may not have that much time to write for fun. And soon after that will be November and that means NaNoWriMo! So yay for a rare buffer! I may even have time to get some Fey of Life done too because of that! We’ll see.

I hope you enjoyed, and please let me know if you liked, hated, or felt something else or just want to say anything. I’ll be here despite being busy. 🙂

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NEXT Chapter: They All Meet in an Inn

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14 thoughts on “Chapter 23: Dreams and Nightmares

  1. I’m going for stylistic choice! I’ve been thinking about @rednenemon/Senna/Nessa’s mood/scene switches, and I’m going with brilliant writerly choices.

    Also, possibly best lines ever:

    “When he had been born, he had been just barely self-aware, metaphorical mist in the chaotically forming universe. That was nothing to take adorable pictures of, really.”

    Really loved that chapter. The opening nightmare scenes were so convincing–all that red.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Everytime we get to see Tad and Emily, he basically lights up. And is that a potential ship forming between Tad and Amelia?
    No matter what, I can’t hate Llydia. I do strongly dislike her parents though- they failed her.

    Liked by 1 person

    • *shifty eyes* whaaaaat… ships? Where? 😀 Mayyyybe. Though this ship is not exactly the traditional kind. If there is one. I’m not even sure myself yet. We’ll see how it turns out.

      I’m a bit surprised too how sympathetic Lydia turned out to be. I really didn’t have much of her character established when I started writing her, but I like how she turned out.

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  3. I like stylistic choice. The character development was brilliant! So much jammed in here and I loved it! Poor Emily! Screaming for her mom. Wow! Those nightmare pictures were truly scary. Basil’s conversation with Novak was interesting. Opps… he drew the attention of Vanja. Ooo… we learned more about Lydia. Her relationship with her brother and father is fascinating. I appropriately feel bad about her past and how her parents treated her. Uh oh… I hope they don’t get Novak in trouble. I mean, I feel like he can handle himself, but I like him and don’t want anything to happen to the guy. Oh Julia interrupting the conversation. She’s such a dear, even if she’s awkwardly overenthusiastic. Amelia is the snow was adorable! That picture with Tad, Emily, and the dinosaur was even more adorable. Aww… her converssation with Tad was so innocent and inquisitive and sweet. I feel so sad for her shocking loss. I thought Tad’s explanation of things was good, even if it was hard for him. It’d be hard for anyone. Julia’s remarks about Tad being a father and meeting a nice girl or guy… I chuckled. She’s so blithely unaware.

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    • Thank you! I loved shooting those nightmare pictures. I loved it so much that I don’t even care that I had to make Emily cry for them! Mwahahahahahaaa! I mean, uh… of course I care. But yeah, I’m glad I managed to make them look scary. There’s something about red light and possibly invisible monsters that I find creepy too.

      Julia is tons of fun to write. I wasn’t sure what to do with her once I got her back from France, but in retrospect I’m glad I did bring her into the story. Because she’s fun and takes socially awkward people out of their comfort zones… not sure why I find that fun as a socially awkward person myself but ehh…

      I loved that pic with Tad and Emily and the dinosaur too! Emily looked right at Tad at one point autonomously, and it was so cute that I played around with pose player to get Tad look at her as well at the right time. And the Amelia-in-the-snow pic has been sitting on my hard drive for ages. It’s from the days of my older computer, as evidenced by the lack of widescreen. I didn’t crop it to match the rest of the pics because I figured that as an in-story photo it could be different.

      Tad did manage to explain death to a child surprisingly well. Of course it doesn’t mean Emily understands it now. Especially since she’s been so sheltered that she pretty much had NO concept of death before her mum died, and she’s now trying to build one in the midst of trauma. Not an easy task, I’d guess.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Simlit Celebration Sunday#2: Spooky/Creepy/Scary | TheKrazyCrazyLifeofKass

  5. Just two quick comments as I was way to engrossed to remember to write more down.

    I am dying at the though of Tad’s baby pictures. Although weren’t your drawings the other day baby pictures? Death was just a little wisp of darkness and comfort?

    And the thought of Tad, trying to be comforting, I WILL ALWAYS BE HERE. ahem. Ha! Except he IS comforting, it’s one of the job requirements.

    Liked by 1 person

    • True… my drawings are probably the closest thing to Tad’s baby pictures I have. I have never even checked what he looks like in any other life stage, actually. Also yes, Tad has indeed built his identity partly around being comforting while on the job. The thought of Death being the most reliable thing in the world is a darkly delicious concept to explore.

      Liked by 1 person

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