The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
The Dream Thief
by Rie Sheridan Rose
No one knew where she came from. Perhaps a ship crashed undetected amid the comings and goings of a thousand species. Yes, we had finally made First Contact, and Second, and Third…and on and on. Earth was a regular travel hub now. A destination planet, just like the old Star Trek pleasure planets. No one knew exactly why.
One day, everything was great. People were making currency hand over fist from the off-world tourists, and then the next—everything changed.
Tempers began to flare. The murder rate went through the roof, and it wasn’t always the natives getting killed. So, tourism began to slow quite rapidly. Communication among the stars was apparently much better than the home-grown varieties.
Doctors noticed marks on the necks of their patients. They looked like injection sites, and—at first—it was theorized that some sort of psychopath was poisoning people in their sleep. But there were no symptoms of poisoning, merely fatigue and irritability.
It was a psychiatrist who put it together initially. He did a lot of dream therapy. Suddenly, his patients weren’t dreaming. None of them. And every one of them who had lost their dreams had one of the injection sites on their neck.
I was a police detective with the 91st. The psychiatrist was an old friend of mine—okay, he was my shrink—and he mentioned his worry in passing. I promised to look into it.
“Be careful. You’re the only patient I have left still dreaming.”
My flat was a twelve-by-twelve walk-up I was lucky to have. Real estate was at a premium with all the tourists. It was a hot box in summer, and a refrigerator in winter, but at least I didn’t have to share it with a family of five, like most people.
I was sitting on the fire-escape drinking a beer that night and thinking over what the doc had said. My dreams were no picnic, but they were my dreams. I wasn’t sure where I would be without them. No wonder people were going nuts all of a sudden.
I yawned. It had been a long day, and I was about to head in to bed when I heard a whining noise. Mosquitoes were a boyhood trauma of mine. Hated the damn things. But they had been eradicated for the most part. Hadn’t seen one in years…
I looked up, and there was the biggest damn bug I had seen in…forever. It was at least as big as my hand, and hovering there like it was waiting for something.
I threw my beer at it, and it wobbled away—wings damp, I guess. Without conscious thought, I followed it, leaping down the fire-escape three steps at a time so I wouldn’t lose sight of it. Damn thing was still fast, but I was in pretty good shape and kept up.
I almost lost it at the wharf, but then I saw it—coming to light on the outstretched hand of an alien. She was almost glowing in the twilight, skin silvery, with blue veining, and a pattern of black lines that swirled on her skin like moving rivers.
I fumbled to a stop. Whatever I had expected, this wasn’t it.
“Who are you?” I asked, not really anticipating an answer.
“I am Xocnaeta,” she whispered, in a voice like water. “I am…visitor. I am…hungry.”
Her words were stilted, like she was groping for the English.
“You can’t hang around the docks like that.” I gestured to her nakedness—the black lines weren’t leaving much to the imagination.
“I am hungry,” she repeated.
“We’ll worry about that after we get you someplace safe. Come with me.” If you want to live echoed through my head. I’d always wanted to say that, but this didn’t seem the time or place.
“Hungry.” She blew on the bug, and it flew toward me.
She took a step closer. “I need your…dreams,” she whispered, eyes glowing sapphires.
I whipped out my service revolver and shot her. Then I shot the bug.
The black lines on her skin dissipated into the air.
I hoped they were dreams returning to their owners. Maybe someday I’d know for sure. Tonight, I just wanted to sleep.
Fiction © Copyright Rie Sheridan Rose
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
Overheard in Hell:
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