Sometimes the night holds on too tight. The dreams are reluctant to let us go, they hold us there in a world we know is not our own, but we’re unable to find the route back to this world we call real. There have been dreamers lost in the night, even as the long summer days pass.
We go back, of course, back to that dreamland to look for them, to bring them home.
Sometimes we cannot find them.
‘But how can they not be there?’ Jamlina asked one day.
We were sitting out in the gardens, down where the long lawns edge towards the river. The river marks the limit of where we are allowed to roam. The guards patrol the other side of the wide river. It is the only part of the grounds without walls or fence. I think that is why Jamlina likes it there.
‘I don’t know.’ I could see a grey uniformed guard in the undergrowth on the opposite bank of the river, too far away to hear us, but he was ostentatiously not watching us.
Neither of us wanted to escape, not without Kienna.
Kienna was lost in the dreams. Jamlina would not go without her sister, and I wouldn’t go without Jamlina.
Our escape plan was forgotten as we spent each night searching through our dreams for her sister.
‘Do you think she is caught in the nightmares?’ Jamlina plucked long green blades of grass from beside her, letting the breeze take them.
‘We’ve pushed the nightmare lands back, though. I think they could be too far away now.’ It had been a long battle. Night after night, fighting the creatures of the nightmares as they tried to invade our dreams, to take over the dreamland we had created for ourselves.
We’d lost many friends, but we had grown strong in our dreaming. The nightmare creatures wouldn’t have found it easy to overwhelm Kienna in our own territory, even if they did get her alone and isolated.
Sometimes, the nightmares do creep back. You can see them, like tendrils of dark smoke creeping along the border between our dreams and the nightmare world, probing, looking for weaknesses in our defences. Perhaps somehow they had developed new tactics, found a way to pick us off one by one.
I glanced at Jamlina, looking down at the ground where she sat. What would I do if the nightmares took her?
I put my hand on hers.
She smiled at me.
‘Don’t worry. We will find her.’
‘But what if…?’
I shook my head. We’d both seen them, the people – our friends – those taken by the nightmare creatures and ripped from their dreams. When someone is torn from their dreams they are torn from this world too, and often it is too hard for them ever to find their way back.
Now Kienna slept on in the dream room. She hadn’t woken screaming, thrashing, flailing at those who rushed to hold her before her mind ripped itself from her body. She lay there, dreaming on as though she had no troubles in this world or in the dream world.
We just couldn’t find here there, though. She was gone from the dreamlands, and not finding her was breaking our hearts.