He was back in the meadow again. It looked just as bounteous and beautiful as ever.
He recognized the voice. He didn’t turn to it, though, because he was confused. Confused, and fearful, and half-paralyzed by memories. The fact that he’d slept for several days, a sleep so unnatural that even Traveller realized it was wrong, didn’t help.
“I love you, Traveller…”
Traveller tucked his head between his legs and rocked back and forth. The gap in his skull where his eye used to be hurt. He rubbed at his scalp, frustrated, tearing out a large clump of unruly brown hair. New hair sprouted in place of the old almost immediately.
“I want you, Traveller… please…”
No you don’t, he thought. You don’t.
Life hadn’t been like this a few months ago. Life had been so easy when his mind was blank. But then Traveller met Iko, and Iko wanted him to be something, and then Traveller met Libby, and when Libby came ‘round Traveller just wanted to be with her so much, and he couldn’t figure out why -
she was my girlfriend first we were supposed to be married but she took me eye and then he got in the way and then they sent me away and I walked and I walked and now I’m just a Traveller, I don’t stay anywhere, I’m just a Traveller with no home and no wife and nobody
Fingers grazed Traveller’s shoulder. His eye socket blazed beneath its bandages, and Traveller rolled away from the touch, somehow aware that it was real, but unwilling to let it get close to him. He scooted across the meadow, grass burning - and not burning - his thighs.
“Traveller… don’t leave me… I need you…”
Traveller got to his feet and ran. He crossed the meadow, a world of corn fields, a barren wasteland, a sea, the oceans of time and space, running, running, running. But her voice followed him wherever he went, because the world kept folding in on itself behind him, and no matter how far he went or how hard he ran she was always right behind him, walking softly and asking, asking, asking.
“Traveller… you’re my husband, Traveller… please…”
Traveller fell to his knees, panting but not tired, tired but not panting. He pounded the ground and wailed, annoyed by the complexity of his emotions, but eventually, eventually, he knew he couldn’t run anymore. So, standing, sobbing a little, he turned.
Libby waited there, waiting for him. For a moment she was sailing on a sea of stars, but they quickly faded back to the green of the meadow. She stood as nakedly as Traveller, smiling, pointing to the cabin in the near distance.
“That’s our home, Traveller,” Libby said. She opened her arms. “Come on. Let’s go in there. You want to, don’t you? You want to take me and make me your wife?”
Traveller staggered forward, drooling. Yes, he wanted that. Yes, he wanted her. These things were not at all complex. If he took just a few more steps he could even have her, lifting her into his arms and carrying her away, to a happy new life of blissful sex and sleep, sleep and sex. They might even have children together. They could build a family, and then have more sex, and build an even bigger family.
I don’t need to be a Traveller anymore, he thought. I could be Mr. Libby instead of the old Mr. Libby. I’m better than him anyway. I… I could be… Dragomir -
Traveller stumbled, wailing. His head hurt so badly that he thought someone had dashed it open with a club. Libby knelt beside him, soothing him, pulling him close and cradling his head in her lap.
“Shhhhh. Don’t think.” She rubbed his chest. “You don’t have to think. You just need to be with me. That’s all. You want to be, don’t you?”
She smiled sweetly, face obscured by the glare of the midday sun above. “Go on. Say it.”
“Y…” Traveller gulped. “Yes…”
That answer seemed to satisfy her. Breathing deep, Libby laid Traveller’s quaking head on the grass. Then, sliding down the length of his body, she straddled him. Kneeling in close, she puckered her lips and kissed him.
Traveller’s fortitude, a fortitude he couldn’t even understand, collapsed. He kissed her back. He accepted everything, and in that moment the grass against his back felt so vibrantly real that it almost stung. The wind prickled his skin, and the press of Libby’s thighs, oh, that heat, that glorious heat…
“I’ve wanted this for a long time,” she confessed. “I’ve wanted you.”
Traveller plunged headfirst into his passion, drunk on ecstasy. He kissed her with slobbery fervour, kissed her again and again, caressing her skin and loving her love. The moment felt so utterly unreal, so heavenly, that Traveller almost couldn’t believe it was happening, and so, as Libby lowered and Traveller’s excitement grew to a peak, he opened his eye to behold his goddess. He couldn’t not open his eye.
Though she was kissing him, though she was smiling, Libby’s eyes were also open. They glowed a bright, false white, obscuring her pupils. Tears leaked out of one, then the other.
Ecstasy turned to ash in an instant. Traveller faltered. She’s…
“I want you,” Libby whispered into his ear. Her eyes closed, and she licked at his neck.
“Trust me.” The weight, the heat, pressed against Traveller. “You just have to obey.”
When a teardrop hit Traveller’s skin, his world exploded.
The meadow fell apart. Big clumps of grass withered and died, revealing a ground both cold and unnatural. The sky crumbled, replaced by sterile stone and faint lamplight. The fresh breeze of the outdoors turned into the semi-noxious odour of a dungeon. Traveller’s head ached, pressed as it was against an uncomfortable pillow. The only constant was Libby, Libby’s weight, Libby’s tears, hovering mere inches above Traveller.
Gritting his teeth, Traveller pushed Libby away. She rolled onto the floor, looking confused, face still awash with white light. A pair of rats clung to her shoulders, their tails intertwined behind her neck.
Traveller roared. Jumping to his feet, he dove forward and flicked the rats off of Libby’s skin, leaving faint, bloody prick marks where their claws had been. Propelled by Traveller’s titanic strength, the rats left two dribbling smears on the wall.
The haze in Libby’s eyes disappeared at once. Shaking her head she stared around the room, now a different kind of confused. Then, spotting Traveller in all his nude and attentive glory, she covered herself and began to scream obscenities. Traveller smiled broadly, relieved, and he tried to hug Libby. The gesture did not help matters one bit.
And that’s when a dragon crashed through the wall.