Friday, November 13, 2015

Day Nine-Thirty-Six: No more dreaming

Dragomir screamed, and rightfully so. A hairy man was touching his face. Most people would scream.

The Baron leaped to his feet so violently that he almost burned down his small tent, and narrowly avoided tragedy by kicking his spilled lantern out of the tent at the last second. His haste to reach Dragomir was so violent that he tripped, brought the tent down around him, yelled for help, and was generally ineffective at doing anything to save his companion. And in the meantime, Dragomir continued to scream.

Traveller clamped a hand over Dragomir’s mouth. It was iron-tight, and Dragomir didn’t bother to try and remove it. “Shhh. You’re loud. It’s late. You’ll wake up all the chipmunks. I think there’re chipmunks here, aren’t there?”

Dragomir’s eyes twitched, and when Traveller loosened his grip Dragomir immediately pulled away. They were standing in a small clearing, perhaps fifty feet away from the campsite, in the shade of a tree. Dragomir assumed he’d sleepwalked out here, because he was most definitely not asleep now, and he reinforced this belief by smacking his head on a cluster of branches as he tripped backward and fell on his ass. The branches hurt too much for this to be a dream.

Grinning, Traveller helped Dragomir up, grasping his pseudo-twin’s good arm and yanking Dragomir to his feet. Dragomir backed away again, a little more carefully this time, and pressed his hand to his chest. His heart hurt from the excitement.

“You… you fuck…” Dragomir gasped for breath. It was a while in coming, and he coughed several times before he got another proper word out. “You… you fucking… good gods, Traveller… why the fuck are you…?”

“‘cause I’m supposed to be,” Traveller replied simply. He scratched his chin. “This looks an awful lot like that place where I lost my eye. How’d I lose it again? Hm. Wonder if it’s around here, somewheres… or is it in your head? Yeah, maybe that was it. I couldn’t have it back, by any chance, could I? Kinda miss having two eyes! It’s like missing my boots all the time - “

Dragomir turned away, the sweat on his forehead redoubled. Looking for any excuse he could get, he trampled away from Traveller, towards the wagon. The giant toads were croaking loudly, joining The Baron in his distress as he struggled to extricate himself from his mess of a tent. He calmed down when Dragomir approached and announced himself, though getting him out of the tent was no mean feat with Dragomir’s one good arm.

Traveller didn’t help. He simply watched, leaning against the wagon, smiling a little. He clapped when The Baron finally popped free of his enclosure, and his smile grew by leaps when a dismayed expression spread across The Baron’s face.

“I… I take it… he’s responsible?” The Baron grabbed at his glasses and cleaned them furiously, revealing, if only for a second, twin pinpricks of Non-green pupils in the darkness. “What is he doing here? I thought we were…”

“Yeah, me too,” Dragomir agreed, sneering. He turned to Traveller, unwilling to show his back to the man. “You! Really, what the hell are you doing here? Did you follow us?”

“Kinda!” Traveller plopped down on the ground, sitting with his legs crossed, like a child. He pointed up at the stars. “Something told me you’d be out here. Something up there? Maybe? I dunno. Or maybe it was just my eyeball, calling for me. I’m not sure, eh? Not sure of a lot of things. Either way, I’m supposed to be here, so I am! Libby didn’t come with you, did she? Does she wanna have sex yet?”

Dragomir’s sneer grew. He wanted to reach across the campsite and slap Traveller, but he suspected doing so might break his hand. He settled for jabbing a finger imperiously towards Traveller instead. “You should be in freakin’ Pubton! I don’t care about your… delusions… or whatever… you don’t belong here! Now go away, or we’ll make you leave!”

Dragomir knew he had no way of enforcing his words. He was weaker now - unable to transform, missing an arm and a leg, dying from the effects of the Catastrophe, and afraid to trigger the weapon - than he’d ever been, even back during his days as Castle CurrentDestination’s worst guard. But he had a stronger voice, and he knew how to give orders, and he hoped the power of his convictions would send demented Traveller scurrying into the night from whence he came.

Traveller did not such thing. Instead, pulling on his feet, Traveller grinned so broadly that it looked like his face might split in half. He rocked back and forth on his butt, looking as though he might laugh, but he barely made a sound. It was a disconcerting display, and Dragomir’s gesture faltered. He looked at The Baron, and The Baron looked back, and they both shrugged uselessly.

“I think I’m going,” Traveller eventually said, still rocking creepily, “because our daughter’s gonna be there. And I know I asked if she was available a long time ago, but now I’m pretty sure she’s kinda my daughter, and I wanna help her, because she’s in pain. I can feel it, and I wanna help her work through it until she dies. And if you wanna stop me, well, you’ll have to trade something for me to go away.”

“What’s that?” Dragomir asked, mouth dry. 

“Your eyeball,” Traveller said at once. He pointed at his face. “‘cause if I get that back then I think I’ll be me again, which means I won’t be Traveller, which means I can go wherever I want, whether we made a deal or not. Because, you know, you made the deal with me, and not me. So it’s, um… a win-win? I think it’s called a win-win. Would you say it’s a win-win, old guy?”

“It’s a win-win,” The Baron sputtered, shuffling uncomfortably.

Traveller raised his hands to the stars, shaking them victoriously as he cheered, and the moment he did so he joined the party. Nothing Dragomir did or said or threatened could make him leave, and every time Dragomir tried to get him to go away, Traveller’s rejoinders became more specific and more threatening. He only lapsed into his childish, irritating personality when Dragomir gave up and let him have his way, and by then they were all so awake that they hit the road.

Dragomir did not sleep again for the duration of their trip. He was too busy living his nightmare.

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