Story Contest 2018 #1 Results » First Prize Winner - Senior Category
“The Peculiarities of Being a Dreamcatcher” by Anshika Sharma, India, is the First Prize winning story in the senior category of the first biannual Short Story Contest 2018.
The Peculiarities of Being a Dreamcatcher
I crack my knuckles, stretch my limbs and then, proceed to sit on the edge of the bed. Ella is snoring lightly while sleeping. She is one of my youngest clients. She is six years old, that’s probably too young for her to enter into business with my hunters. I watch her toss and turn in her sleep. Her innocent and vulnerable face is transformed into a petrified expression. I take it as a signal for me to work my magic. I carefully creep into the space next to her and wrap my arms around her tiny body.
I close my eyes and focus all my energy on her. My eyebrows furrow in tension as I realise that it is taking an unusually long time for me to create a golden bond of safety, love and peace. I close my eyelids a little too harshly and regain attention. Eventually, after five whole minutes of struggle, a golden aura surrounds her petite frame. I slip out of her bed and press a shaking hand to my sweaty forehead.
This shouldn’t have taken this long. I unbutton my sleeves and observe the dark entity mix with the pale white colour of my skin. It reaches up to my elbow with blackish grey streaks threatening to mark my upper arm as well. I rub my eyes wearily and massage my temples. I have never in my life encountered such an intense nightmare. With Ella, it’s always just my forefinger which is blackened. For the past six months, she has had very few nightmares. But, this has thrown me off of my course. I’m pretty sure it was scary for her too. After all, it took me ten minutes to remove the bad dream. It’s long enough for her to suffer greatly from fear.
Before the entity escapes, I quickly untie the dream catcher from the headboard and chant a few prayers. The evil force forms bubbles under my skin and flows into the atmosphere. The silver light emerging from the catcher captures and absorbs it. I shake my hand free of any miniscule bubbles and wipe it clean with my other hand. I twirl the dreamcatcher in my hand. The red, blue and purple threads entangled with the hay become dull. I pull out the threads in a correct order, blue, red and then, purple.
Suddenly, I’m pulled into her nightmare. If I’m going to help her, I may as well destroy the demon appearing in her dreams.
I enter into a dimly lit room. Its walls are pink in colour which is Ella’s favourite. The walls are decorated with three-dimensional pictures of butterflies leaping into the brightly coloured petunias. I immediately recognise it as her playroom downstairs. Then, I watch Ella sitting on a cream coloured round table with her friends, Polly, the teddy bear and Chicago, her red-haired doll. She serves them tea and clinks her plastic cup with the others. I chuckle as I watch her enjoy herself but my conscious is fully aware of the danger that is about to approach her.
Suddenly, the door slams open against the wall and a tall figure appears at the entrance. The facial features of the man are deformed. His face is unrecognizable. His hands have scissors in place of fingers and his belt has pointy spikes on it. The rest of his body underneath the civilian clothes is structured almost like a human being. He advances towards Ella and I run to dive right in between them. Instead, I end up hurting myself by slamming against an invisible force field. I throw punches in random directions trying to shatter the field but nothing happens. The ghost snoops in from behind her and I begin to scream her name at the top of my lungs. Even my voice is blocked by the force field.
It grabs her throat and thrashes her right into the wall. A gaping hole is formed in the wall. I scream in horror. All of my powers are reduced to absolutely nothing in front of him. The demon hits her with his belt, the metallic spikes scar her beautiful skin. There isn’t an inch of her covered in blood. She cries and begs him for mercy.
Then, golden rays enter the room. It is the golden bond I tried so hard to produce. The bond engulfs Ella in a protective bubble and pulls her out of her nightmare. As soon as she exits the room, I feel myself being pulled out of it as well.
I’m glad the nightmare ended but at the same time, I feel guilty for not saving her early.
The only solution to this problem is finding the root cause of her nightmare. If there was an invisible force field present, then it must be something which is disturbing her in the human world. I decide to travel into the previous day. She didn’t sleep at all yesterday. It might have something to do with what happened today.
This time, I pull the threads in the reverse order. Soon, I find myself standing in front of Ella while she studies with her classmates in school. I follow her around and find nothing unusual about her day in school. She spends the next two hours with her mother in the kitchen. Then, her father comes home, all tired and agitated. He shouts at Ella. She begins to cry and my heart breaks into a million pieces watching her cry. Her mother tries to console her but what happens to them is horrifying.
Her dad pushes both of them into a room and begins lashing at them with his belt. Her mom stands between him and Ella. She punches him in the nose. He shouts something unintelligible and resumes beating her with his belt. She cries in agony. The fear in both her eyes is enough to fuel the anger in me. Her mother is fighting back as much as she is capable of. Her poor soul is frightened. If I were human, I would have murdered him with my bare hands. Only if I were human. Hot tears escape my eyes as I watch her actual nightmare unravel in front of me.
Wait…tears? I only look like a human but cannot cry like one. Then, it hits me. My teary eyes can only mean one thing. I have achieved the strength to create a silver bond, the strongest of all supernatural protective forces. I spread my arms and concentrate on the situation in front of me. I visualize the silver travelling through my veins and oozing out of my fingertips. I feel it escaping into the air and forming a giant bubble around Ella and her mother. I lift them up and send them to a place more secure.
Now, it’s only me and him. Good vs Evil.
I thrash into him with all my force, pulling him down to the floor. I grab his collar and bang his head on the floor as hard as I can. He grabs my legs and tries to throw me off of himself. I stumble but regain balance. I kick him in the ribs and smirk watching him cry out loud in pain. He holds his sides and screams in agony. I take advantage of him being vulnerable and punch his stomach. He coughs up blood and tears run down his face.
Unexpectedly, he begins to cough violently as if someone is choking him. He wraps his hands around an invisible pair of hands around his neck and begs for mercy. It must be the silver bond acting on him. I advance to punch his face but I smack myself against an invisible force field. It’s here again. I am being detached from reality.
Then, out of the blue, his body crumbles into pieces resembling ashes. The particles climb one over the other and create the monster I saw in her nightmare. I am met with the same pair of hollow eyes. He walks towards me, crossing the force field with ease. Before he can do anything, I pull the purple thread on the dreamcatcher, chant a prayer and merge my body with his. Both of us scream in pain. Eventually, my body dissolves his and everything goes back to normal. I find myself back in her room and sigh in relief when I see Ella sleeping in peace.
You may call us catchers or hunters. Guardians like me are everywhere. They look upon you from the sky, making sure you have sweet dreams. Some of you believe in us and some of you don’t. It’s alright either way. As long as you believe in the power of good deeds, we will be there for you no matter what, where or who you are. Whether you’re an eighty-year old man living in the corner of the world or a new-born in the middle east, we’ll always protect you.
Your guardian angel.
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