☦Nobody enters the dreamlands.☦
On this side, he is referred to as Nobody. One can call that name a play on words. A joke of words. A slice of humor within words. But really, it is just a reminder that people make jokes when they're uncomfortable. Or perhaps, there is no accurate description of Nobody in this language. People default to humor in the face of something beyond their words.
To the dreams, with different words and different comforts, Nobody bears another banner. What it is will not be discussed here, as the dreams have agreed to keep Nobody's secret and Nobody could not confess even if he were capable of desiring to.
Suffice to say, Nobody and the dreams have something that humans may identify as a friendship. The dreams can grant Nobody a taste of the one thing incomprehensible to him. What Nobody gives in return? Well, Nobody is quite an excellent janitor.
The night began like most nights do when Nobody decides to finally rest the mind and return to his old friends. The group known as the Oneiroi collective were there to greet him, through they had their own names for themselves. Nobody didn't have to say a word as he was held, swaddled in the peculiar insanity of dreams, and whisked away to work.
Nobody was dropped off in a world entirely underwater, though he could breathe just fine. He found himself all fish below the belt, fins on his elbows and webbing between his fingers. Any surprise he felt was a nonissue; he was quite used to adopting all sorts of identities by now and so began to swim.
This land slid silence into every crack and crevice of the ruins he wandered. There were no people, not even a dreamer. Light shone down into the city far deeper than a sun should stretch its rays, dappling everything in a dance of water and light. Perhaps Atlantis disappeared from reality when it sank, embraced by the ever shifting landscapes just beneath the surface of existence. But this was not Atlantis, or so Nobody was led to believe.
Where there was light, there was bound to be shadow, though the same cannot be said in reverse. Nobody found what he was looking for in an church covered in coral and reef. He glided over the meadow of color, past the schools of neon fish and iridescent ribbon eels. The slash of inky black stood out in the light, unafraid and hungry. That was when he knew he had found his prey.
The Oneiroi who brought dreams to reality could not do their work if the dreams were tainted with what is known as the eldritch, the old ones, and the elder gods. At the same time, they could not fight them or touch them. Instead, they were hapless to watch their precious herd of dreams be eaten by these wolves from the void beyond sleep. They needed people like Nobody, who were perhaps just a little bit eldritch themselves, to play the sheepdog.
So Nobody swam to the voidling that had violated this sacred Oneiroi territory. A spear found itself in his hand, procuring from the dream spontaneously. It felt hefty with the desire to live in peace, a plea from the dream for success in Nobody's hunt. He gripped it harder than necessary in order to reassure his environment that he would not fail.
From the pool of nothing spawned a massive serpent doused in oil, seeping the water with despair. With its five dozen eyes, the eldritch entity turned to Nobody the merman and opened its three hundred mouths to fill the dream with its shrieking. Nobody twirled the spear in one hand and beat the water with his tail as hard he could, steeling his nerves as he ran the monster through.
He did it again and again, carving holes with his courage until the great serpent was slain. Then, he grasped the corpse and pushed it back into the pool of ink it had come from. The portal seeped away like water through one's hands, leaving only a dead white stretch of coral in its wake.
Nobody lay himself in the coral, exhausted. The eels and fish swam above and around him, kissing the white and imbuing it with life once more. He sank into the color, drifting in the ocean of light.
He stayed in dreamless rest until roused by an Oneiroi friend, a young woman right out of a noir film, black and white and all. She dried him off with a towel, silent in everything she did. The smell of color still clung to him even as the water was wiped off. He'd still reek of that color, even when he awoke.
The next land he was tasked with was entirely upside down. Nobody shot across the night sky as a bright comet burning in atmospheric friction. It felt not unlike walking into a shower that was just a little too hot, but one didn't get used to this burning the same way one got used to the shower. He glided amongst stars close enough that he could taste their hydrogen.
Nobody wondered, if only for a moment, why Oneiroi or anyone else would ever want to leave this place of impossibility and magic. He understood why logically, of course. But in the sky, one with the stars, he granted himself a temporary foray into emotional bout. He allowed himself to enjoy the present, gliding in his own emotional jubilation, riding the jetstream of the exhilaration of being a comet shooting across the night sky.
Across the horizon of a faraway solar system, Nobody could smell the familiar stench of a wound. It reminded him blood and infection, the smell of a hospital with too many occupants or a jail with too many inmates. The smell shattered his small reverie, bringing him back down to earth in a metaphorical sense. He rubbed his comet-face with impossible limbs, for comets had only tails to call extremities.
He looped once, twice against the fabric of the night sky, then turned his trajectory towards the putrid scent. There as clear as day was a scar deep in the weaving of the stars. It glowed a painful red, seeping with acid-green pus that reeked so strongly of agony that Nobody wept comet tears upon gliding into its presence.
This was not an injury that could be fought or defeated. It was an infected wound in a dream, spreading nightmare to some hapless dreamer far below this sky. Nobody drew towards the wound. He reached deep inwards of some long-lost emotions. In the face of this fear, he welled up what little scraps he had to combat it. Hope. Faith. Joy. He summoned the emotions he felt just moments ago, exhausted them with a single expression of forgiveness into the pain.
Nobody was not an emotional creature, but it was enough. His light waned. The atmosphere chafed at him like a cheese grater to the skin. He was losing cohesion. He was falling apart. But it was enough.
The silent woman woke Nobody with a chaste kiss. He pulled away from her as soon as he understood his situation. She tilted her head, one side of her dark grey lips tilting into a knowing smirk. Her left hand stretched itself towards him, each finger curling back like the petals of a flower. In the palm lay three tattered shards of what used to be people. This was what he came here for. All he had done tonight was for those shriveled fragments of people, memories of lifetimes long past. He snatched them and held the pieces to his chest.
She smiled again with only one side of her lips. Her voice reverberated out of her, warm and rich. "Oneiroi thanks you." That voice slicked fire into Nobody's veins but he did not approach; he was used to her and her presence. He tried to open his mouth to speak, but his throat felt dry with the sudden heat. Perhaps he was not as used to her as he thought.
The woman laughed and spoke again. "You're free to go wherever you may please, now. I assume you know the way back. A pleasure doing business." Was it his imagination or did she emphasize that word, pleasure? Nobody tried to find the words, but she had already blown him a kiss and was gone, like a memory or an idle daydream.
With her presence gone, Nobody could focus again. He stood and shimmied in between the spaces of the dreams. He squeezed into the silence between one's thoughts. He scuttled into the silence between inhale and exhale. In short, Nobody went nowhere, to the land of in-between, where everything was not quite anything.
There, he opened his clutched palm and stared at the scraps he did so much for. They were shriveled, dried, old. But they were exactly as he so wanted them, the moments of knowing oneself. The moments of lives of people who had identity, identifying themselves. He took one of the scraps and popped it into his mouth. The memory melted on his tongue, sweet as nostalgia.
The first memory was that of an old man looking at his wife as she was cooking. They had both aged over the years, but the bond between them was strong and young. Her body had shriveled and wrinkled with time's scars, but to him she was still radiant as sunlight. He drank his coffee, smiling to himself at the warmth he felt when she entered his thoughts. He wondered what he would be without her.
The moment disappeared in the time of a thought. It wasn't enough. It simply was not enough. Nobody took the second memory and popped it into his mouth, swallowing it down, parched for something he could not name.
The child clung to her mother's leg. She was only three, but she could understand small intricacies even then. She knew the kitchen was a place of food. She knew the darkness of sleep. She knew the outside was far larger than she could hope to comprehend. As the little girl was fed by her mother, she wholly believed her mother was her whole world.
That one faded faster than the first. Nobody sucked in an inhale, desperately chasing the wisps of thought as they dissipated into memory. He closed his eyes and tried to still the trembling of his body to little success. The last one. He still had one last one. It found itself coated against the back of his throat. He tried to hold on to even a small part as it filled him with warmth, praying for something he couldn't understand to things he didn't believe in.
somethingsomething the far off trees reminded him of someone He planted it for him. So he could remember forever the man that changed his life…
But it was gone like smoke in a high wind before he could taste it. Nobody reached into his own empty palm, looking for fragments of the fragments. He looked up into the world he stood in, the land of things that were not quite anything yet. The in-between place.
Nobody looked around him in the land of almost-things, alone.