The smell of wet concrete was all she immediately recognized but she was too groggy to figure out where she was. Shivering, she next felt the cold on her skin. The rain was still going and she could feel it on her face. Dolly tried to open her eyes but she was too exhausted to bother. It was a labor to even be this coherent and all she wanted was to go back to sleep. She knew that she couldn’t. This was not a safe place to be asleep. She vaguely recalled that there was supposed to be a heater on but it was so utterly damp and chilled in the room that she actually felt like her fingers and toes were going numb. Slowly moving her body, she could feel the cold water seeping into her clothing. She knew she didn’t fall asleep here. She knew this had to be a dream. A part of her wanted to reassure herself that she was still in the same place but this didn’t feel like the set. She wasn’t worried though. There was a reason that she knew she was fine. She wasn’t alone. That’s right, Will was there. Will would help her, wouldn’t he? This thought made her open her eyes and immediately she regretted this. She couldn’t see Will. Worse, she couldn’t see anything around her clearly. It was as though everything was covered in a veil of gauze that she couldn’t make out exactly what was where. Like it was all covered in cobwebs.
Around her, she saw nothing but darkness. There were outlines of shapes around that she didn’t recognize and they continued to shift and warp. She could hear an echo and felt like there might be a drop off nearby. The water was still dripping all around and she worried now whether she was on solid ground. She shuddered as she tried to grasp to the floor but felt nothing but smooth concrete. She squeezed her eyes shut and tried to force herself to wake up but it wasn’t working. She knew she was asleep still. She opened her eyes and noticed that even though she was still dreaming, the focus around her became clearer. She looked above her and saw the billowing of a curtain of slowly swaying cobwebs. The rain was dripping through them and she was blinking away the water as it dripped on her face. Each time she blinked, she saw a small amount of light coming through. When she looked around again, she saw an empty room in the dimness. The webs seemed to be falling all around her. She covered her face to shield herself from the water and the silk veils drifting across her face.
Dolly tried to talk but found that her voice was constricted in her throat. It was like she was choking but she could breathe normally. She swallowed and tried again but even less sound would come out. She moved her lips but her throat would not create any noise at all. Even the sound of her breathing was muffled. Dolly knew that she should try to scream but she couldn’t find the energy to force herself to make the sound. Everything around her was trying to make her colder. Trying to make her more tired. She didn’t know why but she knew that this was why she was sopping wet. This was why she was alone in the darkness. There was something there and she knew it wanted her to stay deep asleep. Dolly gritted her teeth in real life and fought against the malaise settling on her. She tried to sit up and immediately heard something near her hiss. She felt like something snapped inside of her and she was able to move properly again.
The scene around her wavered almost like a ripple in a still pond. As it settled, she could see it properly again but it was unstable. The room had gone from being wide and square to being hexagonal shaped. Looking around, the images were clearer now but some of it was out of focus. Almost like there was a smudge on a screen or something like an eraser had taken to some parts of her vision. She was in a dark room and sitting on a floor with blue tiles. She looked at them, squinting in the dim light and knew that she’d seen these tiles before. She knew for certain that she’d noticed this somewhere else. When she looked around again, the floor around her had been converted to a series of stairs leading into walls, into the floor, into each other and off into the ceiling. Instead of looking like an Escher painting, it looked oppressive. It was a trap to show her nowhere to go except forward. Directly in crawling distance in front of her was a door.
Dolly looked behind her to find that there was a steep drop off. Wherever it led, it was deep enough to leave a dark cavern and just seeing it now, she could hear the water dripping as it fell and echoed all around her. She looked back to see the door now seemed kind of elevated and knew that her perception was drawing her to crawl towards it as the floor slanted back. She looked back at the crumbling edge of the floor as pieces broke off and back towards the door. Now the stairs around had become narrow walls that allowed her nowhere else to go except to the door. Involuntarily, she began to inch towards the door. The more she moved, the more the floor began to break apart and the cracks were heading straight for her. She hauled herself further forward as the edge crept closer. She was getting more and more tired as she got closer to the door. The walls around her seemed like they were getting closer and the floor behind her was falling away. Now her feet were hanging off the edge and she was running out of energy to drag herself away. In a moment of panic, she finally forced a small noise to come out as she gasped.
The winds howled, seemingly in response, and somewhere above her and Dolly heard the faint sound of someone say her name. It whispered the word stop and she knew it was Will’s voice. She couldn’t see him but she knew he was there somewhere. One of the webs drifted down and floated on the air until it landed on her ankle, showing that it was resting on the floor that had fallen away. The ground was still there. The darkness was just shadow.
The focus around her came into sharp contrast for a second and it looked like the set but it was real. She was almost immediately plunged back into an oppressive darkness and if not for the waft of heat she still felt lingering on the breeze, she might have thought it hadn’t happened at all. She shivered but a part of her was getting upset. No, she was getting angry. Something was trying to get her to do something and it wanted her to open that door. She knew this now. She remembered Will had said this to her once. This thing was trying to scare her into doing something and she knew that it was getting desperate to get her attention. She also knew that it was fighting dirty and that was bringing up emotions in her that she hadn’t faced down in a long time. Emotions that she didn’t much care to feel again and her anger was only growing.
Dolly watched as the walls around her had become narrower still and the drop off behind her was gone. Now it was just a slit of light above her, barely able to shine through the thick webbing. The only light that was allowed now was over the door and she was getting buried in the thick, oppressive darkness. Grinding her teeth together, Dolly forced herself to push past the fear she was getting presented with and looked to the wall to her right. She shook her head and saw the purple velvet curtain instead of a blank, concrete space. Using her anger, she even tried to pick out the window beyond it in the dimness that only seemed to get darker the more she concentrated. Her attention was drawn away when she heard a loud crack sound above her head. Instead of thunder, it was the wall on the other side of her. It was trembling and there were pebble sized fragments that were starting to come down around her and without thinking, she inched away from the crackling noise of the crumbling wall.
Dolly was about to put her hand on the threshold of the door but stopped just short and heard another frustrated hiss near her ear. She spun around and saw that the door was within an inch of her hand. She could practically feel the object pulling her like a magnet. She inched back when she saw the tendrils of darkness reaching out from under the door towards her. Dolly didn’t get far before she felt the wall behind her. Again, she fought to find her anger as she watched the darkness seeping from the other side of the door straining to reach her.
Dolly didn’t know if what was trying to reach her could read her mind or not but she couldn’t deny that this time she was getting scared. She felt the aggression that this thing was using to get her to touch that door. She knew once she did, it would reveal itself and she didn’t want to see it. She tried pushing against the wall at her back but it felt like concrete and she was running out of energy. She felt the anger slipping away on her as she watched the tendrils of darkness seeming to bubble out from beneath the door, desperate to find her. She feared what they would do because she knew it wouldn’t wait for long. It was going to push her forward if it could and she didn’t know if she had the energy to fight it off. That was, until she heard the lone sound echo around her. A sound that froze her heart instantly and accessed long, lost furnace of rage that she had not known in many years.
She would know Trioxin’s cry anywhere. She knew when he called for food. She knew when he was chirping at her just to talk. She knew when he was in pain. This was him calling to her for sure and she could hear the pain in his cry. Suddenly the rain was gone. The sound of the wind was silent but that quiet was broken by another sound of the cat’s louder wail of pain.
“No,” Dolly snarled, forcing the syllable out of her throat. Around her she saw the scene ripple again and felt her anger magnify.
Trioxin gave a sharper cry from behind the door and without thinking Dolly moved forward towards it, her rage now burning inside of her. Somewhere above her, she heard Will call her name but she couldn’t be stopped. This was her dream and she would not allow this. She stood on her own legs now and the room was becoming lighter. The darkness was trying to maintain itself but she could smell the rain from the place she wanted to be. And she would get there soon but first she was going to put a stop to this dream and the thing causing this. When she was within reach of the tendrils, they latched on her arm but she was too filled with vitriol to allow them to force her to do anything. The door rattled as a last, horrible meow came from the other side and the darkness began to seep out. Dolly watched at the creature was trying to force her hand to the knob even as it oozed out the edges. To its shock, she pulled her arm back.
“I said No!” she hollered at the top of her lungs, her voice booming as she forcefully slammed the door in place, severing the tendrils latched to her arm.
There was a screech that sounded on the other side of the door before the creature retreated, its writhing tendrils like dark, oversized worms on the stone floor of the new room. She looked around to see that she was standing, so she knew she was still dreaming but it felt real. Dolly immediately recognized that she was on the set but the curtains were true velvet. The fainting couch was not just a cheap broken couch and there was a real fireplace roaring nearby. Standing just behind her was Will. His golden grey eyes were wide and fixed on the tendrils as they continues to wiggle on the floor.
“Holy shit,” he whispered, the spidery parts of his mouth moving enough for him to get the words out. He looked at her both confused and awed. “Shadows can’t get hurt. No, that’s totally impossible. Well, no, I’ve seen it before but that was like fire that did that and I think the guy said something about being an angel but if you go by what everyone says, everyone you meet is like a fifth angel in some bloodline or something. Don’t ever go by that. You’ll end up buying a boat load of used chicken feathers and I’ll tell you right now, those things stink to high hell. Don’t ask me how I know. Geez, those pieces are still wiggling so it actually must have severed something important. Well, shit, I guess I can’t deny it. You hurt it. Well I’ll be damned, you just hurt a Shadow!”
The figure talking was definitely Will. Dolly understood this because she knew this was exactly the kind of thing that Will would say. What she couldn’t understand was why she was still able to stand and why she was looking at a man in front of her who was clearly half spider. Not a costumed actor in body paint but a real monstrosity. She looked back at the wiggling shadowy bits on the floor and tried to reconcile that these were clearly just figments of her imagination but that didn’t seem to add up. For one, her imagination was coming in at quite a high resolution for something she was dreaming about. It apparently also came with sound effects of fireplaces and Will’s ramblings and verbal ticks. Then there were Will’s eyes. They were reflecting the fire light and they were wide and expressive like cat eyes. This wasn’t a dream. She knew it couldn’t be what she was really seeing, though. Will’s eyes actually looked like that. They were his real eyes and from the way he was moving, she could see his extra arms and the weird pieces around his mouth moving. She saw the way that his skin shone in the fire light and knew for certain that it had to be the real thing.
Her silence was all she could express and this seemed to finally get Will’s attention. He looked sheepish and immediately she was starting to feel unrest in herself. A kind of fear bubbled up in her as he looked around and seemed lost for words all of the sudden. Shamefully he gently tucked his mouth pieces back and winced as he clipped them away from his face in a fashion that she now recognized. He was about to speak but whatever he was going to say was interrupted by a veil of web floating down and covering her face. Dolly looked up to see not two feet above her head was a spider the size of a small terrier. Its two large central eyes were fixed on her, two dark orbs reflecting her confused and growing terrified expression back at her. Dolly gasped and seemed like she was going to scream but instead, without grace or any warning, she pitched forward. Will caught her awkwardly with two of his less than strong arms and eased her down to the couch. He pinched the bridge of his nose with his human hands and sighed.
“Well that could have gone better,” he said before tossing an annoyed glance at the confused Spider on the ceiling. It shrank back. “Oh don’t do that! I know you’re just curious but seriously, couldn’t you at least wait for me to signal that it was okay to come out? Nevermind that. Let’s just get her comfortable and hopefully we can get this fixed soon. Dreamtime doesn’t last forever and we don’t have long before the other two come back.”