Contributed by Lucas A. Fisher
To her dismay, Clementine, a prisoner aboard the floating human ship named the Cloud, was stuck in her nightmares. After the Practitioner forced her consciousness into a deep nightmare with an umbrella for a guide, she found herself led into a living fear.
With breaths of anxiety and sharp pain, she made eye contact with a man who had no skin, only a colorless dripping essence at the end of a narrow hallway. Who was this man? Was it even a person? Her anger overcame fear as she charged the creep with the umbrella, lodging itself within its chest where a heart should be. In a deep, empty laugh, it shook Clementine as she opened the umbrella, splattering this figment of pigments around her. While the bits inched towards each other, she took off over the empty shoes, not glancing back at the character rebuilding.
Down stairs and through work chambers of desks with drawings, she hit a dead end, grey and dull surroundings and no escape behind her. She prayed once more. Her nightmare rounded the corner whispering sweet lullabies into her mind. The ink from his stature flooded her insides. As slow as sludge, Clementine broke free with mental, sheer willpower. The creature heeded her commands.
Now in control of her own dream world, she banished it. The dead end faded away in show of a spotlight on a talisman with a singular marking of a rune. An item which no other child could reach. Upon touch, Clementine arose from her dream and into the chaotic and strange world that is home. The Practitioner still sat across the Stalker and in his plump chair. Unaware that time in her head was exaggerated compared to the real world and clutching the ancient oaken amulet, she was held down with magic.
Clementine’s new and mysterious finding broke his spell in an orange glow. Her immunity to his pull gave her permission to flee from the door whence she came. His feeble age against Clementine’s malnutrition produced a weak chase on foot down corridors the guards from earlier had passed. Through each twist in direction, she felt a twinge of pain in her. Skinny and bony are tough attributes to run with. She wished and prayed for food mid-flight when the talisman shone once more, revealing a shimmering path only the bearer may see. It led into strange cold hallways compared to the vibrant setting where she eventually escaped the Practitioner.
Amidst a rainbow of colors, the trail ended in a bedroom chamber for the least important workers in the lowest deck of the Cloud. In its simple one room of metal walls with no decor and only a dresser and bed, a plate of cold pasta, a stale roll and coffee cake (a piece) looked savory.
Clementine scurried up the metal legs of the bed. She devoured the cold noodles with sauce and scarfed up the coffeecake. In pure delight and energy, she leaped onto the roll for a bite. Then the confines of a claw snagged her.