Home > Dreams of Gods & Monsters(2)

Dreams of Gods & Monsters(2)
Author: Laini Taylor

“Talk about what?” Gabriel asked, all innocence. “What is this ‘it’ you speak of?”

“Cute. But I mean it. Sorry.”

“Okay.”

Another bite of ice cream, another silence cut short by another non-question. “I had nightmares as a kid,” Gabriel offered. “For about a year. Really intense. To hear my parents tell it, life as we knew it was pretty much suspended. I was afraid to fall asleep, and I had all these rituals, superstitions. I even tried making offerings. My favorite toys, food. Supposedly I was overheard offering up my older brother in my place. I don’t remember that, but he swears.”

“Offering him to who?” Eliza asked.

“Them. The ones in the dream.”

Them.

A spark of recognition, hope. Idiotic hope. Eliza had a “them,” too. Rationally she knew that they were a creation of her mind and existed nowhere else, but in the aftermath of the dream, it was not always possible to remain rational. She asked, “What were they?” before she quite considered what she was doing. If she wasn’t going to talk about her dream, she shouldn’t be prying into his. It was a rule of secret-keeping, in which she was well-versed: Ask not, lest ye be asked.

“Monsters,” he said with a shrug, and just like that, Eliza lost interest—not at the mention of monsters, but at his of course tone. Anyone who could say monsters in that offhand manner had definitely never met hers.

“You know, being chased is one of the commonest dreams,” Gabriel said, and went on to tell her about it, and Eliza kept sipping tea and taking the occasional bite of nightmare ice cream, and she nodded in the right places, but she wasn’t really listening. She’d thoroughly researched dream analysis a long time ago. It hadn’t helped before, and it didn’t now, and when Gabriel summed up with “they’re a manifestation of our waking fears,” and “everyone has them,” his tone was both placating and pedantic, as though he’d just solved her problem for her.

Eliza really wanted to say, And I suppose everyone gets pacemakers when they’re seven years old because ‘manifestations of their waking fears’ keep sending them into cardiac arrhythmia? But she didn’t, because it was the exact kind of memorable factoid that gets regurgitated at cocktail parties.

Did you know that Eliza Jones got a pacemaker when she was seven because her nightmares gave her cardiac arrhythmia?

Seriously? That’s insane.

“So what happened to you?” she asked him. “What happened to your monsters?”

“Oh, they carried off my brother and left me alone. I have to sacrifice a goat to them every Michaelmas, but it’s a small price to pay for a good night’s sleep.”

Eliza laughed. “Where do you get your goats?” she asked, playing along.

“Great little farm in Maryland. Certified sacrificial goats. Lambs, too, if you prefer.”

“Who doesn’t? And what the hell’s Michaelmas?”

“I don’t know. I pulled that out of the air.”

And Eliza experienced a moment of gratitude, because Gabriel hadn’t pried, and the ice cream and tea and even her irritation with his scholarly jabber had helped to ease the aftermath. She was actually laughing, and that was something.

And then her phone vibrated on the tabletop.

Who was calling her at four AM? She reached for it…

… and when she saw the number on the screen, she dropped it—or possibly flung it. With a crack it hit a cabinet and bounced to the floor. For a second she had hope that she’d killed it. It lay there, silent. Dead. And then—bzzzzzzzzzzzz—not dead.

When had she ever been sorry not to have broken her phone?

It was the number. Just digits. No name. No name came up because Eliza had not programmed that number into her phone. She didn’t even realize that she remembered it until she saw it, and it was like it had been there all along, every moment of her life since… since she’d escaped. It was all there, it was all right there. The gut-punch was immediate and visceral and undiminished by the years.

“All right?” Gabriel asked her, leaning down to pick up the phone.

She almost said Don’t touch it! but knew this was irrational, and stopped herself in time. Instead she just didn’t reach for it when he held it out to her, so he had to set it down on the table, still buzzing.

She stared at it. How had they found her? How? She’d changed her name. She’d disappeared. Had they known where she was all along, been watching her all this time? The idea horrified her. That the years of freedom could have been an illusion…

The buzzing stopped. The call went to voice mail, and Eliza’s heartbeat was cannon fire again: burst after burst shuddering through her. Who was it? Her sister? One of her “uncles”?

Her mother?

Whoever it was, Eliza had only a moment to wonder if they’d leave a message—and if she’d dare to listen to it if they did—before the phone emitted another buzz. Not a voice mail. A text.

It read: Turn on the TV.

Turn on the…?

Eliza looked up from the phone, deeply unsettled. Why? What did they want her to see on the TV? She didn’t even have a TV. Gabriel was watching her intently, and their eyes locked in the instant they heard the first scream. Eliza almost jumped out of her skin, rising from her chair. From somewhere outside came a long, unintelligible cry. Or was it inside? It was loud. It was in the building. Wait. That was someone else. What the hell was going on? People were crying out in… shock? Joy? Horror? And then Gabriel’s phone started to buzz, too, and Eliza’s unspooled a sudden string of messages—bzzz bzzz bzzz bzzz bzzz. From friends this time, including Taj in London, and Catherine, who was doing fieldwork in South Africa. Wording varied, but all were a version of the same disturbing command: Turn on the TV.

Are you watching this?

Wake up. TV. Now.

Until the last one. The one that made Eliza want to curl up in fetal position and cease to exist.

Come home, it said. We forgive you.

2

THE ARRIVAL

They appeared on a Friday in broad daylight, in the sky above Uzbekistan, and were first sighted from the old Silk Road city of Samarkand, where a news crew scrambled to broadcast footage of… the Visitors.

The angels.

In flawless ranks of phalanxes, they were easily counted. Twenty blocks of fifty: a thousand. A thousand angels. They swept westward, near enough to earth that people standing on rooftops and roads could make out the rippling white silk of their standards and hear the trill and tremolo of harps.

   
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