The dreams came again, less frequently, but still they persisted, like a tainted memory, a recollection twisted into something perverse and wrong, painting the once happy memory that it had grown from a darker shade. Each night, it tried to ruin this memory for him, to rob him of it's true nature, and then, it did so each second night, and then a third. It had been nine days since he had last thrashed in his sleep, and while a portion of his unconscious mind screamed its reasoning, it could not dispel the shadows that enveloped him.
He was somewhere dark, humid, and safe, and yet he squirmed with uncertainty, like he was trapped beneath the corpse of a parent, locked in an embrace that had once been comforting, but now carried a poisonous taint. His mind became more alert, and he tried to open his eyes, to no avail. Struggling, he could not move his limbs, and started to realize just how trapped he was. It was as if he were bound and gagged, eyes wrapped in bloody bandages, ears stuffed with cotton, wrapped in layers and layers of heavy blankets and dropped into a tank of water, chained to the bottom. The panic began to set in, and he struggled fiercely, the beating of a large heart pounding next to him, thunderous and quickening to match his own frantic resistance, scrabbling blindly for escape.
Anders always awoke just as he burst free, smashing through the chest of his host. He awoke not with a start or a cry, simply opening his eyes, a pumping pulse and a slight trickle of sweat all there was to betray the terror of his sleep. There had been a time he would have screamed and curled up in the corner of his hut, refusing to be touched, waving away any attempt by his friends or family to approach him, eyes wild and terrified, but he had long since grown used to this nightmare. He told himself it was a nightmare, at least.
Pushing up onto his hands to sit, he shielded his eyes, the sun just now rising over the broken skyline, crumbling buildings appearing as black imprints on his vision as the glare set in, the tallest of which were leaning against each other, as if wounded. As if in contrast to this sight, the still dark sky above, even with the light beginning to spread, carried with it clouds of green stars, a deceptively pretty miasma, like some poisonous sea creature, luring him towards certain doom with its drifting tendrils of light. He often wondered what waited for him if he were to make it there. He did not know what those who called it home had once named it, but it was a constant, looming mystery. Even with the Death Clouds resting atop it, he wanted to see what was inside. He wanted to know what his people had made, what they had built, and, with an almost morbid fascination, what it was they had wrought on their own world. The answers to their existence, the reasons why things were the way they are, could have been right in front of him, hoarded jealously by the Death Clouds, and it made him so restless!
He felt it's presence before anything else, the serrated black tail sliding silently about his body, elongated head shadowing his own, hissing as if in inquiry. He leaned back again it, it's cold, hard stomach and chest molding perfectly to support his back, strong legs bent on either side of him, like some twisted metallic armchair. It made him miss the old and battered recliner back home that he had won in a game several seasons back. It had been one of his most treasured possessions, something from the old world, a luxury, and one he had earned, had fought for. He knew it was safe. No one would take his belongings, and if someone tried, his tribe would not allow it. Yet still he worried, for the things and the friends he had left behind. Even though he knew he would return, that pang of loss echoed inside of him, and he simply let it stew and fester in the post-nightmare melancholy, the creature behind him knowing every second of this routine.
"Did you panic, too?" He asked, looking up at the long, smooth head that loomed over him. It cocked slightly, as if wondering what these noises he made were. He couldn't help a grin, wondering just how much of it was genuine confusion and how much was his act. Raptor was smarter then he looked, smart enough to know when to look stupid. He pushed up off of him and stood, rolling his lean shoulders, which popped from the uncomfortable sleep, tanned skin dirty and scuffed from the long travel. He had slept without a shirt on, wearing only his long sheep skin pants, slit half way up to allow the draft in, strong and black soled feet bare. It was hot, the hard packed soil of the hill almost as tough as the stone shelves that jutted out at an angle, reflecting whatever warm breeze, and bouncing the heat like some kind of massive stove. He was drenched in sweat, the filth on his body running as damp grime now. He pulled his course, light hair back, but realized the leather cord he wore on his wrist was not there. As if sensing his very thoughts, Raptor dangled it before his face, almost twice his size when standing up straight. He smiled and took it, binding his hair back and turning to check that the bags were properly fashioned to him, Raptor lifting his arms to allow him access to the straps.
"Alright buddy, you ready for this? We can always go back. No ones forcing you" It released a quick hiss, as if brushing aside his cautions. Of course it was ready, it chastised. It bounded up onto a taller rock, leaping and scrabbling like some sort of metal lizard, the bags on its sides and back not slowing it down in the least. It perched atop, crouched and watching him, tail flicking side to side before coiling about the tall spire of rock. Looks like he'd already found a site and was waiting for him to follow. He envied Raptor, and his near limitless amounts of energy. As his stomach began to twist and gurgle, he also envied just how little Raptor needed to eat to maintain that strength. It was like feeding a horse with a stick of gum.
It hissed excitedly and pointed off towards the direction of a particularly large shelf of rock, jutting out the top of the hill, then scurried down and hopped off onto the brown grass, stopping to make sure he was following. He sighed in submission, but his own anticipation was building to meet Raptors, and ignoring his hunger, he strapped on his machete, ammo box and pistol, hefting his sharpened metal spear. Reaching down to touch the long, faded scar down his chest, he felt the anticipation stir, and hurried off to follow.
It seemed perfectly normal now, but there had been a time when Raptor and Anders had not existed together. How had such a partnership come to be? More to come...