eyes find eyes

there is a man in her dreams. he is tall, with skin as white as the moon itself. she thinks his hair is two things at once: just as milky white or blacker than the deepest black she has ever laid her eyes on before. what she knows, looking at him, is that the smile he gives is enigmatic, almost amused.

she's well aware this is a dream. with powers like hers, sometimes it was just what happened, the ability to distinguish reality from dreams came to her same as she knew when someone's mind had been wiped clean by someone else or that their mind had been altered by someone else's hands. she's wearing one of her old waitressing uniforms, her hair pulled up, and this man is standing in the front door.

she wants to question, demand to know who he is, what he's doing here. but that damn smile on his face tells her that no matter what she could ask, no matter how she asked, he wouldn't tell her. and the rest of her, that part of her more goblin force than madelyne or molly (and even then, those lines were so blurry now, weren't they?) knew that probing him would be ultimately useless. this was his home.

she knew that, somehow. unreality was his base, that this dream would only warp further and further beneath his pale fingers.

so instead, she bares her teeth and says, "either say what you have to say or get out."

his smile widens. "i hope you enjoy my little nightmare, beyonder. you seem to always have such a penchant for them yourself." he smiles wider, and then the dream shifts. she falls further into the dream, pulled helplessly by it. for a moment, she thinks that she feels herself push against all the dreamers in her own house: gabriel dreaming of being in a astronaut suit, smiling at he watches an earth set on the moon with his boyfriend; laura dreaming of a fire held in her hands; jenny dreaming of a book she had read, re-enacting all the scenes with a flourish; and even lily, almost two years old, having little dreams of her own, softness and color, nothing more than those pleasing sensations.

for a moment, she feels split, almost tipping into all of her children's dreams at once. then she's jerked into another landscape: a formless darkness with a chest. the chest there is open, and inside of it is…

nothing. she looks at it curiously, at what the box could mean. there's something deliberate here, she knows it.

a hand settles on her, and when she turns around, she can see her father looking at her, eyes bright. he looks shaken, whispering, "molly?"

"dad?" she asks back, frowning. "dad, are you— are you okay?"

"you need to leave," his voice is hushed, "you need to run, molly. please—" her hand settles on his, looking at the terror on his face. terror that would have really frightened her years ago, still makes her stomach do an uncomfortable flip flop despite things.

"run from what? who?" she repeats it, and his grip on her shoulder tightens.

an image flashes before her: a man with a wide smile, in sunglasses. a feeling of dread. and then everything dissolves. she feels as if she's being dragged downward. fruitlessly, she struggles until she finds herself sitting sand. until she reaches up, the dream familiar. the sand is overwhelmingly hot to the touch and after a moment, she realizes that she is blind. the panic grips her for a moment, and then a second wave hits her: she cannot feel her hair against her neck. the urge to scream wells up — yet there was nothing she could scream through, scream with.

her fingers touch her face, utterly formless and smooth. no eyes, no nose, no hair, no teeth—! no. no, she couldn't be here again. couldn't be in that— that awful place--

a nothing being in a nowhere place.

the words echo around her, taunting. like all those years ago, she is back to a place that is both nothing and substantial. this thing was taunting here with one of the worst things madelyne had ever endured, one of the worst things that she had taken for granted at the time.

it tells her several things.

that this being, whoever it was, knew madelyne. but it didn't know molly. didn't know what she'd been through — what they had endured together and apart. and instead of the despair that had initially gripped her all those years ago, she rebels against it. against the notion that she is nothing, and with a force she didn't know she had, her fingers dive into the shapelessness of her face. before, when it had happened, she hadn't understood, had been tricked. here and now, with so much power in her, with so much awareness, she refuses to allow herself to be tricked. her hands tears open holes for her eyes, rips out a slat for her mouth to howl in defiance in the dream of whoever it was. blood gushes out, seeps down, but she wills it: wills the dream to give her eyes, to give her teeth, to let her see who it was this time.

the being that she sees bears her father's face. but not his eyes, no. his eyes are of teeth, grinning at her, voices issuing out, "well aren't you a little surprise."

anger wells up in her, her own horror as she spits out, "let him go."

the thing that has her father sneers at her. "you'll have to take that up with the dreamlord. but trust me: he's not someone who does anything he doesn't want to. so you're out of luck."

she gets up, means to grip him herself, tear her to pieces. then the dream is over, colors running together and molly waking up in her bed with a gasp, blood seeping down her body, blinking in bewilderment.

immediately, she gets up, and tries to phone her father. it goes to voicemail three times. then she tries to text her father.

dad, are you okay?

dad? dad pick up i know it's late

dad it's molly. PICK. UP.