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lunes, 20 de agosto de 2018

~Fiction~ Dreamhunter

fiction by Laura S. Maquilón
translated by Shaila Mélmed

The body that lay on the bed was breathing heavily. A thin nightgown covered it and separated its skin from that of its companion, whose curves showed up thanks to the light coming through the window.

Another figure entered through it. The naked girl shivered, as if in her dream she could feel the disturbance in the air; the other one didn't flinch. Good for her.

My supervisor skirted around the mattress and stood in front of me. His shadow darkened against the white walls. There was a golden, dangerous glow in his eyes. I swallowed hard. I had always been intimidated by that glare, but at that moment I had the feeling that I was no less a prey to him than the girl sleeping peacefully a few feet away.

He lifted his chin and, instinctively, I reached into my shirt, a reflex acquired as a result of training. I pulled out the pendant and the circles emitted a silver glow, as if trying to imitate the nightly orb that spied on us from the firmament. I grabbed it with less force than I would have expected; it trembled like a curtain frightened by the breeze. I know that Ciro was sure about my insecurity by the way he tilted his head to the side. In the dark, I could imagine his crooked smile, daring me to turn around and flee back to where I came from.

As if it were so easy to leave the Guild once inside. It was something that I had realized over time, although I always expected it to hide an emergency exit door. In that room, while I was contemplating, along with countless stuffed animals, those two girls who rested unaware of my doubts, I knew that this door didn't exist. My superior's posture left no room for interpretation. He was there with the purpose of supervising my final examination and would fulfill his duty to the end.

When the dreamcatcher circles danced before my eyes, I also understood that it wasn't a game. Tests among apprentices were long gone. Now the reward was significantly greater, and the punishment, irreversible. That was as real as life itself—a cruel and ruthless act. The future of those women was in my hands; in Ciro's was mine.

The rumbling of my stomach gave me last push I needed.  I closed my eyes and focused on the weight of the pendant. The light pierced through my eyelids. I went deep into the fragments of light until the world became a mirror. The reflections of dozens of unfulfilled dreams danced like a rainbow on a piece of glass.

I remembered what I knew about the girl. It was the first time I had information about someone outside the academy. I was surprised about that too, but it made sense. We should find the perfect person for the perfect dream, it wasn't just a shot in the dark.  And that made it even more terrible.

Ana grew up in a neighborhood in the outskirts and was able to study genetic engineering thanks to her parents unpaid overtime, the same that allowed them to keep their jobs. Recently she finished paying her scholarship, after selling a project she had been working on—increasing the materials that the earthworms used in composting plants could digest. Next step was the marketing process, so she would feel more relaxed for a few months. The perfect time to raise a family.

The family that I had to steal from her.

There it was, like a sun among pearls of rain, silencing the darkness. The smaller circles of the dreamcatcher spun around the biggest one; that movement created some kind of black hole that swallowed, little by little, the light of that wish. Until it was extinguished.

The room seemed as desolate as I was without those flashes from the oneiric plane. Being back to that limited space, with Ciro's sharp look, felt like I'd been hit by a bus. I was sore in muscles I didn't even know existed and, somehow, recalling the heart I'd lost forever was painful too.

Ana, sweet Ana, shivered for a moment despite the stifling heat. Her amber skin looked duller, more sallow.

I averted my gaze and hid the pendant again under my clothes. I still could catch a glimpse of its light through them—it wouldn't stop shining until the dream contained in there was released.

Ciro came towards me and held out his arm, pointing at the window. I nodded and slipped through it. I easily went down through the cracks between the bricks while my supervisor's shadow chased me like a nightmare.

"You did very well, Marina. You're already halfway there," he told me when his feet reached the ground.

Since I started the Guild training I had never felt so little enthusiasm for a compliment. Even so, I murmured a shy “thank you” and ventured into the shadows on the street.

I had memorized the address. Although I had only lived in this town for six years, I knew it like the fluff of my belly button.  Too many hours out in the elements looking for food, or a job, or just the fresh breeze at a departamental's store door.  I had fled to the capital with the thought that there I would be able to fulfill my dreams, but my drawings turned out to be useful just for sleeping on them so I couldn't get dirty in the grim alleys.

That's why my head was somewhere else while my feet were going back to the city center, that's why I didn't realize that Ciro passed me until he threw me against some store's door. The handle dug into my ribs.

"There's no room for doubts or mercy here, or for any of those small town sentimentalities. Do you understand?"

The wrinkles around his eyes looked like spiders holding a flaming jewel. They were the only things shining in his dark face.

"I know," I muttered far less vehemently than I would have liked.

"Well, that's not what I saw back there. Stick to the first rule or you'll end up like Ismael. And I'm not warning you."

I'm threatening you, resounded through the corridors of my memory.

I remembered Ismael. I had a devil of a job isolating his aspirations to have a decent life by being an accountant and find other minor dreams, like having an ice cream on a terrace. That wish was so powerful that eclipsed the others. But when he finished his training and was forced to get rid of it, he preferred to give it up than carrying out the assignment so they took away all his desires—he didn't want to live, but he didn't want to die either, he just starved himself, wallowing in his own excrement.

I wasn't going to end up like this. I had not given up my family and Nati to end up like a pig on a farm. They were already too far away to turn back.

I shoved Ciro away. I ignored his crooked smile and set off again. The determined expression on my face was illuminated by the street lights.

In a few minutes we were in a very different neighborhood. The buildings were shorter and more elegant—the cornices were aligned as if they were the gunwales of a boat. There, the windows were adorned with curtains that swayed when the wind started blowing.

Followed by Ciro, I climbed up a downspout that went down the front of one of the medium-sized houses that broke the monotony of the block. We got to a balcony surrounded by a stone balustrade. Once there, I went into the room, whose size reminded me of one of those apartments for beggars where I had robbed sometimes. There was a woman, breathing softly, in the bed. In front of her, lying back in an armchair, a thin man was dozing; he opened his eyes when he heard the scrape of my shoes on the floor.

Ciro raised his hand when he saw him sitting up. The man stopped with a smile of satisfaction. He didn't have time to change it before my supervisor got close and injected him a sleep inducer into his throat. The client collapsed into his arms and, by the time he finished seating him, I was already near the headboard, admiring the generous curves of that young woman who was sleeping unaware that her life vision was going to change overnight.

I pulled the dreamcatcher out from between my sweaty breasts. Ciro waited while sitting on the client.

This time I didn't look down, but rather entered immediately into the sea of ​​mirrors in the oneiric plane. My will made the pendant spin, this time to spit out the dream I treasured in and transferred it to its new owner, although she hadn't asked for it. As the silver light touched the woman's plump flesh, and she absorbed it through her pores, I felt disgusted with myself, so I just stayed focused on the thoughts about the big meal I was going to eat once I got paid for that assignment. Given that it was my Guild final examination and I was under supervision, I wouldn't receive full payment, but at least it would allow me to break for a day the insect and withered vegetable diet that I have been on since I left my village.

The glow was extinguished and the room went dark. The weight of the dreamcatcher was missing and replaced with a feeling of emptiness and anguish. I swallowed back the bile rising into my esophagus while I was walking with Ciro back to the balcony, following his instructions.

There were no half smiles or praises, just a slight prick on my wrist that officially  confirmed that my life didn't belong to me anymore. Now I had a responsibility towards the Guild and I was bound, hopelessly, by its laws. But at least I was somebody, a dreamhunter, and that was better than nothing.

"We'll meet this afternoon at the headquarters. There are a few jobs that you may be interested in."

I didn't miss the sarcastic tone of his last sentence, but I simply ignored it.  He jumped down to the street and scuttled down the nearest alley. If I was lucky, I would never see him again. He was only in charge of apprentices and I wasn't one of them anymore. I hoped my next supervisor wouldn't like playing hard to get so much.

I was rubbing the place where the tracking chip had been lodged, when I heard a whisper behind me. The client was beginning to regain consciousness. Careful not to make a sound, I went down to the pavement, crossed the street and climbed up the wall of a building. I should have gone to the academy to spend what I expected to be one of my last nights there, but instead something was holding me back, as if part of me wanted to be sure that the dream that I had sold hadn't been tainted, as if this could make up for that despicable robbery. But when the client woke up his wife and they began to take off their clothes, reality forced me to turn around and go to the other side of the city trying to leave behind that soul that was being too heavy for me to bear it.

Dawn came on me with its circle of light while I was standing at a fertility clinic entrance. I needed more money to add some alcohol to my party day, and I had heard that you could get a good deal for your ovaries. After what I had experienced that night, I preferred to find out rather sooner than later.

Thanks for reading! I hope you liked it.
And thanks to Shaila too for helping me take this story even further.
You can also read it in Spanish.

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