A Drowning Dream
It is a dream, you know this for sure.
Your companions didn’t hear you fall into the icy sea waters. By the time you get your head above water, the boat is gone, swallowed by the inky blackness. A waning moon illuminates the frigid ocean, and in the distance, there is a lifeless tower scraping skyward through the silver.
The freezing cold brings shivers immediately. Waters roil and toss around you in all directions. Your muscles are locking up, making it hard to keep treading water, and an icy tendril of fear grasps your heart as you fight to get your bearings.
You start to swim in a direction – any direction – when you see them leering, inches beneath the surface. The glint of the moon reveals a face, brackish-green with death and bloated with water – a drowned corpse.
A rotting hand extends above the surface toward you as you react to its clammy touch. A second hand grabs your ankle, another grasps at your shoulder. Rising silently from of the abyssal depths, dozens of faces surround you. Some are old and rotting, skeletal fragments poking through moldering flesh. Others are fresher, their intact hair and limbs tangled with seaweed.
Your heartbeat is deafening in your ears as you try to find a path through the fleet of living dead.
But is it even your own?
As more hands wrap around your legs and torso, you notice a creature floating motionlessly above the glassy surface of the water. A three-faced being stares down indifferently as you struggle, each mask-like visage criss-crossed with cracks.
You are already a part of them. And they, a part of you.
It reaches a hand down towards you and, for a moment, you think it’s going to pull you from the waves.
Its fingers cup your temples and, in a flash, you see the whole world laid beneath you like a moving tapestry. Small streams, brooks, and creeks wind their way through the land, feeding into larger rivers that split into deltas, fanning across deserts and meadows and hills before culminating into a wide ocean. The tumbling waters reach every part of the land, from the deepest valleys to the highest mountains, and you see yourself at the center of this great sea. The rivers fatten as they flow, new streams branching out in different directions. The sea rises, swallowing shorelines and threatening to overtake the land entirely.
Fear pervades people as water pervades land. We lie within your dread, within your terror, within each of you.
As your vision returns, you see the ocean choked with the dead. A multitude of pleading, desperate hands drag you beneath the tides.
A rush of briny water fills your lungs and chokes off your words, obscuring your vision. The grim, uncaring masks, tinged with the silver of a disappearing moon are the last image you see before blackness overtakes you.
You claw your way to wakefulness, drenched with sweat and gasping for breath. The dream has ended but you suspect that this new nightmare is far from over.
— Written by Catherine Rachfalski