Rude Awakening

The very night that Pollock and Shade retrieved Porsche from her family’s house, they all dreamed again. A tiger stalked along a narrow corridor. And unlike the dream of Porsche’s return, there was no escape. Obstructions in the pathway tripped him constantly so that he had to stumble into the walls on either side. The close walls bore blades and barbs, and the tiger could not avoid bloodying itself more and more against the never-ending gauntlet of sharp points. When the dream ended, it was with a growl of hopelessness and pain.

Porsche had already had a fitful sleep, full of nightmares. She recalled the dark faerie empress that had taken her, and nightmares representing her fears of things to come. In some, she was taken away again. In others, she had to stand by helplessly while her fetch destroyed her life. Some worked metaphorically, as an ugly version of herself knocked the pillars out from under the house she was in until it tumbled off a cliff, but the meaning was the same. Mel Gibson was there, inexplicably. But for all of that, they were just dreams.

This one was different. It meant something.

Porsche woke up yawning on the couch and staggered into the restroom. On the way back out, she blearily saw that Shade and Polly were up and ready for the day. Polly was working on breakfast, with black at the roots of her hair and faded to a dark blue.

“Morning.”

“Oh, morning, hon. Did you sleep okay?”

“I want some frosted flakes. Do you have any frosted flakes?”

“No, Jerry’s vegan. Why?”

“Dreamed about a tiger.”

Shade nodded sagely. “We did too.” He smirked. “What do we do now?”

Pollock poured soy milk into a glass. “Same thing we did yesterday, I guess. Jerry’s passed the eff out, so we can borrow the car. We’ll hit the shelters again.”

“Polly, I disagree. If there’s another one of us coming, it’s different than it was with Porsche’s arrival. He isn’t out of the hedge.”

Porsche wore a confused expression. “Who are we talking about?”

Shade tapped his teeth and thought. Raising a finger, he explained, “Rajah. His name is Rajah. He was another one with us in Arcadia. Another one who left with us, and got separated. Just like you, Porsche. Only he isn’t free of the hedge yet.”

Pollock sighed. “Well, I don’t know what to do about that.”

“We can check the shelters anyway. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he’s here.”

“No, that’s a sensible interpretation. But we’ll need someone who knows the hedge to help us if we’re going to go in there looking for him.”

Porsche put on her cheerleading outfit, drawing attention from the others. She shrugged, refusing to explain. It felt good to put on the school colors. Her deal, the reason she’d encountered the Empress in the first place, was one that saved her from a lifetime of being the mousy, uninteresting girl who got picked on. But with the Empress’ help, she’d been able to grow cold enough to cut down the girls that picked on her, and finally got a little respect. With the cred that bought her, she had tried out for the cheerleading squad and been accepted. It was her achievement, not her fetch’s, and she was going to wear that outfit if she damn well chose.

Rude Awakening

Petals of the Rose Malkom Malkom