Waking up in your bedroom is what most people expect to do on most days. It says something about my life that I was both surprised and annoyed when I did though.
“You’ve got to be kidding me! I was at the edge of the spotlight! Why did they shoot me rather than one of the people who were clearly illuminated!” I grumbled. I could feel my body on Earth Glass when I concentrated on it. I wasn’t dead but I wasn’t in good shape either. The bullet wound – probably a head shot – had left me deeply unconscious. If I tried to force my way back to wakefulness, Earth Glass would crack open like an egg.
“Way is going to kill me.” I muttered to myself. I couldn’t risk sending her any information on what had happened. She’d have to find out via purely natural means. That meant she wouldn’t even know to start looking for me until I was late for our meeting at Shurman’s office. Even then she probably wouldn’t think to come looking for me on my homeworld since I didn’t have any reason to come back here given the time crunch we were under.
“Maybe breaking that place wouldn’t be such a bad thing.” I continued grumbling. I didn’t mean it, but there was a part of me that found the idea tempting. Call it my “Inner Bull in a China Shop”.
“Oh you’re awake? How is your work going?” my Mom asked from the door to my room.
“Well I managed to keep three people from being shot by snipers.” I said. I was pretty sure Madelaine, Tiny and Eddie would have been able to escape in the total darkness before the snipers got off a lucky shot. I wondered if they’d even noticed me get hit though?
“That sounds good.” she said cautiously.
“Yeah. Would have been better if I hadn’t soaked up a few bullets myself in the process.” I said. I stretched my shoulders and neck, grateful to feel them in perfect working order.
“You were shot? Are you ok?” Mom asked. She looked concerned, but seeing me whole and in one piece right in front of her made it hard for her to be too worried about it.
“Here? Just fine. There? Not so much. I don’t think I need to spin up a new body for myself yet but I need to give the one I was using some time to recover.” I said. The question of how much time that would be gnawed at me. Two days to recover from being shot wasn’t a lot of time and we had a lot less than that given the other players who were on the board.
“You can make new bodies for yourself?” Mom asked.
“Sure. It just takes time and imagination.” I said.
“That’s just in your dreams though right?” Mom asked.
I looked at her and saw puzzlement in her eyes. She didn’t look concerned, just curious.
“Yes and no. The things that I can craft, bodies, identities, tools and so on, those all begin in what you could be called ‘dreams’. They’re the “unreal” given a name and a form by imagination. What I can do is to make those things real within the context of a given world.”
“So you can make dreams come to life.” Mom said. We’d talked about it before, so she was mostly indicating that she understood what I was saying.
“Right.” I agreed.
“And nightmares?” she asked.
“Those too.” I said. Nightmares were easy to create, and even useful sometimes but they could also take on a life of their own all too often.
“How do you keep it under control?” she asked.
“It’s easier than it sounds. There’s an awareness that comes with the power. I can see through a lot of illusions, even the one’s I try to make for myself. If I create a monster, I don’t get to pretend that I’m not the one doing it, or that it’s actually a fluffy cuddly bunny.”
“What about when you get mad?” She’d stopped putting away the bath towels in the closet and was looking at me with appraising eyes.
“Same thing. I don’t get to pretend that I’m justified in blowing up a building just because I stubbed my toe on a desk in it.” I explained.
“Are there bad people with your kind of power though?” she asked.
“Yeah.” I admitted. “The real monsters don’t usually have enough to hold themselves to a particular world so they drift out into the unreal and become lost in worlds of their own making. The other ones, the one’s that do manage to stay attached, they often run into, or wind up creating, people like me.”
“What happens then?”
“A lot of different things. Sometimes they destroy their world, other times it’s worse than that.” I said.
“What could be worse than destroying the world.” my mother, the Champion of Gaia, asked me.
“Changing it in a way that its people stay with it even when none of them want to be there anymore. World’s that are destroyed can be remade. It’s like a circle of friends. The one bad apple gets spit out and the rest continue on. It’s what happened with Kari’s world. In fact Kari’s world was a good example of the bad scenario too. There was a dreamer there who was twisting the world into something horrible but he was doing it slowly enough that the people were tolerating the increasingly toxic environment.” I explained. I didn’t mention that pulling a world back together was in no way an easy task. I’d seen world fragments and dead worlds where life had chosen to move elsewhere and leave behind the broken past instead of putting it back together.
“You can remake shattered worlds, and build new bodies, can you make the people to fill them with? Could you make another me for example?” Mom asked.
“Nope. I mean, I could make someone who looked like you and sounded like you, but she would only know the things that I knew. She’d basically be just another costume that I was wearing. It’s one of the big things about being a dream lord; the only thing we can’t make is other real people, so those are the most important thing in any world to us.” I said.
“That’s very interesting.” Mom said. Her expression was one of contemplation. As though she was putting pieces into a jigsaw puzzle I couldn’t see,
I got up and rummaged around in my bureau. If I was going to be awake here for a while, I might as well see if there was anything that needed tending to on this front. With a world as big and weird as mine, there was almost always something going wrong somewhere.
“Not that I mind the questions, but what made you curious about all that today?” I asked. I’d held off on talking to Mom about my dream lord stuff for a long time because of my general concern about creating other dream lords. Over time though I’d seen that she’d connected deeply enough with this world that the appeal of imaginary ones wasn’t going to get her to give up the life she’d worked so long and hard for.
“Oh, I’m just wondering if you’re sister is starting to follow in your footsteps.” she said.
I did a double take. That was a scary concept.
“That’s just what you need right? Two of us sleepy slugs?” I laughed.
“Would it be dangerous if she did?” she asked and I finally caught a glimpse of what she was thinking. My step-brother, her step-son, was a nearly indestructible super hero. I was, in some ways, tougher than he was. Peri, on the other hand, was the one child my Mom had who was just a normal girl. A normal, very vulnerable little girl, at least by comparison to her siblings. With what James and I had done in the past, Mom had reason to believe we’d be safe even if she wasn’t watching over us. With Peri it was a different story.
“It could be.” I told her. “I was lucky. When a new dreamer wakes up they can do a lot of damage, most especially to themselves. There’s scary stuff out there and depending on how you react to it things can go a lot of different ways. I’m close to the poster child for best case scenario and, well, I’m not exactly the girl I used to be.”
“Everyone changes though.” Mom began to say.
“I know, but sometimes those changes mean you can never go back to being who you were. I mean…do you know what the scariest thing for me was that first night?” I said.
“No, you didn’t talk about it much afterwards.”
“The whole world seemed like it was going nuts, but what scared me the most was that you would cast me out. That’d you’d see I wasn’t really Jin anymore.” I said.
“I would never, ever do that.”
“I know, or I know that now at least. But the point is I didn’t feel like myself because, in part, I wasn’t. I mean the ‘Jin’ that you knew was a normal girl, defined by her normal girl limitations. The person I became that night had a whole new set of definitions. She could be anyone or anything she wanted, except who she had been.”
“That sounds a lot like life in general.” Mom said.
“Yes, well, I was fourteen and scared and stupid.” I said with a smile.
“Don’t be hard on yourself.” Mom said, putting a hand on my shoulder.
“I let you get kidnapped by evil faeries who almost destroyed the world. Trust me that has served as a very valuable object lesson on how important it is to communicate with people.” I said.
“Speaking of that, how are things going with Way?” Mom asked.
“We’re, um, going to talk about stuff once this case is done. Don’t want to be distracted before then.” I said, fidgeting.
“That’s good, since you don’t seem to be distracted by it at all at the moment.” Mom said.
I hadn’t known my Mom was packing weapons-grade sarcasm but on the other hand I probably deserved it. Those who repeat history are doomed to be teased about it.
Not that I was in a position to do anything about it at the moment.
I was saved from my potential brooding by the door bell.
“You expecting anyone?” I asked. Meta-awareness told me whoever was at the door was about to make our day interesting. Given who we are, the first thought that came to mind was an exceptionally polite alien invasion.
Instead of that we got a little girl with a very simple question.
“Can Peri come over to play?” her friend Melissa asked.
My Mom and I looked at each other. I knew Peri wasn’t in our house because I hadn’t heard her in the last five minutes. Looking at my Mom told me that she’d thought Peri was already at Melissa’s house. I only had to play back the last hurried encounter I’d had with my sister to figure out what had happened.
“She’ll be over in a little while. She has to finish picking up her room first ok?” I told Melissa before my Mom could speak.
“Ok! Tell her we’re gonna have hamburgers tonight and my Mommy said its ok for her to have some too.” the little girl said before bouncing across our lawn and back to her house.
“Where’s your sister?” Mom asked, her face deadly serious. She had her own form of super human senses and I knew what they would be telling her. Peri wasn’t anywhere on Earth. Or at least nowhere that the champion of life could detect.
“Well, you said she might be following in my footsteps right? I think she’s gone to save a puppy girl from the monster under her bed.”