He opened his eyes. It was time. He waited, counting down the breaths slowly. It was always best to be sure, it never paid to be sloppy. He had followed that teaching for years and it had never, ever steered him wrong. He knew her well enough by now to know that it was safe, but still, better not to risk it. Her breathing was slow and measured, peaceful and calm. Once he reached one hundred he unfurled himself from his spot, allowing himself a single stretch to work out any kinks. He was tall, too tall for the room so he hunched over. Though the room was in darkness he could see perfectly, he wound his way through the lumps of clothes on the floor. She had been clean as a little girl, but as she got older she had become messier. No longer were clothes put away neatly, instead they were tossed and strewn about the room. He paused at the centre of the room and took a deep breath, filling his lungs with her scent, the vitality of it. It was intoxicating. He shuddered slightly as he released the breath slowly.
He smiled as she murmured something in her sleep, he didn’t catch what she said, but he didn’t need to, the tone was clear. He stepped closer and leaned over, his elongated face only inches from hers. He breathed quickly, shallowly, the hairs on her head barely moved. Ever so slowly he reached out and with one long, pointed finger he gently traced a figure eight on her forehead, he sighed with pleasure and relief then closed his eyes.
Swirling shadows surrounded him, lunging and grasping. They didn’t touch him, they couldn’t touch him. He strode past them, going to where they were thickest until finally he spotted her, running, panting, terrified. The shadows grasped and pulled at her, trying to drag her down but each time she escaped their grip, just barely. He followed behind, she wouldn’t be able to see him in the writhing darkness. He could feel the pain, the fear and he fed on it. It was intense tonight and particularly delicious. She tripped and fell, there was time for one single scream before darkness enveloped her, but she wouldn’t wake up, he made sure of it.
The dream twisted and shifted, starting something new. He could feel her heart beating through his fingertips. Colours entered the world, filling it with trees and buildings. He knew this dream, it wasn’t a nightmare, but it was just as good. He moved back slightly, blending in with the still growing trees. She was sitting on a blanket, across from her was a faceless boy. Together they talked and ate from a picnic spread before them. He drank in the longing, the love, everything she had to give to the boy of her dreams. The ground shook slightly, he frowned and looked around himself, she didn’t notice. The world was starting to change again, things were stretching, deepening, widening. Her heart was starting to beat quickly, faster and faster. The faceless boy reached out and plunged a knife into her stomach, she looked confused, hurt. He pulled the knife out, a geyser of blood followed, drenching him and the picnic. The blood didn’t stop, its flow quickened as the entire world began to fill with it. He began to pant, the feelings, so intense, so wonderful. She struggled in the thickening goo, trying to swim, to breathe as it covered her face. She would emerge from the red, spluttering and gasping, only to be sucked back under. The blood darkened, changing from a deep red to a dark black as she began to fall, air whipping at her hair and face, she tried to scream but she couldn’t get enough air into her lungs. Shapes detached themselves from the darkness, birds, their feathers gleaming, their eyes shining with malice as they dove at her, pecking and ripping, she tried to bat them away as she ran but they kept coming again and again.
He was ripped away as her eyes opened, mouth opening into a scream. He bolted back to his little home, the sound of her screams covering the whisper quiet noise of his passage. The door burst open and light flooded the room, already his eyes were closed in anticipation, even still the sudden light made him wince.
“What is it? Are you ok!?”
The screams had died off, now she was just panting, eyes wide in fear, she shook her head once, twice, the managed “I’m fine.” He sat on the bed and hugged her to him, “was it a bad dream?”
She nodded, “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be, it isn’t your fault.”
He sat with her for a few moments, “are you feeling better?”
“Yeah, I’m sorry.”
He kissed her forehead, “It’s ok, go back asleep.”
She snuggled down into her blanket as he left the room, turning off the light as he went.
In the darkness he opened his eyes again, he was feeling tired, full. It had been a good feeding. He wouldn’t need to return to her tonight, maybe not even for another day or two. He could still smell the fear in the air. The girls breathing evened out as she fell asleep. No more nightmares would plague her tonight, he was sure of it. The other dreams could supply food, but nightmares truly were a banquet. So intense, so vicious. He nestled himself deeper into his little spot and closed his eyes, allowing sleep to take him too. Here in his home he was safe, they would never find him and she would never be rid of him. Before he would move from person to person, sampling here and there, but that was when he was young and wanted to travel, when there were so many delights to sample around the world, but now he was old, he wanted the comfort of home, of a steady supply of food. No more huddling in cold, damp spots, hoping that someone would come by, almost too weak to find his next meal. He appreciated it now, the warmth and security. There were not many of his kind left, it was his duty to stay safe, to stay alive. Slowly his breaths deepened and evened out as a peaceful sleep took over.