I have to admit, I think to myself as the helicopter comes zooming in for another strafing run, both miniguns firing as fast as they can spin – I think that I’m getting the hang of this lucid dreaming thing.
Down below the rooftop that I’ve made into my command post, the waves of velociraptors are still coming. They’re not alone, either – there are now tyrannosaurs, ankylosaurs, all the great terrible lizards of my childhood, brought to life and turned against me. But they are failing.
The AR-15 wasn’t cutting it, so I closed my eyes and imagined mortars, bombs falling from the skies. And as those came into being, I called up men, men with guns and helicopters and tanks and willing to put their lives on the line to protect me. The men cheered, and attacked, and the dinosaurs fell in droves.
Despite all our firepower, however, we weren’t gaining ground. The monsters were smart, cunning, using the side streets to their advantage. They could flank the soldiers, could tear them apart at close range. But we held our own. And the men knew that it doesn’t have to hold forever. Just long enough.
Long enough for what, however, I’m still not sure.
Unfortunately, the sallow man hadn’t been as clear on how to get out of the dream. Would the drug wear off? I don’t even know if time is moving at the same rate. Perhaps, in the real world, wherever that is, only a few minutes have passed. I feel as though I’ve been fighting for years. And my mind is growing weary. I can’t hold out for much longer.
“Gotta wake up, I gotta wake up,” I whisper to myself, sitting down behind one of the armored bunker walls. There are flying monsters now, pterodactyls, screaming death cries as they bombard the rooftop. The anti-air flak cannons are holding them at bay for now. It probably won’t last.
Can I make myself wake up? I teleported myself to this place, summoned men and weapons from nothing. But in those circumstances, I knew what I wanted to pull from the ether. I cannot remember where I was when I fell asleep. I don’t know where to send myself to.
So instead, I call out of my memory what I do know. And a minute later, at the other end of my pistol, stands the sallow man. He does not look happy to be there.
“What is this?” he hisses at me, taking a half-step forward. “Not my place!”
I gesture at him with the pistol. “Shut it, toothy,” I command. “Just tell me how to dream myself out of this hell, and you can run off to whatever hole you crawled out of.”
The sallow man looks agitated, his hand movements even jerkier than usual. “Dream yourself out?” he repeats. His hand rises to stab down at the chaos below me. “You do not want to leave! You fight the way out now!”
He points down at the dinosaurs, at the battlefield, but I don’t understand. “They don’t want to set me free!” I shout. “They want to kill me!”
However, the sallow man nods rapidly, bobbing his head like a bird. “Set free!” he insists.
The meaning behind his words finally sinks into my head. I step forward, out from behind the armored shielding, gazing down in horror at the erupting battles. Is the cryptic fellow right? Do I have to die in order to wake up?
Behind me, the sallow man seizes the opportunity to make his escape. He spins his finger in a circle in the air, summoning a doorknob. He wrenches open the door in the thin air, ducking around it into the utter blackness on the other side. “Customers,” I think I hear him hiss to himself before he vanishes.
Standing on the edge of the rooftop, I weigh my options. I am fighting a losing battle here. No matter how many men I call forth, I can do nothing but hold the line, and every second requires my sustained focus to keep that line. With each slip of focus, I am being pushed back. My forces are slowly retreating back towards this building, my lone tower. Eventually, I’ll be overrun.
I tilt my head back, gazing up into the sky. “If I’m going out,” I announce to no one in particular, “I’m doing so in a blaze of glory.”
And above the city, the circling bomber opens its bay doors. It carries only a single payload, a single weapon. That weapon, like a thick, finned sausage, slips free of the clamps that bind it. It tumbles downward towards the city below.
I raise my hands up in one last gesture of exultation. My middle fingers stab up, my last act of resistance against the monsters that come rushing in. And then everything goes white.
For just a second, there is pain, agonizing and crippling pain, in every single fiber of my being. And then there is nothing.
“Hey, he’s coming around. What should we say?”
“Give him time. The first time on the drug is always the hardest. He will have to readjust.”
For a moment, my eyes crack open. There is still whiteness. But it seems so much more mundane, so much more… normal.
My eyes drift closed once again. I’m not yet ready to wake up…