A Flash Fiction Challenge from the blog of Chuck Wendig. The prompt: “A necromancer believes it is her destiny to poison dreaming.”
The idea came to Zytheria in a dream, borne on the rotting lips of an undead phantom. The realm of dreams, a celestial haven from the horrors of nighttime, could no longer exist as a refuge for the tortured. Zytheria knew that a necromancer of her abilities would be able to poison dreams, and make people’s sleeping hours as terrible as their waking ones.
“Have you had any dreams lately?” Zytheria asked Janet over coffee.
Janet looked up from her drink, confused. She and Zytheria had just come from a yoga class, so they both wore workout clothes. Zytheria’s blonde friend was dressed in short neon yellow shorts and a bright pink sports bra. Zytheria herself wore long black yoga pants and a black dry-fit shirt. They weren’t her dark, billowing necromancer robes, but they would have to do.
“Weird that you would ask,” Janet said. “I had one just last night.”
“About what?” Zytheria kept herself from leaning forward and rubbing her hands together, but couldn’t hide the excitement in her voice.
“Don’t get too excited, you weirdo.” Janet sipped at her coffee before explaining her visions. “It was just a weird dream about skeletons. They were dancing in tuxedos. What is this for anyways; one of your divination classes again? Are you still keeping a dream journal?”
Zytheria nodded, not wanting to admit to her dark designs. Magic users were frowned upon in Seattle—necromancers most of all. “My teacher told me that our auras interact with those of our friends, so there is knowledge to be divined from their dreams as well.”
“If you can divine anything from dancing skeletons, be my guest.”
Zytheria set aside her still-full beverage. “Speaking of guests, are Sarah and Josh still staying with you.”
“Yeah, they are,” Janet said. “Sorry, I guess that means we can’t go to that midnight barbeque tonight. Sarah is a pretty militant vegan, and I wouldn’t want them to ruin it.”
“That’s fine,” Zytheria said. “Be a good host. I’ll find something to entertain myself.” In reality, she was glad that Janet had cancelled their plans. She now had the entire night to perfect her dream-poisoning ritual. The skeletons in Janet’s dream meant that it had partially worked, but the undead should not have been dancing.
Hours later, while Janet was dining on tofu and asparagus with her friends, Zytheria was weaving a web of spells around her room. She had arranged candles around her in a dodecahedron, and a black crystal hovered above each stick of wax. Energy from the crystals darkened the flickering flames, and a low thrumming could be heard as she chanted. Zytheria didn’t stop chanting until the candles were depleted and the crystals dropped into the quickly-hardening wax. When she was satisfied that dreams had been poisoned, she lowered herself into her silken sheets and cursed the lights out.
That night, she dreamed, finding herself on a barren plain beneath purple storming skies, surrounded by a horde of skeletons. Rotting flesh still hung from their bleached white bones, and their frames rattled with movement. At the sight of them, Zytheria began to cackle. Her ritual had worked.
“Go forth, my undead army,” she cried. “Invade all dreams and destroy that which is peaceful. Replace contentment with strife, and bring hell to sleep.”
At Zytheria’s command, the army began to move, but not into other dreams. The corpses began to shamble towards her, grasping sharpened ribs in their bony hands.
“What are you doing,” Zytheria screamed as they closed in. “Go the other way!” But for once in her life, the undead were not at her command.
When the first skeleton reached her, it grabbed her shoulder and stabbed her with its own rib. When Zytheria tried to pull away, the corpse pulled her closer, further impaling her. All around her, she felt more bones pierce her body, but she couldn’t see them, for her vision was obscured by the first skeleton.
Its gaping maw yawned before her, jaw barely hanging on. Death and decay, normally such pleasant aromas, stank on its graveyard breath. Out of control, Zytheria was falling from power. Death was no fun when you couldn’t control it.
Screaming, she shot up in bed, sweating ice.