A pair of human legs stands before me, and I look up into the face of Chimera. “You’ve changed,” I say.
“It feels like you could use a friend more than a protector,” she replies. She kneels in front of me, and a gossamer robe wraps around her, clasping beneath her breasts. As always, she looks perfect. I look into my friend’s face, and for the first time, I don’t feel sole admiration. I am annoyed that she is so perfect in appearance that I copied my dream body on her.
But I was less perfect. I couldn’t possibly be as perfect as her. That would be ridiculous.
I want to feel bad that I am resentful of Chimera when she’s been nothing but supportive of me. This whole journey is her gift to help me recover from my fears that Anne’s dream death was my fault. But why should I feel bad because I’m having real, human emotions?
I put a hand on Chimera’s shoulder, and I say, “Don’t take this the wrong way, my friend, but your perfect face makes me want to punch you right now.” I laugh and cup her perfect face in my hand. She looks at me with a puzzled face, and even the way she scrunches her nose in questioning me is flawless.
She doesn’t say anything, so I lean in and kiss her forehead. “Just because I love you doesn’t mean I won’t hate you every now and then. If you didn’t drive me the slightest bit crazy, how can I say I really love you?”
Standing, I grab her hands in mine and help her to her feet. She puts an arm around my waist and leans her head against me. Now that my dream body is gone, I am back to my usual tall height. I put my arm around Chimera’s shoulders, and her head rests perfectly under it.
It never occurred to me that she was so small.
I open my eyes onto a vast field of green. I look down and see I am also wearing a gossamer gown bound beneath my breasts down to my thighs. It flows around my legs as a gentle breeze sways in the grasses. Unlike the tall grasses at home, these grasses are soft and gentle as they stroke my bare legs.
Standing straight, I squeeze tight on Chimera’s shoulder and say, “Come on, then. Let’s see if we can find something happy this time around.”
She squeezes my waist in reply and we start off through the gentle grasses.
I can’t stop the smile that spreads across my face. This time around, I feel less broken and far less lost. The darkness is behind me, and I have Chimera by my side as my friend instead of my protector first. There is nothing that can take this moment from me. This is a satisfaction I have earned with tears and toil.
Trees are scattered randomly amongst the grass, and they are all tall, strong specimens. None are as large as the oak tree protected by the Griffin. I shudder when I think of him, and I worry that if there are too many more levels to this test, I will see him again. I’m not sure there is much more that he can take out of me.
Chimera and I move away from each other as we continue walking. She is never more than an arm’s length away from me, so I know she’s not trying to leave me. The irritation I felt is gone, and I love her wholely again.
As we walk, the trees start to sparse out until there are only the tall grasses with reeds lilting in the distance. I am so at peace in this moment, I want to keep walking forever. Grasping Chimera’s hand, I let her guide me and close my eyes as we keep moving.
The soft breeze caresses my face where it had whipped it with a frenzy before. The only sounds on the air are a soft sigh and a low rumble that could be a purr. The longer we walk, the louder the purring sound becomes. I don’t want to open my eyes. Chimera is gripping my hand tighter, and she has slowed her steps. Something unpleasant is ahead.
I stop and cling to Chimera’s hand. The grass is pushing softly against my legs towards whatever is waiting in front of us. The purring sound has become a rumble so loud, no cat could make it. “Do I have to look?” I whisper.
Chimera pulls my hand down to the ground, and I sit still keeping my eyes closed. I sense her moving behind me. Her hands caress my shoulders, and as she massages the stress away, she says, “It is nothing terrible, dear one. Do not fret.”
She’s kneading my muscles, and I feel her kiss on the top of my head. I let my body droop forward and try to find the courage to open my eyes. I don’t want to face another challenge. I was just beginning to enjoy the freedom of the open air and sunshine. Tilting my head back, I absorb the heat from the sunshine to build my strength.
I fall back until I am lying in the grass and open my eyes to take in the blue sky. It is a glorious sight. Breathing deeper, I smell water on the air. Not the boggy water of a marsh or the dusty water of a rainstorm, but fresh, running water. Forcing my ab muscles to work, I sit up and see the end of the world.
The grass drifts out for another ten yards to a cliff face that plummets to nothingness. I can’t see if there is another side to the chasm from where I sit. I don’t want to get up. I know it sounds childish and lazy, but I want to sit on the blanket of grass where I am and stay a while. I look at Chimera and say, “I don’t want to get up.”
“I understand, but I believe this is the next challenge you must face. Until the dreamscape is conquered, you cannot wake. If you remain unconscious in your physical state for too long, the overseers will decide you are not fit to dreamwalk any longer.”
The fear in her eyes pours through her fingers as she clings to my arms. The hairs on my neck stand on end. She continues, “You have brought a joy to my existence that has been lacking for so long. I don’t want to be lonely again.” She starts to cry, and I feel tears prick my own eyes. “I know you are tired, and I know I can do nothing for you than stand by your side, but please. If you hold any love in your heart for me and our friendship, please rise.”
She gets to her feet and stands beside me holding her hand to me. “I can help you stand,” she says. “Always.”
I pull my knees to my chest and rest my forehead on them. I sometimes forget dreamwalking isn’t just for my personal growth. We are companions to the Guardians. They protect us from ourselves, and in return, we share in their lonely world of night. We build realms for them to dance in to block out the darkness. A sob shudders through my chest, and I press my forehead into my kneecaps, feeling bone press upon bone.
I sit up straight and my hair flops around my ears. With a deep breath, I grasp her hand and let her help pull me to my feet. I pull her next to me, and side-by-side, we step towards the edge.