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Nightmares Reimagined
Sleeping had always been hard for Nox.  His first kill saw to that.  And every subsequent death only added to it.  They only got worse when he slept in his own bed on the regular without the comforting scent of his ex or the lull of his breathing.  Before that it had been Aurora when he was in need of comfort and now that was all gone and he struggled to find peace.

His nightmares were exponentially worse after seeing his grandfather's best friend again and the ignition of additional repressed memories horrified Nox. Every face in his dreams now had names -- except one, the random rapist he'd found on the street.  There was no name, only the feelings left behind by his slaughter.  If Nox had the horde then the man would not have been identifiable. 

His nightmares stoked by the horde's instinct obliterated any recognition of those scenes.  The faces were not randomly placed in a sequence of failures.  Nox relived the hunter he was in his nightmares.  They made his previous nightmares pale in comparison.

His mother being ripped to shreds, or ripping Raffe's heart out with his bare hands were nothing compared to the brutal murder of a child and his family.  Things exaggerated by the dream that had really happened.  Things Nox had chosen not to remember somewhere deep inside when he'd lost all memory of who he was.  He was not that person anymore.  He stopped -- he asked questions.  He didn't live by the strict credo of the Atharim any longer.  He was a monster but he wasn't that monster!  He wasn't a cold-blooded killer.

Nox woke every night before his alarm sweating and wheezing from the memories -- often afraid to go back to sleep or see the images floating in his mind.  But tonight was not one of those nights.  He'd taken something to sleep and it dragged him down deep into slumber unable to wake himself from his nightmares just so his body could try to rest.

A litany of scenes played in his minds eye.  On deck was his one and only god killing spree.  The boy at the top of the stairs, Nox's knife jutting into his back.  The blood spilling across his fingers making a sticky mess, looking past him as Uncle Jake smiled proudly at him.  Nox didn't want to see the pride on his face, feel the smile spread his lips.  He hadn't enjoyed the kill, but he had loved the look of pride on Jacob's face.  Someone was glad he existed in that moment. 

Nox shook in horror at his memories at the boy he was, the hunter he might have become.

[[ ooc: Nox doesn't remember his dreams so any dreamwalker is welcome to come play with Nox's nightmares and not affect any of his on going threads Smile ]]
[Image: dad8w5h-103f3317-266d-4953-a53d-f7ab5a1f7b76-2.jpg]
The Sandman

Mara’s nightmares feasted this night.

Across the domain of the entire Dream World, the Sandman sensed the carnage. He would not normally intervene on such a buffet, but the ferocity of the devoured called for his oversight.

Sometimes the nightmares raged so great, the integrity of the Dream was threatened, and the Sandman would come.

He leaped from his cave upon the power of two enormous wings. When he landed, it was as witness to those thunderous vortices from a distant horizon.

Arms folded over his enormous chest, he peered deep into the heart of the storm where Mara’s pets shredded the soul of their meal. The Sandman bore no empathy for the victim, but the power was crackling close to the brink.

He lept again, and the devilish overseer of the Dream outpoured his will upon the creatures. Be gone! His wings beat heavy and powerful as he rose above and around the storm. Their bite snipped at him in return, evidence of their rebellion. The Sandman snatched the offending nightmare and devoured it whole.

After that, the nightmares released their victim and the storm broke much as smoke dissipated on the wind.

With the folding of heavy wings, the Sandman stood before the human left behind, arms crossed, eyes beaming red, and peered within the human’s heart to confirm it remained in tact.

“Hmm,” he mused to himself and waited.
"Of all men's miseries the bitterest is this: to know so much and to have control over nothing."
+ Adrian +

The images blipped like a glitch in a game, the fuzzing of smoke filled screen or the moment just before it all goes black after getting a hit to the head. It was jarring and his stomach quaked even more than it had from the horrifying memory he'd relived. The blood still slicked his hand, and to the stench of blood, an acidic smoke filled his nose.

Before him stood not a metaphorical demon but a tried and true manifestation of the quintessential myths. Wings and horns and all. Red eyes beamed at him seeing through him, into him. He could almost feel the laser like focus. Nox took a step back and stumbled over the body littered landscape of his nightmares. How many hearts were ripped out behind him? He didn't know. Didn't look he only stared at the dead eyes of his ex and family scattered around him. The blood of the god pooled around him only getting deeper as it bled out in his mindseye. It didn't take much for his mind to recreate his horrors. He couldn't wake -- and he knew it was a dream, his arm was real, the Atharim tattoo inked across his left forearm where none should be. He only wanted to wake up. Why had he taken what Ezekiel offered.

Nox sighed and looked up at the demon hovering over him. Metaphorical or not "Do your worst. I don't fucking care anymore." Which was a lie. He cared very much. He didn't want any of this, he wanted a normal life in a normal world. Just for one fucking night.
The aftermath of the nightmare settled like silt on a lakebed. The Sandman surveyed the carnage with shrewd study darkening his red eyes. They settled soon upon one husk of a body in particular where the chest of the figure was ripped clean open. The splatter of blood marred his pale, delicate features; his expression forever frozen with the horror of betrayal.

The Sandman moved past the human victim of Mara’s pets to collect the bloody organ that was ripped from the body. The heart was small in his oversized palms. The claws that extended from his fingers curled around the heart and afterward closed tight, and the heart disappeared from the Dream.

In that moment, the Sandman himself transformed. A mirage of light flowed across his body as he took on a new form. From the mask of his new face, a tentative smile broke his lips as he peered back, quite alive, at Nox.

“Hello.” He spoke with Rafael’s voice. He moved with Rafael’s form. In every way that mattered, he was Rafael, even if a copy of himself lay in the dirt nearby.
"Of all men's miseries the bitterest is this: to know so much and to have control over nothing."
+ Adrian +

The single familiar word fell into the darkness of Nox's mind. He hadn't heard it in weeks -- not directed at him anyway. They avoided each other to the best of their ability, it was easiest at work -- Raffe was busy behind the bar and Nox was busy holding up a wall watching everyone else but Raffe, even though Nox knew precisely what he was doing and how he was faring throughout the course of the evening events. It was his job...

The word lanced through his heart and Nox scrambled away like crab eager to be in the water. But the blood was sticky and slick, both at the same time and he didn't manage any movement away from the frightful dream. His dreams didn't speak to him. His world didn't react to anything but the dreams. It was a litany of his horrors transmogrified by his thoughts and feelings -- his self doubt and self worth -- all of which was abysmal at best. This was different. Different had happened before but like all things in the dream the knowledge slipped away. He wouldn't remember this in the morning. Only the vaguest of memories. Sometimes he wished for Thalia's memory of her dreams, but his nightmares only made him glad he didn't. He already lived with his nightmares -- he slept with them too and now they were talking back.

"What the fuck do you want?" This wasn't Raffe. No matter what he said, or sounded like. This was not the man he loved. This was someone else -- or something else. All sorts of monsters lived in the dream. Hard as fuck to find and track down. Dreamwalkers were on par with Drainaika and channelers in challenge -- some hunters made their claims to fame hunting the unhuntable. Nox was not one of them, but he knew at least enough to not get involved in the machinations of prophets and dreamwalkers.
Rafael’s expression was open and accepting even in the heat of such violent rejection.

The man scrambled away, but Rafael only followed, his steps gentle and his approach slow. He did not wish to frighten the man, though clearly he was disturbed by the apparition.

He knelt about arm’s length away, and one hand reached out to offer to help him to his feet. When he spoke, it was with Rafael’s voice. His eyes were focused and friendly.
“Those nightmares will return, and next time, I may not be here to protect you or the Dream itself. Yet they hunger for the fear in you, and will not stop hunting. I want to help you.”

Somewhere within Rafael’s shell, the Sandman stirred his awareness across the horizon of the Dream. The Nightmares were dispersed, but they prowled out of sight, waiting for the sentinel to depart so they might pounce once more. Yet so long as this fear tangled Nox’s soul, they would return.

”This is a dream. Accept me as a dream. I am as real as you are willing me to be.”  Those pale eyes settled their silent plea upon Nox.
"Of all men's miseries the bitterest is this: to know so much and to have control over nothing."
+ Adrian +

Confirmation he was being plagued by fucking nightmares -- not actual dreams themselves a real fucking monster called nightmares. Figured they'd attach to an Atharim who had a guilty conscious -- seemed only fair if you thought about it. Nox laughed. It was funny in its own right.

Nox looked at the outstretched hand and pangs of guilt and sadness washed over him. The world twisted and swam with his emotions and he knew it for a dream. This being talked like he didn't know -- most didn't. But Nox knew shit he shouldn't. Knew things that normal people wouldn't know. Knew nightmares were real -- killable real. They were hunted and prized. And Nox had no quarrel with them, but they obviously enjoyed tormenting him. And now this. Raffe looking across at him -- wanting to help. It couldn't get any worse than this.

Nox didn't make a move to take his hand, nor to get up. There was no way he was taking any comfort in the visage before him. Last thing he wanted was to remember feeling Raffe. Hearing his voice was driving him insane -- and not in a good or pleasant way. It ate at his soul. Tore at his very being. And here in the dream it felt visareal, like if this thing looked at him long enough it could see the bits and pieces shredding from him. It hurt to talk to him. To see him. To feel him would be torture beyond torture. "I know nightmares are real. I know you are a dream. I won't remember this when I wake, but I know now. If my dreams are causing so much havoc tell the little shits to stay away or tell me how to find them and I'll kill them myself."

Nox looked across at the thing wearing Raffe's face. "You choose the one face that torments my dreams more than others offering to help. Why? Some sick fucking game. That doesn't sound like help. I love him. I ripped his fucking heart out in my dream and you walk around here wearing his face." Nox growled and reached out to take the offered hand closing his eyes and focusing on the blood that ran down his fingers, on his clothes, everywhere. Anything but Raffe's skin against his. "There is nothing you can do that will make any of this change."
He took the hand in the end.

A flex and Rafael tugged. They were both on their feet as though blurred from one position to the next without any identifiable movements in between.

Once to their feet, Rafael’s study was writ with concern. “You are covered in blood,” he spoke sadly. Indeed, the blood was sourced from the copied body abandoned nearby, but in that observation came resolution. The Sandman’s will was powerful in the Dream; the strongest of all sentient forces. He had merely to wave a passing thought and Nox’s appearance improved. The man himself might fight the change, and if so, The Sandman would not retaliate should the shift undo itself, but for the moment, Nox's appearance was clean, his clothes comfortable. Rafael choose for Nox a loose white shirt, the cut of it laying open and untied across the plunge of his chest, and comfortable linen pants. Something that one might have worn to sleep in eons past; something to put him at ease.

He then squeezed the hand still in his grasp. “Why would you rip out the heart of someone you love?” The question was heavy with symbolism as those pale eyes sought the answer.
"Of all men's miseries the bitterest is this: to know so much and to have control over nothing."
+ Adrian +

Nox cackled with disdain at the question. "That is such a loaded question!" It was not humor he laughed with. It was filled with hurt and abandonment and every other emotion except probably humor. It was not funny.

When his laughter cut off abruptly "Why does anyone ever do stupid things? You want this reason?" Nox pointed down at the body staring up at him and noticed what he was wearing and he didn't like it. Not that he'd ever have minded showing off his chest or scars to Raffe but here and now he felt exposed, and in that immediacy his attire changed to the things he was most comfortable in -- the slightly ripped jeans, the tattered gray hoodie hung around his shoulders. The shirt underneath should have been non-descript, there was no favorite -- not really, instead he felt the comfortable weight of the chain mail shirt biting at his skin. Odd how the new persona was taking a comfortable place in his being. He didn't like it but he didn't fight the comfort of the cold metal against his hot skin. He wore the combat boots in the gore -- this was not a place for his favored chucks and that alone might sent him spiraling into oblivion.

"Or do you want to know the reason this particular metaphor is playing in my head?"

Nox smirked. "You want to help, so how about both." Nox was fond of talking. Talking so much it very well could have ended his relationship. Who the fuck knew?

Nox pointed to the ground and the dead body. "That's my fear. The fear that if I lose control I'm going to hurt or worse those most dear to me." And he sighed. "And this is also a metaphor for betraying him. You. For cheating on him when he didn't give a flying fuck to begin with but its a broken promise thus it's a betrayal. And I'm deemed untrustworthy." His anger started to boil. The pain rising cold and hard in his chest. It hurt to breathe. "There is no why short of I'm a monster-in-waiting." Thalia would slap him for those words but it didn't mean he didn't feel them 1000% every day.
Luckily, the Sandman was patient because he had to suppress a sigh from inside the mask of his Rafael shell. This human spoke more in minutes than the Sandman encountered in an Age.

Outwardly, he was a patient observer to the changed appearance, and Rafael did not comment on it. He did try to coax Nox to follow him away from the barbaric scene like two lovers on a stroll.

“That is the fear the nightmares want to devour: fear fueled by love is potent, and you are filled to the brink with love.” He reached out to stroke a finger on Nox’s cheek. If the affection was rejected, Rafael would acquiesce.

“Can you focus on that love for me? This is a dream. You can be whatever you want here.” He knew the request would strike to the man’s core, especially coming from the lips of such great hurt. His goal was to replace some of that fear with another emotion. Anything, really, so that the nightmares might find satiation elsewhere, and the Dream find stability.
"Of all men's miseries the bitterest is this: to know so much and to have control over nothing."
+ Adrian +


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