A headcount showed everyone was still present the following morning. Looks given to Logan and Amoc were wary, but Simon thought he saw less fear and more curiosity now. Breakfast was full of questions about who and what their new resident was, and Doc Williams was doing his best to provide answers. Draki was still recovering in the basement, but doing well enough to want to start talking with Simon about his dreams, and especially about the Dreamwalking event in Albany.
Draki was still an imposing figure. He wasn’t really any taller than Amoc in human form, but his wings made him look quite a bit larger. He was also up and walking around the room, looking like he wasn’t quite sure what to do in a household environment. He definitely looked very out of place in Logan’s game room. Draki’s orange-copper skin stood out where it was not covered by bandages, and there was what looked like a pattern of lines in places. Simon couldn’t tell if it was a natural pattern or some kind of tattoo, but he hadn’t noticed it before. Like Amoc when he was in war form, Draki’s legs were also built to be digitrade, which required a wide stance to be stable when not moving.
“Amoc tells me you’ve been having dreams.” Draki stated, as Simon reached the bottom of the basement stairs.
“Yeah.” Simon confirmed. “I was hoping you might be able to help me figure out what they mean.”
“Based on what Amoc has told me, I have some ideas. But we should wait until he’s here, as it seems he’s now part of these dreams too.”
“Yeah. And he’s been out pretty late scouting.”
“Yes, I regret that.” Draki apologized. “That is also something we need to talk about.”
“I get the feeling this is going to be a long talk.”
“Yes, that’s quite likely.” Draki confirmed.
“Well I might as well get comfortable.” Simon said as he sat down on the sofa.
Draki regarded Simon with a look. Simon wasn’t exactly sure how to read Draki’s draconic features, so it was hard to say what the look was about.
“This was not how I wanted this to happen.” Draki stated, motioning to his bandages with a clawed hand. “But here I stand in the presence of a human as flesh and bone, proving that it happened despite me.”
“Yeah. Pretty sure this is going to be weird for everyone for a while yet.”
The sound of someone coming down the steps heralded Amoc’s arrival.
“Wow.” Amoc said, looking at Draki. “Up already?”
“Yes, well… I’m maybe feeling a bit claustrophobic.” Draki admitted.
Amoc moved over to the sofa, seemingly expecting a long conversation as well.
“If you’re ready to make your introduction to the rest of the compound…” Amoc offered.
“Very soon.” Draki interjected. “Maybe even today, if Logan approves, of course. This is just… weird, as Simon described it just now.”
“Yeah.” Amoc commented. “It is pretty weird for the first few days.”
“I’m certainly discovering that.” Draki admitted. “So let me try to make this a bit more normal, if I can. Starting with an introduction, since I didn’t really have the chance to do that… bleeding from every part of my body as I was at the time.”
Draki made an attempt at a bow, but winced after only a few degrees, and decided against anything further.
“My name is Draki, as you already know.” Draki began. “I am a Gargoyle, and I believe Amoc has told you some of what that means already. I was born in London in 1837, coincidentally at the start of Queen Victoria’s rule. I am also recognized as a Guide, and have helped many through their first experiences with The Veil, but this will be my first time assisting a human.”
Simon’s eyes went wide at the mention of Draki being born in 1837. Amoc had said Gargoyles could live a long time, but it was still surprising to hear.
“That explains the… English-ness of how you talk.” Simon surmised.
“Yes… my first memories were of a London high street. We tend to take on the speech and mannerisms of the culture we first find ourselves a part of. Though I have lost some of it since coming to the United States following World-War II.”
“You must have seen a lot.” Simon was amazed. “I can’t even imagine. All the stuff that’s happened in the last… nearly 200 years? How long can you live?”
“Quite a lot, yes. The patterns change over time, fashions come and go, new advancements lead to more changes. We become very good at seeing when the pattern is disrupted, by even the most subtle changes. That is what we do best. As to how long we can live… we’re not entirely sure. The oldest Gargoyle I know of is approaching 500, and hopefully still is. We don’t know of any natural deaths… but there’s a lot we don’t know about ourselves, birth and death being among those things.”
“Wow. Amoc’s told me a lot, but it’s clear there’s so much more.”
“It’s refreshing to be able to openly talk about all of this, and I could go on for quite some time about our world. But we need to talk about you, Simon. Specifically about your dreams, and what they say of the undead.”
“Right.” Simon began. “So you probably know I’ve been having dreams about the first moments people saw the dead rising.”
“So Amoc has said, yes.” Draki confirmed.
“They’re never the same. It’s always a different person I feel like I’m inhabiting, and always a different location. It always ends as the undead attacks the person I’m remembering. It’s a nightmare, but it’s not happening to me, so it doesn’t feel like one. It feels like a memory.”
“It may very well be a memory.” Draki explained. “The pattern is that there is no pattern. Dreams usually repeat, maybe with small differences, but they’re often the same general dream. The fact that they’re not repeating means there’s something willful behind it, which can only mean The Veil is driving them.”
“I had that… Amoc called it Dreamwalking… event in Albany.”
“Yes.” Draki again confirmed. “That more than anything confirms that The Veil is involved.”
“I’ve never felt anything like Albany.” Amoc added. “Not on that scale, anyway. The Veil was so close. And there wasn’t a single undead in that city. Just the one crazy guy.”
“Crazy guy?” Draki asked.
“Yeah.” Amoc replied. “A lone human came up to us when we docked there. Like he was just out for a walk in the park on a normal day. Didn’t seem to be bothered at all by the apocalypse.”
“Interesting.” Draki commented. “Is The Veil pushing the undead away? That would be quite useful for surviving in this world.”
“With the small problem that you might get lost Dreamwalking.” Amoc added.
“Yes, that is an issue.” Draki conceded. “But it warrants more exploration if we can find a way to keep hordes away.”
Simon wasn’t exactly keen on the idea of going back there, but horde repellant definitely would be useful.
“Let’s focus on the dreams for now.” Amoc asserted.
“Of course.” Draki ceded. “That’s a topic for another day. The dreams may hold answers that we can find right here, and I’d like to explore that, if you’re willing, Simon.”
“Wouldn’t be here otherwise.” Simon stated the obvious.
“Then we should begin.” Draki stated.
“Begin what?” Simon was confused.
“Focused Dreamwalking.” Draki explained. “Amoc is going to be our watcher as you and I explore your dreams.”
Simon’s first experience had been disturbing, but Draki seemed to know what he was doing, and Amoc had pulled him back the first time, so he could do it again if needed. Simon would have been lying if he said he wasn’t nervous about it, though.
“This will be guided, not uncontrolled as it was before.” Draki seemed to read Simon’s trepidation. “Amoc is our safety net, as no Dreamwalking should be done without one.”
“I’ll be right here.” Amoc reassured Simon.
Draki moved to have a seat on the floor, gingerly lowering himself, with a few winces indicating his wounds were still fairly painful.
“Please sit in front of me.” Draki instructed.
Simon sat facing Draki, who was no less imposing at close proximity. Slitted copper-orange eyes matching the color of Draki’s skin regarded Simon above a long, broad snout filled with very sharp-looking teeth.
“Take my hands.” Draki said, offering both of his hands palms open.
Draki’s hands were warm, and rough in texture. This seemed to be similar to what Amoc had done to draw Simon out of the Dreamwalking state before.
“Close your eyes and focus on my voice.” Drkai began.
“This isn’t going to be one of those things where we go into all the dreams of me not wearing any pants in public, is it?” Simon asked.
“I’m a Guide, not a psychologist.” Draki stated.
Simon wasn’t sure if that was meant to be a joke.
“Right.” Simon said, closing his eyes.
“We need to establish a baseline for our focus.” Draki began explaining. “In this case, that will be what happened to you when the apocalypse started.”
That was not an especially pleasant memory, but it was one Simon had never experienced in dreams. Which was a bit odd, now that he thought about it. Simon focused on the memory. He remembered it had been like any other night, with most of the crew having already gone home. Simon had been stuck on the cleanup detail. It had all been ordinary until a torrent of noise started coming from inside the wheelhouse. Simon had gone to investigate.
“The radio is just chaos” Simon found himself saying. “Something’s happening downtown, but I can’t really make out any more than that.”
They were docked at one of the many tour boat piers on the Hudson, just Simon and his crewmate, Mike, working on shutting down and cleaning up the boat for the night. The sirens had started a few minutes ago, not long after the chaos began on the radio. Now it sounded like the entire city was responding.
“Is it a terrorist attack?” Mike asked.
“I don’t know, I can’t make out anything.” Simon was really trying.
Distant popping sounds began. Simon swore it sounded like gunfire, and it was getting louder and more frequent. There were other sounds too. Screaming.
This is the dream. I’m dreaming. This was the night the apocalypse started.
“Yes.” Draki said, now standing on the boat.
Simon nearly jumped. Draki appeared to have no injuries, and no bandages. It had to be some kind of projection.
“What the hell is going on downtown?” Mike was asking.
“All units, retreat to Canal Street.” A voice suddenly yelled out clearly on the radio.
“That’s it, I need to get home now.” Mike stated.
“You go home, the captain will fire your ass.” Simon argued with Mike.
“I don’t care.” Mike was resolute. “Sounds like a fucking war is going on down there. I’m not waiting until I can’t make it uptown.”
Mike grabbed his bag and ran down the gangway. Simon was left on the boat with only Draki’s projection.
“That’s the last time I saw him.” Simon commented for Draki’s sake. “Last I saw any of the living for a long time. In about five minutes, the undead are going to come pouring down Canal Street. I had about thirty seconds once I saw the horde, and I undocked this boat faster than it had ever been done before.”
“We can stop there if you want.” Draki offered. “We have the baseline we need.”
“Yeah.” Simon absently replied.
The memory slash dream was still in motion. The gunshots were coming and going, along with the yelling and screaming. It would only be a few minutes now.
“Amoc’s out there somewhere.” Simon recalled. “He told me a bit about what he had to do to get out of the city. The speed of the horde… this city was dead in a couple of hours. I saw a few other boats that stayed out on the water, but I don’t know what happened to them. There was random gunfire through the night, but by morning the only noise coming from the city was the undead.”
“My experience was much the same.” Draki recounted. “Every person it killed made the horde larger. As the horde grew it killed faster.”
The sound of the horde was now unmistakable. Simon automatically began moving around the boat, throwing off lines.
“Simon.” Draki called for Simon’s attention. “You can stop now.”
Simon paused, realizing again he was still in the dream.
“Close your eyes.” Draki instructed Simon.
Simon did so, and had the realization that he had never opened them. He also again felt Draki’s hands, realizing he had never released them.
“Good.” Draki stated, his voice again coming from Simon’s front. “You can open them now.”
Simon did, and again saw Draki in his injured state, confirming his return to reality.
“I don’t know if I’m going to get used to that.”
“This is one of the primary reasons Dreamwalking is dangerous.” Draki explained. “It’s hard to know when it begins, and when it ends. Even when guided it can be dangerous, which is why the baseline is important. You knew it was a dream within moments.”
“Yeah, I just… felt it.” Simon tried to explain.
“Exactly. Now you know that feeling, and it will be easier for you to find your way back out. But I must stress that Dreamwalking is never something you should do alone. The Veil is willful, and it’s easy to be tricked by it.”
“Yeah, I’m definitely not doing that without help, you can trust me on that one.”
“So, it went well?” Amoc asked.
Simon almost jumped again, he had nearly forgotten Amoc was in the room.
“Very well.” Draki proclaimed. “Simon hardly needed any inducement. I think we can start safely exploring the other dreams now.”
“How exactly do you do that?” Simon asked. “Induce Dreamwalking, I mean.”
“Draki makes it look easy.” Amoc answered. “Even I can pull someone out. Inducing it is a lot harder. At least for me.”
“But… how?” Simon still wasn’t clear on the mechanics of Dreamwalking.
“Remember what I said about describing color to a blind person?” Amoc asked Simon.
“Right.” Simon remembered. “Just not a sense I have.”
“An interesting way of putting it, but very apt.” Draki commented. “You continue to surprise, Amoc. Both of you do. I may have more to learn from you than you do from me.”
Simon looked to Amoc, who was looking as surprised as Simon felt. The world had changed. Everyone was still learning what that meant.
“Shall we continue?” Draki asked Simon.
“Yeah, I’m good.” Simon confirmed.
“Very well. Now we’ll try exploring the dreams you’ve had over other people’s memories.”