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Dream No More
by Gray Brangwin

The young woman woke, a strangled cry on her lips.

Eyes, those horribly open eyes, no more light in them..

Panting heavily, she fought to calm herself. Only a dream, it was only a dream, calm down, calm down, she repeated to herself like a mantra. After a while, her breathing slowed down, and she regained her composure. Then, she buried her face in her hands.

Slow motion, it seemed -- turning the corner and seeing him fall, fall, fall..

She was silent for a while, then let out a choked sob. Slowly, she got out of bed, and padded over to the window.

And suddenly everything seemed to be falling, falling, falling, just like he was..

Outside, driving rain slashed mercilessly down on the streets of Camineet. Through the rain, small glimmers of light could be seen -- like small, flickering fireflies about to be drowned. But still, they were nothing more than the wavering reflections of light through windows like this one. Nothing more.

But the image, the image of fireflies caught in the full fury of the storm did not leave her mind.

Battered, broken, as if caught in a hail of blows, always falling -- and wet, so horribly wet, later..

Such storms were unusual, here in Camineet's vicinity. Almost the whole year round, the twin cities of Camineet and Parolit enjoyed pleasant, sunny days punctuated by gentle spring showers. Not that many enjoyed the weather any more. All too often, the infrequent storms matched the mood of the citizens. In fact, the weather itself matched the general mood -- a storm always hidden by almost frantic celebration, a storm that never vented its fury. A contained storm that knew it could not last long if it did.

And yet, some of the storm dribbled through -- and some died.

..and always, the instant of contact, the sensation of touch, the wetness, the denial of sudden, horrible knowledge..

She moved away from the window, towards the small table that occupied a large portion of the room. Suelo had never given any explanation for why her home had so many small rooms, nor had she ever asked the middle-aged woman for such an explanation. It wasn't that she didn't care, or at least not precisely -- she just did not want to know right now. Perhaps another day.

More likely, she told herself silently, Another year..

She sighed. It would not do to think like this. She had to be strong. She had to.

She had to.

The contemptuous words of the soldiers which she never heard, their footsteps which never made it past the pounding in her ears--

She set herself down on the chair, and let her body relax against it's cool solidity. Swallowing, she closed her eyes and tried to let the tension flow from her, tried to let it drain away. For a moment, it worked, and she felt perfectly relaxed, perfectly at peace.

Then she let herself back in and sighed. There wouldn't be any sleep this night, that was for sure.

...laying the body down, staring sightlessly... then feeling the slight movement and the revelation that he was cruelly (so cruelly) still among the living...

Was it easy? She'd never asked. Was it easy, to leave behind those you cared about? Was it easy to have to let them go?

Once before, she'd had to endure loss -- once before, when her parents had died in an accident. She remembered a sensation, an unbearable ache, that had burst from her in a long, drawn-out wail. She remembered a burning in her heart that had not gone away for a year, and even then only with her brother's help.

But how did that compare to having your dying brother in your arms, feeling his life running out from between your fingers, seeing the light beginning to die in his wide, unfocused eyes?

But he was not unconscious. He saw and heard perfectly well, and he recognized her, and then it was hearing his last words and staying perfectly, perfectly, still...

She heard her brother's last words every night.

They hadn't been regretful, they hadn't been sorrowing, they hadn't been reassuring. They hadn't even been raging, or defiant, or hateful. They hadn't been... anything.

They'd been like a command. They'd been a mission. It had been the passing of duty from one comrade to another. With one little problem. She'd never been a comrade of his. She'd just been his sister.

And then, slumping, falling from her stiff fingers, the life gone -- and all she could do was continue staring into his empty eyes, contemplating his empty words..

She stood up again and moved to the window. The storm had ended, and the mask of calm had again spread onto the city of Camineet. Suelo, elsewhere in the house, slept, as did most of Camineet.

She would not. She had a mission to accomplish. Perhaps the most important one in her life, from the last of the important people in her life. And she would do it, if for no better reason than that it was her brother's mission.

"And then... then, brother.. Nero.. I might be able to tell just how I really feel about you..." she whispered into the cool, enveloping darkness, to the soft hum of the ventilation system.

She had a mission to complete. Until then, there was no more time for dreams that were no more. Or for nightmares.

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