Indie fiction author Talhah Fadzillah

Our Dying Dreams

Talhah Fadzillah

The Elmersons, chosen descendants of mysterious, ancient lineage. Not many people know about this secret household and what they do; confidentiality must be maintained lest the public abuse them and their abilities.

Some may say the Elmersons are gifted, given their ability to explore metaphysical worlds in their sleep, beautiful and odd otherworlds tethered to reality by strands.

But some may say the Elmersons are cursed, for there will be a day in which the eldest group of them would die in their sleep. They call this phenomenon ‘Dying Dreams’. But days or weeks prior to their Dying Dreams, there will come a warning to them in the form of an otherworld. They call this ‘world of warning’.

Needless to say, no living Elmerson knows what occurs within the Dying Dreams. But the world of warning is one like no other, and all that the living Elmersons have to understand it, are the recounts of those who’ve experienced it and then died soon after.

Excerpt

Prologue

Topic 8: world of warning

The Elmersons, chosen descendants of mysterious, ancient lineage. Not many people know about this secret household and what they do; confidentiality must be maintained lest the public abuse them and their abilities.

Some may say the Elmersons are gifted, given their ability to explore metaphysical worlds in their sleep, beautiful and odd otherworlds tethered to reality by strands.

But some may say the Elmersons are cursed, for there will be a day in which the eldest group of them would die in their sleep. They call this phenomenon ‘Dying Dreams’. But days or weeks prior to their Dying Dreams, there will come a warning to them in the form of an otherworld. They call this ‘world of warning’.

Needless to say, no living Elmerson knows what occurs within the Dying Dreams. But the world of warning is one like no other, and all that the living Elmersons have to understand it, are the recounts of those who’ve experienced it and then died soon after.

They talk about a horrible, horrible sound, but you’ll never quite understand what they mean unless you’ve been there yourself. How bad could a sound be, right? Well, they say, that sound, it’s like battle horns, like a world at war.

So what? How bad could that be?

Apart from those loud, roaring battle horns blasting in your ears—apart from that, everything else about the place sounds just as bad when you hear them talk about it. They say it’s cold, then hot, then ice-cold, scorching-hot, hot and cold, back and forth. It sounds worse than ‘battle horns’ when you hear about it.

But still, they say, those roaring, thundering battle horns are the worst part. It goes blasting in your ears, the ground tremoring under your feet, mountains and islands shattering, your ears ringing, then it’ll stop for a moment, but it’s only charging up to go blasting off again and again. You’ll wish you could go deaf, but you can’t go deaf in this metaphysical place.

The only form of relief you have here, is how those battle horns go off at intervals, and sometimes it’ll be further than before, but sometimes right up in your face. When one goes off, you better pray the next one is far away from you.

Apart from those terrifying battle horns, they talk about how the place looks, all red and earthy-dark-brown and volcano-like, and they say gravity does not make sense here. This world they talk about, it exists without a core, so naturally, there are no layers holding the world together. Everything’s disjointed, all material set afloat and spun into their own independent but aimless course: mountains, rubble, ember, ashes, islands, rocks… all floating around without a flow. Stranger still, you could stand on any one of those floating islands, jump off of it and land on another as if gravity makes sense, but whether you’ll be standing on the land upside down or right side up, God knows. 

Like a mirror image, they say, the sky is both beneath you and above you. All in all, the sky is all around you, wrapped all around this seemingly endless world. The atmosphere consists of some strings of milky, wispy clouds, some patches of dark smoke, blots of flames here and there.

An intimidating, frightening piece of abstract art surrounds you, drives you crazy.

The flames in the sky move like the bolus in a lava lamp. Rather than flickering like normal flames do, they move slowly and they crawl from one place to another.

Behind that layer of strange atmosphere, you can see a black backdrop, infinite space, an army of glimmering stars. Golden, orange, maroon nebulae accentuating the blood sky. Two deep-red glowing suns like fireballs; one’s lightyears above you, the other’s lightyears below you, so you’ll never know which side up is the right side up.

They also say you’ll never know if or when the ground beneath your feet will shatter. You’ll never know many things in this world, an unpredictable world.

If the ground beneath your feet shatters, and you’re not standing on anything, they say you’ll be set afloat and spun into an aimless course yourself until you find another ground to land upon. When floating and spinning, they say, it feels like you’re being pulled apart from all angles. You have to find a ground to stand upon, always.

But still, they swear those battle horns are way worse than being pulled apart. Those deep, low roars are so strong the world tremors constantly, even in the echoes.

You see tiny debris particles, ashes, ember, all floating around you in slow-motion, swirling around, going up, coming down. The debris, ashes and ember, each individual particle does not follow any flow whatsoever. It’s all disjointed. 

When you see the ash and debris raining down—or up—from the burning-red sky, it looks like grey snow. Ember, like it’s snowing fire. And in reality, when ember touches your skin, it doesn’t really do anything much. Over here however, it feels like you’re being pierced or shot. It’s something like Chinese water torture they say.

They talk about suffocating, how the air is so thick with a strong putrid smell, as if surrounded by the corpses of a million, but there’s not a single dead body around you.

They talk about desperation, a crippling loneliness, how you’re all alone, not a living soul to be found anywhere. You’ll pray to have someone by your side, but there’ll be no one.

Still and all, they swear those godawful battle horns are the worst, worse than suffocating, or being burned or shot, or a crippling loneliness, worse than Chinese water torture.

How bad could it be? They’re just battle horns, right? Well, they say, they only call it battle horns for relatability’s sake, but it’s not quite the same, actually.

Oh, it’s bad, really bad. They said the only reason they woke up crying is because they could still hear it blaring in their heads. You’d think, when they woke up from that nightmare, they were crying because they only had a few weeks to live, but that’s not it. For hours upon waking up from the world of warning, they remain in bed, they cover their ears, clench their eyes shut and they sweat and they weep or even scream because it’s still so loud in their heads, still reverberating deep in their skulls.

Hours later, only then are they crying about the fact that they’re dying soon. They call their families over to their house or hold phone conversations every day, to spend time with them, talk to them, cry with them, laugh with them, to make sure they depart their lives being on the best of terms with the people they care about, people who care about them.

A week later, they die in their sleep, and the ones next in line can only hope their time comes not too soon. Today, the ones next in line, are the last in line. They are 2 minors, 2 teens and 3 young adults, all of them too young to face death. When these kids heard about the world of warning, they could only hope they’d get to reach their thirties. All they had, to brace themselves for this day, were the words of the ones before them, and the books they read.

In one of their books, topic 8 talks about the world of warning, but now they understand, there was really no point reading. No amount of reading can prepare them for this day. They never would have known when their time would come, only assume an estimation based on patterns and statistics, an estimation that may be far more detached from the truth than not.

In 25 years, the youngest group of Elmersons would be in their mid-thirties to mid-forties. 25 years was their estimation, but the estimation was way off. These young boys and girls, their time is now. They couldn’t see it coming, but here it comes.

This is the world of warning. No amount of books, no amount of talking could prepare them for what they face today. All they can do here, is endure this torture until they awaken.

Not long after—maybe days, maybe weeks—their Dying Dreams would take them. These children would die in their sleep just like the many before them.

Here’s a little light of hope, though: they say these children, the last of the Elmersons, are the best of them all. Maybe these children, like no others before them, have what it takes to find a loophole in the dying dreams, to make a breakthrough in the Elmersons’ curse.

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