Lamia slipped out of their human skin with a sigh. The house was quiet in the deep darkness of night. Even the one at the top of the house was sleeping. In this peace, Lamia slid out of their room, down the stairs, through doors and down to the basement. From there Lamia slipped into the tunnels.
Stopping a moment to listen, they caught the faintest whisper of movement far down the first tunnel — for the things down there knew nothing of day or night and time for them ran differently.
Tasting the air with their tongue, Lamia determined that nothing was nearby, and slithered down to her destination. There was no light in the tunnels but Lamia had other senses to provide a picture of the surroundings. The faint sound of skin on stone echoed back from the walls, and the air changed in pressure, scent and temperature as they passed down into the underground world.
Lamia tasted the destination on the air, a faint aroma of lemons and cinnamon. Shivering at the deliciousness of it, they squeezed through a narrow crack in the tunnel floor and down into the place out of time where the roots of human dreaming lie.
Here there seemed to be light, but it was the light of the sleeping mind. Lamia began the hunt.
A woman was trying to buy a mouth-watering cake, but could not find money in her purse or anyone to serve her. This was a dream world that tasted of cardboard and had no nutrition in it.
Deeper down someone was running, chased by a great dark figure which roared and screamed, always a few steps behind. Lamia unhinged their jaw and swallowed the dark chaser whole. It popped when they bit down on it, dissolving away, made of nothing but childhood fears.
As Lamia reared up, the runner turned, and was suddenly granted more substantial things to fear.
Lamia moved on, hunting through the tangled forest of hopes, lies and expectations.
Here was another nightmare — a murder committed, a corpse buried in the garden, guilt and the fear of discovery, a pale hand emerging from rich dark soil.
Lamia circled the guilt, dragged it out of the earth for all to see, and swallowed it whole.
In the world above, the sleeper woke, aware of the recurring dream, expecting the dead hand of unearned guilt, but instead finding herself peaceful and happy to return to sleep.
Lamia moved on, not yet satisfied, found another woman anxiously caring for a pack of unruly small children. Lamia ate them all. The woman woke up screaming.
At the next turn Lamia entered a different kind of dream, not human at all, and tried to turn back, but could not find the way. All directions were blocked by a mass of squirming, hissing things, like tentacles with many mouths, grey and slimy as slugs. Snapping and biting at them was useless, they were bitter in the mouth and Lamia began to weaken as if from poison.
There was only one creature who could dream such toxic alien creatures. In the dreams of humans nothing could fight back like this.
‘Wake up!’ Lamia shrieked, putting every shred of energy into the cry. Since they were the only creature in this world that could take actual air into real lungs, the cry carried far and wide. The whole of Shuckleigh woke up at once, terrified, looking for the source of the alarm, only gradually waking to the realisation that the voice had called from the dream world.
The creature in the attic room of the Dark House woke too, her dreams of home rudely interrupted. Lying awake, longing to eat the moon that hung half-formed in the sky, she eventually heard Lamia slipping up the stairs and the door to their room closing. She smiled. That one would be unwell for days. The emotions roiling in her dreams were not to be eaten by roving earthly foragers. Lamia should know by now that they were not the most dangerous thing in this house.
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