Telling Tales 39
You have to imagine a cave, wide and dark. At your back is the light and the way out and you’re running for the entrance. Because something is chasing you. You’ve got a sword. You’ve got a gun. You can’t hear footsteps, but you can hear the breathing. It’s coming from all around you. And you hear something like a heartbeat, one two three four.
You’re in a dream. As fast as you run – and you run very, very fast – you are getting farther from the light. That’s how you know this is a nightmare, because this can’t be happening. It doesn’t make any sense. But there it is, the light is smaller and smaller and the cave is a tunnel now, and you’re running up hill and it’s getting steeper and steeper. You’re running forward, but every step forward is one step back.
You’re scared. Of course, you’re scared. One. Two. Three. Four. Footsteps. Heartbeat.
But it’s just a dream. You keep telling yourself. It’s just a dream. I’m going to wake up now. I’m going to wake up any moment now. There is going to be a sound, a sound that will remind me I’m only asleep, because this can’t be happening.
SNAP went Koschey’s mouth.
Koschey raised his head to look at the second soldier. There was no sign of the first soldier. There was no sign on Koschey’s face to indicate that he had swallowed the first soldier whole. His body wasn’t big enough. He wasn’t even as large as the soldier, but they had seen it. They had seen it with their own eyes.
“You have a message to deliver,” said Koschey. The horse screamed almost as loudly as the man did as they careened away into the forest.
The boy that used to be a stump turned to look at his mother who used to have a heart.
It’s just a nightmare, she told herself.