If you haven't yet, you may want to read "Left-Handed Complement" as this story has the same...unusual spin on just who Left Hand actually is (in my imagination at least!). You don't have to read it, of course! ^_^
"Night Terrors" is inspired by this amazing watercolor of D painted by Crystal Gronnestad. I'm not entirely sure myself how this painting evoked this story, except that D looks rather young and...vulnerable to me somehow.
Reviews - I love them. It's satisfying to find that people like what I write, but what is most helpful to me is a constructive critique. What did you like? Can you pinpoint exactly what it is? What didn't you like? Is there something that you didn't agree with? I try to review for spelling and proper grammar (though I will break with both if needed to evoke a certain mood for a story. For example, in Night Terrors, there are a fair number of run-on sentences or incomplete sentences. These are to bring to mind the disassociated feeling of waking up suddenly in the dead of night from a dream. And yes, I do rely on ellipsis and dashes to pace the story. I apologize in advance if this is annoying!) Please, pick it apart (but gently!) to help me become a better writer.
I'm posting this a bit prematurely.
I've only tweaked it for a few days, so expect revisions as I refine it!
D bolted upright, covered in a cold sweat. Nightmare images swam before his eyes; creatures whose existence insulted the light of day, things with tentacles, scales, claws, fangs, drooling, slavering mouths and wide, unblinking eyes, horrible things dredged up from the darkest places of the human soul.
His heart pounded frantically within him, urging him to run, flee, fly, escape, get away from the snarling, crawling, creeping, mewling horde that chased him if he chanced to close his eyes.
No light comforted his eyes. He could tell they were wide open, his face hurt with how wide his eyes were as he strained to catch even the merest glimpse of light.
The syllable was a soft question, the voice somehow solid and warm, dark itself, but with the safe velvet darkness of an embrace.
It centered him, that name and that voice. He was D. His mother was soft and gentle, loving him in an undemanding way. His father...soft? No. Gentle? Could one be gentle and harsh at the same time? D wondered. Loving him...D pondered. Yes, but with strings, bonds tighter than the blood they shared...
The images assaulting his black-blinded eyes now were faces, so many faces and eyes, always, always staring into his, full of expressions of surprise and sorrow and pain; triumph, elation, joy; worry and fear and terror...Doris, Camille, Virina, Elaine, Lee, Dan, Meier, Rei, Oscar, Locke, Ramica, Grove; hundreds of faces, expressions, eyes, eyes...staring into his...
D brought both hands up to his head in a vain attempt to shut out the images that seemed they wanted to bury him, who he was, crush his very soul with the weight of who they were.
"No..." he moaned.
"D." It was that crushed velvet voice again. He thought he should recognize it; it seemed to recognize him.
"Ah," D could hear the light of comprehension in the tone and wondered at that, "What do you see?"
The question lay there in the darkness, quiet and inert, demanding no response. It was up to D to take it up and answer it. While he considered if he would, the faces beseeched, implored, condemned, demanded, loved, hated, damned, redeemed... Maybe if the voice talked with him more, if D talked about the faces, they would leave him alone.
"I see...faces. And eyes. Hundreds and hundreds of faces...all staring at me...as if they want something from me..."
"And you? Do you know who you are?"
Again, the question demanded no response. It was more like a guide...like a hand extended in the darkness of his mind to lead him.
He was D. He had a mother and a father and that...that was all he knew!
"Mother?" D wondered aloud.
"Mother...your mother was a woman of beauty, rare grace and an amazing capacity to love," the voice told him. That matched with the fleeting almost-memory of his mother that strove to make itself known against the tide of faces pressing against D's mind. It seemed as though the faces gave way before the memory, or at least troubled him less now that he was concentrating on something other than trying to read and understand them.
"Father?" D wondered in the same way.
"Father..." the voice paused for a very long time. The monsters and faces seemed to battle before D's gaze, fighting a war he didn't understand.
"Your father would see you at peace, if he could, D," the voice finally said. There was warmth still within the voice, but held in a crucible of coldness. The embrace he could sense in the timbre of the voice reminded D of the touch of the night sky or damp earth against his skin. He shivered.
"D?" he ventured to ask.
"...I can't answer. You tell me. Who are you?" the voice asked. This time, there was steel ringing in the tone, demanding that he answer.
D. He was D. But who was D? What did that mean? What did the monsters and faces mean? Who...what...was he?
"Who are you?"
A light stabbed against his questing mind. Of course! He knew this voice!
"Father!" he called at last, "What game is this? You had me so frightened!" Relief at finally understanding what was going on made mirth bubble where the fear of not knowing had almost paralyzed him before.
He was D, son of Dracula, who he had to admit did love him in his own way, though these tests were becoming tedious...
"Ah," that velvet voice, his father's...Dracula's voice held a note of comprehension again.
"A game...testing your skills. You've grown so much, D, that you would realize it so soon..." shadowed approval and veiled pride reverberated in the undertone of his father's voice.
"I will strike the light
D could hear scrabbling in the darkness. He didn't worry. He might not understand everything about his father, but D knew, no matter how odd or scary the tests were, he was safe.
His light-starved eyes latched onto the flame as the flickering banished the monsters and the faces for good. He simply watched as the flame touched, sputtered and rooted in the wick of a lamp, dancing in the oil it drew up and consumed. He smiled, pleased to have passed his father's test, and looked up.
He was alone.
"Father?!" D's voice quavered uncertainly.
"I'm here, D," his father's voice reassured. D saw nothing.
"Not quite," his father responded. D's hand lifted toward his face. He stared at it wondering when it had gotten so large and so strong. It looked...full-grown! What was going on?!
His hand, acting of its own will turned toward him. D's eyes widened as he saw a face, impossibly somehow living within his hand, coming closer and closer toward him.
"NO!" he shouted in horror.
The face in his left hand smiled a sad smile and D recognized his father in that smile.
The hand completed the short journey to touch his forehead.
"Sleep," the face in his hand, his father's face, his father's voice, commanded.
D's eyes closed, some irresistible languor stealing away his energy to keep his eyes open, to stay awake.
That eerie hand rested on his forehead a moment more. Just before D's consciousness closed into a deep sleep he thought he felt...a kiss.
"Sleep," the command came again, "And forget." Left Hand stroked through D's hair tenderly, smoothing the long locks back into place, "Forget your dream this night, the nightmare of being young and innocent again. Forget those trials of your youth, when I first tested your dhampir skills. Forget those simpler, happier days, D, for remembering..."
"Remembering them now would drive you quite mad."
"And forget..." the supple, confident voice faltered for a moment, as some emotion overwhelmed its soft, silken tones, "...forget that it was I who offered comfort tonight. I must be...what I am...but I am still your father too...and I won't see you suffer...if I can stop it..."
Left Hand busied himself for a few moments more, arranging the drape of D's cloak so it wouldn't wrinkle as D slept, straightening the folds that had come apart when D had awakened and arisen so suddenly. Once everything was to Left Hand's liking, he reached over and dropped the wick slowly back into the oil, drowning the flame.
Once more in the comforting dark, Left Hand listened to D's calm and even breathing, reassured that D was now sleeping deeply and easily. Left Hand snuggled himself into the folds of the cloak at D's right shoulder...