The Night was dark and cold. She didn't recognize where she was. It was some sort of ghastly, nightmarish forest; nooses hung from the branches of dead trees, with corpses attached to some, swaying gently in an imperceptible breeze. A hush filled the air, a heavy silence that made even the thought of speaking seem wrong. The world was painted with an unearthly glow and Candy looked behind her. The full moon hung high in the sky, an enormous castle-like structure silhouetted against it. She looked around frantically and her suspicions were confirmed by the crimson mist surrounding her. She was on Gorgossium.

How did I get here? I she wondered frantically, wrapping her arms around herself, turning around and around as if looking for an exit.

"I brought you here," said a voice. Cold crept into her bones. She knew that voice.

Candy turned around and saw that horrifying glow moving toward her from the shadows, and a moment later, Prince Carrion was revealed to her. Run, a voice inside her head told her, but she found that she couldn't move.

Carrion spread his arms invitingly and smiled that death's head smile at her from within the soup of nightmares. "Candy," he said softly, as if tasting her name. "Come here."

She stared at him, shaking in terror, still unable to move. Carrion stepped closer, arms still open. "You're dreaming."

After a moment his smile disappeared. "You won't come? I've been looking for you all this time, and you won't come to me? I'm hurt." But he didn't look hurt. He looked pleased. She even thought she could hear amusement in his voice.

"I said, Come Here," Carrion repeated, and the words carried command in them this time. To her horror, Candy felt herself moving slowly toward him, as if she couldn't prevent it. She whimpered as he wrapped those long, thin arms around her and pulled her to his chest, stroking her hair. She felt sick with fear. Nothing in the world could be worse than this.

"You're dreaming, Candy," he whispered again. "I've finally found you. There's no escaping anymore."

Candy finally found her voice. "Why don't you just leave me alone?"

To her surprise, Carrion laughed. "Leave you alone? It's you who came to this world, you who keep ruining all my plans, escaping me at every turn. It's you who won't leave me alone." His voice was full of bitterness.

"I just want to know you, Candy. I just want to know what you're doing here."

"It was an accident. I'm just-"

"Some girl from the Hereafter, innocent. I highly doubt that." Carrion sounded impatient now. He took a moment to calm himself before continuing. "You stole something of mine. You killed my servant."

I didn't. He killed himself. But Candy couldn't get her mouth to move.

"You are not here by accident. I don't believe in such things. I just want you to tell me why you're here. Is that so much to ask?"

Candy felt her mouth shaping the word no. His voice was hypnotic, smooth and calm. No, it isn't too much to ask. No, stop. She stopped herself before the word left her lips and forced herself to move.

Candy broke contact with him, skittered several feet away, staring at him in horror and feeling violated. "No," she said, shaking her head. "No. It's an accident. I haven't done anything to you. Just leave me alone!"

Carrion's eyes blazed with anger; the nightmares in his collar glowing brightly and moving in an agitated manner.

"If you won't tell me, I'll have to find out another way. Just tell me, Candy." Then he smiled. It was not a nice smile. "You can't escape me, Candy."

Candy took a few more steps back to avoid the advancing prince, shaking her head violently. "Leave me alone, just leave me alone! I hate you!"

"Do you?" he said in a deadly soft voice. "Do you?" Carrion laughed, his voice full of a manic sort of humor. Fury radiated from him, staining the Night. "You hate me? And what have I done to you? I just wanted to talk to you. It is you! You who have started this all, set this in motion! You who are going around the Abarat, destroying lives like a devil! You who are crushing all my plans!" He was pacing now, shouting. "You hate me, do you, Candy Quackenbush? You are the invader, not I! You have NO RIGHT!"

The nightmares were twitching and swelling, fueled by his fury and frustration. Candy was frozen in place by the terrifying vision before her.

Then Carrion's voice smoothed, his rigid posture melted into one of calm and control, but his nightmares spoke of the storm raging within. "Just tell me, Candy, just speak with me. And I shall let you go."

His voice carried implications of what he would do to her if she didn't cooperate. He stepped closer, she rooted to the spot by more than just fear now. He stroked her cheek as gently as a lover and his colorless eyes bore into hers as though he was looking into a different universe. "Tell me what is inside your head. What is inside your soul, my beloved Candy? I just want to know."

He didn't seem to notice what he was saying, his gaze so intensely focused, his mind so clearly elsewhere.

Then she awoke, his eyes superimposed over her vision and his chilling voice lingering on her spine as she lay shivering on the sand in the warm Afternoon light.

End