A/N: Thanks for all your reviews, guys! They've been helping me out a lot.
Funny story, actually. An English reviewer commented on how some of the American slang was...disturbing. I didn't exactly understand at first. Then I was glancing through British slang for the fun of it one day ('cause I'm strange like that.) and found something quite disquieting on my part. Apparently Fanny for Americans is a nickname for a girl named Francis or the butt. In England, fanny means...something quite vulgar. Something to do with women. I don't need to say more. Heh. Yeah. Didn't mean to do that. So forgive me for my ignorance. I'll be changing that mistake. And thank you to that reviewer who spoke up about the slang.
Anyways, on with the chapter. It's a little bloody. So for any of you squeamish people out there, I'll warn you now about it. To the rest of you, carry on and enjoy!
Disclaimer: I don't own any Danny Phantom characters.
Chapter 3 Dream Spirit
With a gentle swell of familiar contentment, I surged upward and over the warm, twinkling candle lights belonging to the foggy night of the city of London. If a mouth belonged to me in this state, I would have made it smile slightly. Instead, I viewed the rooftops without any form of expression and silently made my way to the River Thames. I had no body or any distinct form that I could think of. Not even smoke. I was invisible to the human eye as well. The thing that propelled me around the night sky was only a lone, curious soul out for a stroll around the narrow, well-known streets of London.
This form was a common one for me in my dreams. I've always dreamed without a body of any kind. I was free to roam wherever I pleased. It was a calming, peaceful sensation to float about without a care or thought of destination.
Sometimes I was placed in recent times in London or in the city of St. Louis, Missouri in America where I used to live. On rare occasions I found myself in a different time or place. When that happened, my dreamworld usually took me to the past. I've had wild dreams of the Romans and their gladiator pits, adventurous trips down the Amazon River in search of the Mayans and their gold with Cortez and his crew, and nightmares containing bloody battle scenes of the Revolutionary war.
Dreaming of the far future was more sparse than dreaming of the past. I didn't remember many of those dreams. All my mind could comprehend were a few colors and sounds. Some faces surfaced from time to time, but they eventually faded away. Only a few of those dreams stood out. I was glad of this. I didn't believe I was ready to see what the world would become in the next couple of decades. It would all be too overwhelming.
Every factor of the senses was true and vibrant with all my dreams, though. It was always as if I was right there. If I had a body, I know I could have reached out and touched the things that went on in my dreams. Sometimes it was be scary. Sometimes it could be enjoyable. To dream so vividly was a gift and a curse.
That night I was able to explore my city. Only when my eyes were closed and sleep had me in its soft grip was I able to observe the city with admiration. While I was awake, the busy, filth infested streets were only a blunder of people and annoying sounds. The smog was unhealthy and ugly. The people were either boring and conceited or poor and suffering. I viewed London as an outside force sucking the life out of its people. There was no love towards it.
In my dreams, though, London was just as alive as you and me. It pulsed with the beat of striving people in the streets and buildings. It was constantly growing like a prosperous flower. Every block of rock in the cobble-stone streets had a rhythm in life. I could feel it. The world was alive. I was so in tune with these sensations in my dreams. The circle of life was everywhere, and I am content with it. Death was sad, but that was what made everything so balanced. Without death, there could be no life. I accepted it all in my dreams.
I always tended to forget the feeling when I woke. The moment my eyes opened and my mind grumbled into clarity after a restful sleep, the feeling of being one with life was long gone. Human emotions clogged my heavy mind, and I was ready for a day full of struggle and merriment. Only when I returned to my dreams could I find the peace my human mind could have never obtained in the living world.
So, with the wisdom and understanding beyond mine or anyone's years, my dream self traveled at a leisurely pace through the foggy streets of London. The city is quieter at such a late hour, but its still busy. Taverns, with their low lamp lit insides, boarded men looking to drink away their financial sorrows. The women closely with them were doing all they could to sustain what little money their families had, giving up their pride and dignity in the sexual process.
That night I was interested in one such bar on Hanbury Street. I wandered toward the area with the pull of sudden unknown curiosity. This happened a lot in my dreams. If something caught even an ounce of my fancy, I would follow and study it all the way through. I didn't question it. Going with the tide was something natural in my odd dreamworld. Actually, if I ignored it, I would have been quite surprised with myself.
The tavern was full of boisterous people that early morning. To be exact, it was five o' twenty seven in the morning. While dreaming, I had an eerily acute sense of time. I could also tell you the day, month, and year. The down side to this strange ability was my forgetfulness upon awaking. I rarely remembered my dreams; and while I dreamed, I hardly know about my human self in the waking world.
Quite odd, I understand. The common man or woman does not dream this way. I remember the day I spoke about my dreams to my father. I was ten and full of questions. My father told me they were of the devil and should be cast away. When I told my mother the very same day, she said they were a gift of God and that I should cherish them. Either way, I understood they were dissimilar to common dreams. I never spoke of them again...until I met Lottie.
My spirit peered into one of the windows there at the tavern and watched listlessly as men ordered their drinks, told stories of the sea and women, played card games gruffly with each other, and generally had a time of merrymaking. Scantily clad women hung onto some of the men. The way they looked at the men and touched them was a type of secret art they were experts in.
It was all interesting to view. Primal desire was shown in the men's eyes when they rested their gazes on bursting cleavage or the brief show of a leg clothed in hose. To feel the strong want from even my outside presence was somehow engrossing to my dream form.
The sight wasn't enough to keep me staring through the muggy pane of glass all night. Soon, I had moved on into the tavern. I lazily flew around the room, observing mugs of beer, glancing at the hands of the men in the card game, listening passively to a tale about a sea monster, and all round taking in the feel of the people in the crowded room.
Although enough to keep my attention for the brief moment, this hadn't been what caught my curiosity. I knew I wasn't here to look at all this, but I didn't push at the feeling. The time would come for me to observe with more scrutiny at some point in the near future. I was never impatient in my dream state. I didn't feel much emotion. I just observed. It was a very unearthly experience.
Boots descending a staircase in the back of the building attracted me there. Wooden planks squeaked with the shifting weight of the woman coming down the stairs. I took her in. She wore a revealing dress the color of crimson that displayed her robust shoulders and rather plump neck. The ends of her ruffled skirt were clutched loosely in her hands to prevent a stumble. I could see her black, dirty boots as they naturally found every step in the staircase.
Her long and very tired face turned to check on the rest of the tavern. Her brown eyes were dull and filled with a hardship that was of a mother with a life of constant deprivation. The furious brown curls of her hair were tightly pinned to the back of her head. They bounced with every step she made while traversing down the stairs.
When she reached the landing, the woman quickly and quietly went to a back door that would lead into a garden in the backyard. With a nimbleness my human self would have been quite proud of, I dashed to the door and made it out and onto the other side before the woman managed to softly close it behind her.
On the small strip of cement outside the door, the air was crisp and cool. The weather was changing gradually at night from the overlap of summer and fall. The garden was cramped and dying. Fighting withered plants stuck up from the firm soil, brown and ugly in the murky light of the lamp that hung beside the door and illuminated the landing the woman stood on. The wooden railing and the pathway beyond was being blocked by a person in shadow.
The woman gave a small start at the sight of the man in the tiny garden. She placed her hand lightly on her chest in her startle, but the embarrassed smile that splayed across her lips was a clear indicator she was not frightened by the person's presence.
"Beg my pardon, sir," the woman said in a heavy, fretful sigh. "For a nasty moment I believed you were a spirit. Such a silly thought of me." She gave a nervous chuckle.
I looked to the shadowy figure that stood just outside the warm circle of light cast out from the flickering flame sitting in the hanging lamp. It didn't move. This interested me. I slowly floated closer to this mysterious person, distinctly wondering what it looked like without the cloak of darkness and who he or she was. I might be wise in this invisible spirit-like form, but I am not all knowing.
"Sir?" the woman asked, confusion and seduction in her voice now. I glanced back at her. She was at the wooden railing, leaning slightly against it so that her breasts were well seen in the lamplight and the shadows created curves that might not have been entirely there.
"Were you looking for a lady tonight, by any chance?" she continued in a soft coo. "It just so happens I can provide some assistance, my fine gentleman."
The shadow remained still. If I had been human, I would have called the moment eerie. Just when the woman began to think that she had mistaken the form for something it was not, it moved. The graceful way it advanced was something I'd never seen in my spirit or human form. I watched it majestically come forward with something close to awe.
The candle that had been burning brightly for all night long suddenly extinguished itself. There was no shift of the wind. Only a cold chill that rested itself upon the confined space of the backyard.
A white, chilly puff of mist exited the woman's mouth when she said with a superior smirk, "I do charge a fair price for my services. Just so you kno-!"
The fathomless shadow moved in one deft, fatal strike. The sharp knife flashed in the dim, early morning light before it swiftly plunged into the throat of the woman. She didn't have the time to fight back or scream. The knife had destroyed her means of voicing her terror.
With another vicious stab, the knife struck an artery. Hot, red blood squirted from the break of her skin. It flung into the night air, spattering against her attacker and falling like raindrops to the ground. She soon followed with a gargled and confused gasp. Her form was limp as it lay there at her killer's mercy, or lack there of.
I watched without much emotion. I know I felt sadness for the loss of life, but I understood that this kind of thing happened. I'd seen plenty of murders in spirit form. This one was no different. It was cruel and heartless, but then so was winter with her relentless snow and her deathly freezing winds.
Blood was everywhere from the cut artery. It seeped into the woman's grimy red dress, trickled down the railing, and traveled like thick water across the cement landing. It dripped down into the garden, feeding the plants with its crimson life. In the darkness, its color was a toxic black.
The murderer seemed to be thrilled by the sight of the red liquid. A low, maniacal chuckle was uttered from his shadowy form. He kept bringing up his knife and plunging it down into the dying woman. The tip sunk many times into her abdomen. The motion and the sound of his laughter and ripping flesh was feverish.
Then, with a relieved sigh that sounded like a sob with her own blood clogging her throat, the woman died. I felt her spirit begin to detach itself from her body. I urged it to leave this earth. Heaven was where she belonged now. It would be more kind to her than this world could have ever been.
It was only when she was dead that the killer revealed his true colors. He quickly jumped to his feet and leaned over the woman's cut and mutilated body, his face not even an inch away from hers. The disturbed shine in his eyes was sinister and full of savage lust.
"Oh, no, no, no!" the man giggled in total enjoyment. "You are now mine, my darling! Come! Come! You smelled delicious. I know you have to taste good too!"
Something was incorrect here. I didn't know what. An ominous feeling had descended upon the landing so suddenly that I was struck dumb. I was almost fearful. I didn't know why, but a great horror was chaotically swirling around me and the killer both. It felt thick and strangling. I'd never felt this in any of my dreams. It was so odd...and terrifying. Somehow this wasn't the way it was supposed to be. This murder was wrong! I didn't understand why. Why was it so different from the others?
I watched with growing dread as the killer opened his mouth. I felt and watched the soul of the woman manifest itself in a yellow mist as it traveled from her mouth and into her awaiting killer's. I could hear her awful, distressed scream as the life was sucked out of her. It had been a faint, muffled shriek, but the emotion in it held all the truth.
It was a horrible sight. He had eaten it all. Consumed her soul like it was nothing but a tasty meal. The woman was no more. Her soul was gone. She had ceased to exist. There was no Heaven to look forward to, no Hell to dread. There was nothing. She was nothing.
"Ah," the killer sighed in pleasure. His eyes rolled back in ecstasy, and he stood to smile victoriously at the sky. "Delectable. Simply delectable."
He remained this way for a minute or two, shaking uncontrollably with delight and giggling in his triumph of the kill. A faint mystical glow began to gather around his shadowy form. It grew as the power he'd collected from the soul radiated around him. I watched in alarm as his misshapen, fathomless form transformed itself into an actual person. He was simply a man dressed in casual middle class attire for the time period. Nothing looked scary or demonic about him. Actually, in the dim light coming from an awakening sun on the bleary horizon, he looked almost handsome and in his early thirties. The quirky smile displayed on his lips and the strong jaw was quite striking.
It was the white knuckled hand still holding onto the knife dripping with the innocent woman's blood and the splatters of the gore all across his face and clothing that reminded me of what he truly was. A malicious murderer who had somehow eaten a soul. How had he done that? He looked so human, but he felt so wrong to even look at.
The man suddenly opened his eyes. They blazed a ruby, nefarious red that held nothing but a wild anger and unbridled wickedness that wanted and craved power. His lips directed themselves into a humorless smile, and those blood-chilling eyes of his settled on me.
"What are you going to do about it?" he asked me with a mocking smirk.
Gasping fiercely, I jerked awake from the dream. The jolt flung me out of the other world and hurled me violently into the human one. I called it violent because, while I was human, I was subject to all those emotions my spirit form could not have felt in my dreams.
Now, in a swell of unfiltered and strong feelings, smells, and experiences, I saw the blood and the continual fall of the knife. It was all my mind could remember of the dream. The moment repeated itself ceaselessly in my mind's eye. I could not get rid of it.
It overwhelmed me. The breath was ripped out of my throat. Choking heavily, I fell off my stool at the workplace I'd been sleeping at and landed on the wooden floor with a hard thud. I pulled myself up onto my hands and knees, sucking in deep, greedy gasps of air. I was incapable of moving, it felt like. The task of merely breathing was difficult for me. It was scary, and I began to slip into panic.
I didn't understand why I was so upset. Of course, my memory was giving me a graphic visual of a brutal murder, but I knew deep down that this was worse. I'd seen something else while I was asleep that had disturbed that other form. I just couldn't remember more, or I didn't want to. Maybe my human brain wouldn't be able to function with the information hidden, deeply embedded inside it now. All I had was the recollection of a woman being stabbed to death and all the ponderous emotions that came with it.
The shrill ring of the door to my shop snapped me out of my dwindling thought process. Swallowing the lump growing in my ragged throat, I quickly looked up to see who was coming in so suddenly. I was still on the floor, no doubt looking like a deranged, panic-ridden fool.
I froze at the sight of my wife.
"Aldan!" Lottie fearfully whispered my name. She dropped the bonnet she'd been taking off while coming through the front entrance. In a rush of rustling skirts, my wife was kneeling before me and latching her hands onto my shaking shoulders.
"What's wrong?" she asked, terrified at the state she had caught me in. I must have looked worse than I felt. I watched as her eyes roamed and searched my face for answers. "Talk to me, Aldan!" she persisted in a low hiss when I was unable to speak.
"A-another d-d-dream," I managed to stutter out for her. Almost mechanically, I wrapped my arms around my chest as if to keep myself together. I didn't want to fall apart. I'd never felt this way before. It scared me. I did not understand.
Lottie stared at me for a long time. The grief in her face told me she wanted to know more about this. She so desperately needed to understand where I was coming from so she could help me. I could see she was tempted to bombard me with questions, but the frightened look in her eyes kept her away from opening her mouth right away. The fear of the unknown forced her to ponder her loyalty and devotion towards me as a person and her husband. It wasn't long till she found her answer. She concluded this silent question to herself with a sharp nod.
"Was it of another murder?" she asked after our pause. "Like the one in the paper this morning?" So she had read the paper despite Mr. Lusk's warning. That was very much like my Lottie.
It took my mouth some time to come up with an answer. "I-I think so, Lottie," I said quietly. "I'm...I'm sorry," I added at the end, not able to meet her bold, furtive eyes that raked my face for understanding and clarity.
"For what?" she questioned, thoroughly surprised by my apology. She hunched down some more to try and reach my eyes with her own. Our gazes connected, and I slowly followed hers as she sat back upright.
"F-for all this!" I heatedly said in a low voice. One of my arms unlatched itself from its wrapped position around my waist to add to my explanation. "For you finding me like a crazy person on the floor of my shop. You," I paused, wondering in fear if this was going to break us, "you didn't know about my dreams till you married me, Lottie. I understand that they might be too much for you. Sometimes I find it difficult myself to carry the burden of them. You don't deserve this. You des-."
"Stop it right there, Aldan James Boone," Lottie sternly ordered me.
I stared at her in surprise, a hand on my throbbing cheek she had just harshly slapped. I could feel it reddening as the imprint of her hand burned. She could hit hard. That wasn't very surprising.
A frustrated frown made my wife's forehead wrinkle with emotion as she told me in a passionate breath, "I love you, Mr. Boone, but sometimes you don't seem to see this fact. You can't control what happens in your dreams. I can't control mine as well. I don't see you packing up your belongings and clocks and leaving because I have no command over my nightmares. This shouldn't come between us. It hasn't come between us. Have more confidence in us, Aldan, or I'm going to have to slap you again."
I didn't know what to say to this. Lottie's words had been true and sincere. She really did love me. She loved me as much as I loved her. Our bond could shake, but it could not be broken. How had I become so fortunate?
Rubbing my sore cheek, I muttered with loving tease, "You hit like a girl."
"Good," Lottie shot back, "because if you haven't noticed, I am a woman." A smile gathered at the corners of her lips. It was beautiful.
"Oh, I've noticed," I said with a chuckle. I slowly leaned forward and planted a soft kiss on her forehead. We rested our foreheads against each others. I looked into her eyes and assured her with the only words I knew to get the job done.
"I love you."
"I know. I love you too."
"I won't be daft again."
As if feeling the same emotion of relief and settled content, Lottie and I sighed in unison. This might sound unmanly, but with her so close to me, I felt warm and safe. The vision of the dream murder had been banished to the far corners of my brain. Her gentle yet strong spirit is a comfort to me. It's what marriage should do for two people. It's not something people are taught in class by their school teachers. It's something the two in the marriage can only work out by years of labor and care with each other as partners. That's what Lottie and I were. Partners.
"Daddy?" an innocent voice questioned me from the doorway to the back of the house. Lottie and I pulled away, both of us turning our heads to see the two little girls standing there. Both their blonde heads of hair were ratty and mussy. Their soft cheeks were still blushing with a hot fever. They looked so fragile standing at the entryway with each other, Francis with her one-eyed scruffy teddy bear clutched to her tiny chest.
"Yes, Amelia?" I asked the oldest who had been the one to call my name. "You feeling alright, sweetheart?"
"Are we going to have story time?" she asked in a whine, sleepily rubbing her eye with one small fist.
Lottie and I shared a glance. I smiled at her before returning my attention to our two daughters. "Of course we are," I told them. "Now off to bed with the lot of you so Mum and I can think of a good one to tell."
Satisfied with this answer, Amelia and Francis dashed off back to their bed by the fireplace with delighted giggles. Their scurrying footsteps were like magic to my ears. I hadn't heard it in a long time.
Lottie and I got to our feet. My wife was smiling wily at me as she brushed off her skirt.
"What is it?" I asked.
"Is this story going to be filled with colorful pirates on the search for buried treasure? Or is tonight going to be a tale of fairy princesses?"
"Why? You don't favor fairy princesses and pirates?" I asked with a smirk and a raised eyebrow. "If I'm not mistaken, you seemed to enjoy those stories as much as the girls."
"Indeed I do," Lottie responded while wrapping her arms around my shoulders. "But I'm in the inclination for something new tonight. Something more...personal, you could say. You have any of those kinds of stories in that head of yours, Mr. Boone?"
I pressed my lips together and pretended to think hard. My arms snaked around her waist and pressed lightly into the small of her back, bringing her close to me. "I believe I might have one of those," I said. "I'll tell them about one of my dreams of the future."
"The future?" Lottie asked, surprised and subtly enthralled.
"Of course," I said. "I might not remember the entire dream, but the best part of story time is making the tale up, am I right?"
"You're correct," she said with a nod. "And what makes this story so entertaining, might I ask?"
"Because this one is about a boy," I told her. "A boy with the power to turn...invisible!"