Nightmares

Author's Note: So, I've noticed in the various bits and pieces I've been doing recently this motif keeps appearing to do with sleeping and dreaming. It wasn't an intentional thing – it just kind of keeps happening so I thought hey, why not see what happens when I try writing something about nothing but dreams? This is a very different style of writing to what I normally do and so I have no idea if it's going to be any good – I just felt like experimenting a little. Some of the dream sequences are fairly literal, others more symbolic, others just plain surreal, and all of them have ambiguous aspects that are open to interpretation. Lots of feedback would be appreciated but please keep in mind that the characters may not always sound like themselves, simply because it is often the nature of dreams that people we know and even ourselves behave in ways that we wouldn't normally expect, though if I've done this right some aspect of them should always be identifiable.

Part One: Fallen

She was stood in the middle of a playground on a planet whose name she couldn't remember at a time of day she couldn't possibly describe.

'I wanna go play on the swings! Can I go play on the swings?' Mira was asking, hopping from foot to foot in anticipation.

She nodded. 'Alright. Just be careful, okay?'

With a whoop of delight Mira went racing off and she was left to survey the rest of her surroundings. Atton and the Disciple were already on the swings, competing to see who could get the highest. Bao-Dur was in the sandbox, building a complex and intricate structure out of the sand with the help of his trusty Remote. Visas and Mandalore were climbing a rock wall, but something was wrong. No matter how hard she tried to cling to the rock face, Visas seemed unable to get more than a few inches off the ground before falling back down.

'Excuse me.'

Looking down, she saw that the person addressing her was a little girl, no older than twelve, with a mop of messy curls and a mischievous smile. The girl held one clenched fist out to her, and instinctively she placed her palm underneath. She felt the weight of two objects dropping into her waiting hand, and found two milky white pearls now resting in her cupped palm.

'Keep those close to you all the time but never turn your back on them,' the little girl advised seriously before turning and scampering off across the playground.

'Wait!' she called after her but the little girl didn't stop, crawling through an orange play tunnel. She ran after her, past the Mass Shadow Generator Bao-Dur had constructed out of the sand, past a now weeping Visas who was sat in the dirt as Mandalore cheered triumphantly from the top of the wall, past a happily swinging Mira and now openly brawling Atton and Mical, past the edge of the play area to greet the yawning maw of the tunnel opening.

The opening couldn't have been more than two feet high and so she had to get on her hands and knees to get inside it, crawling through the tunnel entrance, dragging herself along further... and further... and further... I don't understand, she thought desperately, still wriggling her way through, It didn't look this long from the outside.

Something appeared up ahead and she moved faster, hoping she'd finally reach the end of the tunnel, but on approach found it to be nothing more than a particularly large gizka in a bow tie and top hat. It was crouched in the centre of the tunnel, almost as though it had been waiting for her. She sighed disappointedly. 'Excuse me, have you seen a little girl come through here? She's me. Well, she's not really me. She's me when I was little. Except I'm not little anymore so I suppose she isn't really me...'

The gizka croaked regretfully. 'I'm afraid not, dear girl.'

'Oh.' She sighed again. 'Well, do you at least know how much further this tunnel goes?'

'Of course! The exit is just ahead of you. But remember, the important thing is that you cut the puppet master's strings.'

She looked at the little creature in confusion. 'I don't follow.'

'No, they follow you. Good luck!' it chirruped cheerfully before hopping past her and back down the tunnel the way she'd come.

Sure enough, the exit was only a little further on, and she clambered out gratefully to find that she was no longer on the planet with no name. Instead, she was in what she knew to be a classroom, even though it was unlike any classroom she'd ever seen. The walls were whitewashed and the floor a hard, cold material that made her feet tingle. It smelt like dead flowers. In the centre of the room was a single round glass table, around which three men were sat, all scribbling furiously on scraps of paper. Circling the table was a tall figure dressed entirely in black with a mask obscuring their features.

'No no no, that's wrong!' Malak exclaimed, jabbing furiously as Nihilus' paper. 'Hunger only has one u, not two! How can we ever possibly hope to take over the galaxy when we can't even get the basics right?'

She approached the table slowly, thinking that she knew the third person sat there but unable to quite place him. Sensing her approach, he looked up from his work, warm green eyes and handsome features greeting her.

'Who were you?' she found herself asking quietly. 'Before the change happened?'

The man smiled at her, and as he did his features began to crack and distort. His skin turned from a healthy gold to lifeless grey, the eyes turned dead and lifeless, one becoming as milky white as the pearls she still clasped in one hand. Deep scars erupted across his face and body and his smile became a grimace. He tilted his head to one side, flesh flaking off with the motion. 'There is not a soul alive who knows.'

'I've got it!' screeched Revan suddenly, slamming her hands down on the table. 'The pinnacle of how we shall defeat the Mandalorians and eradicate all life in the universe: hydrospanners that can think!'

Appreciative murmurs greeted this announcement from around the table, growing in volume and intensity as though more and more voices were being added to the mix. Somewhere, a siren began to scream. Clamping her hands over her ears, she turned, suddenly gripped with the desire to get away from this place, when she felt someone grab her elbow hard.

'It's time,' said Master Kavar, pulling her through a door she hadn't seen before. The corridor they were in was familiar and she recognised the place it belonged to at once – the Jedi Academy on Dantooine, but not as it was now. It had been restored somehow, with not the slightest sign of the Sith attack present on its gleaming stonework or on the other Jedis's smiling faces. The siren continued to blare and as Kavar marched her down the corridor the other Jedi became aware of the sound. Some huddled together in clusters, others pulled out their lightsabers, while others still panicked and ran back down the corridor.

'Wait,' she tried to call after them but her voice came out as a whisper. 'That's not the way!'

They reached an intersection and Kavar led her left, down another, identical corridor. She didn't want to go with him but his hand was still firmly clasped around her elbow and she knew that not even death would make him let go. 'Where are we going?'

'It's time for your final test.'

'Test?' She felt panic rise up in her. 'What test?'

'To see whether or not you're a real Jedi, of course,' replied Kavar, in a tone one would usually use when addressing a particularly difficult and stupid five year old. 'Now stop struggling or we'll have to cut you off from the Force again.'

'But – but it wasn't the Council who cut me off from the Force, it was—' she protested but stopped, realising that she could no longer remember how she had lost her connection with the Force. The corridor stretched on and on and the sound of the siren was getting louder, repetitive and incessant. 'Please, I was looking for something... someone... I can't remember who. I think I was looking for my friends.'

'Friends?' Master Kavar stopped suddenly, bringing her to a jarring halt. 'A Jedi does not have friends! A Jedi must walk alone. No emotional attachments. If you want to become a true Jedi again, we'd better get rid of this,' he stated in a matter of fact manner, reaching out and yanking her heart out from her chest. She yelped in pain and fell to her knees. Whimpering, her fingers grasped at the wound while her eyes stared helplessly at the big empty space where her heart had been.

'There. That wasn't so bad now, was it?'

Looking up, she saw that the unending corridor had been replaced with the Council's chamber. The sound of the siren had stopped, replaced with a deathly and oppressive quiet. The three Jedi Masters whom she had gathered were sat in the same seats they had occupied during her trial. From the remaining chairs, white skeletons grinned at her and threw accusing glances with unseeing sockets. 'You can't so this!' she cried out, still clutching at her chest. 'I can't leave my friends – they need me!'

'Are you quite certain of that?' asked Master Vrook. He glanced behind the Council's seats to where a viewing arena had been set up.

Assembled in the seating stands were her companions, each watching the scene unfold with a kind of bored apathy. As she stared at them in disbelief, Mira reached into her jacket and pulled out what appeared to be a packet of popcorn before passing it round the others. Visas whispered something to Mical and he laughed coldly.

'Give us the pearls, exile,' demanded Master Zez-Kai Ell holding out his hand.

'NO!' she screamed, feeling with an absolute iron certainty that no matter what the Jedi Masters did, she could never give up the only things to have stood by her this far. 'No, I have to keep them close! I –' She stopped; the cold, comforting weight in her palm was gone. Panicked, she began to search her body, desperately looking for the two tiny pearls. 'I can't – where are they? Why would they leave me? I – I don't understand...'

'Exile, you fail the test. You know what that means,' intoned Master Kavar. He still held her red, pulsating heart in one hand and with the other he reached over to a lever positioned to the right of his chair and yanked it hard. 'Goodbye.'

She only caught one last glance of the impassive faces of her comrades before the ground opened up beneath her and she was falling, plummeting. With a cry, she scrabbled at the rock face, managing somehow to find a handhold and clung to it desperately. 'Help me!' she screamed. 'Somebody, please, save me!'

A hand appeared over the side of the chasm, reaching out to her and she grabbed it. 'I've got you, babe,' Atton said and she almost sobbed with relief.

But it wasn't enough. She was slipping. Still falling downwards, but slower now, her speed of descent slowed by her anchor but not stopped. 'Please, Atton! Please don't let me fall!'

'I'm sorry, exile,' he said and she looked up to see that Atton did not look like Atton anymore. His skin was grey and sickly, his features twisted and cruel, and his eyes a hollow, hateful yellow. Even as her eyes widened in disbelief, he began to loosen his grip. 'I could never save you.'

He let go and she fell, further and further, deeper and deeper, through every world whose surface she had ever wandered, past countless landscapes and through a million skies – 'I make a wish I don't fall, I make a wish I don't fall, I make a wish I don't fall' - until finally she hit the bottom with a sickening crack. She couldn't move. Even breathing was an effort. There seemed no point in trying to get up, anyway. She'd fallen far too far for anyone to reach her now. So there she lay, broken and useless. Just another fallen Jedi...

Back in her bunk on the Ebon Hawk, Lexie Sunsoft – the exile - let out a soft moan in her sleep.