Not my characters. They were documented by Neil Gaiman, though of course they own themselves. Not my song lyrics. They belong to The Dresden Dolls, whose Amanda Palmer is getting married to Neil Gaiman soon. Is it coincidence that they have a song perfect for the scary side of Delirium?

And I just had to use Daniel-Dream. Of course I was devastated when Morpheus died, but Daniel is so…so…sweet and adorable and nervous and squishy and innocent and young. ^_^

Before anyone says anything, the erratic punctuation in the lyrics is INTENTIONAL.

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Prologue

The Endless do not sleep, except Desire's very occasional naps as part of its hedonism. Barnabas, however, despite not being an ordinary dog, does need to sleep. And when he sleeps he dreams. And this time, when he dreams, he runs.

The wyvern, griffin, and winged horse ask him his business. "Please, I need help. Delirium's in trouble."

Before they even swing the door open, the new Dream appears at the bottom of the steps. His clothes are purest white and his hair like a dandelion puff, his eyes dark and quiet, a hint of concern in his pale face. "What is it, friend?"

Barnabas bobs his head respectfully. "Sir, your sister's just lost a boyfriend, and it's getting really scary in her realm, and I'm afraid she's going to do something bad. You're the only one of the family I know how to find."

Dream strokes Barnabas' head and scratches behind his ears. "Come into the castle and be provided with refreshment and shelter. It is most likely unsafe for you there at present. I will speak to our elder sister."

"Thank you. I've been very worried."

"Your loyalty is commendable."

In the gallery of Dream who is only known as such, and not the collection of names he feels he has no right to use, the space of Delirium has gone black. The sign of the Ankh gleams ever-comforting and true.

"My sister, I stand in my gallery and hold your sigil. Please talk to me."

"Hey, kiddo. I was just about to call you. Did you know that the suicide rate has quadrupled in the past two days? Though it is nice in a way when they're happy to see me. Kind of. A little." Death climbs out of the frame, sparkling and sweet, but with anxiety crinkling the edges of her eyes.

"You are aware of Delirium's current crisis?"

"Two days ago I picked up this exiled agent of Chaos named Tobias Shutterdon. Skinny but cute. Nice. He said he really loved Delirium but existence just hurt too much to go on any longer, so he killed himself rather than have Del curse him for not considering her reason enough to live. Remind you of anything?"

Dream sighs. He has not yet had a lover in this incarnation, too afraid of the many fiascos that have gone before. "What do you advise as a course of action?"

"When Del's really acting up she overwhelms anyone who's in there alone, and I can't afford to become unhinged."

"What would happen if you became unhinged?" he asks nervously.

"Zombie apocalypse."

"Really?"

She laughs. "Of course not. You should have seen your face!" Then she is serious once more. "We should go together and try to comfort her."

"Very well."

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The realm is even more an assault upon the senses than it usually is. Lightning cracks underground and there are screams from the clouds. Fire burns blue and purple across the landscape. Dream and Death are unable to walk in a straight line, finding that they are treading upon the horizon, and then stepping in dead fish, and then flying, and then sloshing through some kind of yellow ooze. They end up holding hands for comfort and stability.

you can tell
from the scars on my arms
and cracks in my hips
and the dents in my car
and the blisters on my lips
that i'm not the carefullest of girls

Rats with barbed stingers for tails skitter and whistle. Dream starts losing his ability to tell where his idea of a body is, and what size are its components. Even Death, who is at home anywhere and everywhere, is uneasy.

Bloody hands with fingernails torn off litter a forest. The trees are made of bubblegum and barbed wire. And everywhere the air throbs with a magnified, echoing girl's voice, sobbing and singing in a way that sounds like screams.

you can tell
from the glass on the floor
and the strings that're breaking
and i keep on breaking more
and it looks like i am shaking
but it's just the temperature
and then again
if it were any colder i could disengage
if i were any older i could act my age
but i dont think that youd believe me
it's!not!the!way!i'm!meant!to!be!
it's just the way the operation made me

"When my ruby was stolen and used by a villain," Dream murmurs, squeezing his sister's hand with one and touching the emerald with the other, "madness reigned across the waking world of an entire dimension. Is it like that now? I did not feel any difference."

They duck and cover from a shower of steel wool, Death instinctively shielding her brother. "Only her people are affected by this, it seems. Most of the souls I've been collecting come from hospitals, sanitariums, streets, homeless shelters, and in some super-depressing cases things like cellars and attics that haven't been opened in a long time."

When the shower has ended, they get to their feet and move closer to the center. "Have any of the family ever had a successful romance?"

The rocks are bleeding and clouds are dropping out of the sky with heavy clunks. "If you define a successful romance as one where it continues until one of the parties are dead, the fact that we are Endless and the only ones we can love are immortal means, obviously, no. If you mean taking the end of a relationship with something approaching friendliness and maturity, Destruction was the closest with Astarte."

"But it was through measures he had set that she had become destroyed."

"We're all pretty bad at this, really."

Ungodly howls ring through the concrete jungle, and a horde of giant flies buzzes to block out the sun.

"If this keeps up much longer her people could all be dead."

"No chance to get better."

"We must find her soon."

and you can tell
from the state of my room
that they let me out too soon
and the pills that i ate
came a couple years too late
and ive got some issues to work through
there i go again
pretending to be you
make-believing
that i have a soul beneath the surface
trying to convince you
it was accidentally on purpose

i am not so serious
this passion is a plagiarism
i might join your century
but only on a rare occasion
i was taken out
before the labor pains set in and now
behold the world's worst accident
i am the girl anachronism

There she is; a cloud of multicolored locusts then blink! A swath of moaning carnivorous plants and blink! A tremendous dragon with one green and one blue eye and blink!

"Del, honey, you have to stop this! We can talk about it!"

"gO AwAY! I MiGht bE cATching sO doN'T ToUCH!" come the gurgling whoops of anguish.

"I can give you a dream of peace, my sister. You can come rest and be comforted in my realm."

"Go aWaY! I aM ThE WoRLd's woRst AcciDent!"

The wind whips at them fiercely. Dream is nearly blown off his feet. "Please, Del, we love you!" Death cries, then whispers, "if she tells us to go one more time, we'd better move."

"I AM THE GIRL ANACHRONISM!"

And the universe vomits the siblings into the Dreaming once more, and Deliriums sigil is not merely black any longer. It is aflame.

"No one can go back in there now and stay sane," Death says quietly, letting go of her brother's fingers. "Got suggestions?"

"Only her people can save her now. I will send out a call." Then he would call for Destruction to come care for her, should they be successful.

"Thanks, kiddo. I'd better get back to work." Death turns to leave.

Dream touches her shoulder to pause her. "It would have been far more frightening without you, sister," he murmurs, and kisses her forehead.

Death smiles slightly and disappears.