I'm being tossed, to and fro, relentlessly, smashed against pillars of rock, too slimy with seaweed to provide purchase to haul myself out of these churning, black waters. I cry out for help and my mouth is instantly filled with brine and sand. The currents tug at my feet and I'm losing the energy to fight against them, when I a shadow detaches itself from the darkness and slides forward.
The sound of my name shocks me. It has no place in this strange sea. I look up and see an odd vessel drawn alongside me. It is smooth and elegant, but surely far too small to survive the rage of this storm.
I don't know who is in the boat, but a small silhouette leans out over the edge.
The figure speaks again and I realise it is a woman.
"Help me," I croak, reaching up to her and she leans forward. Lightning sizzles across the sky, throwing her face into sharp relief and I recoil. My wife gazes down at me calmly, her face youthful and unblemished. The waves buffet us again and I remember my predicament. I reach up beseechingly and she takes my hand. Lightning flashes again, but this time the light does not fade and I'm left staring up at my wife's face as it withers and shrivels. Her teeth crack and crumble and her hair disintegrates, drifting from her head.
The hand clutching mine wastes away to bones covered with the thinnest scrap of skin, but it clings on still, claw-like.
"Do you still think I should save you?" she asks calmly and I suddenly feel totally empty. I look back at her and she raises one wrinkled eyebrow.
I let go. The sea closes over my head and the currents twine themselves around me, cradling me and taking me to the bottom. When the water slides into my lungs, it's because I inhale it and let it in.
"Whoa! Wha' the Hell?"
The insistent ringing of my phone has woken me up. I grope on the table beside my bed until my flailing hand lands on it and brings it to my ear.
"This 's Pri'kin." My words are slurred from a mixture of left over adrenaline and sleep deprivation. I've been having more nightmares than usual recently.
"John, listen, we have a bit of a situation here. The colonel wants you in ASAP."
I look at the clock and stifle a groan.
"Caleb. It's 4am." I sit up, the last vestiges of sleep disappearing. "And what sort of a situation?"
He chuckles. He knows damn well I can't resist a fight.
"Your sort. Some rogue sybil's been brought in by the vamps and something's really off about her."
"I'll see you in 10," I tell him and hang up.
I look around my dark room and try to blot out my dreams. Well, I won't be getting any more sleep anyway. I get up, and start making coffee. Cereal nearly chokes me. I just don't feel like eating. In the end, I give up and bin it.
I stagger into the shower, but of course the running water reminds me uncomfortably of my nightmare. I stand under the spray, rigid, trying to force myself to move, but after a few minutes of feeling like I'm about to crawl out of my skin, I get out and wrap a towel 'round my waist, shivering.
I go to the sink and get my razor out of the cabinet. I look up and catch site of my reflection in the mirror. I look terrible. My cheeks are hollow and rough with stubble. Shadows like bruises ring my eyes and my skin is papery white. I look like a dead man. My stomach churns and I really don't want to go to work. I have no energy, even after drinking enough coffee to give a horse a heart attack, but I know I'm not sick. Just messed up.
I stare down at the sink, bracing my hands on either side of it. It doesn't matter how awful I feel. If I stopped every time I was depressed, how many people would have suffered at the hands of monsters? The only thing that separates me from them is a conscience and a century of nightmares. I look back up at my reflection and green eyes gaze coldly back. I whisper a low level regeneration spell and blood rushes back to my cheeks. Lines and shadows around my eyes smooth out. I shave and look at myself again. I look in control at least, instead of an inmate in a 19th century asylum. But my eyes are totally hollow. I sigh. Today is not going to be a good day.