Chapter 39

The three of them suddenly found themselves in what felt like a sci-fi video game. They were back in what looked like that first dream Riley had ever entered. The black floor was flat, a grid pattern stretched as far as the eye could see, the lines pulsing red. Other than the pink sky, there were no features to this new world.

“Wow,” Raz whispered.

Riley turned, noticing that he was no longer a dragon. He stood there without the cape and cowl of his in-dream persona. He looked just like he did outside the dreamscape, wearing the same shirt and pants as when she met him.

“Raz!” Saber rushed to him and pulled him into a tight hug.

Riley stood there until the two separated. She realized she still didn’t know him all that well and wasn’t sure how he would feel about her hugging him. Instead, she held her hand out. He was so happy to not be a dragon anymore that he started shaking her hand. Then his smile grew as he shook it more vigorously. He laughed, pulling her in for a tight hug.

“Thank you, Riley. Thank you so much,” he said, squeezing the life out of her.

Then the pressure faded and she stepped back. His smile was infectious, and she returned it

“I’m glad to see that you’re you again.”

“You know, I always thought it would be cool to be a dragon, and it kinda was, but being a dragon when you can’t control it was so not cool.”

Riley nodded, and Saber clapped Raz on the back.

“Only you,” she said. “So now that we’re out of there…” She looked around, “do you know where this is?”

They all glanced around, and Raz nodded.

“Well, it looks like we are in the bike game arena for Tron.”

“So this is something more to your tastes?”

Riley looked around. She needed to establish if they’d left the wraith’s nightmare behind, or if it were still controlling things. Riley didn’t need to know. Somehow, she felt that it was still there.

“Well, yeah. I’ve only tried to get you to watch the movie a thousand times. It’s awesome.”

This is that stupid movie?”

“It’s a classic.”

Riley snorted. “Yeah. Like dinosaurs.”

“Not all eighties movies are stupid.”

“No, but they’re also not classics.”

“Whatever.” Raz shook his head. “Fine. If you won’t watch Ready Player One, read the book. That’ll get you hooked on all this cool stuff.”

“If you say so.”

Something was coming. Riley could feel it. She had stepped away from the two as they bantered. It was obvious they had been friends for a long time, so Riley had started to feel like the third wheel.

She felt the surge underneath them, but didn’t have time to yell out before the ground exploded, the three friends being thrown in opposite directions.

Riley landed about a hundred yards away, thankful that without even thinking about it, she had used some of that mystic dream power she possessed to cushion her landing. She had even landed on her feet, quickly turning to face what had just burst through the ground. Her axe was already in her hand, its blade pulsating with purple electricity.

Her friends had not landed so gracefully. Saber had landed and rolled, now on her knees and facing their attacker. Raz, on the other hand, had landed on his back. It was obvious he was a little stunned by the fall as he lay there, shaking out the cobwebs.

All of them were in opposite directions around the large hole in the ground, dust billowing out. Shards of black rock were scattered, some still falling from the sky. The lines closest to them flashed red, others becoming streams of chaotic light.

More and more dust poured out, covering everything.

Wait… It isn’t dust. It’s smoke. And that looks like ash falling.

Riley looked around and noticed ash falling around her, yet not on her. Her shield held, but her friends weren’t so lucky and were covered in the stuff.

That was when Riley noticed the sky. It had turned red with purple clouds, lightning jumping from one to the other. A storm billowed above them, and as it flowed out from the hole, it grew in velocity.

“I have a bad feeling about this!” Raz yelled from his position.

Riley looked over and saw him trying to stand. She soon found out why. The ground started shaking. A rumbling built up from below, while lightning streaked down from above. They were all exposed as there was no cover anywhere.

Then something started to emerge. One claw came up and grasped the edge, its talons digging into the black stone. As Riley stared at it, the other claw came up. They were massive, much larger than what she had seen on the beast in the lair. She wondered just how large a creature they belonged to. She didn’t have long to wait.

Two heads appeared. It took only a second to realize both were attached to the same body.

“It’s two-headed!” Saber yelled.

“What are we going to do now?” Raz called back.

Riley didn’t pay attention to either of them. Instead, she stayed focused on the beast. It was strange, but she could actually feel it. She seemed tuned into it, and now felt the duality emanating. Just like it had two heads, it had two presences. Riley wasn’t sure how she had never felt it before. The feeling flooding through her was so strong now.

The dragon couldn’t get his large wings free from the hole, but it took only a few slams of the large body against the side. More rock broke free, allowing the wings to clear it. With a few flaps, the creature lifted itself into the air and pulled the rest of its body out. Then it landed with a crash, shaking everything, causing Saber and Raz to fall back to the ground.

The dragon wasn’t paying attention to them, though. Since the heads had appeared from the depths of that large hole, it had always been focused in one direction. Now, here it was, both of the heads glaring at her.

Riley had an overwhelming urge to take a step back. It was only with pure force of will that she held her ground.

The two heads were very different from one another. One she recognized. The creature they had seen in the dungeon, albeit larger.

The other head was different, darker. If there were a way a dragon’s head could represent anger, this one did so. The lines were more pronounced. There was red light tracing each one, and even the eyes had red streaks. With every breath it took, steam rolled from its nostrils. This dragon was furious down to its very being.

“Riley, watch out!” Saber yelled.

She was nearly two football fields away, running toward her, but Riley still understood what her friend said. Riley wished she would stay where she was. Saber wouldn’t be able to do anything against this. Only Riley could stop it. Only Riley had the power.

She saw flames already building up in their throats. It was almost like she had x-ray vision as she could see inside of them, the glowing ball of flame getting larger as it rose.

Riley had only once chance.

She took three large, running steps, then leapt into the air. It would be three-quarters of a football field, but she knew she could make it. Riley felt like Supergirl, and there was nothing in this world she could not do. She could even fly if she wanted to. She had just proven that to herself when she had floated down to the ground after the explosion.

As soon as she was airborne, the smaller head of the dragon opened its jaws, moving to snap at her. When she looked at it, the large jaw snapped shut, a chain appearing and wrapping around the long snout.

The smaller head pulled back, the left claw reaching up to try and pull off the chain. The appendage was way too short and came nowhere near the snout. So it worked harder to crane its head down to compensate, but could not coordinate the movement, especially because the other head didn’t cooperate.

In fact, the other head had yet to take its focus off her, opening its mouth to launch the flame. She smiled at the large beast. Then she changed direction and sped up her attack.

Before the large head could adjust, Riley soared at breakneck speed. This was her world. She was controlling it.

In a heartbeat, she swung her axe at the creature’s throat. She wasn’t surprised there was some resistance. This creature wasn’t part of the dream, but a foreign element trying to control it, like her. Riley was not going to let that stop her. It had been weakened. She was not.

When the axe didn’t break through the skin, she roared with fury and felt the world around her shake in response. The clouds swirled around her, and the lightning flashed, some hitting the ground. A few of the strikes tried to get her, but none succeeded. They did, however, slam into the body of the beast.

It howled, and as it did, the flame started to dissipate. She had to hurry. She swung harder, and that was when she felt it. The first sign that the blade sliced through.

With one more swing, the blade went through cleanly. Riley was rocketed forward as all the force she had put into the motion now met with no resistance.

Riley was quick to slow herself, turning in time to see the results of her handiwork. What she saw, well… She couldn’t contain her smile. It spread wide when the red sky faded to blue and the sun broke through the clouds.

The sun was a welcome bit of warmth, but it was not the only source of heat. She watched as the flame that had been building inside the beast consumed the larger of the two heads as it fell to the ground, then consumed the body. Everything turned to ash.

The other head, the smaller one, changed. It broke free from its neck as it fell, the figure they had seen in the dungeon reappearing and landing on two feet. It took one look at the burning beast, then at her before it started running away.

Riley thought about running after it, but never got the chance as the last of the body turned to ash. The fleeing creature disappeared.

“Hey, Supergirl? You going to come down from there?” Saber yelled.

Riley looked down and saw Saber standing below her. That was when she noticed she hovered in air and wore red boots with a blue suit. Riley floated down to Saber, who smiled.

“Nice. Even got the cape.”

Riley looked over her shoulder. Sure enough, there was a red cape flowing behind her. She then looked at her chest and laughed. In the center of her chest was a large symbol—an upside-down triangle with a large “R” in the center.

“Wow.” Raz ran up to them, smiling. “That was amazing.”

“Yeah,” Saber agreed.

“How did you do that?” Raz asked.

“I just…” Riley shrugged. “I just took control. I don’t know.”

“Whatever, Supergirl.”

She laughed. “Yeah. I’m pretty sure that name is copyrighted.”

Saber smirked. “Oh, I’m sure it is.”

“I like the cape, though,” Raz said.

“Of course you do.” Saber chuckled.

“So now what?” Riley asked. “How do we get home?”

“Are we sure it’s over this time?” Raz asked, looking at where the dragon had been. For the first time, Riley saw his concern.

She reached out and put a comforting hand on his shoulder. “Trust me. It’s over.”

He looked back at her and nodded, then disappeared. Riley had a moment of concern, but then watched as Saber also faded away.

Riley smiled as she felt herself slip into consciousness.

Published by JasonRDavis

Author of the #zombie apocalypse trilogy Invisible Spiders and the Edge of Darkness series.

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