A Nightmare Gets Away From You – Part 1

Cat Guardian

The Cat Guard (TM) came from the Feline Dream Security Co.  The reviews on Yelp and Amazon hadn’t been very helpful for Sabrina in making the decision, but an enthusiastic pitch from a fellow web Dreamer had clinched it. Her Dreams were becoming problematic. Every morning the tiny corpses of her characters had been littering the bedroom floor, gruesomely (if bloodlessly) clawed by the assassin her subconscious had materialized, a character she had hoped would be the key to conflict in her ongoing Internet video series, but was never present except in the evidence of his crimes.

Dreamers like Sabrina had become high demand content providers once certain constraints of reality seemed to vanish overnight a decade ago. She had found herself, along with thousands of others, able to give physical reality to what were normally vague, disconnected fantasies of normal human sleep and provide structure and narrative. A new form of entertainment sprung whole from the mind became the next big thing, and of course, the monetary costs for production being so low made it possible for individuals with captivating dreams to have lucrative careers. Eventually, the tiny settings and performers would dissipate in the evenings and the cycle would continue in her sleep state until time for the plot to be recorded the next day in the confines of her nicely appointed Upper West Side apartment. The characters themselves didn’t seem to mind the repetition, and things were moving along for the past month without a hitch.

Then a nightmare became a loose cannon: The Rat Assassin.

Sabrina Aline, an up-and-coming producer of Dream fiction, groggily rose up and looked at the cat named Horace, himself a dream product sustained by who knows what kind of permanent miracle, and thanked him.

“No trouble this night, was there?” she asked while putting on her slippers. The floor showed only the dollhouse headquarters of the Closetonians and a few active toy people going about mundane things.

“No ma’am. At least not of the nightmare rodent variety,” he replied. “Your plot seems to have stalled a little, if you don’t mind me saying.” Everyone, even magically provided cat security personnel, apparently was a critic. “I guess they can’t all be blockbusters,” she said with a sigh. Last night’s Dream was light on her protagonists, Kim the Doll Knight and her trusted companion, Oakley, the Captain of the Wooden Soldiers, so this episode was bound to be a bit less interesting to some viewers.

Sabrina looked at her clock and realized that her brother Zav was supposed to be stopping by in a few minutes with some documents or something involving their parents’ estate. Damn his schedule! Quickly throwing on some clothes that at least wouldn’t fall into his preconceived notion that she worked in her pajamas all day, she gently directed her characters over to the staging area with her miniature studio lights and camera off to the side, some of them grumbling but compliant. After just finishing up brushing her teeth and straightening out her hair, the door buzzer went off.

“Zav?” she said pressing the intercom button.

“Yeah, I’m here,” he replied. She buzzed him in, straightened her bed, left the door ajar and started making some coffee. After a few minutes, her brother came in, though still looking behind himself for some reason.

“Hey you,” she said, bringing over a mug. “How are you this morning?”

“Oh, hey, yeah, I’m doing alright,” he said finally looking at his big sister. “Thanks, I wasn’t able to grab a cup — ran out the door. The Bureau’s got me going out to the Island today, then over to Connecticut and Jersey. I’m a little behind. I just need you to sign these papers and we can finally close on the deal.”

She ruefully looked at the stack of documents. “I know mom and dad didn’t expect us to keep it, but I mean … well, you know.”

“Yeah, yeah I do,” he said pulling out his smart phone. “It was a great place, but neither of us can keep it if we’re staying in the city.” He was scrolling through something after putting his barely-touched coffee down, so she grabbed the pile from his arms. Everything was neatly tagged with where to initial and where to sign, but it still took a few minutes and included some aggravating moments where Zav would feel compelled to instruct her.

“OK, it’s done,” she said. “Why are the weather cops sending you all around the Tri-state anyway?”

“I wish you wouldn’t call us that,” Zav chirped. It couldn’t be helped, but he always sounded a little bird-like to her when he became indignant. “I’m overseeing moving a low pressure system into the area since we need a lot of rain after the PA guys screwed up last month. And please, we’re weather adjusters, not cops, or wizards, or whatever the hell else you creative types like to call us.”

“Right, it’s just kinda funny, the government taking something so incredibly powerful as being able to ‘magically’ push clouds around and labeling it ‘weather adjustment’,” she snorted.

“Whatever you call it, it’s a job and someone has to control the weather.”

“I never thought so.” Sabrina quickly realized that was crossing a line when she saw his ticked off glare. While Zav’s natural talents were astounding on their own, he had always been a bit jealous of her own gift. He legitimately enjoyed doing what he believed was a service to people, but he certainly was more artistically-minded than most of his dull, clock-watching colleagues. “I didn’t mean that. Sorry.”

“Never mind, I have to go. Everything’s signed? Good. I’ll be in touch when I get the word back from the lawyer,” he turned around to leave when he looked over his shoulder. “By the way, you should really contact the super. I think the biggest rat I’ve ever seen scampered by your door and down the hallway when I got up here.”

“What?” she said, startled.

“Yeah, you might need to check with him about setting traps,” he said absently. “Anyway, gotta run. I’ll catch you later, Brina.”

She closed the door after him and wondered if she should have paid closer attention to the negative Yelp reviews.

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