“A Perchance to Dream”
Stardate 74506.7; July 04, 2397
Written by Chris Adamek
Alan Christopher was lost.
He had been warned not to deviate from the main road prior to leaving, having heard countless stories of fellow adventurers who never returned from similar journeys. And not wanting to join the ranks of those gone astray, Christopher initially complied with those warnings, mindlessly following the long and winding path through the gloomy wood with alarmingly robotic rhythm. But time gradually rendered his forested surroundings monotonous, and curiosity began to rear its ugly head; Christopher couldn’t help but wonder what was beyond the confines of his trail.
As he left the path behind, Christopher assured himself that he would not stray too far—that he would always keep the path in sight. It was a comforting sentiment, but as he wandered through the ominously silent woods, Christopher knew he had no intention of limiting himself as such. And so he forged ahead through the dry, browning underbrush until he finally emerged in a wide open plain on the other side of the woods.
Yellowing blades of wild, untamed grass danced in the bitter breeze, occasionally spitting up a few golden leaves that had fluttered to the ground from the branch of a distant oak. Soon, the ground would be blanketed with leaves, for the winter months drew nearer with each passing moment—but for the time being, the tall, gnarly oaks were content to keep their golden foliage.
High overhead, a flock of chipper sparrows soared beneath a roiling deck of ashen gray clouds. Widely scattered drops of icy rain had already begun to pelt the ground, and as another gust of nippy wind rushed across the plain, Christopher was certain a heavier downpour was imminent.
He hastily trudged over the lumpy terrain toward a knobby old oak sitting near the center of the grove. It was devoid of life, save a lone raven perched upon one of its brittle branches.
The black bird afforded a moment to squawk at Christopher before spotting another raven in the distance. Upset by the intrusion, the raven quickly moved off to scare the uninvited visitor away. At hearing the raven’s strident cries, the intruder quickly flew off, and the bird returned to the foot of its gnarly oak. It pecked at the ground for a brief moment before something caught its attention—and in the blink of an eye, the raven made a swift departure.
The raven left a deafening silence in its wake. The leaves were as still as paintings, the birds fell dreadfully silent, and the wind died to an ominous whisper.
A timid chill slowly danced down Christopher’s spine, and every last instinct in his body commanded him to run. Though it remained unseen and unheard, it was a certainty that danger lurked very nearby.
He forced himself to chuckle. “It’s nothing,” he assured himself. “Just the calm before the storm.”
And he almost believed it.
Swiftly, with each step harboring more and more trepidation, Christopher guided himself back toward the ominously silent forest, very much regretting his decision to stray from the path. Thankfully, his detour had been minor… he hoped. Having declared himself lost earlier, Christopher had little idea where he was in relation to the path—only that it was inside the woods.
“It shouldn’t be that hard to find,” he told himself. The grove appeared to run parallel with the path, and since Christopher was relatively certain he cut a perpendicular swath through the forest, his task was probably a simple one—he was simply blowing things out of proportion.
A twig snapped.
Christopher’s eyes darted downward, but found no corresponding twig beneath his feet. In that same instant of horror, one desperate word popped into his head: RUN!
He complied, but got no further than a few feet before a large, gray wolf sprung from the browning thicket and charged at Christopher. In the blink of an eye, he came about, furiously running in the opposite direction—but it was no use. The wolf was already ahead of him, bearing its jagged teeth.
“I want the package,” said the wolf.
Christopher’s first inclination was to question the very existence of a package, but as he peered down into his hands, he suddenly noticed that he did indeed carry a package. It was a small brown box, carefully tied shut with a piece of string. He shook the box, and the wolf promptly growled. Christopher quickly decided its’ contents were rather valuable, even though his actions produced no noticeable noise. He had to keep the package safe—at any cost.
“The box,” said the wolf. “Give it to me. NOW.” His eyes glowed orange with anger, and he took a few steps closer to Christopher.
“No,” said Christopher softly, taking a few steps away from the wolf. He stumbled over a small hole in the ground, but quickly recovered. “This package is mine.” Slowly, he tugged at the string atop the package until it fell to the ground, and then removed the lid, curious to see what it was that the wolf was after.
But the box was empty.
Incensed, the wolf sprung into action…
…And Alan Christopher bolted straight up in his bed. The sudden action movement frightened Cleo terribly, and the little cat bolted away at speeds very near the speed of light. Erin only grumbled, and placed a caring hand upon Alan’s shoulder as sat in silent contemplation.
“What’s wrong?” she wearily asked, forcing a smile to her face.
Alan’s mind was still racing, and his heart pounded furiously in his chest. But as he gazed down at his chest, he duly noted that it was free of wolves—and that his experience was little more than a bad dream. He shrugged nonchalantly and turned his gaze upon Erin. “Nothing,” he insisted. “It was just a dream…”