“Really Nadiya?!” screamed the Sandman, “I teach you how to modify the weather slightly and you keep conjuring thunderstorms!”
“What’s so wrong with thunderstorms?” asked Nadiya innocently as she gazed over the balcony with an air of melancholy. “I like the lightning best personally.” She grinned as she turned her gaze to the chaos overhead.
“Thunderstorms are fine when you’re not in a building made of sand!” said the sandman through gritted teeth.
“Fine!” Nadiya moaned like only a teenager could. “Give me a moment” she said pondering for a moment. The sandman went to protest but she shushed him causing his eyes to burn like the desert sun. “I’ve got it!” she exclaimed “Mr. Morpheus can you help increase the static level of that storm?”
Morpheus, aka the sandman, stared at her in confusion briefly, “Why, what do you have in mind?”
“I think I know how to make your city a little more resistant to the storms.” Nadiya beamed at her temporary mentor.
With realization donning on him Morpheus joined Nadiya at the balcony and stretched his hands over the quickly reforming city as it dried. “I see what you’re implying he said, but follow my lead this time alright?”
Nadiya nodded trying to contain her glee as she raised her hands in unison with her teacher. As she did waves of sand darted in and out of the clouds agitating the air; causing a barrage of skillfully aimed and charged lightning bolts to rain down crashing into the towers and roads, solidifying certain part into patterned multi-coloured bricks and shingles. The city went from an elaborate sandcastle unto a crytaline city of dreams.
Nadiya went to lower her hands thinking they had finished when the sandman snapped, “Not yet! I have an idea, just keep the lighting coming in a ring around the edge of the city!”
Not wanting to argue with him she continued to rain down lightning but this time she was aiming at the edges of the city limits; where the sandman was raising, what looked like a wall that crystalized into an almost invisible glass as the lightning coursed through the grains of sand fusing them into the desired shape. As it grew higher than the highest towers themselves she began to understand, it was no wall! “Oh wow, I get it now!” She said as she focused on her barrage.
The walls kept climbing and tilting inward until they created an arched cone around the city. They had sealed the city in what looked like the bottom half of an hour glass. Effectively placing them at the center of a very large greenhouse. Finally finished they both lowered their hands and stared at the familiar but evolved version of the sandman’s domain. “First time I’ve changed anything this much in almost five hundred years.” Chuckled Morpheus as he leaned on the now glass balcony railing.
“Really?” ask Nadiya with a raised eyebrow, “I would have thought ‘master of dreams’ would be more into creative alterations.” She said the ‘master of dreams’ line with as much sarcasm as she could muster.
“Well when you’re an immortal being that controls a metaphysical force, change just becomes another mundane occurrence. Still I must admit, I do like this idea.” He waved his hand over the railing sending grains of shimmering green sand into the wind which settled into the ground wherever he intended. “Do you mind?” he asked gesturing at the glass dome above.
Nadiya watched the green sand and followed the sandman’s gesture upwards realizing that he was asking for rain this time. With a squeal of delight, she focused on the air in front of her and manifested another storm that rained down onto the newly waterproofed buildings. As the rain soaked into the sand, plant life burst forth from the green grains of sand Morpheus had sown moments ago. They both leaned forward and watched as the previously desolate sand sculpture grew into a beautiful and vibrant city. “So, how long until tomorrow?” asked Nadiya, it was a strange question but fitting for a strange realm like the sandman’s.
The sandman glanced at his watch. “Oh, tomorrow will be here in a just over a week relatively speaking.” Morpheus said this as matter-of-factly as someone reading a calendar to find the next Tuesday.
Nadiya sighed in exasperation, “But it’s been like four months already!” she complained. “Why does time suck so much in this place?”
“Time doesn’t suck in this place” countered Morpheus defensively. “It just takes getting used to dream time, which always runs faster than other places.” They had had this conversation many times before and Morpheus strained to keep the annoyance out of his voice. “Besides,” he said changing the subject, “I told you I would teach you more about the universe and give you the tools to help people, did you really think I could teach all that overnight?”
Nadiya understood his meaning but raised an eyebrow to make a point, “But it technically has been overnight?” she countered slyly.
Morpheus went to correct her but clearly not used to the simplicities of socialization after decades of solitude, he simply shrugged and said “Touché, I suppose you’ve got me there but I do have another job to do you know!”
“I know” she moaned, “and I do appreciate everything you’ve taught me but I’m ready to go now. I haven’t even eaten anything since getting here!” she protested. “Can’t I just leave and wait the last bit of timeout in the real world?”
It was a good point and one that they had, of course, already been over multiple times. The sandman sighed, “No, as much as I would like nothing more; I’m afraid we need to wait for…” He paused trying to consider what to call the creatures in question. “Let’s just say I need approval for you to return.”
“Approval?” Nadiya said with a digusted look, “Approval from who?”
“From me!” came an ominous voice behind them. Turning around they saw a lady in a royal blue dress enter the room. She had blue eyes and black hair in looping shoulder length braids common in the late 1800s. “Sorry to keep you waiting but there was a substantial amount of paperwork to finish up as we have had three separate awakenings and a rogue agent to deal with.” said the mystery woman. She scanned the room “I hope my absence wasn’t missed too much Mr. Havilah?” she smiled her brilliant white teeth at the sandman.
“Yeah!” snorted Morpheus, “I miss you like I miss bedbugs!” It was childish he knew but he hated his assistant, mostly because she was constantly escaping the dream traps he built to contain her. For years, he had tried to imprison her in a near never-ending looped dreamscape, but on one of her escapes she was discovered by his superiors and he was ordered to give hire the meddling girl as his assistant. Much to his dismay and her elation. “Hello Alice,” the sandman whined “please take Nadiya to the office to fill out the paperwork you…”
“What did you call me?” hissed the apparently not Alice.
“I mean Carol! Sorry I meant to say Carol!” Morpheus corrected uncharacteristically. Nadiya stared from Carol to the sandman trying to understand what was going on.
“So, Carol is like your maid or something?” Nadiya asked the sandman,
“Maid?” interrupted Carol, Morpheus sighed feeling a lecture pending from Carol. He leaned against a wall and waved his permission for Carol to continue while at the same time directing Nadiya’s attention to towards the pillar of blue self-righteousness. “I don’t know what Morpheus has been telling you but the truth is I spent centuries as his prisoner!”
Nadiya shot a shocked look at the sandman who simply shrugged and clarified, “It was about two weeks, real time.”
“He stripped me of my name and altered my memories through various demented dreamscapes, but I was too strong willed and escaped everytime.” Carol said triumphantly.
“How could you!” Nadiya spat at the sandman.
Again, he shrugged and replied “Carol has the unique ability to amplify forms of energy she’s subjected to. The memory loss was from lack of sleep since my powers didn’t work properly on her. I brought her here, just like you, to try and teach her how to use her natural talents to do good. Unfortunately, she met a man who was a writer after one of her escape attempts and told him her sleep deprived hallucinations of what happened. That’s why you have the Alice in wonderland stories.”
Nadiya, befuddled once more, looked at Carol who nodded emphatically verifying his story. “What about keeping her prisoner and why is she still here?” Nadiya inquired cautiously.
The sandman rubbed his eyes with his index finger and thumb, causing more magical sand to tumble down forming into a tiny horse drawn carriage that sped off into the hall. “Well,” he began, clearly not a fan of this particular story “I did try to imprison her shortly after that so she couldn’t accidently shred the dreams and memories of half the planet. I wrapped her in the most powerful magic I could muster and in a matter of months she shattered it.” Nadiya and Carol hung on every word as he wove the past into a story. “After that, I was punished for failing and…”
“And,” interjected Carol, “I became his permanent and immortal assistant, and lived happily ever after!”
“But how did she end up controlling her powers?” Nadiya said as she punched holes in their story.
“She’s not actually alive anymore Nadiya.” Sighed the sandman. “Not dead, but more dream sand and hope than an actual person.”
“Basically, I’m whatever the hell he is now!” countered Carol as Morpheus nodded.
“Well aren’t you just the happy couple.” Said Nadiya sarcastically; then turning to face Carol she said, “Anyway, what’s this about having a way out of this place?”
Carol smiled again and produced a suitcase from her own brighter sand, “I just have a few documents for you to sign.” With that she turned and waved Nadiya to follow her.
Nadiya looked at the sandman who smiled sympathetically at her, “You know there’s no paperwork for mastering imaginative force. We just give her those to keep her busy, and she really likes documents.”
Nadiya’s mouth dropped open, “But you said I could leave as soon as you got approval.”
The sandman smiled, “Indeed I did, have fun filling out the approval forms this week!” he started walking towards the hallway.
Nadiya was almost speechless at the realization, “A Week!!!” she screamed.
“Or just over a week!” he called over his shoulder as he headed opposite to where Carol would be. “I’ll come collect you when the others are ready, besides I need to have a little chat with Death about his new friend.”
With that Nadiya was left to a fate worse than death, bureaucracy. “Are you coming Nadiya?” called Carol. Nadiya scowled as bolts of lightning flashed in the distance behind her. With a sigh she decided to just get it over with and marched to her papercut filled doom as the rain began to pour.
To Be Continued….
Thanks for reading this (very rushed) story, I know it’s not my best but I promised myself I would post something once a week. As always let me know what you think and feel free to share (if my unseen errors don’t cause any aneurisms)
- S. Figment