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Dreams of Silence and Shadow

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“Mama!”

Abbie's scream woke Jenny from a restless sleep. She had her feet on the floor before her eyes fully opened. It was only when she saw the flourescent glare that she realized that the horrors had all been a dream.

Dream. Nightmare. Hallucination. Demon hangover. They were all blending into each other these days.

Sometimes she wondered if it would be easier to give in to the dull routine and even more mind-numbing drugs of Tarrytown. Then she pictured Mama, hair wild and eyes wilder, telling her to be watchful, vigilent, and strong. To trust no one but herself and to fight, always fight.

Jenny pushed herself back on the bed until she leaned against the cold wall. The chill seeped into her skin and forced her into wakefullness. Outside her window, the night sky was fading to dawn's blue. There was no point in trying to sleep again. Might as well search her dream for information. Mambo Claudine always said that any nightmare strong enough to wake a person was likely driven by a strong need to recall buried information.

The dream was still blurrily present in her mind. She was walking through the woods with Abbie. Hand in hand, coats puffy and hats warm. It was that day, except that they weren't children. Abbie's hair was straightened and the brown collar of her sheriff's uniform poked out around her scarf. Jenny could feel her own adult body – the ache in the wrist she'd broken while searching for an Etruscan funeral urn, the pull of the skin around knotted scar tissue on her lower back.

She walked with Abbie, and even though they were speaking, Jenny only heard the silence of the woods. The unnatural, uncomfortable silence of woods with no birds or animals, no wind rustling branches, no leaves or twigs crunching underfood. Just the deadened absence of sound that came from standing too near a concussive explosion. Jenny watched Abbie's face as her sister chattered excitedly but all she heard was a muffled ringing, like a distant alarm warning of dangers hidden but approaching.

Jenny focused on her breath, using the vodou priestesses' teachings to lower herself safely into the dreaming. She looked through her dream eyes, searching for details that seemed out of place, that defied even sleeper's logic. Time became elastic as they reached the four white trees.

She held the image of their first steps into the clearing tight in her mind. The diffuse light of the sun cast no shadows, but there was the dark shape of a human body on the ground in front of the trees. The shadowy figure was not large, though the outline was that of an adult sprawled with arms outstretched. Jenny guess it was, or had been, a woman.

Abbie's hand tugged their arms forward. Jenny watched her sister take the first step into the clearing, bravely leading the way, the way she always used to. Her dream-self followed willingly. The way she always used to. Sisters against the world; sisters stronger together. Sisters forever.

Jenny laughed to herself. Forever. Pretty word, but totally useless in a place like Sleepy Hollow. Inside the deathly still clearing, though, forever felt very real. Dream-Jenny and her illusory sister stood on dead grass and looked at the trees. No words passed between them, but Jenny felt reassurance flowing through their linked hands.

After a time – seconds or maybe days – the shadow at the base of the trees began to stir. Its arms scuttled along the ground in a way that made Jenny's skin prickle. The sensation got worse as the figure unsteadily rose to its feet. It wasn't a human motion, more like a puppet being pulled up by tangled strings. In the end, it swayed on feet that barely touched the grass, hunched over with its head down.

With the distance of her dream-walking vision, Jenny was able to see that the shadow creature was exactly that. It only existed in two dimensions, as if painted on the air where it was hanging. The darkness wasn't constant, either. It pulsed in swirls, pushing darker shades of charcoal in time with a silent heart.

“Mama?”

Abbie's voice interrupted Jenny's contemplation of the figure.

“Mama?!”

Abbie sounded increasinly upset. Jenny glanced at her sister and saw that there were tears on her cheeks. Abbie's eyes were wide with shock, or perhaps horror.

“Oh, Mama!”

Abby's free hand reached out towards the figure. Jenny turned back to towards the trees in time to see the swirling darkness take on a warmer hue. Half a dozen pulses later, the shadow had transformed into the image of Lori Mills. Even through the remove of the dream-walking trance, Jenny's heart ached at the sight of her mother.

“My girls, my darling girls.”

The shadow spoke with Lori's voice. The words fell into the silence and filled it with music. Jenny found that her dream-self was crying.

“I wish I could be with you now, as you begin your greatest trials.”

Abbie squeezed Jenny's hand so hard her knuckles ached.

“My dearest Jennifer,” the Lori-shadow said. “Brave fighter. Wise hunter. You must prepare of the battle ahead. You have built your armory, now prepapre your heart.”

“Yes, Mama,” dream-Jenny said.

“Lovely Abigail, be wary. She that brings forth war will lead you far away from your true path. You must find grace to return you to when you belong.”

“Yes, Mama.”

“I love you girls.”

The image of Lori began to flicker within the shadow figure. Her face twisted with pain.

“I hope you know that. I love you so much.”

“Mama!”

Abbie's scream forced Jenny out of the dream for a second time.

She leaned her head back and stared at the industrial ceiling tiles, trying to breathe out the frustration. Another damn prophecy dream. Incomprehensible words from a woman who had made a lifestyle out of being incomprehensible. Not meaningful, just mind clutter. Useless.

Jenny pushed herself away from the wall and made her way to her tiny bathroom, shaking her head at the gibberish her dreaming mind concocted.

“Find grace to return you to when you belong.”

Maybe it was time to try one of those funky Tarrytown Psych cocktails after all.