I woke up swatting at something on my face, but felt nothing but air. Two little people fought on my chest, and a strange, wailing noise stopped—when I realized it was me. I sat up in bed and knocked the creatures off, still struggling with each other as they tumbled to the floor.
I pulled my covers over my head. Listened. It was probably a dream, but the sounds kept up. When they finally stopped, I pulled the covers down and heard a little panting sound. I clenched my teeth and looked over the side of the bed.
There wasn’t much light from the hotel window, but I could just see the two little people on the ground. They had little wings, like the horrors from my nightmares. One of them was panting, and the other was lying on the ground, not moving. The panting one looked up at me, then, and said, “Nathan?”
I jumped out of the other side of the bed and backed up against the wall. I looked around for something I could use as a weapon, but the only thing around was a landline phone, plugged into the wall.
He fluttered up and landed on my bed. “Kid, I’m on your side. I probably just saved your life just now.” The creature bent over, hands on knees, like he was in pain.
His voice was small, like it was coming from tiny music box. Some combination of not knowing what to say to this and my throat freezing up kept me from answering.
He sat on the bed, facing me. “Sit down, Nathan, you’re in trouble, and we need to talk.” I stood still. “Go on!” He encouraged me with a wave of his hand.
I slid my back down the wall until I was sitting on the floor. This was too weird, too scary. I must be dreaming, right? I looked around but felt trapped. There was no way to tell if I was dreaming or not.
“You’ve been having trouble playing the piano, right?”
He shook his head. “That thing,” he referred to the body on the other side of the bed with a flick of his thumb, “is a faerie. I am too. Not all faeries are good. Most of us are. But that one was bad. He’s been draining your piano-playing abilities while you were asleep.”
Faeries? It sounded like the things Dad used to tell me about. Before Mom told him to stop it.
“Don’t worry. He’s dead… Nathan, the polite thing to say is `thank you.’”
“Thanks,” I croaked.
“Aw, don’t mention it!” the faerie said. He stood up and bowed, then settled back down on the bed. “My name’s Imbingy. Heard that some faeries were getting out of line. Came here to check it out.”
“So… it’s over? I’m safe?”
Imbingy frowned, unsure. “You’re safe from this one. But there are others.”
I swallowed. “How many others?”
“Lots of others.”
I put my fingers in my hair and pulled, trying to wake myself. It hurt. Can you hurt in dreams? I didn’t know.
“Lots of faeries, coming in the night? Oh my God.”
Imbingy nodded. “If you set your alarm for every twenty minutes, you could probably catch them before they drained much.”
“Wake up every twenty minutes? For how long.”
Imbingy shrugged. “`Til they got tired of it, probably. They might never stop. Unless you make yourself invisible to them.”
“I can do that?”
“Well, yes, but it’s hard. You’d have to go to the faerie realm and drink the water there. Then they wouldn’t even know you existed. I wouldn’t either, come to think of it.”
“Go to the faerie realm?”
“Yes. There are doorways in your reality. You can walk through them and get to the faerie realm and back.”
I remembered my dad. He left me and Mom, basically so he could… What was it? He was guarding a portal or something. I tried to remember—was he guarding from creatures coming to us, or from us going to them? “Isn’t that dangerous?”
“Yes. It kind of is. You might not even be able to find water once you got there.” He looked like he was about to leave.
“But if I had protection? Like from you?”
“Me?” Imbingy’s wings fluttered. “It’s not really my job…It would be safer, sure…”
“Well, it’s not like I’m safe out here!”
“Can you lead me there? Help me find the water?”
Imbingy crossed his arms. “What’s in it for me? You haven’t even offered me anything for saving you from the bad faerie lying dead on your floor!” He gestured to the dead faerie, whose body was almost completely disappeared.
“Well, what do you want?”
“Do you have any milk?”
“Whole or skim?”
“Uh, skim? I think?”
Imbingy frowned at this. “Tell you what. We go now. We get you in the faerie realm, you drink a bit of water. I make sure you’re safe. It will only take a couple minutes. I think there’s a doorway to it in the park across the street. Then we come back here and you give me a big bowl of milk.”
Was I thinking straight? “Can I bring my mother?”
“Forget it,” Imbingy said, standing up and stretching, “it’s not worth it to me to get adult humans involved.”
“No, no, wait. She wouldn’t let me go anyway.”
Imbingy cocked his head and looked at me. “But you want to go anyway? You’re a brave boy.”
“Let me get my coat.”
“Hurry up before I change my mind.”
I walked out of the room. Mom was still up. “Honey, what are you doing awake?” she looked at her phone. “It’s ten thirty!”
“I can’t sleep. Mom, can I go for a little walk by myself? I need to clear my head.”
It took some talking her into it, but she agreed.
This nightmare will be over in few minutes, whether it’s real or not.