When someone goes to sleep, they visit more places than they ever will while they’re awake. They may dream of beautiful pink meadows with a comfy cabin. Or maybe they found themselves being chased through a neighborhood by a monstrosity of dozens of legs and hands, thousands of eyes, and a single horrifying mouth. But it never matters. They wake up, eventually, in their beds, where they always sleep. But not the dreamers.
In a dispaired world where death and life are blurred concepts, the guts of an undead coincidentally form the word ”Eve”.
Again, the world broke. She slipped. A fissure fractured the liminal space between reality and dreamscape. Phosphorus light flashed, coalesced with pinpricks of darkness. Kaleidoscope images enveloped her in their embrace until time itself spun her around on clockwork hands.
Then, a voice warbled across in fragmented waves. The sound was rough. A man’s mid-range tenor spoke of an eleven-year-old girl — Eve. His daughter, Eve. She was the savior of mankind. The savior of the world. An apocalyptic world ravaged by a monstrous virus released from melted ice caps. And they waited, he said to a dissonant voice from a machine. The man told a listener, E-92, of his belief in his daughter’s triumph, in renewing the broken earth, and in reforging a planet broken by mankind’s own destruction while the fortunate few waited in space stations hovering above a tattered Earth.
A memory took shape, soft and malleable. But the woman craved answers. And she began to remember — she had a father of her own. She wished he was here, but he died long ago. Skin cancer stole him from her right as she was transitioning into adulthood. The memory was almost a question and not a fact she could recall completely. Instead of living, she retreated from the world outside that seeped into his bones and murdered him. But her self-captivity from the sun was fruitless, she thought, drifting through realities.
The man’s sonorous voice faded away into comets streaking across oblivion and black holes swallowing the night. Stars winked out before she could touch them, perforating the opaque nothingness as she fell and hit the hollow ground.
There, she saw her. She knew her immediately. Eve. A beautiful young woman who oozed confidence. Eve’s freckles smattered her face like the stars where her father watched helplessly from above. She saw the girl who would excise the sinister malaise corrupting this apocalyptic version of Earth. No sooner did she blink to eliminate the foggy barrier drifting over her consciousness did she remember the journal. Her hands already grasping the pen, she began to write before she could think about the horrors of a world devoid of any cleanliness at all.
Emilia’s Journal: It happened again. I have crossed over into another plane of existence. This is a new world, where magic has been replaced with a savage apocalypse. How do I return to my former life? Is there no end to the quantum leaping into disturbing unknowns full of substances, surely eating me alive from the inside out? Is this some punishment? I remembered my father now, and I wish I…didn’t. My dad’s death and my isolation are punishment enough! Alas, I will write, as this journal instructed. I dare not talk. I dare not breathe this air, tainted by poison and rotting flesh of creatures that are…not quite human? Oh, god. I need a mask. There’s a girl a little older than Eve here wearing a mask, like a badge of honor. Perhaps she has a supply around here? It looks like I’m in a warehouse or a shelter. And — fuck! A monster wearing the visage of a human — or is it a human wearing the visage of a monster? — attacked Eve and the other children in this compound just now!
She gasped in terror; her body trembled with shock. She watched the masked assassin and her tiny cronies impale the bone-white creature with spears, their aim precise as arrows shot from crossbows.
Emilia’s Journal: I feel bile rising in my throat. It’s a miracle I haven’t thrown up, but what contents do I have to purge from my body? Am I even thirsty? Hungry? After these children saved Eve from the mutant creature, I hastily followed them through the grime inside this public shelter. Heat sticks to my skin, and I would kill one of those monstrosities myself for a fiber-boosted smoothie. I can’t help thinking of fruit and food after seeing the masked leader girl offer Eve strawberries from their packed storeroom. These people are prepared for the end of the world, but I am not. The girl tells Eve of a god named Osiris. Could Osiris be a codename for Eve’s dad? I need to stop thinking about fathers and daughters…the memories are painful. I need to focus more on stopping this stomach-roiling air from overwhelming my lungs.
Stealing a strip of cloth from the storeroom, she wrapped it around her mouth. Although she was much older than these teenagers, she started to wonder about human contact again. Her rough mask matched the masked children somewhat. An aching stifled her breathing, convulsing in her chest when she heard the leader tell Eve about an automated transcontinental that can take her to god. To Osiris. The woman doubled over as an oppressive rush of homesickness for her life — her old life growing up with a father who held her in his arms as he pointed out the constellations piercing the comforting cover of night — choked her.
Emilia’s Journal: Eve and the girl left. I can hardly breathe because I want to leave too. They walk into the distance. The two of them look like dark spots against the mucky orange pallor of the sky. I want to follow them, but they will see me. That girl has heightened senses. She moves unnaturally. I can only hope for Eve’s safety because I don’t trust her. Who can you trust when you’ve been alone for so long? And I couldn’t fend off any attacks even if —
She dropped her pen. The noise vibrated like sonic waves against the ground in her hiding spot. A scraping sound shrieked outside. The children armed themselves with their weapons, still dripping with blood from their earlier kill. Protection against enemies for survival is all they had known. They lined up against the window, an armed force against the villain outside. He took the form of a stuffed bear. But the woman knew he was anything but a harmless toy.
Claws shaped like iron razors protrude from his paws, and his left eye glowed red. He was a nightmare, tattered and patched up, ready to send these children into an infinite slumber. The woman closed her eyes as he attacked. The bear’s speed was abnormal, and she couldn’t handle any further assaults to her splintering mind. Suddenly, tears leaked from her eyes as she shut them closed. Letters scratched against her thoughts. Words scrolled in her head as if being typed: “Eve has a sister. She will protect her from Wexler.” Breaking steel and childrens’ panicked screams echoed until she heard all sound evaporating for a second time.
In a less broken world, a little bird makes a nest with little branches that fly off with the strong wind, falling to the ground and forming the words ”Mouse Guard”.
An excruciatingly lifeless white invaded her line of sight. They thought that maybe it was light, The Light. But it was too opaque, and their time hadn’t come yet. But everything started to focus, like reality itself decided to come together, and they realized it was a room. Like a cloud or a hummingbird, Aimée was floating above the ground in a corner when someone entered the room. It took them a moment to recognize the person, but it was them, and that was their house. They observed themselves as their (past?) version went through a normal day. They stayed in bed for hours, maybe watched something if they were lucky enough to be able to distract themselves, and that was it. Work, rest so you don’t go any crazier, repeat. That was their perfect formula. The days passed, and they thought it was a loop, but the truth is, it was impossible to realize. Then, almost like they just came back to life with a deep breath, Aimée woke up from their dream.
Aimée: Wh-what? That was my life? Shit. Literally. At least my memory’s coming back, I guess.
As they rubbed their eyes to adjust to the sunlight, they started to notice their surroundings. It seemed like an old village from the medieval era. It was a place that exuded history and a little bit of desolation.
Aimée: What the fuck?! Where am I supposed to be now? The thing in the castle was a dream then? How do I know that this isn’t a dream too? As if I could do anything if it was or not. The only thing I have to do is ‘’Write everything’’ apparently. Who even wrote that?
After a long gasp, they decided it was better to wander around and explore. At least that would be interesting and supposedly mean something. They found a cozy home but discovered that the people inside were humanoid mouses. Surprisingly, they loved mouses, and the problem was trying not to hug them more than in fear. Although that sentiment didn’t stay long with Aimée, seeing as the inhabitants were facing difficult times. Following the only rule they now had, they took the journal out from their pocket and started writing everything from outside the window.
Aimée’s journal: It appears the son and the mother are tending to the father’s needs now that he’s ill. He doesn’t look good, and they don’t look hopeful. The mother insists that they stay with him, but the son is hesitant; he wants their attention to be with their restaurant. She is very disapproving of his mentality, so she’s going to tell him a tale!
As Aimée’s pen flowed in the paper like a person dancing on ice, the mother started lecturing her son. She spoke about a mouse who protected an owl. In their culture, it was common for the owls to have multiple mice as guards to defend them from other beasts and as caregivers to help their needs. But that owl chose only him.
During one unforgivable winter, the mouse returned to the owl fatally ill. There wasn’t much the owl could do to help him except being there for him, so he did exactly that. He did every single task the mouse needed help with, and when time ran out for the little mouse, his owl friend stayed with him.
Aimée’s journal: I wonder if I’ll have someone to look over me like that. The odds don’t seem to be with me, though. At least I know it’s possible. The child is now sure he wants to stay for his dad because helping when needed is the correct thing. I feel like I shouldn’t be here. This moment belongs only to them.
The day was young, so Aimée kept exploring this world that seemed very much like their own. Although if you asked them, they’d probably say it was cuter. They now encountered a little mouse on top of a tower. She was writing about a book she discovered. As she was narrating out loud what she wrote, Aimée found out the book told the story of a mouse. She decided to explore the world and learn as many cultures and languages from other animals as possible. Considering her family was grieving for her sister in ways incomprehensible to one another, Aimée imagined the possibility of learning to understand other people as well as we understand ourselves must’ve been comforting.
Aimée’s journal: I think I never got the hang of people either. Everyone’s so complex in their particular way. I guess even we are. But you’ll get there, little mouse, I’m sure.
Aimée walked down the tower into a forest. All this nature was a bit threatening for them, but this world never felt malicious; it felt normal. She encountered two mouses trying to go past some fence made of rocks when an older mouse stopped them and warned them to never go past it. He told a great story of how one mouse parted from his village with his insect friend to hunt beasts, but a wolf attacked them and kill them all except him. He would’ve been dead if it weren’t for the spirit of a mouse hunter that saved him from the wolf. He finished his anecdote by telling the two children that they should only fight beasts if they come for them or the village. Looking for a fight where there is none would’ve stripped them from any morals they might have.
Aimée’s journal: He says going past the safe territory is not a good idea, so what’s left for me? It seems that’s all I do, and I don’t even want to. Shit, it’s getting dark, and I walked a lot. A part of me doesn’t want to sleep; I know what will happen. But what else can I do?