They say that the only thing to do with a Nightmare is get on it and ride. Not that you get much choice, and you get absolutely no say in the destination, route or direction.
This one had a mane the colour of old bone, a feel of textures too big for their volume or surface, and a coat the shade of midnight sweat. Naturally, there was no saddle or bridle – the ride was not going to be about feeling safe or secure. There was nothing to do but hang on like grim death so as not to wind up under those sharp hooves that were carrying us on to she only knew where.
When she finally stopped, I looked around cautiously. I recognised the place, I’d been carried here by Nightmares before, but I had no idea where we were. The white sand stretched out in a curve ahead of us. On our right lay a sea so dark as to be black, on the left stood trees, shadowy and dark. Overhead, the sky was clear but there were never stars or sun or moon when a Nightmare brought me here. I knew that if I turned around I would see the house again. It would have all its lights on.
It always did.
It had the first night I'd been here, the night when I hadn’t travelled by Nightmare to reach this place. The differences between then and now were simple – I never dream in sound and that night the sky had been full of stars. Strange the things the brain edits out. I needed turn around now. I tried not doing that once and the Nightmare had exhibited very strong views on that.
So I turned. Two stories of house on the edge of the beach. White weatherboards surrounding windows blazing with light, the verandah light on too so we could see our way up the front steps. Waiting for us. Then fire billowed out of…everywhere. There had been screams that night, including mine, but this was always like watching a silent movie.
Afterwards, memory had a smell, but not this. Sometimes there are good reasons you can’t go home. Sometimes there’s no-one left who knows the way and not even a Nightmare can take you there.