Dakota's Dreamcatcher

by Kristina Renee Pringle

Dakota jerks awake from her latest nightmare, gasping wildly and fighting the urge to throw up, all the while trying to remember where she is. You would think she would be used to it by now, seeing as she's been having these nightmares since her and her mom moved into the old house that they inherited from some great-uncle she never knew she had. She calculated mentally: That means she's been having these strange, disorienting dreams for about a month. The strange thing is, though she can never remember what her dreams are about, she feels that they are connected somehow.

She glances at the alarm clock: 6:17. With a groan, she heaves herself out of bed, searching for her sweater. She thinks that a walk and some fresh air might do her some good. She finds her sweater and clumsily slips it on, her arms still half numb with sleep. She then begins the impossible task of looking for a pair of socks. She really had never gotten around to unpacking the thousands of boxes which contained her bedroom things. She felt it might seal the deal, and they might never leave this creepy old house. Abandoning her quest for a pair of matching socks, she throws on a green one with purple stripes and an orange one with blue polka dots, both which were found under he bed getting acquainted with the dust bunnies.

She scribbles her mom a quick note and after a few minutes is able to find some scotch tape to stick it to the coffee pot. With a small smile, she realizes that her mom hasn't gotten around to much unpacking either. She grabs her house keys and an extra jacket off the back of the front door and slips out, making sure the door is locked behind her.

Since she just moved here and isn't very much of an outdoorsman, it doesn't really matter which way she turns at the end of the never-ending sidewalk that leads up to her gigantic, rusty porch. She takes a look behind her before deciding which way to go. What she sees chills her blood. On the second floor, there is a light on. Did she turn off her bedroom lights? She struggles to remember. She's positive she did. But she has to be wrong! Deciding not to dwell on it, she quickly turns back around and chooses to go left, trying to shun the image from her mind, trying to convince herself that it was just an image left over from her nightmare.

Walking on, she comes to a deserted four-way stop. The silence sends another shiver up her spine, and she tells herself that it's simply a small town and that it makes no sense for anyone to be out here this early in the morning. I am, she thinks to herself. Hugging her coat tighter around her small body, she walks on.

She stares into the shop windows as she walks along, though she's not really seeing. She is contemplating her dreams, what they might mean, and why she can't remember them. Suddenly, she realizes that her feet aren't moving anymore. She shakes her head as if to clear it and looks into the dusty shop that her feet have brought her to a stop in front of. She can't the name of the shop or anything. Intrigued by why she stopped, she cups her hand around her eyes and peers through the dusty glass. At first she doesn't see anything. As she looks around, she notices something that appears to be glowing and floating.

She jumps back from the glass as if it had burned her. Still more curious, she tries the door. It's unlocked. She pushes the door open and thick cover of dust falls on her. She quickly moves out of the way and further into the abandoned shop. here are many shelves and tables, but they all seem to be empty. At least that's what she thinks, until she sees a table with an object on it. It's the glowing thing she saw through the window! She's sure of it! And it wasn't floating; the window was just too dusty to make out the table holding it up.

Upon closer inspection, she finds that object to be a book. But not just any book! Oh, no! This had to be the most beautiful book that Dakota had ever laid eyes on. The thick, sky-blue cover showed an angel. The angel had to be the most peaceful looking being on the face of the earth. It had pale, glowing skin and long, flowing, shining gold hair. It was adorned with jewels and seemed to represent everything good. Just gazing upon the six inch illustration of the angel's beauty made her feel about half that size. Even through the dust, the angel's white robe seemed to give off its own bright, white glow. Even before she has fully taking it in, she knows he must have it. She carefully stuffs the book under her arm inside her jacket and makes her way back to the front of the shop. She has the feeling that someone, or rather something, was watching her. She goes to the front door to find it jammed. With her heart pounding and her blood rushing, she pushes harder. Then she remembers that she had to push the door to come in. She tries pulling the door and it opens right up. Scolding herself for acting like a fool over nothing, she sprints out of the shop and heads home trough the winding street.

She is turning the knob of the front door of her house before remembering she locked it. She reaches around her neck for her keys and grabs at empty air. She tears her gaze away from the book for the first time since she got out of the shop. She checks her jacket pockets, then her sweater pockets, and then in a last desperate hope, her pajama pants pocket. Now quickly turning to blind panic and dropping the book, there are only two thoughts chasing each other around in Dakota' mind: "I left the keys on the table in he shop!" "I can't go back there, there's something waiting for me!" Around and around her head, again and again and again. Reaching to pull her hood up against the now chilly breeze, she grabs a piece string instead of fabric. She pulls. It's her keys! They must have swung around to the back of her neck when she ran out of the shop. With a sigh of relief, she picks up the book (she had already come to think of it as hers) and, after snatching her mom's note off the coffee pot, dashes up to her room.

She sits on her bed in her room and just gazes, empty-minded, at he book. She decides to open it. She opens it to the first page, expecting illustrations as wonderful and breathtaking as the cover. The page was empty; completely empty. So were the second third, and fourth pages. The whole book was empty! She figures it must be some type of journal and decides to make it into her dream diary. Dakota's Dream Diary. She likes the sound of that. Maybe if she can write her dream down fast enough after she wakes up, she won't forget it. She puts her new diary and a pen in the drawer of her nightstand.

The next night at about 2:33 a.me., she jerks awake. She fumbles for her pen and diary, struggling and desperate not to let the dream elude her this time. When she finally gets it open, she finds that her dream is already written down. Deciding it must be just another dream, she falls back into a fitful sleep. She is jerked awake again by another nightmare only a couple of hours later. This time, struggling even harder to keep the dream in her mind and intact, she grabs her diary and a pen, only to find her dream has already been written down again. A closer look reveals that it isn't even her handwriting. She decides right then and there that the book is going right back where she found it..

She glances at the clock: 5:45. She can run the book back to the shop now. The sooner the better. She throws on a sweater and a pair of flip-plops and heads our the door, not bothering to leave a note or lock it.

She jogs down the street back to where the shop was. The door is still unlocked. Holding her breath, she quickly runs in, puts the book on the table, and runs back out and all the way home. This time she knows she felt something watching her.

When she reaches her bedroom, she flops down on her bed in exhaustion, with every intention of going back to sleep. As she covers up and turns over, she sees something on her nightstand. It's glowing. She flicks on the light to see the angel staring at her accusingly from the cover of the book. It no longer looks as peaceful as it did when she first saw it. She picks up the book as if it were a white-hot piece of metal and throws it in her closet.

The weeks go by and Dakota continues to have nightmares. She tries to stop herself from reading her diary, which she can't really call hers anymore, but something in her really wants to know what she was dreaming about.

One day, as she is reading the book, she discovers that there are only two pages left in the book. She finally realizes with a dreaded certainty that she doesn't wan tot know what happens to her in her dreams and she never did. But she has no choice but to finish the story. The story is so horrible, she can barely read it, and I can't even write or talk about it.

Dakota stays awake one night, but on the second night, she dozes off for about a half hour. When she jerks awake from the nightmare, she finds that there is now only one page left in Dakota's Dream Diary. Determined not to let it happen again, she sneaks into her mom's medicine cabinet and grabs a bottle of her old sleeping pills.

Dakota stays awake for another night. Then two nights. then three nights. Then her mom finally begins to catch on. Dakota tells her about her nightmares, bur refrains from mentioning the diary, for fear that her mom would think her crazy. Her mother told her she had the same problem when she was Dakota' age, so her mother made her a dreamcatcher. The dreamcatcher was suppose to catch all the good dreams and keep them and let the bad dreams leave through the holes. It worked.

Suddenly, Dakota's mom remembered that she still has it in a box in the living room. She runs down to get it and comes back up with a hammer, a nail, and a beautiful dreamcatcher. Dakota's mom hangs it above her bed, and she sleeps for about 36 hours. After all she had been awake for three days straight.

When she wakes up, she takes the diary and a trowel and digs a hole and the wild, untamed garden in the back yard. Without opening it a single time, now knowing the price you pay for knowing your fate, she tosses it into the hole and buries it. The garden will grow over it.

Several days later, Dakota is walking down the street when she realizes that she's on the same street that the shop was on. As she walks closer and closer to the spot of the shop, she gets a feeling of dread. She walks on, and stands in front of the place where the shop was. She is staring at a lot that is empty.

Completely empty.

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