Stargazer: Part Four
The Draik's answer was hushed.
"It's too much," Azurabel whispered. Sweat beaded at her hairline, as Psellia watched, and trickled to merge with sudden tears. "My dream... my dreams are... just too much," she repeated, swiping at her green cheeks. "I don't... I don't... even want to look at them." Azurabel's eyes, certainly, were directed downwards, at the claws that fisted still in the snow.
"I... ah." Psellia licked her lips, stepping back as she processed the pet's words. There was confusion there, frustration and, most starkly, desperation. Each was echoed in the anxious way that Azurabel was now gritting her teeth. It wasn't, Psellia inferred, sadness that she perceived so much as dissatisfied uncertainty and anger. Whether she realised it or not, Azurabel held out hope that something could be done towards the problem plaguing her.
The air faerie ploughed forward. "What about your dreams is 'too much'?" Hoping to narrow the query, Psellia soon re-phrased. "What expressly about this one dream is 'too much'?"
The dark head lifted and Azurabel's tear-stained face became visible for a moment, all too brief. "Everything," she said simply. There was a muffled thud as the Draik rested her forehead on her folded arms and disappeared once more from scrutiny.
Psellia froze as surely as the ice and snow had around her. She found herself, as she had begun to often, shaking her head and, limbs unlocking, she retreated another step. What did Azurabel mean, 'everything'? Was she saying that it wasn't just an aspect of the dream that troubled her but the dream in its entirety? "Do you mean, Azurabel," Psellia half-faltered, "that dreaming overwhelms you?"
The Draik bided her time in replying and Psellia used the heartbeats to untangle her jumbled thoughts. Flashing before her mind's eye were images of Azurabel destroying what she'd dreamed the previous night. Silver-black meteorite dust, Psellia saw, mingled with and darkened the fumes spiralling from where the space rocks had smashed cliff into the sea. Fire leaped and danced, fuelled by the same wind that it had coloured, and devoured bush after tree after hill in a hot, smoky rage. She could still hear the thudding sound of the meteorites' impact, feel the resounding booms beneath her feet.
Psellia's knees gave out. Gasping at the sudden cold, she blinked herself back into the present. It was not a memory that Psellia was feeling. She put a steadying hand out, on the snow, as she stared into the far distance. Enormous shovels, handles lost among the clouds, had extended from the blue-violet skies. They dug into the ground with abandon and launched vast spadefuls of snow into the horizon like colossal slingshots. Horrified, she wondered which was louder: the destruction or her now-frantic pulse.
"Azurabel!" Psellia warned, voice sharp. No response followed and a glance told her that the pet had curled into herself further. A second told her, confirmed by shredding noises, that the fabric of the dream was ripping. Sky gave way to nothingness as it was rent apart and destroyed. Unlike the night before, there was no pink-purple beneath the canvas or anything that might indicate a shift to another dream landscape. There was white and only white and what that signified, Psellia didn't know.
She needed to do something, that much was apparent. She needed to intervene in the dream and do so now. Steeling her will, the faerie closed her eyes and visualised the shovels disappearing. She opened them to see the metal blades pull away, retreating into the heavens from which they'd descended. Psellia's breath escaped her in a gust and she flopped onto her back, inhaling and exhaling deeply. "Thank Fyora."
"I'm so, so sorry," Azurabel stammered. "I didn't mean..." she trailed off, drawing in a long, rattling gulp of air. "I didn't... mean to do that." Rolling to her side, Psellia saw the faerie pet raise her head and, wringing her paws, turn her face to hers. Shimmering in Azurabel's blue gaze was the same turbulent set of emotions she'd noted earlier though, of them, confusion now shone plainest. The Neopet coughed, clearing her throat. "How," she squeaked, "did you do what you did? You stopped me."
Psellia paused while her heartbeat calmed. "It's not something I do often," she mused. Looking down at herself, a nervous smile danced fleetingly across her lips. The coat that kept her warm was not something she'd been wearing beforehand but something she'd imagined into being. "When I enter others' dreams," Psellia began, "I can, to an extent, influence their dreams. It's how," she hesitated, laughing despite – or because of – the situation, "I'm able to protect myself from the cold right now." While it was, of course, the dreamers' own, individual thoughts that characterised their dream environments, she had, in interacting with their dreams, the capacity to change and add to them if she so chose.
Psellia waved a hand. "That's not especially important." She frowned, recalling what the pet had stammered. "You said that you didn't intend the destruction just now." What that suggested was that the dream wasn't wholly under Azurabel's conscious control.
"Yes." Azurabel's nod was halting but her voice no longer wavered. "I can't always," she admitted, "keep things together." The Draik's teeth bit into her bottom lip, though, and her shoulders tensed up. "It is," Azurabel acknowledged with effort, "overwhelming. Too much." Her former discomposure spilled out in her last two words.
"You can't always," Psellia surmised, "keep your dreams under complete control, you mean." Cogs started to creak in the inner echelons of her mind as, assessing Azurabel, a switch flipped. "Could it be," Psellia theorised aloud, "that it's not, perhaps, the dreaming itself that scares you? It's the idea," she went on, "that you can't control it, that you can't control your imagination?"
The faerie Neopet seemed again conflicted. Azurabel opened her mouth, closed it and opened it once more. "I... yes," she blurted, paws fisted, and blinked as if shocked by her own statement. "It's too much for me to handle."
Deflating, the Neopet clapped a paw over her lower face a moment later. "Never mind what I said," Azurabel back-pedalled, holding out her free paw. She was, clearly, of two minds. "You can't help me." She squeezed her eyes shut and turned fractionally away. "I don't know what... I was thinking in writing back to you. You can't understand what it's like."
Psellia's first instinct was to stiffen. Each word Azurabel spoke came to her as though a physical blow. The Draik certainly was stubborn. Forcing herself to relax, she unballed her own fists and infused lightness into her voice. "I wouldn't," Psellia said, "be so sure." Jumping, the Draik looked back at her. "I've had problems of my own," she told Azurabel. "Problems that I'd thought that I'd never overcome. Problems," the faerie stressed, "that I'd thought I'd never have control over." Hadn't that been exactly what she'd mused just the night before, on the clouds? That she had no sway over where her dream-self went?
"Today," she reflected, "I've taken my very first step, I think, towards taking control." Psellia wasn't sure how she'd landed herself back in Azurabel's dreams. She wasn't sure if she could repeat the feat if she tried the next night. She was sure, though, that she was determined to find out. "It won't be easy but if you don't try to overcome your problems then you never will." Psellia was learning this for herself.
Azurabel's immediate response was to gape. "I... guess that's true," the pet murmured slowly, with something like awe. She blinked several times and squinted at Psellia. The faerie could tell that she was about to launch into an onslaught of questions.
But Psellia had something niggling at her own thoughts. What the pet feared bothered her, somehow. "Is imagination," she sounded out, "really something that you want to rein in, though?" Psellia looked past Azurabel, at the dream landscape that the Draik had constructed. "It seems to me," she continued delicately, "that the most, well, incredible thing about dreaming is where your imagination takes it." Long had this been her belief. Imagination was a wondrous, powerful gift.
"Incredible..." The twist of the pet's lips was turned inwards and she again seemed to clam up. "I don't know if I believe that, I have to say."
"Why is that? Tell me." Psellia let some of her irritation show. Directness was needed here, she knew. Azurabel needed to be pushed if she was to tell Psellia anything.
Azurabel sagged. "Fine," she relented. "Fine. But I won't tell you."
"What do you mean?" Psellia didn't understand where she was headed.
"I'll show you." Azurabel took a breath and released it sluggishly. Concentrating, the Draik focused on the ground before them and stood back as the desk from her bedroom materialised. Azurabel pulled a drawing pad towards her as she uncapped several pens. "Watch," she instructed.
Psellia crept forward while the Neopet drew and peeked over her shoulder. Coloured lines arced across the paper in fluid succession. First red then orange and yellow, then green, blue and purple. "A rainbow," she noted. So it was. The drawing was, however, a rainbow unlike any Psellia had seen. The pet had sketched zigzagged patterns into each coloured band and the rainbow was drawn in such dimensions that it almost appeared to lift off the page. Bursts of glitter decorated the rainbow's length. "Wow." Azurabel had taken the concept of something beautiful and recreated its image in a way that made it seem, somehow, magical.
The Draik turned to regard her, capping a pen, and Psellia rubbed her eyes. "Whoa." The rainbow illustration was peeling itself from the page and, leaving it blank, rising into the air with an odd, suction-ish kind of sound. Cupping her hand to her head, she peered towards a section of the sky that now burst with sunlight. The drawing positioned itself among the clouds and hung there, sparkling cheerily, as she pondered what it was that Azurabel had wanted to express in sketching it. She could've just imagined it into being.
"Of course," Azurabel said with a slight smile, "anything's possible when you're asleep and dreaming." She craned her neck to contemplate the rainbow and her smile faded. "But," she stressed, features wiped clean of any humour, "that's not what I mean to show you here. This is what happens whenever... and... wherever... I draw."
Psellia didn't so much as twitch. She'd been through such a whirlwind of thought and emotion – such astonishment, wonder, anxiety, exasperation – tonight that, at this point, she was positive that nothing now could shock her. "I see." The Neopet didn't need to be dreaming to be able to bring what she imagined into existence. She truly had a magical gift.
Azurabel did twitch. "You... see?" A second passed and it became clear that, whatever she'd expected of Psellia, she hadn't expected a calm reaction. "I'm serious."
"Yes. I see," Psellia reiterated. Sighing, she massaged her forehead before slapping her own cheek. It was draining but she had to keep going. "That's why, I suppose, all those sheets were blank." Psellia nodded to the trash can under Azurabel's desk. Like the night before, the metal cylinder was brimming with balls of paper.
"Mmm." Azurabel's Blandfish-eyed expression was back.
"So," Psellia concluded, "that's what you're really afraid of, then." The faerie nodded. It made sense. "You're troubled by how strange your ability is?" Psellia could empathise with the Neopet. Her particular talents, while no less unique than many other faeries', definitely fell into the 'odd' and 'hard to handle' baskets.
Azurabel was still goggling at her. "I've never thought about it like that." She shrugged and told Psellia, "In fact, I've avoided thinking about it at all."
"That's only natural. But it's important to reflect and set things straight eventually," Psellia said. She didn't mean to sound preachy so she softened her tone. "Things will just eat at you otherwise."
"Mmhmm. There's that, yes." Azurabel swallowed. "I never asked for it," the pet flared up without warning. "I know it's a stupid thing to say but it's not something that I want."
Wry amusement curved Psellia's lips. "There are many, I think, who'd say that they feel – or have felt – the same way about their own gifts."
"You sound like you know what you're talking about." Azurabel's gaze sought hers.
"That's because," Psellia confessed, "I do know. Do you remember how I mentioned, earlier, that I had problems of my own?" The faerie pet had thought that Psellia wouldn't understand if she were to open up to her. Psellia had told Azurabel that she'd struggled with the control she exercised over her own ability.
"Yeah." Azurabel took a step toward Psellia. "You didn't tell me anything beyond that, though." Her features grew expectant.
Psellia's smile became a chuckle. "I think it'd be better," she returned, "if I show you."
To be continued...