The creature from the darkness bellowed one more, throwing its head back and sending spittle flying into the air.
“Ahhhh…” Julian folded his hands together, his tentacles spasming wildly, “okay okay okay okay. Not scared at all. Not scared at all. Think happy thoughts. Happy thoughts…”
Adelaide looked up at him.
“You’re not helping,” she hissed.
“Sorry,” Julian went to step back, almost forgetting the lake of pitch darkness behind him.
The creature swung a monstrous claw and Adelaide flinched. It stopped inches from his face. She saw its scratchy fur, the pale flesh underneath, papery and thin.
“It can’t actually hurt you,” Julian said, “not unless you let it. At least I think it can’t.”
“You already said that I think.”
“Yeah,” he nodded, “just reminding you.”
A claw smashed into Julian’s face, inky blood spurted into the air. He toppled backwards on the brink of the shadowy lake, lurching sideways to get out of the way and maintain his balance. His moan echoed through the space, sonorous as the ringing of a bell.
“I thought you said it can’t hurt us!” yelled Adelaide, panic rippling through her.
“It can’t hurt you,” groaned Julian, “I’m an intruder, it can do whatever the hell it likes to me. You need to stop thinking about it. Make it recede.”
Adelaide stared at him, wide eyed. The creature next to her moved past her and she swore that it even moved through her. It bounded towards Julian’s stumbling form, raising its clawed arms to bring them down on him, wild eyes staring, fanged maw gaping.
Don’t think about it, Adelaide told herself. She turned away. Behind her Julian suddenly started screaming.
“Not helping!” She shouted.
“Oh yeah?” The sarcasm in Julian’s voice was mostly diluted by the agony. He yelled in pain again, though this time admittedly a little more quietly.
Adelaide focused her mind, tried to streamline her thoughts. The creature glared at her in her mind’s eye. She knew it and she knew that she knew it. She remembered so well the many, many nights its image had kept her awake. Its glaring eyes, its curling tongue, its dripping teeth.
Okay, this wasn’t working. This wasn’t working at all.
“Julian!” She said, still not daring to turn back, “you need to get out of here.”
“And leave your memory behind?” Julian gurgled, “No way. I haven’t failed a mission in someone’s mind yet. Granted, I haven’t been beaten up by a deep set phobia in someone’s subconscious, but it’s a first I guess.”
He let out a muffled whine. Adelaide tried to ignore it.
She felt the strange need, suddenly, to curl up into a little ball and sit there, rocking herself. No, she had to fight it. She had to fight it.
“Hey, Adelaide!” a voice made her look up. A figure had walked out of the darkness. It was humanoid, but its skin was as black as a night sky and speckled with stars, its whole form outlined in pale blue fire.
“Yeesh,” it murmured, “you don’t look great.”
Then it punched her. She reeled and fell back, mind turning. She felt a hand grab her by the shoulder and pull her up. Blinking rapidly she focused at a pair of ink black eyes, burning with sapphire flames.
Holding by the scruff of her neck the figure pulled back a fist to hit her again. Instinct kicked in and she brought her knee up between its legs. There was a squark and it let go of her abruptly.
Adelaide prepared to return with a punch of her own when a hand fell down on her shoulder. She turned. Julian was standing there giving her the thumbs up. Some of his tentacles were missing, black blood oozing from the stumps, but he seemed unharmed.
“What?” She said.
“It’s cool,” Julian replied, “that little scrap took your mind off things well enough. Thanks Lee.”
Adelaide turned to the figure wreathed in bluish flames, who was still doubled over in pain.
“That’s fine,” he said, voice unusually high-pitched.
“Lee?” Adelaide’s eyebrows shot up.
“Yep,” he straightened up, “you guys have been gone for ages. I was getting sort of worried.”
“How did you follow us in?” Julian stepped over and clapped Lee on the shoulder, “this kind of psychic connection is tough, especially if you don’t have…” he gestured to his tentacles. Lee nodded.
“I guess I got an adrenaline hit,” he said, “plus I jumped into your mind first. Talk about a magical rainbow bridge.”
He saw that Adelaide was staring at him.
“Dude,” she said, “you look…”
“Awesome,” he grinned, “yeah, I know. You look… better than most.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Don’t worry about it,” Julian waved his hands, “are we going to find that memory then?”
“I can’t stick around much longer,” Lee said, “not so strong as you dude.”
He vanished with a burst of flame. His light left an imprint on Adelaide’s retina. She looked over at Julian, who had leaned over and was dipping his tentacles into the sea of night in front of them.
“Now that thing is gone,” he said, “it should be easier to find… ah ha!”
Standing up he pulled something up from the dark pool with him, a small wriggling thing that looked a little like a fish
“I used to eat these things like they were popcorn. Don’t worry, those days are behind me,” Julian tossed the flickering thing over to Adelaide, who caught it. The instant her fingers touched it she felt a shiver run through her body like electricity. She dropped to her knees, head spinning, images flashing suddenly in front of her eyes. Pictures and sounds spun past almost too fast to see. But… she… remembered.
The burst of colour and sound vanished as quickly as it had spun into reality. The fish-like memory had dissipated into a cloud of glowing strips which floated back to the sea of night. Adelaide was left with a vague feeling of anticlimax. Getting to her feet she looked over at Julian.
“Fantastic,” she said, “I know where the source notes are then. Plus I know where that creepy monster came from, but hopefully we’ll never meet the real thing.”
Julian punched the air. Then he stopped over, grasped her by the hand and the strange, dark world of her mind vanished.