Hello, my name is Alphane and I officially have the worst job in the world. What could that possibly be? Well, I know many would say a job such as trash collector or sewage maintenance would be a bad, and particularly smelly, job to have. From another viewpoint, it could be the worst job because it is mind-numbingly boring like an accountant or toll booth operator. Nope. These aren’t even close. I’m a Night-Mare. This means I torment humans by manipulating their good dreams into bad ones. I don’t enjoy it any more than the humans do. I mean, what kind of creature enjoys thriving off the fear of others? Not me. But I have no choice.
In my world, each netherling is born with unique gifts that determine their path in life. The lucky ones develop beautiful wings, mermaid tails, and magic powers that can bring humans happiness. They are worshiped as the best of our kind and parents celebrate if their child is born with such abilities. Others, such as myself, are not so fortunate. We “evil ones” are the gum stuck to the bottom of society’s shoe. If your child is born with distasteful qualities there is no celebration, only sadness. My own parents, a Nymph and Leprechaun, cried for three days when I emerged as a Night-Mare. I appear humanoid but instead of healthy pink skin, I was born with dark scales over my entire body. They range from a midnight black to stone grey; the dark hues allowing me to blend in with the shadows. Silver jewels frame the underside of my eyes, reflecting my bright green irises which make them glow in the dark. My hair, though soft as a baby, has grown thick and coarse like a horse’s mane.
Both of my parent’s breeds are considered very good. Mom can make flowers bloom even in the harshest winters and Dad brings good luck. I received neither ability. Physical deformities, parasitic appetites, and misguided magic are some of the most common traits that mark the outcast. But did anyone ask if we enjoyed to hide under beds, slink through the shadows at night to prey upon unguarded humans? No.
Let me give you an example from my life. Every night I sneak under the cover of darkness into the mortal realm and choose a family to prey on. Locked doors and closed windows cannot keep me out because in the mortal world my body is insubstantial. I can easily walk through walls to reach my destination. Some believe that dream catchers will keep me out of their head like a cross wards away the devil, but this is silliness. I have to suppress a snort of laughter every time I ghost into a house and see one.
Once I am standing above the sleeping form of my victim, the real work begins. There is a special thing that happens when humans dream, there are no physical limits and creativity is overflowing. I can see the connections between dreams as floating gold threads above the head that writhe like snakes as the imagination flows from one idea to the next. If I grasp the threads, I can manipulate the dream any way I please. The process is similar to a spider weaving a web. I instinctively know which thoughts need to connect to create a new dream without interrupting the current one. While in their mind, I can gather what each person fears and incorporate that into their dreams. Fear, to put it simply, scares the imagination off the path of creativity and will detour into me. The more scared a human is, the bigger my meal. If I incorporate one minor fear, just something that makes that person uncomfortable, that would give me imagination equivalent to a few french fries. But if I use four strong fears, that would give me a whole steak dinner of imagination!
So while it may seem cruel, that is why I continue my job: survival. My body lives off the imagination it absorbs from dreams, and it is the only nourishment that will sustain me. Believe me, I have tried other diets but each time I became violently ill. It was a gnawing hunger deep inside that threatened to drive me insane! Nothing would relieve the pain until I fed off of someone’s dreams.
I still hate what I am. Besides having a guilty conscience for what I do to humans, it hurts me to see the disappointment in my parents eyes every time I come home will a belly full of imagination. Not only do my parents reject me, but I am ostracized from the entire magical community. For now I have to deal with what I am, but in my own dreams I hope to find change. Somehow, someway, I won’t be regarded as the “evil one”.