Dream Worlds Are Born

Story 630: Valerie & Tobias

Valerie tossed and turned in bed again. In her dreams she was following a cat when suddenly it shifted, plunging a knife right into her heart before she could even register what had happened. She collapsed and heard him whisper menacingly “got you again” those words were resounding in her head as she gasped, sitting up in bed. She put a hand over her heart, actually feeling pain. She always felt the pain of the many ways she was murdered when she woke up after them. She sighed with relief as she took in her studio apartment. She was home, it was just another nightmare to tell her psychiatrist about.

She had been having these dreams her entire life. Some were so gruesome from the start her parents took her to a psychiatrist. She still saw one to this day, enjoying having someone to talk to about it. She of course had friends and family but she almost needed to talk about it at times and she didn’t want to tell them the stories and watch the same horror cover their faces. First thing Valerie did was start a pot of coffee, wanting it to be ready after her morning jog. She then dressed in running clothes, grabbed a bottle of water and headed out.

As she ran she wondered why they felt so real. No dreams felt quite like the ones she was murdered in. They were almost like memories but she hoped one day she’d finally stop, that she could finally just rest at night without the torment of those nightmares. It felt amazing out today and she smiled when she passed a family already out enjoying the weather with their small child.

Her watch began to vibrate, letting her know she had a call. She answered it, the call going right into the headphones she was wearing “Hello?” she slowed to a walk. “Valerie, I know it’s your day off but two people have called in sick. Please come in, I know you’ve been picking up the slack a few months now but I swear we’re trying to find some new hires so we can fire these idiots”

“I’d like to finish up my jog and have breakfast first”

“Thats fine, I’m so grateful”

“Extra hours are good, just means more money next pay check”

"I’m going to make sure you get a bonus too. "

“Its okay”

“No, this isn’t, you’re going to get a bonus. I just dont know how much yet. Enjoy your run and have a good breakfast, don’t feel rushed”

“see you soon” She started her music again and continued running, taking a shorter route since work needed her. She was honestly excited for more hours. Valerie had been wanting to upgrade her home computer and if this check was really good she could couple it with her savings and finally have the exact computer she wanted.Once home she made a simple breakfast, ate, showered, dressed then hurried over to the airport where she worked.

She was kept so busy her dreams were far from her mind. Due to people not showing up for work she was there well past dinner. By the time Valerie arrived home she simply flopped down on her couch and ordered Chinese food, hoping she wouldn’t fall asleep before they got here. To help her stay awake long enough to eat she turned on her tv and went over to Netflix, deciding to catch up on Seven Deadly Sins. It was a pretty good anime despite the fact the 3rd seasons was ripping her heart out.

She was relieved when she heard the knock at her door and gratefully accepted the food. As she rummaged through her bag for a receipt she noticed she had never seen this driver before “you must be new. I order from here a lot”

“Yeah, I am…do you live alone?” he asked and she paused, giving him a brief weird look before looking back into her purse and handing him a tip. The question unsettled her and she wanted him to leave. Thankfully as soon as she handed over the money he walked away, not pressing for an answer and thankfully not trying to kill her. Valerie shut and locked her door “please be awake. I don’t want to be killed again” she decided not to complain to the company about the delivery man, knowing she could be over sensitive due to her nightmares.

She didn’t want someone to be fired over a possibly innocent question. It was definitely a weird question but we lived in an increasingly weird world she told herself. Valeire enjoyed her food and watched a few more episodes before settling into bed for the night “Please god, if you exists please let me have a peaceful night” With a full stomach and exhausted body she was out like a light in a matter of moments. Morning came and she supposed she had slept too hard to dream at all since she didn’t remember anything.

When she left her room her heart dropped, her home was ransacked and worst of all, painted in either red paint or blood on her living room wall was the words “I found you again” she screamed at the top of her lungs in horror which caught the attention of a neighbor that had been outside checking their mail. The neighbor ran in and didn’t even ask a single question when they saw the place. They called 911 and soon officers were in her home asking questions. First thing she did was tell them about the odd delivery man and they assured her they’d check it out. After the police left the neighbor offered to let Valerie come over to her house which Valerie gratefully accepted “I need to call my parents. They’ll be upset if they find out another way”

“You’ll just sit on my couch as soon as we get in, I’ll make us some tea” Valeire hugged her neighbor though they barely knew eachother. Once inside Valerie sat down and phoned her mother “Hey baby” her mother greeted lovingly. Valerie told her about last night and about how her home was when she woke today “It’s just like my nightmares”

“Are you okay?” Her mother asked. “Are you hurt?”

“No, I’m fine, just scared. I can’t believe someone would do this.”

“Have you told anyone about your dreams? Someone could be playing some sort of sick prank.”

“Just my doctor mom, but he wouldn’t do something like this, he has no reason to.” She swallowed. “Can I come over to your place, please? I don’t think I can stay in my place.”

“Of course sweetie.”

“Thank you mom.”

“Just be careful honey.”

She hung up and called into her work. She let her boss know what was going on and she was grateful when he told her not to worry about it, that her safety was more important and he would find a way to cover her shifts. “If you need me to stay…”

“No, please go to your mom’s and just worry about staying safe.”

“Thank you, I really appreciate it.”

Valerie couldn’t even go back to her apartment to get clothes, she just wanted to get to her mom. Besides, she didn’t necessarily like her moms style but she could fit in her clothes fine. She also knew her mom would understand not wanting to step foot back inside and see those words on her wall again. Valerie jumped in her car and drove straight to her mothers. It felt incredible to receive a hug from her as soon as she walked through the door. “I’m just so relieved they didn’t hurt you” her mother expressed emotionally.

"I dont know why they didn’t but I’m glad too…maybe they just like to play games with people’

“I was just watching a documentary about a serial killer who enjoyed the torment more than the actual kill but he’s in jail so it couldn’t be him. I’ve seen others though, whoever this fucked up person is I’ve pulled my gun out of the safe. Just stay here, I don’t want you alone. Your dad hasn’t called me back yet but I know once he gets a free moment at work he’ll feel the same”

“I just don’t know who could do this?”

“Have you called your doctor and made sure no one’s broken into his office?”

“No, but I feel he’d let me know.”

“I say do it, just in case.”

“Okay.” Valerie called her doctor’s cell, knowing he may be busy with a client in his office. When he didn’t answer, she left him a message and then let out a sigh. As she sat there thinking about what happened, a disturbing thought occurred to her. Whoever had done this had been in her apartment while she slept which meant they had probably entered her room and stood over her, watching her. It had her heart beating way to fast and she nearly started panicking.

“Sweetie, what’s wrong?” Her mother asked as she sat with her and wrapped an arm around her.

“They could have been in my room, they were right there, they…they could have killed me. I don’t understand any of this.”

“Oh baby, everything’s going to be okay, we won’t let anyone hurt you.”

A few days into being under her parents roof without going anywhere the being after her was drinking with a fellow hunter “and it’s still against the rules to kill them with others around?”

“yeah, especially when they are reincarnated as humans. I mean come on, she doesnt stand a chance. Besides, dont you like drawing it out. I kill mine first chance I get, it always takes you at least a good month”

“well they take so long to reincarnate I think it’s boring to kill them right away”

“well I guess the difference is I have a family and you dont and my wife still doesn’t know about this game”

“It’s just getting annoying. She will not step foot out of that house”

“Just try again in a year or so. She wont stay with her parents forever”

“Yeah but I’m craving a kill”

“Kill something else”

“I bet she’d go to her bosses funeral, they are fairly close as far as I can tell and he’s not human. It might actually be a challenge”

“what is he again?”

“I haven’t been close enough to really know but he’s some sort of snake. When I first found her it startled me when he came up to talk to her because my research had told me only humans inhabited the world she had been born into. He was unexpected, but I suppose if I can wriggle my way into that world others like us can too.”

“Ohhh, might mean hes running from something, hiding in her world. He could be a challenge”

“I dont like that tone, this soul is mine. If you want to fight yours or others in that souls life go tracking your soul again”

“theres no way mines reborn yet.”

“well snake dude and Valerie are mine. I’ve waited on my fun long enough”

Valerie was grateful that her boss had been calling and checking up on her. She almost felt like a prisoner in her parents home, so talking to him helped alleviate her worry. “It’s been pretty boring without you here, you light up the place when you come in.” Tobias said with a chuckle.

“Really? I mean, I just do my job.”

“But you’re always smiling and helpful. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“Go crazy?”

“Probably.”

They were both silent for a moment then she let out a sigh. “I’m still really sorry I had to leave. I’ll try to get back soon.”

“Don’t worry about it and if you need anything don’t be afraid to ask.”

“Thank you, really.”

“Of course, just try and relax.”

“I will and you stay safe, just in case.”

“Don’t worry about me, Valerie, I’m a lot tougher and more cunning than you think.”

She smiled. “Alright, talk to you later.”

“Bye Val.”

She hung up and leaned back into the couch. “You sound bored honey.” Her father said.

“Maybe a little. I want to go out, but I’m still scared. I hate this.”

“I could go with you and watch your back. I’m licensed to carry our gun out of the house” Upon hearing his wife’s voicemail at work Valeries father had taken all the vacation he had been banking. Valerie was their only child and he knew he’d hate himself forever if she died while he was at work. He hoped more than anything the police would be able to figure out who broke into her home before he had to return to work. “is there anything you’d like to do dad?”

“You’re the one who needs air.”

“I now but I’d feel better if you picked what we did since you’re essentially babysitting me” her father laughed “it’s not babysitting when it’s your kid” he kissed her head then continued “I’m getting all this time with you. I mean, this is the most time we’ve spent together since you moved out”

“You know…it really doesn’t feel like it’s been seven years since I moved out”

“You could always come back permanently” he said with a playful smile and she laughed “dad” He laughed with her, glad to have some relief from the tension.

The man hunting her growled when he saw her leaving the house with her father. This was frustrating and a part of him wanted to say to hell with the rules. Fine, thought, I’ll go after the snake first, maybe that will draw her out. From the conversations he had heard, they seemed close. He left, going to find a good place to bunker down until night time when her boss would be alone.

Valerie felt more relaxed and confident with her father with her. He took her out to eat and then for ice cream at the mall. She was almost able to forget her fear with him, but it still fluttered there in the back of her mind, a warning that she should be wary. She checked her phone as they walked into a store that sold swords and other weapons and her father joked about her getting a sword to protect her because no one would expect it. “I’d probably cut my foot off.”

“Maybe some brass knuckles then?”

“Dad.” She said with a laugh.

“Alright, alright, but if you change your mind I’ll get them for you.”

Their time at the mall left her feeling immensely happy and by the time they got back, her mother was home. “How are you feeling today?” Her mother asked.

“Much better thanks to dad.”

“I’m glad, tacos tonight.”

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Tobias was interviewing a possible new employee when he first felt the presence. He acted normal, not wanting to alert anything that was lurking that he was aware of them. He walked the woman to her car to make sure she was safe but she regrettably took that the wrong way and tried to get him to meet her for drinks. “Oh I’m sorry, I have a girlfriend. There’s just been some suspicious people lurking around and I wanted to make sure you were safe” The girlfriend part wasn’t true, he may be in love with Valerie but he couldn’t have her, not while he was her boss. He just thought saying he had one would get her to take the rejection better because he did think she might make a good replacement for one of the two people he wanted to fire.

He could tell she was embarrassed as she said “I hope I didnt just flirt my way out of a job…I”

“you’re okay, I’m not upset.”

“good, I need this job” The sound of her voice and from what he was sensing now he wondered if she had asked him out because she needed this job. She had taken his kindness for flirting and out of desperation for work flirted back. This was precisely why he couldn’t ask out Valerie. They spoke awkwardly a few more seconds before she got in her car and drove off.

The being struck as soon as she was out of sight, but Tobias was quick, his reptilian reflexes pulling him from harms way and sending the person crashing through the glass window. Tobias backed up, ready to fight. “Come our now, I know you’re not dead demon.”

“Very good little snake.” The voice was male and he laughed as he stepped back through the window.

“Who are you? What do you want?”

“Since you’re going to die anyway, I guess I can tell you.” He dusted some class off his coat. “I’m after sweet little Valerie, well…I’m after her soul actually. She’s come back around again.”

Tobias glared. “You’re a hunter, a soul hunter, bastard.”

“You know of us? How curious.” He grinned. “No matter, I’ll get you out of my way then I’ll play with her.”

“I won’t let you.”

Tobias and the hunter were soon tangled in one another and it didn’t take the demon long to figure out what sort of snake he was dealing with. He grinned “Naga”

“I find it pathetic if you’re truly just realizing that now” Tobias retorted as he landed a hard blow into the demons stomach. There were a few easy moves to get the advantage and that was one of Tobias’s favorites with demons. They were always expecting magic or something of the sort from other immortals. A run of the mill gut punch always took them by complete surprise.

The demon realized he was spending far too much time trying to talk. This was a worthy opponent, he could ask him how and why he came to this world when he was bloody, beaten and laying defenseless on the ground. The demon tried a bit of distraction by setting the place on fire, knowing this was where he and Valerie worked. It going down in flames would be financial ruin for both of them, if not him, at least her.

“You bastard.” Tobias growled, the pupils of his eyes nearly covering his entire iris. Scales appeared on his skin, deep green and gold and sharp fangs replaced his canines as he attacked the demon.

“Oh how wonderful, does this place really mean so much to a monster like you?” The demon slashed at him, catching him across the chest as he backpedaled. Tobias dodged the next blow and grabbed the demon’s arm with one hand while the other hit him in the throat. The demon spun him around and kneed him in the stomach then shoved him away. The demon glared. This Naga was powerful, more powerful than he had expected. He grinned. “Fine serpent, you have two choices, stop the fire or save sweet little Valerie.” He backed away. “Ruin or heartbreak, your choice.”

Tobias didn’t have to think about his choices even a moment. He went to chase the demon but he had vanished from sight completely in all directions. Tobias’s heart was beating painfully hard as he became a man again and hastily got into his cars drivers seat. He asked his car to call her and as it rang, he realized this was far more than a crush, he was absolutely in love with her.

“Hey Tobias” she greeted in her always warm voice. “where are you?”

“woah, Tobias, are you okay?” she could hear the distress in his voice. “Valerie I have so much explaining to do but I cant right this moment. I have to know where you are”

“My parents still, I went to the mall today but Im back”

“I dont want to panic you but he’s coming back for you, right this second.” she wanted to ask how he knew but he had already said he couldn’t explain. “Okay”

“I’ll be there soon”

“Tobias no you should just call the police”

“They won’t be able to stop him Valerie, just trust me. Tell your parents, lock all the doors and windows and close the curtains. You have to make it hard for him to get to you.”

“Alright, just stay safe.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll be there soon.”

Valerie was shaking as she hung up and her mother immediately noticed. “Sweetie, what’s wrong?”

“Tobias said the man who left that message is coming for me. I…I think he attacked him.”

“What?” Her father said, suddenly tense.

“I’ll call they cops.” Her mother said.

“Tobias said they won’t be able to stop him. I know that sounds insane, but I trust him. He said we should shut and lock everything and close all the curtains.”

Her parents exchanged glances. “Alright, you and your mother do that while I get the guns. We’re not letting him take you.”

Valerie and her mom rushed around the house, locking it down as best they could. They met her father in her parents bedroom where he moved the dresser he shared with his wife in front of the door. They had a walk in closet so they also moved into there together, her father ready to do what he could to protect his daughter. “Thank you guys” Valerie said and her father answered “sweetheart, you never have to thank me for protecting you. I’d rather die than lose you” They sat close together in the closet, Valeire praying everyone would come out of this alive.

Even hiding in the closet, they were still able to hear one of the windows breaking and Valerie actually covered her mouth to stifle the scream that had bubble up in her throat. She watched her dad tighten his grip on the gun he was holding as he held it up, ready to fire the moment someone even tried getting in the closet. “I know you’re in here, you little bitch.” They heard a voice yell from downstairs. “I can smell you, Valerie, so come out.” She didn’t understand. Smell? “Valerie, or maybe you prefer Lauren or Ceto or how about Aello.” It suddenly went quiet and Valerie was sure whoever was in their house could hear her heartbeat. Then they heard the floor creak in the upstairs hallway. “It doesn’t matter, I’ll keep killing you until I’m bored.”

What did he mean keep killing her? you could only die once, or so she thought. She felt what he was saying spoke to his insanity but at the same time, she had been dreaming of being murdered since she was a little girl, before she had ever even seen her first scary movie. Over and over, different ways each time. What was going on here and how much did Tobias know about it since he seemed to need to talk to her.

The intruder let out an annoyed groan when Tobias also burst into the house “get back here demon! If you’ve hurt her or her parents I wont just kill you” They heard the being run back toward the front of the house. demon…what the fuck? Valerie thought to herself from where she sat. Tobias shifted again when the demon came at him and the two were fighting once more.

“damn it! Shes just a mortal!” the demon snapped.

“It doesn’t matter.” Tobias said as he slammed the demon to the floor. “She’s important to so many people, to me, and I won’t let you hurt her.” One hand gripped the demon’s throat and the other his wrist. He squeezed and the demon screamed in agony as his wrist snapped and he dropped his knife.

“Bastard, why are you even here?”

“Because my God, Bishamonten, commanded I travel, commanded I help and defend others. If I had not settled here, you would have killed Valerie, I should thank my God for the order.” He tightened his grip on the demon’s throat and the monster beneath him went from anger to panic as both air and oxygen were cut off from his brain. It didn’t take much, not when Tobias was a naga, before the demon went limp. Tobias stood and headed upstairs, wanting to make sure Valerie and her parents were okay. “Val? It’s me.” He said as he knocked on the door of the room she hid in. He couldn’t imagine what was going through her head. He knew she was terrified, he could smell it.

“Is that your friend?” Valerie’s father asked.

“Yeah, that’s Tobias.”

“everythings okay now I promise. He can’t hurt you” Tobias assured. His word was enough for her father to lead them out. Valerie hugged him “whatever you did…thank you”

“You are my best employee after all” Those words reminded him of what the demon had done before they came this way and he sighed “well you were my best employee” confused, she pulled out of his arms and he explained that the fight really started there and he had burnt his place down “Oh my god”

“I’ll be fine” he said and her father soon added “and you’ll be fine Valerie, we’ll help you in any way you need until you find another job”

“are you really going to be okay though?” Valerie asked Tobias who smiled “well, like I said, I have a lot to talk to you about actually”

“Okay, can we talk now?”

“we should call the police first and deal with that asshat downstairs”

“they’re coming” Valeries dad said but the conversation was still put on hold until the next day when Valerie brought it up again. Tobias knew there was no more putting off this conversation so he began, hoping she’d believe him. “Valerie, that was a demon and a soul hunter”

“a soul hunter?”

“I didnt put two and two together back when you first told me about your nightmares but you really have died all those ways. Just like humans, immortals love to hunt and some get bored enough with it they decide to hunt souls. They pick one, let it grow up and then kill it, over and over. I have always found it disgusting but…I hate knowing you’ve been murdered in every life you’ve lived Valerie…”

She looked confused but wasn’t seeming to completely reject what he was saying “so…how do you know all that…how did you take down a demon?”

“I am a naga” he could see she obviously didn’t know what that was.

“A half human, half cobra being, we’re kind of divine. My kind can be fully snake, fully human, or a mixture of both when we shift. We help heroes, protect people, and bring good fortune.”

“Are you dangerous?”

“We can be, but only when we must.” He ran his fingers through his hair. “My clan is special in that they worship a God named Bishamonten. He believes in fighting evil, so that is what my clan is raised to do.”

She seemed to be processing everything, taking her time to really absorb what he had told her. Then, “Can you shift for me?”

“I don’t want to frighten you, Valerie, it would kill me. I…” he stopped himself before telling her he loved her. “I just can’t have you scared of me.”

“I won’t be, please?”