“No please, I insist. It’s a gift.”
The Nightmare chuckles, “no no. That’s not how this works. You play my game, you get rewarded. The game works the way I want it to and I make these rules very specifically, for specific purposes. The game is fun to me. It’s a challenge. Can I find the answers that you seek? Can I answer your request. You may think this is just being nice, but this is how I survive.” The nightmare’s mouth opens and twists into an unsettling grin, “You didn’t know that though. That’s okay. We make games. We move forward.”
The nightmare growls at the little rabbit in front of her, “No no, I swear it’s a gift. You don’t have to get me something in return. I just want you to eat tonight really.”
The nightmare moved it’s snout towards the small offering in front of her, saliva dripping from it’s mouth. The sunken jaw turned back up towards the creature. It cocked it’s head and stared down and shrunk in front of her. She wasn’t going to hurt the nightmare and the nightmare wasn’t going to hurt her anymore. Maybe a long time ago, but things were different. The mask has been ripped off and even small things can be deadly. The Nightmare nodded and ripped off a piece of the slab of meat in front of her and handed it to her.
“Do not give more of yourself than you can offer. You still need to eat and care for your own flesh.”
The monstrosity shook it’s head and looked up at the nightmare, “I’ve already had my fill. You can have it all.”
The nightmare laughed softly and shook it’s head, “Maybe you have learned then. Unfortunately so have I. Eat. Now. Your hard work should be rewarded. Creatures like you don’t get to make a kill like that often do they?”
The creature shook it’s head and sighed deeply, “Not particularly. But I think I know what it is that you’re seeking. You want blood. You want pain. You want something else that’s different and greater. You’re a beast just like me. You sink your teeth into the people around you and see what they’re made of. How else can you learn. How else can you figure out what it is that’s around you when you lack the eyes to see in the first place. So here. I’m not going to hurt you. Here is some meat. You’re so hungry aren’t you?”
The Nightmare ripped a piece off with it’s teeth and chewed, “Maybe. I have navigated my way around the world like this for so long. I don’t need anything else. Who needs eyes these days. I get by just fine.”
The creature took a step closer, “Are you sure about that? What if there was someone who could fight for you? What if you had someone to help you through it all. Someone who when your sight fails could see for you? Those legs of yours look like they’re broken. Those hands look like they’ve been put back together time and time again. You look strong though. Terrifying and you sure are good at it. But I wonder. Can you bite anymore? Have you been defanged yet? Are your teeth as sharp as they once were? Is that thirst for blood as good as it used to be? Or are you only like that when you’re pushed into a corner and don’t know how to get out?”
The nightmare growled, “careful with your tongue little one. These teeth still can draw blood.”
The creature giggled, “That’s fine. I’m stronger now. You can’t see it but I’m stronger now. Much stronger these days.”
The nightmare took a step back.
The little creature giggled, “It’s not poisoned dumbass.”
The nightmare tilted it’s head and ripped off another chunk of the bloody meat.
“You’re not alone you know. There are other monsters out there that are just like you. In weird and strange ways that you can’t even imagine. I think you’d like them. You don’t have to keep feeding the same way. You’re not alone here and there are people who will support you when you need it.”
The nightmare took it’s meat and started walking away, “I think I’ve had enough monsters in my life to last a lifetime. It’s better when it’s just me.”
The creature stepped closer, “And yet you aren’t biting here aren’t you? You have your meat and I’m simply just getting closer. Isn’t that what you want? Don’t you want someone who will feed you? Take care of you. You don’t have to be alone anymore.”
The nightmare snapped forward and roared, jaws only seconds away from snapping the creatures neck, it’s voice crept out in a low rumble, “Do you think that is a wise idea? Look upon them and quiver in fear.”
Something tapped the nightmare’s teeth, “Nah. You won’t hurt me. Not on purpose. I’m not gonna poke you.”
The nightmare shrunk and it took another bite of the meat, “You are too familiar with me creature. Run along. Run away as is good for you. If not today, they will close around you tomorrow. If not tomorrow than some other time in the future.”
Something brushed up against the nightmare’s side, it whirled around but it kept feeling that. Something digging into it’s side, something that was close to it. It was close to it’s heart. The nightmare lashed out and dug it’s teeth in but only found it’s own flesh. It’s own blood. It pulled back in pain and whimpered.
“I’m not gonna hurt you. You can do a much better job of that yourself by the looks of it. No I’m just gonna sit on your back. Someone should watch that anyways.”
The nightmare growled, “You are small, little creature.”
The creature tapped softly on the nightmare’s back, “and you are very large and sharp. And prickly, but you cannot hurt me anymore and I cannot hurt you. What say that you and I team up? Work together. You can’t see the world right? That’s what they said.”
The Nightmare paused, “You will tell me when I should stop yes? I don’t like it when I walk into obstacles that I can’t see.”
“Yup! Happy to!”
The nightmare grumbled and paused, “I can see just fine. It’s just out there. In the maze. It is ever shifting, ever changing. New tree’s, bushes thorny branches come in every day. And there are more. And unfortunately the first thing that they take when you enter is your sight. In here, My prey comes to me. In here, I am safe and secure. In here I will no longer have to grow sharper thorns, and more poisonous blood. Out there you must Ascend. I simply Ascended the wrong direction, and now I cannot survive out there. So I wait for the prey to come to me. They gather closer and closer and then I feast upon their blood. You were the first who offered freely.”
The littlest nightmare tugged at the Nightmare’s flesh to the right. The nightmare jerked up and followed, “Mhm, and if you stick with me I can teach you where the best spots are to feast!”
The Bigger nightmare growled, “And what do you wish of me then? Will you point and laugh and toss me to the wolves like everyone else? I know of your kind, they are all the same. Pointing, laughing, only hoping to be the strongest, the best and at the top of the foodchain?”
The littlest nightmare laughed, “no no. See you’re just like me. Not all the way though. The maze stole my Size. But it broke me just the same. There’s a lot of us out there actually. A lot of others like me.
Sometimes we’re not this close though. Sometimes we were the right fit and then we aren’t later. Maybe the maze will give me my size back at some point. Or maybe you’ll lose your thorns and I’ll gain some. It’s none of our choices sometimes you know. Sometimes you just Ascend. It’s not really something you can control much, I imagine. But the ones who ascend closest to each other though…”
The Bigger Nightmare paused for a moment, “The other monsters?”
“Sometimes the only way to save yourself is to take a bite you know. Sometimes you do it on accident. Sometimes it’s on purpose. Still happens you know. Everyone has to grow spikes sometime you know. It’s kind of the Monster Way. Speaking of which, someone on your left. They’ve got dripping fangs so I think that means poison. Don’t bite. Scratch. They don’t look like they have much confidence. In 3… 2…”
The Bigger Nightmare skidded to the left and swung a paw out. It connected with something. The feeling of sickly vicious claws sinking into warm flesh was a satisfying sensation. Like a rush of adrenaline that couldn’t be ignored or tossed out. It had tried. It had tried so many times. The Bigger Nightmare stood it’s ground and let out a deafening roar.
“Ooo nice job. How hold it!”
A moment of hesitation. The creature pounced and the Bigger Nightmare felt teeth sink into it’s front leg. It’s stance faltered.
“Ooo unfortunate. You’ll get it next time.”
Unfortunate indeed. The Bigger Nightmare sank it’s teeth down and bit into the Creature’s back. It sank enough to hurt, but not a killing blow. With a violent upheaval the nightmare flung the creature off into the distance. Running. The sound of running and then it getting quieter.
“Awww, Why didn’t you go in for the kill?”
The Bigger Nightmare scoffed, “I was not hungry. Thank you, maybe it will ascend. Unfortunately for you, I might not survive. That poison was deep.”
The littlest nightmare crawled down, “No no, don’t worry. I got this.” There was a sound. And then the sensation of warmth across the wound.
The Bigger Nightmare tilted it’s head in confusion, “What is this?”
The littlest nightmare sighed, “I suppose you’ve never seen it. But you should pay attention. It’s healing magic. You can learn how to do it too, just pay attention and maybe you’ll get it the next time you Ascend. This one is very useful on yourself. But of course, that’s just a different spell.”
“Is that not what you do with your claws?” The littlest nightmare said.
The Bigger nightmare paused, “I… one day I wished that I could put the fire to survive in my heart and use it as my claws. And then it happened.”
“You thought very hard about ascension and then it happened didn’t it? You got what you wished for. You have to be careful. But I agree. It is a useful tool. It’s a very useful skill. Deals enough to harm but not to kill! Kinda need that out here. When you don’t kill one of them you might be able to make a new friend!”
“Is that what you did with me, little one?”
The Littlest nightmare curled it’s face up into one might call “a smile”
“No. Absolutely not! See, I just watched you! I just watched, and as I watched, I realized you wound people but never kill them. There’s so much restraint there. Why.”
The Bigger nightmare sighed, “I do not want them to die. I just want the monsters to go away. I am tired. I am lonely. I am sick of hurting people so I simply let them come to me. I will not win the long winter and I will not win the war. I am simply trying to survive as long as I can.”
The littlest nightmare dug it’s claws into the back of the beast it was riding, “whoa whoa stop. This is the territory of someone you’re gonna hate. Now that’s someone that will kill you. Careful now.”
The Bigger Nightmare stopped in it’s tracks and took a few steps back, “Why?”
The littlest nightmare sighed, “Well you don’t want to hurt someone do you?”