Tucked in the curtains of her balcony, the girl watches the parade march below, but she cannot feel the scorch of it. The crowds shout with gleaming teeth and poison tongues, the voices of madmen and soothsayers, creatures with glass hearts and dreamers selling their nightmares in bittersweet trades. Demand is high. Supply, too, is high.
When she sees the dreamer on the corner, hands curled around darkness glimmering with hope, something shudders inside her.
She sails down the staircase, bursting into the street. It’s loud, rough, blinding. She pushes through the bodies.
The dreamer knows her before she appears. The dreamer has been waiting.
“What does it cost?” she asks, breathless.
The dreamer smiles.
They cocoon beneath the blankets, warm and dark, like buried treasure. The sounds of the parade pound at the walls.
How did you find me?
“I knew when I saw you,” the girl says, fighting to keep her eyes open.
What did you trade?
“It doesn’t matter,” the girl says. “The dreamer said it wouldn’t hurt.”
Dreamers are liars, the nightmare says, but they lie beautifully.
Light cracks the windowsill, reaching underneath, trying to push it open.
I cannot survive long outside the mind, the nightmare says.
“How long do we have?”
The nightmare touches her face. It is sweetly chilling, ghastly with love.
As long as you can stand it.
Her eyelids flutter closed.
What will you do when I’m gone?
“I’ll dream of you.”