Voices Within, complete rough draft

He chose the blue paint.  The color reminded him of their trip to the ocean.  It wasn’t the vivid blue he expected, certainly not like that in the books he grew up with.  But, on the one day of clear weather, the sky was brilliant with shades of blue mixed with whites and greys, contrasting with the dark, sullen sea.  The paint brought joy, constantly reminding him of those happy days. Now it served as a reminder of their last happy trip together. Before it all went wrong.  To make it worse, the old street light had gone yellow. Maybe the bulb had been changed. It didn’t matter, really, because there was no stopping the dingy light from turning the walls of the room to a noxious green, nauseating to sleep in.  The air felt more oppressive since the light became yellow. Just one more thing to add to the misery permeating the house.

The voices in the house grew louder.  It was obvious there was a heated argument, but that devolved into shouting.  The words weren’t always clear through the walls, but it became apparent they were about him.

“Get out of my house!”

“This is your fault, Marie!”

“You will not take my son!”

Rolling over barely muffled the words.  The tears were cool against his face, flush with the heat of panic.  Exhaustion caused his eyes to flicker, but he blinked away the moisture and tried to remain awake.  Just under the sounds from outside the room were those from the closet. They knew he would sleep soon.  They wanted him to know of their approach before his eyes closed. The struggle to keep them open never lasted long.  Every day brought more fatigue and they passed the time with incessant murmuring. The words were never clear, almost an echo of what was happening outside the bedroom.  It wasn’t an echo. It was the creature, clawing its way into this world. He slept, although the tears continued to stream down his face.

Once the child began to doze, whimpering in his sleep, Montrose came to life.  The nauseating stench and smoke were already drifting out through the slats in the closet doors.  He had stood watch three days, fighting the monstrosity that came for the boy. He wasn’t sure if the stitches in his fur would hold up for long, but it was the best that could be done after each fight.  He wasn’t strong enough to win and was keenly aware of this fact. However, nothing else stood between the closet and bed but him. He would fight until the last wad of stuffing was pulled from his body.

Drawing the slim wooden sword named Whisper, Montrose set himself to challenge the foe.  A slight change in the air caught his attention, though. The window was open, letting in the damp night wind.  He scanned the room, looking for who or what could have silently opened the creaking, obstinate portal. It seemed as though the night was wearing away before he spotted the shadow on the bed.  Starting in alarm, the bear was ready to leap up until a welcome sight stopped his motion. The shadow was carrying a wooden sword. It was larger, heavier than his own, and gripped by a chestnut colored paw.  The rest of the figure was obscured by the pattern of shadows in the gloom, but seemed to be wearing a jacket and a flat cap. There were soft sounds drifting down, as though there was a whispered conversation.  

Montrose was startled by the volume of sound coming from the closet.  He had been watching the bed for so long that the murmering from the closet had become a cacophony.  Whirling around and raising his weapon, he watched the doors begin to bend out under the pressure from within.  There was no time to wonder about the visitor, and barely enough to prepare for the impending conflict. Unable to resist the pressure, the doors burst.  Before he could move, a sound from above stopped him immediately. The figure, now obviously another bear, was hurtling through the air, swinging his sword in a wide arc, screaming as he struck the creature:

“I WILL END YOU!”

Montrose stood, stunned, then raced forward to hew at the beasts limbs.  Its grip on the door frame loosened under the assault and retreated. Both bears tumbled through the portal which slammed shut behind them.

They landed in a corridor of cold stone, lined with steel doors.  The creatures limbs were disappearing around a corner.

“After it!  The fight will be worse if it gets into the open!”  Racing through the halls, hacking at the creature whipping around one corner after another, the bears struggled to keep up.  It wasn’t long before they passed through the last set of doors and emerged into an alien world. Buildings of rough stone loomed overhead.  They seemed to curve, creating a partial canopy and threatening to close in on themselves. Montrose immediately felt claustrophobic at the sight, but a moment later his attention shifted to the creature.  It’s sibilant murmering began to bore into his ears. If there were any other sound they drowned in the noise.

The other bear had not ceased his headlong charge.  He shouldered aside attacks, deflecting them with his body, aggressively pursuing his quarry.  There was little wasted movement to his actions as he relentlessly chopped through the limbs grasping at him.  Montrose leapt at the nearest one, which now looked more like a tentacle than an arm, and easily sliced through.  More and more of the hazy appendages sprouted forth as they attacked it. The creature was obscured by the writhing and whipping mass.  There seemed no end to them.

In the span of a breath, the monstrosity leapt back, causing both bears to stumble forward from momentum.  They spared a confused glance before Montrose saw him: The child was across the street, huddled at the base of the opposite buildings.  Shouting, he began to run, knowing that it was a race to reach the small, huddled boy. The other bear charged to his right, intercepting the grasping tentacles that now sought the child it tormented.  Unexpectedly, the creature pounded the ground around them, cracks spreading out in a web. Montrose dived for the boy, the other bear changing course to help. Both were within reach of their charge when the ground gave way, sending all three tumbling into darkness.  The child’s screams mixed with the roar of the other bear as he and Montrose struggled to reach him.  

Montrose grabbed the child’s clothes as the other wrapped his arms around them both.  He tried to shout something into Montrose’s ear, but a rising sound of crashing water drowned it out.  He realized the other bear was turning them as they fell, taking the brunt of impact when they struck a deep pool of water.  Everything went black, and all sound disappeared.

Montrose awoke to a feeling of weight and realized his stuffing was soaked through.  That would be a problem. He couldn’t afford to be slowed down. Gently, he began to wring out, feeling the water seep out through the stitching.  His surroundings became clearer as he did so. They were on a ledge at the edge of a dark pool, the boy sitting a short distance away, and the strange bear pacing impatiently.

“Finally awake, are you?  You need to learn to absorb an impact better than that,” he growled.  “How young are you?”

Montrose stood and looked at his reflection in the water.  He was made to look like an old bear, streaked with grey, and thoughtful, hooded eyes.  He wore trousers with a tweed vest over what had been a crisp, beige shirt.

“A few months,” he answered.  “You?”

The bear seemed to soften as he said, “Generations.  Let’s just leave it at that. His makers gave him a general appearance of youth wearing red boots, jeans, an untucked crimson shirt, and a grey blazer.  There was the flat cap, also crimson, and the large cross-hilted sword. Montrose assayed all that in a moment. What stopped him were the eyes. While his were a soft amber, this bear had violet eyes, glittering in the gloomy light around them.  They bore into him with an intensity that quickly became uncomfortable.

“What’s your name?”

“Montrose.”

“Look, Montrose, you just look after the child.  I’ll deal with this. Keep him safe and out of sight.  Silence and speed are our best means of getting out of here.”

Bristling, Montrose retorted, “You have no authority over me!  This child is mine to protect and I will do so until the last wad of stuffing is pulled from my body.  You have the audacity to give me orders?”

The bear’s eyes grew cold, two pieces of amethyst boring into Montrose.

“You are a teddy bear, Montrose,” he spat,” and seem to have no idea what that means or how to exist.  Your place is to protect people from the nightmares, the sound under the bed, the odd shadow in the corner, and you have so far made little difference for this child.  Yes, if you continue, every last stitch will be pulled from you and he will be defenceless. You have a duty, one that needs to be learned fast. I can teach you, but right now, right this instant, you need to listen to me.”  The voice was harsh and tired, as though the bear was pushed past all endurance. Swinging his sword up, he rested it across his shoulders.

“Also, there’s one thing you need to know right now.”

Montrose waited, but the bear simply stood there.

“What is that?”

“I am Barnabus,” he said, before giving a wide, mirthless grin that exposed a mouth full of unnaturally realistic teeth.

“Now then, let’s get out of here.”

Barnabus turned and began walking into the gloom.  It seemed the hazy light was following him, leaving Montrose and the child to follow or be left in the dark.  

“I found this passage while you were unconscious.  It seems to lead up, which would be far better than attempting to climb out.  Tell me about the child.”

Montrose looked at the silent figure walking between them.  He thought about the days spent in the house, waiting for the nightmare to come each night.  The child was walking in a daze, a shadow of his true self.

“The father left some time ago and the mother has been doing rather well at parenting without him.  There is something going on with the extended family, though. They continue to threaten to take the boy from her.  Apparently he is picked on at school. I haven’t been able to learn too much, not even his name.”

They looked at the child, walking like a somnambulant.  So far he had taken no action but to follow where he was led.  Montrose impulsively reached out to stroke the child’s head and was surprised by  the hug received in return. Until then Barnabus had retained an impassive look, seemingly lost in thought.  His features softened at the scene and he looked at the boy with tender sympathy. After a few minutes, he squeezed the child’s shoulder and began to walk on.

“My name is Uri.”  The bears froze, focusing their attention on the boy.  Montrose looked questioningly at Barnabus and saw a look of astonishment and concern.

“What’s the matter,” he whispered.

“I thought this was just a representation of the child, a shadow of his consciousness, but it isn’t.”

Montrose began to feel his own concern rising.

“Then what is he?”

He spoke his name and is responsive to his environment.  The name is the important part, though. Names have power and most nightmares do not know them.  I think this is the child’s mind, trapped in here with us.”

Watching Barnabus speak increased Montrose’s worries.

“Then, what happens if he is hurt,” he asked, not wanting to hear the answer he expected.

“He will die.  We have to protect him from harm and end the nightmare.”  Barnabus looked at his companion. “Our job has become far more difficult than it would have been.”

It didn’t take long to finish the ascent.  They had been quiet, each lost in their thoughts.  The trio stopped when they reached a set of stairs leading to a small portal.

“We have no idea what is ahead,” Barnabus said.  “There will be nightmares all over. Some will be chatterlings, others phantoms.  They are all dangerous.”

Montrose was taken aback.

There’s more than one chatterling?”  He was incredulous at the idea of facing more of the creatures.

“No,” Barnabus replied, “the monster we were fighting is an amalgamation of separate nightmares.  They can split up and cause more harm individually, attacking the memories and subconscious. That chattering cacophony they emit is the sound of all the voices combined.  Now be still. We don’t know what is beyond this door.”

Montrose gripped his sword tight as Barnabus forced the small door open.  The bear dived through suddenly and called back moments later to follow.

They were in what looked to be a basement.  A dim light cast shadows everywhere and Uri let out a whimper.  Barnabus looked at him sharply, then at Montrose.

“Something happened here,” he said,” and the entirety of the nightmare probably represents some background to his torment.”

Montrose was puzzled.

“What do you think is the cause?”

“I’m not certain, but the trauma is extensive to call forth chatterlings.  Some form of abuse, real or perceived is my guess.”

There was a sound from above followed by footsteps.  Something was descending the steps to the basement. Barnabus jerked his head and they lead Uri into hiding behind a support beam.  Several forms became visible, dragging a sobbing person between them.

“No one likes snitches,” one of them said, “and you’re going to learn that.”

As they entered the light, it became apparent they were dragging Uri between them.  There were three older boys shoving him to the middle of the floor. The sound of crying could be heard from their victim as one of the boys curled his fingers into a fisdt.  He drew back to strike, but Barnabus was on him before Montrose could register that the bear had even moved. A heavy paw punched hard into the boy, causing him to disappear into a cloud of purplish smoke.  Montrose recognized it as being similar to the effect of hewing through the creatures tentacles earlier.

Both bears fell on the other apparitions and disposed of them before they could make a sound.

“These were chatterlings,” Montrose hissed between his teeth.

“Yes, and this is a memory of Uri’s that they had overcome.”

At the mention of his name, the boy stepped out and approached his mirror image.  He reached out to touch his opposite, who disappeared, flowing into Uri’s arm.

“That’s what they are doing,” Barnabus exclaimed, “they are hurting him by attacking traumatic memories and increasing the pain!”

Montrose immediately understood.  “We have to protect him and find the memories, yes?”

“It might weaken them,” Barnabus conceded.

“This could take time,” the younger bear noted.

Barnabus frowned.

“Maybe not, he said after some thought.  “I think that the landscape of the nightmare is specific to the trauma.  If that is true, then we will find his memories and the chatterlings as we go.  It could be as simple as going from point A to B.”

Both bears were silent, pondering this, and listening for sounds of movement above them.  Abruptly, as if one mind, they stood. Montrose put an arm around Uri’s shoulder and ascended the stairs.  Muffled sounds could be heard through the door. Barnabus cracked open the door and peered out.

“I see a gymnasium and other exercise equipment.  A community center, perhaps?”

“That fits,” said Montrose.  “Those boys were not just bullying him, but were going to do real harm.  It wouldn’t be difficult to do that amidst all this activity.”

There were more shadow people around, but they did not seem malicious.  Barnabus motioned for the others to stay while he walked out into the room.  No one reacted to his presence although they did swerve around him.

“Come out,” he said, “they have no interest in us.  We are just background to them.”

“Then why are they here?”

Barnabus ground his teeth together.

“He must have walked out of that basement beaten and bloody.  Do you think, based on what you see, that anyone helped him then?  They are here because their indifference made an impact on him. These caricatures aren’t just the chatterlings, but associated with the nightmares.  They didn’t see because the boy was just background to them and without consequence enough to notice.”

Montrose walked in silence, guiding Uri with one hand and his sword in the other.  Barandus did not speak, but there seemed to be a low growl rumbling out of his throat as they moved past the unseeing figures.  He reached the doors first and began to scan the exterior. Montrose’s heart sank when Barnabas clenched his fist.

“What’s out there?”

The bear sighed.  “A lot of figures, but I can’t tell how many are chatterlings just yet.  Most are probably like these,” he said, gesturing around the room, “nothing more than shades of apathy.  We need to watch first and size up the threats.”

They watched the distorted surroundings, buildings twisted in their dimensions, appearing to be hewn from rock and twisted metal.  After a while, they saw a familiar figure. A copy of Uri was trying to furtively traverse the neighborhood. He was darting from recessed doorways to disappear into the crowds before finding another alcove.  As he neared, several figures had surrounded him by concealing themselves in the mob of shadow people. The bears could hear his shriek as he was grabbed. They dumped out his backpack before throwing him to the ground.

Barnabus stood as a statue, then said, “Uri, I want you to grab your memory when the coast is clear.  Can you do that?”

The boy was calm, but held an expression of determination.  He nodded.

“Montrose, get ready to rush them.”

“Do you think that’s a good idea?”  Montrose hadn’t even finished the sentence before Barnabus threw the door open and charged across the street.  After a brief moment of shock, Montrose took his friend’s hand and they raced after the bear.

Barnabus rushed three of the chatterlings, knocking them to the ground, then spun around, sword in hand, and cut down two of the creatures.  His movements weren’t graceful, but certainly efficient. As one dissolved, he was already reversing the stroke to deal with the next. One managed to wrap his arms around the sword, and hooted in triumph.  Barnabus’ response was to release the hilt, and drop low, scything the creatures legs out with his own. He fought the remainder with his fists, easing into a boxer’s stance. His blows drove them back before disappearing in the now familiar burst of smoke.

All this transpireds before Montrose and Uri could cross the street.  Uri quickly ran to his sobbing counterpart who disappeared after making contact.  Barnabus turned to the other bear, his eyes narrow slits.

“Be faster next time, boy.”

Without another word, he turned and began walking in the direction the memory child had been walking.  Montrose quickly took the child in hand and followed.

“Where are we going?”

“Wherever he was headed.  It’s as good as any other.”

After a few minutes, Montrose swallowed hard and spoke to Barnabas’s back.

“Why are you so angry with me?”

“Because you hesitated, he said after a moment.

“But…”

Barnabus spun on his heel, interrupting Montrose.

“You are a teddy bear, remember?  What might have happened if I hadn’t been able to take them down so quickly?  Would they have joined into that amorphous creature we saw earlier? Corrupted the memory?  How much harm could they have caused?” The words were hissed through clenched teeth, setting Montrose rocking back on his heels in shock.

“And what would have happened if they had gotten to Uri,” he retorted.  “You were willing to drag him into danger.”

Barnabus continued to glare, then abruptly turned and continued walking.  

“Get off the street,” a voice whispered.

Uri’s head jerked up at the voice and he bolted into the open door where the speaker was standing.  She had mousy hair and, in all respects, looked as average and unnoticeable as possible. The bears quickly followed the child and the woman quietly shut the door.  Moments later a group of figures rushed past. They were obviously searching for something. Montrose guessed they were after Uri. He looked at the woman and realized she lacked the hazy appearance of the shadow people.  Her features were more clear, as though she had followed them from the real world into the nightmare. Uri whimpered, walking over to her with his arms outstretched. She caught him in an embrace that was both gentle and fierce.

A commotion outside caught their attention.  The windows distorted the outside world, but several shapes were visible.  The large display window suddenly cracked from an impact, causing those inside to step back, but, as quickly as they’d come, the figures were gone.

The woman continued to cradle Uri in her arms.  He had begun to shake when the glass was struck, but was quickly calmed by the embrace.  As the bears looked around, it was apparent this was some sort of curio shop. Lamps, desks, and assorted knicknacks could be seen, but towards the back were shelf after shelf of books.  One memory after another began to creep out from those shelves and approach Uri until a dozen or so had appeared. He walked to them with his arms outstretched and began to hug the first one.  By the time his arms had closed, all were absorbed back into him, leaving the child hugging himself.

Barnabus turned to the woman and asked, “How do you know Uri?”

She returned his gaze with a flat look.

“Perhaps it’s all those books where he’s been hiding?”

Montrose nearly laughed at the expression on Barnabus’s face, but thought better of it.  He wondered, though, how often the bear finds himself brought up short like this.

“Nice,” the bear said.  “Who are you?”

“Who are you?  This is my shop, after all.  You don’t get to talk to me with that tone, even here amidst a nightmare.”

Now both bears stepped back in surprise.

Montrose asked, “How do you know that this is a nightmare?  You shouldn’t be self-aware.”

The woman laughed.

“I am not a shadow, you see, but a projection.  I have been looking after all these copies of Uri to keep him from becoming lost.  Do you think stuffed animals are the only ones who can come here?”

Barnabus had recovered from his shock and was studying her with renewed interest.

“I rarely encounter anyone capable of this feat,” he said.  

“Few that are capable bother.  It’s a matter of least importance to many, considering there are so many animals walking through dreams, Barnabas.?

Now the bear gripped his sword and stood ready to fight.

“How do you know me?”

“She told me about you once.  Your reckless behavior and willingness to endanger those around you.  You are difficult to destroy, but those who travel with you aren’t so fortunate.”

Montrose was silent, paying close attention to the conversation.  Finally, he couldn’t help but ask, “Who is this she you refer to?”

“Should I tell him, Barnabus, or will you?”  There was a mocking tone to the woman’s voice now.

“A bear I used to work with often,” he said in a clipped tone.

“Oh, just a bear you worked with, hmm?”

Barnabus wouldn’t look her in the eyes at this point, and turned to go back to the window.

“She is lost to you if your arrogance and foolishness continues,” she said to his back, then muttered, “Idiot bear.”

“Enough,” Montrose said firmly, “this is becoming cruel and accomplishes nothing.”

She pointed her finger at Montrose.

“You watch over the boy,” she snapped.  “Don’t let him endanger the child. So far as I know he hasn’t failed those he has gone to protect, but a number of bears that trusted him weren’t so lucky!”

“It looks clear enough to move,” Baranabus said in a flat voice.  The woman opened her mouth to say more, but the bear had already slipped out into the street.  She turned to Montrose and placed her hand on his shoulder.

“Be on your guard around him,” she said in a kinder tone, “and don’t become another bear to succumb to his folly.”

Montrose looked at her and opened his mouth to speak, but thought better of it.  He nodded, smiled at Uri, and gestured for the boy to follow. Once outside, he turned right to catch up to Barnabus.

“I have questions,” he began, but a curt gesture cut him off.

“Do you see a playground ahead?”

Montrose gnash his teeth and said nothing, increasing his pace to match that of Barnabus.  

It was only a few moments before the neighborhood melted away into a large park area.  There was a playground there, but it was crowded with shadow people. They seemed to be focused on something near the swings.  Navigating through the crowd, the sounds of a disturbance became more audible as they approached. Emerging into an open area, they saw several chatterlings tormenting another of Uri’s memories.  Their mocking laughter became a physical presence, as though the sound had become solid. All noise died away as they noticed the bears and Uri.one stood to face them as the other two turned back to their victim.

“Don’t harm the shadows if you can help it,” said Barnabus, as he approached the dominant creature.  It put up a pitiful defense as the bear cut it down in seconds. The other two snarled and leapt into the crowd.

“I’ll get them, you get the memory!”

To Montrosese’s surprise, Barnabus put away his sword and leapt into the forest of grey figures.  He weaved through the crowd, ducking away from the chatterlings attacks while working his way closer to them.  The creature’s bodies were constantly changing, limbs becoming claws and tentacles whipping around the shadows.  Baranbus deflected their attacks from himself and the apparitions surrounding them. It was almost a dance for the bear, who was more agile than Montrose had expected.  The creatures were attempting to surround Barnabus until he suddenly rolled backwards and attacked one of them directly. Not being able to shield itself with the shadows, the chatterling panicked, lashing out wildly, striking several of the figures which shattered like glass.  The bear forced it to the ground and hammered it with his paws until the creature vanished.  

Montrose had become engrossed with the spectacle and didn’t see the attack coming until too late.  The warning shout died in his throat as the tentacle stabbed into Baranabus’s shoulder. Montrose heard him grunt before grabbing the wispy appendage and, jerking hard, drew the last chatterling close and dissipating it with a hard strike to it’s abdomen.  

Staggering back, the bear stood still and bowed, his eyes closed against pain.  For a moment it seemed he would topple over, but instead stood straight and the lines of pain in his face softened.  Even at that distance, Montrose was certain the wound began to stitch itself closed, leaving only the tear in Barnabus’s jacket visible.

The bear wobbled for a moment before catching his balance and walked back to his companions.

“We should continue,” he said.

Montrose finally found his voice and said:  “Your shoulder, though? Are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” he said, waving Montrose away.

The bears stared at one another.  Montrose was young, but knew that there was something strange about his companion.  He also realized that no answers would be forthcoming.

“Fine,” he said, “let’s carry on.  I have a feeling that we are headed for a school at some point.”

Barnabus nodded.  “We could continue to chase individual memories, but going to the greatest concentration of misery should bring an end to this.”

Both bears held gazes for a moment before turning and walking further into the nightmare.

The shadow city began to drift into a twisted landscape, twisted concrete and rebar.  The gray sky gave way to a rough cave roof. Stone teeth jutted out from every wall and everything looked normal to a subterranean environment at a brief glance.  Looking closer, though, there were little signs that they had reached the school. Shapes in the walls looked like parking bollards; stone slabs leaned out, looking very much like doors; and ahead was a high wall with a rusted chain web draped across it.  Barnabus gave it an experimental tug and was satisfied that it was secure. Without a word, he pulled Uri onto his back and began to climb. Montrose followed them up and was shocked at the sight of a massive amphitheatre. He looked back and noticed more twisted metal and realized they had climbed a massive basketball net.  They were in the school auditorium.

The rough-hewn bleachers were occupied with rows of silent shadow people.  They stared blankly at the central floor, where a group of chatterlings were tormenting two of Uri’s memories.  They were in the middle of a rapidly closing circle. Montrose was not surprised when Barnabus charged in without a word.

AsThe chatterlings were ready for him and they began to merge into an amalgamous mass , warped limbs began to quiver in anticipation. The bear ducked low and began to swing upward, severing the horrific limbs.  He ducked and rolled around the floor, staying a step out of the way of any attack. Fists struck the ground. Talons tore through empty air. They flailed in frustration as Barnabus continued his assault.  

Montrose realized that the merging of the creatures left them disoriented.  If the battle lasted too long, it could get harrowing. The creature was clumsily attacking their foe, but were slowly becoming faster.  Montrose watched for his opportunity before racing in with Uri in tow. The many eyes of the horror attempted to stop his charge. The bear was precise with his light sword, an economy of movement that kept his world in tight focus.

Barnabus pressed his assault, forcing the chatterlings to give more attention to him. Montrose spared some attention to the bear.  He was shocked at the effortless means that attacks by the creature were evaded. Barnabus struck true with every swing, but even with such skill the relentless creature still managed to damage him.  There were tears in his fabric. This didn’t seem to affect his prowess, though.

Montrose tugged Uri through the fray with one hand and scooped up the memories with his other arm.  Dragging them along, he pulled them from harm’s way. Uri quickly reabsorbed them, seeming more alive and alert than he had before.  The bear nodded at him and turned to enter the fray. He stopped when Barnabus yelled “Get him out of here!”

Montrose froze.

“Get him out of here and the nightmare will stop!”

Looking from Uri to Barnabus, Montrose hesitated for only a moment.  Grabbing the boy, he began to run through the hellish landscape to return to the closet door.  Their surroundings had begun to crumble as the nightmare began to fall apart. Uri must have become restless and was stirring.  That, combined with the chatterlings falling under Barnabus’s sword, made the escape more urgent.

Montrose dodged and weaved through shadow people, leaping over rubble, racing through the buildings.  He was forced to assume that Barnabus was winning, as the dissolution of the nightmare was accelerating.  They reached the building as the destruction closed in. Stairs cracked under their feet as they climbed. Montrose was relieved to see that the closet door was open.  Diving through the door, the bear could hear the last of the nightmare crumbling away. Sound died away as the closet returned to normal.  

Uri had disappeared onto the bed and merged with the real boy.  Montrose sat on the floor gasping and forced to speculate on the fate of Barnabus.  His mind reached out, trying to make contact but there was no sense of him. The boy stirred on the bed and there was a sound that a crying fit was cut short.  

Montrose felt relieved, but lost consciousness before he could climb the bed and see to the child.

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