The Nightmare Plague: The Children of Bilal, Part Four

Bilal gripped Irfaan by the shoulder and, with a warm smile, led the younger bear down a maze of alleys.  Another tormented soul was pulling at the bear and he was pleased to see that his new friend was reacting to it.

“Just remember,” Bilal stated, “try not to get lost in all the cries for help.  You must learn to focus on who is at the most need and the closest.  The sooner you can end one nightmare, you can go to the next.”

Irfaan nodded, his brows furrowed in concentration.  Bilal spoke slowly to him, carefully guiding him through the chaos of minds to focus on the one they were pursuing.  They crossed several more streets and Irfaan began to stare at a three-story building of indeterminate age.  Whatever the structure had been in the past, it was now a tenement housing many residents.

Irfaan’s brow wrinkled up and he turned his head to the side.

“This is not a nightmare,” he said, “but several affecting the entire building.”  He looked to Bilal for confirmation.

The other bear grinned and softly clapped his hands.

“Correct, young bear.  It may be something to do with the history of the building, but whatever the cause, everyone in this building is connected by one source.  It is strange, though, how it is tailoring to each individual.”

Closing his eyes in thought, Bilal stretched out his senses to examine the nightmare.  It was a conglomeration of several, but they were fluid and not confined to a single manifestation.  

“Curious,” he said, after a period of reflection.  “I have no notion of what awaits us inside.  Do you feel ready, Irfaan?”

The younger bear took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and exhaled after several seconds.

“I am.”  His tone was flat and Bilal could see a righteous fury in the bear’s amber eyes.  However he remained steady and calm, to which Bilal nodded approvingly.

Bilal walked forward, lightly touching the door, and the sound of locks and latches clicking could be heard in the silent avenue.  The pair walked through, the door swinging to after they had passed.  The bears walked up and down the halls trying to get a sense of where the activity was the strongest.  The search drew them to the next floor, down the hall, and caused the pair to pause outside of one apartment.

Bilal looked around in consternation.

“This isn’t the entirety of the infestation.  There is something else, but that is below us.  This is the strongest emanation, though.”  Reaching out, he set one paw on the door, only to be thrown back against the wall by some unseen force.  Irfaan stood in shock as Bilal groped along the wall to steady himself.

“Well,” he stated drily, “that was different.”

Irfaan looked from him to the door, his face full of concern.

“What was that?”  His voice was steady, although his tone betrayed the anxiety he felt.

Bilal leaned against the wall nodding thoughtfully.

“That is a new experience for me.  More pointedly, I have no idea.”

“How reassuring you can be,” Irfaan muttered.

Bilal grinned, then burst into motion.  The bear somersaulted through the air and slammed both feet into the door, causing it to crash backwards.  He landed gently on his feet, sword already in hand.  He sensed Irfaan rushing up behind him, causing Bilal to immediately go limp, allowing the other bear to drag him off to the side.  The pair rolled across the floor from the violent impact.  When Bilal looked back, he saw a translucent image of a woman, the face contorted in fury.  She wore a fine dress and her hands were raw, turned ragged from the wringing of hands, which she did as they looked on.

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