This was maybe the third dream I've had in my adult life that I've woke up screaming from. I'm still a little disturbed. Despite my usual political apathy, a group of people, including quite a few noders and I decided to travel to one of the tremulous regions in the Middle East. Where exactly I can't remember, but our purpose was either peacekeeping or (probably more accurately) humanitarian aid. My mother also came to the same place, she was part of a medical team however and not staying or associated with us, but I did stop and see her the first day in, on the way to where we were staying.

Our group finds our home for the mission, it used to be a hotel but is not doing business at the moment, the downstairs is a lobby/bar and the rooms are where we will be staying. Once things are unpacked, gleeme and a friend of mine from high school, Mandy, leave to go look for someone that they both know.

No one is worried until it's dark and they still haven't returned. Even then, almost no one is worried, they just figure they stopped off somewhere and lost track of the time. I, on the other hand, am worried sick. Kaytay (who despite homenode pics to the contrary, is a blonde in my dream) is also. We both stay in the lobby all night talking to various people who happen to be down. Near morning, Mandy comes back, alone, looking shaken. I ask what happened, where's gleeme? And she says she has no idea, they had stopped at a bar and were about to head back when she saw something or someone she knew and yelled, "be right back!" and flew out the door. Mandy followed her to the door but she had already disappeared into the crowd. She waited and waited and waited, but gleeme never returned. Mandy woke up curled up in a booth at the empty bar, and returned back to our little compound.

Now that she truly is missing, everyone's a lot more worried. There's a few more of us in the lobby, people are calling the people they know, it's crazy. Then radlab0 (whose face was just how it looked in real life, but her head was bald) comes in with a friend and starts to head up the stairs. I ask them what's going on, and radlab tells me that gleeme was kidnapped, but she's been rescued. They're debriefing her at the moment, then she'll return to us. The news spreads quickly and everyone is downstairs waiting for our girl to come back to us.

Blonde kaytay and I decide to step outside for some air, as the lobby is getting super-crowded. We stand in the doorway of the lobby, her arm is draped over my shoulder, she is smoking a cigarette. An enormous crowd has gathered in the street in front of the hotel, I wonder why absently as I watch a donkey wander aimlessly to our left. When I look straight ahead, I am looking down the black barrel of a gun. I immediately look away, and cringe, I hear three gunshots but don't feel anything happen to me. Then I realize I felt the shocks go through the arm around my shoulder and that they shot kaytay and even though I didn't look, I knew that the gun was already being aimed to deliver the last few rounds into me. This was all happening in the blink of an eye--I caught kaytay as she fell and ducked behind the doorway. We both fell to the ground, and I saw three spreading spots of red on her white shirt. She was dying, and I just started screaming, screaming, screaming...until the screams woke me up.

So there I was, a child in some war-ridden land. There were buildings all around that had been abandoned, some already part of the pale rubble that littered the streets. Trucks would drive by every now and then, collecting the stragglers, the survivors. I had to get out of there. My little 13 year-old body told me to run and to hide at the same time. My instincts were at war with themselves.

I just wanted to be safe, but I didn't know how.

I spotted a younger child in the middle of the road and ran to him. What is he doing here? Doesn't he know it's not safe to be in the open? Our black hair was caked in dust as I dragged him into a building. But it was too late. We'd been spotted already.

A truck pulled up to the building and some men got out. With grimy rough hands they forced us into the back and started to drive away. My little comrade was forgotten as I saw an opportunity to flee and took it. I jumped out of the back of the moving vehicle, and scrambled under a piece of rug littering the side of the road. I was so small, so very tiny that my form barely made an impression in its folds. The truck ambled away; they wouldn't miss one less child in their camp.

I wandered alone for days, my stomach had long since stopped proclaiming its unhappiness at being empty. Now it just sulked in a constant ache, always reminding me of its presence without making too much fuss. Wasn't that kind of it.

At some point I met up with some travelers who recognized me. They knew who I was, what I was without asking. I wouldn't have told them the truth anyway it wasn't safe. I had bodyguards now and I would need them. For someone was out there that was seeking me, seeking the knowledge I held and the power I kept at bay within me.

One of my bodyguards was a tall man with long black hair. He reminded me of a pirate with his head covered in a cloth and the long scabbard at his side. A desert gypsy perhaps. His skin was olive and his eyes trimmed in long dark lashes. His loveliness was only marred by the stern set of his jaw and the underlying brutality in his nature. I had nothing to fear from him.

The others were warriors as well, among them was a religious man, a monk I think. I knew that despite his kind manner and gentle nature he was a master of some fighting art and could easily dispatch any threat. He would be my teacher.

We had holed up in an empty building in a city. The desert was far behind us, now we were in a lush green place. The danger was constant. They all looked at me with expectation, I knew they were waiting for a sign that I was who they thought I was. I wouldn't talk to them about it and they never asked, but still they needed proof. I didn't know how to give it to them. I could feel the power within but I didn't know what to do with it, wasn't sure I even wanted it. The only one who never carried that look in his eyes was the monk. He believed I was the one. He didn't need proof. It was his unwavering faith that kept me going. My own self-doubt would have had me turning back, running to the camp to be like everyone else, instead of pushing forward with this journey I had to take.

After the second day we were set upon by a small band of fighters. They wore red silk and their faces were hidden by masks. My bodyguards urged me to sneak out the back while they kept the intruders at bay, so I crawled between some loose slats in the building and entered the side street. I was immediately pulled up by sharp fingers dug into my arms, until I was looking into strained beady eyes. The face that peered into mine was weathered and old, the mouth twisted at the corner in bitter habit. "You are the one. I knew it! It is you!" He was the one I was running from. I couldn't believe he'd actually come himself. Don't the bad guys usually leave this to the henchmen and stay in their air-conditioned penthouses for the innocents to be dragged back to the hide-out? Just as I started to struggle against his grip my desert gypsy emerged from the building and startled my captor. He released me and ran.

If I was so important, so very vital to things, why did he just let me go? This must be why they send the henchmen; the boss is always trying to save himself in the end.

We make it to a boat, which carries us away from the city, then my band of protectors breaks up. We are safer in smaller numbers they think. The gypsy and the monk stay with me, the others continue down the river hoping to draw our chasers with them.

It's decided we need to fit in more, so we decide to take the exams that will help place us in positions in the new town. We go into the classroom, each of us nervous about taking the test. With a smile I set about writing the answers on the page. I don't even look at the questions, just pick up the pencil and start writing essays one after the other. I know I could just wave my hand over the page and it would be filled with the right things, but I want to do this on my own. I glance at my friends, they are struggling, afraid they'll be placed somewhere too far to help me. So I close my eyes and imagine a spindle of light flowing from my body to theirs, giving them what they need without letting them know I'm helping. I look up at the test observer and grin, I think I'll be safe for a little bit longer.

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