Perchance to Dream - By Holly Newman






Clear, coruscating blue rippled before his eyes. Silky, cool water slid over his skin. He inhaled deeply and smelled salt, sand, and seaweed. The scents mingled, creating a rich, exotic perfume when they should have reminded him of the docks.

He turned over, the movement languid and sensuous. The sky, a lighter blue streaked with shafts of crystalline light, lay above. There, to the right! A flash of iridescent green fin and a swirl of auburn hair. At last! He rolled over again, filling his lungs before kicking his feet and pulling his hands through the strange ether, this breathable ocean. Ahead, flashes of iridescent fin darted through darker green seaweed forests and played amid bright schools of fish.

As surely as if there existed a tether joining him to this siren of the waves, joining them body to body, soul to soul, he was drawn forward. Slowly he gained upon his playful quarry. Smiling, he conjured images of that lithe, beautiful body in his arms. His hands tingled. He kicked harder.

A black shadow passed over him dimming the ocean to a murky blue. The playful schools of fish darted left, fleeing before the shadow. He looked up. It was not the shadow of a passing boat. It was within the water, a great roiling inky blackness. It dove down between him and his quarry and a living miasma of hate enveloped him, dragging at his mind and muscles. Fear clawed at his gut. He turned to escape.

Too late!

A black wave smashed against him. He tumbled backward, his left shoulder scraping against jagged coral spires. The black wave came again, angry and churning. Looming larger, it picked him up out of the water, out of his beautiful haven, out of the water, and threw him onto the rocky shore.

"No!" he yelled.

The bed sheets caught between his legs as he tried to swim away. His arms stroked wildly sending the lantern on the bedside table crashing to the wide wood-plank floor. The mosquito netting surrounding the bed tore from its pinnings and gave a soft sigh as it engulfed him.

"Sir! Are you all right?" His valet shuffled into the bedchamber from his adjoining apartment. Holding his tallow candle high, he stared down in horror at The Honorable Andrew Montrose.

Otis Reed's shrill nasal voice pierced Andrew's consciousness between dreaming and waking. He stopped thrashing and opened his eyes. He stared at the mosquito netting. Looking through the gauzy fabric reminded Andrew of looking through breathable blue ether. He rolled over on his elbow. "Damnation," he said, drawing out the word as he ran a hand through his thick, mahogany-colored hair. It felt dry. Surely it couldn't be dry. It had been too real! But dry it was, as was the rest of his body.

"I was dreaming again," he said flatly.

"So it would seem." His valet's voice shook, his rheumy pale blue eyes opened wide in fright.

Andrew ripped the mosquito netting away, looked over at Reed and frowned. "T'was but a dream, man. What is the matter?"

But he knew. The Caribbean island plantation staff feared he was going mad, while the islanders whispered that he'd been ensorcelled by Merfolk. But for him, it was just a dream. That's all it ever was. Damn.

Yet his left shoulder ached and stung.

He swung his feet over the edge of the bed, stood up, rolled his aching shoulder, and walked to the sideboard. He tried to remember what he had done yesterday to account for the pain. He'd spent the day in the estate office. Nothing unusual about that. On the island one day passed much like the last. Only the dreams lived.

He poured himself a glass of port then turned again to face his man who stood quivering by the bed, a hare about to bolt. "Well?"

"Was it the same, sir? The . . . the same as last time?" Reed chewed on the knuckle of his scrawny index finger.

"Yes, or nearly enough," Andrew answered, rubbing his left shoulder. The lingering shoulder pain was new. And the hate. He felt the hate like a caul over him that he couldn't shake off.

"Same as the time before that?" Reed persisted. He shuffled forward a bare step.

"Yes, and before you ask, the same as the time before that, too," he said, irritated by his valet's fear.

He lifted his glass and drank the port in one swallow. The dreams were all the same. Or near enough. They had started within weeks of his arrival at