A ‘Captain Scarlet’ story for Halloween
by Talia Gray
The Room of Sleep. Such a peaceful name, don’t you think? They named it this when they designed it. Such an innovation – thirty minutes of electronically-induced deep sleep under a Sleep Enhancer – the perfect restorative. A ‘quick fix’ to allow field agents and pilots to be refreshed and ready for action. It was hailed as a revolution in the scientific world. All factors carefully controlled. Safe.
And so it was.
In the beginning.
And then I discovered it.
Purely by chance, I hasten to add. Oh, there was no malicious intent on my part. An accidental discovery. But what a discovery.
I exist in what you might term a ‘non-corporeal’ form. I derive my sustenance from neural thought patterns. Emotions are my main source of energy. By tapping into your subconscious, I can feed from your memories, your imagination, your dreams...
It had always been so difficult in the past, trying to find an individual in the best state of sleep for me. The dreams never held; they wavered and with it the flow of energy from them. Suitable for a snack – to keep me going through the lean times – but never enough to truly energise me.
To tell the truth, I shouldn’t even be here. I hitchhiked on a returning deep space mission – drawn to the neural energy patterns emanating from the cryo-tubes. They kept me sustained for a while, until Earth-fall. Then the crew’s awakening ... and my hunger set in.
Now I have found you.
I thank your scientists for the Room of Sleep. Profoundly. From the bottom of my heart – if I had one, that is. But you know what I mean. They have no idea of my existence, no understanding that there could exist a being such as me. It makes things so much easier. Within the artificially-induced sleep state, there should be no dreaming. Merely deep sleep. At least that is the idea. In theory. In practice, I have managed to tap into the brain’s brainwave activity, subtly, drawing from it the thread of dreams. The techs don’t bother to monitor sleep patterns anymore. After all, the Sleep Enhancer has been running without fault since its inception. Besides, whenever routine checks are run, I am careful to restrict my ‘activities’. No ‘gremlins’ – oh, how I love that term – are ever discovered. Everything runs as normal. No-one realises they have been dreaming. Well, almost no-one. Everyone is happy. Well, almost everyone.
I know all the Spectrum personnel who have been through here. I have lived in their memories, coaxed their dreams from them. I cannot determine absolutely the pattern of their dreaming; that is denied me. The human brain throws up barriers across which I cannot cross – I am not strong enough. Now, the brain that is not fully human... ah... Well, that is a different matter entirely.
But as for all of you, lying in your state of innocence, deep within your sleep as I watch you dream, tapping into your neural energy. I know you all.
Blue. Such loyalty, ruthlessness and determination – I would feel quite inspired, had I the ability to feel any degree of emotion myself. Yet, also, such tenderness. I am privy to your secrets – your undisclosed feelings for Symphony are shared with me. Yet, fear not. I will not divulge your passion to anyone.
And Symphony, do you realise just how much Blue reciprocates those emotions you have for him? Oh yes, I think you do... at least you hope he does. Your dreams speak to me. They are quite delightful, I can assure you. A touch of sweetness for my ‘palate’.
Oh Rhapsody, Rhapsody. Living one’s hopes within a dream world. Afraid to divulge that little bit too much for fear of rejection. Fear not. Remember, I can see into his dreams and you are reflected there with such affection. You are safe within his secret love for you. Dream on, happily.
And as for you...
Oh, you are my pinnacle, the main source of my strength.
There are chinks in your armour. Did you know that? Your countless deaths and subsequent retrometabolisations have taken their toll on you, my friend. Left cracks in your mental defences. Your thoughts, your dreams, leak out of them like water through shaking fingers. ‘The human brain throws up barriers across which I cannot cross’. So true, and unfortunate, for me. But you... ah, now... not fully human any more. I can run my ‘fingers’ across your synapses, drawing out of them dreams at my command. Your dreams are mine to control and I delight in what you can give me. Such agony; such anguish! So alone in your suffering. Everyone you hold dear, so fragile. Such depth of emotion locked within. And I have the key to release the floodgates. Do you realise how much I am indebted to you?
Come, let me feast on those emotions. Let me help you dream. I reach out into your mind...
There. See her lying in your arms. The pallor of her face contrasting so starkly with the scarlet blood on her chest. Her eyelids fluttering as she weakens. Yes, feel the pain, the knowledge that she is dying and that you are powerless to prevent it. The fragility of her mortality cuts through you like a knife.
Oh, the energy I draw from you. It warms me so. I must have more. I coax your thoughts. The dream shifts...
Your gun, still hot in your hand. Yes, you shot her. An accident. As simple as that. Mistook her for the agent you were tailing. Such anguish! You whisper her name, implore her...
‘Rhapsody... Dianne... I’m sorry... dear God, no... hold on, my love... I’m so sorry...’
Her eyes open for a last time and she looks deep into your soul... a mute smile touching the corners of her pale lips. Unspoken words pass between you. She loves you and now you have lost her. Forever.
Can you feel the pain, Scarlet? Dwell on it, focus on yourself. Yes... it floods out of you – into me; the guilt, the self-loathing, the utter despair. Oh, this is so good! I feel so strong. Energised.
You stir in your sleep. Your head trembles beneath the canopy of the Sleep Enhancer. A crease touching your brow, eyelids flickering as the silent sob catches in your throat. But there is no-one to notice. Not now. There is no routine check today. I am safe and can give full rein to my talent. Your body is so forgiving as the adrenalin surges through it. You will not reveal your dreaming to others. It reflects weakness. Emphasises the fact that, no, you are not fully human. That hurts you, doesn’t it? Instead, you will bear it stoically. Just an unpleasant side-effect of the Mysterons’ previous control over you.
Sated, I will let you rest now. Until our next meeting. Until your next dreaming. The energy you give me is so powerful. More than I could have dared hope for. I shall soon be strong enough to control the dreams of the others. To break down their defences. Did you know that? What feasting there will be! Such dreaming!
And I will owe it all to you.
I hear you whisper ‘but who are you?’
I smile and reply ‘Your worst nightmare.’
I am the Dream Reaper.
Dedicated to my dear friend Brindlewhite for her invaluable support - thank you
My warmest thanks also go to Chris for beta-reading this story and for her kind words of encouragement.
Talia Gray (a.k.a. RhapsodyAngel8)
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