Julisia awoke from the nightmare, choking and gasping for breath. The burning wetness of water-filled lungs still drowned her memory. Utter panic swept through her as she rolled over in bed onto her hands and knees and coughed her guts out onto her pillow. Her wheezing breaths were intermittent as she simultaneously tried to take in air and hack up her dinner from the night before.
On the other side of the dark room Casima stirred, awakened by her friend’s distress. At the snap of her fingers, a pair of pinpoint lights sparked to life. They seemed to come from within the wooden beams in the rafters, illuminating the entire room with a warm light.
Julisia had collapsed onto her side. She lay away from the mess that now occupied where she had slept. The choking coughs had given way to sobbing. Her legs were pulled up to her chest as she curled into a ball, trying to occupy as small a space as possible.
It had been that dream again. The one where she drowned to death; where her own mother killed her. Not only was it her single lone memory from before she had died, it also tortured her in her sleep, disturbing her peace, never letting her forget. It was horrible and it sucked.
“Oh, Julisia,” Casima cooed in sympathy as she slid from her own bed. Her feet were silent on the wood floor as she padded softly across the room to comfort her friend.
She sat down on the edge of the bed, the slight shifting from the extra weight causing it to squeak. Julisia continued to sob as the older woman pulled her gently into her lap. Casima brushed her hand through Julisia’s hair, carefully untangling the black strands from the crying woman’s small horns. She made soothing noises, tenderly quieting her friend.
They stayed that way as Julisia’s tears slowly dissipated. When they were silent, neither attempted to talk to the other. Neither needed to talk. This had happened before, many times before, and each time was just as bad as the last. Nothing Casima could say would dull the harsh edge of Julisia’s nightmare and they both knew it. So, Casima did the only thing she could to provide what small amount of comfort possible to her friend and stayed silent.
A nightbird’s cry pierced the air from the other side of the closed window. Its shriek was harsh in the silence as it cawed on.
When Julisia finally spoke, her voice was coarse and faint, her throat raw, “After eighteen years, you’d think I’d stop having that nightmare.”
“It’s a bad nightmare,” Casima responded, staring out the window where the nightbird continued its sharp call.
Julisia sat up, slipping out from under Casima’s hands to sit on the edge of the bed, “But eighteen years?”
Casima folded her hands daintily in her lap. “I’m not sure this is the kind of thing you ever get over, Sarah,” she put care into the name, her words quiet.
“Please don’t call me that,” a slight twinge of annoyance had entered Julisia’s words. The last thing she needed was for Casi to start calling her Sarah. “Not right now.”
They went silent once more. Outside the nightbird still screeched.