He opened his eyes and found himself surrounded by a crimson fog. He breathed in the fog, and the hairs in his nose curled up as the fiery substance scorched its way down his throat and into his lungs. His mind suddenly raced with a thousand thoughts at once…each one was some little thing he’d suppressed any reaction to in his past. Tiny little thoughts of annoyance, anger, and frustration gathered into an army that hammered into him full charge. He dropped to his knees and covered his mouth and nose with his shirt hoping that would be enough to hold back the fog. He scanned around him looking for a way out when he spotted a hunched over shadow with silver eyes that pierced the crimson veil and fixed their sights on its prey. He stared at those eyes for an eternity, but as he began to blink, the world slowed down around him. With his eyelid halfway down, the creature lunged through the air at him. Then panic set in as the world went black. Then the eyelid rose halfway up, and he could see the creature–a mountain lion with elephant skin and small, shiny obsidian tusks that jutted out of its back like quills. He instinctively leaned back to avoid the creature’s strike, but one of its claws caught hold of his cheek. Then time froze. No movement, no breathing, no heartbeat, no sound–just pain. It shot through him like firecrackers going off in every one of his nerves. Time slowly picked up, but he barely noticed as the claw sent tremors of pain through his entire body with each new cell it cut through. Tears streaked down his cheek as the claw finally left his face. He collapsed to the ground as the creature turned. It went straight for his throat, and he screamed.

He woke with a jolt as every muscle in his body contracted at once. His body arched to the point where most of his backside no longer touched the bed, and then he dropped and bounced on the mattress beneath him. He leaped out of the bed and stumbled his way into the bathroom. He splashed cold water on his face to fight back the growing nausea. He suddenly noticed his heart pounding away like it might explode. He took some slow, deep breaths to calm himself down and looked into the mirror for reassurance that it was just a dream. But, in the mirror, he saw a thick scab along the length of his cheek. His fingers shook as they made their way toward the scab–his sense of touch being his last hope that this wasn’t real. But it was.