My fingers ran across the wall of my room. It didn’t feel right. I lived in a traditional home with dry wall and insulation. The walls felt too cold, too bumpy. My eyes wanted to tell me my hands were resting on dry wall, but the feelings under my fingertips fought the lie. It was rough stone, I knew it.
On that note, I opened the window to my room, and found that screen couldn’t be removed no matter how hard I tried. When I pressed against it with enough force, it stopped against a solid surface as well. I sighed and stepped back. I was stuck here, within an illusion of my own home.
“I should have picked the True Sight.” I muttered under my breath.
I had been so convinced that I was stuck in a dream. It never occurred to me that it was all an illusion. They were dream demons after all. What did illusions have anything to do with that fact. Was it some kind of ironic name, the demons tried to fulfill your dreams so call them dream demons? I wish the books would have just spelled out that fact!
I never got a skill for no reason. The experience I gained while leveling and the behavior I exhibited while I gained that experience altered what skills I’d be offered. However, it was difficult to remember exactly what little actions would dictate what skills came through. Still, I should have been cautious when I saw something related to illusions. I hadn’t experienced an illusion before that I knew, so I should have asked myself why it appeared.
To sum it up, I was trapped here, and it was all my fault. No, I would be trapped in here whether it was an illusion or not. The fact that I could see and feel my nostalgic house could even be called a blessing. It was far more comfortable than any potential cell I was lying in. However, I accepted it wasn’t real.
Was that even a bed I was lying on? Or was it just a stack of hay? As soon as I thought it, suddenly the comfortable bed I had been lying in felt a little itchy. I went to the bathroom. Was there really a toilet here, or at the least some kind of commode? For all I knew, I was just peeing on the floor.
Distance seemed to be manipulated as well. I was pretty sure I was in a single-story jail. My mind must have made up the feeling of going up and down a stairway. Depending on how big the cell was, I could be peeing and then sleeping where I pee. It was an incredibly unsettling thought that only started to make me feel even dirtier.
Therefore, I decided to brave a shower. At least, I’d be standing. The water felt real as it ran down my face, but there was something off about it. I didn’t truly feel clean by the time I had managed to pull myself out of the shower. That could describe the feeling of everything here. I felt incomplete. Everything felt off. I used the new and improved immaculate to clean my body. At the very least, I wouldn’t grow dirty in this cage. At the very least, I could trust my own body. I could… couldn’t I?
I slammed my fist against the wall. Instead of making the thud of a semi-hollow modern wall, it made a lighter thump against rock. It was harder too, and the pain immediately began to pulsate through my hnad.
“Shit!” I cursed as loud as I could, rubbing my hand.
“H-ello…” a voice came out that was dull and distant.
I spun around, looking around for the source of the voice. “Yeah?”
“A-are you-“ I couldn’t make out the rest of the sentence.
I narrowed in to find the sound was coming from the wall. More specifically, there was a voice coming from the outside of the wall of my second story room. Of course, this wasn’t my home. I was in a cell. If that was the case, then this person must be my cell neighbor.
“I’m here! I’m Aria. I-I’m in the cell next to you!”
“You are? You’re truly there? I’m not dreaming?”
The voice seemed to have grown a little stronger, and I could now tell that she was distinctly a female. It wasn’t Min though, although part of me wasn’t surprised by that fact.
“You’re not dreaming, I’m really here! They… um… they just imprisoned me.”
“You… can fight their illusions too?” The voice asked.
“Ah… no, actually…” I scratched my cheek and grimaced once again while thinking about the mistake I had made. “Actually, from my point of view, I’m still in my house. I sort of thought this was all a dream, but when I tried to take charge, I realized things weren’t going my way.”
“You can control dreams?” The woman asked. “I see… so that’s how. My name… is Ava”
“That’s how?” I couldn’t stop myself from asking.
“Th-the cambions… those monsters. Their magic works in two ways. Dreams to trap you and hallucinations to trick you. They need you to be… awake… to do what they do to you…”
Things were starting to click into place. So, in a way, my dream skills were causing a problem. Illusions could only work so far. I had quickly begun to realize I was in an illusion as soon as things didn’t start to add up. However, if I tied illusions with dreams, leaving someone in a half-asleep state, I could get over issues like the location. Someone who could never leave their house might start to ask questions, but add dreams to that and you could lead people around. They’d think they are living their lives, while they’re really only coherent and awake when the demons are seducing them directly.
“So… I take it you’re the opposite of me then? You can see through their illusions?”
There was a long silence to the point you thought something happened before she responded. “Yes… the things I’ve seen… perhaps you’re the lucky one?”
“Lucky? I can’t even tell what’s real. Are we even sleeping on beds? I’m terrified even to use the restroom because I’m afraid I’ll be stepping in it!”
There was a forced chuckle on the other end, and I forced one out as well. It wasn’t laughter that came from true amusement, but it was something we both needed in this scary and dark situation. The laughter ended quickly and the silence returned. I still left my ear pressed against the wall, terrified to end the conversation and the connection the pair of us had created.
“They are… the beds I mean. They are beds.” The voice suddenly spoke up. “And we have… commodes. They clean them, while we’re asleep.”
“What about showers?” I asked excitedly, suddenly feeling relieved.
“Showers? I don’t know what that is.”
“Ah, I mean… a wash basin, I guess.” I winced, once again realizing that despite the illusion around me, this was still another world.
“Yeah… those bastards… they at least don’t want us filthy as they violate us.” I could hear some of the bitterness in her voice, but I didn’t have an answer for her.
I was already broken by a list of strange skills. Sex had ceased to be something that was put on some kind of pedestal. It had simply become an action. There was nothing special or magical about it. Thus, even the concept of rape started to become an abstract idea. Being forced to do something against your will was never a good thing, but I lacked the capacity to glorify sex. I was already being imprisoned against my will. My freedom was being restricted. Choosing a sexual partner or no longer having sex on my terms was no more terrifying than no longer being able to go outside on my terms. Being raped was no different to me than being imprisoned.
As a result, I found myself horribly inept at offering comfort and empathy with the woman on the other side of the wall, who had begun to weep. She had likely been at the mercy of the cambions far longer than I had. They had come into her cell and forced themselves on her. Ava began to talk about her experience. She had been abducted when she had gotten lost on some kind of an expedition. She had been there for two months. As I listened to Ava tell her story in between sobs, she explained how they tried to come for her in her dreams. They would lie, trick, and manipulate her.
The first few times, she fell for it easily, but when the moment of harvesting began, they had to wake her, and she would see them and start to fight. However, she was powerless to resist them. It was no wonder she had begun to see the people here as monsters. Her voice was filled with disgust and revolution. I guess even people as attractive as the cambions would be seen with disgust at the acts they performed.
That’s when I came to a horrifying revelation. Even as she gave the details with a voice laced in disgust, I couldn’t feel the same disgust in my heart. The man who had entered my cage I had given myself to willingly. He had been gentle and kind. I had come to this location in the first place to try to learn from them because I saw a comradery in our abilities. I used sex as a means of survival. I had manipulated. I had lied. I had even killed. The cambion’s were a race of demons or demi-humans that literally needed sex to survive. They had done nothing I hadn’t done myself.
Yet, because it was sex, the cambions were treated like monsters, even by their demon brothers. They were feared and hated while others like the vampires who sucked blood were excused. Even humans lived by killing and eating the flesh of other living beings. That could hardly be called a good thing, and yet no one found humans to be evil. Yet sex… that was the limit. That was the point that seemed to break all people, humans, demons, and demi-humans alike.
Rape was such a hated thing in this world that the humans intrinsically hated the demons, who were created by profane human/monster copulations through rape. The demons, in turn, hated the cambions… at least enough that they had banished them to the edges of their territory and spoke of them as scary stories.
Would they come to hate me in the same way?
The event in the village had come to mind. I slept around with a few men, and the village was ready to burn me at the stake. My powers weren’t respected. They weren’t revered. They were feared. The humans hated me, and it wasn’t likely that the demons would like me anymore.
No, rather, I remembered the face of that Kappa as he killed himself just so that I didn’t gain a little bit of control. He hated the idea of loving me, or me forcing him to feel something unnaturally, so much that he’d rather die. At the time, I had been too shocked to truly process it. But now, I couldn’t stop thinking about the scene over and over again.
I had wanted control, but I lived in a violent and wild world that refused that control. It hated that control. My lies, my manipulation, the love I could give… this was a world that rejected it completely. It rejected me completely. I was just like these cambions. Another monster to the people of this world.
“A-are you still there?” the voice asked nervously through the wall.
Would this woman hate me too if she knew? Probably… I thought bitterly.
She had finally drifted off from her story as I had stayed quiet.
“Yeah…” I responded, having to rework the moisture in my mouth with my tongue.
“The cambions, they’re fake. Don’t believe a thing they say.” She said, her voice trembling.
I turned away, shaking my head. Rather than coming away from the conversation feeling pity for her and hatred for the cambions as one might expect, my emotions were much more complex.
The doorbell rang. I stood up and walked down the stairs, opening the front door. He was standing there, the man I had enjoyed the previous morning with, if it happened to be morning when I had woken up. I realized I didn’t hate this man, and I wasn’t afraid of him in the slightest.
“C-can I come in?” He asked, still seeming nervous, even though the gig was up around his motives and identity.
I grabbed the man and pull him in. Remarkably, there appeared to be no bars blocking us. Perhaps he had already gotten into my cell before ringing the bell. I didn’t really know the linguistics of this illusion. I also didn’t care.
I pulled him towards me and immediately kissed him on the lips, pulling his warm body against mine as I hugged him tightly.
I never should have come to this world. My presence was a mistake, of that I’m sure. However, the cambions, these so-called monsters, they were like me. Who cared if they lied, manipulated, and cheated. So did humans. These guys just happened to focus more on sex. So, did I. Even in this cell, a realization started to come over me. These people… they were my people.
Even if this life was an illusion, even if this world was a lie, it was better than reality.
I pulled my lips away from his as he gasped for breath. “I’m home.”
The man had a confused look on his face, but he still smiled wryly and responded. “Welcome home.”
I took him to my bed and we collapsed in each other’s arms.