December air creeps in through the crack in the window. Moonbeams flow into the room, casting blue light on the walls. I back further into the shadows and watch him as he sleeps. I was supposed to kill him months ago, but I couldn’t. And so I lied. I lied to the Order and told them he was dead, offering them the soul of some decrepit peasant as substitute.
He stirs and whimpers, another nightmare. That always happens to the ones whose time is drawn.
I sweep my hand above his eyes to banish the horrific visions. “Sweet dreams,” I whisper into his ear.
You humans, you mortals, you all have so many opinions of us, so many variations. Many of you believe us to be one little man, entering homes and banishing darkness from children’s slumber. Others imagine us to be a monster, stealing dreams and feeding on fear. Neither theory is entirely correct, nor entirely wrong.
There is not just one Sandman, there are thousands. We are called the Order and we’re as old as the universe itself. None of us chose to be what we are, though most are proud to be. From birth we’re told that it is an honor, that being a member of the Order will bring glory to our families. Where I’m from everyone believes this. My parents were so happy the day an Elder arrived to take their only son away. That was so long ago now. So many years have passed since then, my family is dead now.
You see, the Order grant us with immortality. Only a fellow Sandman possesses the power to wound another and only the Blade of Chronus can kill a member of the Order. And in all the history of our days the High Council has ordered only six Sandmen to execution, the six names we do not speak.
I know that the Blade of Chronus is in my future. I know that condemnation awaits me. I broke the Order’s number one rule. I got attached. I fell in love with a mortal and it got in the way of my duty.
For millennia the Order has controlled sleep. For centuries we have followed the orders of Morpheus, but I didn’t. I let Simon live. I ignored the command of the gods.
The Order will not be deceived for long. They will soon learn of what I have done and they will send Enforcers for me. And worse, they will send another Sandman for Simon.
So I must act. I must do something to save myself and Simon. There is no use in going back to Arinvauld, that will only make my capture easier. No, I mustn’t ever return home. I need refuge, I need protection and the only people that can offer me that are the Seekers. They are the children of Apollo. They are the light that banishes sleep. They are the gravity that lures the Earth toward the sun. Only they can challenge the power of the Order.
But how can I ever take Simon there? Here, on Earth, he has a home. He has a family. How could I get him to run away from all of that? How could I ask him to?
I must. If he stays here he will die. He will be destroyed. I cannot let that happen. Months ago I made the decision to save him and that is a decision I will honor now.
The clock on his desk chimes. I don’t have much time, dawn will be here soon. I must wake him. I must convince him to runaway with me.
I stand by his bedside and watch him sleep. I know they will be here soon. I lower my hand to gently rouse him from slumber, but he wakes himself first.
He starts and sits straight up and looks at me in surprise and fear. “Who are you?” he demands in a shaky voice.
“My name is Adrestus,” I say calmly, “and I need you to come with me.”
He crawls back against the wall, “What are you?”
“Please, there’s no time for that. We have to go now.”
Then the window shatters and golden light erupts. When it fades I see Folen, a fellow Sandman, standing in the doorway. Simon looks more frightened than ever.
“Hello, Adrestus,” Folen says cynically.
I swallow back my fear and put myself between him and Simon. “I won’t let you hurt him,” I warn.
Folen laughs. “Oh, Adrestus...how you’ve fallen.” He looks at Simon and then paces in a line before me. “Tell me though, Addy, why did you do it? Why wouldn’t you just kill him like you were told?”
I clench my jaw and say nothing. Folen has always hated me and I know he is enjoying every second that passes.
He clicks his tongue in disapproval. “What a pity.” Then he takes a step toward me and jabs his hand in my chest. I cry out in agony. “I’m sorry, what was that?”
“Don’t touch him,” I spit.
Folen laughs and draws his hand away. I grab onto the iron footboard to keep form falling to my knees.
“You never deserved to be a part of the Order,” Folen sneers, “I always knew that. I knew you would only bring disgrace.”
He moves to step around me, but I stop him. “I said don’t touch him,” I growl, ignoring the pain in my chest.
Folen grabs me by my cloak, “Why would you ever give your life to save a mortal’s, Adrestus? You could have had so much. Why would you throw that away for him?” He bears his teeth as he speaks. Then he stabs my chest once more.
I clench my teeth to keep from screaming. Blood rises up my throat and when I cough it sputters out like a fountain.
Its not me that spoke, but Simon. I can feel him standing beside me.
Folen laughs again and I feel his fingers tighten around my heart. I howl from the pain. “Tell me why,” he demands once more.
I don’t say a word.
Folen twists his hand, “Why!”
“Because I love him!” I cry out.
“Humph,” Folen mutters as he draws his hand away, wiping the blood on my cape. “Oh how you’ve fallen,” he repeats, shaking his head.
I can feel Simon’s eyes on me, but I don’t meet his gaze.
“I truly hope you enjoy watching him die,” Folen says with grim pleasure, “and when we return to Arinvauld I will enjoy watching you die, Adrestus.”
Simon backs away as Folen nears him.
“No,” I snarl as I place a hand over the hole in my chest.
I grip the bedpost as I stumble. “Don’t get near him, Simon.” I warn. “Don’t breathe in the dust.”
“Quiet,” Folen snaps at me.
Simon has backed into a corner now. I push myself away from the bed and stagger toward him.
Folen shoots his hand out toward me and amber lightening flashes from his palm. I scream as it hits me, causing me to slump against the windowpane.
“Stop,” Simon says as he takes a step toward Folen, “you’re hurting him.”
“Get back, Simon.” I struggle to say, “All he can do is wound me.” I look out the window behind me and see dawn approaching. I laugh without humor, “You have to leave, Folen. We both do or the sun will destroy us.”
Folen scowls and turns back to Simon. “I’ll just have to make this quick then.”
“No!” I try to make it across the room in time, but I’m too late.
Folen grabs Simon by the throat and blows golden sand into his face I watch in horror as Simon’s eyes roll back and his body slacks, Folen’s hold the only thing keeping him on his feet.
“You bastard,” I roar as I grab Folen and pull him away, he lets go his hold and Simon slumps to the floor.
“Don’t worry,” Folen sneers as I press him against the wall with my arm at his throat, “you shall join him soon enough.”
“And you’ll die now,” I growl and pull him from the shadows and push him against the open window.
“No!” he screams as the light of dawn reaches him. “No!”
I watch as his flesh burns away and he crumbles into a pile of sand.
I turn back to look at Simon’s body, lying lifeless across the room. Were I still human I would cry, but now all I can do is watch.
“I’m so sorry,” I say to him.
Then I turn back to the window and spread out my arms as sunlight pours over me. My skin smolders, but its nothing compared to the pain in my heart. I tried to protect him. I tried to let him live. I have failed. I could not be with him in life, so I shall join him in death.