Sam led me to a small concrete building that was nearly a mile out of town, deep in the woods that covered the hills around us. After following a well worn path, we broke free of the trees and I could see that other infected had already made their way here. Some had a small fire burning outside near a dark doorway and I could see shapes moving in the darkness around them. However, the building, small as it was, seemed to loom over us and mock our numbers.
Slipping around a corner, I found a clear patch of grass next to the wall and settled myself down. Sam joined me, though he would occasionally call out to some of the other people around us whenever he saw someone he recognized; Sam had been around a bit and most of his friends were Plague Car runners like him. I didn't join in on any of their conversations but set to undoing the wrapping around my left arm. It was slow going; no matter how often I used my right hand now, I was and had always been a lefty. The knot was stubborn and, in the darkness, I was having a hard time working my fingers into the cotton binding.
Finally, I blew out in frustration and leaned my head back, emptying my mind of all thought until it felt like I was drifting. The voices around me began to sound hollow and meaningless while the sound of the crickets chirping seemed to grow, taking on strange rhythms that seemed to speak of something beyond the chaos that a part of my mind knew it to be. Slipping into a Waking Dream always was like this; things would slide out of focus while other things would start to make sense, no matter how bizarre it was.
Likewise, the darkness seemed to recede from around me. Light wasn't taking its place, but I could see in a strange light-that-wasn't-light. My mind tried to wander, to sink deeper into the Dream, to seek the realms of a Deep Dream, but I resisted and fought to keep myself floating between consciousness and sleep. I fought to remain in my body and not drift free. Few Somnams that I had spoken with could keep themselves from fully sleeping when they Dreamed, but it seemed to be easier for me to work in a Waking Dream.
Looking downwards, I could clearly see the knot holding the white cotton sleeve that restrained me, its twists and turns visible in the un-light of the Dream. I focused on it, growing aware of the fibers as my mind twisted around the knot and pulled; the knot fell apart easily and I let the wrapping around my arm fall to the ground.
I couldn't help but grimace at the sight underneath the wrapping; my arm was not a pretty sight. I usually didn't need to wrap it when I entered a town, but others would always react with such disgust that it was always a better idea to hide it anyways. I couldn't blame them; my arm looked like I had stolen it from a corpse days dead. In the strange light of the Dream, I could see my flesh, bloated and black.
At least the stabbing pain had moved on; for weeks it had felt like my arm had been on fire from the elbow down, but that had mercifully moved on. Now all that was left was a numbness that spread from my fingers to my shoulder. With the knot removed, I weakly tried to flex the fingers on my left hand, seeing them feebly twitch in response. At least I still had some motor control in that hand.
I turned and pulled a small mat from my pack, intent on getting some sleep before dawn came. However, as I laid down, I couldn't help but to pause and regard my arm again in the Dream-light. I could see every blotch and blackened vein, but when I tried to reach in just like I had done with the knot, I felt nothing. Beyond the sickened skin, I knew that my bug was busy, killing me with each pump of my heart, but I couldn't feel it there; in the Dream, I could never feel my own self.
Sound continued to drone in my ears, but it wasn't until a hand reached out and shook my shoulder that I realized that someone was droning at me. I hastily let the Dream slip away and came fully awake. Darkness plunged in around me and the sounds once more resolved into words and voices.
"...food on you for the pot?" Sam's voice was still calm and quiet, but I could tell that it was probably not the first time that he had asked me that; Sam knew that I zoned out when I Dreamed. "These guys are trying to get something together. If you contribute something, you'll get a cut."
My stomach growled and I laughed. "Sure, just a minute." I pulled open my pack again and felt in the dark for a moment until I pulled out a narrow bundle as long as my hand. "This should still be good." I handed it over to Sam, who began sniffing at it. "It's a bit of salted beef that we got off of the shaker. Have them use that and you can have my cut; I just want to sleep." I rolled over and pulled my coat shut, trying to huddle against the cool night air as my mind began to wander again, drifting free as I ignored the hollow pit in my stomach.
Moments passed in silence until I heard Sam lean close. "You going to try Dreaming it out of you again?" His voice was quiet, softer than even a whisper, but tinged with hope. He knew that Somnams could do strange things with their Dreams and he hoped that sooner or later I would find a way to Dream a cure for bugs.
I paused in the darkness, remembering my recent attempt to reach into my arm and how I hadn't been able to do anything. Should I tell Sam that I had already tried, only to fail again? "Yeah, I going to try Dreaming." The lie was easy, meant to comfort my friend as I drifted to sleep. However, I let my mind wander free and I slipped into a natural sleep, one free of Dreams.