“I am a ‘Baku’,” the stranger answered as the young woman before him stared in bewilderment. She blinked, nodded, then said, “A Baku…are you here to free me from my nightmare?” Hope rose in the woman’s voice as, around her, a nightmare that had plagued her for weeks unfolded. Crumbling buildings muffling children’s screams, sidewalks and streets melding together from the heat of nightmarish flames that enveloped the buildings and the streets and surrounded the two witnessing the nightmare, the ‘dreamer’ and the ‘dream eater’. The stranger, a man in his 20s with white hair in long locks and a black outfit, quirked a brow, his black-red eyes blank, and focused on the woman as he answered. It wasn’t what the woman had hoped for.
“No. No, I am not,” he answered, corners of his mouth twitching as the dreamer’s face fell. There was silence as the flames, orange and red and black all licking and stretching this way and that, the buildings now gone, the children now silenced. “Why would I eat it now? The nightmare is not yet over, and I would very much like to see what happens,” the dream eater stated with a half grin. The woman stared wide eyed and shook her head, quickly, “I don’t want it to! Eat it, wake me up, now! Please!” She shook, afraid, and fell to her knees, eyes wide as the flames circled her, dancing about her. Pyrophobia? The dream eater watched her as she suffered. Instead of a soft voice, a comforting tone…the dream eater laughed. Maniacally? Cheerfully? The laughter echoed in the chamber of the nightmare; it echoed long after he’d stopped. The dream eater composed himself, standing still and watching the suffering woman surrounded by the fire, an eerily calm grin resting upon his palid face.
“My dear madam…do you not know that nightmares are delicious to a Baku?” he began as he reached down to lift up a torch, an arm-long plank of wood, charred yet lit up all fiery on one end. He stared at the flame on the wood as it swayed and twisted before fixating his attention on the woman. He crouched down, flames now surrounding him yet the heat not effecting him, “I am a selfish Baku, madam. I do not ‘cure’ those suffering from their nightmares; I drive them to the point of madness all for the sake of the nightmare.”
The woman looked up at him, eyes wide, trembling. The crackling of the flames, the heat, their light, they occupied most of her senses; she had to strain her ears in order to hear the man. When he’d spoken, she hoped dearly that she had misheard. When she stayed quiet, the dream eater, still grinning, still pleasant and calm in the realm of the nightmare, continued:
“Baku feed on nightmares, that we’ve already established. But we feed on much more than that: we feed on human terror. Fear. Stress. Anger. Negativity, in a nutshell. Baku were never ‘good demons’ to begin with; we’ve always been parasites, like those damned blood suckers,” the dream eater cringed at this term before going on, “We are very much like those demonic ‘spirits’ whom lack bodies, drawn to negative energy, feeding on it until they are strong enough to, eventually, possess the human of their choice.” He continued grinning as he spoke, an eerily calm grin. The woman, thoroughly frightened, whimpered and still said nothing. She wasn’t sure if she could say anything.
“While generally Baku leave the nightmare alone and consume it, no matter what it’s worth, I do something different: I manipulate it until it’s suitable for my pallet. And I said before, I’ll change it until it drives the dreamer ‘mad’.” The dream eater, the ‘man’, finished with a slight grin, the one true sign of irrefutable madness upon his person. And it was this grin alone that forced a scream out of the young woman’s mouth.
The fire engulfed her. The fire engulfed the dream eater. And she screamed and screamed and screamed, throughout her nightmare and throughout the night.
She was lucky to live alone; no one had heard her screaming, no one had come flying to her room to witness her in a fit of nightmarish terror, trapped inside her mind with a madman. The young woman lay in her bed, having just awoken from the fiery terror, and groaned. She reached up to wipe sweat from her forehead to find that her cheeks were wet. With tears, perhaps? She blinked, bewildered, lying quietly.
“He…he made me cry,” she murmured, the nightmare still clear in her mind. The woman whimpered and felt herself beginning to cry again from the fear she’d felt. It was when she began to cry that she felt a slight chill creep up her spine and a light ‘hmph’ next to her. The woman froze, hesitant, then immediately sat up to find someone sitting in the chair beside her bed, the chair usually unoccupied when she awoke in the morning. He wore a black turtle neck and sweats with long, white hair pulled into a ponytail. For some reason, he was covered in soot. And he was scowling in disappointment as he twirled upon his finger a marble full of fire.
The woman stared wide eyed. And then she screamed. His face, his presence triggered something inside her. The woman screamed as the man stared at her blankly. She screamed and screamed long after the dream eater disappeared, grinning as he left, clearly satisfied.
Then the woman herself disappeared, unaware of her actions, blinded by flames and deaf by laughter as she set fire to her house to rid it of the ‘evil’.
She’d never see him again. She’d never have to. He was gone. His work was done.
© Gabriele R./bakuchan/omamorii, 2011