Peregrino Alaniz did not wake up. Then again, he didn’t need to… nor did he want to. He was having far too much fun in the girl’s dream. She was a real looker, a freshman at UCLA and, unwilling though she might be to experiment in real life, he was making sure that she at least had something interesting to wake up to. He’d brought her room-mate and her boyfriend into the dreamscape, a cute looking redheaded neogoth and a depressingly strong-jawed jockesque white boy, and inserted himself straight into a lovely little menage a trois that the freshman girl was far too inhibited to realise she wanted.
Admittedly, he was taking the place of the girl’s boyfriend from back home in Oklahoma, but he really didn’t care about that; he got to have fun, and he got to start a new project – by the time that guy got to come see her in a couple of months, the two girls would barely be able to hold themselves back. Practically a public service, he thought to himself, before other matters most definitively distracted him.
He left the two ladies snuggling in the bed, leaving them both with only vague images full of desire to wake to, and stepped into the dreamscape. One more sideways step and he was in his ‘office’, a space he had constructed within the scape. It wasn’t fancy, but then again it didn’t need to be; first of all, he only ever used it for meetings, and, second, being a permanent structure in a very impermanent zone, fancy would consume too much energy.
Oh, he could throw up floating castles or underground caverns in the dreamscape with no problem, but they were ephemeral things that faded with the awakening of his chosen subject. His ‘office’, meanwhile, was permanent; hidden from other Dreamers (not to mention Nightmares), and more importantly was his connection to the ‘real’ world.
Sometimes he thought about closing up shop completely, but he owed Eduardo too much; he would have never survived childhood on the streets of Mexico City on his own, not the sickly thing that had been abandoned by his mother (Eduardo’s older sister), who had been spat on, called a devil by the Catholics, and a tool by the followers of the Old Ways… no, he owed Eduardo far too much, so he maintained the connection, made an enemy of the Dreamers, and was fully at home in neither world.
He focused momentarily, and then – with a jolt – felt the unwelcome touch of the real world. Looking down, he noticed the body that had been left for him by Eufrasio, sitting in the wheelchair as always, and the high of his activities with the two freshman left him with a jolt. The bastard. He always did it. Always tried to embarrass him; grossly obese women, hobos, children, strung out junkies… but this was one step too far. This was too close to the thing that he had been. This—
He took a deep breath, felt the pain that even that small act cost this poor beknighted frame, and calmed himself. Eufrasio was a monster in the truest sense of the word, old fashioned pandillero, and Eduardo’s hatchet man. If heads needed chopping, or an example needed to be made, Eufrasio was the one that was called. Peregrino did what he did because he owed Eduardo. Eufrasio did it for the sheer enjoyment of the thing… and he had also made it his business, since they were all children, to make Peregrino’s life as uncomfortable as he could get away with.
As always, he wouldn’t allow Eufrasio to see his pain. Eduardo had always said that Peregrino was in so much pain that he could allow others to see none of it. That was why he’d never told Eduardo about the things Eufrasio used to do, and it was why he laughed along with every little embarrassment that he tried to put him through nowadays. As to why he never tried to get revenge on him, he had tried. Once. Once and never again. The inside of Eufrasio’s head made Nightmares look gentle by comparison.
This shell couldn’t walk, so he used its stubby pathetic arms to painfully push the wheelchair along – to the office where he usually met with Eduardo. This morning, however, there was no Eduardo, just an attractive woman in her late twenties with dark skin and surprisingly crystal blue eyes. She was wearing a very expensive suit, and looking at him without emotion. “You’re late.” Her Spanish was neutral, equally without emotion, and entirely uninflected. She could have leapt out of a Spanish language textbook.
“I… would have come… faster… but…” He rasped painfully, the malformed mouth making it difficult to even frame the words, and motioned at his withered form. “Where… is… Edu—”
“Gone.” She interrupted, “We just received word that unknown assailants attacked our factory in Westlake. If you look out of the window, you can still just about see the smoke.” She made a small moue of distaste, more at the idea that something had gotten in the way of carefully made plans as opposed to any human worry, “Pericles was not amongst the dead. You are to find him.”
Marching orders given, she didn’t even say farewell or dismiss him, but just turned and left the office. Peregrino stayed quiet for a moment, before his face (which he was glad he could not see) cracked in a horrible rictus of a smile. He had told Pericles that he was too exposed, and had been ignored. Even Eduardo had dismissed his concerns, telling him that he was too disconnected from ‘events on the ground’ and ‘the current state of play’… but you saw things in the Dreamscape… that was one of the reasons for all the rules that he broke… and maybe, in future, some of them would be more likely to listen.