I fell asleep that night to the smell of salt after the day’s competition. After years in Opens and charity events, I finally scored an Invitational. This was the big time. The surfing world was finally learning the Pelinor name, and it was huge.

In my half doze I caught the aroma of sweat and pheromones from the girl lying next to me. She was the best kind of surf-groupie: dressed in a bikini,showing off a cheap, waxless board and asking for a lesson. She’d probably had dozens of similar lessons, but it was a part of her game. It was a game I liked playing.

And until three days ago, it was illegal.

I really couldn’t blame her. I was the new wonder boy. They said I would set the surfing world on fire. And after a third-place finish on the first day of competition, a lot of people are agreeing, especially since a decent showing tomorrow would snag me second with no problems, with an outside shot at first. In my first Invitational. At eighteen years old.

I can’t say for sure, but I assume I fell asleep smiling that night.

Which is why that dream was so strange.

I was vaguely aware of being in a dream, the way you know that you’re being followed or forgot something and can’t think of what. The first thing I noticed was the lack of salt air, followed by the distant roar of lions and red dust under my bare feet.

I wore my swim trunks and an ornate collar that I fingered absently as I took stock of my surroundings. I seemed to be outside of some old theater of sorts. While the arena itself was made of a stone colored the same red as the dust, it was supported by marble columns. In fact, there were too many columns, making the front of the place look like it was caught in some grotesque grin or maybe a death rictus.

In a shadow I caught some movement and the fins of a surfboard disappearing into the marble forest at the front of the massive structure. It looked vaguely like the bargain basement board that the girl I knew, in a strange way, was still sleeping next to had. I followed it, hoping to replicate in a dream state what I just did awake. In fact, it was my dream. Maybe she’d agree to that other thing here.

I rounded one of the marble monstrosities, the moonlight throwing huge shadows made menacing by the Ionic spirals from the columns against the giant entrance. With a start, I drew up suddenly, surprised to find Groupie Girl waiting for me.

Only it wasn’t Groupie Girl. This one was different. She was both lithe and strong, a little taller than me. Parts of her features seemed to shift suddenly, but only when I wasn’t paying attention to them, and I couldn’t be sure if a change had really occurred. She wore a collar and chain around her neck that she occasionally glanced sadly at. There was a certain quality about her, the same as the girl who asked me about flying cars once and so many others for as long as I could remember.

She was certainly attractive enough to be one of my dreams. I smiled, reaching for the chain to pull her closer, when she started to speak and I stopped.

“If you go to Za’ha’dum, you will die. Second column from the left.”

Her voice was at once commanding and creepy. She spoke in two voices at once, pronouncing the words like a prophesy. I followed as she led me toward the column and bent my head down to watch her open a secret door.

At first I didn’t see anything inside. Then, as I shifted position, the moon caught a faint glimmering. Carefully, I reached in and took out a crystal coin, refracting the moon into a million different colors.

When I looked up again, we were no longer outside. Instead, we were in a dingy dead-end hallway, barely lit from being too far from the nearest torch.

The girl was still there. She wanted something from me, and I could tell now that it wasn’t to be dressed like a cheerleader and spanked like the naughty girl she is.

She reached forward and took my arm near the shoulder. I could feel the powerful confidence in that grip, the steadiness that comes from having been through hell and knowing that you can lead somebody else through it as well. I wondered what sort of hell this girl thought she would need to lead me through, but I was sure that if I had gripped her arm in the same way that my hand would have shook, if only slightly.

She slid her hand down my arm and past my elbow. I shivered from the contact, not exactly sure why, and passively allowed her to lift my arm in the air. It wasn’t until it passed my eyes that I realized that I still had the coin in my hand. I watched with almost reverent longing as it rose in the air at the end of my limb, slowly blocking the single moon-lit window in the corridor.

I ducked as a concentrated beam of moonlight sprang from the coin and landed squarely on the wall opposite. I’m sure it was nothing, especially being a dream, but I held my body and arm in position as I turned my head to follow the beam. I couldn’t be sure, but I didn’t think I saw a keyhole on that wall before. Now there was clearly one highlighted by the beam of moonlight. Even stranger, the entire keyhole itself began to turn on it’s own, ending with a near-silent click and the grinding of stone on stone as the wall itself swung open.

I wasn’t sure how to feel, but something about this seemed important. In a way it was like I’d been here before, but never seen it in my life. I turned back to the girl, again her features ever-so-subtly changed I think, and she simply nodded at me. Very slowly she leaned in as if she were going to kiss me. I could feel the sexual energy build in my body as her face came closer. Every time I looked, it was somebody new, entirely different than before. Tension began to build more as she came even closer, and I could almost feel the need rising in me.

As I opened my eyes, wondering when our lips would actually meet, I saw my hotel room again. I looked down and noticed the sheet bouncing up and down from a great bulge, and it took me a second to realize that Groupie Girl had either wanted to wake me up, or simply had a need and didn’t want to disturb me. It was a dream, and a powerful one.

Not wanting to disturb Groupie Girl’s fun, I let her continue unabated, crossing my arms behind my head and looking up at the ceiling, wondering who that person was and what any of that could possibly mean.

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