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Some nights, I wake up standing. I hate those nights. 

When I wake up standing, it means I'm about to see something terrible. Or at least something weird - the kind of thing that can't exist outside of imagination. 

I woke up standing tonight. 

I was in the middle of a city, but I was completely alone. I was about to do something horrible, and nobody wanted to be there when it happened. The street I was on kept getting wider; it was trying to get away from me too, and taking all the buildings with it. 

Off in the distance, past the buildings, flashes lit up the sky. Explosions of color that were there and then gone, like the world's saddest fireworks. People were fighting over there, and dying. Their shouts were barely louder than whispers. The bellows were worse. The things that made them had to be monsters - the kind of creatures that can't exist outside of nightmares - and I was afraid I was going to walk over there and see them. 

Smoke came along with the fighting and the dying and the monsters, really black smoke, like the kind that comes out of the grill whenever you try to use it, but it was too far away to block out the explosions, so all it could do was get sucked up into the sky with the shouting and the bellows, until it got burned away by the sun. 

The sun was supposed to be red in places like that, like a big, bloody wound; clouds were supposed to be black, like bandages that soaked up all the blood and dripped what they couldn't hold onto the sky, turning it orange, or purple. But the sun was still yellow there, and the clouds were still white, on top of a ridiculously beautiful blue sky - the kind people dream about - because none of them cared about what was I about to do. Neither did I. And real me freaked out, because dream me didn't. 

When I started walking, I could see my hands and my feet - just on the edges of my vision, because I couldn't lower my head - and they were big, man big, and mine while I was stuck there, but not really mine. When you dream and you're "you" in the dream, but not the same "you" that you are in the real world - it's kind of like that. 

Except for you it is just a dream. But I really am someone else, and I'm stuck there, without any control. I have to live out their fears and see them do the disgusting things their conscious minds - their awake selves, that keep up appearances to make people like them - won't let them get away with. 

It's why I hate sleeping more than a couple hours. Because after a couple hours I get into the really deep kind of sleep, and when I get into the really deep kind of sleep is when I start dream jumping. Which is when I wake up standing. 

I know what you're gonna say: "Claire Carvalho! You can control this! You just need to do the exercises your teachers gave you!" But the only one who teaches this stuff is Miss Yamada, and she's a precog, not a telepath. She has no idea what I'm going through, and I wish the Academy would understand that not all psions are alike, just like not all elementalists are alike, or all shifters are alike. But nobody sees our mind stuff, so they think it's okay to lump all the weirdos together. 

So no, the exercises won't help. Nothing will. I'll be stuck getting three hours of sleep and jumping into everyone else's head forever. 

It wouldn't be as bad if I could read their minds when I jump. Then I could make some kind of sense out of it. But it doesn't work like that. Because nobody dreams in complete sentences. And I hate it, and it's why I'm alone, all the time, just like I was in that city. 

But then there was someone else there, almost as far away as the buildings. I wanted to sprint, to catch them before they could get away. Dream me didn't. The thing about dream jumping is I can feel what my host - dream me - feels, so I know if they're excited, or scared or whatever. 

Dream me wasn't excited. Or scared. They were...tired. They'd given up. That horrible thing I was about to do? They didn't want to, but no one else had the guts. So their choices were do the horrible thing, or let the fighting and the explosions keep going until everywhere and everyone was like the city: dead. 

The other person never moved the whole time it took me to get there. He turned out to be a teenager, about my age and maybe an inch taller and a few pounds heavier than me, even though he was a boy. His elbows were the worst part, like his arms were snakes that had swallowed some knobby animal they couldn't get all the way down. He was the kind of kid who gets picked on for being skinny and short, but he's too small to do anything about it, so he closes up and shuts the world out. 

His hands were behind his back, making his snake elbows poke out to the sides. The kid had never done that before. Dream me hesitated. But he didn't stop. 

Real me couldn't cry. Or scream. Or anything that could make dream me stop. "I" was about to do something horrible and I didn't want to be there when it happened. 

But I don't have any control when I dream jump. I have to see myself do the disgusting things. 

Real me couldn't close my eyes as dream me raised his hand. My fist started glowing as the charge built. 

The kid stared at me. 

He pulled his hands from behind his back. 

He was holding a picture. 

Dream me saw a teenage girl with choppy, chocolate brown hair. Her amber eyes might have belonged to a wolf if it weren't for their freaky lavender irises. 

Real me saw a picture of herself. 

Dream me fired, and the shouting and fighting stopped. And he must have woken up, because now I'm standing over Mom. 

The alarms hurt my ears. They're so much louder than the silent city. But I can still hear them coding her. She's lying there because of me, and no matter what anyone says I know it's my fault that she's about to die. 

I know you can't hear me, but I need you to wake up, Daddy. 

I need to talk to someone. 

And your dreams are the worst ones of all.

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