“Leo… I’m sorry…”
The voice sounded familiar, but I didn’t know whose it was. I kept looking around, trying to find out where it was coming from, but I couldn’t see anything, not even what was directly in front of my face.
“I’m sorry…” The voice sounded so tortured, as if the speaker was racked with guilt about something. It sounded as if the person was trying not to cry.
“Why?” I demanded loudly. My voice echoed. “Why are you sorry?”
“I’m sorry, Leo…”
“So sorry…” The voice changed. It was the same speaker, but the tone was different. It almost seemed to be mocking me. “Sorry you couldn’t figure it out sooner, Leo…”
I was scared. “Who are you?”
“You couldn’t figure it out… You lose…”
I was back at the table. The same man that had stood there my first match was there. I couldn’t see the face of my opponent. I looked at the board, and couldn’t even tell which color I was.
“Reginea’s player is the winner!”
Good, I thought. Maybe Leonteria should lose after all…
“Leo!” Ixi was running to me. A huge man grabbed her by the arm, keeping her away.
I stood. “Ixi?”
“Why couldn’t you win?” She was sobbing.
Back in the dark space. Ixi’s voice was still there, crying hard.
“Why couldn’t you win?” she repeated. “Don’t you know what will happen if you lose, Leo? Don’t you know? Why didn’t you figure it out sooner?”
“What happens?” I demanded. “What happens when I lose?”
“When you lose… the whole royal family dies… including… their only daughter…”
“Who is Leonteria’s king’s daughter?”
I woke up, scared out of my mind, and looked around. My bedroom. Kitchen noises. Wrinkled sheets. One pillow on the floor.
I rubbed my forehead, wincing. My head was hurting. Maybe from the nightmare… I couldn’t tell. But the kitchen noises vanished soon enough, and I finally got out of bed.
Ixi was waiting outside again, humming to herself. She seemed more chipper than usual. Ironic, since I was at my least chipper.
She looked up as I came closer. “You look awful.”
“Thanks,” I mumbled sarcastically.
“That’s not what I meant. Are you alright?”
“Didn’t sleep well, but whatever. I can still play.”
“I don’t care about that right now. Why didn’t you sleep well?” She looked concerned.
“I’m fine. I just had a nightmare.”
She looked confused. “… Nightmare?”
“You guys don’t have nightmares? You’re lucky…”
“No… I’ve never heard of one before. What is it?”
“Um… a scary dream.”
My eyebrows went up. “You’ve never heard of a dream.”
“No… I’m sorry. What is that?”
“Well, um… how to explain…” I sat down on the curb. “Well, when we sleep, our brains are still awake… kind of. And, um, while we’re sleeping…” I shook my head. The scientific explanations would clearly get me nowhere. “A dream is basically a story that your brain comes up with to entertain you while you’re sleeping.”
There, she can understand that well enough. “Yeah. So, last night, my brain wrote a horror story in my head.”
“The worst part is that, in this nightmare, I was the main character.”
“Even worse! That sounds so scary. It’s like… being forced into a movie.” She actually looked pretty scared. “I can’t imagine how terrifying that must be.”
“Yep. Pretty scary.” I sighed. “There are good dreams, too, though.”
“So, what kind of story was it? Tell me.”
I told her. The whole thing, beginning to end. At the end, she went very pale.
“… What’s wrong?”
“How did you know?”
“How did I know what?”
“That I’m the king’s daughter.”