SHARED NIGHTMARES Sneak Peek: “U.I.” by Howard Tayler

cover - ebook 2She looks like one of Sedgwick’s neo-fey things, you know? Reptilian humanoid, digitigrade legs, smooth scales like a snake, and just as sexy as those elves that Wilson designed. Lithe, graceful, and dressed in a white half-tee and skin-tight black compression shorts. Oh, and she’s got a knife in one hand. Anyway, she’s brand new, and disturbingly hawt so I totally forget to throw a wardstone. I whip my Mossberg up, and sure enough, the reptilian fey-lady is on top of me before I can fire.

My Turtleskin vest stops her knife, but she’s shoved the Mossberg aside where it’s useless. I pull the trigger anyway, and the shotgun’s report is an explosion just a foot away from my face. Hers, too, lucky me. Repto-elf leaps away from me, screaming, and I see she’s bleeding from one of her ears.

I pump the shotgun and snug it up into my shoulder. Now that I’ve got the barrel pointing in the right direction I can’t miss. And just as I’m putting the bead on that scaly bitch something punches me in the back. Something hot.

A spear point, shimmering with magical fire, bursts out of my chest. A stick of butter would have made better body armor. My hands go numb almost instantly, but I don’t drop the Mossberg. I can still squeeze off a shot, and maybe I’ll get lucky. There’s a trauma phial in my pocket and—

Whatever’s holding the spear lifts me off the ground with it and shakes me. The shotgun goes flying, my coat is whipping up around my face, and I think I’ve got my own arterial blood splashing up into my nose. Then I hit the asphalt, and the rough, blood-spattered pavement is all I can focus on before everything goes dark.


“Totally killed me, man. And yeah, it was intense.”

“I bet. Anyway, congratulations. You’re dreaming the game. Now the real work begins. Did you write it up?”

“Not yet. I’m more used to writing up defects.”

“This isn’t a defect, obviously. Log this in Q-Case, and tell the story. And be sure to include as much detail as you can on that reptilian fey chick.”

“You like my design?”

“Actually, I want to run it past Sedgwick and see if he’s already built something like it.”

“Oh. That makes sense. I probably caught a glimpse of that in an image library, and then inserted it into my dream.”

“Right. Most importantly, though, before you head home this evening, get the latest build of the Player’s Quest Log onto your tablet, and then take the tablet with you to bed.”


“Seriously. Put it on the nightstand. Now that you’re dreaming the game, you need to log these things the moment you wake up.”

“Oh. Right. No problem.”


I used to wonder why they’d put an old-fashioned cube farm in a video game. Sure, it’s retro, but not in a good way. People played these games to get out of the cube farms, right? Well, I’m running through a cube farm now, and I totally get it. Wish fulfillment. We don’t just want to escape the cubes. We want to transform them, and nothing transforms fabric-walled office cubes like a flamethrower…


Read the rest of this story and eleven more nightmare-inspired tales in Shared Nightmaresavailable now!

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