Are you guys ready to get started with 2017's yearlong prompt? Yes? Good.
Because here we go.
This year we will be exploring The Dream Kingdom. Wondering what that's all about? Well I'd like to explain as much as I can in my opening, so please read on.
And since I'm pretty sure that's going to make for a long post, I'll get straight to it.
Dylan knew immediately that he had not fallen into a typical dream. First off, Lara Croft was nowhere to be seen. His best friend, Josh, had found his dad's dusty old copy of Tomb Raider and the two boys had been playing the game in Josh's basement every night for the last two weeks.
Well, perhaps playing is not the best term. They had mostly been moving the heroine into the most appealing positions possible. Except when Olivia was there; then they pretended to understand what she meant by female empowerment as she elbowed her way into position behind the keyboard.
But back to his current dream. No Lara for the first time since they'd installed the game on Josh's computer. Also, the smells were different. More fragrant, more vivid. Like he was standing in the middle of his mother's backyard flower garden on a cloudy midnight evening. For some reason.
Except it was the dead of winter. And he was definitely sleeping in his own bed.
"Hello?" he said into the darkness surrounding him. He was not expecting a response, not really. But he got one anyway.
"Welcome, Dylan." The voice was soft, almost tentative. Grandfatherly. "I am sorry that we must meet like this."
"Who are you?" Dylan said, turning in place as he sought to locate the speaker. "And what do you mean, like this?"
"My name is Nystor," the voice said. "And what I mean is... rather complicated."
"Sounds boring," Dylan said with an invisible shrug. "I'm out."
"I'm afraid you can't do that," Nystor said.
"Excuse me?" Dylan was annoyed that fear had entered his voice, so he tried again. "Excuse me?"
"You cannot wake up until I allow you to," Nystor said. There was a hint of apology in his tone.
"This is ridiculous," Dylan muttered. "What is this place? Is this like sleep detention or something?"
"You have entered the Dream Kingdom," Nystor said. "I am a loyal soldier to the ruler of this place, King Brekstan, who has been taken captive by our enemies to the south, The Islanders. I need your help getting him back."
"My help? I'm only 16 years old!"
"How did you know that?"
"Why are you lying about your age?"
"How do you know I'm lying?!"
Dylan had the sense that his unseen companion was studying him. He crossed his arms across his chest and waited. The silence lasted for nearly a minute.
"Because if you were 16 you would not be allowed entrance to my kingdom. You would, quite simply, be too old. And extremely unfit for the task ahead of you."
"Why me?" Dylan asked. "What makes me so special?"
"You have a very powerful imagination, which makes you very powerful here." Nystor paused as though he were considering explaining further. "That is enough, for now. But even you cannot defeat our enemies alone."
"Our? Since when did your problem become my problem?"
"Since I locked away your ability to return to your waking world. If you wish to retrieve the key, then you must free my king. But we will need help. Who would you bring with you on this quest? Give me their names and I shall bring them here the moment they fall asleep."