by Mari Ness
The dreams had become no less difficult to weave, no less painful. Her hands were already raw and sore each morning, burnt in places, sometimes still oozing a bit of blood, well before she reached for a strand of dream. By the time she stopped, she could hardly bear to move her hands; blood dripped from them into the dreams, moving between the strands. Her hands and back ached from working the vertical loom. The pain worked its way into her own sleep, waking her every few minutes; she could not remember the last time that she had slept long enough to have a chance at catching a dream herself. And yet each morning, she plunged her hands into the dream threads again, biting on her tongue to keep from crying out.
And now the loom was broken.
The frame--carved from dragon bone, tied together by unicorn hair and gut, had snapped, leaving the entire loom--and the half-finished dream on it--collapsed on the rough floor of her cave. She knelt to look. Beneath the loom and the dream, the dream threads twisted and crawled, turning in her stomach. She forced herself not to look, running her hand down the edge of the dragon bone, leaving drops of blood as she did.
It must have happened in the middle of the night, she thought, during one of her brief moments of actual sleep. Or perhaps during one of her moments of unrest: she slept as far away from the loom and the crawling dream threads as she could, but she might have walked while sleeping, or not sleeping, and simply forgotten it.
Or possibly her blood had cracked the bone. It could happen, she knew, if a dragon bone was fed enough blood.