Joey, wrapped in black bedsheets, stared up that ceiling, his mouth dripping saliva. The bedside alarm clock had been buzzing for the last hour and finally gave it's last shriek before shutting itself off. He blinked and tried to move his fingers, but the sheets weighed down on him as if they were made of lead.
"No," whispered Nox, and the sheets tightened. Joey groaned and closed his eyes. The darkness was irresistible. "You owe me your soul," continued Nox. "You wronged me and I demand recompense."
"I can't stay here," said Joey, speaking in his head and into the darkness. "You can have my nights, all of them, for the rest of my life."
"I will not bargain with you again," said Nox. His eye's lit up in the darkness, gleaming from a non-existent light source.
"I will die..."
"That's not my concern," said Nox. "You had one thing to do, and you couldn't do it."
"No," said Joey meekly. "You asked too much of me."
"You should not have agreed!" screamed Nox. "Humans! What are you? Mere creatures of the flesh. You are a slave to your bodily functions. You let them rule you. I offered you a way out of that stinking mass that walks you around--"
"You are horribly wrong about us," said Joey. "We are not less because of our flesh, just different."
Nox burst into a bright blinding light and Joey felt instantly cold. Then Joey found himself sitting in the crook of an elm tree. Below him were the roots of the tree which floated free of the Earth, above a main sequence yellow star. Its plasma roiled and spat. Joey clung tightly to the tree and breathed in slowly while his heart raced.
"You could do this, anytime you wanted to," said Nox. He was hovering behind the tree as a point of pink-tinged light.
"Nights are enough for me," said Joey.
"You don't understand," said Nox in a condescending voice. "What you can do in your dreams is bound by the flesh of your brain. You are limited."
"Then why do you want to be one of so badly?"
Nox brightened then faded again to darkness.
"Immortality," said Nox. "I want to experience what it's like to die. Just once."
"And my body, the body I pledged to you when you took away my nightmares, is the body you want to do that to. And I will never get it back. That price is too much."
The star was eaten by a sudden shadow and the elm tree dissolved to sparkly dust. Joey slowly floated, and was pulled down towards a flat gray surface that he concentrated to form.
"You're skills have improved," said Nox.
"You are the master of imagination," said Joey, ignoring the compliment. "Why don't you build your own mortal life?"
"It is hollow. Devoid of real experience. I've tried."
"And if you achieve this, taking over the body of a human, what will you do in the time before you die?"
Nox was silent for a long time and Joey wondered if he had gone off and sulked.
"I will unlock the portal from here, then I will open it on your side."
"There is a veil between your kind and the higher kinds that live in the universe. I will remove it, and all will know."
Joey laughed heartily.
"You really don't know humans! They may see with their eyes, but they don't always believe facts."
They were both silent again.
"Trade with me," said Nox.
"Why should I? Tell me something other than what it will do for you."
Nox hesitated and hemmed and hawed.
"You will see everything. The universe exploding, the stars forming, and planets spinning. And you would know the whole history of your kind. You will intermingle here with the other higher kinds, because, at that point, you will be a higher being. You will understand things beyond beauty, and you will learn how the human story ends."
"That's not enough for me."
"Then please..." said Nox trailing off. "I beg you."
Joey considered these last words for a moment.
"We have something that you don't," said Joey. "An end. Closure. History. You would throw your infinite imagination away just for that. Without the end, there is no whole."
Nox growled and threw off sparks like a roman candle.
"And you've been reduced to pleading with me, and by starving my material body of food and water." Joey paused and searched his own feelings, to see how committed he was to the decision he would utter next. "Then do it. My death will only make you more envious."
There was a moment of pitch black and silence, then Nox let out a rattling scream and burst into purple flames. The sound and the light slowly faded, then Joey found himself in control of his body again. He woke to a room dimly lit with daylight filtered through thick curtains. He sat up and flexed his fingers and toes, and wondered if he would ever again have a restful night's sleep.