She was in the forest just outside the village, in a small clearing with a pond. Heavy winds blew over her, making her shiver from cold and fear. The ring of night sky made by the trees above her was cloudy, with no light from the moon or stars breaking through. There was nobody else around, not her parents, not her friends, nobody. Just her, alone and scared.
Dawn let out a startled yelp as thunder boomed overhead. She took shelter under a tree as the rain started coming down. She didn't know what to do. She didn't even know how she got here. But she couldn't stay out here all night. She had to get home.
But suddenly, Dawn felt the presence of someone-or something-behind her. She turned, expecting to see one of her parents or friends. Instead, she was greeted by a robotic praying mantis. She screamed and tried to run, only to slip and fall on the rain-dampened ground. She looked up and saw that the robot mantis wasn't alone. Dozens of machines were emerging from the trees and surrounding her. She was trapped.
She stood there, helpless and afraid, cold and wet from the rain, as her assailants drew closer. All she could do was look to the sky and call to her parents.
Dawn woke with short breaths and teary eyes. It was still dark and raining, but she wasn't in the forest anymore, she never was. She was at home, in her warm, dry bed, the whole experience was just a scary dream. Trembling, she climbed out from beneath the covers and made her way to her parents' room. She quietly walked up to Sonic and gently shook his arm until he woke up. "Mommy?"
"Dawn?" he said sleepily. "What's wrong, sweetie?"
"I had a bad dream." Dawn said, her voice quivering. "Can I sleep with you and Daddy?"
"Of course you can, Dawn." Sonic helped his daughter climb into bed between him and Knuckles, then kissed her forehead once she was settled in. "I love you, sweetie."
Dawn smiled. "I love you, too, Mommy." she said before falling back to sleep.
She was back in the forest. It wasn't raining this time, but the robots from before still had her trapped. Seeing them renewed her fear-she thought they wouldn't come back, but here they were again, approaching her with dangerous intentions. She crouched into a ball, not knowing how she would escape them this time.
But then there came the sound of metal being sliced in half. Dawn hesitantly looked up to see three of the robots decapitated. Somebody swooped in and grabbed her, then hid her behind a tree. She got a good look at her savior and noticed that he strongly resembled her mother, only his fur was black and his quills were streaked with red. His eyes were red as well, and they looked at Dawn gently.
"Stay here." he said in an equally soft voice. The dark hedgehog went back and destroyed the remaining robots with speed and skill that, again, made Dawn think of her mother. She couldn't help but wonder if this newcomer was connected to Sonic in some way. If he was a distant acquaintance, or friend, or family member even. Was that why he saved her?
In little time, all the robots were destroyed. Dawn shyly came out of hiding and went up to her savior. "Thank you." she said.
The black hedgehog picked her up, cradling her in his arms. "You're safe now." he said. "Everything is alright. Just close your eyes, go to sleep, and pretend this was all a dream. And when you wake up, you'll be at home safe, surrounded by the ones who love you."
Dawn rested her head against the tuft of white fur on the dark hedgehog's chest and closed her eyes, soon falling asleep.
When she woke up again, the rain had gone and the sun had risen. She was still in her parents' bed, still safe with them. Sonic stirred and woke up, then smiled and draped his arm over his daughter.
"G'morning, sweetheart." he said.
"Good morning, Mommy." Dawn returned. Knuckles woke up just then and smiled upon seeing his daughter in the bed with him and Sonic.
"Well, what's this? A sleepover?" he said.
"Dawn had a bad dream last night and wanted to sleep with us." Sonic explained. " 'Cause she knows she'll always be safe with us."
Knuckles kissed Dawn's cheek. "Yeah, we'll protect her from all sorts of dangers." he said. "Well, until she's old enough to learn to defend herself."
"C'mon, Knux. Even then, we'd still protect her." Sonic said in annoyance.
"I mean, if we're around to do it." said Knuckles.
Sonic rolled his eyes. "Never mind your numbskull dad, Dawn. Are you feeling better after sleeping with us?"
"Yes, Mommy. I am." Dawn was about to tell her parents about the black hedgehog who saved her when her stomach growled.
"Sounds like someone's hungry." Knuckles poked Dawn's stomach, making her giggle.
"Yeah, me too." Sonic said. "Well, c'mon, let's go down and eat."
As Dawn followed her parents, her thoughts once again turned to that mysterious dark hedgehog. Even though he only appeared in a dream, she wondered if he was real. She couldn't describe it to herself, but he seemed to give off a sort of aura that connected him to the real world. Maybe it was his resemblance to Sonic?
Dawn didn't know, but whether in her dreams or real life, she hoped to see him again one day.