The woman took the time to look at the happy dream, lost in her own memories of what would never come again. The strangers had taken nearly everything away, even her very soul. She spent all day standing over the innocent forms of comatose children, their very essence hooked up to demonic shadow machines that wavered in and out of view, draining them of their dreams. It was her job to make sure that any silly dreams they may have turned into nightmares, since the creatures she worked with liked their food with a certain bitter twang. They told her she should be honored, to see the secret sights and smell the secret smell of pain that only existed in realms unknown to most mortals.
She looked at the child, a small boy barely out of toddler-hood, and looked back down at the readout on the shadow machine's wavering panel. An image of grinning rabbits with black jackets and brown corduroy buttons danced across the screen. The woman sighed and pressed a few buttons, ice cold darkness seeping into her fingers as she did so. The rabbits on the screen morphed and changed, turning into skinless corpses, probably of the boy's dead family and friends. Their black coats turned into long strands of slithering black snakes, with bloodshot brown eyes that almost seemed button-like. The unconscious child let out a scream and a bolt of bright red brain lightning shot from his head and made the shadow machine chirp with glee.
As the boy quieted down into whimpers, she moved on to another, a young woman of about fifteen. Older children's souls were a bit more complicated. While they could also be scared by simple things, their pain was always a better product if some more thought was put into their dreams. The screen showed the girl, taller and fully into the womanhood she would never have, clothed in a white dress and veil and standing next to a handsome man in a black tuxedo. White mist obscured everything around them, but the girl didn't seem to mind, her eyes fully focused on a gold ring the man held in his hands.
The woman looked down at the small band of gold on her own finger and a tight ball traveled from her stomach to her throat. She coughed it away and let her fingers fly across the shadow buttons, breaking into the girl's mind and conjuring up new images to replace the gentle fantasy of her future. The man's face flushed with agony as the hand of a satanic nun ripped through his chest and the horrible creature pushed itself out of the newly formed cavity. The girl screamed and backed away, as the nun grew more and more distorted, a boil faced old lady with sharp torpedo breasts and gnarled leper limbs. The creature opened its mouth and spoke, it's voice dry and papery. "You will always be alone."
Bright red pain burst from the girl's head and made yet another meal for shadows. The woman moved on to yet another child, eager to finish her work and get back to her own dreams.