You haven't been sleeping much lately, have you? Whether it's disease, anger, stress, or a guilty conscience keeping you awake, you haven't rested your head in weeks, maybe even months. The people around you avoid eye contact and give you a wide berth as you walk down the streets, because they can tell, deep down in their little monkey brains, that something is very wrong with you.

Then you start to see the shadows in the corners of your vision, the doors where they don't belong, the holes in reality. They're real now, and they don't disappear when you turn your head to look straight at them. Your mind no longer paves over these glaring spatio-temporal aberrations with a puff of comforting logic, and you become incapable of ignoring them. They beckon to you. Just come a little closer and have a better look.

- Insomnia; Zanika -Destruction and downfall. Dissolution. The acid ocean upon which the "Real World" floats like a delicate, slowly-eroding soap bubble. Known to some as Pandemonia, to others as The Mad City [1], The City Below [2], The UnCity, The Nightmare Realm, and countless other names in thousands of tongues, Nezzanika is the deeper, more terrifying reality which underlies all which you might consider familiar, safe, and sane.

When people slip through the cracks of society, when children and adults disappear without explanation, Nezzanika is why. The Mad City claims the lives, dreams, and memories of those who are forgotten by the world. She embraces the lost.
And she eats them.
Sometimes while they are still alive and shrieking (provided the Soundkeeper[3] didn't get to them first, in which case they will only look like they are shrieking).
Maybe you have stumbled into her accidentally, the Dark Goddess we Nightmares[4] call our Home, or maybe you were dragged into her forcibly by one of us.
Maybe you lost something important, and only in the Bizarre Bazaar can you retrieve it (for a price, of course- finder's fees are a *****). Maybe you forgot to get back to the Slumber (what you yourself used to call the Real World) before the clock struck thirteen, and now you're trapped here for an hour with no way out, and Officer Tock hot on your trail.
Maybe you owe the Tacks Man something, and he's eager to collect. Maybe the Wax King has demanded you pay tribute to his court. Maybe you found the story of your death on the headline of a newspaper you've never seen before, and you're keen to stop the presses, interrupt the Paper Boys on their routes, and keep the breaking news from coming true.
Maybe your child was stolen away from you by the monsters in the closet, and you have followed them through the holes in the world, fought your way past us, and braved Nezzanika herself to find your child. Maybe what you found was little more than blood splatter and the echoes of his panic. Maybe for you, that's enough to go on to track him down, piece by piece, and put him back together (more or less the way he was, just a little more glassy-eyed, a little quieter, and too terrified to ever go to sleep again).
It doesn't matter to us why you are here, unless your reason for being here gives us more power over you, more leverage, a bargaining chip which we can later use to harvest the things you would much rather not give away too easily. We are in no hurry; there are always more of you coming, and we Nightmares, your natural predators, are very patient: we have all the time there ever was, or ever will be.
Your reason matters to you, though. You are Awake. Your hours are numbered, the streets are hungry, and here, the sun never rises. Since I'm a generous Nightmare, I'll offer you a bit of friendly advice. Later on, we can just say you owe me one. Solid for solid: a fair deal by all estimations, no?
Once you stopped sleeping, Nezzanika marked you. Maybe you noticed you started to acquire a couple odd talents. You find that the more tired you get, the better you get at doing whatever single task it is you are most expert at. Were you a really good athlete before? Now you make Batman look a little wimpy. Were you particularly intelligent? Einstein's got nothing on you, mate. Could you fire a gun with some accuracy? Now you not only have flawless accuracy with firearms, but you can do trick shots which seem to bend physics a little bit. This is your Exhaustion Talent, your ET. Keep track of it; it'll keep you alive. Maybe. Abuse it too much, and it will tire you out so much that you Crash. When you fall asleep, nothing will keep you safe from us Nightmares, and you look so damn tasty.

You also find that the more frightened or angry you get- the more you want to fight or flee- the more often some specific very strange occurrence happens around you. This one is harder to control, but it's also a lot flashier than your ET. This is your MT, your Madness Talent[5], and taken to extremes, it borders on genuine omnipotence or omniscience. With this ability, you can make Nightmares run away from you, but there's a tradeoff to it. Your MT is a seed planted in you by Nezzanika herself, like the egg of a parasitic wasp. As your Madness Talent grows, the harder it becomes to control, and the more it erodes your psyche and your sense of Self. Use it often enough, to great enough extremes, and eventually you will become a Nightmare yourself.
Figure out what your Talents are, if you haven't already, and learn how to use them and how to limit your use of them.

Another thing about Talents: it isn't just humans that have them. Some of the 'inanimate' objects[6] around the city are 'talented' themselves (and admittedly, some of them used to be Awake humans like yourself). They aren't always willing to oblige you, but occasionally you can supplement your own abilities with a found object. You just need to know how to talk to 'em right. Look for them in places where the Madness, fear, anger, and panic, are especially thick - asylums, halfway houses, orphanages- you name it. Dreams and memories have power, here, and are their own form of currency.

Make allies, but never actually trust anybody. There are those who can help you, among the Nightmares- me, for instance, and the Lady of the Streets[7]- but as a rule, you can expect to pay for the privilege later on. Always assume that anybody and everybody can be, might be, a Nightmare.

On the flip side of this, there is such a thing as safety in numbers. If you're trapped in the UnCity[8] during the thirteenth hour, haul ass to the Bazaar. You're less likely to be pursued through the throng.

As one of the Awake, your options for making peace with the city are pretty limited, unless you're willing to truly become one of us. If you aren't keen on the whole Becoming A Nightmare idea, and being a Nightmare's slave... or meal... or both... doesn't suit you, then you've got a few other options.
Option A: Become a denizen[9] of the city, like the millions of people who ended up here, not by Waking Up, but by falling through the cracks in the world. Find a role to inhabit, a job to perform, and embody it. Perform it 24/7, until you stop being Jack or Jane or Zoidberg, and you become the Tailor, the Janitor, the Mechanic. Don't worry; it doesn't take too long to acclimate to your new role. Once you settle into your work, the rest will take care of itself, and all those annoying human things, like identity, name, personality, dreams, memories, will fade away like so much vapour.
Option B: Find yourself a Dealer and form a Contract, or several Contracts... or become a Dealer yourself. Whether the relationship ends up being symbiotic or parasitic, it's guaranteed to end ugly (if it ever ends, which can be better than it never ending- trust me; voice of experience over here!), but at least for the immediate duration, it'll save you from turning into a Nightmare or a Denizen. We'll get into more detail about Contracts in my next message, if you survive long enough to seek me out again.
Option C: Get the **** out of the city. Whether it's for a few hours, or a few days, or forever, get out. The more time you spend here, the harder and harder it will be to do this. The city likes to hold onto what she considers hers, and the longer you are Awake, the more you will feel like you don't belong up there in the Slumber any longer. Nezzanika may enfold every point of the Slumber, but what belongs to her is forever alien to that fragile bubble of a world, and you will realize this palpably when you head 'home' for a visit. Don't expect to find your job still waiting for you there, don't expect your friends to recognize you, and be ready to answer strange questions when the police show up to ask what's been going on. Reassimilating into the Slumber will be as hard as keeping yourself alive in the Mad City, because even if you manage to pull your Sleeper life back together (a laughably rare event!), Nezzanika will always be waiting there, right at the edge of your vision, and some part of you, that well-buried seed of Madness, is always going to try to hatch out into reality[10] and find its way back home to its Mommy.

How do I know all this? Well, isn't it obvious?
I used to be like you. Awake. My Madness Talent let me travel through mirrors[11] and see anything which was reflected in any reflective surface[12]. I know, pretty bitchin' power, right? And it was. It was badass as hell. Right up until it cored out my insides and left my corpse smoking in the dirt of a back alley, nothing but the husk it used to pupate. Now, I'm the glorious being you see before you, grinning back at you with your own face. Oh, don't look so uncomfortable, mate. Uncanny Valley is What I Do~.
Anyway, human, it's been a real pleasure getting to know you. I'll see you later. Just remember, any time you need me, I'll only be as far away as the nearest mirror.
-The Looking Glass (Friends call me Alice[13].)

P.S. - Try to stay alive. You owe me one, remember?

Characters in Nezzanika
Locations in Nezzanika
Species in Nezzanika

[1] Don't Rest Your Head, Fred Hicks. 2012.
[2] Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman. 1996.
[3] The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster. 1961.
[4] SCP Wiki. 2013.
[5] Code Geass, Goro Taniguchi. 2006.
[6] The Holders Series. 2009.
[7] The City's Son, Tom Pollock. 2012.
[8] Un Lun Dun, China Mieville. 2007.
[9] The Keys to the Kingdom, Garth Nix. 2010.
[10] Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Akiyuki Shinbo. 2011.
[11] Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, Lewis Carroll. 1871.
[12] Darker Than Black, Tensai Okamura. 2007.
[13] Pandora Hearts, Jun Mochizuki. 2006.