Where We Were Was Also a Dream
After setting fire to the bridge behind me, I hooked the satchel over my shoulder and continued down the beaten path. As the sun made its fiery descent behind the mountains and I was certain the journey ahead was long and unforgiving. Where would I make my escape? The woods ahead? Perhaps the woods would simply swallow me as I entered at the mouth and spit me out, misplacing me far away from the center. Or maybe I would be lucky enough to sift into and out of the center and live like a lowly nomad. Still, I would be alive.
Two feet of autumnal leaves. Moistened with the evening mist. I dragged my bare legs across until the tiny cuts on my legs are no longer felt. The woods were deep, just as I imagined, but not quite as cold as the stories told. With some fortune, I would make it safely to the stream, wash my face and arms and set up camp.
I summoned the spirits to filter the path ahead. Yet, as I approached the edge of the stream I found a dying fire. Voices could be heard advancing. A group of men and women, fair skinned and with chestnut hair, appeared wearing tattered robes and carrying wood. In seconds, I felt my body lift with considerable force and velocity. I gasped when I felt the impact of my back against the tree. One by one, they took turns levitated my body, flinging it around as though it were a weightless and insubstantial thing.
But by then, I was conscious of the world around me. I, too, could play with magic. I watched as my opponents floated above me. Closest to me, a woman with wild eyes made a strange gesture of flicking her fingers about. I understood that I would be chased back through the woods. As I ran I felt my feet lift off the ground and as I moved through the air, the wild eyed woman scratched at my feet. Another came from the side and struck me with hidden energy.
We descended as we came near the burned bridge, feeling thick ropes around our ankles, necks and torsos. The soldiers who suddenly appeared placed chains around our necks and threw us into a caged caravan. There, as I sat with my back hunched over, thoughts of my other life came to the surface. The dream was no longer a dream. It was a nightmare covered with lucid layers of awareness. Although I recognized the situation as fantasy, it did not bring relief. Rather, knowing the face of the dream made existing in this place evermore horrifying. I couldn’t find the control I desired to suspend my fear. I sat across from the woods people, shutting my eyes and whispering to myself that the caravan wasn’t real. The soldiers only looked like Romans. I wasn’t going to die.
In the darkest of hours we arrived at a villa. As soon as the cage doors opened, I leaped out and began running with great stealth through a courtyard and then into an open field. I could feel someone decreasing our proximity. By the time the sword entered my back, I was already drifting. I sat upright in a small room and noticed the others covered with white sheets. Some were twitching erratically. Others were pushing away some unseen force and clutching at their necks as if someone were strangling them. I removed their white sheets and discovered they were fully clothed. When they woke up I said, “That was a dream to keep us asleep.” But no one seem able to comprehend what I meant. “This is a dream, too. We’re dreaming.”
I don’t remember when I began to scream, but the sound of my voice echoed madly against the walls. “Wake me up! I want to wake up!” No response. “Please wake me up!”
Alas, I found myself in the bed from my other life. But this world was without sound. Fists clenched, I turned over and slipped into another world. This time, it was exactly what I expected. The sounds of lawnmowers, car horns, the train passing by and birds perched by the window. My world. The real world.