They say when you dream, you can’t tell the time.
That isn’t true. I know exactly what time it is. I know when to run across the purple clouds, when to chase the leaping lizards, and when to listen for the chimes of morning. I know when the dream starts, and when it’s about to end. I can tell when a minute passed, or even an hour. My sense of time has never been broken.
No…What you really can’t tell is why you're allowed to dream.
What many call “reality” is a place where I work part time behind a desk. Answering calls just to be yelled at for something I haven’t done. It’s the realm where I own a cat who loves to push my favourite mug off the counter. A place where rent is expensive, and where I sometimes feel quite lonely…
What many call a “dream” is for me another world where anything and everything is possible. Here I wore an outfit fit for royalty. In this world I rode on the wind in order to travel to the farthest reaches. A castle made of glass and marble sat near the edge of a permanent sunset coloured cloud. This was my other home in which I dwelled.
I wish everyone could come to this realm, to live as they wished; however, as I’ve learned , coming here depends on the strength of your imagination.
I’ve seen lots of children running about, riding on flying animals or dancing to soft music. Maladaptive daydreamers and other neurodivergent people are also pretty abundant as their brains are naturally diverse. Another common type are silent or shy people, people who carry trauma, people who grew up in awful or abusive households, and those who have anxiety or depression. Everyone here brings a little something to the table.
The minds of children bring a lot of life to the world, as they’re naturally playful and want to have fun. They’re the reason we discovered that travelling by wind is one of the best ways to get around. At least it’s one of my favourite ways to get one place to the other. My other favourite way is to ride a flying orca. It might be surprising to hear that flying horses aren’t actually all that common. However, flying sea creatures are…and guess who came up with that concept? That’s right, the youth.
Neurodivergent minds have made the majority of the world, creating structures, abstract ideas and tiny little details most of us might not even come to think about. Personally, I would have never dreamt about the different species of little fuzzy crabs that change colour based on their mood. No seriously, these little guys are cuter than you think. I have one in my castle named Janet. She gets along with my cat…who has somehow also made it to this realm…and still pushes my mug off the counter.
Those who deal with stronger negative emotions in “reality”, such as trauma, anxiety, depression ect. They bring an important aspect to this world. They paint the sky with stokes of orange, purple, light blue and pink. They splatter the night with stars and planets, galaxies and nebulas. Flowers bloom where they sleep, sunbeams shine where they smile and warmth grows when you're near them. They bring beauty and art to this world.
Everyone brought something to the table, and together they created a feast for a dreamer. They're the reason why I can sit on the edge of this grassy cliff, legs dangling above a misty abyss. My face cast upwards watching a humpback whale slowly flying through various orange clouds.
All this inspiring beauty and I wasn’t sure what to bring to the table. I lived in a glass castle made by a friend who has autism. My whimsical dress was designed by someone with trauma. Even my cat managed to create a teal mouse who likes to hide in my mug.
I was no one special. I’ve lived a decent life, and am nearing my thirties. I’ve been able to come since I was in my teens. My imagination was, and still is strong enough to bring me here, conscious of the life I lead after my head hits the pillow. Funny thing is I don’t even remember going to bed tonight. I guess work must have been exhausting. That would be the least of my worries today though.
Today is the last day of summer, and because of that, dream dwellers gather together to dance at the Summer's End ball. We do this at the end of every season, but Summer and Fall are my favourites.
I stand up, digging my toes into the dirt and grass. A gust of wind picked up, whipping the white puffy sleeves against my arms, and pushing my skirt behind me. I double checked to see if my dress was still good. My hair swirled around my face. I bunched up my skirts in one hand to avoid improper exposure as I edge closer to the drop.
The abyss below is dark, foreboding and mysterious. It’s unknown what happens when you enter it. Some have tried to go down and explore, but they said it feels as though it just gets farther away. I’ve wondered if it’s possible to just fall forever.
With this in mind, I leaped off the edge. Instead of going down though, I soared up towards the clouds. The wind carried me, whisking me away to wherever I wished. I passed castles on clouds, floating islands with hanging waterfalls, large planets of various hues, and a pod of flying narwhals.
They swam together in complete harmony. Spreading my hands apart to stabilize myself, I flew just above these magnificent beasts. One of them eyed me, but never tried to scare me off. A warm, shimmering gold sparked against their skin, reflecting the sun in the distance. I dipped lower, and stroked the smooth back of one, admiring the speckled black and white pattern. They sang a song, calling out to one another before turning as one.
My path continued straight, so sadly I had to wave goodbye to them. Maybe I'll get a chance to see them again tomorrow..
I arrived just on time, landing on the reflective marble floor. No one paid me any mind as most dwellers travelled this way. I glanced around at all the faces of both strangers and friends, all of them in their own beautiful, fantastical outfits.
The platform was wide and large, maybe a few acres big if I measured. Every end of the season ball was held here, on a famous floating island with a green mountain always in view. The platform is encased by tall stone archways, easy enough to walk in and out, and tall enough to provide shadows to hide in. Above us there is no ceiling, just the wide open sky someone painted the day before. Sometimes fireflies would hover overhead to provide a bit of majesty and sparkle as we dance beneath them.
Classical music already began playing, and in the middle a large circle has formed to allow dancers room to play. Arm in arm, men and women, adult and children hold on tightly as they whirled and stepped in sync with each other. The rest of us clapped along, talking amongst ourselves or drinking the sweet wine offered by the turtle doves.
If you're wondering, the food and drink is about as good as you might imagine it to be. Meaning that if you expect it to be fantastic, then that’s the quality you’ll get. Tonight, my wine was just perfect.
During the party, I had the privilege to dance with many gentlemen. The great thing about this world is you rarely get tired physically, so I could dance all night long without breaking a sweat. I did just this, and I drank the sweet wine to my heart's content. Here, no one cares who you are in “reality”, they just care if you're willing to dream with them. I smiled throughout the whole night, and wished I could do this forever.
Sadly though, all good things must come to an end some point.
Here, night and day don't exist. When it comes time to leave, you get a fuzzy feeling in your head. If someone is trying to wake you, then you’ll vaguely hear their voice echo around you. For those of us who don’t have reliable partners or parents to wake us up, we might hear an annoying alarm clock.
I knew my time was nearing as many of the people began to say goodbye and vanish into thin air. I decided to place myself near the edge of the archways to await my annoying phone alarm. I watched for more whales, but only saw the occasional turtle dove fly by to check on my beverage status.
A fellow dream dweller sided up next to me, and he looked up to where I might have been looking. “I never get tired of watching clouds.”
I glanced up at him. “Neither do I.” I returned to watching the swirls. “I wonder who painted the skies tonight.” He was pretty handsome, however a dweller could alter themselves a little to seem that way.
“Hmm…the word is going around that it’s by the man in a coma.” He shrugged, as if that info was normal.
I raised an eyebrow. “A coma? I haven’t heard of many comatose dwellers before, is he here?”
The man quirked his mouth to the side, “he’s rather shy…but yes, I’ve seen him around…” he turned around and looked at the dwindling crowd. “He’ll be easier to pick out if you sleep in, since he can’t vanish.”
“Ah, thank you for the tip.” I nodded to him, and scanned the room. I unfortunately couldn’t sleep in today, I had a full day of work ahead of me.
“Would you…care to dance?” He offered me a hand.
I turned to the kind man and smiled. “I would love to but…I think my alarm will be awakening me soon. I appreciate the offer though…perhaps tomorrow? If we meet again?”
“In that case, I look forward to it.” In true chiverally fashion, he bowed and ducked away.
What a shame, I didn’t even get his name. It's these moments I wondered if we could actually meet again. I wasn’t sure how big this realm was, or if there was even a limit. With a resigned sigh, I returned to cloud gazing. I listened as it became quieter behind me. At some point, I turned around and noticed very few people were left, perhaps four at most.
That’s strange…did I forget to turn my alarm on? That wouldn’t be good, I’d be late for work. If that were the case, I had to do it manually.
I closed my eyes, a mentally saw a white vortex grow in my mind. Once everything turned white, I would wake up. However, the vortex began to fade. I panicked, and focused harder, watching with relief as it grew again. It finally all became white, but a searing flash of pain hit behind my eyes. and I was thrown back onto the marble. It was strange to feel pain when you weren’t supposed to.
In both surprise and worry, I opened my eyes to see I haven’t left the realm. The few leftovers gave me concerned looks, and for good reason. I had just been kicked out of the vortex. I wasn’t able to wake up.
The man from earlier came over again, and kneeled down. “Are you alright?”
I nodded, though it was a lie. “Yeah, just…confused. I can’t seem to wake up.” I held my head, trying to rub away some of the leftover pain. Was I imagining this? Did I do it wrong?
“Oh…” The man seemed hesitant. “Do…do you remember going to sleep?”
“What do you mean?” I looked up at him, nearly offended. “Of course I went to sleep. I always go-” I paused. No…I don’t remember going to bed. In fact, the last memory I have before coming here is getting into my car after work. “I never made it home..”
I stared ahead at nothing. I considered where I was currently. Could I be in a hospital bed? Was I dead? No, I couldn’t have been dead if I was still dreaming.
“You might be unconscious, or even sedated..” the man suggested, obviously choosing his words carefully.
I couldn’t help myself but numbly nod in agreement. What else was I supposed to do? Cry? Scream? What good would that do me?
“Do you…do you want a distraction perhaps? Maybe it will resolve itself soon.” He offered. “I’m not going to wake up for awhile anyhow…I’m on a bit of a different sleep schedule currently so…”
I didn’t want to cry, and I didn’t want to scream. In truth, I didn’t know what to do. I’ve never stayed this long as a dream dweller. Making a decision, I nodded again.
He blinked. “Oh…okay Um…Well”
I looked up at the sky, noticing for the first time how the colours began to fade after some amount of time. It was strange to see, since it has always been so vibrant and full of new strokes of light.
He must have caught me looking. “Have you ever painted the sky?”
“Would you…like me to teach you how?”
I nodded. “…Yes”
He gestured for me to follow him, and the wind picked up around us. The idea of being unable to wake up slowly dissipated as we flew up towards the expanding colours. He told me to take my emotions, and paint the sky with them. I wasn’t clear how to do that, so he offered to help me do it.
“Would you like to dance?” He offered me his hand again. This time I took it.
Together we leapt through clouds, pushing them into new shapes and sizes. At first I felt worried about my own well-being in reality, and portions of the sky turned lilac and orange. However, the more we twirled and flew around each other, I could feel my heart slowly calm down and below my feet the expanse became pink.
Music filled our ears as large jellyfish passed by, seemingly dancing with us. Finally, I smiled and laughed, and together he and I waltzed on the tops of their heads. At the end of our dance, he dipped me low and I felt warmth. Golden sun beams graced us and the lands below.
We bowed to each other and stood on the edge of the pink cloud to take in what we had created. It took a minute to realize I had let a tear slip down my cheek. People began to come back to the realm, and I could see them looking up at the sky and point, probably to the giant jellyfish. I smiled and looked at my dance partner.
He smiled gently, shrugging lightly. “Don’t mention it, I had a great time. It can get…pretty lonely when they all go.”
“I’m not sure I quite understand.” I tilted my head a little. “When do you usually wake up?”
A small, sad look entered his eyes, and I nearly gasped with realization. Before I could respond however, a fuzzy feeling came over me. Like a heavy blood rush when you stand up too fast.
“I…I’m about to wake up..” I warned him, then took his hand before I could disappear. “Will we ever dance again?”
‘Please wake up’’
He grasped my hand back, gently. “I appreciate the offer, perhaps tomorrow?”
I knew I was about to vanish, so I smiled at him and did my best to bow. “I look forward to it.”
Then I vanished.
With a flash of light, and a slight wave of dizziness, I awoke in a hospital bed. A bouquet of pink flowers sat on my table top, and next to it my aging mother smiled down at me, grasping my hand tightly in hers.
The dream slowly faded into a distant memory as she explained how I had been hit by a drunk driver. I had been unconscious for two days, and might have a concussion for a week to come, and a broken shin, but otherwise I’ll be okay. I would be free to go home within a few days.
A little while later, I noticed that at the end of the large room of patients, a man laid in his bed, asleep. He was attached to a steady heart monitor. I asked the nurse, and she said he had been in a coma for about a month. No one was sure how long until he came back, or if he would.
“Poor soul…I sometimes wonder what he might be dreaming about in that head of his.” The nurse sighed, shaking her head as she wrote on her clipboard.
I smiled softly. “He could be dancing..”
The nurse smiled back. “Hmm…who knows.”
I did. I knew because last night I had been dancing with him, painting the skies for the next day.
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