Contest #113 shortlist ⭐️

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Drama Speculative Coming of Age

I.              Awake

Do you know how to lucid dream?

It's a skill, not a talent. The difference being, it's something you work on, not something you're born with. There are concrete actions you can take to practice, to train your brain and your subconscious into recognizing a dream state, and then take control.

In a dream state, your brain seems to expand, to be limitless and all-powerful. There are certain, seemingly simple things that your brain does in a waking state, that it can't do while in a dream. It can't adjust luminosity. It can't read.

These are loopholes, tools you can use to trigger your brain into realizing it is dreaming. Your brain grows aware, but not awake. If you tried flipping a light switch in a dream, the brightness would remain exactly the same. If you tried reading a book, you wouldn't be able to read past a few words. If you checked the time twice in a row, it would be completely contradictory.

To train your brain to do these simple actions in a dream, you have to make it part of your daily habits. It needs to be more than regular: it has to be habitual. You have to flip the light switch on and off every time you enter a room. You need to check your watch constantly. You need something to prove you are indeed awake, something simple that you could, literally, do in your sleep.

"LIKE IN INCEPTION!"

I sigh.

"Yes. Like in Inception."

Jeremy is a dream tourist. He thinks he knows how to remember dreams, and thinks he understands the freedom of lucid dreaming. But that's because he hasn't experienced it yet.

It is truly an awesome skill to master, and I mean awesome. There is legitimate power in controlling a dream, and real-life consequences to your actions within them. But no matter who you hurt, kiss, kill, break up with in a dream, they will not feel the effect. Only you will. You will live in a waking state with the trauma of what you did in a dream. They say you can't understand pain without feeling it, can't understand death without causing it, can't feel love with living it. But you can do all that in a dream, and it is real. You shape your brain with these new memories, and it can deeply affect how you act after. You can significantly alter who you are by experiencing something in a dream. Because you choose what you do in a lucid dream, you wake up knowing you made that decision because that is who you are. And that can be enough to push you off the deep end.

"Sounds like you're being a tad overdramatic there, Kim. It's just a dream. What about Dorothy, and the whole "there's no place like home" shtick?"

"JEREMY! Lucid dreaming is a responsibility and a promise to yourself and yourself alone. I don't care if you don't take it seriously. I won't be hurt by it. This is all you. Be skeptical, be enthusiastic, be excited. But be committed. Remember who you are, and don't try to seek out emotions. Experience the dream state, but don't experiment with your soul."

Jeremy sat quiet. He put away the arrogance that plagues so many tourists, and was willing to engage with this foreign culture respectfully.

II.             NREM

It's a swooping sensation. The world is spinning, but it's exhilarating, delightful. I don't feel the least bit queasy. I'm in a green hilly field and I feel just like Julie Andrews at the beginning of The Sound of Music. I am completely at peace, and completely in control. This is where I come when things are crazy in the quote-unquote "real world."

As a kid, I was raised by Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer; I was the eighth Von Trapp child. I recited the movie along with it, knew every song and every line of dialogue. My mom had a lot going on, though not things you could easily explain to a 6 year old. You could teach her to put a DVD in the player, however. Mom knew me to be safe as long as the movie was playing.

The DVD broke around the same time social services came to take me away. I lost the woman who raised me at the same time as I lost my mother. I spent many years angry at my mom after that, but not for the right reasons…

When I'm dreaming, the hills are alive, but there is no sound, let alone the sound of music. It's just me, without my thoughts. Lucid dreams are purely sensory. If I needed to meditate, to think about the "real world," I would take time out of my shitty waking situation. Not out of this utopic place.

III.           REM

"THIS IS AMAZING!"

Why was Jeremy crowding my field? I willed him out of the dreamscape.

"KIM LOOK! I'M FLYING!"

He was, indeed, flying. As cliché as it is, it's definitely the first thing you have to try when you finally manage to lucid dream. I was happy for him, but confused as to why I couldn't allow my subconscious to block him out. He lands a few feet away from me in a swift movement, something completely unnatural.

"That was… I can't even… wow. Thank you. I couldn't have done this without you."

I considered telling him he was in my dream, that he was a manifestation of my own subconscious. But while I knew that, he felt so much like himself that I didn't want to hurt him by telling him that.

"I am confused, though, as to why you're in my dream. Is it because you taught me how to lucid dream?"

I stood silently. That didn't make any sense. But for a part of my subconscious, he felt really aware, really conscious.

"I guess I just don't have the hang of it, yet. And honestly, I'm happy you're here! It's kind of like having a parent at graduation!"

He took off as if attracted to an invisible magnet in the sky.

Jeremy and I were foster siblings for a couple months. We never lost touch after we were separated. A very rare thing. I don't know how he manages to keep such an upbeat attitude. He's had it so much worse than me, but he's never complained about his situation. He talks about it in a really unbothered manner. As if it were all normal, as if everyone could relate.

Maybe it was a coping mechanism. An artificial exterior that held a broken foundation together. I had dreams, he had this. I created entire worlds in my head; he aimed a filtering lens at reality.

"Jeremy, you have to go."

"What?"

"This is my dream. My Alpine landscape. You have to go."

"The Alps? No, we're in Santa Monica!"

I knelt down, ripped some grass and showed it to him.

"How is a handful of sand supposed to prove anything?"

My head was spinning. NOT in the good way.

"Kim! KIM! Are you ok?"

I laid down on the grass. It was, in fact, grass. Jeremy sat down next to me, fiddling with the dirt the way you run your fingers through sand at the beach.

"I'm guessing you also think you're real?"

"Neither of us are real, Jeremy. That's why you can fly." I said without opening my eyes.

"It feels real…"

"That's what I warned you about: it feels real, and it will continue to feel real when you wake up. It's gonna be like a drug, a high you can't live without."

"So, whose dream is it?"

I shrugged. "It doesn't matter. We both know we're aware. When we wake, one of us will remember this and the other won't."

We sat in silence watching the clouds move overhead, changing shapes while giving the sky new depth.

"I love you Jeremy." I said, laying myself bare.

"I love you too, Kim." He said, repeating mechanically. He does love me, but he didn’t understand that I said it in a different way this time. I love him.

"Jeremy… no… I…"

A cloud passed over us, and it felt colder. It was darker.

September 30, 2021 20:09

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5 comments

Tommie Michele
22:30 Oct 30, 2021

Huge congrats on the shortlist! I loved this story, and lucid dreaming is something I’ve been wanting to try for a long time, so I found the concept really intriguing. I must ask, do you have any personal experience lucid dreaming? You definitely know what you’re talking about in this story :)

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Cathryn V
03:35 Oct 12, 2021

Hi Elia, this is a very interesting story! I read it twice to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. She loves Jeremy and tells him in her dream. I’m curious about the ending—colder and darker. Death? Absence? Alone in bed? Good story! Congratulations on making the shortlist!

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Elia Kruger
00:41 Oct 14, 2021

Thanks for the comment! The ending is a comment on the luminosity, and potentially an answer to the questions the story asks.

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Lins E
21:52 Oct 08, 2021

Congrats on the shortlist, Elia! This is a great story, it's left me very curious about these two characters. Maybe there's more?

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Elia Kruger
00:42 Oct 14, 2021

I've been asked by the people I shared this with to write more, and I definitely want to expand!

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