By Patrick Shene
I took off my glasses and set the book on the nightstand. Something was off. Something wasn’t right with the world.
It’s one thing to be perpetually aggravated with others and uncontrollable surroundings and circumstances, but nothing is ever as frustrating as that gnawing sense that you yourself are somehow out of place in reality itself. I hate the feeling. I closed my eyes.
The familiar voice slipped in quietly, from somewhere faraway in the dark.
He woke up slowly, already uncomfortable and at odds with the world.
“It is time, my lord... time to awaken... this is the grand day that we have so long....”
“Shhh! Do be silent.”
He suddenly remembered that he spoke truly, that this was in fact the grand day. It was the day to face the monster.
He went to sleep with such a single-mindedness and focus, having prepared through the long, cold seasons for this day, that he was wroth with himself for the coming battle not being his very first thought upon awakening.
Something felt wrong. Waking up today was more jarring than usual, like he was ripped from something, some place, more real than this one.
He wondered how is it that you can awaken from a dream, where everything within that other world seemed so real that it takes more than a small while to fully return to this one?
He wondered, is it necessary for us in our sleep to believe briefly in that other dreamworld? Is it important for it to truly be real to us, at least in our minds? Even if only for a short time, so as to refresh and renew our minds and bodies for this present world?
Maybe that need to believe is so strong, it is hard for us to let go and once again accept what we see. But from whence came these strange concepts?
And what were “glasses” anyway? What were those magical things he saw that one puts on their eyes to see things more clearly, for what they really are? Were they a prophecy, a vision of something real or just another of his fantastical imaginings?
He shook his head and tried to focus.
He slowly, deliberately stood up and was immediately swarmed by his pair of servants, carefully covering him with his armor. The metal, trusted and scarred from so many battles it had been proven through slipped perfectly into place. The clang of iron and crunching of the leather straps were gradually but forcefully pulling him more into the real world with the stark truth of deadly dragons.
Now the strange world he just left was gradually and forever fading, like a wisp of smoke that can never be gathered and reformed. His eyes were opening to the only reality.
“There’s no such thing as dragons!”, shot the voice to his right.
He sat up straighter in his plastic chair, rigid and with a hint of defensiveness. The smell of antiseptic turned his stomach. Maybe it was the morning medicine. He didn’t feel like himself. He hated this place. He closed his eyes for a moment and tried imagining being somewhere else.
“Casey, please... wait your turn and let him speak.”
He opened his eyes and his slight scowl gave way to a controlled, emotionless expression.
“Well... then aliens aren’t real, either.”
He knew exactly how to get back at Casey.
“Yes they are!”, Casey almost cried.
“I don’t know, I’ve never seen one. And you can’t prove you’ve seen one, either.”
“No! Shut up!”
“You shut up. It’s my turn to talk.”, he replied calmly.
The doctor stepped in with her quiet but commanding voice, “please... Casey... just let him finish sharing his story...”
His faced darkened again and he closed up, crossing his arms tightly. “It’s not a story.”
Casey smiled cruelly his way.
The young doctor immediately knew she had done more damage than Casey’s taunts.
“You know what I mean... I mean... look, when.... when I shared the story about when I just visited my parents for Thanksgiving, it was real... right? The word story just means the telling of events, whether something is real or not...”
“It is real!”
“Ok... ok... it’s not for me to judge. But think about it, just like only Casey can truly know for sure whether he has spoken with aliens or if they are real...”
“Aliens are real!”, Casey yelled.
“*Sigh*… Casey... please... just... just stop and wait your turn. Ok?”
The doctor hated when she lost control of the meetings like this.
“Ok... just... please... continue with your sto... with... with your sharing. We want to hear what you have to say. We need to hear it.”
The muted clicking once more came to an end. He stopped typing and looked up from the computer screen to the bay window. The fall colors were amazing. So crisp, so bright, so beautiful. So conflicted, so haunting, so disturbing. He hated the fall.
Such dynamic beauty that was merely posing, just a mask for decay, coldness and change, he thought to himself.
Cycle of life? Sure, for the trees. They usually saw another spring. Tell that to the leaves that withered and died and were gone forever. Replaced by leaves that knew nothing of the countless ones before them and wouldn’t care if they did.
He shook his head and tried to focus.
Something wasn’t right. He was pretty sure it was the doctor’s character that was off.
Maybe... maybe She should really be a He? He clicked on the note icon, typed the question “make doctor a man instead?” and dragged the small image of the post-it note over that page of the story.
But unlike the idiot Casey, the doctor might still be convinced of the truth. Might still be persuaded that this is not all there is to reality. Maybe life is more malleable than we give it credit for. Maybe the dream is as real as the awakening. Maybe sometimes, the story is as real as the reader.
He thought to himself that this doctor... this one of his own making could still be convinced that what he had seen was not just a “story”. Unlike the real doctor at Smith Haven Medical.
She refused to look at any reality not approved in her own type of books. But she was wrong. There were dragons. There will always be monsters more real, more terrible than the ones you read about in any sci-fi or medical books.
But this character, his own improved creation, could still be persuaded. That settled it. His doctor would change, but she also wouldn’t change. By story’s end, she would wake up to accepting the possibility of other worlds, but she would also remain a She, not a He.
Small decision, but satisfying, he thought to himself. As satisfying as petty exertions of power and control over our creations go, at least.
He looked up again at the cold, falling colors swirling outside, resigning himself to the impending, inevitable changes. He sighed and looked back at the glowing screen, put on his glasses and closed his eyes for just a moment.
I opened my eyes and slipped the small scrap of paper between the pages, slowly closing the book and setting it on the nightstand next to me.
I felt good for the first time in a long time. Call me crazy, but everything felt right with the world.
I smiled and thought casually about what strange, purely new and unique realities I would see tonight in my dreams. Would I be I creating them or just witnessing what has been there all along?
I turned off the light and looked forward to the place where nothing is imagined and everything is real. It was time once again to leave this other place. I could feel it was time for a change of season.
It was time to dream, to believe, to truly open my eyes.