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that enveloped me as I woke up in an almost pitch black darkness. First there was the natural fear that shook me, yanking my heart as I realized that I did not have a single idea of where I was. The darkness was total; I could barely distinguish my own hands in front of me. I touched my face to reassure myself that I had not just sunken into an eerie nightmare of vivid claustrophobia. Even though the touch of my hands confirmed my organic existence in this place, I had not planned for the consequences of this realization to strike me with an equivalent horror. This is reality. My nerves stiffened my body and I could barely breathe, a reminder of the fragility of the human compared to other animals. We are completely useless in the dark. Then, when my eyes had adapted more to this new environment, and after a couple of slow but steady breaths, the outlines of the trees became thicker and more apparent. The trees were massive; probably oaks, and I could not see anything else but their leaves as I looked up towards the now hidden sky. Still, I was not certain that what I perceived were the crooked fingers of branches, trapping me like the hands of a child torturing a bug, or if my eyes were merely not comprehending the information they were receiving, and thus protecting me with images I could relate to. This trail of thought quickly eradicated the gradual acceptance of my situation that I hoped to achieve. The trees had first ignited a sense of recognition of my surroundings, but I doubted myself to heavily now. I was experiencing a massive weight upon myself. It felt as if nothing in my life had prepared me for such an overburdening emotional and physical response to what was happening to me. It was just not the darkness that was the reason for this response; it was my total loss of sense of direction and certainty. Nothing in my area of vicinity gave me clues to the where I might be. I was lost. I was frozen for almost, which I guessed, was an hour. When I finally snapped out of this trance, I noticed, even though my eyes felt
more adjusted to the darkness, that it had reached a deeper and denser impenetrable texture. I felt like a fish lost in the ink of an attacking octopus. I was equally afraid as before, but I now possessed a calmer state of mind due to the lingering familiarity I started getting to this place. I was wondering if this bore any similarity to people accepting their knowingly inevitable death. There must be point where you finally can breathe out and realize that there is no escape. I knew there was no escape from my current position. At least not for the moment. Moving would make me lose track even more of my already lost way. Therefore I decided to remain at this exact spot until the day became brighter. But the darkness only continued to grow thicker, not a single outline of an object around me was present. The outlines had faded into black once again. I experienced a complete loss of perception; standing up, sitting down, looking around did not differ from each other. I was not even feeling my muscles move to these intended actions, it was not possible for me to tell if I was even doing these movements. The only thing that confirmed that I had not entered another form of reality or dimension was the sanity that my mind still had. How long it would remain sane was another question, right now I had to focus on enduring the wait for the hopefully impending day. There is a time in life where even your strongest assets do not apply anymore. A time where the clearest mind cannot process what is occurring. In these moments one may fall to their knees, beg for everything to end, or at least a tiny thread of a rope to be thrown out to latch onto. But that rope will never come, and you will be stripped from what defined you as an individual. In this darkness, I concluded that this time for me had come.
Chapter 1: Clay People There was no possibility for me to tell when it happened, but eventually I must have fallen into a deep sleep. I had never been the person who was lucky enough to be blessed with the power of any substantial imagination. Consequently, I was not very creative in my ways. I had a very logical, but, bleak mind, and if nothing made sense for me at a first approach — if anything was beyond my level of understanding in a mere aesthetic manner — I would easily give up and rub it off as not being important to me. Blue vases are always blue vases, pondering on the significance of their color, shape or placement in a room would never be valuable for me. I was not dumb; I simply did not grasp the importance of symbols in a world where they do not matter for our continued existence, where they possess no intrinsic value except their use. Boring one might say, pathetic might someone else. But why would I be offended by remarks that are irrelevant to my character? A dog would not bark angrily at its owner if it were told to be more like a cat when it after all is behaving exactly like a dog should act. Then the problem lies within that person, not the dog. This lack of imagination had never proved to be towards my disadvantage, I had managed to prosper without it. So it was never a weight on my shoulders, it was simply something I did not possess. Like someone who cannot whistle or snap his fingers, despite how much he practices, it simply does not come to him. Teachers, and such, are quick to notice the only child who does not draw during class or sing along to the songs. It bared the warning signs for talks with parents and gossip during coffee break; for the child to become gradually marked as the odd and peculiar one, resulting in every child’s nightmare that is the cause of the first day at school tears: The fright of being rejected the love we all our lives have been used to, that security is suddenly snatched away. And amidst the already chaotic lives of my parents, I became another unnecessary worry to them as I fit perfectly into the category of that one, that child who never bothered to get his hands blemished by crayons or watercolors.
However, this problem — if we should call it that — was not news to my parents. They were more concerned over the worries that my teachers throughout the years expressed towards them. It was, to say the least, exhausting for them. Over and over again they had to reassure them that everything was fine with me, that I simply just was not the creative type. So after a couple of talks between my parents and teachers (this happened at every school I attended to, so it became a routine for my parents) I would be left alone and no longer be seen as the peculiar one. But I am positive that they still had these prejudiced thoughts about me, the same thoughts that teachers have for the children they are frightened of growing up and becoming sociopaths or rapists. For was it not peculiar, they must have thought, that this kid just sits and counts all throughout the day? I counted the grass on the fields, the crayons in the bins, red shirts on boys and yellow shirts on girls, glasses on teachers and trash bins in the schoolyard. I counted, every chance I got, just in my head. I never wrote it down for memory, there was no value in that. For me, this was the only absolute thing in my surroundings, and this I had been taught. As long as there were things to count, I was calm and content with life. Compared to the vast amount of other things in the world, counting for me was the only thing that made absolute sense. Rarely did other things bother me as long as I was completely enveloped by the meditation of counting. I could always rely on that, like a cat owner relying on the cat to find its way home or how turtles rely on their newborns to instinctively hurry towards the ocean once they crack from their eggs. But I only counted things in the present, right in front of me. I never enumerated the days to birthdays or how many hours until class was over. It was too abstract for me and I saw no reason for it. I must however admit that this curse has made me jealous of other people for one reason: I lack the ability to dream. When I fall asleep, there is only the short pause in reality until I wake up again. Nothing in between. Even though I totally neglect the theory of dreams being able to reveal vital meaning or information to people, I have to confess: After an exhausting day, sinking into an alternative reality for a while and being washed over by dazzling emotions and manifestations would probably soothe my mind and relax me in ways I
otherwise would not have time to indulge myself in. I wanted to walk the Planes of Mystery. Alas, I had to accept the fact that I would never experience that sensation of falling from an unknown location into the depths of nothingness, only to wake up in cold sweat and feeling the same real vividness of actually falling from a height. Never have I been — and will I be — enveloped by that impeccable nostalgia that dreams can bring people, in form of reliving a day in the house you grew up in, with the egg white walls that had those stark cracks that reminded you of Grandma’s knees. Looking up at the shelves you could never reach, theorizing about what secrets you would learn when growing up. Gazing out the window at your mother spiraling in the emerald spring leaves, as she becomes a representation of the warmth she so innately would spring from her tender, but fragile interior. The warmth, which you will never experience again, except during those fortunate nights where the dreams bless you with these possibilities of revival. The possibilities of reliving a first kiss, the betrayal of your closest friend, the pain of conquering your fears and the vampires that have haunted you ever since you saw the disgusting fissures of the people who defile the surroundings with their presence. And the nausea they only continue to bring. In dreams people could be strong and fight these demons, even if it only temporarily numbed the pain in a symbolic victory. Is it not odd, I think sometimes, that I cannot dream? Is it not odd, I question myself sometimes, that I envy the symbols and their influence in dreams, but disregard their existence in reality? So it was odd that, when I fell asleep in the darkness, I started to dream. In my dream I was in a forest. It was nothing like the one I believed I was presently in. No, this forest was something like out of the books I had read as a child. Here I was sure that I was in a forest. The light from the stars kissed the outlines of the tree branches and together they painted a mysterious, but not at all ominous, copy of the forests I was used to. The entire forest was ablaze in a layer of indigo and every single speckle of dust was iridescent, like small torches hovering in the air by some arcane force. When gazing up towards the sky I could not perceive an exact point that defined the beginning of the
sky and the end of the treetops. It was like a paintbrush stroking along the canvas of the atmosphere, and in its brushstroke I saw the remnants of supernovas, the jewels of ancient Kings’ crowns and the violent faults of the ocean floors being fused into something I could only describe as an impeccable merging of all that has ever been created. It was a stage put together by the most skillful architects, a collaboration by the greatest minds trying to portray perfection. That was the initial impression that overwhelmed me when my Dream Persona entered this new world, it was beyond anything I had ever experienced, as if I was finally repaid for all those lost years of living without being able to dream. It did not matter anymore that I had been trapped in the darkness, if I could escape to this place from time to time that would be enough for me to endure anything. A rush of euphoria spread throughout my entire body, an orgasm of the senses. I was a baby floating in silk and this place was my cradle. There the whole universe lived and breathed together with me. Fire. Flames danced to the song of the leaves’ tender swaying. The campfire warmed my hands and I was not alone in the forest of my dreams. We were sitting — there were three of us — around the flame in a grassy-patched area. Just sitting, focused on the warmth, which was finding its way through our bodies. It was not really cold, or warm, in the forest, but it felt like this was the natural thing to do. I looked overhead to confirm that I was still in that same forest. I was. This knowledge was a comfort for me; I did not want to go back to the darkness yet. I could not perceive these other people that well, the great flames hid most of their faces. I could tell it was a man and a woman, the fire shone up their bodies so intensely that their bodies were covered in a piercing white. But their faces, there was something abnormal about them. Not deviant really, it was just that the features of their faces did not allow me to memorize them. They were like clay formations in the process of being shaped. I could tell what I was seeing were faces, but no other characteristics, no dents, no wrinkles or scars were present to give them a unique appearance. Completely featureless. Despite this, there was something familiar about them, but I could not make a
connection at all. It was just a feeling. I decided to stop pondering about this. It was, after all, just a dream. They, like myself, were focused on the fire. Their eyes never took a moment to acknowledge me, and the reflection of the flames created a temporary waltz with the pupil in their unblinking eyes. I did not feel ignored though. I was certain that my presence here was of purpose and that they were aware of that as well. But for exactly what purpose I was unaware of for now, and until that was clarified I did not feel the necessity to speak. To pass the time I looked around my surroundings. Still overcome by the beauty of the trees, I found myself staring at the formations of the leaves for long moments. Like gazing at clouds and trying to find shapes that are not really there, looking for something tangible to reveal itself in the abstractness of nature. I found it funny to be having these thoughts; I had never been a cloud watcher. Just like I had never been the imaginative type, I did not see the significance of doing so. It is a waste of time where one spills energy on nothing instead of accomplishing so much more. But nevertheless, here I was. Yes, here I was, in the most beautiful place I had ever been in, while simultaneously actually being in the most terrifying place I had ever been in — dreaming, for the first time ever. Perhaps being a fish out of water yanks unusual features out of you. Or was this maybe how my brain was keeping me sane so I would not succumb into the darkness forever? Or had I already gone insane? Were these unfathomable hallucinations projected by my now delusional mind? It was, to be frank, impossible for me to tell at this moment and time. I would simply have to wait until the brilliant morning rays would penetrate the darkness and awaken me. Only then would I know if I was sane, only then would I finally be able to unearth the root of the darkness and flee. The other two people were still focused on the fire, never a glance towards me. I was starting to doubt why I was here. I quickly told myself to stop contemplating such questions; this was a dream, give yourself up to the flow of it, you are a tourist in this place and you do yet not know the rules of it. This became my mantra, my rope at the bottom of the well.
What happened next cast me into the spiral of events that would completely alter the course of my life. After minutes or hours, I could not tell (how does time while dreaming behave, are we perceiving time just as precisely as real time? I did not know), of just sitting together in complete silence with the other two people, I started wondering if these kinds of dreams were common. I had never in my life heard of people being so conscious in their dreams. For even though I was asleep and dreaming, my state of mind was the same as being awake. My thoughts were clear and I was taking in every piece of information as pure as an animal in a new home, adapting itself to its new surroundings and creating a relationship with it. Making sure that it would survive, but also staring in bewilderment at this completely new world. Several times in my days had I encountered people cursing themselves for not remembering their dreams, as if being genuinely upset for not being able to recall their last night. Again, this astonishment may be founded in my curse, but yet I could not help myself to wonder these kinds of things. Give yourself up to the flow of it, you are a tourist in this place and you do yet not know the rules of it. As I repeated my mantra in my head once again, the man in front of me scoffed.
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