Henry Ramson goes about his day longing to sleep his way into another world.
My eyes blink to life. As I looked around the darkroom I released a sigh of sadness. I was back to the world where I was only human and nothing more. No more watching people defying the laws of physics just save me from danger. Just a reminder it was all made up, and that I'm never going to get to experience such a wonder that I felt in my dream. If I got the opportunity, I would live in my head. In the world I had created. The world of superpowers, futuristic cities, and a life without worry. Sadly though, this opportunity would never come. I couldn't just throw myself into a coma and pray that I dream the rest of my life. I had to live in both fantasy and fact.
After my routine every morning of lying in bed wanting to fall back asleep, I finally, reluctantly, got up to move for the day. I stepped down the stairs to the familiar sight of no one to be seen. The only trace that anyone had ever lived was a small note taped on top of the dining table.
"By the time you read this, I will be at work. Remember to eat a full breakfast before leaving for school, and no more pretending to be sick before gym. I know you're just trying to get out of it but it's good for you. Have a good day. -Dad"
When reading the note, the only thing I could think was, "if you're going to lecture me, do it in person," though he never wanted to do anything in person. If you wanted to know I was alive, he'd send a text asking. I maybe saw him twice a week. He went to work early, then would be out with his colleagues till midnight. I would sometimes tell people I live on my own. It was the easiest lie to get away with I ever made.
I did as the note instructed, ate some scrambled eggs before going to school, and went to gym. The day was as boring as normal, but at least it was Friday. I passed my Spanish quiz, failed my math, and did okay everywhere else. I didn’t really care about math, which people tell me is weird. They always say, “But you hate gym and fail it, you should be great at math.” They think your gym grade tells you if someone is a nerd. Idiots.
Finally came lunch. I sat down at my normal table and tried chatting with a few acquaintances. It was embarrassing, but you only real friend came late to lunch every day, so I had to chat with someone for the first ten minutes. When he finally comes, he was glowing. He sat down next to me with a huge smile on his face.
“Hey Henry!” He yelled over the noise just a little too loud. “Hey” I responded softer. Lance had always been a little too loud and energetic. The whole room could be silent, and he would still holler over to me and start chatting it up. But it was good to have a friend like that, and I enjoy having him around. So much so, my brain decided to make a version of him in my dreams. He's basically the same person in both worlds.
“You okay? You look sad” he says studying my face. “I'm fine,” I say looking away. “Just waiting for the week to end.” “Who isn't?” he says plopping down next to me. He pulls out a sandwich with bologna and peanut butter. I gag as he takes a bite.
He looks at me and starts laughing. “It's delicious. Here, try it.” He pushes the sandwich towards my face. “No no no!” I say panicked. “Fine.” he says, “But you just missed out a taste you may never get to experience again.” “I don’t mind.”
We finish lunch and go through the rest of the day with almost no trouble. Almost. Sixth period, AP Biology. I begin to walk into class, and someone runs up and stops me. She's young, probably still a sophomore, and looks to me excited. “What's your name?” She asks like already knows, and just needs confirmation. “Henry” I respond. “Henry Ramson.” “Yes!” she cries excitedly. It shocks me, and I jump back. “We need to talk,” she says grabbing my arm. “Hey! Wait! No.” I say pulling free. “I need to get to class. We can talk later.” I go in before he can respond and take my seat.
I spend the whole class puzzling over the girl. He seemed genuinely happy to have found me, but why? My thoughts were cut short by the bell telling me to go to my next class. I hurry to get my stuff from my locker and go to class before I bump into him again. I keep my head down and make it there without any sign of the girl. I release a sigh of relief.
Class is over before I know it, and I return to my locker for the final time to pack up for the day. When I open my locker, however, I find a note taped to the top. I read through it, my eyes getting wider as I go.
“I may be mistaken, but I think I know you. If I'm right, today is your 18th birthday, (Happy birthday) meaning you will get something tonight. If I'm correct about who you are, then you will know what I mean, and I will see you tonight. If I am mistaken, please throw this away and forget what I said. Sincerely, Maya.”
Maya. I know a Maya. She is someone inside my dream world. She’s fifteen and watches me around the cities. She’s creepy. But none of it makes sense. How could she know about my dreams? How could she know it was my birthday? Unless she had the same dreams. It was a big deal in Civilian City 1 because of my birthday, and the Maya person was there.
I begin to walk home thinking. Somehow, I guess she has the same dreams as me. She must be conscious when she has them as well. But how is it possible? The world I made came from my mind, so it should be impossible for her to know about it or enter it.
As I walk into my house, I notice a small package sitting on my doorstep. On top, there's a copy of the note I read at school. I take in the package and open it in my living room. There is a book with the words, “DREAM WORLD” written on the cover. I open it and begin to read.
“This is a full detailed book of the details of the world I enter when I fall asleep. Before reading, double check I want you to read this. Thank you.” I flip to the first page.
“This world is so far in the future, we no longer keep track of the years. Seasons are no longer a thing, so it is always a warm day, with very rare rain. At this time in life, human life is limited to 12 cities, split across two sides. Because there my brain isn’t creative enough, we call them the Light and Dark sides. They are always fighting in a constant war over who can control the cities, trying to eliminate the other side completely.”
“There are twelve cities as I said, and three types of cities. There are Civilian Cities, with homes and stores and other things. There are Manufacturing Cities, filled with factories to make products and weapons. (No one knows where they get their materials.) The last city type is the Military City, where, as it sounds, they do everything military related. There are 4 of each type of city, and each side has 2 of each. This world may not sound super exciting but there's a twist.”
I didn't need to continue reading. I already knew what was coming. The powers explanation. When we turn 18, we gain a superpower of some kind. It could be for fighting, or it could be just something fun. It could be almost anything, from enhanced strength or intelligence, to wings or guns that come out of your arms (Real example.)
I've spent my whole life in this dream world. I aged the same way in there as I did in this world, meaning today is my eighteenth birthday in my dreams as well. When I went to sleep tonight, I would wake up in my other world with my first power.
People could get more powers in two ways. One was a natural development, gained if there is a danger that you probably won't survive. You may gain a power to save your life in such a situation. The other way is through what they call, “medals.” They are awarded to people who do something extraordinarily in battle. You get it, clip it on when you go to sleep, and develop a new power overnight. As far as we know, there is no limit to the number of powers one man can get.
My suspicions were now confirmed. She had the same dreams as me. Everything was the same as in my dreams. There was no way she could have written all of this without having been in the dreams, and the detail says she was in there her whole life as well. I flip through the book and see that she has almost ninety pages on the subject.
I decide I can stop trying to figure this out on my own, and just go to sleep and ask her myself. I check my watch. 8:47. I smile, knowing that it's time. Time is exactly 12 hours apart in our two worlds, meaning it's almost 9 am there. When I go to sleep here, it will be like waking up there.
I first run to the fridge and get a piece of cake. I had gone to the store yesterday my cake, and it's been in the fridge ever since. I light a candle and make my wish. Make my power something good. I spent my whole life watching people fly through the sky, lift buildings, and move things with their mind. I want something like that, to make my dreams my own personal utopia. Although, I guess I do share this world now. No, I've always shared it and I never noticed. It won’t change anything. It's still the same place it was my whole life. Nothing will change that.
I finally go into my room and turn off the lights. I lay down in bed and turn on the speaker next to me. I hear the cassette rewinding, then come to a stop. I click play, and a soft song comes through. I listen to the tune as I feel myself drift off. I let the song carry me to a better life. A life that feels like more of a home than my true home ever did. A life more simple, not having to worry about grades, or money, or my dad. A life I have all the time I want to do whatever I want. And now, when I drift to this place today, a life of powers. A life of dreams.