If you see someone sleeping in your dreams, whatever you do, don't wake them up.
Like most people, I don't always remember my dreams. Sometimes they're in colour, other times I'm not sure, usually they don't mean anything anyway. Occasionally I get a feeling of déjà vu, something happens and I'm positive I dreamt about it once, not that it made sense at the time.
When I was in my teens and in my 'crystal-mystical' phase as I call it, I would religiously write down every scant detail I could remember as soon as I woke up, in a pocket-size notebook with a cat on the front and lined white pages held together by an aluminium spiral. I always dreamt of imagined far-off countries, though I've never even so much as stepped on an airplane. Anyway, I'd drag my copy of Sigmund onto the bed while having the first coffee of the day, and try and work out what the dream had meant. It was more fun than crossword puzzles, especially when there had been some sex.
Then I grew up, also known as falling in love, getting married and having kids, followed by falling out of love (my husband fell into another woman, so to speak), getting divorced and said kids going off to find themselves and stay in touch via postcards, phone calls and more recently, Facebook. I'm not sure what comes after growing up.
A job down at the welfare department kept me going. You get to meet all sorts there, almost none of whom you'd ever dream of inviting home. So, there was this one guy, bit of a hobo, used to come in soon after we opened for business, and sleep on one of the benches in our big reception area during the cold snaps. He didn't smell too bad so the Supervisor let it ride. He mainly slept, so when I first noticed him sleeping in one of my dreams -- same position, same shabby tan overcoat and crusty pants meeting worn Nike sneakers with string instead of laces, not forgetting the navy blue woollen hat yanked well down past his ears ... Well, I figured he was such a permanent fixture in my life that it was just a matter of time before he turned up in my dreams. It didn't seem important. Like I said, my dreams were mostly of far-off places I'd seen on TV or in a magazine. When people are at a distance, they don't seem threatening.
That little rationale worked fine until he stopped coming to sleep at our offices. I wasn't the first to notice it, neither.
"Hey," shouts Betty -- she always shouts even if you're right in front of her nose -- "Ain't seen Sammy lately."
Others joined in, wondering what had happened to him. I stayed quiet, because I had seen him, but I wasn't about to tell them that -- I'd have been laughed right out town.
Over the next two weeks I found myself driving around -- on the way to work, during lunch-break, or at night, checking out all the places he might be. One night I even went to the police to see if he'd been found dead or been arrested or something. You should have seen the look on the sergeant's face. Asked me some sharp questions, that one. Well, anyway, he knew who I was referring to -- Little Rockhampton ain't a very big place. To cut it short, Sammy had plain disappeared. The sergeant -- Bixby was his name -- checked with the train and Greyhound stations to see if he'd caught a ride. Bixby told me Sammy's full name: Samuel David Hodgkinson. Meant nothing to me. That would have been the end of it, except Sammy kept showing up in my dreams, always asleep. At least he didn't snore.
Now, normally you don't act sensible in a dream, do you? But I guess on account of him just being there no matter what the dream was about, including some dreams that would make my mother blush, bless her soul, I started to pay attention to Sammy. I'd be in the middle of an old-style sailing ship in a white-water storm and would see him asleep on deck, or I'd be in a commuter train hurtling through a jungle filled with dinosaurs, and he'd be at the far end of the carriage, fast asleep. I'd stop whatever I was doing and stare. It was only when I started writing down my dreams again that I realised something. They had started to occur in my sweet little town, and with each night Sammy was getting closer to where I lived.
The morning after I saw him on the wooden bench just outside my white picket fence, well, that was when I called the shrink. I'd already tried all sorts of drugs and homeopathic nonsense to make me sleep without dreaming. None worked. Every night I'd dream in Technicolor, with full soundtrack and even smells -- nobody dreams of smells, do they? Not bad ones: there was cookie-dough, fresh mown grass, and the sweat of the local handyman ... Of course I hadn't gotten too close to Sammy, yet. Anyway, the dreams were becoming as real as daily life, and just as dull. I actually dreamed I was on the sofa watching a TV program with ads and everything. It was getting hard to tell when I was dreaming. The only clue was if Sammy was somewhere around.
The shrink, one Dr. Clarke, a bald-headed chinless wonder with round glasses and the full collection of Sigmund's works neatly displayed in a glass cabinet, listened while I told him all this stuff. His eyes looked a little strange, like he'd been wearing eyeliner. Whatever, he got quite excited, like a ferret when it sniffs blood, saying he could do a paper at next year's AAPA meeting, whatever that was. But when I asked him what it meant, he spouted gobbledegook, talking of existential displacement and repressed over-socialised guilt. It was my turn to listen, and I did, but I dismissed it the way I realised he was dismissing my story as psychology, not 'real-ology.' So I asked him again, at the end of the session, only more direct.
"But what if it's real, I mean Sammy has disappeared, and now he's in my dreams. I mean, maybe that's where he lives now."
There was one of those awkward pauses where I could feel Dr. Clarke shifting closer to some invisible professional line, the one separating a comfortable couch-based chat from strait-jacket-and-electric-shock therapy. Seeing a padded celled life flash before my eyes, I burst out laughing, said "Had you there, didn't I?" and after a moment's hesitation he joined in with one of those down-coasting laughs that signals relief more than humour.
That night I didn't want to sleep, and stayed up watching programmes on the TV I'd never normally watch: ancient series like Colombo, B-movies, and radical interview stuff. I wondered what kind of people stayed up to watch them, let alone call all those chat-room-sex-ad numbers. But around 4am sleep came over me like a silent wave. That was when the dream changed. Can't say how, exactly; I just knew it was more real as far as I was concerned than anything happening in the awake world.
I was walking around my little home. I saw someone sleeping on the sofa. It wasn't Sammy. It was a woman in a floral dressing gown, middle aged, her mouth slack, hair a mess. I didn't want to admit it, but she was me. She looked older than I thought I did; fragile, worn out. I wanted to pull a cover over her, keep her warm, protect her somehow, and turn the TV off, because I had a bad feeling. But I couldn't move anything, I was like a ghost, I guess. So instead I bent to kiss her forehead, to whisper to her that it was all right, that her life hadn't amounted to much, but that it was okay. One always wants more time, but I knew hers had run out.
Climbing the stairs that should've creaked, I walked along the narrow hall with the yellowing wallpaper I'd promised myself I was going to replace next year. My fingers traced the top of the radiator, unable to feel its warm metal, as if they were numb. I stood at the open door to my pink bedroom, and there Sammy was, on my bed, looking younger than I remembered. He stirred, the first time in my dreams I'd seen him move. He was curled up like a child, and I sat next to him on the soft bed, which didn't bend or sag under my generous weight.
I put a hand on his shoulder, felt the coarse wool of his coat, matted with stains I'd never want to smell. Somehow, I knew it was time, and I had nowhere to go, nowhere to hide, so I shook his shoulder. He snapped awake, his head lifting up so quick, I knew it wasn't Sammy. When he opened a single eye, I saw a yellow triangular pupil nested in an iris of china blue. At that point I knew Sammy -- this Sammy -- wasn't human anymore. My right eye closed, heavy as lead, impossible to open again, and fatigue smothered me like a ton of soft, warm blankets. I lay down on the bed, and as his other eye opened, mine closed. I wanted to scream, but I knew that wasn't going to happen. I fell asleep.
That was three weeks ago. I spend my days now watching through Dr. Clarke's eyes as he goes about his business. I must say it's interesting, I never knew so many secrets could exist in such a small town. I could do without his midnight porn-surfing and cross-dressing, though, and when he plays with -- well, I can't look away, so I try and recite songs or even nursery rhymes from when I was a child, anything really to take my mind off it. A few verses are all it usually takes, thank goodness. During the day, though, he tries hard to help his patients, and he works long hours. He cares.
But he's getting nervous. Dr. Clarke read in the local paper, The Clarion, that I'd disappeared without a trace. Ben -- that's his first name, and I kind of feel I can call him that now -- well, he made some inquiries, then went back to his notes from my session with him. He wrote that he's been seeing me in his dreams, always fast asleep. When he sleeps, so do I, so I don't see his dreams. But apparently I'm getting closer to his home.
Don't ask me how it works, I've not met one of them, the yellow-eyed aliens, whatever they are. I can feel them though, sometimes, like when you know someone is watching you but you can't turn around. They're cold -- not nasty, just ... like fish, maybe, don't know how else to put it. I imagine intelligent fish, mouths opening as they talk to each other with sounds we can't hear, watching what we do, trying to understand us; that can't be easy. Telepathy. Ben wrote that in his journal last night. He's into a bit of scifi on the side, I found out. But I'm not sure they read our thoughts, I think they just somehow connect with minds so they can see. For some reason they need to use my mind to see through his eyes, so they see what I see, what Ben sees.
Have I become one of the aliens? I hope not, that would really creep me out! No, they're piggy-backing me, that's what they're doing. Maybe that's smarter, puts some distance between them and what they see, that kind of makes sense to me. Why meet aliens face-to-face when you can observe them two steps removed?
Ben's behaviour when he's all alone has gotten more erratic. 'Temporary paranoia,' he wrote. But I can tell he doesn't believe his own diagnosis by the way he stares into the mirror, trying to see me, or maybe what I call the fish creatures. Ben's smarter than I was, he knows someone else is there.
What do they want? I reckon they're just taking a look, for now. They may be curious, or maybe they have bad intentions, I've no evidence either way. But it makes me laugh when I think about it. All those silly films about big space-ships flying across the stars, when all these aliens have to do is look through our eyes.
What about the sleepers in our dreams -- Sammy in mine, me in Ben's? Ben -- Dr Clarke -- I give him his dues as more of an authority than me here -- well he reckons it's a self-defence mechanism. The subconscious -- or was it the unconscious? Anyway, it knows it's being attacked, violated, he wrote. And so it tries to warn us in our dreams. Trouble is, you can't outrun your own subconscious, which is where they're hiding, and we've all got to sleep sooner or later.
Me, I'm a little out of my league here, but I reckon it's like a half-way house. I don't feel dead, more like my mind is waiting for something, the next thing. They see through my mind and out through his eyes. When it's his turn, and he wakes me up, I'll go to where the aliens are, at least my mind will. What else would a telepathic race be interested in? I have a hunch I'll meet Sammy and quite a few other folk there.
Yesterday, Dr. Clarke travelled all the way to New York to see another shrink, and I read as he wrote his journal this morning that he'd dreamt of me in the hotel lobby, sleeping by the lift. He aims to see someone and tell them all about it tomorrow, but I reckon the fishes'll put him to sleep tonight -- he'll find me in his bed, and I'll wake up and he'll be like me, trapped in the next victim's mind. Now I come to think of it, a shrink should be mighty happy there.
That's the bit I don't know: what happens to me then? My body? I reckon it's already been disposed of. The other day Ben drove past the forest lake and I felt this shiver inside. That's where the bodies are, I'm sure of it, all weighted down with something heavy. A fish mind would have no problem drowning a body, would it? And being telepathic, it wouldn't have to stay there and drown along with it.
So, I'm hoping that when Ben wakes me up and falls asleep, that I'll wake up on the fish planet. I should be scared, I should be screaming all day long, but I'm not. These aliens can manipulate minds, and I figure they're stopping me from being frightened out of my wits. Can't say I'm complaining. I don't know how many times they're doing this, to how many folks, but I hope not too many. Sometimes I sense something -- Grandma used to say I was a little 'touched' myself -- and I have the feeling the fish-aliens are just taking a look, studying us awhile, and then they'll stop, move on. Galaxy's a mighty big place, so I've heard.
I've grown to like Ben. Despite his secret wardrobe, his heart's in the right place, and I think deep down he's terrified. Maybe we'll meet soon, me, him and Sammy, and we can have a laugh about it all.
Ah well, it's getting late, and it'll soon be over for both of us. I have to admit I'm kind of itching to see what happens next; I've never even been outside of New Hampshire! As my Grandma used to say, things always look better in the morning.