Alright, so here's the deal... this is the first draft of this story, which has already been workshopped, but I haven't done any changing since, which explains confusing bits. I will post the edited version eventually.
It was in Meredith Saunders that I found my most lasting friend in college. I was at first attracted to her quick wit and quicker laughter, but as we spent more time with each other, I found there was more to her than these, her most outward traits. It was not until I left after that first semester that I realized how fond I had grown of her. It was not the kind of fond I’d ever felt for a girl. It was a lot like the fondness you might have for your sister, but I always told myself it was a bit deeper than that. Though you might have called it a crush, I refused to call it anything of the kind. We had sort of come to this nonverbal agreement that 6,000 miles was a very, very long distance, and that two and a half years was a pretty long time. Besides that, we both liked playing endlessly with possibilities, and didn’t especially like settling for one so distant just yet.
“Maybe I can meet you at the airport before you go abroad and you can stow me in your suitcase,” she said over the phone one night.
“Yes,” I replied, smiling, “and then we can run off to Madrid to be married.”
“Hmmn…” Meredith said, and laughed. “Well, I suppose we will eventually have to be wed if every male I meet keeps dropping dead so suddenly.”
Meretdith and I were both quite the jokesters. We had decided ways in which our (for all discussion purposes) necessary wedding might occur multiple times. One or the other of us often indicated laughingly that we would most likely end said event in a quick divorce. She just couldn't deal with loving the man who'd killed all other potential lovers. Having long been a “secret assassin”, I was offing all her “true” loves as soon as they had the chance to so much as speak to her. The jealousy was apparently too much for me. After disposing of the body, I would replace said object of affections with a horribly unattractive clone of some sort. To this she once said:
“Samuel, I hope for your sake that you don’t grow too jealous of yourself when I finally agree to marry you, for then our divorcement would be entirely useless.”
Our humorous future was not the only thing we made fun of or discussed in depth. We sometimes discussed superheroes and Harry Potter; religion and movie stars. We even, occasionally, spoke almost completely seriously of our current lives. Hers was all school, work, and drama; Mine was all boredom, video games, and doctor’s visits preparing me for my time abroad. I had not even bothered to secure a job, as I was planning on boarding a plane to Spain any day now. In the beginning of our summer, she had often bothered me about getting a job, but summer came and went and I went home. That was the summer of dreams.
You know, I’ve never had so-called “normal” dreams. People tell me about their nightmares and I can almost laugh as I think about my own haunting night terrors. There were dark hallways and satanic demons to defeat, soul-sucking goblins and images of death and hopeless struggles. In cases of these terrors, I almost always woke, defeated, and less ready to start a new day than the night before. Even in normal dreams, I found it hard to repeat to others the bizarre workings of my head. I once had a dream that one of my friends and I had slept together. The strangest part of the dream was that I got to school the next morning to find out that she’d had the same dream. Yeah, pretty weird, we decided. Officially freaked out, I found it hard to ever look at her quite the same. It probably didn’t help that she saw the whole thing as some sort of Manifest Destiny!
“Hey, Sam,” she would say, bounding over to me all cheerful and giggly, “are you busy tonight?”
“Well,” I’d say quite honestly, “Basically the only thing on my schedule is sleep… eventually.”
She smiled in a smug, self-assured sort of way. “Well, that’s kinda what I was hoping you’d do. Can I join you?”
Now, I make it a habit to appear as vain and flirtatious as possible in front of the women folk of the world, but when they try so bluntly to seduce me into submission, I can’t help but shudder a bit. My vanity, however, demanded to be heard.
“Well, Caroline,” I said, playing with a strand of my own chin-length hair. “I must say that I do look rather dashing in my sleep, but it might be creepy to have you watching me all night.”
That was when she laughed. I think she must’ve pondered some retort before she answered, for her eyes glimmered a bit before she consented to sleeping in her own bed.
Now Meredith Sanders had been known to my subconscious quite long enough that summer for her to have had a few cameo appearances in my dreams, but she hadn't really had a starring role as many of my female friends often have. It seemed, however, that the frequency in which I appeared in her dreams was surprisingly high.
“I had a kissing dream last night,” she said after the first of these dreams, her voice a bit shy and distant. It got that way when she was about to admit something slightly embarrassing.
“Oh yeah?” I asked, all nonchalance and ignorance.
“Well,” she said, giggling a bit, “I’ve never had a kissing dream before! I had just kinda figured that you don’t dream about stuff you’ve never experienced or something….”
“That doesn’t really make sense,” I interrupted, thinking of some dreams I’d had recently.
“That’s not really the point, Samuel,” she said, slight irritation coloring her tone, “The point is that I had a kissing dream! Well, that and the fact that I have no idea who I kissed.”
I laughed. Meredith was so odd sometimes. She went on to tell me (eventually), that the possibilities for her kissing companions were narrowed down to three eligible males. Her last two crushes were the first two possibilities. Daniel George was the first. Short, curly hair, blue eyes, brown hair, and musical talent... what more could a girl want? And Trevor Garner, hazel eyes, mousy blond hair and artistic tastes... another womanizer, though he couldn't help it. They had both appeared often enough in her dreams to affirm the possibility. As she went on, I felt sure the topic should change soon. I didn’t like any of the possibilities she’d mentioned, and I really didn’t want to find out that she was dreaming of kissing Ewan McGregor or Nick Carter. In fact, I realized, I really wouldn’t like her dreaming of kissing anyone… unless that someone was…
“…you,” she finished, and fell silent.
I wish I could say what I was actually thinking was more like “unless that someone was some way super awesome guy who might play video games with me.” Or “unless that someone was good at baseball,” but I wasn’t thinking that at all. She was completely right. Sometimes it was almost like she could read my mind. And if she was dreaming of kissing me, well let’s just say that in that moment I was strangely grateful for the thousands of miles between us. I might have kissed her just for mentioning it. After a few moments of semi-awkward silence, I decided a change of topic was most definitely in order.
“So, I've been having this weird dream lately,” I said hopefully.
“Yeah?” As she asked this, her voice had become softer, and I knew she was still distracted by her own thoughts.
“Well, you know that time in between sleep and waking..?” She made a sort of murmur in agreement. “Sometimes I can tell I'm sleeping still... and I still have dreams. This dream is like that. It also continues. And sometimes it seems so real...”
“Samuel,” Meredith said, a smile in her voice though she tried to sound firm, “get to the point. I want to know what the dream is about!”
Now, This dream I had was most strange in the fact that it was pretty tranquil. I was used to dreams that involved pain and fear and exhaustion, but this dream was so nearly real and so utterly peaceful, that I almost hated to wake from it. A wonderful scene first opened to my view: All was lush and green. Tall, willowy trees grew. I was unused to being alone in dreams. And this place... it was beautiful! Fireflies were mixed in with the leaves of the willows, which glittered gaily as I passed. No place had ever occurred in my dreams; it was too calm, too serene... too beautiful. So I wandered around. After awhile I realized I was alone. Dreams are pointless without interaction. I wanted someone with me in my dream.
At this point, I seem to have wandered around a bit more. I remember noticing the softer, glittering edges of things. It was as if someone had painted the most beautiful parts of our world and used a style that made everything different and new. It gave this world wonderment and light and a beauty which made me want to share it even more. Everything sparkled brighter for a moment as a girls' giggling rang out in the willowy woods. I followed the sound. It led me around and through the forest, gaily echoing and reverberating off trees and rocks, streams and sunshine. When at last I found her, she was surrounded by three or four red-headed boys. Her laughter had ceased, and was replaced by a look of sincerity on her face as they discussed things importantly. I can no longer remember the topic of their conversation, but it was interesting to me, so I crept quietly behind a willow and leaned casually against it.
It seemed to me a long time before I was finally noticed. I think it was the oldest one that finally noticed me. A leaf was scuffed by my cumbersome shoe, or maybe I just moved, but something made him turn around. Everyone went quiet.. Cursing silently to myself that sneakers were meant to be sneaky, I leaned around the tree and held my hands out, defenseless. The boy was coming towards me with a stick, and I wasn't having any of that. I don’t think he can have felt threatened at my presence, for while I am strong(I can lift girls heavier than me without much effort), I still appear quite… well, scrawny, but he stopped. His eyes kept switching between my dull, baggy jeans and t-shirt to his own glowing, glittering apparel. Yes, I think that the style in which our world is painted- it’s flat, dull colors –were strange to him as his glowing world was to me. And people fear what they don’t understand. We sat and stared at each other for a long time. I wasn’t about to move; I like weapons, but not when other people are holding them, and I don’t think he liked random college kids showing up in his fantasy world, either.
It was the girl who moved first and I found that she, of all things in this world glittered especially brightly. Her hair, which lay sleek down her shoulders and back, was a breathtaking shade of blond mixed in with blue and green. Her eyes, which shone like emeralds from her pale, beautiful face narrowed slightly with her approach. I was suddenly overwhelmed by her. Nothing else mattered in that instant but her, and if her partner had raised his stick up to hit me, so help me, I might have snatched it from him and bashed him to a pulp.
What… or who... are you? She asked, tilting her head.
“I explained (as modestly as possible) that I was Samuel Coy, college student extraordinaire, and that they were all just figments of my imagination. They, of course, believed none of it, and began to fire questions at me. I answered them, then asked my own question. It actually seems like in my dream, we spoke for hours,” I said. “And that’s when the strangest part happened...”
“What, did the girl suddenly throw herself on you and tell you how madly she loved foreigners with baggy t-shirts and jeans?” Meredith laughed. You know, if I didn’t know that woman better, I might have thought she was jealous.
“Psht… “ I said, dismissing her. “No! You’re skipping way too far ahead, and besides… she never admits how madly she loves me, only that she finds me ‘interesting’… whatever that means.” I paused for a moment, then continued. “No, this was the weird part: Suddenly, I got this feeling... like I could feel the futon below me and the warm air of the heating vent. I knew somehow that I was waking up, and, like... I'd have to leave soon.”
“That's kinda random, “ she said.
“You’re telling me! And then I told them I had to go, and they asked if I would come back soon, because they needed my help.”
“Sweet! So,” she said, her voice lowering a bit, as she might if there were a secret to be told, “you said it’s a continuing dream… do you know what they want yet?”
I wracked my brain for an answer to that question. More than anything at that moment, I felt the need to share this dream with Meredith. She seemed almost as interested in my dream as I was. After a moment of my brain thudding dully back at me, I realized that this part of the dream was in a thick haze.
“Yes! Well, I can’t remember what it is they need me to do, though. It seems like they were in trouble for some reason, and I was the only one that could help them.” I realized that I hadn’t told her something I felt was crucial to the dream. “And another thing… they keep telling me that I need to leave myself behind.”
Meredith’s laugh rang happily through the ear piece of my cellphone. “Well, maybe I’ve made you break some secret code you had with them. Like, maybe if you tell anyone about it, your memories start getting erased,” she said, her amused tone laced with a semi-seriousness that made me wonder while she paused for a moment. “Wait… leave yourself behind?!” Her voice was almost excited. It rose, then fell. “Do you think they mean to leave your body and go on some wicked cool adventure? ‘Cause if they do, I’d say go for it. I’d way rather go save a pretty, sparkling world than go to math tomorrow morning.” I opened my mouth to speak, but she voiced another thought. “Then again, I guess you could put yourself into a coma that way.” She laughed again. “I guess I can always tell your mother, ‘Oh, sorry, Mrs. Coy, I told your son to go on an otherworldly adventure and leave his body on the futon. Don’t worry, he’ll come back… eventually.’”
I laughed, too. “I don’t remember making any deal with them not to tell. And yeah, I’m pretty sure they want me to up and leave my body behind. Apparently, that’s the only way I can help them, so if I do go into a coma soon, I guess you’ll know why… but it’s not like I believe any of this is true.”
Meredith sighed, “It’d be cool if it was.” There was a pause as we both pondered. When she spoke again, it was quickly and excitedly. “I mean… what if it is? Do you think I could come with you? Of course, we’d have to work it out so that I was asleep at the same time as you; it seems to me it might work that way. Hey- tomorrow is my short day. If I got out at 1 pm and took my nap when I got home, it’d be… 4 am there. You should be sleeping by then, right?”
I pondered the impossibility of what she said, and then I pondered the wonderfulness of said impossibility. I missed Meredith. Though I couldn’t quite define why, or what exactly she meant to me, I could say that much. I’d pondered the $1,500 plane ticket to her little town multiple times. I’d pondered flying her to see me, or both of us flying to some in between destination to meet up and chill for a few. But this option, impossible as it was, opened a beautiful world of laughter and smiles before my eyes. I embraced it, took a breath, and then put on my most rational of voices.
“Well, Meredith Sanders, I will be asleep… but none of this is real, you know.” I paused, listening to the lack of response on the other line. My voice returned to its teasing normalcy. “We’ll be playing with fate and dream worlds and all sorts of unfathomable things like that.”
“I like fate,” she said, and I heard the smile and the hope in her voice. It was almost like listening to a child talk about her Christmas presents. “Let’s tempt her as much as we can, while we still can. You’ll be miles away without cell service or Myspace access for two years, Samuel Coy. The least we can do is mess around in fairy tales while you’re still here.”
“I suppose you’re right, Mer.”
“So... tomorrow at 1-ish?” Her voice was again hopeful. She may just as well have been saying, “And Santa Clause comes when I'm sleeping?! And he brings toys?”
“Yeah... I guess so.”
“I'm so excited.”
And we said goodbye.
After four o'clock that evening, I felt considerably anxious about going to sleep later. Meredith would be in bed now, so where would the harm be in sleeping now? Unfortunately, however, my mother had plans for me, and so, as I went to bed finally at eleven, I quickly did the math in my head and realized it was now Meredith's 8 am. She was at work by now. As I pondered the feat we were about to attempt, I felt at first greatly discouraged, and then enthralled by the futility of it all. Again and again my mind voiced to me that there was no way our plan might work. Again I tried to muster up some hope, but I found when I fell finally into dreams, that the discouraging voice won out. I did not even dream of my fair-faced friend. Meredith was absent from my dreams at all. I dreamt of futile wars in the middle east- of guns and bombs and broken things.
When I awoke, a cold wash of disappointment came over me. I took it in stride. Meredith didn't call me that night. I called her, but the line was busy. When I finally reached her a few days later, she mentioned the lack of adventure only briefly.
“Well, Samuel Coy... I'm glad to know that you aren't in a coma. Amanda and I were starting to wonder, since you hadn't called lately.”
“I've been busy.” And indeed I had been. Since I was leaving so soon, my mother had me doing all sorts of random visits to relatives. “And I just felt kinda weird calling you up at my Aunt's house, you know...”
She laughed. “Like that's any excuse. So, how've you been?”
We didn't talk about the dream again that night. A month passed, and I still hadn't had the dream again, and still, she didn't bring it up. She brought up a dream she'd had since she started rereading Harry Potter in which we were the heroes saving him from a sinister Lord Voldemort. She even told me that I'd held her hand as we ran through the corridors of Hogwarts. She couldn't keep up with me through the winding halls, so I'd taken her hand, hoping somehow to get there in time to save Mr. Potter before he died from loss of blood. Apparently, Voldemort had resorted to petty muggle torture for a change. I told her about my strange dreams of kidnappings in Iraq, and how the strangest one yet was of my own kidnapping. She said that if she could be in this dream, she'd definitely save me. That was when I admitted that I'd much rather do the saving.
“Knight in shining armor,” I'd said, in my most joking voice, “here to save the Lady Meredith from a bloodthirsty dragon... you know, the usual.”
After awhile, it began to bother me that I hadn't had the dream again. I felt somehow jipped. Like I had bought an amazing video game at an amazing price, only to find halfway through that it was a demo. Agitated, I began to try to continue the dream. If there is one thing I should have learned by then, it was that I shouldn't ask for things like dreams to obey my every whim. The glittering world of my dream was always just out of reach, defying me with it's stubborn beauty and sparkling magic. My dreams instead became darker again. I refused to talk about them to Meredith, whose fascination with dreams was bound to get her in trouble. My dreams were, in general, something no one should delve into.
Meredith asked after my greenish-blond haired woman and her red-haired companions a few times, but I truthfully explained that they had not reappeared. Her voice always turned melancholy when she accepted this, and she finally stopped asking just before I left for Spain. Having finally given up on my dream, I was surprised when three months into my time abroad, it came back to me.
As the dream opened, it seemed as if the stress of travel was left behind me. I was content in this place, as I had been before. Perhaps it was this sense of strength and carelessness that caused the green-blond woman to come so near to me so suddenly, for she had never touched me before, and now she took my hand and smiled widely. It was cold and all at once thrilling.
“Samuel,” she said, her golden eyes lighting with excitement, “I am so glad you have finally returned! We have been so worried... come, we have much to show you...”
“But I can't come with you,” I said, meeting her gaze suspiciously. Sierra, for I remembered now that this was her name, had in the most recent of my dreams(and how very long ago that was) told me of how interesting she found me, and since those first dreams, Richard, who had once held her hand as she now did mine, had grown away from me. I could see now that his eyes narrowed perceptibly upon finding her fingers intertwined with mine.
“Oh, but you can now,” she said, smiling widely, “you've left yourself”.
“I did what?” I never quite understood what was meant by “leaving myself,” so I was even more confused by the fact that I'd done it so easily, and without even trying! She opened her mouth to speak, but I interrupted. “Wait... so what does that mean?”
Sierra's eyes widened slightly. Her companion, whose name was Richard, laughed.“It means,” he said, “that you've left your body behind. And it means that Meredith has come as well.”
Meredith was there. But how did he know? And how did I know? I looked around, but I couldn't see her. In the glittering trees, no Meredith; in the sparkling lake, no Meredith. If I knew she was here then she must be! Our plan, however weak it may have been so many months ago, had finally worked. It was my guess that she was still wandering about in the forest, so I strode off in that direction. Something stopped me. It was cold, and it sent strange sparks through my skin. I turned. Those radiant green eyes pierced me through like a knife. Sierra stood there, her billowing lavender gown reflecting her anger. She'd never touched me before today... no one ever had. They had always insisted on keeping their distance. And now her touch was so electrifying to my warm, human skin. And there was something very urgent in her touch, and in the flaring anger of her eyes.
“Samuel Coy,” she said, the green flames of her eyes narrowing in disappointment. “You must save her.”
After that intense moment of her eyes gazing like darts in my eyeballs, I thought for sure that she had changed her mind about her lack of interest in me. It took a long moment for my brain to finally decipher what it was she was talking about. And then, like a cardinal's red head peeping up through the fog, I remembered Meredith. And I remembered that Meredith was real. And that this woman was fake. The cold, funny tingling feeling on my skin left. She sighed, obviously picking up on the expression of very vague comprehension covering my face.
“She has indeed entered the Dreamstate, but that doesn't mean she's safe here,” Sierra said, her voice a bit condescending. That only bothered me for about a minute, because I realized she was telling me what I needed to know. “Meredith enters her dreams as a way to find herself. You've entered this one to loose yourself.”
“I still don't know what that...”
“She is there,” Sierra pointed. Suddenly, it seemed to me, a huge mountain range appeared above the treetops. Just before them a tall menacing tower worthy of Mary Shelly spearfished into thunderheads of a dark disposition.
Before I was thinking properly and before the dreamy maiden had the opportunity to continue, I felt my feet dashing beneath me. I was no longer controlling my every action. In fact, it was not until the trees began lashing my face that I realized I had moved at all. It is in dreams that such strangeness blossoms into being. There was no wind that rushed past my face, and no thorny branches to bar my movement along the unseen path before me. In fact, I realized as my feet carried me to the base of the black tower, there wasn't even a dragon guarding the keep. Still moving, I thought of knights in shining armor and valiant steeds, falling beneath flame and elephantine dragon feet. How unfitting that I should save the Lady Meredith from nothing but Frankenstein's empty tower. And still I had not seen her. The walls themselves glittered in this place, the only place in which such glittering could still be menacing and forbidding.
After many flights of circular stairs, I reached a door. I turned the knob. It had, of course occurred to me that such a knob should be locked. For why was Meredith in a tower, if not for me to save her from it's menacing walls? And why should whatever ghoul or goblin, witch or sorcerer, leave the door to his beautiful prisoner's room open? In fact, it still made more sense to me that I should have been stopped at the bottom of the tower by a dragon, or else by the lack of a door on said tower. In which cases, I might have climbed Meredith's sudden yards and yards of hair or else slay the foul-smelling dragon. The door opened.
The room was entirely too huge to fit in the space allowed by the tower's physical appearance. It's floor was covered with an old tapestry, which seemed to have lost it's glitter somewhere in the process of being torn to bits. Beneath it, something gleamed dully in the dust. The panes in the windows were broken, too, and glass sparkled on the shreds of tapestry. There were open wardrobes and chests full of glittering clothes, and a whole shelf of pretty porcelain masks, some cracked and some shattered completely. Their gruesomely exaggerated expressions were shadowed by a large baroque suit of armor, rusting in all the wrong places. As my eyes swept to the other side of the room, I took a step inward. The door was closed behind me. I turned. A wrinkled woman stood there smiling prettily. In the shadows, a bulk of a silhouette squirmed for a moment. The woman's face split in a cruel grin.
“You,” she said, her voice a venomous whisper. “You of all people! You come waltzing into here day and night like you own the place. Things like this are not to be stolen away whenever you wish. It's the kind of thing you must slowly win over... and you cheated. You cheated!! And look what you've done to the place!”
I took a few steps backward as the wacky old woman spoke, and as if to prove her point, I ran into a table. Several large, boring looking books fell to the ground with a crash. Funny that they should fall so easily, when they looked so heavy. The old woman laughed, and her cruel, ice-colored eyes twinkled in a disturbingly cheerful way. She did not glitter.
“There must be some misunderstanding,” I said as I leaned over to replace the books onto the table. Why I left myself so vulnerable is anyone's guess, but I kept my eyes on her, and she only watched in amusement.
“Oh, there is no misunderstanding,” the hag said, bitterness seeming to ooze from every word. The body in the shadows made muffled noises. “I know you, Samuel Coy. And there was nothing wrong with you as long as you just observed us and made us all laugh. Then one day, it was gone. She'd given it to you like some chess piece to be played and discarded!”
I laughed. What an idiotic thing to do in front of such a menacing old woman. Though I'd never seen magic used here, this woman just reeked of witch. But still I laughed. “I really am sorry that you think I've stolen this something... and that you think I've ruined your beautiful room, but I swear to you--- I've never in my life seen this place, and I certainly don't have whatever it is you think I've got!”
I was surprised to hear the shadowy mass laugh. The fact that that mass might be Meredith had indeed occurred to my sleeping mind, but I knew there were few ways to get past this witch, and I wasn't about to try dashing past her. Besides, there was something very familiar about this woman.
“Hold on,” the old woman said, glaring in my direction, and walked over to the lump. There were words exchanged, though I did not understand them. The mass of Meredith struggled against whatever held her there, then stopped again.
The witch returned, a tiny cracked chest in her hand. She opened it.
“It's empty,” I said.
The witch's slippery grin reappeared. “And I wonder,” she said, in a tone that made me feel like the three-year-old who broke the expensive vase, “what used to belong here?”
I looked over to the lump of Meredith, and tried to think of all the things she'd ever given me. All I could remember was a copy of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. What could she possibly have given me that apparently belonged to this woman as well? The woman's eyes shot to my left pocket, which now seemed suddenly heavier. I was ashamed to think that my dream would betray me in such a way. Sighing, I reached into my pocket. The sensation that greeted my hesitant fingertips was invigorating. Warmth spread from my fingertips, up my elbow, into my chest, legs, feet and nose. It was a joyful, buzzing feeling. I felt it spread across my face in an array of color. And then I knew what it was. I pulled it from my pocket.
“What are you doing?” the old woman asked, her eyes widening a bit.
“I found it,” I said, smiling. “Do you want it back, Meredith?”
The mass in the shadows made murmurs of disagreement. The old woman's face, however, took on a strange expression. I found in it disbelief and some other less negative emotion, for the icy edge to her eyes melted a bit. Her mouth agape, she shook her head. I watched as she reached out, cupped my hands in hers, and pulled something from her own pocket. It shone brightly, just as I'd expected mine to, and had thus left it covered. A star. But this small piece of star in the haggard old woman's hand was not as warm as Meredith's, but, looking up at me with repentant eyes, she left her star hovering beside my hand.
With a nod of her head, the star rose towards the ceiling and sparkled twice. My hand was suddenly burning. Instinct made me pull my hands apart. I squinted as Meredith's star joined the old woman's in a blaze of heat. Exactly identical in size, they differed only in color. Meredith's shone in rainbows of colors, which I could only see safely with closed lids. The other star was a weak blue. Smiling sadly at me, the old woman turned and left the room as the two stars swirled around each other on the ceiling.
The lights suddenly became bearable, and I opened my eyes. Meredith stood slowly, apparently freed. There were no longer any shadows in the room. Everything glittered again. The tapestry had been completely blown away, to reveal the beautiful arabesques on the flowered carpet. The room looked as if in the three seconds my eyes had been closed, it'd received a complete makeover. A chandelier hung shimmering from the ceiling, casting rainbows on all the walls. All but two of the masks had vanished, and even these looked ready for abandonment. The books lay on the floor again, but Meredith picked them up and placed them back on the desk, her face drawn into a very strange expression, indeed.
“Sam,” she said, and something in my chest wriggled at the sound of her voice. “You can have it.”
The star swam back to me, rainbow and blue sparkles of light and hope and all things Meredith cherished. I welcomed it into my hand, then tucked it into my pocket with a faithful pat. The strange warmth and joy had me all in a haze. The next thing I remembered, we were back in the clearing. I felt sure that the dream had taken over again, and was surprised to see Meredith so close to me, her hazy brown eyes a wonderful contrast to the glittering style of the Dreamstate. It was then that I felt her hand in mine, and I was surprised to see that this did not bother either of us. At once, I could suddenly feel the dream slipping from me. She dropped my hand and hugged me. She was so warm. And then she slipped away with the rest of the dream.
* * *
The months that followed were much more difficult. I tried to write Meredith about the dream, to see if she'd had it, too. I tried to make sense of the old woman and the stars and of the lack of dragons. Most of all, I tried to make sense of her hand in mine. But I could not get it down in words. At least... not in any way that might make sense if she hadn't also had the dream. And so I didn't write her. I did get a letter a month later, however. In it, Meredith's green ink wrote of all the normal topics like school, work, and in-depth education classes, but it also made mention of a dream she'd had. All she could remember, she said, were stars, rainbows, and that I was in it. Three months later, I described the dream in its entirety to her. She just took it all in, nodded, and lay her head in my lap. She'd always liked me to play with her hair, but that night, her eyes were distant. I ran my fingertips from the roots to the ends... and then again. She closed her eyes.