Jan 4, 2012
Chrissie awoke with a scream strangled in her throat and, already before being fully awake, rising to sitting and her arms flailing defensively in the air before her face. Her eyes, made wide and round by the night-terror, glinted in the darkness with the spare moonlight that leaked through the shades leaving the room tinted in blue-grey. Catching herself, Chrissie flopped onto her side and her arm snapped outward to turn on the bedside light. She shivered, her young body dampened beneath a long, soft, flannel night-shirt with the sweat of panic. She heaved a sigh and leaned back against the head-board gathering the plump duvet over her torso. Her breathing slowly stopped hitching.
“Not again,” she whispered. At the foot of the bed, her cat ignored her and continued to lick its paws.
“Only a dream, Chrissie,” she reassured herself, but, turning off the light and snuggling back under the covers, she knew there would be little more sleep that night.
Chrissie sat lumped in a broad wing-chair in the upscale coffee shop and coddled the steaming cup in her lap. Across from her, in a similar chair, Uncle Jerry sat, relaxed and stared absently from the window to watch the goings on in the street. Between them, a small round table was littered with the usual literature: The Utne Reader, Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker. Chrissie yawned widely and then took a sip from her coffee.
“Not sleeping?” Uncle Jerry continued to stare out the window.
“Dreams,” informed Chrissie stifling another yawn. “Bad dreams.” Jerry nodded.
“Then change it,” he offered.
“Change your dream-scape,” he said simply. Jerry turned slowly to regard her.
Uncle Jerry – more specifically, her father's brother – was the one, older man that Chrissie knew she could trust implicitly. After her father had defaulted on his paternal obligations when she was three years old, Chrissie had remained in the care of a distant and disinterested mother. The lack of parental care had the inevitable consequences: into her early teens, Chrissie had already begun to act out, avoided one (or more) pregnancy scare, her forearms were scarred and the tattoos on her shoulders and back told their own story.
Jerry was a bit of an enigma to her but, through kind and firm words, he had, to her, gradually demonstrated that his love was unconditional. He spoke little; it usually sufficed that he fix her with those clear, unwavering, blue eyes to know that she needed to re-think the current topic. He was always well dressed but, the anachronistic, long, grey tail from the back of his head meant that he usually garnered appreciative glances from women he passed. Since she had moved into his care, Chrissie knew that she had found a home - which made her smile inwardly with contentment like a girl should.
Chrissie watched him over the rim of the cup, inhaling the strong aroma and slowly feeling more awake.
“You can't do that,” she asserted.
Jerry cocked an eyebrow and added, “Why not?”
Chrissie sipped thoughtfully, wincing from the hot java on her lips.
“I dunno... it's just that they're dreams, I guess.” She looked at him quizzically.
Chrissie rolled her eyes. “Well, mine...”
“And if those dreams are created in your own head, young lady, by your own subconscious mind – why would you think that your conscious mind can't control them?”
“Um... 'cause I'm, like, sleeping?” Chrissie grinned mischievously.
“Don't be cheeky,” he said but the corners of his mouth creased into a thin smile.
“But seriously,” he contended, “once you are aware that you are dreaming, then aren't you conscious of what you are creating?”
Chrissie studied him dubiously and letting this strange, new information settle in her mind.
“I guess,” she offered, tentatively.
It was the same as always – a desolate landscape, cast in grey, with few trees like skeletal hands protruding from the ground. And the sense of being watched by something malevolent but not knowing where to turn or hide. Chrissie collapsed to her knees, trembling and powerless.
“That's not going to get you very far,” shouted a voice nearby to be heard above the wind. The sky roiled with dark clouds.
Chrissie looked up in terror – fearing the worst. Instead, Uncle Jerry, dressed in a black suit and a long, black coat which whipped around his legs, was leaning on an umbrella.
“I don't want to be here.” Chissie whispered, paralysed by fear.
“I'm dreaming and I'm afraid.” Chrissie began to cry.
Jerry arrived to her side and, gently taking her arm, made her stand and face him.
“First thing,” he said, raising his voice while thick drops of viscous rain began to spatter the ground - “always have a door; that's your exit to real-time from dream-time. Where's yours?”
“I don't know!” Chrissie cringed as lightning split the sky followed by a loud crack of thunder.
“Turn around!” The grey horse-tail whipped across Jerry's shoulders in the wind.
Chrissie glanced nervously over her shoulder to see a perfectly ordinary door in an oak frame standing incongruously against the dampening landscape. Her eyes widened.
“Second thing,” shouted Jerry, “- what colour are the flowers?”
“There are no flowers here!” Chrissie covered her ears and the wind screamed.
“What colour?” Jerry insisted, shouting close to her face.
“Pink,” murmured Chrissie in desperation and, around them, briefly, a meadow of pink daisies erupted which, without the will to support them, quickly wilted and the faded, delicate petals were whisked away on the wind. Chrissie stared, unbelieving. On the horizon, a heavy – absolute – darkness had appeared, advancing viciously and Jerry frowned.
“I can see this is going to take some practice,” he shouted at the girl while opening the door and hustling her across the breach.
“What about you?” Chrissie clung to the frame, her nails digging into the soft wood.
“Don't worry about me,” said Jerry, casually opening his umbrella. “This is your dream.”