When I woke up, that’s not right. I didn’t really wake up. When I first became aware of my surroundings, I was standing in space surrounded by billions of stars. Everywhere I looked there were stars and blackness. Something was wrong. I wasn’t sure what it was at first. Then I wished to see one of the stars a little more closely, suddenly I was there next to the star I had wished to be close to. I was surprised to find it wasn’t a star. It was, well, I didn’t know what to call it. It was a sphere of light, but when I got close I could see images. The images in the sphere were of a man and a woman walking hand in hand on a beach. It was a nice image, and I stayed watching until a rain storm chased them into a bungalow and they started having sex. This image felt private and I willed myself away to give them their private moment.
For the next, I don’t know how long, but let’s call it hours. For the next few hours I drifted from one globe to the next. Some I would watch clear through, others I chose to leave quickly. The ones I skipped past were not nice images. It slowly dawned on me what I was seeing. I think the image of the little girl having tea with a talking pony and dog that spoke in a weird British accent finally made everything click. I thought, “what a cute dream.” and it clicked. These globes of light were dreams. Some were good, some were bad but they were dreams. That was why some of them ended in the middle of the scene and others played out fully.
For days, I floated watching as people dreamed. I was very careful not to touch the dream spheres. I was more than a little afraid of what would happen if I touched one. I was tempted several times, but resisted the urge. When I saw children having nightmares, it was very hard not to help them. Something in me wanted to very badly. I soon found I had favorites, viewing the dream spheres of children, there was something so pure about them that it filled me with a strange type of energy.
I had been watching a boy play at being superman with the ability to fart magical laughing gas, when his dream sphere collapsed. It wasn’t the first time that happened. I figured when it happened the person woke up. I started using a few of my regulars to try to measure time. Mostly I used Carl. I wasn’t sure what he did in the real world, but here he mostly dreamed of teaching brilliant college students who all went on to achieve great things and thank him. I had learned if I sort of cataloged a dream sphere I knew when it returned. Jen was one of my favorites. She was the girl who helped me discover the dream spheres. She had a great imagination. Her dreams always put me in a good mood. There is something about a Chihuahua with a British accent that makes me smile.
Anyway, I was watching the farting superman and he disappeared. As I was traveling on to the next sphere a thought struck me. Where is my dream sphere? With that thought, I willed myself to it. I felt myself move but there was no sphere where I moved to. I was getting a little pissed about it. That was when I looked at the spheres around me, they weren’t like the spheres I saw most of the time. These weren’t bright, most of them were dimmer or had an odd glow to them, some were even dull grey. I suddenly didn’t want to find my sphere, not here with these.
I drifted close and checked on a few of the spheres. What I found was disturbing. Every dream sphere was slightly off in some way, and they felt wrong to me. Most of them seem to be nightmares of one fashion or another. I found a few that were fun to watch. I enjoyed seeing a big guy who played with a group of children, but his dreams changed frequently, like someone was channel surfing his dream sphere. When the channel surfing got irritating I drifted off. I was near one of the sickly grey spheres, so I screwed up my courage and took a peak. Turns out I had nothing to fear, because there was nothing in the sphere, it was just endless grey nothing, and that scared the crap out of me.
In my panic, I was backing away and totally freaked out. I backed into another sphere. Worse still, this was a sphere I had avoided. It was a nightmare, one second I’m panicked and backing away from a grey sphere, the next I’m backing away from a scene of horror. First my body screamed. I hurt all over for what felt like an eternity. I finally willed my body to stop hurting and to my surprise it did. In the joy of the pain ending I looked up at the scene before me.
A young woman was chained in some gynecologist’s twisted nightmare. Each of her limbs were chained to rests that had thousands or millions of thorns. Her torso was chained and puncture by the thorns as well. Her head was in some type of brace with a chain across her forehead and she was being raped by two demons. Something in me snapped and I was filed with rage like I had never been before. As I stepped forward that rage formed into a spear in my right hand, and with my next step, I threw that spear with all my might.
It flew straight to the demon at her head and drove through his back. As it sank into his back he turned to ash. The second demon was too busy to notice or just didn’t care. As I reached within striking distance I swung my arm around and a sword swung with it. The sword struck the demon in the back of the neck and his head popped off then it and the rest of him turned to ash. My steps had brought me close to the young woman and without thinking I swung the sword down at the chains on her left leg.
The sword changed into a large sledge hammer before it struck the chains. Two things happened when it struck. First the hammer and chains both shattered. Second both the young woman and I screamed. I fell to my knee clutching my head. It took me several seconds to will the pain away. When I finally pushed the pain away, I stood and approached the still screaming young woman. With barely a thought I summoned a sheet and draped it over her nude form, hoping it would provide her some comfort.
I stepped to her head and began to softly stroke her head and say soothing things. I truth I’m not sure what I said. I just know I was trying to comfort her. Her screaming stopped and became sobs. Then her sobs became sniffles. She never stopped crying completely. The tears that ran from her eyes and off her face slowed but never stopped. Time had no meaning here in the dream sphere. Everything seemed to take forever.
Over the endless time it took her to get over the sniffling and sobs, I learned her name was Sarah and she had been trapped here with those monsters forever. I told her my name was Patrick, but my friends called me Pat. I asked her to call me Pat as I wanted to be her friend. After she had her crying under a semblance of control I moved to look at the chains on her left arm. She told me to please be careful as her left leg hurt more than any other part of her. I realized she was still laying on those thorns. I tried to change the torture device several times, to no avail. Finally, I summoned a heavy mat and the two of us worked together to get it situated under her. It stretched from just under the edge of her butt cheek down her leg and past her foot. She said it helped ease some of the pain, but that leg still hurt more than the rest of her.
I knelt next to her arm and started trying to work on getting her loose. The chains had no lock. They where like a Gordian knot. They looped around and through themselves in a single continuous piece. I tried everything I could think of. I summoned a hack saw that didn’t even scratch the chain. The cutting torch didn’t even warm the link I used it on. With each failure, I got more frustrated and my efforts became more extreme. I was stepping back from just having put plastic explosive on the chain when I realized what I was doing. I had just put a bomb on a chain holding a defenseless teenaged girl. With a thought the explosives disappeared.
I rushed to her head and knelt crying at my failure. We made quite a pair the two us crying together. She finally said, “Pat it’s ok. Use the big hammer. I know it will hurt, but do it anyway.” So that is what we did. Well, there was the back forth of are you sure nonsense, but in the end, we used the hammer.
I summoned the hammer and swung with all my might. It hit the chain and nothing. It just bounced off. I tried again. Same result. Again, same result. Then something changed. I got mad. I was pissed Sarah didn’t deserve this. No one deserved what she had been put through, and I was going to set things right. I am Patrick Callahan and God himself won’t stop me. With that declaration, I swung the hammer down again, this time it worked just like it had the first time. Exactly like it had the first time in fact. Hammer and chains both shattered and Sarah and I both screamed.
It took longer for me to push the pain in my head away than it had the last time. Sarah was much quicker to get her screaming and her sobs under control. When I had the pain in my head pushed back enough to become aware of my surroundings, she was saying “Pat are you ok? Please be ok Pat.” She said it over and over again. I croaked out I was fine and pushed myself to her head. Then I stood and smiled down at her. I bent forward and kissed her on the forehead. As I stood up, I saw Sarah smile for the first time. Yes, she was still crying, but it was a real smile. That smile gave me strength.
I quickly remembered and summoned a second mat. I was able to work it under her shoulder some, but the chain over chest would not let me get very far under her torso. We rested and came up with a plan. It was simple and it worked. I explained to Sarah how I was pretty sure it was my anger or rage that had broken the chain. Well, it was my rage shaped in the form of a huge hammer, at least. She was worried about how much it hurt every time I broke one of the chains. I told her I didn’t care. I did care but the price was worth it to me to get her free. She told me the parts of her that were free had more pain than the parts still bound even with the mats to protect her from the thorns. I thought I knew why that was, but kept it to myself.
I won’t bore you with the full accounting. Just know every one of the chains we removed followed the same pattern. The chains at her hips and stomach were next and allowed me to get a mat to cover from just below her shoulders to the top of her right side. Then I took care of the chain across her upper chest. Followed by her right leg and arm. With each one it became harder to recover for both of us. Each time it felt like it took longer to push the pain away. We agreed to take a long break before I attacked the chain holding her head in the brace.
“Pat, I’m scared. What if you break this last chain and all that happens is they all come back again? What if I’m trapped somewhere even worse. Pat, what if...” Sarah asked through her sobs. She hadn’t been able to stop sobbing since I had freed her torso.
I cut off her ‘what if’ game with one of my own. “What if I break this chain and you finally wake from this nightmare and never have another one.” I asked her.
“What do you mean?” Sarah asked.
I told her about me floating around and about figuring out the dream spheres. I even told her how I had stumbled into her dream sphere while running from a sickly grey sphere. “Sarah, I think you might be in a coma or something.” I said gently. “I think these chains are what keeps you from waking up. I hope I’m right. Well, I mean, I hope if you are in a coma when I break this last chain you wake up. You’re a beautiful young woman and deserve to live your life, not be trapped in your own body, and no one deserves to be trapped in an endless nightmare.” I had been standing next to her head softly stroking her hair as I spoke.
“Pat, do you really think that?” she asked with her voice full of hope.
“I really do. I think they have been getting harder to brake because you are making them harder to break. It’s why we both are in so much pain with each one. For some reason your mind thinks you belong here and it is fighting us from freeing you. Sarah, you don’t belong here. You belong out in the real world, where you can do real things. With the people who love you, touching and holding you. Telling you how special you really are.” I rambled on for quite some time.
“Pat.” Sarah finally interrupted my rambling.
“Yea?” I asked.
“What will happen to you?” she asked.
“I’m sure I’ll go back to where I was before. I think I will at least.” I said unsure myself what would happen.
“Pat, I don’t want anything bad to happen to you. I don’t want to never see you again.” she said.
“When you sleep, you’ll dream. If I can I’ll come visit. If you want, that is. Most people wouldn’t want someone wondering or even peeking at their dreams. I understand if you don’t want me to.” I said. For the first time, I realized how invasive what I had been doing was.
“Pat, I don’t think I could bear it if I couldn’t ever see you again. Please promise me you will come visit me. I want to see you every night. Promise me please?” Sarah said.
“I promise you’ll see me again, if there is any way possible for me to do so and I promise if you ever don’t want me poking around in your dreams, I’ll stop.” I said.
“Thank you Pat.” She brought her hand up and found mine. It was the first time she had moved any of her limbs from the device on her own. She fumbled around until she was holding the back of my hand then directed it towards the last chain. She locked her eyes with mine as my fingers approached the link she said, “You’ll always be my hero. I love you Pat.” My fingers barely brushed the link and the chain and Sarah both disappeared.
I suddenly found I was back in the void between spheres. I looked around and saw all the damaged or sick dream spheres around me. I didn’t have the energy to face them and I suddenly wanted to see my little sister. That was when I remembered I had a little sister. The memories came flooding into my consciousness like a tidal wave. I willed myself to her dream sphere, but nothing happened. It was the same as when someone was awake, or at least I assumed they were awake with their sphere vanished.
I flipped through my catalog of spheres until I found one of the children I sometimes watched. Then I willed myself there. I spent some time watching children dream, bouncing from dream to dream letting their joy soothe and recharge my soul. My experience with Sarah had taken a lot out of me. It was her return that stopped my watching. I willed myself to her and looked to see what shape her dream sphere was in. The color of it had changed. It was much brighter and had a healthy glow and her current dream wasn’t a pleasant one.
I touched her sphere with my hand and was instantly pulled into it. I wasn’t sure if this was a memory or the beginning of her nightmare. Before me Sarah lay in a hospital bed and couldn’t move. People were rushing in and out and every one of them was asking questions and poking and prodding her. I thought enough, and to my surprise the scene froze. Well everyone but Sarah and I froze. When the noise and movement stopped, her eyes found me, but she still didn’t move. Her eyes looked happy and sad at the same time. I walked around people until I was right by her at the head of her hospital bed. I looked down at her laying there and frowned.
I motioned to the room around me and her laying there in the bed and said, “What is all this nonsense? Why are you dreaming of this? Dreams should be a happy place. A place to leave all your troubles and have fun. Enough gloom and doom! Change this right now.”
She just lay there looking at me like I was crazy. So, I clapped my hands and her bed rose up until she was more sitting than laying. Then I pointed to the nearest doctor and changed him into a dancing bear. Her eyes went wide as the bear danced and juggled a bunch of apples. Next I changed a mean looking nurse to a pixy. The pixy flew around the bear bopping him on the head with her little wand causing little sparks to fly out and singe his fur.
I looked back and could see the laughter in Sarah’s eyes. Still, she didn’t move. I began to change more things around us and spoke as I did. “Sarah this is your dream. I can change some things. Take this IV stand. Now it’s a tree with big pink and purple peaches. Hmm the pink ones look too much like someone’s butt. That’s better pink and neon green stripes. Let’s see what’s next. These walls. They just will not do.” I waved my arms and the walls disappeared. Then I clapped and the entire room was gone and I was standing in a field of blue grass with little wild flowers of every color of the rainbow. Sarah now lay in the grass, still in her hospital gown.
I sat next to her and pulled her head in my lap. I began stroking her hair and spoke in a soft and gentle tone. “I can change so many things here in your dream. Look up and see the starry sky. Now it’s a perfect afternoon sky with fluffy little clouds floating around. Remember this is your dream and the one thing I can’t change here is you. The last time I tried to change you it hurt so much. do you remember?”
She just lay there looking up at me as a small tear escaped her right eye. I caught it with my finger blew it off the end. It changed into dandelion fluffs and drifted away. “I wish you would stop being lazy. We could have so much fun. Please try. I know you can do it.” Still she didn’t move at all. “I can’t do this.” I said. I moved her near lifeless body off my lap and stood. Then I knelt down and kissed her forehead like I had before. “I love you and I want to spend time with you, but this is killing me. I promised to come see you and I did. I can’t stay though not when you won’t even talk to me.” I kissed her forehead again and let her see how sad I was. Then I stood and turned away and started walking.
I hoped walking away would cause her to break whatever it was that was holding her, it didn’t work. I just kept walking. I wasn’t getting very far though. I realized every time I left Sarah’s sight for more than a few seconds, I would suddenly be back where she could see me. It took me a while to realize what was happening. I even double checked to make sure I wasn’t doing it. I wasn’t, it had to be her.
When it happened again I turned and stomped over to where she was laying in the blue grass. “You think this is funny. Why keep pulling me back if you’re just going to lay there and make me feel sad. You won’t even talk to me. I’m leaving and I’m not sure if I’ll ever come back. Do you know how lonely I’ve been? You’re the only one I’ve ever talked to, the only sphere I have ever entered is yours. You are my only friend. And now you won’t even talk to me. Goodbye, I wish you only good things.” All but the last had been me yelling. The last part was barely louder than a whisper. I turned and waved my arm. A large set of double doors appeared and I started walking to them.
I was about three steps from the door when it happened. Sarah screamed! Saying that doesn’t even begin to describe what really happened. What really happened was the worst pain ever, became a sound and struck me and everything in the area with enough force that I staggered. Everything else ceased to exist. Well not everything just the hospital staff I had changed. As I staggered I was suddenly hit a second time. This time I was tackled by a teenager in a hospital gown. I fully admit it hurt.
“Pat. Don’t go. You can’t go. Pat please stay. You don’t know what it was like. It’s so scary. Please, please stay. Please Pat. I’m so sorry.” Sarah was saying at about a hundred miles a minute.
I was laying face down in the blue grass with Sarah holding on to my waist from behind like her life depended on it. “Sarah, could you maybe let me up. I promise I’ll not to try to leave if you do.” I said.
Suddenly her weight vanished and I was able to stand. I turned around to find her standing very close and watching me even closer. I guess she thought I might try to leave. I held my arms out and she took half a step and crashed into me a second time. This time I was ready for it and I didn’t budge a bit. I wrapped my arms around her and hugged her tight. She was crying against my chest and squeezing me for all she was worth.
I just stood there and let her cry for a few minutes. When she started to calm down I said, “Um Sarah? You know you’re still wearing only a hospital gown, right? Your butt keeps poking out. You might want to changed clothes.” It wasn’t true. Well, it might have been true. I hadn’t actually looked.
She pushed away from real hard and said, “You, you.” Then she stomped her foot, glared at me, and said “Men”
“Hey, I could have just kept quiet and enjoyed the show. I was trying to be a good guy.” I said.
She cocked her head to the side and gave me a measuring look as she weighed over my words. Then nodded. Then she did a little spin. On her second spin her gown changed and became a simple sun dress. She spun around twice more then stopped facing me and asked, “Better?”
“I don’t know about better, but at least your butt isn’t playing peekaboo. Watched a little Wonder Woman, I see.” I said.
She grinned and said, “I love Wonder Woman. I have everything with Wonder Woman. DVDs of the old TV show and cartoons. Comic books. I’ve probably had over a dozen Wonder Woman costumes. Pat, how old are you?”
Her question caught me totally off guard and I answered without thinking. “I’m twenty-three, why?” I said.
She sighed. Then she reached forward and grabbed my hand. I’m not sure how it happened, but we were soon walking side by side back towards the tree. A bench now sat under the tree, and we walked over and sat on it. “This isn’t my body. I mean my body doesn’t look like this. I’m not sure what my body looks like, but I know it isn’t like this. I heard one of the nurses say I was in a coma for seven years. Seven years Pat. That’s like forever. If that’s true then I’m like twenty-two.”
I took my hand from her and put it around her shoulders. I gently pulled her close. Her comment caught me off guard. The truth was I had no idea how old I was. I would have to find out somehow. I mentally slapped myself. I was being selfish. She need me to be her friend and I was being selfish. I said, “If you think about it, that’s kind of cool.” She half turned and looked at me like I was crazy. “Think about it. Seven years of birthday presents. Seven years of Christmas presents. You were fifteen or at least you think you were fifteen. Now you’re twenty-two. That means no waiting to get your license. No waiting until you can vote. You can legally drink or go to Vegas and gamble. That’s kind of cool, right?”
She grinned and said, “Yea I guess you’re right. It is cool.” She turned back looked out at the meadow. We sat there for a few minutes before she said, “I guess I missed junior and senior prom though. That kind of sucks. I...” she cut herself off and looked at me with panic in her eyes. “Something is pulling at me Pat. I don’t know how long I can hold it off.”
“Don’t fight it. It’s probably the doctors waking you up. I think I heard where some coma patients woke up but after they went to sleep they went back into their coma. Don’t worry. Just let it happen. If it’s your old nightmare I’ll be there faster than lightning.” I said. She gave me a worried little expression then vanished and I was back in the void.
I tried several times to will myself to her, but she wasn’t here. I was happy for her. I was sure this was a good thing. I started to run through my catalog, but stopped as I became aware of a new sphere. It was bright and had a healthy glow, unlike most of the ones around me. I felt like I knew this sphere. More importantly it was moving towards me, or I was moving towards it. I forced myself to stop before I entered it. I looked in and smiled at what I saw. My baby sister was sitting with me on a picnic blanket watching a firework display.
I couldn’t help it. I’m not sure I even tried. I reached out and touched the sphere and was drawn in. the me on the blanket vanished and Tally spilled over on her side. I started laughing. She turned and glared at me. “That wasn’t funny you jerk.” She said with a scowl. “How’d you do it anyway?”
I moved forward and scooped her up under her arms and spun her about. Then I pulled her in tight and hugged her. “I’ve missed you so much.” I said.
“Put me down you idiot. What do you mean you missed me? We’ve been together all day.” Tally said.
I noticed the scene had changed. It was still the park, but all the people had vanished. I let her go and then took her hand and walked to the blanket. I sat and she sat with me. “What day is today?” I asked.
“Duh. It’s the fourth of July. We came to watch the fireworks. It was your Idea, we used to come with mom. Why are you acting weird and what’s with the white uniform?” She said.
I leaned forward and kissed her on the brow thinking ‘Become aware, become aware.’. When I pulled back she was blinking and looking around. “Tally, you’re dreaming. This is your dream. But, I’m really here. I don’t know if I died or am in a coma or what but I’m really here in you dream.” I said.
She looked at me strangely. Then she tilted her head to the side and looked at me thoughtfully for a few seconds. “Ok, this is a dream. I can feel that’s true, but how do I know you’re really here and it’s not my imagination showing me what I really want?”
“Wow. Good question. But that is impossible for me to give you any answer that would prove I was here and not a figment of your imagination. I have a question for you though. Does it matter? I mean it matters to me, you wouldn’t believe how lonely I’ve been. Well, until recently that is, that’s another story. So, answer me. Does it matter?”
She sighed and said, “Not really. Not in the big picture. I mean if you are really here, that could be good and bad. If you’re just a projection of my mind, it just means I fell asleep thinking about you. No surprise there, I’m sitting in a chair next to you in the hospital.”
“I’m alive then?” I asked. I realized I was a little afraid of the answer.
“Yes, you’re alive and in a coma.” She looked at me strangely then said, “You really don’t know what happened do you?” I shook my head no. That caused her to sigh again. “Ok, I’m only going to say this once so listen closely. I hate having to tell people this, and having to tell you this, is somehow worse. You were in the army. Your base got attacked. The machine gunner was shot, and you ran out and took over shooting the machine gun. You stayed and kept shooting at the enemy, getting shot twice. Once in the hip and once in your left arm. The attackers started to run when the helicopters arrived. Then you got hit by a mortar, or a piece of one, that’s what they told me. The army even gave you a medal, pinned to your hospital gown right in the hospital. Then the next week they told me they were transferring you to a VA hospital across the country.
You were there in Oregon for about a year. Then they approached me and asked if I would let them try some new drugs and procedures on you. I went back and forth, but finally agreed. They did three procedures, basically brain surgery and some stem cells plus this new wonder drug. Only it wasn’t really a new wonder drug. Turns out it kills three of every seven people they give it to. They even knew that when they asked to give it to you and lied about it. A new employee found the documentation and stole the files and memos or emails. When she published everything on the web, people went nuts. They had been performing illegal tests on veterans. One of the memos called you guys living cadavers. The company did a big push to settle with everyone before the first court date. I did some checking and learned of this specialized hospital in California and what it would cost to move you there and pay for you be looked after properly.
Let me tell you this place isn’t cheap, big brother. When their lawyers came to me, I was ready. They offered me one point five million dollars to settle. I told them no. Then I told them it would cost them twenty million or I would bring the news reporters in and do a song and dance the night before they went to court. We finally agree on fifteen million and they put it in a trust fund I set up for you. If you ever wake up you’re a rich bastard. Your trust even bought you a house nearby. I live there and make sure it’s taken care of for you. I teach second grade at an elementary school a few blocks up the road.
Most nights, I come here and sit with you and grade papers while you just lay there. I even threatened to let the girls in my second-grade class, come practice putting makeup on you, if you didn’t wake up. You didn’t seem to care though. The girls had fun.” I frowned at her and she smiled. “I did really do it. But, I’ve threatened to a few times. One of your nurses think it’s funny. That’s about all there is to tell you. I’m sure I’m dreaming about this because your theta waves have been really high ever since we got here and the doctors are worried,” She said.
“So, how long have I been in a coma? A year?” I asked.
She looked at me like I was stupid. “You were injured over three years ago and we’ve been in California near San Bernardino for about six months. Why would you think it had only been a year? Hell, you were in Walter Reed for eight months and Oregon for a year before they even talked to me about the procedure. Why are you asking?”
“I um, well, you see...” then I told her about everything. Her eyes got wide several times but she never interrupted me. “So, you see, there is no sense of time here. I don’t eat or sleep there is no sun or moon or anything. Spheres pop in and out and I remain. After Sarah told me she heard one of the hospital staff say she had been in a coma for seven years, I started wondering how long I had been here.”
“That make sense. So you can change my dreams huh? Show me. Take me to the beach.” She said.
I stood up and then helped her to stand. Then I took her hand and we both took a step and were walking on the beach. After a couple of steps, she pulled me to a stop and asked, “How did you do that?”
“It’s a dream. I just think it and it happens. That isn’t entirely true, there is more to it than that. I have to focus and force it to happen. I guess it’s my will. Yea, that sounds and feels right. I force my will on your dream sphere.” I explained.
“Can you change my clothes. Jeans, boots, and T-shirt are fine for a picnic, but not the beach.” She said
“Your clothes are too closely linked with who you are, I think. What I mean is, your clothes are part of your self-image. That makes them a part of you, and changing you is almost impossible. This is your dream though. You can change them. I told you about Sarah’s Wonder Woman act.” I said. I realized I had just thought of the explanation when my sister asked. I had never put it into words before, but I was almost sure what I said was right. I had a very strong feeling they were right.
She stood there for several seconds then closed her eyes real tight. Her clothes flickered a few times, mostly different bathing suits. Then she settled on a nice modest bikini with a triangular wrap around her waist. She opened her eyes and glanced down at herself. “That’s convenient. Wish I had a mirror though.” I waved my hand and a three-panel full-length mirror was to her side. She stepped in front of it then turned one way and then the other. “It’ll do I guess.” I chuckled and made the mirror disappear. “Don’t laugh at me.”
I smiled and grabbed her hand. Then started walking down the beach. “Aren’t you going to change.?” She asked.
For the first time, I looked down at myself. I was wearing my Digital Camo Army Uniform, only it was a mostly white with lighter sections to make the digital pattern. I thought about it and then focused my will. Then I was wearing a nice pair of cargo pocket shorts and a tank top. “Better?” I asked.
“Yep, it’s more you. I mean the uniform was nice in a sort of I’m an angel or soldier of god kind of thing. But, this is more how you dressed when we were younger and when you were home on leave.” She said.
I shrugged and we started walking. I asked her to tell me about her life since I had been injured. She had been in her last semester of school at Fresno State, when I was wounded. She dropped everything and flew to Washington to be there for me. She told she had stayed in a family support apartment for two months before she admitted she couldn’t do me any good and went back to school. The college was very supportive and helped her with her classes and scheduling makeup finals. She had always planned on being a teacher, and got her certificate and her diploma just before school started. She worked mostly as a substitute teacher in Maryland and DC until I was transferred to the VA in Oregon. She moved there and got a job teaching. She said the VA facility was just outside a small town. They had been happy to have a teacher. That is where she started coming and grading papers at my bedside.
She was just telling me about the move to California, when I heard the scream. “Pat!” Without thinking I moved to Sarah. I felt some resistance and pushed harder to get to her. Then I was there in the meadow with the blue grass, rainbow wild flowers, and funny fruit tree. My arrival caused me to stumble. I was on my hands and knees breathing hard, when I heard my sister say, “Damn that felt weird.”
Oh shit. I had pulled Tally along with me into Sarah’s dream. Shit! Shit! Shit! “Um, Pat, who this?” Sarah asked in a dangerous voice.
I pushed myself to my feet and stood. I smiled at Sarah and said, “Sarah I am pleased to introduce you to my little sister Tally. Tally meet my best friend Sarah.”
“I thought you said I was your only friend.” Sarah said, as Tally said, “I thought you said she was your only friend.”
The two women looked at each other then said, “Jinx owe me a pop.” At the same time. They thought that was even funnier and both started laughing.
I shook my head and walked over to Sarah and gave her a hug. She smiled and hugged me back. Then she said, “I have news. I don’t know if it’s good or bad though. I’m not twenty-two. My birthday was last month and I’m twenty-three. I just hope I’m not twenty-four when I wake up next time.”
“Yea, that would be a bummer.” I said.
“Um, Pat, is she real? What I mean is this really her or just like a her here in my dream?” Sarah asked hesitantly.
“I was in her dream and we were walking hand in hand down the beach when I heard you scream. I didn’t even think about it, I just came as fast as I could. I’m sorry I brought her in your dream without asking. I didn’t really mean to bring her, but I was holding her hand. In the future, I promise to ask first. Please forgive me.” I said.
She waved it off. “No, its fine. It’s kind of my fault. When I went to sleep, I woke up here, but you weren’t here. I waited but you didn’t come and I got scared. I said you name softly. Then a little louder and when you didn’t come I screamed. I guess I over reacted” she said as looked down at her feet.
“I think that was pretty good for your first trip back here. I mean first there was the nightmare you were trapped in. Then, last time you couldn’t move. I think you are doing great.” I said.
“Yea, he’s right. I’m not sure I would have waited. I would have just started screaming for him as soon as I got here.” Tally said.
“Really?’ Sarah asked.
“Yep, I’ve always been a big fraddy cat, and I always called for Pat to come save me.” she giggled and then said, “I even once screamed for him to come kill a spider in the shower. Only after he killed it did I realize I was naked with soap in my hair.”
“I remember that. You were screaming for me to kill it and I was trying to tell you that you were naked but you just kept screaming kill it. So, I killed it and left. You were so embarrassed when you finally came out for school. You wouldn’t even look me in the eyes for days.” I added.
Sarah giggled and asked tally, “How old were you?”
“I was fourteen. it was just before Halloween. Dufuss here, kept saying he was going to the dance as a giant spider.” Tally said.
“So, how was it when you woke up?” I asked.
Sarah’s face fell a little. “It was rough. My mom was there. She looked really old to me. I wasn’t sure it was really her at first. She said daddy couldn’t come tonight but would be there in a day or two. I think they may have gotten a divorce. She wasn’t wearing her wedding ring. It was kind of blubber fest. She was crying and that had me crying and our crying had the nurse crying. I got some ice chips and was able to ask some simple questions. God, that was awful. It hurt my jaw and throat just to say a few words. They said that was normal. I haven’t used my jaw muscles in years. They were feeding me through a tube. I don’t remember a lot of when I woke up the first time. Just a lot of noise and people running around and doing stuff. I was so tired. I just wanted to sleep and they kept trying to keep me awake. This time mom was there and she told me some things. She said she couldn’t tell me other things until I got better.” She paused and looked me in the eyes then looked back at the ground. She sighed and said, “It’s kind of weird. I want to get better and be with my mom and dad, but I also want to be here with you. This time when I was awake, I remembered you. It took me a while to fall asleep because I was happy I’d get to see you.”
“Well, I’m happy I get to see you too.” I said. I’m not sure why my sister rolled her eyes at me.
“We should do something fun.” Tally said.
“Like what?” Sarah asked.
“I don’t know. What do you want to do?” Tally said.
“Um, how about snowboarding. I love to snowboard. I’m really good too.” Sarah said.
“Ok, but you’ll have to teach me. I’ve only been snowboarding once, and I spent most of the day with my face in the snow.” I said.
Sarah was excited. She did her Wonder Woman impersonation and was dressed to go. She even had a board under her arm. Then she looked around and asked, “Um, where are we going to snowboard?”