The sleep bargain

“It’s like a hole in space-time. Except it’s not.” I wanted to explain further/better, but couldn’t find the words. I didn’t really understand how it worked myself, actually. I just did it, I didn’t really have to work on it.

“You just focus, focus on one thing, focus on THAT thing, and it happens,” I explained, raising my brows, hoping there was a glimmer of understanding. There wasn’t.

“Okay, look, I’ll show you,” I insisted and I sat down my book and assumed the position. Crossed arms and palms up, back straight, crown pulled up by an imaginary thread.

I began to concentrate. My vision blurred and my focus turned inward. The swirling colors of a kaleidoscope, the tunnel of a wormhole, and I was rushed there.

Walking around, I stepped hard to see if the surface was real – reality checks, they’re called. I do them all day. I have a secret device that I keep with me. It’s something that you’d never get right in the dream because it has words printed on it. And printed words don’t persist in dreams. Call it a charm or a token. I call it a lifesaver.

I looked up the stairs and they led up to darkness and cobwebs, which was unusual. I went into the kitchen and the sun was setting and the lights were out. It was quiet – eerily quiet, even moreso than normal. Another reality check and I’m still in the dream.

I begin to feel the tug back to reality, and this time I decide to indulge it, assuming it’s my pupil.

Back through the tunnel and the lights, and I focus my eyes and take a deep breath. Always relaxing.

“But what else can you do in there? If it’s not real, what’s the value?” He wasn’t really curious, and I suspected that he was asking a question to which he already knew the answer. He waited patiently for my reply.

I sighed and got back up on my bed. “You don’t get it.” I knew I couldn’t explain, even after I showed him.

“Show me again. This time, make it do something to me. Drag me in, push me down, tickle my ass. Something.” His shit-eating grin was getting under my skin.

I got back down, silently, and proceeded to go back in. This time, I was outside. Dream sign? Check! Reality check? Check!

I conjured up a room. In the room, I summoned a chair. In the chair, I summoned the wary student. He came in wisps at first and it took him several seconds to materialize. His eyes were wide and shifty and he started to get up. And laugh.

“You crazy motherfuc-”

“No. My rules,” I said in a stern voice. He stared and sat back down. I wasn’t sure yet if he understood that it wasn’t his choice. He would find out soon enough.

“But… the rules… the real… I mean, how does this…” He stammered and I knew what he was asking. They all ask the same questions.

“Yes, if I want it to,” I cautioned. Because it was done now. He was my ticket.

I breathed in and looked up; the hut disappeared. The sun was warm on my face as I fondled my token in my pocket. I smiled. I’d like to tell you it was a sinister smile, but it was probably just my imagination.

We were going to see the Oracle.

“Come with me,” I commanded. He realized this time that he had no say in the matter, and fear crossed his face. I looked him square in the eyes and cut my gaze, turned, and walked down the path.

The walk was long. I can fly in my dreams. I can teleport. I can do anything. It’s my dream. But, in this case, I wanted the terror to build. He couldn’t speak, he couldn’t move of his own will. He couldn’t do anything I didn’t want him to do.

“Go. Listen to the Oracle. Listen carefully. Do not attempt to tell me what the Oracle says to you.” I was simply warning him, but I already knew he would ignore me and do whatever he wanted.

I watched him disappear into the building. Watched him glance back as the door closed. I sat on a bench and waited. I didn’t have to wait long before he was screaming and pounding on the door. I checked my nails and picked out some dirt from under one. More screaming. More pounding.

Blood leaked out from under the door, and the deal was sealed. The bargain was kept. I was free.