LUCID DREAMS
By Jeff Robinson (3,150)
(published SFN Anthology from AKW Books 3/2009 "Alpha Dreams")

Jeffrey Lewis woke up from a sound sleep, sweating. He sat bolt upright in bed, the terror of his dream still vivid in his memory. Gasping for breath, he looked around.

It was the middle of the night. All he could see were dim outlines of bedroom furniture and shadows from the nightlight his wife, Barbara, always left on in the bathroom.

He threw back sheets and swung his legs over the side of the bed. Bending over and placing his head in his hands, he shook uncontrollably. God, he thought, the dreams are always so real. They wouldn’t be so bad, except the nightmares are the same over and over again. Okay, so it wasn’t every night, but when he had them, they picked up right where they’d left off before.

Suddenly worried that he might have woken Barbara, he glanced over at her but found her still sound asleep. Tentatively putting his feet on the floor, he straightened his legs and stood. Closing his eyes, he focused on a special place in his mind and concentrated. Then he slowly rose off the floor and hung there, floating silently beside the bed. God, it’s always incredible, he thought. I keep having the same dream that I’m living in a world where people can’t fly and, in that dream, that’s reality and this world is the dream.

The reassuring exhilaration of levitating just a few inches off the ground swept the cobwebs from his mind and banished the fading terror of the nightmare. Still, he couldn’t quite shake off the memory of living in a world where flying was impossible. He loitered in the air for a moment, reminding himself that this was reality and the other world was the dream. In the real world, you can fly.

Barbara stirred and mumbled. She reached over and, not finding him, sat up and called, “Jeff! Jeff, where are you?”

Settling quickly to the floor, he answered in a whisper, “It’s okay, Bo. I’m here. I was just getting a drink of water from the bathroom.”

Barb rubbed her eyes and tried to make out his shape in the dark. ”Was it another of those nightmares?” she asked.

“No,” he said, dashing to the bathroom. “I was just thirsty.” He hadn’t meant to wake her. She worried too much and he didn’t want to trouble her. Moments later, he was back in bed, but he quickly returned to his dream.

*****

Jeff woke shivering but the images of his dream faded as he clutched his pillow desperately to his chest. The same dream had come to him again. He closed his eyes and concentrated in his mind, willing himself to rise up into the air, but nothing happened. Damn, he said to himself.

Ever since he he’d been a small boy, he’d always had the same recurring dream, a dream where he could fly. Of course, when he dreamt, it was that world which was real and this one, which was the dream. Whenever he woke, the lingering disappointment of not really being able to fly always left him depressed.

He closed his eyes and sat motionless, trying to remember the exact feeling, the sense of freedom and the joy of flying, even for a moment, but the memory slipped away. It drifted and faded like smoke on the wind and left him longing and wishing the dream were true.

Barbara stirred and called his name as she surfaced slowly from her own slumber.

Sighing, he lay back down and held her gently. “It’s ok, Bo. Go back to sleep. It’s nothing.”

She mumbled and slipped back to sleep.

Jeff lay awake for a long time, wishing he could re-enter the same dream again, even if it wasn’t real. He longed to re-experience the freedom of soaring and flying through the air, but he couldn’t get back to sleep. As he waited for dawn, his mind drifted and he imagined all sorts of crazy things and wondered if dreams could be true.

In the morning, Jeff found himself running late. Dressing hurriedly, he tugged at his tie and dashed downstairs. Barb was already up and had made coffee. When he entered the kitchen she was busy feeding their two dogs.

Smiling meekly, he kissed her on the cheek and looked around, finding a cup of coffee already poured for him on the counter. “You’re a gem, Barb,” he said grabbing the cup. Taking a sip, the coffee burned his tongue, but he drank again, hoping the caffeine would drive away the fatigue left from his restless night.

“God,” Barb said, “you look awful. Didn’t you sleep well?”

“I love you, too,” he said laughing, “and you look beautiful.” He drained his cup and sighed, “No, I didn’t sleep much. I had that dream again. You know, the one where I can fly.”

“Oh, no,” Barb said, “I thought you stopped having those long ago.”

They’d never really stopped, he thought. I just stopped mentioning them. Shrugging, he grabbed his briefcase and opened it, then stopped to look at Barbara.

Her patient understanding manifested itself in her sad countenance as she stood quietly nursing her cup of coffee. Jeff gritted his teeth in anger at himself. She looked so troubled and concerned. He shouldn’t have mentioned it. Now, she’d worry all day.

“It’s ok. I still have them periodically. This one was just…” He paused trying again to recapture the sense he lost whenever he awoke. “It was just unusually vivid,” he said, feeling awkward and foolish. “You know what I mean.”

Snapping his briefcase shut, he chuckled with forced mirth. “Sorry, hun. I’m late. I’ve got to go.” He kissed her again and dashed for the door. But as he grasped the doorknob the door, he glanced back at her forlorn eyes watching him in silence.

Damn, he thought. Now I’ll worry about her all day, too. He dug in his pocket for his keys and headed off to work. Soon he was lost in the details of his job, as his attention returned to real world matters.

That evening, at dinner, Barb was unusually quiet. ”What’s wrong,” he asked, “problems at work?”

She shook her head. “No, I’m just worried about you. You haven’t been sleeping well and I’m concerned about your health.”

Jeff sighed. “I told you, it’s ok. I only have those dreams once in a while. They’re nothing, really.”

“I’m not so sure,” she said. “They really seem to disturb you.”

She put down her fork and said, “Honey, I’m just worried. With your long drive to work, you need your rest. I wouldn’t want you to fall asleep on the freeway because bad dreams kept you awake.”

They aren’t bad dreams, he thought. They’re wonderful. The world in his dreams was almost the same as this one. He and his wife were the same. The only difference was that there he could fly, but here he couldn’t.

Jeff paused and almost didn’t reply. “Bo, you can’t imagine what it’s like. When I’m dreaming and I can fly, there’s such an incredible sense of freedom and control. To soar and turn with a mere thought…it’s…” Tears came to his eyes. “Do you think there could be parallel worlds? You know… different dimensions where that other world is similar, but just a little different? Do you think the dreams could actually be real, somehow?” A look of hopeful excitement flashed across in his eyes and then slowly faded as he saw Barb’s face grow pale.

“Oh Jeff,” sighed Bo. “You’re serious aren’t you?”

Jeff looked down with disappointment.

Barb reached over and took his hand. “I made an appointment for you with Dr. Lees,” she said.

“Bo, you shouldn’t have done that,” he grimaced at the thought of the trouble of an office visit.

“No, I had to,” she said. “Please go. You’re overdue for a physical, anyway. Maybe he can prescribe something to help you sleep.” Jeff started to protest, but Barb insisted, “Please? For me?”

“All right,” he said, realizing that he’d lost the argument before it had even started. “I’ll go.”

*****

The alarm went off and Jeff snapped upright in bed. He was drenched with sweat. The terror of his nightmare still clung to him. He flew out of bed and across the room, darting through the air to silence the blaring sound before the dogs downstairs started barking. Overshooting with reckless haste, he slammed into the bookcase. The whole house shook, as everything on the shelves rattled and some books fell noisily to the floor.

Floating motionless in the air, he paused to gather his senses.

The clamor woke Barb and she called, “What are you doing?” Digging a knuckle into an eye, she asked, “Isn’t the alarm enough? Do you have to wreck the house to wake me up?”

Hanging suspended in the air, he clenched his fists, trying to shake off the vestiges of the dreams that haunted him.

“Sorry. I had another nightmare,” he said.

“Oh, no,” she said, the anger in her voice melting into worry. “I thought you’d stopped having those months ago.”

Concentrating briefly, Jeff rose higher into the air, closed his eyes and spun around quickly, faster and faster, as if to throw off the lingering feelings left from the recurring nightmares. Gradually, he slowed himself and settled quietly to the floor. I shouldn’t fly off in a fit, he thought. Acting immature isn’t going to help.

Finally, he sat gently on the edge of the bed, but his hands still trembled. Barb leaned close and took one of his hands.

“I’ve been thinking,” Jeff said, nodding to himself, “perhaps I should talk to someone about these nightmares.”

Barb’s grip on his hand grew stronger.

“I was thinking of going to Dr. Chandler. You know, the psychiatrist your sister went to?”

“The one downtown?” she asked.

“Yeah. I could make an appointment and talk to him about these nightmares. I read somewhere they’re pretty common. Maybe he can suggest something.” “That’s a good idea,” she said. “I can call and setup an appointment for you.” She paused for a moment and then added, “I’ll leave the information with your secretary at work.” Then she threw back the sheets hurriedly and said, “Wait here. I’ll go get the number.”

Leaping out of bed, she was airborne after only two steps. He watched as she glided gracefully out the door and disappeared down the hall. Sighing he remained seated and told himself over and over again that this was reality. Not being able to fly was the dream. This was real. Despite his efforts, the nagging memory of the opposite conviction in his dreams bothered him. His knuckled whitened as he worried that he was going crazy.

Later that morning, Jeff’s secretary called him on the intercom and notified him that his wife had scheduled an appointment with Dr. Chandler that very afternoon. Jeff cringed, wondering what she’d told him in order to get an office visit set up so soon.

Checking his watch, he realized there was no need to rush. Since the appointment was right after lunch, he could leave early and grab a sandwich in one of the open-air restaurants atop the skyscrapers downtown. The sensation of flying high over the city would drive away the shadows of dreaming he was crippled and earthbound.

Doubt quickly crossed his mind and he willed himself an inch off the floor, just to reassure himself that this wasn’t a dream after all. Floating peacefully, he decided. Yes, I’ll go early. Perhaps there’ll be a cancellation and I can spend a little extra time with the doctor.

Unfortunately, while Jeff arrived an hour early for his appointment, Chandler was punctual. The wait in the outer office only gave Jeff more opportunity to worry about whether he was losing his mind.

When he finally entered the doctor’s office, he was surprised. Jeff had expected a Freudian-like figure with silver hair and a closely trimmed goatee. Chandler was at least five years younger than him, but his thick, dark hair and intense piercing eyes gave him an authoritative appearance that belied his youth. The doctor’s handshake was strong and his laugh, when Jeff told him what he’d expected, was gentle and reassuring.

The guy was good, too. In a matter of minutes, Jeff was revealing more about his dreams than he’d ever told his wife. He explained that he’d had the dreams ever since childhood and that he had frequently awakened believing he couldn’t fly. Sometimes he wouldn’t even try because he was so convinced his nightmares were true.

More than once, his mother had resorted to tickling him into hysterical howls of laughter until he flew into the air to escape her unbearably loving assaults. The laughter always drove the fear of the nightmares away, but the doubt always lingered that this world was a dream and that someday he’d wake up and find it gone; find it had never been.

“It’s actually very common,” Dr. Chandler said.

“I’d heard that,” said Jeff, “but I’ve never met anyone with recurring dreams.”

“No, it’s probably the most frequent type of dream. Some physicians think it’s a form of racial memory that goes back to the time before man’s brain evolved enough to manage levitation.

“There’s a simpler explanation, though. Since children’s brains don’t mature enough to permit flight until about the age of seven, you’re probably just re-experiencing memories of the time before you could fly.”

Jeff nodded. It sounded reasonable.

“You had older siblings, didn’t you?” asked Chandler.

“Yes,” said Jeff, “an older brother.”

“Let me guess. When he learned to fly, you couldn’t. So you probably cried yourself to sleep at night because it wasn’t fair. Didn’t you?”

Jeff blushed and nodded. He’d been a later bloomer and his brother, who was only a year older, had been able to fly for more than two years before Jeff had managed any abilities at all.

“So you see? It’s all quite natural,” said Chandler.

“But what about the dreams. Does everyone have them then?”

“No,” answered Chandler, “most people outgrow them. However, during times of stress they sometimes reappear. They reflect feelings of inadequacy and helplessness. I’ll bet you have one of those high-pressure jobs that keep you on your toes. Don’t you?”

Jeff nodded. “Is there anything I can do then? The dreams are so vivid that every morning I wake up convinced they’re real and that this world’s the dream.” Jeff stopped as the old terror swept over him. “Can you help me?” he asked.

“Actually, I have just the thing for you.” Chandler took out a pad and quickly wrote a prescription. He tore it off the pad and handed it to Jeff. “This is a new drug that suppresses REM sleep. It also reduces the neurotransmitters that trigger anxiety attacks. I’ve prescribed a relatively high dosage, one that’s as strong as general anesthetics in hospitals. It shouldn’t be used in conjunction with any other drugs, not even caffeine or aspirin.

“Take two pills each night for three nights. You’ll sleep without any dreams and that’ll break the cycle of nightmares. Within ten minutes after taking the pills, you’ll be dead to the world, but you’ll only sleep for eight hours and you’ll wake feeling refreshed.

“Come back in four days and we’ll see how it worked.”

Jeff thanked the doctor and excitedly left the office. He was literally walking inches off the ground. For the first time, he actually had hope that the nightmares would end.

*****

Jeff woke shivering again. It was light outside and Barb was already up. As usual, his memories of flying were already fading, but he vaguely remembered his conversation with a doctor in the dream.

He felt like crying. Every time he had the dream, it seemed more real, but everyday when he woke, he found it was just an illusion, a trick his mind kept playing on him. Dressing, he went downstairs and told Barb he’d had the dream again.

“I know,” she said. “You were tossing and turning all night.”

“Here,” she said, as she thrust a tiny piece of paper in his face. “Your appointment with Dr. Lees is today. I want you to promise me you won’t forget.”

Nodding, Jeff hardly listened as he thought about flying again. Closing his eyes, he concentrated, willing himself with all his might to lift up off the chair… just an inch…just a single inch… but nothing happened. Nothing ever happened. It was just a fantasy after all. Sighing loudly, he felt like he’d lost the most important thing in his life.

“I’ll go,” he said, wishing it was real after all.

After work, he drove to the clinic. Cordially greeting his long-time family doctor, he slowly explained about the dreams that recurred each night and the depression he felt when he awoke. Dr. Lees listened patiently.

Jeff had a sense of déjà vu as Dr. Lees explained that dreams of flying were very common. Jeff hardly paid attention. It was as if he’d heard it all before.

When the doctor finished, Jeff asked, “Doc, do you think it’s possible there could be other worlds? Other parallel universes, where people really can fly? Could there be certain people who, somehow, peek into these other worlds in their sleep? Could my dream world and our world here both be real?” Dr. Lees looked at him blankly.

Jeff immediately regretted his candor and closed his eyes briefly to avoid Dr. Lees’ incredulous gaze.

Ignoring Jeff’s last comments, Dr. Lees said, “I’ll tell you what we’ll do. Here’s a prescription for a strong anti-depressant. It’ll relieve any feelings of anxiety and will have the added benefit of knocking you out for about eight hours. Take it for a few nights, then come back and we’ll see if it helped. Be sure, however, that you don’t use it in combination with any other medications. Understand?”

Jeff nodded, took the prescription and left. Stopping at a drive thru pharmacy on the way, he had it filled and then hurried home. Later that night, as he went to bed, he took two of the pills and prayed silently that the dreams would go away. Secretly, however, he hoped that the other world was the real one and that this one was the nightmare. Soon, he fell asleep, but despite the new medication, dreams of flying filled his mind.

*****

Jeff woke floating six inches above the mattress. Tossing back the sheets, he flew into the bathroom and flipped on the light. Blinking against the bright glare, he fumbled with bottles on the counter until he found the unopened bottle he’d gotten from Dr. Chandler. Realizing that he’d forgotten to take his new sleeping pills, he hastily open the container and carefully counted out two pills, washing them down with water before finally setting the bottle back down by the sink.

It was odd, he thought, that he’d just taken two different pills in his dream. Shrugging, he supposed it was just his subconscious trying to remind him to take his own medication.

Anxiously looking forward to his first good night’s sleep in weeks, he turned off the light and flew back to bed. Settling in carefully and holding Barbara tightly, he closed his eyes and hoped the nightmares of not being able to fly wouldn’t come back again.

*****

OBITUARY

Jeffrey Lewis, age 47, died last Friday night in his sleep from an unexpected reaction to medication. Officials are investigating the doctor who prescribed the drugs and have questioned the dosage he ordered. The doctor insists that the dosage was correct and that his patient must have violated instructions regarding interaction with other medications. The police plan to conduct an autopsy to determine if the doctor’s claims are correct.

Jeffrey is survived by his wife, Barbara, and two grown sons, Michael and Matthew. Services will be held at St. Raphael’s Church on 55th Avenue next Wednesday evening for family and friends.

 

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