by Sylvia Heartz
Narrated by Bob Eccles
Sometimes I’m Salbion, waiting in the stilthouse above the ocean surface. Roller-coaster rails descend into the deep. My golden hair is a mane of spikes over my head and my eyes are like crystals.
Sometimes I’m lovely Illa, sitting next to Salbion with my skinny knees tucked into my chest.
Sometimes I’m Faery Pearla, flying through a building of endless rafters, flitting through murky light-shafts as a posse of roustabouts chase me with nets.
Sometimes I’m shadow-me, dipping over valleys and hills, finding bluff-top windows like old Egyptian tomb-doors in eroded outcroppings.
These are the worlds I’ve harnessed, or ‘recorded the portal for’, as the famed Doctor Zsechi has termed it.
He published his findings about ten years ago.
The scientists and institutions laughed. He was a crackpot. Then, one of the uppity-ups tried his recorder.
Now Doctor Zsechi is a multi. The Religion of Reason has nominated him for sainthood. Some of the other, older religions are mute about him (or worse), but no one really bothers with those antiquated and all-but-proven-utterly-false dogmas.
Doctor Zsechi’s theory goes like this:
“When we dream, we aren’t merely taking a journey into our own subconscious thought processes, surrounded on all sides by the walls of our corporeal skull. We are doing much, much more. When we dream, we engage in the act of creation itself. The worlds we inhabit, we have created. These worlds are as real as the world we now live in.
“Furthermore, the world we now live in is the result of the dream of another, alien, conscious being.
“When we look back at historical accounts of miracles or fantastic displays of God’s presence, those things might have occurred exactly as noted. At that moment, the dreamer who dreamed our world was dreaming him or herself into it. The dreamer was the burning bush. The dreamer was Krishna, floating on a red carpet and shooting fireballs at demons. The dreamer appeared in the sky like a bright star. The dreamer parted a sea. You’ll notice how the dreamer sometimes does evil things. What dreamer hasn’t?”
There’s more to the theory, but those are the basics.
The way Doctor Zsechi proved his theory has had a more profound effect on our society than all previous technological advances combined.
He found a way for us to return to the worlds we created, at will.
Doctor Zsechi created a Dream Door Recorder.
I make love to Salbion for the fifth time this session. It’s been fantastic. What can I say? Salbion worships me. I am God, after all. Or rather, I’m Goddess, inhabiting Illa’s body.
“The bone coaster is coming soon,” Salbion says, his chin in his palm. His long, pointed ears twitch with the rail-bound craft’s vibrations.
“Is that a ‘bad’ thing?” I sigh, looking up at the lavender light-balls above us.
Salbion hesitates. “Yes – unless it’s something you think is good.”
“What does the bone coaster do again?”
“It flips all the rail’s bone switches and takes an Orling down, down . . . down into the pit of Ocean Abyss.”
“Good thing we’re not on it.”
“No . . . but someday, I will be. It chooses at random.”
“Not anymore,” I said, tilting my head. My eyes flash, commanding the thing. What was up with this weird world of mine, anyway? Beautiful people, but houses on stilts with roller-coasters of death that took you down into the ocean to die?
Salbion leans in, taking my hands in his.
“Oh, Goddess, thank you! You’ve saved us from the bone coaster’s tyranny!”
“No problem,” I say and let him reward me. What’s the harm? This is my world. I saved it.
There’s a problem with the Dream Door Recorder. It’s called ‘body-mind breakage’ and it happens if you stay too long. Only the mind can travel through the portal. There’s a safety switch that pulls you out when you get close to the breakage limit. It also pulls you out when it senses ‘bodily distress’ of . . . other derivations. So one minute, you’re a God. Then next, you’re pooping, or eating, or dragging your pooping, eating body to a ‘job.’
I sit in my cubby, punching figures into my machine. I look over my shoulder to see if my super is watching. He isn’t, so I quickly open a searchkey and type in, “Doctor Zsechi discovery stay God in world forever.”
A lot of people have the same idea: If my dream world is totally real, why can’t I totally be there for real, forever – as God?
Doctor Zsechi is looking into it, it says. Others are too. For now, I’m stuck. I have to make money so I can eat and have shelter, but if I were God in my own world . . . no more of that crap. I’d have Salbion’s tender kisses and a whole world’s adoration and worship. I wouldn’t be like that God who punished and left us for thousands of years with barely a ‘hey, I’m still here.’ I’d be a good God.
What’s up with our world, anyway? There are so many wars. Half the population slaves for the other. I just don’t get it. Some warped mind . . .
‘Bone coaster,’ I think and stop berating our dreamer-creator. I owe my existence to that sadistic bastard – can’t be too irritated.
“The unimaginative will accept the rules they’ve been given as laws and work within them.
“The imaginative will attempt to bend the rules, finding twists and turns and the strange formulas to explain them.
“The godly will take existence as it comes, then overturn it again and again as it so suits them.” – Doctor Zsechi, 40819 STO.
I take the words into account as I enter the stilt-house, ocean-coaster world I’ve dreamed up. I want to fly over mountains, so I make some land rise from the shallows and give it some craggy ridges. I put doors all along the tops, just like my other dream world.
I watch the people below point and gasp in wonder at my soaring passage. I visit the Palatine Hillsides. The manors are draped with red silk. Gold tassels glitter on the floors. I walk to a steaming hot bath and put my toes into it.
I am perfection. I am totality. Every instant is utter bliss.
There has to be a way to stay here.
I toil on, enduring my daily drudgery. Every evening I go home and walk through my Dream Door. Everyone else does the same thing. Who needs friends when you have followers?
Something weird happens as I come into my Ocean-Stilt-House dream world. I’m falling.
I’m falling and I can’t stop myself. The water is getting closer and closer and I can’t make myself fly or move.
“Doorway!” I scream and fall through it to land in my sweating body.
“That was weird,” I say. I check to see if anyone else has had a similar experience.
‘When Your Dream World Turns on You,’ the most disturbing title reads.
“You might have had a dark dream, or nightmare. If you start to alter your dream worlds to fit bits and pieces from one to the other, a piece of nightmare may become stuck there. Doctor Zsechi has spoken on the subject:
“’The only limitation a person has when entering the world he or she has created is his or her imagination. Most of us will find familiar spaces, people, and objects in our worlds. The dream worlds will behave at least in a similar fashion to the one we were born into.
“’Who knows how many times our systems and laws of physics have been copied – how many iterations of dreamers have expanded the theme? The one who dreamed the world our god-dreamer came from – what was that world like? Like ours? There is a high probability it was, though different in some ways and probably limited compared to ours.
“’I’ve proven our world is but one variation of many viable realities, but some call it ‘reality,’ so I will use this term to describe the dream world we live in. Our reality, you’ve noticed, isn’t perfect. There are evil things here. These are the nightmares of our dreamer-creator. Some are within the scope of the dreamer’s reckoning and some are not: some of the bad dreams are known to the dreamer and some are figments of the dreamer’s subconscious and may never appear directly to the dreamer.
“’You might have found inexplicable wicked or twisted elements in your dream worlds. You might have attempted to rectify them. Why are these things here? Because we ourselves are not perfect, our worlds can never be so either.
“’Why do we find ourselves sometimes unable to change the nightmares we’ve created? I’ll answer with a question: What one of us is truly in control of our imagination? Things come to us, popping in and out. Sometimes things linger. Sometimes thoughts stay so long, we call it ‘mental illness.’ Would you say a mentally ill person is able to control the thoughts that have sent him or her to the asylum? Like these unfortunate individuals, each of us holds the specter of unwieldy and surprise creation.’”
I turn away from the article, terrified. I don’t enter my dream world for several days after that. What would’ve happened if I let myself hit the ground?
But I can’t stay away forever.
‘Salbion . . .‘ I think, missing him. He’s real, not just a figment of my sometimes dangerous imagination.
I walk into Salbion’s stilt shed to see him sitting alone on his bed mat, looking somber.
“Hi,” I say. Salbion looks up and around, bewildered, then he says, “Goddess?”
“That’s me. What’s up? Can’t you see—” and then I realize I have no arms. The body I usually take on isn’t here.
“I hear your voice, but Illa has run onto the land you’ve made us. She said . . . ” Salbion hesitates.
“What? What’s wrong with her?” I’m gone in a flash, locating her in less than a second. She’s in the woods, sitting on a stone by a waterfall. Her green hair is fuzzy and long, and it glistens in the gloamy air.
“Illa,” I say.
Illa jumps off her seat, whirling around. She looks afraid.
“What’s up, Illa?”
“Yep. What are you doing here? I thought you loved Salbion.”
Her eyes are angry, but she trembles so much with fear, she can barely get her words out.
“You love Salbion. I did love him . . . but you . . .” She sucks in breath, then screams, “YOU USE ME! I NEVER SAID YOU COULD USE ME!”
Oh. Come to think of it, why did I use her? I can make myself a different body, anything I want. It strikes me I’m being a jerk of a God.
“I’m sorry,” I say. “I won’t do it again.”
Illa’s mouth falls open. She looks around, squinting, trying to find me.
“Just a second,” I say and think up a body. Hmm . . . female. A bit taller than Illa. I want hair like hers, but longer and bluer. Wings. Why not? Angel wings. Feathery dress. Eyes like crystals . . . How about a tail? Kitty tail. I make myself glow a little too.
Illa falls to her knees, hands clasped in front of her.
“Oh, Goddess! This is how you really look?”
“For now it is. Hey, I never asked how do you like the forest and stuff? Do you like this land thing I made?”
Illa looks all around her and smiles.
“It’s too wonderful for me to say. I love our stilt houses and I love the oceans and the deep-coasters that take us through seabeds of rainbowfish and corals . . . but I think I love this place more.”
I scratch my chin and look around at the foliage. Yeah, it’s nice. Too bad it wasn’t my idea. I wonder how many dreamer-creators stole this place from each other?
A dark ripple in the waterfall pool catches my eye. I step past Illa to get a better look into the depths. She joins me.
“What’s that?” I ask.
“Don’t you know?” Illa says, but slaps a hand over her mouth the second the words come out.
“You don’t need to be afraid of me, Illa. I’m not big into suffering and punishment and all that – at least not for saying stuff. Doing bad things might get you into trouble.
Illa removes her hand, slowly nodding.
“It’s the bone coaster. You destroyed it once, but it came back. Now it lurks in deep places, waiting to catch the unwary who swim too close and don’t know it.”
I take in a dewy breath, shocked. What is this thing and why do I keep dreaming it?
“Go away,” I command, but it sits there just below the surface, twinkling at me.
‘I need a weapon,’ I think, and make one: a huge bow with metal arrows so thin and sharp they can pierce miles into the water.
I fire at the bone coaster, striking it.
It wails like a wounded animal, thrashing, blood bubbling and splashing up all around it. It recedes into the depths, but its track leaves a skeleton in the pond.
“Goddess!” Illa chants adoringly.
“Sweet!” I say.
The news is Armageddon to our reality: Doctor Zsechi has found the answer. He’s found a way to sever the mind-body chord and release our spirits into our dream worlds. Strangely, it’s just an orange button we press before going in. Several have done it already. There’s no certainty they’ve made it through safely, but Doctor Zsechi has been right about everything else. It’s a chance most of us are willing to take.
I’m taking it.
I land in my ocean-coaster world, floating and flying. I might die here. I might fall or be sucked down to destruction by my own bone coaster demon. I might find something utterly awesome.
“Salbion,” I say. He and Illa come out to greet me and I decide to let them have each other. I’ll find someone else here to love – I’m thinking of him already. He stares at the dark ocean, alone, his hair like a purple foxtail.
As I fly over the expanse of water and submerged coaster-tracks, I catch sight of the demon. It’s there very briefly, but long enough to make me wonder. How many eons will pass until I’m like Doctor Zsechi, unable to mend my imagination’s sickness, my only desire to set my creations free? And will I be as conscientious as my dreamer-creator God? Will I have the foresight to educate my people, easing them into the transition from hapless creation to ‘God’ with logic and caution, resisting the urge to restrict free will?
I can only hope. I can only hope I remember.
For now I say, ‘Thank you, Dreamer.’ I’ll do my best.
AUTHOR BIO: Sylvia Heartz has a lot of odd jobs and a lot of hobbies—like cooking, gardening, painting, and volunteer work. She sells artwork at shows and galleries, and has been hired to write some sci-fi/fantasy novels. Her other (several) novels have not yet been published (as of May, 2012), but her short stories have been published in Liquid Imagination Online, Silver Blade Magazine, Every Day Fiction, Golden Visions Magazine, and Static Movement.
PHOTOGRAPHER BIO: Eleanor Leonne Bennett is a 16 year old internationally award winning artist. Her photography has been published in the Telegraph , The Guardian, BBC News Website and on the cover of books and magazines in the United states and Canada. See more of her photography at www.eleanorleonnebennett.zenfolio.com