Short story: Dreamland.


  I can't fall asleep, or to be more specific, I am terrified to go to bed; So, I am walking alone under torrential rain at late night, enjoying the silence blessed by darkness. I love to immerse myself under the soothing heavy rain, and enjoy listening to the symphony conducted by great nature. This moment belongs to me, my very own special time. While everyone savors their glamorous adventure in their dreamland, I struggle my best to avoid joining their journey. Car headlights loom in from distance, look like pairs of dozing off eyes inviting me to the party of slumber; so comforting, soothing, and irresistible. Like seeing poisonous water in a desert, you crave to take a sip from it but need to contain yourself. "No..." is the only voice keep echoing in my mind. "You finally got here, please don't sleep. Please resist the temptation, you mustn't..." Like spell, I keep muttering to myself and hope this phrase has the magical power to keep me awake. "No, I mustn't! I mustn't sleep..."

You might be curious about my statement so let me make this clear: I am gifted, or contrarily, cursed. Every time I fall asleep I go into one of the two polarized worlds. One is while I am young and optimistic, I have everything I crave. That world, just like in heaven, has everything you desire: friends, wealth, happiness, everything you always dream of. The Opposite, as you can imagine is the other world where I am old, weak, lonely, and pessimistic. I lost everything and everyone I treasure: my family, friends, pets, wealth, and even health... I spend the rest of my life in a wheel chair because of my unhealthy condition, sitting next to the window and staring out of it. It is always raining. I have no memory of even a glimpse of sunlight in that world. Helpless is your constant companion there. The room I stay in is shabby, gray, bleak, and haunted. I guarantee you, I could write many bestselling-haunted novels out of my home, that's how the other world is...

I believe you can conclude that I am at the better world now for sure. The issue is, how long can I stay? It's impossible for a person not to sleep for days; unfortunately I can't find any solution to escape my destiny. No one understands my pain and struggle, but only think I am a lunatic. Alone, I walk in the darkness; concerned, weary, helpless... Something deep in my heart tells me the answer will be found, it is only the matter of time.

The night breaks, the dreamers have come back from their journey. This wonderful world I crave to stay in forever breaks its silence and starts a brand- new day with passionate greeting. This scene contrasts my heart's sorrow.
"It's about time, stop running away from the truth. Don't be afraid to unveil the curtain of truth. Sleep, my friend. Step on the boat that sails to the uncharted dreamland, let the captain sing the lullaby for you as you sail into the deep dreamland, somewhere inside your heart, somewhere deep..." The voice starts to echo in my head again, but this time my thought is opposite to the previous one. Seems like not only my worlds but my thoughts are polarized. Which is real, which is fake? Should I sleep or struggle to stay awake as long as possible? To be or not to be, that is the question...

Bathed in the sunlight, I walk aimlessly like a zombie with both physical and mental exhaustion; my life is unsettled, I am too afraid to settle down. But somewhere deep in my heart I know I can't escape, my attempt to avoid is futile. I feel weird and amazed by how could I keep myself awake this long. It seems... unnatural.

I know something keeps bothering me but can't think of what it is; I always believe in my instinct and it tells me something is about to happen, something sensational will unveil the truth of my shifting worlds, and it is asking me to be prepared for the moment of truth. Walking on my way to a coffee house; no matter which world I am staying, coffee is always my favorite. Before getting into the coffee house, I grab a newspaper to read as I drink coffee. That is the moment I realize something queer, the date... the date was yesterday.
"They serve old newspapers again?" snort as I mutter, but the fact is I pretend to be contemptuous is because no matter when I get to this world or how long I stay here, the newspaper is always the same content and date. I stagger into the coffee house and am about to order, but I start to stammer and get confused; the scene in front of my eyes is familiar but yet confusing. Instead of a huge board above my head with various kinds of coffee names and prices, there are many glass boxes filled with miscellaneous colors of "beans" labeled with different odd name such as "exhaustion", "despondency", “sadness" and so on...
"What are these colorful beans? They are not candy, are they?" I point at those boxes as I ask curiously. I start to wonder if my mind is way too exhausted to tell what a coffee house looks like. The clerk turns to me and responds as he is mopping the counter. "These bean are typical coffee beans, that's all. I am surprised you've never heard about this coffee shop, our coffee is like the
"fountain of life". You must not be from here, am I correct?"
"Yeah..." I reply with hesitation to suggest that even I am not sure about the answer. It's weird. I feel like I've been here many times, but I can't recollect any memory at all.
"This is the place where people get their salvation." the clerk continues. "Our coffee, like medicine, cures the symptoms written on these labels. For instance, if you order a cup of "sorrow", after finishing the coffee your sorrow is gone. Simple enough?"
"Great! Now I am more confused than before." I say. "Excuse me, I don't understand. It sounds..."
"Too good to be true?" the clerk interrupts. "You silly, this is what this world is about."
I try to refute his point but don't know how to start, when I finally think of one and am about to argue; my phone rings. As I draw my cell phone out of my pocket and see the caller number, I freeze. I am totally shocked, surprised, and have no idea what this is supposed to mean. The call is from me, myself...

I allow my cell phone vibrate on my palm, staring at the screen, checking the caller's name and number. That's me indeed, but what in hell does this mean? "To be or not to be..." that voice crawls back to my mind but it's stronger this time. I know that voice is asking me to make a choice, "Might be a prank. I need to find out!" I press the pick up button and draw my phone to my ear slowly. "Who are you? Why do you have my same number, and a name like mine? It's confusing..." I ask a barrel of questions but only get one monotone response like an answering machine, in my own voice!
"Yemonu library, second aisle, fourth row, fifth book from left side." Then the phone hangs up.
A prank? Who would've gone this far if this is a prank? Why me but no one else? Or perhaps it is a clue? It doesn't matter anymore, the only one thing I am sure about is that voice lurking in my head asking me to follow my instinct, and I always believe in my instinct. I walk out of the coffee shop and head toward the library, to the moment of truth...

As instructed, I find a shabby and old book covered with dust on the bookshelf. It's weird, though; it's a popular library and I don't think they would allow books to be this dirty, plus every other book is brand new except this one. As I pick up the book and wipe the dust off with my sleeve, name of the book
appears: "Dreamland". As I flip through the book, a wrinkled note drops to the ground. I pick it up and unfold it, which says:
Two worlds, seems isolated yet connected. Reality and Fantasy, the problem is...
Which one is the true one? ANOMALIES are always a lie!
But don't worry,
no matter where you are there's always a silver lining...

"The truth... it's about time to wake up." The voice crawls back and echoes in my head again. So this is the truth I am always trying to avoid? As I recall, being able to stay up this long, the coffee shop, and the newspaper; they all seem... anomalous. Am I always living in a fantasy world? There's only one way to figure out... sleep.
"Farewell, my beautiful world." Quietly, I leave this world. Gently, I go to sleep.

Cold breeze sweeps past my arm. I open my eyes slowly and hesitantly. Exactly like what I remember, I am sitting in a wheelchair feeling like a bag of old bones chewed by dogs for centuries. It's still raining heavily outside, like always. Listening to the heavily rain is the only thing that comforts me here. Like in the other world, I always admire the symphony conducted by great nature. This world, unfamiliar yet familiar at the same time, which tells me it is the real one. Cruel, heartless, cold, solemn... these are its characteristics; this world makes me realize how brutal the truth is.

I look around the mansion I live in; each place is nicely furnished and exquisitely decorated. Sadly, these dazzling luxuries only contrast how lonely and gloomy this place is. Everything seems grayish, foretelling my following misfortune. One of the elegantly carved statues on the wall stares at me with a stern glare, like being sentenced death. Through this eye contact I could imagine what he's attempting to tell me "This is how the rest of your life is, no more fantasies! Remember, this is the truth; you need to learn to adapt to your little pathetic life."
But a weak and repeated voice lingers in my head "silver lining, silver lining..." A hazy recollection of a library and an old book emerge. Now I remember I've been to the other world, to be more specific, the fantasy world. I keep pondering, what does the last sentence of the poem from that shabby book mean? There's always a sliver lining. Is it suggesting that I find my silver lining, even in this pathetic world? How is that possible? Everything seems so hopeless, everyone and everything I treasure left me, I am the only one left alone in this world. My mind gets uneasy over this thought, I decide to stroll outside in the torrential rain to keep myself awake. I grab a heavy coat and navigate my wheelchair into the rain, make myself fade into this natural miracle; I wish I could just disappear like this, forever...

While I am wandering randomly, I tuck both my hands in the pockets of my heavy coats and then I feel something in my pocket: a small piece of wrinkled note. I take it out and take a glimpse, there's only one word on that note: HOPE...
Where did this note come from? I have no memory of putting this note in my pocket or even writing a note. After reading the note, something unbelievable and amazing happens. The torrential rain symphony conducted by nature changes its tune to something milder, a finale perhaps, the ripples of the pond cease; like a gigantic mirror, it reflects every scenery it could contain. What comes next amazes me the most; weak sunlight streaming down through the slits of clouds. "Am I still dreaming?" is the first notion comes to my mind.

As the sunlight shines on the wrinkled note on my hand, more words emerge and it says: No matter where you are, no matter how desperate it seems,
If you keep a good faith of hope, there is always a silver lining waiting for you. You can live in the world you crave forever...

This world is not as cold and cruel as I remember anymore; deep within this desperate world I sense something more. I raise my head and squint against the sunlight. As if feeding on the dark clouds, it grows stronger at its own pace; I crack a smile and mutter "No matter how long it takes, no matter how much effort I need to pay. Let's find out the silver lining of this world, shall we? " 
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