By John Andreula
Edited by Kodid Laraque-Two Elk
*Originally published on 5280Geek.com
Few people have figured out how to harness the vast potential of dreams. Those who have, have done so by controlling their consciousness as they enter dream-state. This process is called lucid dreaming.
Lucid dreaming is when dreamers find an anchor somewhere within the story of their dream as it is unfolding. This anchor signals that they are inside of a dream and not in the real world. They then use that signal to take control of the events and happenings within their dream-state.
The most well-know example of this is when someone pinches their arm in their dream to wake themself up.
A man once decided he was going to master the skill of lucid dreaming. Every time he found himself inside a doorway he would reach out his arms and push outward against the door frame. Most of the time he felt the cold, solid rigidity of the door.
When he didn’t receive a realistic level of resistance from the frame he would immediately recognize he was dreaming. Then, regardless of the story that was unfolding in his dream, he would go on any amazing adventure that he desired, instead of the one born of pure chance.
That fellow sure must have looked quite awkward to others as he pushed against all those door frames in the real world.
Sierra used her left hand to gently sweep the stiff remains of the tiny ladybug into her right.
She peered at it for a moment before opening the top drawer of her flower-painted nightstand. Inside was the small wooden box where Sierra kept a few things that she had randomly found intriguing. She placed the ladybug lightly on the leaves of a four leaf clover she had discovered in the grass near her house.
Afterwards she went downstairs and ate dinner quietly with her parents. Stephen spoke of small, seemingly superficial details of his day. He recounted his interactions with friendly coworkers from his office at his large technology firm. He went on to spend extra time complaining and condemning his boss for not appreciating his efforts.
Janice chewed her food and nodded occasionally. Every now and again she would speak directions to Sierra between bites. “Swallow what’s in your mouth before you take another bite…Please use your napkin to wipe your hands and not the tablecloth, sweetie.”
Sierra’s typical response was to not respond. Once in awhile she would look up for a moment at whoever was speaking before returning her attention inward. The same scene replayed itself nightly. Some nights, like tonight, Stephen was there. Other nights he wouldn’t be, due to the many work projects that required his presence in the lab late into the night.
Tonight she was especially distracted by her thoughts. It wouldn’t be evident on her emotionless face, but the ladybug and her dream had her quite unsettled.
Sierra finished her cauliflower, potatoes, and the chicken Janice had cut down into bite-size chunks. She rose from her seat at the table without a glance at either parent. Janice and Stephen shared an uneasy look as their daughter left the dining room.
Sierra went down the stairs to the house’s furnished basement. She rounded the corner at the bottom of the stairs and made her way over to the cheaply stained wooden bookshelf. She could hear her parents’ voices up the stairs, coming out from the door that she didn’t close behind her. The voices began to raise as respective responses became more and more sharp. Sierra did her best to ignore her parents bickering.
The bookshelf was large compared to the five year old. The bottom two shelves held the books that were purchased for Sierra as gifts. There was Dr. Seuss, The Berenstain Bears, and a large selection of pop-up and board books. Sierra wasn’t interested in any of these. They were useful when she had rapidly learned her letters, her reading, and her writing; but she never formed an attachment to the stories held within. She was long past such juvenile choices. What she was after was on the top shelf.
Sierra dragged over one of the spare dining room chairs that were stored downstairs, awaiting guests that came over less and less frequently these days. She clambered onto the chair and grabbed the middle shelf to brace herself as she stood on her tiptoes.
Her eyes fixed on the row of reference books situated on the topmost shelf. Before Sierra was born, Janice had toyed with the idea of a career in psychology or personal therapy. She had long since abandoned that idea.
Still, every now and again, Janice purchased or acquired tomes relevant to the science of the human brain and relationships. Occasionally she felt the need to scratch that old itch, especially now that she had a daughter that she could not understand or connect with. This fact seemed to becoming increasingly more evident.
Sierra had never been interested in these reference books before, but now she was experiencing an unfamiliar drive. It was a need she had not previously felt.
She located two books in the stack that she thought may be relevant to her current predicament. One was TRAIN YOUR MIND, CHANGE YOUR BRAIN; the other, EXPLORING THE WORLD OF LUCID DREAMING.
Neither book was age appropriate for the typical five year old, but Sierra Stewart was very much not a typical five year old. No one understood the inner-workings of her mind or her development, much less her own self.
Sierra was sharp, but people had to look really closely to notice it. Upon first glance, strangers, even some neighbors and family members, perceived her as dull or slow. Her parents felt the looks, often becoming offended by others’ murmurs and whispers. At times even they succumbed to the idea that something was wrong with their beautiful, beloved, but unusual daughter.
It wasn’t uncommon for others to think the girl had problems or an intellectual disability. This wasn’t the case though.
On the whole, Sierra’s parents knew the truth. Sierra Stewart was special. She was perceived as different from other children her age because she was different. She just wasn’t the different that other people had assumed she was.
Sierra never complained, even when being hungry, cold, or frustrated; behavior common to most young children. She did occasionally feel these things. She just never showed it and definitely didn’t communicate it to either of the primary adults in her life.
Stephen and Janice believed they could feel Sierra communicating with them once in awhile, despite the girl’s general casual coldness. They told themselves that they felt her speaking to them in their hearts and minds. They were mostly telling themselves these things to ease the unenviable disappointment built up from the lack of response to their love and efforts.
Sierra laid the books on the floor just in front of the chair and old wooden bookshelf. She settled herself prone and proceeded to read the books to gain insight on the inner-workings of her mind and subconscious.
Her father came down the stairs fifteen minutes later. He discovered his little girl with her eyes transfixed inside the book on dreaming. He thought to himself how cute it was that his five year old was looking at the pictures inside of one of mommy’s books. He had no idea that she was easily absorbing the book’s concepts and teachings.
So Stephen left his silent and stoic daughter to her “play” and went off into his basement office. He would continue some private business project that consumed the majority of his time at home.
A few hours later Janice came down the stairs looking groggy. She had fallen asleep on the couch again, reading some novel. She knocked on the office door and informed Stephen of the late hour.
She then went over to Sierra who was entrenched in her old book on lucid dreams. In her sleepy state, Janice thought to herself, What an odd child.
She stood and watched her beautiful daughter for a moment before informing her, “Sierra, baby, it’s late. Time to get ready for bed.” Sierra remained reading, again ignoring another command and request from one of her progenitors.
Janice bent down and said, “Let’s go, hon.” She lifted the girl with ease and placed her on her left hip. The girl kept the book in front of her, not even slightly averting her gaze from the pages.
Janice carried Sierra up the first flight stairs, and again up the second, to their destination on the top level of their home. She took Sierra to the girl’s room, which was in the front of the house. Janice gently pulled the book away from Sierra and placed it on the nightstand before drawing the blinds closed.
She helped Sierra undress, and then into her pajamas. It was the light gray set with cartoon alligators wearing sunglasses and pearl necklaces patterned throughout. These pj’s always made Janice smile.
The two girls retreated to the bathroom. Janice brushed out the day’s knots from Sierra’s beautiful golden hair. Then she brushed her teeth before taking her back into the bedroom.
Janice laid Sierra in her bed and pulled the blankets up snugly to the girl’s sides. She kissed her three times lightly on her forehead before walking to the door. Janice flipped the light switch off and said “Goodnight, baby,” and closed the door almost fully.
Sierra lay there in the dark for some time before the silence throughout the house was total and complete. Then she sat up in her bed and exited the warm security of her soft covers. She padded over to the door and closed it completely, careful not to let it click when the handle latched. She flipped the light back on, pulled the book from her nightstand, and placed it onto her bed. She sat down to read more.
Two hours later she had completed reading the textbook. She had not arrived at an answer as to what had happened earlier that night within her nap’s dream. Nor had she begun to understand the unlikely circumstance of the ladybug and her reach between the two worlds. But she was feeling somewhat empowered to approach the next dream differently.
She placed the closed book back on her nightstand and laid back against her pillows. She lay still for a while with her eyes open. They were affixed on the nothing on the ceiling above her.
Tiredness arrived and she did not resist it. Her eyes closed and Sierra let her dream come.
Again Sierra had become the heightened, ringlet-curled version of herself. And again she stood on the path in the mirage-like forest.
There were, however, subtle differences this time. The prismatic white hue of the trees and her long dress had shifted into a light, bright blue, with tinges of green and yellows sparkling here and there.
At the foot of the trees, bunnies stood en masse on the roots and the small spaces between each trunk. Each bunny had fuzzy wings tucked to either side. They stood very still, staring with their beady eyes at Sierra. It was as if they were appraising her.
One bunny’s nose twitched. The other bunnies’ noses did the same, all in unison. Sierra tipped her head ever-so slightly to the left. The bunnies simultaneously matched the girl’s head movement. They tensed up their rear legs as if preparing to flee if they detected any threat from this strange interloper in their world.
A slight rustling came from just up the path. Sierra looked in the direction of the sound. The bunnies did as well. A lone chipmunk was jaunting towards the small clearing where Sierra now stood. The many bunny eyes followed in unison as the chipmunk halted just in front of Sierra.
The chipmunk rested for a moment before rearing up on its hind legs. “It’s good you’ve returned,” a voice addressed Sierra. It seemed to have come from the chipmunk, but it’s mouth did not move. It was using its mind to communicate with the currently elongated girl.
“That wasn’t a good thing you did to the red shell though. Not at all. Not at all.”
Sierra and the bunnies stared on. She did not know what to think, but she felt a sadness to the small rodent’s voice. She waited for the chipmunk to speak again.
“Why did you end the red shell?”
The girl’s eyebrows raised. She strained for a moment as if deciding whether she could speak to the chipmunk. She took another moment to decide if she would.
Then a soft voice seemed to come from between the trees. “I…”
It wasn’t obvious where the second voice was coming from, but when the chipmunk or the bunny horde turned to focus on it it seemed as if it were coming from somewhere else hidden in the wood.
“I…I was scared. It lunged at me,” the voice strained to project, “It…it was trying to hurt me.”
The chipmunk rounded its head back toward Sierra. The bunnies did as well. The chipmunk’s voice returned, “It knew you were dangerous. It sensed you were here to harm us. It assumed correctly.”
“I never meant to…to…I didn’t mean to kill it,” the voice in the trees responded. ” I just wanted to stop it from hurting me.”
The chipmunk pondered the girl for a moment before coming to a determination. “Come with me.”
The chipmunk turned and dropped back down on all fours. It returned down the path from whence it had come. It stopped at the crest of the hill and stood up again to look back at Sierra. She was bewildered by the current events. She hadn’t moved yet.
“Come along,” it called out. Sierra felt the small rodent’s mind-voice as if it still stood just in front of her.
She decided to trust the chipmunk, or at least to see where it would lead her. After all, her need and curiosity were still yet unanswered.
Sierra glided off after the chipmunk, her long dress flowing on the ground behind. A pack of the bunnies followed a few meters behind Sierra, hopping along in near unison. Others stayed in their places and continued to watch Sierra move back in the familiar direction she had traveled earlier.
The path was the one she had traversed in her nap dream, but at the same time, it wasn’t. Some trees had budded at the ends of their branches. The buds were pink, golden yellow, and orange. Others trees had wilted, appearing sick. Many had dropped polychromatic leaves to the ground around their bases.
The unlikely pack climbed the familiar hill Sierra had passed over earlier. They arrived just beyond the summit, where she had downed the ladybug man. She could see its corpse laid out across a bed of clovers.
The chipmunk approached its body. The bunnies fell in just past. They took up their positions as winged sentries of this most unusual scene.
Sierra hesitated. Her voice penetrated the air once more, “What is it you want from me?”
The chipmunk trembled for a brief moment as it looked upon the large fallen body of the insect. It stood up and strode over to Sierra. “We want you to make this right. We want you to do what you have undone.”
Sierra’s lengthened face betrayed a rare glimpse of feeling. It showed mild bewilderment. “I can’t…I don’t… I don’t know what you want me to do.”
“You have power within you, girl. Look what you did to this poor it. Humans–you take and ravage so much of your world. You have no right to come into this and start destroying and taking here as well. You fix this.”
Sierra slowly floated over until she was next to the chipmunk looking down upon the insect. She knelt beside it and spoke with her mind-voice, mouth still as ever, “I’m sorry you were threatened by me. I’m sorry I hurt you.”
She turned her head to the chipmunk. It’s eyes were moist with sadness. “What am I supposed to do?”
The chipmunk replied, “How did girl work it earlier?”
Sierra thought for a moment. She remembered her fear. She could clearly recall what had transpired and how she responded in her own memory. That wouldn’t do now.
Luckily, a chapter in Sierra’s mother’s book on lucid dreams came to her mind. She had understood much of what she had read on lucid dreaming. Now it was time to test what she had learned.
The ladybug died in the real world because of her silent scream here in the dream world. She certainly held some the power to affect reality from inside this strange dream. By proxy, she should have no problem affecting the world of this dream with her mind as well.
She reached out her right hand toward the still bug. As if on its own accord, the sleeve slid up her arm to her elbow. She rested her fingers on the front of the insect’s black head. She closed her eyes and concentrated.
First, she thought of life. Then, she thought of the love she felt toward nature and the joy she felt sharing those moments with her ladybug friend on the outside. She sent those feelings, as well as her wish to make her wrong right, through her fingertips and into the beast’s hard, rough head. Sierra could feel a sensation pulse down her arm, into her hand, and finally out her fingertips into the ladybug’s cold face.
She felt a slight brush against her hand. She opened up her eyes. The ladybug’s long dark antenna moved slightly. The other antenna did as well. The enlarged ladybug tilted its head toward Sierra and regarded her from where it lay on its clover bed.
Sierra stood up slowly and backed away a few paces. She was uncertain if the bug would come after her again. She was also in awe of the moment and what she had just done.
The chipmunk skirted a bit closer to the ladybug. “Red Shell, you are again? This girl has brought you back with us. She means you no harm. ”
The ladybug rose gradually to one knee on its hind leg. With some effort it pushed off the other leg and stood full upright. Large black markings remained on the clover patch below it.
The bug appraised Sierra for a moment longer and then subtly bowed its head.
The girl’s voice returned from the background, “I’m so sorry.”
The ladybug nodded its antennae once in a subtle gesture of approval and the turned away. Sierra could see its hard red wing covers no longer retained their dark spots. She realized that’s where the black stains on the clovers had come from. The ladybug’s red pseudo-wings spread and revealed the insect’s translucent wings of flight beneath. The wings beat quickly and made a reverberating buzzing.
The insect-man lifted off the ground and flew off. The eyes of all those present followed the insect across the sky until it disappeared into the bluish haze of the sky.
The chipmunk broke the silence of the moment. “You did well, young one. When you return, please take care as you use your mind-strength.” It skirted off back down the path. The bunnies followed. Two flew low, a few feet above the ground, their wings flapping like a hawk.
Sierra stood there for a moment, processing what had happened here and now, as well the events from earlier. She seemed pleased with herself as she continued to stare distantly at her dream’s sky.
Then lightning as black as night tore across the sky in the direction Sierra was gazing. As it struck, a line of purple remained across a large portion of the blue background of the strange world.
The line slowly parted. As it opened, Sierra distinctly saw the sclera, iris, and the pupil of a human eye. The eye searched the sky, seemingly taking in this most abstract setting. Its attention settled over onto Sierra.
An unfamiliar voice seemed to come from its direction, “I’ve found you, dreamer. Your power will be mine.” The call was followed by a deep, dark, throaty chuckle that echoed throughout the skyscape.
Sierra then experienced yet another new sensation. It was fear. She closed her eyes tightly and willed herself awake.
Back in the little girl’s bedroom everything was as she left it.
The overhead light was still on. Her unadjusted eyes strained against the momentary shock of the brightness of the room. Sierra squinted and averted her head toward the window. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes and brought her heavy breathing back to its normal, moderate rate.
She could tell by the light sneaking in through the tan horizontal blinds that the sun was rising outside. Darkness was giving way to the light.
Sierra eased off her bed and went directly over to the drawer of her nightstand. She hesitated for a moment before pulling it open.
She opened the small wooden box and peered inside. Her ladybug friend was crawling along the stem of the clover. The ladybug’s back was now solid red. It too had lost its spots. The clover leaves had wilted. Large black spots stained much of the green.
The ladybug rose up into its slow buzzing flight and settled itself down on the girl’s right shoulder. Sierra sighed lightly. She had alleviated the burden of her regret, bringing back the beetle, but she couldn’t shake the image of the eye in the sky and that wicked voice.
Sierra wasn’t quite done with that most peculiar world that resided inside of her dreams.
Or perhaps the girl’s dreams weren’t quite done with her.
John Andreula is a writer and dreamer residing in the foothills of Colorado.
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