“Oh! that my young life were a lasting dream!
My spirit not awakening, till the beam
Of an Eternity should bring the morrow.” -Edgar Allan Poe
In a dream Joseph saw himself sleeping. His twelve-year-old body tucked in a thick comforter, on top of his old hand me down mattress. Even as he stood by his bedside, looking at himself, he could feel the warmth of the comforter. “Curious” he thought to himself, he decided to explore this dream. He looked out his window, the moon still bright, and with a bit of concentration he passed through the window, like a ghost in a movie. Gently floating to the ground from his second floor room, in the way gravity’s laws hold no sway over a dreamer. He explored the empty streets as snow started to fall. With great leaps he could almost fly, floating as he ignored gravity and the rules of the wakening world.
The streets were dark and only the sound of an occasional car could be heard in the distance, Joseph did not feel the night chill he should have. After a little time of playing and exploring he saw something. Down the darkly lit street was a figure, a silhouette of a child no older than him; the figure had no facial features and appeared to be a black mass only in the shape of a boy. It turned; even without eyes Joseph could tell it was staring at him. Unnerved by the figure Joseph ran home. Moving faster than his wakening legs would manage. He never looked back to see if he was followed.
Stopping when he reached the front of his house, standing on the front steps was his mother. The tall, blue-eyedwoman was smoking a cigarette in her pajamas, breaking another promise to quit. As she dropped the ashes into the flower-pot next to her Joseph wanted to yell at her. However he quickly found he had no voice, as he tried to gain his mother’s attention he found she did not notice him at all. She tossed the last of her cigarette into the flower-pot before going back inside, Joseph followed inside as well, and walking back to his room was the last thing he remembered before being awakened by the sun in his eyes.
As he walked out the door the next morning, he nearly forgot his dream. In the flower-pot by the door there as a cigarette bud. “She really is smoking again” he thought to himself with a sigh as he made his way to the bus stop. It wasn’t till lunch that he noticed how tired he was, unable to keep his eyes open any longer he fell asleep right in the cafeteria, once again he dreamed. He saw himself face down in his chair, and the spit balls on his back from the kids at the table behind him. He watched the room at bit before moving out of the cafeteria. Unsure where to go, he moved to his next class. There he saw Miss Frances, teaching the class on the schedule ahead of him. They looked to be taking a pop quiz, Joseph felt dread at the thought.
Once again none of the kids or the teacher noticed him as he moved between desks, looking over each of his peers shoulders. Bored of school, he decided to move outside. He put his hands to the window ready to float out them like he had done before, however he noticed a dark figure just below. It was the faceless child again, crawling up the wall as it were the floor. It was on all fours now, looking even less human with extended arms and fingers that ended in points like one large claw.
Joseph almost fell out of his chair as the loud ringing noise of the bell went off. Once he stood up, he noticed the spit balls falling off his back, with a quick rub he wiped the rest off angrily and moved to the next period. There Miss Frances announced a pop quiz. The Quiz read the same as it did before. Suddenly remembering the window he ran over and looked down…yet there was nothing there. The rest of the class stared at him. Mumbling “Thought I saw something” he sat back down and took the quiz. Joseph however could barely write, he was starting to understand his dreams were more tied to reality then he thought.
Over the next few days Joseph went to bed earlier and earlier, looking forward to his dream like playground. It was clear now that no one could see him in this state. He started with spying on his older sister as she spent time in her room, wakening and sneaking in the room later to confirm what he saw in his sleep. He did not see the dark figure for a few nights, and slowly stopped thinking about it, enjoying his new found powers too much. However each time he waked the less sleep he felt like he had gotten. His mother noticed her sleepy child and decided to keep him home from school in fear of illness.
Before today most of his trips into the dream world had been at night. So Joseph did not put up a fuss when his mother put him back to bed, his body quickly dazed to sleep while his mind his spirit like form awoke. He only took one glance at his sleeping body before running off to the school. This time he was free with no time limit to spy on his peers. He moved faster than he even realized, surprised when he was already looking at the front gates of the school. Looking up at his classroom on the second floor his smile quickly turned to a frown as the creature was standing on the other side. Joseph turned around to run away but stopped when he heard a loud “Smash!” as the sound of glass landed on the ground. He turned around and saw his peers looking out of a broken window confused, an angry teacher beyond them. Joseph was shocked at the realization this creature could affect the real world.
As the weekend started Joseph had doubts if he should still be exploring this dream world. Despite his fears however he was enthralled. At this point he slept more than he was awake. He saw his monsters more than once, but managed to avoid it each time. This thing scared him, but it too was part of this dream world that fascinated him. He found it could change its shape, sometimes looking more human, more like a child. Other times it looked completely inhuman, like a dark beast. He always watched from a distance, and ran away when it noticed him. If he was cornered Joseph found he could force himself awake. He was addicted to the dream world. His overworked mother failed to notice, and his teenage sister was too wrapped up in her own life to notice her over sleeping little brother.
It was a cold night; Joseph was busy playing in the snowy streets when he noticed the creature once again. This time it was looking right at him, standing in front of his house. It turned and walked through his front door. Panicked, Joseph thought it was going after his mother or sister and ran after it. He quickly checked his mother’s room, but no sign of it. Then he looked in on his sister, but still not there. Joseph felt relived for a moment before remembering that he still had his own body, sleeping soundly in his bed. Rushing into his own room he saw the creature sitting on the floor, looking like a human child without a face. A soft glow was next to him on the corner of Joseph’s bed. A smile formed on the creature were there was no mouth before, on the floor next to his hand was Joseph’s mother’s lighter. Joseph could feel warmth in his feet, and saw the glow for what it was, fire. He immediately tried to wake up, but he couldn’t. The oil like child got up off the floor, and walking right though the wall. Joseph could not see it, but the newly formed mouth never left the shape of a smile. In a matter of moments the fire spread over the old mattress. Joseph could feel the flames. He felt the burns and he screams in agony, but makes no sound. He ran to his mother’s side trying desperately to wake her. All of his words were without sound, and she slept soundly as her son burned to death.
The neighborhood was awake that night, watching firemen come into and out of there neighbor’s house. A teenager and middle-aged woman were saved thanks to smoke detectors, but the firefighters could do little for the boy whose room the fire started in. The firefighters had seen this sort of thing before, an unwatched child playing with fire and an old mattress. Yes, this was likely another case of the same. Unknown to everyone else however, there was someone else watching. Joseph watched as he saw his mother and sister crying, begging for them to notice him.