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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Dream Lover - Extended - 7. Chapter 7

My heartbeat was racing.

The fear of my own conscious vulnerabilities being used as a weapon against me...it was absolutely terrifying, to say the least. I had nothing to grasp at. Nothing to hold on to. It was just me...all alone...

..falling.

Walking those school halls had never been such a frightening experience for me. Never once. My very grip on the fabric of what I knew to be real and authentic in my daily routine, had now become a very slick, very thin, sheet of ice for me to walk on. Traveling over a vast lake of unexpected danger. Waiting to fall through at any given moment, whether I was cautious about my footing or not.

This was no dream, dammit. Caleb was real. He's REAL, and I know it! Except...now...instead of me chasing him...I think he's chasing me!

I attempted to keep myself calm. Still holding on to the fragile hope that this nightmare would all go away and simply leave me alone once I stopped thinking about it so much. It wasn't believable enough of a story for anyone to possibly offer me any kind of serious help. The most they could do would be to lock me up for being totally out of my fucking mind and pray for me to get better. Hell...I was beginning to wonder if maybe that was just what I needed. Maybe this lucid dreaming practice of mine has some serious side effects that I wasn't prepared for. Maybe I really am just losing myself to this fabrication of weirdness and I just need some more sleep at night. Maybe it's the stress of moving into this big house and having to adjust to my new surroundings while I get comfortable enough to call it 'home'. Who knows?

I tried to rationalize the whole thing out according to all of the things that I had been told since this madness began. I kept trying to find that logical twist that would take that fear and mystery away long enough for me to figure out what to do about it. But...I had no luck in faking myself out. The realization that something more sinister was right there...waiting for me, calling me out, making me recognize its stubborn position in the back of my mind no matter how insane the concept seemed to my waking conscious...it wasn't something that I could just wish away anymore. It was here to stay. And it always remained one step behind me the entire time I was awake...two steps ahead of me whenever I was asleep. No matter how quickly I tried to run from it.

My next class was an exhausting exercise in extreme focus. I didn't dare let my mind wander off into nothingness, not even for a second. And yet...there was something in the very core of my subconscious that was constantly tugging at my senses. Forcing me to notice. Trying to drain myenergy and get me to fall back into a deep state of sleep. All of my efforts to fight it off seemed to be in vain. It only made the pull stronger.

I shouldn't be tired right now. I should be wide awake. Awake and alert. But the silent lullaby of sudden sleep kept trying to lure me back into its warm embrace. Was it Caleb doing this? Or was I simply tired from staying up so late last night. It was hard to tell. But every few minutes, as my teacher was talking and writing on the blackboard...I felt that dark enticement all over again. That loss of concentration. The haze that covered my eyes with a seductive fog and threatened to suck me right back into that awful dream world where Caleb was waiting. Waiting to take hold of me and refuse to let go. It felt almost like I was getting ready to faint, my body swaying to and fro as I struggled to keep my eyes open. The sound of my teacher's voice blending and blurring into this distant hum of incomprehensible chatter. The sleep....the sleep was sooooo enchanting. It was hard to resist its invitation, even with the icy chill of fear running through my veins at the thought of being near him again.

The classroom seemed to tilt to the side with the bliss of accepting my slumber's call. The walls seemed to bend inward, and the tops of my folded hands appeared to be the perfect pillow for me to rest my weary head and shut my burning eyes. Just for a minute or two. That's all. Just long enough to sooth the fire of tired eyes.

Waves of comforting heat washed over my face, covering my cheeks in this fatigued tingle that begged me to stop resisting. But, despite my trance, I fought it. I fought it with everything I had. I tried to pinch myself on the arm, hoping that the pain of it would keep me awake. But my body was already numb with temptation, the lure of a quick and restful nap pulling me deeper into the abyss. It was almost as if I could hear Caleb breathing softly in my ear. Or...was it my own steady breathing...as my body began to lose the battle against its own fragility.

I was thankful to hear the next bell ring shortly after so I could get the opportunity to physically move around a bit. I figured it would help to keep my wits about me. I needed caffeine. LOTS of it!

I stopped by the downstairs cafeteria on my way to my next class, and got three Cokes and a Mountain Dew soda out of the machine. I wish we had something stronger, but those will have to do for now. I opened the Mountain Dew first and guzzled it down as fast as I could, only stopping twice to take a breath and to keep the fizzy bubbles from burning my throat.

It only took a few minutes for the jolt of artificial energy to kick in. I found myself able to at least keep my eyes open for a while longer. That strange pull on my senses was still bugging me, but it was powerless against the almost obnoxious sugar rush that was now flowing through my system. It gave me some temporary relief, but what was I gonna do? Not ever sleep again? That's unlikely.

I was able to hammer it out to the end of my next class without too much trouble. But the bad thing about a halfhearted sugar rush is that when you finally DO crash and burn, it's even worse than it was before. Soon my body began to drop down from its temporarily caffeinated high, and it realized that it had just spent the last forty five minutes rapidly burning off what little energy I had to begin with, without having access to any more 'fuel'. My sleepiness got worse, and I was forced to open another soda in the middle of my next class. Naturally, my teacher objected once she took notice. But I had already guzzled half of it down by then, and she figured she could avoid making a distraction by just letting me finish it in class.

This time, the short energy boost didn't even last as long as the one before it. And I began to drop off almost immediately. It was like that dreamy trance was feeding off of it somehow, getting more potent. Devouring my energy, minute by minute, until it was all gone. Adapting tomy defenses. It wanted me back. It wanted me to surrender to its commands and lull me back to sleep without resistance. Without question. The dizziness was unbearable. And when I fought to stay awake, it only became more aggressive.

Finally, the next bell rang, allowing me to get out of my seat and stand on my feet again. With a stretch, I attempted to find my balance again. But then...as I looked at the blackboard in front of the room....I noticed the words written across it began to magically rearrange themselves into weird symbols and handwritten gibberish. I quickly reached up to rub my eyes, but when I looked again, the swirling images began to spin faster and faster, until the chalk dust began to flare up in a cloud of smoke. Everything else around me seemed normal, but I couldn't ignore what was going on. My teacher sat at her desk, not noticing anything wrong, and I hurried out of the classroom door before things got any worse.

I can't make it stop. I'm trying to...but I can't.

I rubbed my eyes again, looking around me. I'm awake now. I'm awake. I'm in school....right? This....this is reality. Reality. I'm ok. Everything is ok.

I walked slowly down the hall, knowing that I only had two classes left to go before the end of the day. But as I navigated the path between hundreds of other high school kids in the halls, I began to pick out tiny little details that didn't seem to belong here. I noticed a water fountain that was flowing upwards into someone's mouth instead of arcing down like it should. I noticed an upside down banner for the school dance in the main hallway. And some of the tiles in the floor were crooked and out of place. The more I tried to widen my eyes and focus on what was real and what was weird...the more my eyes deceived me. I noticed some crumpled up paper blowing across the ceiling, a laminated hall sign that seemed to be shifting and moving as though it were alive, and a trash can that was slowly spilling over all by itself, the garbage bubbling up from the center before spilling out onto the floor.

My vision was so distorted at that moment. I was forced to lean up against a nearby locker for support, the rotating nasea of the walls and floor around me making it nearly impossible to stand.

"Donnie..." Came a whisper over my shoulder.

I immediately jumped away from the locker to see where the voice was coming from. I stared at the locker's shiny surface and noticed a dull reflection in it. Behind me....stood a blond boy, looking over my shoulder. Waiting.

"Donnie...." I spun around again.

There was nothing there. Nothing at all.

It was then that I saw a locker opening wide at the end of the hall, just before turning the corner. And then another, slightly closer to me. Then another. And another. They all began to open, on both sides of the hall. The wave of metal rushing towards me all at once. "I just want you to love me, Donnie! Why don't you love me anymore?"

"LEAVE ME ALONE!!!!" I shouted out loud, and noticed three girls standing in front of me in the hall who simultaneously jumped at my sudden outburst.

"What the hell is YOUR problem, spaz?!?!" Said one of the ladies, and they proceeded to give me a dirty look as they blew me off and kept walking down the hall in peace. I straightened my shirt, looking all around me, and the hallway was normal again. Trash in its place, tiles back in line, lockers closed. It took a moment or two before I felt safe even moving from my current position. I looked at the locker behind me, and there was no reflection in its dull painted surface. I can't even remember why I believed the lockers would cast any reflection at all. When you're dreaming, the weirdest things make sense to you sometimes.

I searched my surroundings out of the corner of my eye, moving as little as possible. Other students turned their heads to give me a bewildered expression as I stood there, confused, in the middle of the hallway.

Is any of this real...or is it just another clever trick? Or...was the dream itself a trick?

I could feel the eyes of the other students glaring at me. Gawking at the freak who was having a full blown mental breakdown right here in the middle of my academic work sentence.

Lost for any logical option worth pursuing...I grabbed both sides of my head with my hands and leaned up against the wall behind me...trying to rub these deceptive demons out of my skull. God....it felt so good to close my eyes. Even in agony. Soooooo good...to close my eyes.

I broke myself out of a beginning trance, and stood upright again. I'm not going to make it through the last few periods of school at this rate. I've got to get out of here. I've got to...got to get out...

It was a concept that brought me some peace of mind, believe it or not. The fact that I could walk out of here, right past security. If I crack up...then I just crack up. Hehehe! I guess that if was destined to lose my wits and crack up completely, then I can at least do it at home. Just...home. At least....that was my logic at the time.

I made a beeline to my locker and grabbed everything I needed for the rest of the night, and then locked it up before heading outside to the bus stop. I could have asked Bax for a ride. I'm sure he would have jumped at the chance to ditch school a few periods early with the semi-legitimate excuse of taking his sick friend home. But that whole conversation would have led to him asking questions that I simply couldn't answer right now. Questions that would have made me sound even more 'looney toons' than I already did when I brought it up in the first place. Not to mention that he'd tell Jeff and April the moment he dropped me off at the house. Two people who would worry even more than usual about the stability of my well-being. Somehow, having to lean on them was just making me feel like such a leech. You know? They don't understand. They don't see it like I see it. So any further assistance from them can't be much more than a total burden on their part. A burden, and a useless attempt at sympathy that, ultimately, wouldn't do me any good in the end.

No...I can do this myself. All on my own. I can get him to stop. Caleb, that is. I can simply get him to stop.

I deliberately stood in the center aisle of the bus on the way home. Even though there were plenty of seats, the vibration of the bus seats and the motion of the vehicle alone would have put me to sleep instantly if I wasn't careful. The cold October air had chilled me to the point of being uncomfortably alert while I was waiting, but the heated interior of the transport was treating me to a soothing lullabye that was oh so hard to resist.

Standing up was the only thing keeping me conscious. But it still begged the question...what happens when I get home? What happens when the running river of sleep inevitably wins, and I'm no longer able to struggle against its compelling current? Sleep is the enemy...but it is going to take me over eventually. There's no way around that.

My only hope was to figure out a way to get rid of Caleb's phantom once and for all before I was forced to surrender to the Land of Nod.

I paced back and forth, tried every random activity, enjoyed every gulp of caffeinated soda, every intense video game, every selection of upbeat music that I could find to play at full volume through my earphones. But sleep came for me eventually. I knew it would.

It had only taken an hour and a half for it to claim me once I got home. I had no choice but to give in to its demands. God help me, I just gave up.

Even in the dream, I kept my eyes closed. I knew that I was there. I could feel the oddity of my surroundings almost instantly.

I pulled the covers up to my neck and rolled over on my side, my ears perking up to listen for any other noises that might exist there in that room.

Nothing.

There was nothing but silence around me. The kind of silence where you can hear your own pulse rushing through your ears as you lay your head on the pillow below. The sound of my fearful heartbeat was almost deafening.

Minutes ticked by, and I wondered how long I would have to stay here before I was 'allowed' to wake up again. Time doesn't exist in this place. Not like it should. It could be weeks, maybe even MONTHS, before I'm able to open my eyes again. And it was then that I began to tremble slightly, as I heard faint whispers coming from every random corner in the room.

I tightened up. Unable to decipher what the whispers were saying, I curled up into a tighter ball and mentally refused to let myself become a part of the dream that I was trapped in. I didn't dare open my eyes. I wouldn't let this false reality force me to be an active participant in any of this. Not anymore.

I don't want to be here. I just want to sleep. Please....just let me sleep.

The whispers got stronger. Louder. Closing in on me from all sides. I did all I could to block them out but covering my ears did no good. Then...I felt a shift in weight...pressing down on the bed. As though someone were 'kneeling' on it beside me.

I held my breath for a moment, still trying to gain some kind of control. Still trying to push him out of my current thoughts. But the mattress continued to creak beneath us as his feather weight body crawled further up on the bed, his knees straddled on either side of me.

Don't look. Don't let him in. Block him out. Fight it, Donnie! Fight it!

I could feel the warmth of Caleb's breath on my cheek as he leaned over me in an attempt to look me in the eye. He waited for a moment...before giving me a tender kiss on the side of my face. I squinted my eyes together even tighter than before, and clutched at the blanket as firmly as I could. As though it could be much of a shield against what I was dealing with in this place. The shadowed form above me paused, and then I felt it slide over to the side to lay down beside me, spooning up to my backside in the most intimate way. An arm slid its way around my middle, and I felt a single finger run slow circles around my navel. I couldn't block it out. I tried, but I was powerless to keep him and his sensual touches at bay. "Donnie?" He whispered, his cold breath blowing on the back of my neck. "Donnie, what's wrong? Talk to me."

I finally found the courage to speak, albeit with a shaky voice. "Please...just leave me alone."

"Why?" He asked. "Don't you love me anymore?" It was then that I felt a warm liquid gushing out over my exposed stomach. It was coming from his wrist as he held me close. It began to soak the sheets and slide over the surface of my skin with its sickening ooze. Only then did I finally open my eyes, and look down to see a growing pool of fresh blood spreading out over the sheets.

"STOP IT!!!" I screamed. I quickly jumped out of the bed and ran over to a corner of the room, my body twitching involuntarily as though I was covered in spiders. But when I looked back at the bed, even though the darkened blood stain was still there...Caleb was gone.

I looked around my room, searching for a trace of him, but didn't see anything at all. Had I woken up from the dream? Is this real now? Or am I still asleep? It was getting harder to trust my own eyes these days. I seemed to be caught in the middle of both worlds, real and unreal...each one fighting for my conscious devotion while elements of both spilled over into my waking life. Certain things were familiar, others weren't. Some details remained the same, while others...I expected them to change dramatically at any moment. I never knew where the dream started, and reality ended. Maybe the line between perception and truth is a lot thinner than I ever could have imagined.

I walked quietly to the bedroom window and looked outside. I sharpened my focus, trying not to fall into some careless level of 'dream logic' that could be used to further deceive me. That's when I found what I was looking for. The sidewalk was cracked and broken and dyed a shade of dark green. Not normal. Not for me.

Dreaming. Definitely. Nice try, Caleb.

I backed away from the window sill, watching to see if Caleb would try to slide his way back into view again. I didn't touch anything. I didn't try to change anything, or control the situation. I gave myself over to it a little bit, wiping my mind clean of its awareness and trying to simply let things happen like they were supposed to. No more. I have to stop playing his game. That's all there is to it. Just...STOP, already!

I think my ignoring of his 'call' made Caleb extremely angry. Because I could see those familiar storm clouds rolling in towards the neighborhood from a distance. Dark, turbulent, masses of lightning and thunder, flooding the once peaceful sky with its ominous presence, shaking the hollow walls and unstable foundations around me. I knew what was coming. And this time, I was ready.

I stood my ground as the roof above me began to tear itself away, strip by strip, and the angry winds blew into my face, making it hard to breathe. And then...I saw Caleb Jordan's dark form appear slowly in front of my very eyes. His grin was so natural, so sweet. His green eyes were glimmering with the kind of admiration that could lift someone's heart and soul...if only they weren't afraid to accept it. And yet, he carried with him an air of menace that I couldn't deny. Those eyes looked right through me. Manipulating me. Daring me to resist their every command.

"Why are you doing this?" I asked. He moved closer, hoping that his mildly threatening beauty could win over my hesitation to reach out to him.

"Don't be afraid of me, Donnie. I don't want to hurt you. I would never hurt you." He begged with a boyish whine.

"What do you want from me?"

"I told you before...I don't want ANYTHING. I just..." He stepped closer, an imploring look in his eyes, "...I want things to be just like they were before. That's all. I mean...we had fun, didn't we?"

"Caleb...please..." I started, but he interrupted me.

"You're so cute. Just seeing you here makes me soooo happy." He reached out his hand slowly to touch the fabric of my shirt, and a chill rushed its way through me. "You know...I dream about you sometimes. Here, in this place."

"Dream? About me?"

"Yeah. I can't explain it either." He giggled. "I dream about your waking life. Kinda like how you dream about me here. I only get little bits and pieces, but I like it. It's nice to see how you live."

I stood frozen for a moment. Does Caleb know that he's in a dream? Or does he not? It's hard to tell sometimes.

Caleb leaned in to kiss me, but I quickly turned away from him. A hurt look crossed his face. It was quick to vanish though, and his smile returned even brighter than before. Feeling the creepy tension surrounding our little interaction in here, ?I took a deep breath and I told him, "Caleb? I think I have to...wake up now."

"Don't be silly. You just got here. You should stay. You need your sleep."

"No...seriously. I...I forgot, I've got to do something important before school tomorrow. I should get up and...and finish it..." I tried to bluff my way out of it, but he wasn't buying it.

"Donnie...come on. Quit fooling around. Talk to me."

"Seriously, Caleb! I want to wake up, ok?" I said louder. More firm in my stance on the matter. I noticed that the painted walls of my bedroom began to darken, and an ice cold breeze began to blow in through my open window. Caleb looked at me suspiciously. Realizing that my attitude was affecting the shape and feelof the dream world around me.

"Are you still scared of me?" He asked.

"No. No, I'm not scared." But the dream betrayed me. Every detail created by my subconscious thoughts began to melt and become a part of everything around me. Changing it. Warping it to fit my growing sense of fear and dread. I couldn't really stop it from happening. Trying ti 'fix' things only made them worse. "I'm fine. I just...I need to wake up now. Ok?" I asked, as Caleb seemed slightly confused by my reaction. "So....can you please....just let me out? Please?"

"Is that what you think? That I'm forcing you to be here?" He pouted. I didn't say anything at first, but as the cold wind got even more frigid, and the walls turned completely black, Caleb knew exactly what I was thinking. What I was feeling. He narrowed his eyes, almost as if he resented me for lying to him. "You just wanna leave me. That's what it is. You wanna leave me here to suffer all alone."

"I don't want you to suffer, Caleb. I just wanna go home..."

"LIAR!!!" He shouted. "You used me! You tell me you love me, but you DON'T! You talk to me and act all nice and sweet...but you don't give a SHIT about me! Do you???" A tear slipped from his eye as his bottom lip began to quiver. "DO YOU???"

He was getting angry again, and I heard the loud crack of thunder in the dream clouds overhead. I didn't want him to explode. Not again. I needed to comfort him enough where he figured it would be ok to let me go. I needed him to understand. So I slowly peeled my back away from the wall, and took a few unbalanced baby steps in his direction. I hope my poker face is as convincing as I'm hoping it will be. "Caleb, honey...?” I said softly. Sweetly. “...it's alright. I promise you, it's alright." I attempted to mentally put the room back to normal again, hoping to hide my feelings from him long enough to get him to listen to me. He had his head down, his blond locks shielding his crying eyes from me. I touched his arm, and he pulled away from me. But...when I reached out a second time...he let it stay, and began to whimper softly as he moved forward to hug me and cry on my shoulder. "Shhhhh...it's ok. I'm here, Caleb. Ok? I'm here."

"Why did you take it back? Why don't you love me anymore? You said you wanted me. You said you felt the same way that I did. I thought we could be together. I thought we were going to be be happy." I looked down at the top of his blond hair and became a bit confused. It was weird, but I don't think he was actually talking about 'me' anymore. "You said you would never hurt me, Brett. Never. You promised." As Caleb's hand caressed my shirt, the color started to change, and it felt as though my appearance was starting to change right along with it.

"Who's Brett, Caleb? Who is he?" I asked, seeing the change spread even further. Caleb looked up at me with teary eyes. So vulnerable. So helpless. "Who is Brett?" I asked again.

"He...he hurt me, Donnie. It won't go away. It still HURTS!" Caleb's eyes turned black, and his tears began to run red with blood. I saw him frown up, the anger returning to his voice. "He said, 'you knew what this was'. How the fuck can somebody SAY that to someone else? He threw it all back in my face! He just wanted to cut me off, and go be with someone else instead!!! Someone *ELSE* instead!!!" The thunder roared loudly outside as Caleb's turbulent emotional shift seemed to fully enrage the whole environment. And then, in an instant, his mood changed again. And he returned to sobbing sadly against my shoulder. "He didn't want to be seen with me. He wanted to whisper 'I love you' behind closed doors...but he never wanted to say it out loud. Never once.” He sniffled as he tried, in vain, to wipe the tears away. “He got mad at me, Donnie. I fucked up. I really fucked up! I missed him, don't you get it? He wouldn't TALK to me anymore, I didn't know what to do! He...he turned me away and just tossed my love for him in the fucking gutter!" Caleb released his hold on me. "Just like you are now."

The thunder blasted loudly, and Caleb began to slowly float away from me, his feet sliding back just above the floor's surface. My clothes went back to normal, and he began to see me for 'me' again. But the very fabric of this fantasy world seemed to be weakening. The walls began to crack. The floor boards tilted and stretched, and the sky itself began to sink inward, looking as though it were ready to cave in on top of me. The winds began to blow curtains straight out and the sheets on my bed were pushed to the floor along with a chaotic assortment of papers and debris from my desk. Eventually, I had to find something to hold on to just to keep my balance, and squinted my eyes tightly as the room erupted in a cyclone of windswept litter. Caleb levitated even further off of the floor, his arms outstretched as his jealous eyes burned a hole right through me.

"I won't be hurt like that again." He said, his voice a deep layered growl that seemed to echo off in the distance. "I won't let you take advantage of my heart for your own sick pleasure, and then just 'forget' about me when you're through having your fun. I'm going to matter to you, Brett. The same way that you matter to me. I've had enough pain in my life to allow any more to penetrate."

"I'm not Brett, Caleb. My name is Donnie. Remember Donnie?"

But he just hovered there with a sinister gleam in his black eyes. Motionless. Completely unaffected by my words. "You think you're just going to walk out on me? Again? You think you can ditch me and go find somebody else to be happy with and just leave me behind? That you can just pretend this never happened? I don't think so. Not this time." He snarled. "I've invested a piece of my heart in your so-called 'love'...and I plan to get it back. Even if I have to personally fucking rip it out of your chest myself....."

It was then that the storm let loose with its fury, and the harsh winds and pelting rain came pouring in from above. The combination of the two were so heavy that I could barely see, much less breathe. It looked as though the whole world was being swept up in a hurricane of rage and heartbreak, and just as my grip began to slip and I was pulled away from the horror and sucked back into reality. I was awake. Thank God...I was awake.

I was laying face down in my bed. Away from the storm. Away from Caleb. But...

...For some reason...I couldn't move. I was 'aware', but still asleep. Numb. Limp. I could hear my own shallow breathing, slow and steady, and wanted to desperately take deeper breaths. It almost felt like I was suffocating. I was laying in an uncomfortable position, my neck and shoulder sore from the angle of my head on the pillow. And yet, I remained still.

I tried to move my arms and legs, tried to open my eyes, but my body was paralyzed from head to toe. Every inch of me was stuck in that position. I couldn't speak. I could barely breathe. I couldn't do anything at all. I just lay there, still, feeling like a lost soul trapped in a dead body. It only took a few seconds of pointless struggle before I began to feel a panic coming on. What WAS this??? It was as if I was stuck between both worlds. No longer submerged in the dream, but not fully immersed in reality, and yet...mentally awake. Caleb was still trying to pull me back in. Still holding on. He wouldn't let me go.

I don't know how much time had passed, but I was almost ready to give up my protest and allow myself to return to the dream, if only to escape the hell of being so helpless in my own body. Then...I felt my finger move. Dear God..it moved! I tried to do it again...and again. It took every last ounce of concentration that I had to cause even the slightest of twitches to occur, but it was working. I could hear my own gentle snoring getting deeper, a tingling sensation flowing through my body...and soon, I felt one of my legs move and bend at the knee....almost voluntarily. Caleb's hold on me was weakening. I had to take advantage of my one opportunity to get away from him! Determined to get out of this limbo, I frantically focused on trying to move any part of my body that would respond to my command. A finger. A toe. An arm. A leg. Caleb CAN'T hold me here forever! I won't let him!

It seemed like it took forever, but I eventually got my arm to lazily move up the mattress until it was up by my cheek, and with a push I was able to maneuver my way over to lie on my back. At least I felt as though I could breathe normally again. And as the tender 'buzz' left my limbs...I was finally able to open my eyes, and found myself staring at the ceiling. I was breathing hard from all of my unconscious wiggling, and my heart was beating fast from the scare of it all, but I was thankful to be awake.

I looked over at my bedroom window, which was still closed, but I could swear that I could still feel the harsh winds of Caleb's storm striking me across the face. Every time I dream about him, he seems to get more real. More concrete. And it affects everything I do, even when I'm awake. Like now.

At least...I hope I'm awake.

I jumped out of my bed as soon as I had the energy, and it was still incredibly early for getting ready to go to school. In fact, my Dad was still downstairs getting ready to go himself, his morning English Muffin popping up in the toaster to accompany his first cup of coffee.

I went to the bathroom first, and then picked up my phone to dial Chucky's cell number. Chucky was always at school an hour or two early. They served breakfast in the cafeteria, and since his mom wasn't much of a morning person, it was either that, or starve until lunch. Besides, he realized that it was one of the only times that he could use the library and computer lab equipment in peace. No other kids would be caught dead trying to spend a single minute more in that academic building than they were forced to by law on a daily basis. Either way, for Chucky to get to school that early, he'd have to be awake even earlier in order to get there. So I took a chance and hoped for the best.

Please be there, Chucky. Please be awake.

Finally, I heard his cell phone click. "What the heck shook YOU awake this early in the morning? Was there an earthquake that I didn't know about?" He answered, seeing my number pop up.

"Chucky! I've gotta come see you!"

"I'm flattered. Um....do you want to tell me why, exactly?"

"It's about the dream!"

He sighed. "Again with the dream. Dude, what do I have to do to get you to leave that whole thing alone? Huh? I already told you...it's just your imagination. You're only making things worse by thinking about it allthe time."

"Chucky, please! Just...tell me where to meet you. If for no other reason than to have some more psychotic ramblings from me to put in your notebook." There was a momentary pause, as I figured that he was pondering over whether or not to indulge me in this fantasy any longer or put his foot down and tell me to knock it off. I made sure to get in one more plea while I still had him on the edge. "C'mon, man! Look, worst case scenario...you get a perfect example of what happens to people when they use the lucid dreaming techniques you showed me way more than they're supposed to and don't get enough regular REM sleep. Right?" I told him. "It's for science."

Chucky almost didn't want to answer, but he finally said, "Listen, I'm heading up to the second floor library. I'll be in the back near the video viewing rooms. I can meet you there. But I've got some homework that I've GOT to finish, so make it over here quick, ok?" He grunted, but I could tell he was interested. “As long as it's for science...”

"THANKS, man! I owe you one!" I hung up the phone and rushed to get dressed. I washed up and brushed my teeth, looking at my hair in the mirror. I didn't take a lot of time to fix it, but I didn't really need to do much to it anyway. And then, as I was packing up my backpack and putting on my shoes...I heard a low rumble of thunder rolling in my direction. Deep, and foreboding. I froze up instantly, my eyes widening to search my room for anything strange.

No. No, I'm awake. Right? I mean...I know for a fact that I woke up. Almost an hour ago. I...I got out of bed. I talked to Chucky on the phone. I brushed my teeth. This...this has to be real. It HAS to be.

I heard a bumping noise coming from outside my bedroom door. It was soft, but I heard it.

'Thump, thump, thump'.

Quiet. Steady.

I opened my bedroom door, taking a deep breath...and then...sighed in relief as I saw my dad lightly pounding in a few raised staples down on the carpeted stairs leading up the second floor.

"Jesus, Dad." I said, feeling my heart still pounding in my chest.

"What's the matter?" He asked.

"Nothing. I just..." How do I say this exactly? "...I thought I was dreaming."

"Well, technically, you should be. You've been getting up awfully early in the morning these days. You're not getting your rest, and it's starting to show." He stood up, dusting off the knees of his slacks. "I hope I didn't wake you up, I was trying to be quiet. Some of these raised staples can be a hazard if you let them remain untouched for too long." He stopped for a second, and got a good look at me. "Are you sure that you've been getting enough sleep, kiddo? You're really getting rings under your eyes."

"If you ask me, I've been getting too much sleep." I told him, not following that up with an explanation. I started to turn around and walk back into my room, but he spoke to me.

"Uh...you might want to take an umbrella today." I could hear the tone in his voice. It was one of those 'do you need to talk?' tones where he felt awkward, but obligated, to ask and make a connection anyway. "It...looks like rain, outside." My dad knows that I like boys, but I don't think he really understands it as much as I'd like him to. My parents worry too much. Even about the simple stuff. Some days, they act like I'm hiding a nuclear bomb from them in the basement or something, just because I don't want to talk about my feelings. I'm a teenager. I never want to talk to my parents about my feelings. I just wish I had a way to convince them that I was fine without having to constantly say the words, 'Mom, Dad...I'm fine'.

There was a short moment of silence between us, and I just said, "Thanks. I'll...take one with me."

"Good." He just stood there, tapping his fingers on the rail of the staircase. "So...you're still liking the new house, right? I mean, you're not sorry that we moved away...?"

I interrupted him before he got into any kind of meaningful conversation about the move. It really wasn't that much of a big deal. It's not like we left the state. "You know what? I think I'm just gonna...go to school early today. So...?" I waited for him to get the hint, and thankfully, he did.

"Sure. Ok. That's ok." He made sure to look closer, just in case I was secretly 'upset' and wouldn't tell him about it. Sigh...parents just don't get it sometimes. "I'll see you around at dinner then, alright?" He sounded so concerned. As though I needed his quality time and attention and he had just become aware of it. My father was one of those people who always worries that he's not doing enough. So when he sees an opportunity where he might have been lacking in the 'daddy' department, he always wants to fix it with a family dinner discussion or something similar. Real 'Brady Bunch' shit. It wasn't necessary, but, you know...whatever does it for him. At least I know he cares.

"Dinner. Sure thing, Dad." I said lazily, and went back into my room to finish getting ready. He meant well, I know. But it wasn't the kind of help I needed at the moment. Not by a long shot.

I had to take my bike over instead of waiting for Baxter and the gang to come pick me up, but I'm sure I'll catch up with them later. Right now, I was just hoping that Chucky had something in his notebook about haunted recurring dreams, causes and effects. Otherwise, I'm all on my own. And I don't have any idea of where to begin on my own.

As soon as I got a few blocks away from the school, the first few drops of rain began to fall. And it wasn't long before I was speeding through the streets to get there and lock up before I found myself soaking wet. Maybe I should have taken that umbrella with me after all.

Don't you hate it when parents are right?

I got inside just as the downpour began to fall. I shook some of the rain water out of my hair as my sneakers obnoxiously squeaked their way up to the second floor library where Chucky was waiting for me.

"You should have brought an umbrella." Were the first sarcastic words out of his mouth as he saw me standing there dripping wet.

"Duh! Really?"

"I don't have a whole lot of time. This paper is kicking my ass, and I've got to have it finished by seventh period today. I'm NOT skipping lunch, either!" Chucky told me, pushing his glasses up on the bridge of his nose. He opened his notebook and turned to the section with my individual dream notes in it. "Alright, notes ready, pen ready, subject....thoroughly shaken, not stirred...tell me what's going on."

"I'm not in control anymore."

He looked up at me. "What are you talking about?"

"The DREAM, Chucky! I'm not in control. I thought I was, and I was trying hard to get it back...but....something's wrong. Something's different. It's like he can tell when I'm asleep and when I'm awake. He can pull me in whenever he WANTS to..."

"Whoah, hold on, Donnie! Slow down. You're talking about him as if he was a real person."

"He IS a real person, and he's haunting my dreams!" I said louder, and it caused the librarian to look up from her breakfast bagel and shush us with a frowned expression. "Look, yesterday, I was taking a test, and Caleb showed up right in the middle of it. It was like he sucked me right in."

Chucky couldn't really grasp what I was saying. Not fully. "Dude....maybe you just fell asleep during the test. It's not like that's never happened to anybody before..."

"I didn't fall asleep. I was wide awake the entire time. And he was THERE. He was trying to pull me in all day yesterday. And last night, it happened again. I can't even tell what's real and what isn't half the time. I can feel him chasing me..."

"You haven't been sleeping, Donnie. That's what's causing your confusion." I started to shake my head furiously and disagree, but Chucky turned to the computer screen and showed me some of the information he pulled up while I was on my way over there. "Look at this, ok? Please? Just...drop the 'ghost story' for a couple of minutes and try to think about this rationally." He said, and scrolled down to some key points that he wanted to highlight. "You see, it says right here that excessive lucid dreaming can sometimes cause paranoia, memory lapses or confusion, restlessness, insomnia..."

"I KNOW all of that! But you're not listening to me!" I said, and the librarian shushed us again from her desk.

"Look at your eyes, Donnie. Have you even seen a mirror lately? You're starting to look like shit." He told me. "You see this notebook? Over ninety percent of the contents of this book is full of your dream weaving work. In just six weeks' time. I TOLD you that you needed a break, Donnie, but you won't listen. You're burning yourself out. You've got to free dream. Your subconscious has a ton of its own problems to work out, and you're not letting it happen like you're supposed to. If anything, you're only giving it more problems to pile up for later."

"I WANT to free dream, Chucky! But I CAN'T! He won't let me..."

"Oh, I see. 'HE' won't let you. Are you hearing yourself right now?" Chucky wasn't buying it. He couldn't seem to get past the goddamn info on that stupid screen. "You're NOT being haunted by the spirit of a dead teenager, Donnie. You're the victim of severe sleep deprivation, that's all. Look at what it says here..." He said, scrolling down a bit more as my frustration began to build. "...Sleep deprivation can be diagnosed by bouts of daytime fatigue, memory loss, difficulty concentrating..."

"Dammit, Chucky!!!" I shouted, and the librarian gave us our final warning. Threatening to kick us both out if we couldn't keep our voices down.

Chucky looked at me with a raised eyebrow, and added, "....Frequent irritability."

"I'm not being irritable, I just..." Please hear me, Chucky. PLEASE just believe me! "This isn't some weird side effect to me not sleeping enough. He's real. Don't you understand that? He talks to me. He knows things about me. Things I do during the day."

"He's in your subconscious, Donnie. Of course he knows things about you. That's what's supposed to happen when you dream."

"But he's not a PART of me, I know it." I pleaded. "I dreamt about him, and he found out that I could see and hear him, and ever since that night...he's been a permanent part of my dreams. Every single night."

"Only because you keep pursuing this fantasy of him being something more than the representation of something that you want to see. Something you need to deal with. You read about this random boy, look at pictures of him, you're getting obsessed..."

"What about yesterday's test? I wasn't thinking about him then. And he literally 'forced' me into a dream state. Right in the middle of class. I couldn't stop him."

"Look, it says right here that in extreme cases, sleep deprivation can even cause mild hallucinations and unexpected, momentary, losses of consciousness." He said calmly. "You were probably half asleep when you went in there. Then you started trying to burn energy that you didn't have on a test that you didn't want to take. Your mind wandered, your lack of decent sleep caused you to temporarily drift off, and you started practically dreaming with your eyes open. Everything that you're telling me is all right here in black and white, Donnie. Don't let your mind play these tricks on you."

"What about this morning, huh? I was trying to get away from him in the dream, but he was trying to pull me back in. He refused to let me wake up. He tried to KEEP me locked in the dream. I couldn't move. It's like my body was...DEAD or something!"

"It's called sleep paralysis, dude. It happens to people all the time. The body creates a special chemical that paralyzes you while you're unconscious. It keeps you from acting out your dreams in a physical way during REM sleep. Like a puppy dreaming about running through a field.” HE said. “Sleep paralysis happens to everybody at one time or another. Sometimes they wake up and their blood circulation hasn't fully gotten rid of the chemical yet. So your body remains paralyzed until it works its way out of your system. That's all it is. There's nothing sinister or supernatural about it. It's science. Normal human biology." Chucky saw me struggling to make him believe, and he put a hand on my shoulder. "Donnie, all of these situations have a perfectly rational explanation. You just have to look for the truth instead of making up some kind of Hollywood sci-fi answer for what's actually happening to you."

"I...I don't understand. It was...it was so real." I said softly, my eyes looking down at the floor. I wanted Chucky's take on the situation to be the answer. But I couldn't shake the feeling that there was something more ominous happening here. Something darker. Something deadly. "It won't stop, Chucky. I can't stop it. This can't just be some kind of simple mistake. It can't just be some random collection of bodily functions that are causing me to feel this way."

"What you are experiencing are severe mood swings and aggravated insomnia based on a picture you saw in a high school yearbook from over a decade ago. That's all. This...'Caleb' character is just a face that your brain is putting on all of the things that you want and need in your life. It's really not all that different from the Jesse McCartney dreams you created for the sake of sexual tension. You're making this happen, Donnie. And the more you think about it, the longer this Caleb person is going to remain a problem for you. Do you understand?"

I tried to fight for what I honestly believed to be the truth. I tried to make him see that this wasn't just some kind of weird psychosis that I was bringing upon myself, simply because I hadn't been getting enough sleep. But...my side of the equation wasn't as well thought out as his. It didn't have a nice internet website to back it up. It didn't have any serious studies or or statistics or supposedly 'sane' arguments in its favor. Instead...I felt my strongest personal instincts trying to give in to what he was saying. And I tried so hard to accept it, that I began to actually believe him. "So....what do I do?"

"Hell, I don't know. Dream about something else." He said. "You're the one in control. You need to remember that. Whenever this character shows up in your dream, make it a point to ignore him. Replace him. Dream about someone else instead. Change the location of your dream from your neighborhood to Paris, or Hawaii, or hell...even the moon if you think it'll help you to get away from him. Take your control back. Then you'll see that it was you all along fabricating this nightmare on your own." I thought about it, and Chucky asked me, "Isn't there anyone else that you could dream about? A powerful image that you could focus on in order to take you away from the norm?"

I didn't exactly blurt it out or anything, but a slight blush came to my cheeks when I thought about it. "Well...I did dream about...'someone' recently. Kind of. But...it was a bit weird for me."

"Was it a strong image?" He asked.

"Oh yeah. It was a strong image. Believe me." I answered. "Just...a friend though."

"Is it Baxter?" What??? How the hell did he guess that?

"W-W-What makes you think it's Bax?"

"Well, first of all...you just stuttered when you asked me that. Second of all, you wouldn't tell me his name. Which makes me believe that I would know who you were talking about if you said it out loud..." He gave me a sideways look. "...There aren't that many people that we both know."

"That doesn't mean..."

"And THIRD of all...you're gay! You're gay, he's blond, you couldn't get much more shallow, cliché, and predictable, if you tried. EVERY gay teen goes gaga for a blond boy. It's so 'paint-by-number', you know? Just plain ridiculous at this point." He told me. "Besides, you have a SERIOUS blond fetish. So it just makes sense."

"I don't have a 'blond fetish'. What are you talking about?"

"I'm talking about the typical gay teenager with the same taste in boys as every other typical gay teenager on the planet." He said, writing more notes in his notebook.

"Don't write that down!"

"I'm not writing 'that' down. That part I'll remember. I'm just taking some notes." He assured me. "Look, it's ok to have a blond fetish. I didn't say there was anything wrong with it."

"There's nothing wrong with it, because I don't have one." I said.

Chucky put down his notebokk for a moment and looked me in the eye. "Sighhhh...is Baxter blond?" He asked me.

"Whatever. Just because Baxter is blond and I've been having sex dreams about him, doesn't mean..."

"So you HAVE been having sex dreams about Baxter?"

"NO!" I said. "Wait...well...not REALLY. I mean it just...." I saw him writing more stuff down in his book. "What are you doing now???"

"THAT...I'm definitely writing in the book."

"I don't have..."

"So Baxter is blond, right?"

"So what?"

"And this new Austin boy you like so much? He's blond too?" He asked, and I gave him a dirty look. "Sorry. April told me."

"Yes. He's blond too. So? Coincidence."

"And this 'Caleb Jordan' boy in your dreams? Is HE blond?"

"Well I didn't MAKE him blond, Chucky! He was blond already...."

"And Jesse McCartney is certifiably blond, right?" I didn't even answer, not that hucky expected me to. "I rest my case. Blond fetish. Congrats, you're but one among the most stereotypical gay teenage boys on the planet. Hooray. Blond boys are like the 'unicorns' of the gay teen experience." He said with a sarcastic twist in his grin. "Don't sweat it, Donnie. To be honest, I'm glad. Anything to keep little ol' me off of your hoochie coochie radar is a blessing, believe me." He snapped his notebook shut as soon as I tried to look at what he wrote down about me and refused to say anything more about it. I heard the morning bell ring, and that meant that school was officially opening its doors. "And now...I'm gonna have to skip lunch to finish my homework. Thanks a lot."

"Chucky...do you really think that thinking about somebody else in the dream can help me get rid of him? Once and for all" I asked hopefully.

"You don't have to get 'rid' of anybody, Donnie. He's not even there. He never was. Just keep guiding your dreams in a different direction until he eventually disappears from your thoughts. That's all you have to do." Chucky told me, and stood up to collect his things. "It's a recurring nightmare. That's all it is. The sooner you work out whatever subconscious malfunctions you have that are stressing you out this way, the sooner you'll get back to 'Donnie Abnormal'. And when he's finally faded away into the back of your mind...do yourself a big favor...." He said, hoisting his backpack up over one of his slim shoulders. "....STOP dream weaving! Ok? Just get yourself some sleep and let your brain work out its own quirks and kinks from now on."

 

He started to walk away from me, and I asked him, "Hey...you're....I mean...you're not gonna mention the Baxter dream thingy to anybody are you? That's, like...between us? On the low?"

He gave me the most malicious smirk, and said, "We'll see how I feel." And he turned around to leave the library. He wouldn't. I doubt it. Would he? Nah...no way.

I looked back at the computer screen he had up, and saw the listing of symptoms and side effects again. The shifts in my mood, the fatigue, the hallucinations...was I really just experiencing some kind of borderline psychosis? Was my behavior that off track where I just wasn't making any sense of the world anymore? Who knows?

I'll try what Chucky suggested. He's been right every time so far. And he's done much more research on this stuff than I have. So I guess it's worth a shot.

Let's just hope that Caleb is as 'unreal' as Chucky says he is.

Otherwise...fighting back may cause more problems than it solves...

Copyright © All Stories and Original Content Copyright © 1998-2008 by Comicality.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

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