Dream Lover - Extended

Chapter 1

I felt my eyes slowly flutter open....

A returning awareness to my waking reality...

Staring at the dark ceiling above me from my scattered and disoriented cluster of bedsheets, I felt a sudden wave of sleep deprived dizziness wash over me, making the whole world rotate with agonizing frustration!

It was that damn noise again.

The one that always sounded like it was coming from the other side of my bedroom wall. Or maybe it was from upstairs. I could never quite get a lock on where it originated. And even if I could, it probably wouldn't stay still long enough for me to figure out what the hell it was. I just knew that that blasted noise never failed to wake me up out of a deep, comforting sleep. It got to me, every time.

It was this slow, rhythmic, knocking. A thump. Like someone tossing large rocks at the wall. It would usually start in the middle of the night, once every week. Always on the same day too. Late Tuesday night, early Wednesday morning, around 3 AM. I could set my watch to it.

I really didn't need this tonight.

< p>I turned over in my bed, trying to block out the noise by pulling the covers up over my head. But it only seemed to get louder. You'd think that anything making such a racket would cause the wall to vibrate, but it didn't. I always stuck my hand out towards the plaster surface to test it. Nothing. Not even a slight bump. So I pulled my pillow over my head and just tried my best to hurry up and go back to sleep, holding its cushion tight over my ears. The sound began to slow down in frequency, it always did. But I could still hear it clearly. It was like....a 'ball' or something...hitting the wall, and then rolling back across the floor to be picked up and thrown at the wall again. Right over my headboard.

 

Finally, after another few minutes of being too aggravated to drift off again, I sat up on my mattress and swung my legs around to put on some socks. It was beyond the second half of October, and the weather was already turning cold on us. This house seemed to reach near freezing temperatures in between the moments where the heat would shut off and come back on again. The warmth the furnace provided never lasted very long. This place was too big and 'airy' to really hold in the warmth like our old apartment did.

I got up and tied my robe around my waist, feeling a chill as I walked out of my bedroom and into the hallway. How was no one else hearing this? I could still make out that haunting thump...repetitively playing out against the wall, and I took a moment to let my eyes adjust to the darkness before going to figure out where it was coming from.

Still in a daze, I was practically sleepwalking through the darkness. I could feel the wisps cold air sliding past my ankles just seconds before hearing the heat finally kick on again. The furnace fired up in the basement again, preparing to make the house comfortable for us all, and I was anxious for the improvement. My nose and lips were a bit cold, but rubbing them with the sleeve of my robe was enough to warm them up to a decent level of comfort. I think I was just more focused on that noise than I was the frigid cold of the old place.

I could vaguely hear my parents snoring in their own bedroom down the hall, obviously not affected by the ruckus at all. I guess it was closer to my room though, so that makes sense. Besides, the way my dad snores, a herd of wild pigs could charge through the living room wearing a quad of clown shoes and I doubt either one of my parents would notice.

I walked slowly forward down the hall, hearing the sound of the decelerating measured thump get stronger with my every step. And then...just as I was close enough to figure out where it was coming from, it seemed like the sound moved altogether. All of a sudden, it was coming from behind me. I looked back towards my room for a moment, where I saw a single baseball glove sitting on the hard wood floor right outside my bedroom door. I squinted my eyes a bit, and it looked as if the glove was 'stained' with something, but I couldn't quite make out what it was. I took a step closer, and heard the sound of a rolling baseball creeping up from behind me. Like a giant marble in the darkness. I stepped sideways against the wall as I watched it slowly roll by...and noticed something strange.

The baseball was completely drenched with smeared blood, leaving a long, red, trail of sickening wetness behind it as it traveled towards the glove on the floor.

I watched in silence.

What was this? What the hell is going on?

The ball finally reached its destination, and the moment it made contact with the glove, the mitt snapped open all by itself and captured it.

I stared blankly at this phenomena, not knowing what to do, or if it was even ok to move. And then...without warning...in a flash, the glove was swiftly 'yanked' into my bedroom by some kind of invisible force! It was literally sucked through the opening in the blink of an eye, and I nearly jumped out of my skin when I heard the loud bang of the door slamming itself shut!

That's when the thumping began again. Slow. Steady. Continuous. So I began to inch my way closer to my room again.

As I got to the door, I could clearly hear some old time music playing from inside. Some slow old jazz ballad or something. But not on CD or anything...it sounded more like it was playing on an old school record player or something. I could clearly hear the crisp snaps and pops of aged vinyl as the haunting female voice sang softly over the tune....

"Somewhere, someday....we'll be close together, wait and see. Oh, by the way....this time the dream's on me."

The pounding was slowing down again. The baseball. That's what it was. It had to be. That thing was hard as a rock. I heard each bounce of the ball getting softer and softer as it now barely touched the wall with each toss. And as I leaned to put my ear up to the door...I heard a sniffle or two. Like...like somebody was quietly crying to themselves inside. I stood up straight again and just stood there for a moment, frozen in a dilemma between curiosity and a touch of fear over what I might see if I peeked inside. The music was playing right on the other side of that door, and I swallowed hard as I nervously made the decision to open it up. It was at that exact moment, with my heart beating fiercely in my chest, that the song came to an errie end...

"This time the dream's...on meeeeee....."

The record stopped. I heard the needle slide inward, the gentle scratch of it hitting the middle of the vinyl, crackling softly in the background. But the thumping continued.

'Thump'...I moved closer.

'Thump'...I took a deep breath.

'Thump'...I reached my hand out.

'Thump'...I grabbed the handle of the door...and gave it a twist....

My eyes quickly shot open. I sat up at attention and found myself waking up in bed again. The sun was shining outside, gliding in peacefully through my bedroom window...and everything was normal. Was I dreaming? Did it happen yet again?

Shit...another false awakening. Those can be SO annoying!

I rubbed my eyes, and immediately rolled over to my bedside table where I had a pen and a small notebook ready and waiting for me. Just as I had been practicing, I instantly began to scribble down everything that I could remember about the dream...

'It happened again. Another false awakening with identical results. This makes six weeks in a row now. Every late Wednesday night, early Thursday morning. I heard the same thumping sound on the wall, noticed the same music, lyric for lyric, felt the same chill in the air. I can't really explain what it means or why it keeps coming back so consistently. I keep trying to remember more details, but it stops so quickly that I don't have time to truly grasp everything.'

'The dream always ends in the same place. The second I turn the knob to open the door, the music stops, the dream comes to a halt, and I'm tossed back into waking consciousness. For some reason, it feels a lot stronger now than it did the first few times. Closer. More real. I'll have to take further notes and see what happens.'

I closed the notebook and slid my pen into the wire binder on the side, putting it back into my side drawer. I laid back on my pillow and just thought about it for a few minutes. The imagery was always so vivid. I wonder what it means. If anything. Or why it keeps recurring every single week. The dream would almost be somewhat creepy if I could just make any sense out of it. But for now, I'll just chalk it up to having that slice of pizza before bedtime.

I got up and got myself ready for school, my sandy light brown hair maintaining its 'fashionable mess', my blue eyes catching all the sunlight they could. I won't lie, I liked the way I looked. I wasn't conceited about it, but hey, why walk around telling yourself you're ugly when you're not? Waste of time. Besides, being 16 and having the good fortune to avoid the full fury of the acne monster is a blessing. Thank God for my mom's genes in the smooth skin department.

Both of my parents had a long drive to work every morning, from the distant suburbs to the downtown area. So they were usually gone by the time I had to get up for school. It was kind of cool though. I got to eat whatever I wanted for breakfast, I got to blast the music loud while I was in the shower, and if I decided to go into school a little bit later than usual, there was nobody really hounding me to hurry up. It was paradise as far as I was concerned.

"YO!!! Dickwad! Open up!" For some odd reason, my friend Baxter always preferred shouting obscenities outside my kitchen window over doing something as civil as ringing the doorbell. Still, it was music to my ears this morning, because it meant I had a ride.

I opened the back door to let him in, with my other best friends, April and Jeff, right behind him. "Hurry up, it's cold enough in here as it is without you holding the door open." I told them, as April gave me a kiss on the cheek.

"Awww, poor baby. You act like you've never been through as October in Chicago before. Quit being a baby and get used to it."

"I've never been through one in this house before. We've only been here four months, and having this big spacious house in the summer time was sweet...but it's almost impossible to warm it all up now that it's getting colder."

Baxter helped himself to some orange juice out of the fridge. He didn't need to ask. The whole squad could easily take over reign of the house in a matter of seconds whenever they stopped by. It was sort of a rule with us.

"Soooo....?" Jeff asked. Knowing what I was up to with the dreaming techniques I had been trying to figure out for the last two months. I was blessed to have friends who were ok with the fact that boys turned out to be my romantic preference, but Jeff and I were probably more alike in nature than any of us. And I'm not just saying that because he happens to be gay too.

"Sooooo, what?" I teased him.

"Oh come on, Donnie!" Jeff grinned.

April instantly backed him up. "Please, Donnie, just tell him already. It's all he's been talking about for the last two days now." She said.

I smiled in Jeff's direction, and said, "It worked. Twice!"

"Bullshit!"

"No bullshit! I wrote it down, I thought about it all day long, looked at the pictures, and when I went to sleep....it just happened." I giggled. "I got to have some very, VERY, hot sex with one Mr. Jesse McCartney. I got to actually do it....twice! Once in my own bed, and once in the shower."

"You are so full of shit, Donnie. I don't believe you." Jeff grinned. Ever since I first started finding ways to influence the things that I dreamed about here and there, he's been trying to do the same. Unfortunately, he hasn't had much luck yet. He tried to dream about dating this cutie we saw in the park one night....and somehow ended up dreaming about making out with his grandmother in the bathtub. The poor boy was scared to close his eyes for a week! Ever since then, the very idea of training his lucid dreaming methods has become a tainted topic of conversation. He really needs to see a therapist about something that weird. Honestly.

"Are you really being serious?"

"Dead serious. And it was HOT too, believe me! Dude, you've got to get a handle on how to do this. All my practicing is paying off. It feels like it's getting easier every night." I told him. "I still haven't found a way to really control anything yet once I'm there in the dream though. There were a few times when I felt like I was on the verge of becoming aware that it was all in my head...but then the dream bitchslaps me out of it right away before I'm able to get to that level. I don't get what I'm doing wrong."

"Well, I for one, am happy for you, Donnie." April told me.

"Happy? For what?” Baxter said, leaning against the counter. “I'm not happy. I think you both need some serious help. Especially YOU, Jeff. You're just plain fuckin' perverted, man."

"I told you it was an ACCIDENT! And I thought we agreed not to bring that dream up again." He snapped.

"I'm just reminding you how damaging a dream about groping your own granny can be. That's all..."

"Yeah, I REALLY don't think I need you to remind me of that, Bax!"

"Enough!” April told them. “Geez, you guys are making my head hurt. You're like a couple of barking puppies in a tunnel, for crying out loud."

"Come on, Baxter. You should do this with us. You know you wanna try it out." I said.

"Try what out? Waking up with sticky sheets and a fond memory of something that didn't even happen? I've been doing that since I was twelve. I'd rather spend my energy trying to get laid in real life, thank you."

"Yeah, good luck with that." I snickered, remembering that for all of Baxter's golden boy good looks and killer body, the girls often warned each other about him long before he even got a chance to ask them out. His strong confidence and excessive 'honesty', as he called it, with them could make him come off as somewhat of a.....um....jerk, at times. But a lovable one, as far as we were concerned. Maybe we were just so used to his antics that we knew Baxter had a beautiful and caring heart. He just...you know...hid it well.

"Besides, you're wasting your time. Jesse McCartney's not gay." Baxter added.

"You don't know that. He might be."

"He's got a girlfriend, doesn't he?" April asked.

"Nope. No girlfriend that I know of." I said. I didn't check, but that's what I said regardless.

"Well, I'll bet he's got plenty of 'auditions'." Baxter finished off his juice and left his glass in the sink.

"Can't you just say, 'well done', and leave it alone?" I asked him.

"What for? Because you boned an imaginary boy in your sleep?"

"Baxter..." April warned.

"Fine! Geez. Alright. Donnie, I'm extremely happy to hear that you shamelessly indulged in your unhealthy obsession with an undecidedly gay pop star. Happy now?" Baxter surrendered.

"Thank you. Now grab your shit, we'll be late." I said. We all got up and walked out to Baxter's car. Still almost new, Baxter took care of that car like it was a newborn baby. Washing it and vacuuming it and the wax and the tires...it wasmaddening. So much so that when Jeff accidentally bumped his bag against the side of it, he nearly flipped out.

"Dude! Can you watch your bag???"

"What? It was a mistake. I didn't mean to..."

"Your bag's got, like, buckles and shit on it! If you scratch my paint, I am making this your last ride! Like, ever. I mean it."

April and I both shrugged our shoulders, knowing that there was no defense when it came to Baxter's automobile. Besides, we weren't going to lose out on our only real mode of transportation by arguing with the only driver in our group of friends.

Jeff just rolled his eyes, "Sighhh...it's not like I ran a key across it, Bax. Jesus...you ought to marry this damn car..." He mumbled under his breath.

April and I climbed in the backseat. Baxter took off slowly, and we were soon on our way.

"Oh...what about last night?" April asked me. "Did that weird dream with the bloody baseball happen again?"

Just having her mention it seemed to bring it back into full color for me. Instantly. It was like...this strange sensation, that made it all seem so real. "Yeah. Same as always. I don't know why it keeps recurring like this. But it's every week, like clockwork. Ever since I've been trying to get better at this lucid dreaming stuff, this weirdness has been coming back to me over and over again."

"The exact same way?"

"Exactly. Except...I think it gets stronger. Like, this time I heard some sniffling behind the door. Like...like someone was crying. You know?"

Baxter got a sarcastic lopsided grin on his face. "Maybe it was Jesse McCartney, wondering how long you were gonna keep anally raping him in your sick fantasies." April gave his seat a little kick from behind to warn him to behave again. "Hehehe, hey, was it good? Was it hot to fuck someone while they were crying? Some kinky sniffle sex?"

"Bax!!!" April yelled, not able to hold back her smile despite her needs to keep him from going any further with that scenario.

"Was Jeff's grandmother there?" He laughed. Hearing that comment, Jeff promptly slugged him hard in the arm. "OUCH!!! Shit!! I'm driving here! Hellooooo?"

April tried to get my focus back and asked, "Did you get to open the door this time?"

"No. That's just it. Every time I reach for the door handle, the dream just...ends. I wake up again, and I'm no closer to figuring out who's in there than I was before. It's just kinda freaking me out, you know?"

"Well, just don't push yourself too hard. Those old books and stuff said you've gotta 'free dream' every now and then too. Take a break or something. Ok?"

"I know. I will. Besides, I could use the extra sleep."

"Yes, you could." She said, tracing a finger over the small, but growing, bags under my eyes. Seeing an opportunity, she took out her digital camera and snapped a quick picture of me.

"I certainly hope you're not planning to put THAT one in the yearbook." I told her.

And she smiled, "Nope. That one's just for me."

April had been with us since we were all about 11 years old. A bunch of sixth graders all hanging out at the same park every day after school. She was a girl, but she could climb a tree, throw a football, and kept the high score on Mario Kart for eight months straight. So we had no choice but to give her a free pass to be around the guys anytime she wanted to. She kind of made a rough transition into girlhood though, and growing out of that tomboyish phase of her life was more depressing than liberating for her. Especially once her parents split up and her father moved away. She took that pretty hard. She adored her father so much. They were really close. Her mother....not so much.

But it's not like she had much of a say in the matter. In the long run...kids just pretty much have to do what they're told.

When April was fourteen, she tried cutting her wrists after school one day. A decision she made hastily...but at the time, it felt like it was her only way out. She never talks about it, and we never bring it up. But we've all become ten times more protective of her in every possible way ever since. Especially me. Anytime she's feeling even a little bit down, she knows that she's supposed to call me and talk it out. Me, specifically. Everything remains private and off the record between whatever it was she needed to talk to me about. She had my word on that. A pact was made. And she always kept up her end of the bargain. Between those long, thoughtful, conversations and her growing fascination with taking pictures of everything that would stand still long enough to get a good shot...April's found more strength than she ever thought she had before. She came through it, and assures us all that she's going to be just fine. She's got a much brighter future to look forward to now.

But we're still here for her if she ever needs the safety net, and she knows that. In the past four years, she's gone from that little girl that we kind of let hang out with us, to the twin sister either one of us would drop a guy out of a friggin' skyscraper window for. Out of all of us....she remains the designated 'mature' one. We'd be lost without her.

April got a buzz and reached into her handbag to grab her cell phone. "I just gotta text message from Chucky, he says to meet up with him by the chem lab after second period." She typed something back to him, and waited a moment for his reply. "He's gotten another dream exercise he wants you to check out, Donnie. Since you're the one having all the luck with this stuff. Certainly more than me. I never get jack shit." She said. "Oh, Chucky also says that wasting serious scientific research on 'Jesse McCartney sex dreams' is a serious abuse of your talents."

"Did he, now? Can you take a picture of my nutsack and send it to him as a response?" I asked.

Baxter quickly looked back from the driver's sat. "Wait...you can DO that?"

And April swatted me on the arm. "Please, Donnie...don't encourage him. Baxter is screwed up enough." She said. "He just wants us to meet him, that's all. You know how he is when he gets mildly excited. Did you guys ask him to come out to Cory's Halloween party with us next weekend?"

The car fell silent, and Jeff was the first to speak, "He's not gonna go, April. Chucky doesn't like that kind of thing."

"Nice, you guys. You could have at least invited him. He might just change his mind and want to hang out with the rest of us one of these days." She said.

"Chucky would get invited himself if he actually did anything besides go back and forth to school and lock himself up in the basement when he gets home. He's practically a folk hero to antisocial teens everywhere." Jeff told her, but April didn't really buy that as an excuse.

"I'm just saying that we should help him break out of his shell a little bit. It wouldn't hurt to make an effort." We could have argued the point but it would have been in vain. April was like Joan of Arc when it came to her thinking she could save somebody. Besides, it was always easier to let Chucky say no on his own so April would leave the rest of us alone.

By the time we had gotten to school, we were about ten minutes late for our first class. But continued to calmly pile out of the car anyway. No big emergency. Jeff closed the car door a little bit harder than normal, and Baxter gave him SUCH a dirty look. "WHAT????" Jeff asked him.

"You wanna slam my car door a little harder there, Goliath?"

"Dude...get a girlfriend. Seriously." Jeff told him, and we all strolled our way up to the front doors.

We went our separate ways as soon as we were inside, me feeling a certain building anxiety as I approached Mr. Lipton's class. A terrible way to start the day, believe me.

Mr. Lipton was my English teacher, and a total hard ass to boot. One of those wannabe professional writer's who never made it, despite the fact that he's convinced that he's sooooo much better than everyone else in his field. It's like he decided to teach high school English just to get the chance to make us all feel really miserable about his failed attempts at reaching legendary author status. Shattering one student's dream at a time like some kind of twisted, comic book super villain, trying to get revenge on an unsuspecting public of hopeful children. God, he sucked. I suck for even being here today.

I don't know why I don't ditch this class more often...

As I opened the classroom door, Mr. Lipton's eyes met mine, and he stopped addressing the rest of the class to make me enter and walk to my desk in silence. Great, he seemed to be in a slightly nastier mood than usual. This is going to be a long period.

Mr. Lipton made sure that I came to see him after class, giving me his pre-rehearsed lecture on tardiness and taking every opportunity to tear down the last paper I handed in for credit before letting me go. He was also nice enough to spend a few minutes talking about how my grades were slipping in his class the last month or so. Most of it, I had already heard before. And if my grades were slipping, it was because HE made it a point to be as harsh on my writing as humanly possible. It certainly wasn't from a lack of me trying to do my best work. So I did what any high school student would do in this situation. I did all I could to tune out a majority of what he said and filter out the annoying little insults of his speech until I was dismissed to go on about my business. I caught a few words here and there though. Words like 'detention', and 'straighten up', and 'tutor', and 'won't graduate'. Like I said, nothing I haven't heard from him before. Normally, I respect my teachers a great deal. But with Mr. Lipton...after all the shit he's given me for little to no reason at all other tha he could...there was really no incentive for me to work hard to please him anymore. He hated me, I was sure of it. For me to succeed in his class would only make him more bitter, and he'd push against me even harder than he did before. I'm better off just serving my academically appointed sentence in his class until the end of the year, getting a somewhat decent grade, and then just starting over fresh with a new teacher next year.

I went to my next period class and spaced out through half of it. Trying my best to figure out some of the strangest details from that dream from last night. I could almost still hear that thumping sound on the wall, as if it was happening all around me again. That rock hard ball, slamming up against the plaster, again and again...gradually slowing down with each bump. Over the past few weeks, the image of that damn ball and the catcher's mitt being sucked into my room has been tormenting my waking thoughts. Laying on the floor. Covered in blood. And the music....that music...I could hear it clear as day. I swear, I could feel the cold wrapping itself around me. It was all so real that I just couldn't shake it. And each time my mind would wander, even just a little bit, the images were right there waiting for me. Chasing me. It was almost like they wanted me to notice them. To remember them. I just couldn't stop thinking about it.

What was wrong with me?

When the second period bell finally rang, and it was time to meet up with Chucky and the others, I tried to rush through the school halls as quickly as possible. I was a bit anxious to maybe find some answers as to what this repeating nightmare was supposed to mean. If anybody had a clue on this, Chucky would be the guy. He was the one who started us out on this whole 'dream-weaving' kick, and even though I doubted the whole idea was even possible at first, I have to admit, he was definitely on to something special this time. I was the only one who really stuck with it. I don't think the others really believed in it enough to work at it with any kind of regularity. But Chucky studied lucid dreaming like it was going to be a major part of his S.A.T. score. I think he genuinely enjoyed having a willing and eager participant like me to work with on this.

Then...a pause.

I was almost to the second floor chem lab when I saw....'him' again. Nobody that I knew personally...but someone I saw in passing while walking the halls on an almost daily basis.

Breathtaking. Truly breathtaking.

Most of the time, these chance encounters were completely random. But as they became more frequent during the school year, it suddenly felt like it was more than just a coincidence that he would cross my path as often as he did.

His name was Austin. I knew that much. And only because I had heard a friend of his call his name out from the other end of the hall once. I kept it in my mental Rolodex for future use. Mostly masturbatory fantasies, where I got to whisper it out loud at the moment of orgasm. But...you know...

Austin was what most people would refer to as unnaturally gorgeous. The kind of curly blond haired, blue eyed, boys that they pick to play the role of the high school 'crush' in every teen movie and TV show known to man. He was on the track team, and he wasn't really bulky or overly muscular, but his slim and trim frame was well defined. Almost sculpted. And his lips always had this potential 'smile' ready to blossom right in front of your eyes if only you were lucky enough to make eye contact. The kind of boy that just looked friendly and innocent from a distance, but you were hoping for something SO much naughtier to be lying underneath.

You almost felt bad for noticing how extremely hot he was. He made a total perv out of me. And I felt like he could see it reflected in my infatuated stare. How humiliating.

As we passed each other in the hall, with him not noticing me as always, I found myself looking down at his crotch area. I don't know what I actually expected to see there when I looked, but I looked anyway. Just for the chance to see a HINT of a bulge worth salivating over. Anything. Just to know which way it was dangling, or maybe see the head of it when his pants wrinkled up with every step, or maybe just an idea of the shape of it. Any sexy vision at all would make my constant crotch watching worthwhile. But I never once got to see anything real, so my imagination was forced to pretend that I saw a bulge and it would give me a shiver anyway.

Damn...one of these days, I have GOT to get that boy naked. I'm not even remotely kidding.

I walked into the chem lab, and April, Jeff, and Baxter were already circled around a desk with Chucky impatiently waiting for me to show up. Now Chucky was a year and a half younger than the rest of us were, but he had skipped a grade due to his apparent 'boredom' with the average academic schedule directed towards kids his age. He had short brown hair and light brown eyes, covered by a pair of acceptably hip glasses. A bit of a neurotic about a lot of things, Chucky somehow was able to walk that fine line between being a cool kid and being a geek. Mostly because of his dry sense of humor, and his almost non-existent ability to smile without a heavy dose of sarcasm tainting every inch of it. But he made straight A's without blinking an eye, and managed to still have time for his friends....when he felt like it, that is. Just looking at him as I walked in that room, I could already tell that he was regarding me as being 'late on arrival'.

"So, you've got something for me?" I asked, setting my backpack down.

Chucky opened up his notebook for me. "I do if you'll consider using it for something a bit more productive than a nocturnal emission for a change." He said.

"Give me a break, Chucky. I'm sixteen and a virgin. If you ask me, you could use a couple of nocturnal emissions yourself."

"I have plenty, not that it's any of your business." Chucky never looked up from his book, and after a short shuffle, he found the notes he was looking for. "Ok, have you been doing your reality checks throughout the day like I said?"

"Of course." I told him. And it was true. They say if you want to wake up inside of a dream, you have to make constant checks throughout the day to make sure that everything is as it should be. Basically, if you look up at the sky and it happens to be purple instead of blue...chances are, you're in a dream.

"And you've been recording everything you remember in a notebook as SOON as you wake up in the moring, right? We don't you to forget anything." Another ritual that I had been training myself to do for months now.

"Yes, Chucky." I said, rolling my eyes. "I keep the pen and the notebook right next to the bed, and jot down notes as I remember what took place. I know the drill, already." I peered over at Chucky's notebook, but he drew it back from me and covered it with his hands to hide the contents of his scribblings from me. "Oh...I've been waking up a lot in the middle of the night." I told him. "Is that ok?"

"Perfectly normal. In fact, by programming yourself to wake up periodically through the night, you'll have a greater frequency of dream recall. So keep doing that."

"It's not like I do it on purpose." I said. Baxter reached for one of Chucky's pens, and began to click it rapidly. One of those habits he always entertained when he wasn't getting any attention.

"Tell him about last night." April reminded me.

"Last night? What happened last night?" Chucky asked. Then, instantly annoyed with Baxter's clicking, he snatched the pen away from him. "Can you not do that right now?" He said, putting the pen back in his bag. "Ok...so, last night. What happened?"

"Same as always actually."

"Ahhh, you mean the dream with the baseball and the record player, right? Doesn't this make six weeks in a row?" He asked, counting the little self made calendar he drew in his notes.

"Yeah. It happens every week. I can't understand why." I told him. “It won't stop. And it's the only time that I feel like I've got no control at all.”

"Hmmm....maybe your subconscious is trying to tell you something important. Something that needs to be expressed. Have you been doing any 'free dreaming' lately?"

"All the time. I haven't really been lucid enough to take charge of anything yet. I've influenced the overall content of my dreams a few times, but that's all I can do."

Chucky looked back over some of his older notes on previous pages of his book, and asked, "Was there anything different about this dream last night? Because looking at your notes here, something new seems to show itself every week."

I was confused. "What do you mean?"

"Well...the first week you were extremely vague about the dream. You remembered a loud noise, and a baseball, and some music." He turned the page. "But a few weeks later, you could pick out the lyrics to the song, and you noticed that the sound of the pounding was slowing down. The week after that, you noticed smears of blood on the ball and on the catcher's mitt. And so on, and so on. It seems like your recall is getting stronger, and constantly picking up new details. What did you notice this week?"

I thought for a second, and I said, "Oh...I heard sniffling this time? Like...crying, you know? I don't think I ever heard that part before."

"Hmmm...fascinating." Chucky wrote the new discovery down on a new page and then closed it up. "If it happens again next week, Donnie...remember to pick out everything that you possibly can. Ok? It's important to the research."

"Research? I'm just doing this for fun, Chucky. Don't make me a lab rat." I told him.

"Fun? This is not just for fun. You have the chance to make a real breakthrough here. These notes could prove very helpful to...." At that moment, Baxter started tapping away on the desk with some other pen, making even more noise than before. We don't even know where he GOT it from this time. Chucky looked at him for a quick moment, then snatched it away from him and threw it ALL the way across the room without saying a word.

"Oh sure. Very mature, Chucky." Baxter moaned.

"...Could prove very helpful to dream research in general someday." Chucky continued.

"I don't see what the big deal is. It's not even real." Baxter said, retrieving his pen from the other side of the room.

"That's exactly what the big deal is. It's not real." Chucky told him, making sure that he put all of his pens back in his backpack and zipped it up before he was forced to toss them 'all' across the room. "A lot of personal truths remain hidden inside of our subconscious mind. Locked away where we mentally use ego and identity to close those secrets off from the rest of the world. Even ourselves. We fight to analyze and observe and adhere to a social construct that we neither created nor have any chance of being able to fully understand. But dreams? Dreams are different.” Chucky grinned. You could see that intelligent spark glistening in his eye again. Something else we had gotten used to. “Dreams are our own personal view of the world, Baxter. Without the filter. Without any responsibility to adjust what we think and feel to meet anyone else's expectations. While all of the information we allow ourselves to take in during the day is limited and governed by a brainwashed solid reality...the same isn't true when it comes to dreams. When we sleep, our reality reflects who we really are. What we really want. Our own personal flaws, our assumptions, our fears, our guilt, our true motivations and intentions, they all work together to warp the picture and force it to represent what we really believe the world to be like. We could learn SO much about ourselves by studying these images. No matter how crazy, obscene, magical, or horrific, they might be. It could be the key to discovering all of the treasures that we work so hard to hide behind our so-called 'rational' thoughts."

Although Chucky was excited, Baxter didn't really share his enthusiasm. I don't think he saw the bigger picture. But I alwaysloved to hear Chucky talk like that. Bax yawned and said, "Gee, Chucky...sounds great. Stupendous, even." Chucky tightened his lips as he realized Bax was a lost cas on this one. And without any other pens to play with, Bax groaned, "I never thought I'd say this, but can I go to class now?"

"I'll try harder to get something to work tonight, Chucky. Ok?" I promised.

"Do that. And here..." He handed me a few copied sheets of paper. "I looked this up at the library this morning. You said that you were constantly waking up once you initially starting to become aware of the fact that you were dreaming. Well, it appears that spinning around in circles helps to keep you locked in the dream. It's like...a focus thing. Your brain concentrates more on the movement than returning you to reality. You might want to give it a try. We could get better results that way."

"Spinning around? Like in bed?"

"In the DREAM, Donnie. In the DREAM. Geez!"

"Ok, alright...no need to get snippy. I got it." I told him.

"Good. Read those pages over, and remember to concentrate, ok? I want to know what happened tomorrow so I can complete my weekly analysis." Chucky turned to Jeff, and with a slightly timid look, he asked him, "So...um...how about you, Jeff? Any more...'progress'....with stuff?"

"No. Not yet." He answered cautiously.

"Ok. Well...cool." Then Chucky added, "No more.....uhh...I mean...no more dreams about....you know?"

Jeff sighed out loud in frustration and grabbed his backpack. "I don't even know why I TOLD you guys about that! It was...an...ACCIDENT!!! Ok? I haven't even SEEN my grandmother in over six months!"

"Ok...alright. That's....that's good. Just....just wondering. I think that's a good thing. Not...not dreaming about that...again..." Chucky opened up his notebook again to take a few more notes while he was still thinking about them. "Alright, I'll see you guys at lunch. And don't forget to do your reality checks, Donnie. It's essential in getting things to the next level."

We were getting ready to leave, but that's when April's eyes widened to suggest some kind of silent signal between us. She nudged me in the side, and I took the hint as she pushed me slightly forward. "Um...hey, Chucky?"

"Yeah?" He answered, with his head still focused on the newest developments of his personal project.

"There's this...well, um...Cory's throwing this Halloween party next weekend. A costume party, actually. We were all going to get together, hop in the car, and go shopping for costumes so we could check it out. So..." I stopped talking there to see if he'd answer me. But he never looked up, and April nudged me again to finish. "Well, I mean...Chucky, do you wanna come with us? It'll be a lot of fun. We're going costume shopping tomorrow after school, why don't you come with us and find yourself something cool to wear?"

Chucky still kept his head in his notebook, writing with his pen. And said, "Is this a social function, Donnie?" I sighed when he said it, knowing the routine.

"It's gonna be a good time, Chucky..."

"Is this...a social function...Donnie?" He repeated.

"Yes."

"And what is my rule about social functions?"

I remembered his motto almost word for word. "You wouldn't be caught dead there, and even then your soul would rather be someplace else."

"That's right." He said, finally closing his notebook and putting it back in his bag. “I've got better things to do than watch my so-called peers booze it up and scream and shout while trying to bang random strangers in the upstairs bedroom. It's SO not my scene.”

"So...I'll take that as a no?"

"That's a no." Chucky looked over at April, knowing that she must have had something to do with this. "I'd say 'maybe next time', but that would be a boldfaced lie." He was pretty clear about his feelings on the matter, and there was nothing else to be said from our side of the argument. I mean, you can't say we didn't try.

We separated once again as the chem lab students came in to start class, and left Chucky to his assignments. The rest of the school day went along as normal. I had no idea beforehand...

...That this would be the night that would change everything.