Beautiful Dreamer Chapter 3 (Rough Draft)

I sigh and get off the window bench I “slept” on that night. Daniel and mom know I have insomnia, but I’m not sure if they know how bad it is, that I sometimes go days without it just to crash randomly. I once crashed in the middle of a street, which I played off to the cops and mom as a drunken black-out. Well… I was a little tipsy that day. Regardless, that nap I had in the park earlier this morning will likely be the only sleep I have until next week, which is the exact thing you want when you’re in a new school. I gently shove Penn’s shoulder as I strip off pieces of clothing and chuck them across the room.  As I’m undoing my bra to replace it with another, Penn suddenly jolts awake. I can see her quickly sit up in bed, her big brown eyes wide and frantic, like a deer who knows it’s met the end. The movement startles me enough that I reflexively cover my breasts with my arms until I realize nothing is wrong. Angry floods my face as I return to dressing myself.

 

“Lynn…” Penn says in her chime-like voice, so soft that if I hadn’t lived with this little pipsqueak for three years I wouldn’t have heard her.

 

“Yea?” I reply, kicking off my pants and grabbing another pair from the growing mound of dirty and semi-clean clothing around me.

 

“I had a n-nightmare.”

 

“OK.”

 

Where did I put my plaid shirt?

 

She sits there, like she’s expecting me to hug her or… I don’t know, comfort her in some way. And I stand there like a jerk, looking this way and that to avoid her gaze. I mean I get it, nightmares suck. But no one kisses my head when I have them and no one strokes my hair when I cry in the night… at least not anymore. Why should she? She needs to face reality, it sucks. But because she’s only 6 and because I figure I should show some sisterly concern with her I walk over to her, in my half dressed shirtless sockless state, and I sit beside her on the, my, bed. I pull her sleepy body to mine and rub my hand over her head, down her tossled and knotted curls, and then to the middle of her back, before I slowly return my hand back up her back. I repeat the motion while I ask her what happened in her dream.

 

Penn describes to me a beast who looked like a grey rhino, chasing her down the hall of her old home in Stanton. Penn runs past her “old mother’s” workroom, filled with alcohol and a broken computer, past her parents room, where her mom hits Daniel in the jaw, sending him backwards into the closet door, and then into her old room with the faded wallpaper. I’d seen the house and I knew the aftermath. She doesn’t have to describe it to me because I know what she means when she says “the house in Stanton”. That was the day Daniel asked Natasha for a divorce and then was subsequently sucker punched in the jaw. He ended up having to go to the hospital, but not before Natasha, in her drunken stupor, tried to stab him. Penn actually saved him. She was three and she hit the blade with her hand, which caused it to skirt down her palm, wrist, and midway down her forearm. She spent weeks in the hospital, my mom and Daniel cooing over her. I didn’t see her much during that time. That was when I found the Methodist church and lived like I wanted. That time was tough for all of us. Well, not my mom or Daniel. They caused this crap to happen. If Daniel hadn’t asked for a divorce Penn wouldn’t have been hurt. If they hadn’t been selfish we could have been spared the pain.

 

I act like I’m listening to Penn, but I’m really trying not to relive those months, try not to think about my dad leaving me to deal with the fallout. I feel wetness on my chest and figure Penn is crying. Great. Kindergartener tears on my boobs. I pull her away from me, slowly like I’m still being consoling and totally not trying to just get her to not make me anymore wet.

 

“It was just a dream Penn. You’re fine. You have your first day of school today. Aren’t you excited?”

 

“But what about the rhino?” she says as she stares over my shoulder.

 

How long has she been doing that?

 

“The one from your dream?”

 

“The one over there.” She points over my shoulder and continues to stare. I peer over my shoulder and see a large, grey rhino-like creature 3 feet from me. Its horns a dark yellow at the bottom and the point spins around itself. It’s eyes are a deep red color. The ears are pointed, almost cat like in appearance. It growls at me and I can see its black and jagged teeth. I scream and immediately I’m gone.

 

The room is gone and replaced with the Serengeti. No other animals are in sight and the landscape is flat with little trees. The not-rhino is charging for me. I turn and run up the closest tree and thankfully my feet don’t fail me as I scale the tree for the first time in months. I look down in time to see the rhino slam its twisted tusk into the tree. The force knocks me back, but I manage to hold on to the stronger limbs. I continue scaling the tree until I reach the top. The rhino has now start to climb the tree itself, not only bending the tree but also the laws of animal science. I quickly think for a solution and my mind immediately thinks the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever thought: a tornado that could sweep the rhino and tree far far away from me. I shake my head and look around to find some way to get out of this tree and far away from this rhino when I spot it: the tornado I longed for in this moment. It swirls and kicks up dust around it and approaches rapidly in a straight line towards me, the tree, and the rhino. Screaming, I leap from the tree as the tornado overtakes not-rhino and the tree. As I land, I try to tuck myself into a roll to lose momentum, but only end up smacking my head against the sandy landscape.

 

“AISLYNN!” I hear as I open my eyes. My mother’s face completely takes over my vision, wrinkled from aging twenty years in three and her green eyes reflecting mine. I sit up and look around. Penn is outside our room, hiding behind the door frame.  

 

I fell asleep.

 

“Are you OK?” My mother asks as she rubs my freckled arms up and down. I shake off her hands and get off the bed, grabbing my red plaid shirt that was laying underneath a pile of clothing by my bed and I grab my iPod from my discarded dirty jeans from last night. Not caring if the shirt is clean or dirty, I hastily throw it on and walk out of the room.

 

“Aislynn Rae!” My mother calls out to me, but I don’t dare stop now. Racing down the steps and out the door before I can hear her worthless ultimatums, I briefly pause to slip on my chucks before I run outside. Whatever my mother decides to do to me won’t top the worst punishments I’ve faced this year. Listening to her at this point is moot. Knowing that she’ll call my school to check in on me, playing that good mother card, I decide to head there. I’ll scope the place out and find it’s weak points for when I need a place to escape to or from in the coming days. The walk to the school isn’t far from the piece of crap house Daniel bought. He got a horrible deal, but mom pressured him to get us to a new town as soon as possible. She felt that Stanton held too many bad memories for all of us and I kept getting put in Juvi up there. As soon as I finished my probation term…

 

the Court was just as surprised I completed too

 

We took off into the great and fabulous new town and adventure known as Willow’s Creek. And yes, I’m being sarcastic. Daniel had to move out so fast that he took the first job and house he could, which meant mom had to start working again. I could tell it irked her. She never had to work when my dad was around. He always treats her like a queen and me a princess. No way he’d have made her get a job. But she ruined that happiness instead of treasuring it.

 

They were able to make the move to this crap town in the summer so Penn could have a proper first day. No one in that family talked about my first day in a totally different school with none of my old friends. Everything focused on Penn in this new family. I shrugged off my jealousy as the school came into view. Putting on a blank expression and straightening my shoulders I charge into the school like I’m going into battle.

 

Carrying my bloodied sword at my right side and my shield dangling from my fingertips on my left, I walk with my head held high. My dress has been torn, half of the petticoat is missing and the dress now ends at my knees. My bodice is in tatters, my bare arms and chest visible through the missing fabric. Half of my face is bloodied and my hair sticks to my head and neck. Though my battlemates have been slain and all that remains is me, I will fight to my last breath. I see their flags and hear their laughter. They think they’ve won the battle. But I will win the war. With a mighty scream I raise my sword and charge.

 

“Miss!”

 

Really? Again??

 

I blink and look around. I’m standing in the middle of a room with desks and other kids my age. Plain white walls, except for the occasional motivational poster surround me. There’s also a whiteboard with smart technology, about a decade older than the models I saw in Stanton, and an angry teacher about 3 feet from my face.

 

What’s with everyone wanting to be in my face today?

 

“I’m… uhh… sorry?” I saw as I quickly try to remember what I was doing outside of the battleground.

 

“You barged into my classroom and screamed bloody murder while raising your hands like you were going to hit someone! Now what is your name?” Old-fart asks me as she angles her glasses in order to look down on me over the tops of them. I sigh and give my name. “Aislynn Rae Raymond.”

 

“Hmm…” she hums as she scans her list. “I have an Aislynn Rae Peterson on—“

 

“It’s supposed to be Raymond,” I say impatiently. I can’t believe my mother registered me under that last name. That might be her new name and she might have forgotten about dad, but not me. I’m a Raymond forever and always.

 

“Well until you can get it changed you’ll be Ms. Peterson. Now sit down!” She yells out the last two words. I squint my eyes and huff like the Big Bad Wolf about to blow down the three little pigs houses. She stands there, unflinching. I huff one last time and take the first desk I can find in the back. I’m in the very last row in the very back corner of the classroom. In front of me is an empty desk so I place my feet through the desk backing and recline my seat. As I’m reclining and looking around for escapes and outside doors during the first-day lecture stuff I’m sure will be repeated in every class I have today, I see out of the corner of my eye a bronze skinned girl with long, frizzy brown hair and a baseball cap. She stares at me and I turn to look at her. She smiles and I notice her eyes instantly. A deep hazel color that reminds me of chocolate milk and trees, a memory that instantly reminds me of the time dad and I drank it until we were sick while laying in my incomplete treehouse, stargazing. He taught me what stars were which and how to find my way home if I ever got lost.

 

Mrs. Old Fart clears her throat and we snap back to attention. When she turns away again to write down instructions on the board, I go back to looking at this girl. My mind instantly tries to find the imperfections, because that’s how I rationalize she’s not like my baby step-sister. While I find it, acne here and there like me, a gap between her two front teeth, dirt under her chewed off nails, I can’t help but to still be amazed by her eyes. The bell can’t ring any sooner and I’m out of the door in a flash, pushing past a few people even to get away from the hazel eyed girl.

Advertisements

Beautiful Dreamer Chapter 2 (Rough Draft)

When I fall asleep, which sometimes doesn’t happen, I don’t dream. My dad used to say  that I dreamed so much during the day that my mind was tired when it finally drifted off to sleep. I still believed that was true. So when I felt someone tugging at my tennis shoes, I knew it wasn’t a dream. I carefully opened one eye and saw a few things. First, from how it looked through the tiny window in the playset tunnel, it was still nighttime. So I either slept for a full day not likely or I only got a couple of hours of sleep more likely than I’d like it to be. Second, my meager belongings were still with me and my iPod was still laying beside me. While the iPod was an ancient relic by technology standards of today, it was the most precious thing I’ve had. I’d die without it. Finally, my eyes could barely make out the dark outline, but I could deduce some things about the shoe-tugger.

“The angle of the dark outline and the height of it leads me to believe that this is a tall, stout person. Probably 300-350 pounds and over 6’2”. The way the shadow is also positioned leads me to believe this isn’t an ordinary citizen. The shadow is straight up and down, not leaned in or hunching. The grip on my foot is firm. This person was probably in the military, though what branch I can’t decide. The sound of the person’s breathing is heavy as are their grunts as they try to pull me from my ‘slumber’. Male probably, in his 50s possibly because he isn’t yanking me from my spot. The dark outline also seems to move differently around the edges, which means to me that this man is wearing a thick coat of some kind. The fact that he hasn’t issued a command to me and that 49,933 veterans are homeless in America finally allows me to deduce that this is a homeless man who is trying to steal my shoes or trying to yank me out of their bed.” I say to Dad-son who sits across from me in the dark, barely furnished parlor room of 221 B Baker Street.

“Excellent deductions As-lock, but what will you do with this information. He presents no harm to you yet, but he might not be looking for a spot to sleep or for new shoes. They might be criminals in disguise.”

“In studies during the years 2011-2012 there were only 181,500 incarcerated veterans.”

“99% of whom were male –“

“They made up 8% of the total population of inmates in local jails and in state and federal prisons excluding military facilities.”

Dad-son smiles at me. “And how many, As-lock, unreported crimes are there each year.”

My eyes move away from his face. I stare at the intricate designs on the rug. Diamond shapes that don’t look like real diamonds. “Over 3 million.”

“And how many people go missing each year?”

“2,300 every day, both children and adults in America.” I say as I move my eyes from the inaccurate floor design to the walls. Simple brown paint on the walls. This was an apartment after all.

“What are the chances that you’ll be the next one to go missing? And who’s to say you’re already not? Your mother –“

The illusion breaks at the mention of my mother. The man still tugs at my foot, but more forcibly. He’s definitely not after my shoe now. In fear of my life because ten trillion possibilities come to my mind as to what he may do to me if I let him win, I kick the man with my opposite foot as hard as I can. It connects with his face, my heel digging into his mouth and drawing out a gush of blood. The man removes his hand from my foot in shock and to inspect the damage done and I take that as my cue. Backpack in one hand and my iPod in the other I flip over onto my belly and military crawl out of the tunnel. Taking the small steps two at a time, I rush up to the top where the “big kids” slide was.

“HEY!” I hear the mystery man possible serial killer yelling behind me as he comes through the tunnel. I throw my body into the slide and lift my feet so my body had as little resistance as possible. My hair and lime green jacket stick to the slide as I finally reach the end of the slide. Not caring as the static tried to cling to my body to the slide, I run towards the wooded area that separated the subdivisions from the “city”.  The trees grow closer to me and I know I’ll be able to shimmy up one of these soon. As my feet begin to crunch the leaves below me, indicating to my body that it was almost home free from the serial killer hot on my trail, I feel the wind knocked out of me as the ground looms closer and closer until my face becomes intimately connected to the Earth.

“He had a thick jacket on. Underneath he is skinny and quick.” I say through my face-palm.

“We all have our moments , As-lock. Even someone as brilliant as you.”

“He wasn’t a serial killer was he?”

“Nope, ordinary cop checking to see if you were the missing teen or not.”

“How touching. Mother called.” I say before the scene fades.

~~~~

I completely come to in the back of a patrol car. The car just came to a stop, because my body moved forward slightly. As I look around at my surroundings I see the slightly familiar surroundings. My mother and step-father’s new home. Their “fresh start”. The cop comes around the car and opens the door. He has a handsome face, even with the swollen lip and right cheekbone. His grey eyes look at me with pity and with anger. Great. Back to being judged again.

A tall man with a slim build and curly dark hair emerges from the home. He looks like he just came home from work as he was still wearing a dirty nurse’s uniform. He looks at me for one second before rushing to me, stopping right in front of me and dropping to his knees.

“Aslynn, are you okay??” He exclaims as his hands start to roam my face, touching a sensitive spot that I’m sure is bruised from the fall. I yank away from his touch and walk around him as I say through clenched teeth “I’m fine.”

“Your mom’s at work tonight, she said for me to call her when you come home,” he says in that annoying tone. His voice, well everything about him, annoyed me to no end. His voice was the total opposite of my father’s. While my father’s had been deep and melodic, his was soft spoken and thin. I waved my hand at him as I walked into the house, not bothering to give him a second glance. Through the open door I can hear them talk.

“Sir, are you a parent? I can only release juveniles to their parents in situations like these.”

“Yes, officer. She’s my step-daughter. Her mother is at work.”

The officer’s lack of comment was evident even as I was climbing the stairs. A lot of people did that nowadays and I was the unwilling recipient of such expression when he divulged our relationship. “Okay then, well I’m taking out a complaint against her for assaulting an officer, trespassing, runaway….” I couldn’t here anymore as I closed the door to my new room. Well, I can’t even have that in this new “home”. Daniel, my step-father, took a massive pay cut to move us to this town. Stupid doesn’t even begin to describe Daniel. My mother had to start working again after she had been a stay-at-home mom for years. Life was better when she stayed home and didn’t know Daniel, but now with the stress of bills and the lack of money I guess she just became a bitch overnight. She works every shift she can at the local truck stop, so I guess tonight is another all-nighter for her. It used to bother me that she worked. It was so foreign to me that she had a life outside of the house and wasn’t involved in mine as much, but now that she’s not in my life hardly at all I don’t feel upset by it anymore.

As I throw my backpack on the floor and place my iPod gently on my desk, I climb into my bed and begin to lay down. I’m in the middle of making a deal with some superior force to let me gain some more sleep tonight when I feel a small lump underneath me. I lean up and look at it. My step-sister. Penelope Jane. PJ. Penny. Penn to me. To everyone else in the world she was the cute and adorable six year old of our blended family. To me she was the perfect child. Her beautiful ringlets fell to her shoulders and did not get frizzy or messy. Her eyes were dark pools that people got lost in and she still had that chubby baby face while the rest of her was very slim. Very unlike mine since I was overweight according to my mother. Also unlike me, Penelope made straight A’s and my mother raved about her all the time. How hard is it to make A’s in the first grade anyways? It’s not like I’m failing! I’m making C’s and D’s so far. The only thing imperfect about the new perfect daughter was the scar that she had on her hand and forearm. A jagged line ran down the middle of her hand and then cut right on her forearm. Faded, but still obvious to the naked eye. Even the scar doesn’t tarnish my mother’s love for Penn. It seems to make her love her more.

I take a deep breath. Jealously over Penelope was the fault of my mother. She replaced me with Penelope and Penelope was too young to know any better. Still, the sisterly bond hasn’t came in the three years we’ve been a “family”. I doubt it ever will. I leave the bed and walk over to the window. The cop is just now pulling out of the driveway and I can hear the front door close as Daniel reenters this house. I hear him timidly walk up the steps. Confrontation has never been Daniel’s strong suit. As he enters the room he softly knocks on the door.

“Aslynn? Are you asleep.”

“Daniel, you know I have insomnia. When do I ever sleep?”

“Well, the cop said –”

“Whatever, not important. When do I go to Juvi?”

“W-w-well the cop said –”

“Do you ever say anything that someone else didn’t say?” I say with far more venom than I intended to. I didn’t want to fight with Daniel. I’d rather just ignore his existence until I turn 18 and can legally leave this hellhole, but the man annoys me. He has no backbone and he can’t parent to save his life. While no one’s ever disclosed to me how Penn obtained her scar, I like to think that she was playing with knives and accidentally sliced herself up while Daniel suggested from the sidelines that she “please put the knife away sweetie”. The thought makes me chuckle a little. Daniel looks at me questioningly before his eyes move to my iPod on my desk. I follow his eyes and tense up. I will fight for that iPod. I will fight and I will win if they decide to take my iPod.

“That’s not the one I gave you.”

“No. It’s mine.”

“But the other one I gave you is new. No cracked screens or dented edges. The one I got you will power on when you want it to and — ”

“I like my old one,” I say curtly. I didn’t care for his present, his peace offering.

“If it’s about the songs, I made sure each –”

“Get it through your dense skull that I don’t give a crap about that stupid iPod you got me, Dan. I don’t care. I have MY iPod and that’s all I want. I don’t need anything from anyone, especially someone like you.” The look on Daniel’s face makes me wince. I clearly hit a nerve. If he would just leave me alone then I wouldn’t have said any of that. I just want to be left alone.

“Oh… okay… ummmm.. I’ll just go…” he says awkwardly as he leaves the room and softly closes the door behind him. I don’t watch him leave. Instead, I watch the night sky and I watch how it turns from the dark blue-black colors of night to the purple and orange of dawn and finally the yellow of the day. I stare at the sky for so long that it takes me by surprise when the alarm clock on my bed begins to ring. Time to “get up”.

Beautiful Dreamer Chapter 1 (Rough Draft)

Chapter 1

 

The roar of the engine fills my ears with that familiar mechanical hum. I pull up closer and closer to the car in front of me as I draft behind them. I keep behind them as we come around Turn Three. The car in front of me, number twenty-four I believe, starts to go up towards the wall as I speed through, taking advantage of the lack of wind resistance I had for a short period. I push to the second place, right behind number eighty-eight. “Keep it where you are. We’ll at least earn second place if you stay put. There’s no one around you at the moment,” says my spotter. “But I want to win” I say as I shift the gears and push my gas pedal to the floor. Now I’m in eighy-eight’s blind spot. Out of the corner of my eye I see something white being waved. Final lap.

 

“Aslynn, you need to think about this. You mess up now, wreck or lose your spot, we’ll not make it to the next race. We’ll not have the points!”

 

“I can make it. I can win.”

 

“Fine, do whatever you want,” my spotter says in a familiar tone Aslynn knew all too well.

 

“Stop acting like my mother and watch my back,” I say as I continue to inch my way along eighty-eight. Turn two is done. Two more to go. I start to encroach on eighty-eight’s space, squeezing him towards the wall. While being closer to the wall is a great advantage in a time like this, it has it’s disadvantages as well that I am more than happy to exploit. Winning would not only get me into the next race, it’d get me a proper sponsorship and it’d be a great victory for women alike. I’m the youngest woman to race at sixteen. Sure, getting the NASCAR officials to allow me to race had been a pain in the butt, but it’s worth it now. This is my moment and I won’t let anyone take it from me. Turn three completed as I quickly take the turn.

 

“My God you’re in the lead! Go, go GO!”

 

I choose not to respond. I focus my gaze on the checkered flag. I see it in the flagman’s hands. The cheering of the crowd becomes louder as I race for the finish line. Closer…. closer…. and then all of a sudden a red and tan Subaru Outback appears at the finished line. I quickly slam on the brakes, but the momentum from the speed I was going makes my car collide with the back bumper of foreign car. My car slams into the other one and my head and body slide forward, only to be yanked back by the seatbelt.

 

I blink and breathe in and out slowly.

 

Reality comes into focus. I look around and see I’m back in the subdivision I just moved into. I’m in front of the red-bricked house that looked more felt more like a prison than a home. Unfortunately, so is the car I hit in my imagination. More specifically, it’s Mrs. McGettigan’s car, my new neighborhood spinster. “Shit,” I whisper under my breath as the short, white haired elderly woman exits her vehicle and my mother out of her house.

 

“Aslynn Rae! What the hell have you done?!” My mother screams, her long, brown hair flowing freely behind her as she stamped out of the house. She must of just got home from work, because her red waitress outfit complete with an apron and her black tread-safe shoes were coming for me fast.

 

“My car! You’ve ruined my car!” Mrs. McGettigan screams as she pulls out her old Nokia phone and starts to dial something on the ancient device, presumably 911.

 

Breathe, just breathe.

 

“You’ve destroyed the back end of Mrs. McGettigan’s car! How do you think we’re going to pay for this?!”

 

“I’m calling the cops right now Miss Peterson!”

 

“Great! Just GREAT! You hear that Aslynn? You’re going to juvi… AGAIN! Do you like embarrassing our family? Do you like wearing orange and sitting in a cell? Because that’s where you’re going to be! I’m certainly not bailing you out again!”

 

1….2….3….4 breathe in. 1….2….3….4 breathe out.

 

“Yes? Hello? 911? Some stupid brat just rear-ended me! Yes, my neck is hurting really bad!”

 

“If that judge asks me if I’ll take you home like the other one did back home than I’ll tell him no! Right now I’d rather you be in state custody! You’ve done nothing but brought pain and sorrow to my life since your dad left us!”

 

1….2….3….4…. Don’t picture dad. Don’t picture dad. 3….4…. Don’t let the tears show. Don’t let them flow. Not now at least.

 

But try as I might I picture him and how he would have handled this accident.

 

“Aslynn, are you OK?”

 

“Yes dad, sorry Mrs. McGettigan.”

 

“My car! You’ve ruined –“

 

“Now Mrs. McGettigan, it was an accident. I’m sure Aslynn didn’t mean to hit your car. I don’t see any real damage to it, just some paint damage that I’ll gladly have Aslynn retouch for you with my supervision, I’ll have her give your car a good wash and vacuum, and we can just forgive and forget. Isn’t that right Aslynn?”

 

“Yes daddy, I’m sorry Mrs. McGettigan. I’ll fix your car and clean it for you.”

 

“Well, my word. I’ve never seen a more polite child in my life. I’ll take you up on your offer Miss Reynolds.”

 

“Thank you Mrs. McGettigan. Thank you daddy.”

 

“Oh, you’re welcome sweetheart.”

 

“Aslynn…. ASLYNN!” I hear the angry voice of my mother call. I blink and as the world comes back into focus I see my mother and Mrs. McGettigan staring at me with anger in their faces.

 

“Why don’t you take anything seriously?! I can’t handle you when you zone out like that! You need to keep it together!”

 

“Miss Peterson, you are one of the most disrespectful brats I have ever met in my life! I have been a teacher, I have been a school librarian, and I have volunteered at multiple organizations, but never in my lifetime have I had the disservice to meet someone so awful and rude as you!” Mrs. McGettigan and my mother yell at the same time. I try to go back to my mantra, my breathing exercises, but nothing works. Their voices penetrate my thoughts and I feel my chest constricting. It’s getting harder to breathe.

 

Impulsively, I grab my backpack out of the open passenger window of the now ruined car and, while slinging the backpack across my back, I run through the small gap between the two women. As my feet carry me away from the shouting women behind me I visualize the plan I had devised for weeks now. Before the move to this small town, I had a routine down pat. Open my second-story window, jump to the huge oak tree that grew three feet from my window, shimmy down the tree, run to the broken fence that was diagonal from the trusty tree, squeeze through the broken fence and run through the Lawrence’s backyard. Hop their fence and run through the multiple alleyways and side streets until I can reach the abandoned Methodist church that sat five miles away from home.

 

I had a nice loft space set up there. My fleece-lined, purple sleeping bag I had stolen from a local camping store, an old camping lantern I had stolen from the same store a few weeks later, a few knick-knacks and things I collected from here and there, and my emergency stash of books. I had a few Harry Potter books, the first, second, and fifth ones, the second Hunger Games book, and the first Divergent book. While my collection was incomplete they were my treasures that I wanted kept hidden since the day my mom started taking my things away from me for disobeying her. I would sit in my loft when things got too hard, especially after my dad left. My mom and I have never seen eye to eye and a psychic once told me that our signs were enemies, therefore we’d never have the mother-daughter relationship I had secretly wanted for so long.

 

When the cops found me and my treasures, they dismantled my hideaway and I spent a few days in detention. The Judge made it very clear: either I obey my mom and step-father, or I spend the rest of my youth in state custody. It seemed unfair to me that I was only given two options and that he didn’t seem to want to know why I did the things I did. Rehabilitation my ass. I was judged before he met me because of the ugly orange jumpsuit I wore that day and because of my mother’s and step-father’s biased statements. He didn’t care that I had suffered too, that I had logical explanations for doing the things I did. No one ever cared.

 

Since the move that my mother had said was “needed” and would “give me a fresh start”, I had carefully plotted a new escape route. It wasn’t perfect at this point, but it was the best I had for now. Ideally, I would sneak out of the glass back door, hop our cheap chain-link fence, run through different neighbors yards heading north until I reached downtown. From there I would run for the dilapidated playground and take shelter in the tunnel on the playset. Never had I pictured myself running out in broad daylight or in the open. My escapes were usually reserved for the night, especially since my insomnia kept me up most nights.

 

After an hour and a half of running from the street to random neighbors yards, and through a wooded area that separated the suburbs and the pathetic downtown area, I arrived at the old playground. I climbed into the rusted tunnel and slipped my backpack off of my back. I didn’t have much in it as I didn’t plan on running away today. I had some homework, my phone, and my only treasure left from the sudden move and the police invasion on my loft: my iPod. It’s the only relic left from my dad as my mother sold all the other items I would have loved to keep. It wasn’t the iPod itself that I treasured, but the object held some songs I valued more than my life. My dad was a singer in this small band that never made it big. He wrote some songs about me. He recorded them and put them on this iPod. While the iPod is now ten years old and on its last leg, I still played the songs when I needed him the most. The most played song on the device was my dad’s rendition of Beautiful Dreamer, a song he said always made him think of me.

 

I placed the headphones in my ears as the device slowly turned on. I hit play on my favorite song and laid my head down on my backpack. I closed my eyes as my dad’s melodic voice filled my ears. While I listened, I could see my dad singing to me in his old recording studio at home.

 

“Beautiful dreamer, wake unto me,” starts the old Bing Cosby song. I sit on the old leather desk chair my dad had in the studio while he sings as if in a trance. His voice was the most angelic thing I’d ever heard and still was to this day.

 

As he comes into the chorus, my dad smiles at me and squats down to my eye level. He wanted me to know this was my song, that I was the reason for his rendition of this beautiful noise. When he finishes singing and while the recording was still going, my dad hugs me close to his chest and whispers: “I love you, Aslynn. You’re the light of my life and the song of my soul.”

 

“I love you too daddy….” I reply in my head, not sure if I ever did in real life or not.

 

And with that memory in my mind’s eye, I fall fast asleep.

Prologue – Beautiful Dreamer (Rough Draft)

You may think you know the Sandman, but you are sorely mistaken. The story has been passed down throughout the years, but it’s been the wrong story. Yes, the Sandman comes while you slumber to sprinkle dust into your eyes so you might have dreams. The evidence of such is the grit in your eyes left over by morning time. But the Sandman is not one man nor does he just do this deed. He does far more than you can ever imagine.

The Sandman are multiple in number. They have to be to accomplish their primary goals every night: to make sure every man, woman, and child receives a dream. A dream is the most important thing a human can receive. Dreaming is what brought humans out of the caves and into the future. Dreams have given people hope, desire, and love for as long as there has been at least one Sandman. Dreams have also inspired and created a great many things in this world and the world of the Sandman. The Sandman are not aliens from another planet. They were once humans too, dead and gone from their world. When a human dies and if that human was of an uniquely creative mind then that former human can become a Sandman. They are moved into Somnium, the world of the Sandman, and decide from there whether to stay or not. When one chooses to become a Sandman, another Sandman moves out.

The only time this system did not work was during the Time of Little Dreaming, otherwise known by humans as the Black Death. Death and sorrow were so rampart that it caused another crack to appear in the world below the Sandman, what is deemed of as Inferis. Inferis is full of cracks created during times of great suffering. The Sandman police these cracks and the human world to keep at bay the demons that haunt humans while they dream. The monsters under human children’s beds, the thumps at night, the nightmares, the black figure that keeps humans paralyzed with fear, the lustful dreams that pull humans away from themselves… those and more are the crimes of the evil ones: Succubus,  Incubus, Mara, and their king Phobetor. Generally, only a few run rampart every so often before they are caught and killed by the Sandman, but the suffering and sorrow was so great during the Black Death that the Sandman quickly became overwhelmed by the number of these evil entities. While the Sandman are already long gone from the pain of death these evil creatures, if they win in battle, can cause a sentence far worse than death: they can infect the Sandman and cause the Sandman to become an Epiales, the living nightmare. This is what happened during the Time of Little Dreaming. So few of the Sandman were left that they had to take quick action.

In Somnium there is a scroll that sits in the center of the valley. It details all of the Sandman from the first to the last ever. Humans names are wrote upon this cloth and when they die their name moves up. The humans are spaced apart so only one new Sandman appears every 50-70 human years.  This is to keep a balance in Somnium, so never too many or too few are there. But during times of emergency a Sandman can cause the next human in line to gain his Sandman abilities early, because while the evil dreams can change a Sandman, they cannot change the humans while they still breathe. The chosen human becomes able to fight the demons and to enter the dreams of other humans. They can also see the portals to Somnium and travel between the two at will. They can also see the cracks that allow the demons to bleed through into the human world. The scroll was activated after the Sandman lost thousands of themselves to the demons.

And out of this activation, a young boy once named William was awoken. Together with the remaining Sandman, the lad fought against the demons. In the end, the causalities were plenty but the war was won. Phobetor was killed by William and peace fell upon the Earth. William chose to give up his status as a Sandman and returned to normal human life once again. His name disappeared from the scroll.

Many hundreds of years later, another young man appeared. He had died in the human world from overdose. He was the descendant of William, named James. James decided to become a Sandman and he trained with the Sandman. The adjustment was great for James for his soul, like other addicted ones, needed the toxins. Withdrawal was the hardest pain James went through, but he survived. He excelled in training and became a top candidate for the next ruler of Somnium. However, on his first assignment as a Sandman he experienced something no other Sandman has. A child died while James was trying to sprinkle the dust into her eyes. Her soul flew and merged with his. James became withdrawn from the other Sandman after that incident and wanted to be left alone. James did volunteer at a lot more shifts around hospitals, but as time went on he was rarely seen by any other Sandman unless it was during the times James came and went from Somnium into the human world. James also started taking longer and harder shifts at children’s hospitals. It was far too late when the activities of James was found out. James had been prowling the hospitals for more souls to take. The souls, when merged, become like a drug to a human. James had been stealing the souls in order to become high again. At his trial, James was sentenced to be removed from Somnium and moved to Inferis with all knowledge of Somnium to be erased from his memories, for his crimes meant that he could never move into the afterlife. Life resumed as normal following James’ eviction from Somnium… until James returned.

James had managed to migrate his way in Inferis to become their new King as they had long been without the guidance of one. James led the evil army to march from Inferis into one of the Somnium portals James managed to remember. Maybe it was from the high number of souls he stole or it might have been because James was a descendant of the most powerful Sandman to have lived and was the most powerful Sandman of his day. Whatever the case may be, James led a war against the Sandman and won. All the Sandman were turned into Epiales and they, with James’ help, devised a way to bring about great sorrow and suffering on Earth again so that the demons may reign on Somnium and on Earth. Humanity seemed doomed, but luckily I remain.

I am the last of the Sandman. Together with the scroll I stole from the valley I have hid in one of the caves in Somnium such as humans did before the Sandman arrived. I once activated the scroll to call for William and I have lived on Somnium for thousands of years, yet I am too afraid now to make my stand against the whole of the demonized army. I know I must call for help from the scroll, but I fear that the newest Sandman might not be great enough to stop James’ reign.

We All Fall Down

So, this is not a book review. I tried to write this piece for the Howl of the Wild contest that Winterwolf Press is hosting and then I found out that they wanted submissions that “must be aligned with Winterwolf Press’ mission of promoting peace, joy, magic and positivity in society’s creative consciousness”. I have no issue with that. I should have read the prompts first before writing this short story, but I was very angry and upset about something that happened to me this morning and I wanted to take it out on something that wasn’t a wall. I didn’t have access to my gym since I’m a guest, not a member, so I didn’t have access to a punching bag. Microsoft Word became my punching bag and I created this piece which my husband describes as “thoroughly depressing” (hence why I can’t submit it to Winterwolf Press =( ). I have no where else to put it except for Wattpad, which I might, so enjoy a very depressing tale by me!

No one thought this day would come. A day when all the trees would be cut down, a day when there was no more life on Earth besides our own anymore, a day when Earth was to become an inhospitable wasteland. We needed more roads, more paper, more resources, more food, more firewood, more space for our thriving species… and they were the ones who suffered for our ignorance. As I lay here in my bunk, my wife and child beside me, I lay awake and listen to the sounds of their labored breathing. We’ve been underground for weeks and I can tell by how hazy everything is becoming that we have finally run out of fresh oxygen. I haven’t told my neighbors because they were gracious enough to let us steal some months off of their lives. I can’t bear to tell them the end is here. I haven’t told my wife about the situation. Her face has aged ten years in the past week alone after she discovered we were out of the little bit of food and water we hurriedly stored down here with us. I was also worried she would have another attack. We failed to grab the last of her medicine before making it into the bunker. I sure as hell won’t tell my child. I don’t want to inform him that he won’t live to see his fifth birthday or that he won’t wake up tomorrow to play ring around the rosy with me for the last time. I see my old storybook, The Lorax, tucked under his arm. In that moment I wished I had cared a whole awful lot so my child’s future would be better. I would go upstairs to breathe some fresh air and to retrieve some more food and water, but the air has become too hot to even survive in your home. We’re not even sure if the house above us still stands, the solar flares might have taken my neighbors home already. It took ours. I haven’t told my wife or child that our house is gone. I only saw because I closed the bunker doors. The house I grew up in, the house I met my wife in, the home my child was conceived in and brought home to… was gone. Nothing was left but the fire and the smoke. The dry, ashy earth did not help the flames and there would be nothing to help put it out if there was even time. Word of mouth was that while there was no water here, that there was plenty of water on the coastal regions. The heat had finally killed the polar caps. The melted mess flooded anywhere connected to the coast. We speculated Australia was gone, but we wouldn’t ever know for sure. Radio and television became non-existent when electricity and fuel became too expensive and sparse. Even if we had access to running water, the water would be too hot by now. There would be no question that the water would boil your alive. The only thing we had plenty of was each other because we were the only living things left alive on this planet…  for now. I close my eyes for the final time and a thought crosses my mind: I never got to go back to the Grand Canyon or see anymore of the beautiful wildness in the world before it was completely destroyed by us. And I cried as much as a dehydrated, weak person could. I was thirty-three years old.

“Sorry, no more left here,” Said a skinny teen sweating profusely in his fatigues. I assumed he was fresh to the National Guard. What a shitty time to have joined. The kid was in charge of rationing out food today. I felt sorry for him. I could tell the rations were becoming less and less as each day proceeded. There hadn’t been fruit or chocolate for months now. Vegetables were also becoming fewer and fewer each day. We’re only allowed one veggie per week now. We’re only allowed freeze-dried food, like the kinds the astronauts used to receive when we still did space explorations. If you were lucky, you thought ahead to store some food when grocery stores were still in business. We still have some canned food at home, but the electricity shortage was worse than ever. We’re only allowed an hour per day, and we use that to warm our child’s formula, something we also managed to stockpile before the stores closed, and to take showers. We’re considered privileged because we still have electricity still. Some places are completely tapped out. They warm their food and water over the open flames of candles. If Charlotte and I had seen what would happen to our world, we would have never had Jacob. I doubt we would have even married, but we don’t discuss things like that. We’re all we have left in the world. Our parents volunteered for The Reckoning, to ensure we did not have to split our meager rations with them. “I’m sorry, but there is no more food here today” the poor man reiterated to the man in front of me. Behind me, a rumble started growing through the crowd. The man in front of me began to yell. Others joined in. We used to be a civil group, our community saw now violence and we had relatively little crime. Hunger will change a man though. I was too slow to move out of the way, it must have been the hunger. I haven’t ate for two days, and my wife tried to supplement the formula with breastmilk. They needed the food more than I did. I was thrown forward with the crowd into the empty truck the poor man stood on. I struggled to get away from the rioters. In times past, they would have just been jailed and released the next day. In this new time, however, crime was not tolerated. If you were seen as a problem, the authorities did not see any reason to keep feeding you. If they were merciful they shot you in the head. If they felt you should be punished before death, they shot you in the non-vital areas a few times before finally ending it. That is the reason I had a warrant for my death and I had to lay low. I had broken into an old pharmacy and stolen some asthma medicine for my wife a few months after Charlotte’s mother passed on. Normally, her mother snuck medicine for Charlotte out of her pharmacy and in the last days of her mother’s job her mother managed to smuggle several doses of medication for Charlotte. While she normally doesn’t have an attack, the stress of trying to keep Jacob fed made her have more frequent attacks. If anyone found out she was ill, she would be killed. How would I feed Jacob then, if I were still alive that is? Those were the thoughts that helped me finally break free of the crowd and push my legs to run away as fast as possible. As I ran I heard the poor man’s screams be quickly cut off. I only turned around when I felt I was a safe distance away. The truck was overturned and the rioters were standing on top of the truck, trying to incite an uprising among the others milling around. When the military showed up, I turned back around and started home. The last sound I heard from the rioters were their screams as shots rang out. I was twenty-nine years old.

The fish were dead. All of the fish. They all floated upside down in their tanks. It wasn’t like we had a ton of fish to begin with, only a few hundred of our once thousands. The fish had slowly stopped reproducing for awhile now. It wasn’t that big of a mystery as to what killed them. The water was also unbelievably hot as well. My company couldn’t afford to pay the outrageous price to keep the air conditioner running on the fish hatcheries any longer. We had to hope the water wouldn’t become too hot, a bet we lost. I wasn’t that surprised. The temperature continued to rise each and every season. We received no more snow and the rain barely fell. I couldn’t remember the last time I saw green grass. The grass refused to grow any longer. It was now just black piles of Earth that didn’t allow anything to grow in it. Summers were unbearable. We couldn’t even work last summer. The temperatures reached 120 degrees Fahrenheit most days. It seemed pointless for the weatherman to talk about “record-breaking” temperatures when every season was a record-breaking season. Word of mouth is that other areas are suffering far more than we are. The coastal areas are at least ten degrees Fahrenheit hotter than here. The beaches are abandoned because the sun blisters your skin rapidly. While skin cancer is a threat we all live with now, the sun now does far more damage than it used to. Without an ozone layer, the skin is not protected from the sunshine. Some people have reported seeing people try to sunbathe like they could in the past times. They either died or had third degree burns, and in a time with lessening resources being ill meant certain death. Doctors no longer worked to perform miracles to save your life, they now performed quick painless deaths. “Well that’s it guys. It was sure good knowin’ y’all. Without the fish we’re gonna hafta close. Thanks for standin’ by me all these years,” Joe, my now former boss, said. I left the hatchery and headed to Charlotte’s home, hoping that seeing my fiancée’s face would cheer me up on this horrible day. As I walked to her home, I noticed the sky. It was blue and cloudless. The sun was high in the sky. The clouds rarely, if ever, appeared. I did not notice until later in my walk to Charlotte’s home that the fish were the last animals I had seen in years. I was twenty-six years old.

Charlotte had eyes as blue as the sky. They were that deep blue color that seemed to be endless. However, her eyes were very sad. My best friend, my secret crush, was upset today. Her father lost his position at the police station, as did all the other police. The increased rioting around the country and the increased tensions among different countries made the government scared they’d lose the country to the chaos that threatens to destroy us all. Every city in the country was to be governed by the military now, and since the police were ingrained in the community they were to be forced out of their positions. We are now under military rule. While normally the government would not have the resources to fund this expenditure, a mandatory draft was put in place and all able bodied men and women were forced to sign up or face death. Charlotte and I were excused from the draft. I had a rod in my leg from where I broke my leg with I was young and Charlotte was asthmatic. When Charlotte texted me I offered to take her to do her favorite activity, cloud watching. As we laid down on the dry, yellow grass we began our childhood game. The game went like this: we would spot a cloud and tell the other what we think the cloud resembled. It was childish, but it wasn’t like I could take her into town to watch a movie. We lived in a rural area and my parents had long ago sold the car. We never used it anymore and we could used the money for other things. Unless we wanted to go grocery shopping, this was the most entertaining thing we could do at the moment. We never noticed, until we were laying on that ground, that all the clouds seemed to have disappeared. We occasionally saw a few, but they lacked the fluffiness they used to. When had the clouds disappeared? I had a feeling I would never find out. While we laid there, looking in vain for the clouds we once loved to watch when we were children, I noticed the birds flying south for the winter. There were only two in the group. I watched for more, but there were no more. Unlike the clouds, I had noticed the birds. I loved to watch them fly and always looked forward to their flight south in the winter and their return in the spring. The birds, once numerous and plentiful, were now sparse. They shrunk in population each and every year. I wondered if I would see their return in the spring. Surely, they would be hunted like the other animals. Since hunting licenses were no longer required to kill any animals, I doubt someone would pass the opportunity for fresh meat. Meat had become sparse recently and the grocery stores did not have the stock they used to, and rumor had it that some of the meat that was stocked was not cow or pig, but dog and cat. Sometimes I wondered if Sparky was among those slaughtered for meat. I pushed those thoughts out of my mind as I tried to concentrate on our game. I looked over at Charlotte and noticed her beautiful face had a smile on it. At least she was happy. That’s all that mattered to me. I was twenty-two years old.

“The early efforts of the conservation movement can be traced back to John Evelyn and his work titled Sylva, or a Discourse of Forest-Trees and the Propagation of Timber in His Majesty’s Dominions. The work was presented in 1662 and published as a book two years later. Timber resources in England during the time…” my history teacher, Ms. Isbell, droned on. She was teaching us about the conservation movement in light of the most recent repeal. The government passed a law that would allow anyone to hunt any animals they wanted without penalty or regulations. Zoos also lost their funding and were to either release the animals or send them back to be placed into their natural environments. This was something other countries were doing around the world. Rumors had it that some zoos, like San Diego and Cincinnati, were giving their animals a painless alternative. Most of the animals had lived in captivity all their life and wouldn’t survive in the wild if the hunters didn’t get to them first. While normally these zookeepers would have been arrested for harming the animals, it was no longer a crime to do so. No animals were safe with humans any longer. The reason for this act was because of the pigs, cows, turkeys, and chickens. While there used to be farms that harvested the animals for their meat, the supply could not keep up with the demand as our population continued to grow. The plan seemed to be to let people hunt whatever they could so maybe that would relieve some of the strain the farmers faced. When school was over that day Charlotte and I walked home together. We went to my home so we could do our homework together. While we were working on our work and talking about stupid school stuff, my mother came running into the dining room. She had put Sparky in our now 100 square foot backyard to do his business while she went to do gather the laundry that was drying on the tiny bit of grass that was our front lawn. We once had more land, but when the city took our trees away to build more houses. We needed more homes as our population continued to grow, so we had less land around our home. Sometimes I threw a football with the ten year old that lived beside us. We threw the ball between our windows, as we lived only 5 foot apart from one another. We once owned a washer and a dryer, but we had to sell them when my dad lost his job. When she went to check on Sparky, he was gone and our backyard fence door was open. The door was closed when she put Sparky outside. Charlotte made flyers for me while I ran outside to find Sparky. I searched for him for days, but never saw him again. I was sixteen years old.

The sound of the slamming door woke me up from my slumber. I gently pushed my army man aside and I crept out of the bed. Peaking out of the door, I could see my father standing in the hallway. Anger filled his eyes as he told my mom what happened when he went to work that day. He took our car and drove it to the national park he worked at. It was only when he arrived to work that he was informed he was fired. The government was to blame my father kept saying. They decided not to protect the national parks any longer. The land would be free for private businesses to buy and to build on. The trees would all be cut down because the fuel shortages were becoming more severe. The government was hoping to ease the shortages by allowing people to cut down trees to use instead of using our little remaining fossil fuels. My father was obviously irate. He loved the trees like I did. He did not want to watch them die. After the screaming started, I snuck out of my treehouse. I had to bribe Sparky, our family dog, to not follow me because I wanted to be alone. I also did not want to hear my father yelling any longer. I fell asleep and only woke up when I heard a loud vibrating sound. I looked outside my treehouse window to realize it was some construction men. They were chopping down the few remaining trees we had in our backyard. They were also chopping down the tree I was in. I panicked and curled up into a ball in the furthest corner of the mine and Charlotte’s home away from home. The tree shook and swayed as I listened to the sounds of our other trees fall to the ground. The same trees Charlotte and I once ran around in and played ring around the rosy with. Finally, my tree began to fall. I closed my eyes and waited for the tree to hit the ground. Later that day I would be put in surgery to get a rod placed in my leg. My leg was too badly damage to mend on its own. This would be the last time it was safe to go to a doctor’s office, my mom whispered to my father when they thought that I was asleep. They decided to get help from Charlotte’s mother when it was needed, she was a pharmacist and had some medical knowledge and access to drugs. As I laid in bed, the pain medicine taking over my body and making me sleepy, Sparky jumped up on my bed and snuggled beside me. I was ten years old.

“Can you see it, honey?” my mom whispered to me as we looked out on the Grand Canyon. “This is the beauty of the Earth. Nature and animals. They should always be protected for others to see, like your child one day.” We had went on a family vacation to visit some of the best national parks in our country. Today it was the Grand Canyon. As I looked out at it, my father walked behind my mom. “Gas is $7.45 here.” My mom gasped. “Nowhere else to fill up. The other ones are out of gas. We’ll have to cut the trip short or else we won’t make it home.” I protested to my father that I wanted to stay longer and that I wanted to go see Yosemite. My father shook his head and told me that such a thing wouldn’t be possible unless gas became cheaper. We were having to pay for gas out of our savings account. We left that day and went back to the cabin we were renting for the night. We were given candles for the night and a few tree logs. The electricity allowances had forced the cabin rental company to cut back on a lot of expenses, one of those being electricity and heat after a certain hour. As I was tucked into bed that night I asked my parents why the gas wasn’t cheaper. “We screwed up kiddo” my father said. He then proceeded to explain that when companies in the past time were allowed to mine and do as they wished with our fossil fuels. They used up all the resources way too fast and now there was no longer a lot of them around. Gas came from a fossil fuel and it was becoming more expensive because there was less of it. My father went on to say that this would be the last road trip we’d probably take until we found an alternative to our current situation. All we could do right now is either hope we find another fuel source or pray we think of ways to make alternative fuel and energy. I asked my father what we would do instead of going on family vacations and road trips, as those were our traditions. He told me that he and I would finally get around to building that treehouse I had wanted for so long and that I could still ride with him to work sometimes and go play with the big trees I loved to climb. When I still protested the loss of my beloved vacations, my father turned to look at my mom. They stared at each other and then she gave my father a small smile and a nod. “If you’re a good boy, we’ll adopt a puppy when we get home. You and Charlotte can run through the woods with him and you can teach him tricks.” I smiled at this and hugged my father around his neck. My father finished tucking me into bed, kissed my forehead, read to me my favorite story, The Lorax, and blew out the candle. Right before sleep enveloped me in its velvety haze I prayed for there to be a whole lot of people who would care a lot about our world to change our current situation. I held onto the hope I would come back out here again and I would see more of the beautiful wildness that existed in our world. I was four years old.