I looked up and saw Caleb leaning up against the tree trunk, a cluster of branches cradling him like a mother's arms. He smiled at me, happy to have me back. "What are we doing up in a tree?" I asked him, and he just giggled in response. I watched him phase out momentarily, and then reappear on the branch at my side.
"Do you wanna play a game?" He asked.
"What kinda game?"
"I don't know. We could race." It sounded a bit childish to me, but his grin was irrisistable.
"You're on. How about we go down to the end of the block?" I started to sit up and hop down from the tree, when Caleb warned me not to.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you."
But I jumped down anyway, and suddenly felt the ground, the grass, the whole world, suddenly crack beneath my feet. I stood perfectly still, my eyes wide, not knowing what to make of it. I took a step forward, and it cracked even more, like a sheet of thin ice.
"Told ya." Caleb grinned. "You're not in a deep enough sleep yet. The dream's not finished being built. It's gonna take a while for things to be more stable. Me included."
"What do I do?" I said, afraid to move one inch to the left or right.
"Just climb back up." He said. How could I do that if I couldn't even move. But looking up at him, he motioned for me to join him. "Come on up. Go ahead. It won't hurt you." I took his word for it, and with a lean towards the tree, I lifted one of my feet and took a step backwards. The second it touched down again, the ground caved in around my right leg and I sank down into it.
Caleb laughed at my predicament. "I thought you said it would be ok!" I shouted up at him, holding on to make sure I didn't sink any deeper into the plates underneath me.
"Stop thinking that you're gonna fall. You're doing it to yourself. Just concentrate on being back up here with me." He said. And it was no easy task, but once I was able to get my mind off of falling through to the center of the Earth...I was able to effortlessly climb my way back up to the branch we were sitting on. Caleb lightly applauded me for regaining my position. "See? It's easy."
As I looked up through the leaves, I saw fish swimming in the sky above us, and a series of waves and ripples breaking over the rooftops of the houses on the block. And, of course, in the background...there was the fog. "What's over there?"
"Behind the fog."
Caleb shrugged his shoulders. "What do you want to be over there?"
"Oh yeah. Right." I thought about it a second, and suddenly, some of the fog was wiped away from the background, and a tall mountain shaped like a giant penis stood in the distance. Baxter would have been proud.
"Hahaha! I like the way you think, Donnie!" He laughed. It was such a warm feeling, being near him again. Like visiting an old friend. I stared at him for a moment or two, admiring the gentle beauty of him, and wondered just how far I could take a dream like this.
"Can I ask you a question?" This was my dream, did I really have to ask?
"Where do I know you from?" I said. "I mean...before the dream."
"I don't think you know me from anywhere. I've never seen you before." He answered.
"Then...how can you be here right now?"
"I dunno. You tell me."
He always had an answer that led to me remembering that this was all make believe and completely under my control. But despite it all, I couldn't shake the feeling that this wasn't 'me' making all of this happen. I know because, as we were talking up in that tree, I would occassionally try to focus on something else around us. I would think about making a leaf fall, and it would fall. I would think about hearing a dog bark, and it would bark. It was just like Chucky said it would be. The whole dream world was under my guided influence. Except for Caleb. I thought about changing the color of his hair from blond to red, or purple, or black. And nothing happened. He didn't even notice me trying. He just kept happily talking away about this and that while I tried to direct his role in the dream. I wanted to change the color of his jacket, or make his voice deeper, or get him to say something specific...but nothing worked. There was this weird mental 'block' on my authority when it came to him. And it led me back around to the exact same conclusion that I had before. He wasn't a natural part of this dream.
Even his conversation was strange. I didn't really understand a single word he was saying once I actually tried to focus on it. It was like this random mumbling under his breath. No real words or sentences. But when he smiled and mumbled and followed it up with a laugh...I felt myself wanting to laugh too. As though there was some shared meaning for what he was saying, even though I couldn't really decipher it. And it was cute. I was fascinated with the fact that this dreamlike mumbo jumbo was easily absorbed and translated into a language that only my subconcious could understand. Finally, after what seemed like an hour of witty banter between us, I felt myself drawn closer to him. I was watching the way his pretty lips were moving, and the way he would lightly push his blond hair back with two fingers every few minutes, and the way his eyes would sometimes catch me staring...and would give me a smile all their own. My heart was full of this unknown energy, and since this was only a dream, and I didn't know when I was gonna wake up again, I figured...what the hell? I might as well have some fun in here. So, without any more hesitation, I leaned over and kissed Caleb on the cheek while he was in mid sentence. It wasn't like I had to worry about being 'outed' in a place like this. Besides, it was an impulse that I had been trying to hide from myself since I first laid eyes on him.
Caleb was speechless for a moment, and then turned bright red. "Donnie...." He giggled.
The thing about dreams...you can be as confident and as bold as you want to be. You can take as many risks as you want to without consequence. None that matter in the real world anyway. I don't know what came over me, I just....I have been daydreaming about this boy all day long, we've been talking and laughing for what felt like five or six months now...and I just...I wanted to know what it was like to kiss him. So there. "I think you're beautiful, you know that Caleb?"
His blush deepend, and I felt this rush of emotion wash over me, like a warm chill cascading down my backside. "No. I'm...I'm not." He said shyly.
"No, I mean it. You're amazing. I like being here with you. A lot." Maybe it was a cool twist to not have control over Caleb. Something about this felt so genuine. I had no idea what he was gonna say next, but I got to just...lay it all on the line and ask. "Can I kiss you again?"
"You wanna kiss me?"
"More than anything. Sure." I said, and he hid his grin from me for a moment before bashfully nodding his head for me to continue. So, with a slight tremble in my chest, I leaned forward on the tree branch and lightly touched my lips to his own. I could feel it in my stomach. The nervousness, the passion, the longing. I had never shared a kiss with anybody before, but Caleb's embrace was just as real as any other. I was surprised at how my emotions just leapt up into my throat as if all of this was really happening. I was also amazed at how uncomfortably hard I was getting as I felt Caleb's tongue slide timidly forward to touch my own. My arm went around his back, and my other hand went to rub small circles on his chest as we slowly began to find a comfortable rhythm. Our lips getting in sync with each other as we gently chewed at one another with a moan. I could taste the saliva on his tongue, and its sensual flavor caused my pulse to race like never before. It was like...the more I kissed him, the more 'real' he became. And his kiss was getting stronger by the second. I heard a noise and stopped our kiss just long enough to look around. The whole neighborhood had become ten times brighter, the sky was more blue than it had ever been, and the buildings themselves seemed to lean and sway with every comfortable gust of wind. The grass was greener, the street was cleaner, the air was sweeter...my entire reality seemed to wrap itself around the good feelings in my heart and make everything beautiful. If only April were here to take a picture of this place.
I felt a hand on my chin, and Caleb turned me to face him so he could kiss me deeply again. This time with more passion. This time he was hungry for it. And I felt his hands pull me close to lay down on top of him, as the tree branches safely cradled us both. The world around me began to rise in temperature, and I swear that I could feel a sheen of sweat breaking out on my forehead. The flowers bloomed, and the birds sang, and the fog was pushed further back to reveal huge green meadows and oceans of silver. We were making out as if our lives depended on it, our lips smacking as Caleb whimpered desperately beneath me. As though he had been waiting for this moment his whole life. Out of all the wet dreams I had ever experienced, not a one of them could come close to the heat generated by the passion of this unknown boy. A dream figure that seemed to materialize out of nothing at all. Caleb reached down to grab my ass and pull me deep into his spread legs, and moaned as he pushed his tongue further into my mouth. For such a shy boy, I never once expected him to be so openly lustful all of the sudden. Not that I was complaining, but he went from 0 to 60 in the matter of a few minutes. As I felt his legs wrap tightly around my waist, his whimpers and heavy breathing increasing in their intensity, I had to open my eyes to make sure that this was the same boy that I had been talking to just seconds ago.
Then, I stopped for a second. "Hey..." I said, as Caleb clung to me with both his arms and legs, not wanting to stop. He craned himself up and began to kiss my neck, sucking on the flesh and trying to continue our game. But I wanted to really enjoy this some place nice. "Hey...why don't we go inside? We can get out of this tree, and just...have some fun." I suggested.
His eyes peered into mine, the green orbs almost showing a hint of fear. "Inside?" He asked.
"Yeah, so we can spread out a little bit. Get out of these clothes, maybe?" I smiled, kissing his lips briefly. His expression had changed completely, and he looked away from me as though something were bothering him. "Caleb?"
"Yeah?" He said, his voice trembling. He stared off into space, as if he were remembering something...tragic.
"Caleb, I wanna be with you. We've got all the time in the world, right?" I said with a smile. But his grin was no longer existant.
"I can't." He said.
"What? What do you mean you can't?" I kissed him again to persuade him, and I could definitely feel his hardness rubbing up against me as I pushed my hips into him. "Come on, let's go." I whined playfully, making a few circular gyrations to get him to follow me. But as he turned his head to look at the house...he refused.
"No. I can't. Not in that house. I don't like that house." At that moment, the world around me started getting grey, as though the colors were beginning to fade. I looked up at the sky and saw this thick army of black stormclouds rolling in quickly. Covering the entire neighborhood in a pitch black shadow. The wind picked up immediately, and lightning and thunder began to strike all around us. What the hell was going on here? I wasn't doing this. Was I?
I used all of my focus to try to change the dream back. To clear up the storm and get things back to normal. But all of my once 'god-like' powers were suddenly useless in this place. And Caleb was the one in total control. "What's happening?" I shouted over the noise as the sky got even darker. The winds nearly making it hard for me to breathe. As the clouds covered the area above us, and the fog swallowed up the background, the storm opened up and began to shower us both with a rain of warm blood. It came cascading down upon us, first staining the leaves, and then drenching us in the thick wet liquid. I looked at my arms and legs, covered in dirty crimson, and could taste the bitter flavor of it on my lips. Caleb's eyes were focused up at the sky, and when I looked down towards the base of the tree...a baseball glove was sitting there on the ground. A single ball, covered in blood, came rolling towards it to land directly in its grasp. Caleb began to cry and sniffle next to me, and his tears were pure black, like oil, running down his cheeks as the wind nearly blew me right out of the tree and onto the ground below. It got to be so dark that I could barely see my hand in front of my face until a strike of lightning gave me some much needed light. The wind was strong enough to choke me, and the air grew stale and rotten as the trees and plantlife around us began to wither and die.
"You don't love me, Donnie..." Caleb wailed. "Nobody loves me. Nobody."
"What? What are you talking about?"
"I'm unworthy. You HATE me. Everyone hates me for who I am!" As he cried, the thunder got louder, and the lightning got dangerously close. Long rivers of blood suddenly ran down the street, flooding the sewer drains and the gutters on the roof of every house on the block.
"I don't hate you Caleb!" I shouted, still trying to figure out how I could have lost control of everything. Nothing I thought of would work, and everything spiraled down into the horrific images of a terrifying nightmare.
"Don't lie to me. Please don't lie to me. I can't take it anymore...." He said, his voice doubling and tripling up on itself as it seemed to cause the blood rain to fall down with even more fury than before. Drenching us from head to toe, and turning the ground into mud. "No more hearbreaks. I can't survive another heartbreak. It hurts too much...." He sobbed.
And then...behind us, coming from my room...the record player began to play that mellow tune again....
"Somewhere, someday....we'll be close together, wait and see. Oh, by the way....this time the dream's on me."
"I can't stay here with you, Donnie." He cried. "I'm not supposed to be here. I'm not supposed to be here. I'm a good boy. A good boy....." He looked over at me, his eyes turning completely black as his face went pale...nearly blue. And he said, "You can't save me..." And a bolt of lightning knocked me clear out of the tree to come crashing down on the concrete of my driveway, as the clouds swirled up violently above us in a vicious whirlwind. The last thing I heard, was Caleb screaming up at the sky, an unnatural echo rumbling through the heavens with a vengence. "HOW COULD YOU JUST LET ME DIE?!?!?!"
I woke up in an instant. This time, in the middle of the night, about 4 in the morning. It wasn't the long night of restful sleep that I had experienced before. I had been tossed out of the dream and back into the real world before getting a chance to even use Chucky's spinning technique to keep myself engaged. I jumped up in my bed, feeling as though I were still falling back to Earth, still hearing the echoes of his scream in my mind. I clutched my hand to my chest as I felt my heart beating so hard that it hurt.
I sat up, my sheets damp from a cold sweat, and I wondered what the hell had happened to me in there. My mind was spinning around in circles, bewildered, lost in a world that wasn't real to anyone but me. And it took me almost five minutes to catch my breath again. What did I do? Why did Caleb react so violently to the idea of coming into my house? I know what Chucky said...that everything inside the dream was a part of me. Everything was my own creation, and if someone was there or something happened, it was because I created it personally. Right? But...nothing about that dream felt personal. None of that could have come from me, I'm sure of it. Am I cracking up, or what? I've gotta see Chucky and tell him to interpret this for me, because this doesn't feel right anymore.
I didn't go back to sleep at all that night. Instead, I stayed up and watched music videos on TV until it was time for my parents to go to work. My dad was in a rush to get out of the house, but he gave me the strangest look when he saw me on the couch in my robe, watching tv so early in the morning. My mom sat with me for a second to see if everything was alright. What was I going to tell her? I was having sex with a boy in my dream and it turned into armageddon, so I'm staying awake now? I just nodded and let her know that I was fine. She tried to convince me to go back to bed and get some more sleep in before school, but she could see in my eyes that it would have been a useless effort. I just told her that I was having trouble sleeping these days, and left it at that. She said, "Maybe you're still getting used to being in this big house. You'll get more comfortable after you settle into it a bit more."
"Yeah, I guess." She wanted to do a better job of soothing me, but she was on a schedule and had to get going. So she kissed me on the forehead and reminded me to eat breakfast before leaving the house. By the time Jeff, Baxter, and April, arrived to take me to school, I was almost ready to nod off again.
"You're awfully quiet today." Jeff noticed.
With a yawn, I told him, "I'm just tired. That's all." I saw another flash in the car as April took a picture of me stretching.
"You're so cute when you stretch." She laughed.
"Whatever." I giggled back.
April wanted to get to school early that day, as she wanted to check on her pictures for the yearbook committee. She had been waiting all weekend to finally see what they looked like. She was practically dragging me through the halls to get to the office and claim her photos. She rushed over to a nearby table and ripped the envelope open. Even through my fatigued haze, I couldn't help but smile at her eagerness. It's like watching an excited chipmunk stacking up a collection of chestuts in the hull of a tree stump.
"Awesome! I like this one. What do you think?" She said, showing one of her many pictures of me in the high school library. "Hehehe, this one is classic Chucky behavior..." There was a photo of Chucky, head down, resting on his hand at a desk, looking frustrated while working on his science homework. "I can definitely use this one for the Junior Class." I held back a yawn so she wouldn't see. Not that I was bored, just tired. But she'd take it to heart if she thought I wasn't interested. "Oh man, this one is cool too! I've got a great idea for this one." She walked over to a nearby shelf and carried over a stack of old yearbooks they used as guides to structure the next layout. And she opened a few of them out. "I figure, I can do one of the pictures like a collage, like this one. Or..." She flipped a few pages in an even older yearbook. "...I can kinda morph the pictures together like this one. Like if I change the pattern up a little bit..." She went through book after book, trying to get my opinion on what would look cool, when suddenly, I had to stop her!
"WAIT!!! What was that? Go back!"
"What is it?" She asked.
"Go back! Go back!" She was confused, but turned back a few pages in a yearbook for the graduating class of 1996. What I saw there caused me to take a step back and cover my mouth to keep from gasping outloud. "That's him..." I whispered.
"That's...that's Caleb. That's the boy from my dream."
"What are you talking about?"
"The BOY I've been dreaming about! That's him! I swear to God...THAT'S HIM!!!!"
She looked closer at the page. "Hmmm...Caleb Jordan, Sophomore Class of 1996...see 'memorial page'." She squinted her eyes. "Memorial page?" I couldn't speak. Just looking at that photo, with Caleb's definitive smile gleaming for me to see, had shaken me to the very core. April turned to the page it mentioned and read the small inspirational message at the bottom. She said, "Ohhh...I get it. Har dee har...Happy Halloween, right? Big time creepy. Yeah, I get it. You're joking, right?"
"What? No...April, I'm not joking, that's him."
"Suuuure. Trick or treat, very funny. Now stop playing games, I've gotta get some ideas floating around before class starts..."
"APRIL!!!" I said, a serious look on my face. She seemed a bit concerned, like she was almost ready to believe me.
"You're not joking around, are you?" I shook my head, not taking my eyes off of the page. "Donnie...this memorial says that Caleb Jordan died ten years ago. If what you're saying is true, then you've been dreaming about a ghost for the past few days."
"Maybe even longer than that." I whispered, taking another step backwards.
"Come on, Donnie, you were like...SIX when he passed away. How could you have possibly have known this guy."
"I didn't. I just met him." My mind wouldn't process it. It refused to acknowledge it. "How did he die?"
"Well, gee, Donnie...let me just look that up in the 'horribly morbid' section of the high school yearbook and find out." She said. "How am I supposed to know? Look, I've gotta get to class. Just...ease off of the dream walking for a while, ok? Get some sleep. You look like shit today."
"I thought you said I was cute?"
"I was trying to be nice."
"How sweet of you." I said. She wrote down the name of the yearbook and the copy number and handed it to me.
"I personally think you're going bonkers...but if you wanna come back at lunch or something and check the book out some more, I'll leave a note with the desk clerk to loan you the book for a while. K?"
"Thanks, April." I said, and she gave me a hug.
"Don't you flip out on me, Donnie. You're one of the only best friends I've got." And she left to go to class.
My feet wouldn't move at first. I just stood there, thinking about the dream, thinking about the storm, thinking about Caleb's kiss. Whatever happened to him...he's still holding on to it. And somehow, he picked me to share it with. I've gotta look further into this. This is something I don't think Chucky can help me with. Or anybody for that matter. I'm on my own.
Caleb Jordan....that was his name. Where do I go from here?