Welcome back, Dear Reader! If you’ve read the first ten excerpts, feel free to skip this preamble to the meat a few paragraphs down. If you haven’t, well, thanks for joining me!
These are exciting times for your ol’ pal Jerry – after talking about it for most of my life, I finally put the proverbial money and mouth together and started my first novel, Of Dreams & Angels, in the fall of 2019. It’s still in the first draft, (***Exciting update: I finished the first draft this past Sunday! It was an unbelievable feeling to write “The End”) but I thought it would be fun to start putting pieces of it (and thereby my entire soul, don’t you know!) out into the universe. Maybe you’ll get caught up in the intrigue and start following along too.
The synopsis – well, before we get to that, Stephen King, in his memoir On Writing, wrote that many of his stories can be expressed as a What-if question, and after reading that, my imagination (as it pertained to story ideas) started framing situations that way. Of Dreams is this question: What if a man started dreaming about a woman he’d never met, but who actually exists; falls in love with her based on what he sees in the dreams and sets out to find her?
Don’t ask me where it came from, and believe me when I say I’m just as shocked as you are that my first idea for a novel – ok maybe not the first idea in the grand scope of my life, but the first one to make it to fruition – was a fantastical love story. But as soon as I thought of it, *I* wanted to know what would happen, which made me think others might want to, too.
At all rates, here you have it, Dear Reader (also a not-so-subtle borrow from Mr. King, who as you may know refers to us as “Constant Reader”) – another excerpt from Of Dreams & Angels. We’re picking up where we left off in Excerpt 10; Joe is now dreaming about Claire (and has learned her name, among a whole lot of other things!) every night–still trying to figure out if this is the most elaborate instance of lucid dreaming in the history of humankind, or if she just might be real. Enjoy!
In addition to the disruption of his sleeping hours, Joe’s first half-hour of the day was now expressly dedicated to filling out the journal on his night-stand. A Chronicle of Insanity, was how he felt about it most of the time. When they finally come to lock me up I’ll have handed them their entire case right here—a full on biography of a family that doesn’t exist, but who haunt me every night not via the closets or under the bed, but between my ears and behind my eyes.
And yet the compulsion to write, document, and map out the history and connections was too strong to ignore. The visions now felt as real as any waking experience; he no longer (or at least rarely) felt that muted or soaped-over sensation; Claire’s voice no longer even a tinny-echo in his (their?) head when she spoke. Sometimes the dreams were short, truncated scenes: at the dinner table while the kids laughed and teased one another; other times standing in Audrey’s doorway, where Joe would catch only a fragment (but often a very telling one) of dialogue between the sisters. Other nights, the visions were all-encompassing, teleporting him to her life the moment he closed the drapes on his own.
Joe had no idea what he aimed to do with the information he was collecting, other than merely answer an instinct that overwhelmed him. He caught his productivity-to-stolen-time ratio at the office gradually increasing, as more of the hours became devoted to this maddening quest for answers—answers that still eluded him. For as great as the internet was becoming in terms of a trove of information, it seemed impossible to discern between what might have some level of credulity, and what was utter bullshit.
He’d read a blog post on dream symbolism, suggesting certain animals (Claire had a dog and cat) meant this, others meant that; only to discover the author had no more authority than the keyboard and modem they sent the information from. It was hard to locate any scholarly articles on the subject of dreaming—they seemed to be guesswork even on the part of Ph.D’s—and even more difficult to know what to trust. For every well-footed stance found on the World Wide Web, there seemed to be an equally compelling and counteracting view in another corner of the net. Most of the time, Joe felt more confused, and even less certain of what was happening to him than when he started these searches.
His latest attempt to find solace—outside of the dubious surfs he attempted in the internet tides—was in asking for a referral to a psychologist from Dr. Murray. That hadn’t been an easy conversation; not because of the physician’s response, but from Joe’s ever-increasing concern at his own mental health. He had purposefully remained vague during the discourse, saying only that the recurrent nature of the visions and disruptions to his sleep pattern made him wonder if he hadn’t accumulated some unresolved baggage from some unprocessed event. Rather than take to the Yellow Pages, he told the doctor he’d have greater comfort in a referral. Dr. Murray agreed amiably, responding as though this was no different than a request for an X-ray or blood-work. His only comment had been that the referred office would follow up with Joe within a couple weeks.
In the meantime, Joe laid his head down every night with an equal mix of trepidation and excitement: what would tonight’s vision hold? Would there be new information? A new revelation? Or would it be another mundane literal walk in the park; children playing, sun shining, but little in the way of any useful clues? Clues for what, the counter-thought would argue. That you’re hanging on by an increasingly fraying thread?
These counter-arguments between his inner dreamer and the voice he’d dubbed ‘Uncle Peter’ were becoming perhaps the most maddening part of the whole scenario. Joe felt it would be easier if his psyche would just acquiesce in one direction or another. Let’s just drop the whole thing now, knowing it’s ridiculous, implausible, irrational, he’d think, or let’s tip over all the way into belief. Just stop the damned argument already, would you two? You’re the ones driving me crazy now, more than the dreams.
Any attempt to let go, to cling to and hoist himself further along the rope of rationality was met with equally fraught resistance, however. This other voice—whatever the counterpart to Uncle Peter could be called (Joe was starting to think of it as The Dreamer)—while it sounded nothing like his own voice, or any influence he had ever known, spoke in equally compelling tones. There has to be a reason for this. Do you truly believe—do you truly want to believe—that it means nothing? That the lost hours of sleep to the visions, and the lost waking hours to the thought of the visions, have no purpose?
And then, the thought Joe was too fearful to turn his conscious attention—and belief—to, but had become increasingly louder, like a pedestrian with their hands on the hood of a car yelling through the glass. I’m right here, I’m right in front of you: you can look at all the scenery beside the road and in the rear-view mirror, but no matter what you do, I’m directly in front of you, and I’m not moving…
What if she is real.
He couldn’t escape the idea that a potential, actual life—a whole universe of people in complete detail—was coming to him nightly. People he’d never met, who didn’t even come close to resembling (other than the most cursory of surface traits) individuals he’d known in his lifetime. Why would his subconscious do that? Why would it write a consistent and progressive novel in his dreams, night after night, without varying detail? It wasn’t as though one night Claire had blonde hair and blue eyes, the next back to dark brown and turquoise. The house never changed. Audrey, Jackson, Holly, Ainsley—they never changed in appearance either. Most of the dreams Joe could recall in his life, prior to her, had barely managed to stay consistent from the start of the vision to the end, let alone in recurrence. These visions felt real. It almost seemed a disservice to call them dreams. They were windows, into people and lives that felt real. She felt real.
And then, the thought he dared not shift his attention to screamed through the windshield, bullhorn in hand:
You want her to be real.
What if she is? What are you going to do then?
That idea was simply too terrifying for him to think about.
Thanks again for stopping by, Dear Reader! Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more.