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Shattered Illusions

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Prologue

What do dreams mean? Why do dreams even have to mean anything? I always thought dreams were just movies playing in your head while you’re asleep, because sleep to me is a pretty dull task; something we have to do so we don’t die. For some people, dreams are a big, necessary part of life. They dream every night, wake up, remember the dream, and deduce the meaning of life from them. It’s all very mystical and powerful.

On the contrary, I don’t dream. I know all the facts, like “everyone dreams but they don’t remember the next morning”. It’s not true with me; I know I actually don’t dream. When you’re asleep, your mind is in a subconscious state, which means that if you’re having a dream, you know it because your mind is experiencing it. Forgetting it the next morning doesn’t mean you didn’t have the dream, because your mind experienced it. I know I don’t have dreams because in my sleep, my mind doesn’t experience anything. Nothing at all. I don’t remember anything in the morning because there isn’t anything to remember. It’s as simple as that.
What about nightmares? What is the difference between dreams and nightmares? Is it positivity and? Good versus evil? The same difference as right and wrong? Would it be correct to say that all nightmares are dreams, but not all dreams are nightmares?
According to Cinderella, “a dream is a wish your heart makes”. Assuming Disney movies do not intend to depict lies to their young audiences, the statement would imply that a dream is something good, because why would anyone wish for something bad from the heart? The human race can be spiteful and cruel, but those emotions are not heartfelt. They come from greed, from the human mind, from desire. That does mean that dreams are, in general, good and pleasant.
But then how can a nightmare be a dream? Nightmares are foreboding, malevolent portrayals of one’s deepest fears that can turn the strongest man into a snivelling, tormented heap of flesh. Does having nightmares mean you do fear something? Does it mean you’re weak, cowardly, afraid?
I had a nightmare. I think it does mean all those things. I think the lies I’ve been telling myself and believing for months have finally been exposed, and I think I’m a fool.
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Her hair cascaded down to her shoulders when she took out the hairpin and began fiddling with the lock. I was supposed to be on the lookout for any approaching people, but it was so much more fascinating to watch the jet black curls lightly bounce around every time she moved – they reminded me of soapy suds in a warm bath, when the water is sloshing around in the tub. Mara looked up at me and hissed “Dude! Keep watch!” I jumped slightly, shocked out of my reverie by her voice, with a faint British accent. I turned my back on her and looked out over the balcony and yet again saw a deserted lawn and a completely still lake. It had been the same scene for the past twenty minutes, and I doubted it would change. It was Sunday afternoon, everyone was busy napping away. I really didn’t see the point of being a lookout, but somehow Mara always managed to brainwash me into participating in her melodramatic schemes. This one, her most recent “adventure” as she liked to call it, was to pick the lock on the door that blocked access to the stairwell leading to the Astronomy Tower. She insisted it was a great adventure, and I’d agreed to accompany her. On the outside, I’d seemed bored and uninterested, but to be honest, I was uber-excited about it; I had always been curious about the Astronomy Tower, the highest point in school, and finally getting to see it was a very thrilling prospect.

“Got it! Let’s go!” Mara grabbed me by the elbow and shoved me through the dark doorway and followed me, shutting the door behind her. It was pitch dark, and as my eyes adjusted to the gloom, I saw the faint silhouette of a staircase to my left. The stairs wound up in a tight spiral, and I could see a thin sliver of light at the top. I moved towards the stair, only to have Mara grab me by my hair and murmur “I can’t see. Where are you going?”
“I can see the stairs, don’t worry. Hold my hand; I’ll guide you to them. Please please try not to trip!” I placed her hand in mine and began feeling my way to the staircase, guiding myself by feeling the wall to my right. It was wet and slimy, covered in what felt velvety and alive. It’s moss, I thought to myself, keep calm. It’s not going to mutate and eat you both up. Just keep calm. It’s only moss. I had always had a great aversion to fungus and bacterial growths, and it sickened me that I was touching this disgusting wall. Clearly no one had been up here in years, and the eerie silence and murkiness seemed to have taken the room for their own.

We slowly ascended the stairs, feeling each one carefully before resting our full weight on it. They creaked when we stood on them, but held. Finally, after a painstakingly slow ascent, we reached a door. The sliver of light I had seen earlier came from under it, glaringly bright in the dimness. I could just make out the bolt on the door, and the corroded handle. I reached out and gingerly touched it. Small flecks of rusted metal fell to the floor as I made contact, and crunched as Mara stepped on them. The handle felt alien to me, like it came from centuries ago, and made me feel like I was in some way interrupting history. It was an odd feeling, and I didn’t like it one bit.
“You could stop meditating on the handle now, you know. Just pull it!” Mara was getting impatient. Of course she would be, she wasn’t the one with the weird emotions. I pulled the handle toward me.
It didn’t budge.
I frowned and pulled again. Still didn’t move. Just great, I thought, all that hard work for nothing. I grabbed the handle with both hands and pulled, leaning backward completely. The handle shifted, and without warning, slid all the way to the end, catching the patch of skin attaching my thumb to my index finger. The pain was excruciating, and I gasped. The echo reverberated all around the room, sounding deafeningly loud. I pulled my hand from the bolt and felt tears rise to my eyes as the pain doubled. Through the haze of tears, I could see Mara’s eyes huge and anxious as she took in my pain. She pulled the door open and harsh yellow sunshine flooded the room. Quickly pulling me outside, she inspected my hand, gently massaging it, brushing off bits of rust and comforting me until she was sure I felt better, whereupon she left me. The pain began to subside slightly, and I took a proper look at the injury. There was a large red weal on my skin, which seemed to throb with every passing second. It wasn’t bleeding, but I could see the beginnings of a terrible bruise revealing itself. It was gross to look at and I averted my eyes.
I was faced with the most beautiful view: spread out beyond the roof was the lake, looking bigger than ever and glittering under the sunlight, reflecting the cloudless blue sky above. The mountains behind were covered in trees and vegetation, so green and perfect that it looked almost fake. In the horizon, they turned a gorgeous shade of deep blue. It was such a peaceful scene; it seemed to have come right out of a fairytale. It was faultless, and nothing could take away this wonderful moment from me, not even an insignificant injury. I smiled to myself, feeling better. On the other side of the roof, I could Mara sitting on the ground with her ipod, lost in the view. I knew better than to disturb her, so I turned and walked to the edge of the roof. I leant over the railing, looking directly down and marvelling at the height. For some inane reason, I began giggling to myself. It felt good to let go, to just enjoy the moment and laugh off all my troubles, count my blessings. I had so many of them – amazing friends, a loving boyfriend, caring family, a great education, food, water, and so much more. What could possibly go wrong?
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The sun had set and Mara and I were still sitting on the roof, revelling in the peace and quiet. It was getting dark though, and I knew we both had to go before we were locked out of our dorms. I sighed deeply, not wanting to leave, and grudgingly got up. I had just begun walking towards Mara to tell her we had to go, when I heard a laugh. Immediately I was on alert – if someone was at the tower, they would notice the missing lock and come up and look. I crept over to the edge of the roof and peered over the railing, squinting to decipher the figures down below.

It was a couple. I sighed with relief and smiled to myself. I watched as the couple took their time strolling around, giggling and enjoying each other’s company. They stopped a few feet from the tower. In the dim light, I could make out their silhouette but I had no idea who they were. I watched their shadows; shadows that clearly showed they couldn’t keep their hands off each other. I watched from above as the girl disappeared behind a pillar and sneaked up behind him. He laughed, pretending to be scared, and she pulled him to her. They kissed. They were so cute, so in love, so happy. They reminded me of me and my boyfriend. We’d been going out for eight months, the best eight months of my life, and he was everything I’d wanted and so much more. My smile grew at the thought of him, and I felt bubbles fizzing in my tummy like Coke.
I was still smiling when the boy down below stepped into the light and I saw his face.
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The bubbles turned to lead and weighed me down. I couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe. I wanted to look away, pretend I had never seen anything, and bring back my world that had been so perfect just moments ago. I couldn’t though. I was like a child who watches with morbid fascination as an insect eats its prey. I still watched the couple, but I couldn’t register what they were doing. I looked, but I didn’t see. I didn’t see how he could have taken me for a ride like that, how he could treat my heart with such indifference, how he thought he could get away with this. I wanted to cry out to him, tell him that he had destroyed everything and turned my world upside down in the blink of an eye, but my body wouldn’t listen to my mind.

Is this what it’s like to be in shock? I thought, still watching as they sauntered away. I continued staring in their direction long after they had gone, and returned to reality when a bat fluttered past me and perched itself on the roof of the nearby Chemistry room. It sat there, upside down, eerily staring at me with its eyes glowing in the dark, and a sudden sense of foreboding gripped me. I was dazed by what I had just seen, and I only just realised it was night and we were very late. I pulled myself together and ran to Mara, who had fallen asleep listening to her usual Celtic music. I shook her shoulder and indicated my watch, and she too jumped up. We quickly walked to the stairwell together, and she again held my hand while I tried to climb down the stairs as fast as the pitch black darkness would allow me to. It felt good to concentrate on something, to let my mind think about something other than his heinous betrayal of my trust. I didn’t know how to deal with this, and I was dreading seeing him again because I would never, ever be able to look at him in the same way again, let alone with an iota of respect.
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I lay in bed that night, mulling over how such an amazing day could turn so sour. I’d reached my limit, and hearing my guardian yelling at me for my “lackadaisical attitude towards punctuality” had just pushed me over the edge. I felt a tear seep out of the corner of my eye and roll down towards my temples. It tickled as it disappeared into my hair, but I was beyond caring and I ignored the urge to touch the area.

What was I supposed to do? I had never been in a situation like this, and never in my wildest dreams had I thought I would ever be in one. I’d always thought only people who deserve it get cheated on, because surely no good person would deserve such agonising pain. How does one deal with this? How is it that someone you could love so much could just throw it all away? Didn’t he know how much I cared about him? How I would do absolutely anything for him, anything to be with him?

No, that couldn’t be. I knew he knew it, just as well as I did. I’d told him plenty of times, shown it, proved it, and it was as crystal clear to everyone that I adored him. I hated the fact that I didn’t see it coming and I hated that I let myself fall for him, but most of all, I hated the fact that no matter what had happened, I was still in love with him.

You can’t get rid of love, I guess. You can stop loving someone, and you can hate them, but you know somewhere deep down you’re still in love with them, or with your idea of them. I was still head over heels for him, and he didn’t care for me anymore. I wasn’t a weak girl though. Sure, I might shed some tears and marinate in misery for a while, but I would never let anyone mistreat me and get away with it. I’m going to be the mature one, I decided, and I’m going to talk it out like an adult.
And then I’m going to move on, because he’s no longer worth my time.
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“I know about her. I saw you guys last night”.
We were sitting together on the bench beside the chapel and his head was on my lap. I had felt like dropping a rock on it when he first lay down, but obviously I couldn’t so I let it pass. Now however, he looked up at me. It shocked me that his expression remained unchanged as if I had done nothing more than commented on a piece of wood. He continued to look at me, and finally he lifted his head and sat up.
“So? What do you want me to say?”
I was dumbstruck. I had not envisioned the conversation taking such a turn and I didn’t know what to say. So I didn’t say anything. He continued to watch me carefully, and I felt like throwing up. What the hell was happening?
“I can’t believe it took you so long. Couldn’t you see all the signs? I don’t have feelings for you any more; you no longer possess the qualities you used to. Look at you, you’re so unattractive and bland. There’s nothing appealing about you, how can you blame me for looking at other girls?”
Tears began to well in my eyes and threatened to spill out. He noticed them, I knew he did, but ignored it.
“I’m sorry and everything, but I deserve someone who’s good enough in every aspect you know. And you, unfortunately, fall short. Too bad, love.”
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I’m suspended for three weeks on the grounds of “causing physical damage requiring medical attention”. The f***** deserved a lot, I agree with him. He deserved more than just a broken collarbone and a chipped tooth.
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