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The Dreamscape

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The dreamscape was only the beginning of their friendship. They met often, in both dreams and reality – sharing their troubles on either side. No one else needed to know about it. In Animus City, you weren’t allowed to connect dreamscapes. It was illegal. But for Wade and Carol, it was the way they could endure the harsh pains of life together.


Wade and Carol sat on the tall town hall building, overlooking the falling sun. Dark shadows cast over the cars and small buildings. People were ants on the street. None of the pedestrians noticed two teenagers sitting high up on a rooftop. The pedestrians passed the buildings slowly, with their hands in their pockets, frowning as they wasted their miserable lives.

The aura of the city was a cloud of depression scented with the metallic tang of blood. Most of the city was steeped in crime. Of course, when people committed crimes, they were punished severely. But that didn’t stop them. It was the only thing in life worth doing anymore – for the thrill, and the false hopes. Or else they would commit crimes against themselves by suicide.


As the cool evening mist descended, Carol hugged her knees and sighed. Wade blew out smoke from his lips and dangled his cigarette from his fingertips.


Animus City was hell, but it was their reality. They spent most of their days ditching school, running into the city streets at night, avoiding thugs and pickpockets, and protecting each other.


<i>But it’s more than just that, isn’t it?</i> thought Carol. She wasn’t sure if Wade felt the same way, but she had to know for sure.


“You remember how we met?” asked Carol. She swung her legs back and forth rhythmically.


Wade glanced at her. “Sure. I saved you from those bandits, right?”


She shrugged, remembering that day. It was scary, but Wade always played himself up. “I don’t think I was in trouble.”


His brow wrinkled. “I doubt it. The bandits usually steal children and ransom them off. Or they sell their organs to the black market. I’m glad I saw you that day.”


Carol shrugged again. She was used to the danger of their daily lives. “I’m glad I saw you, too. You weren’t happy that day, were you?”


He frowned. “Most people aren’t happy these days.”


“Well, are you happy now?”


He gave her a look and then took a long drag on his cigarette. “I guess not.”


Carol laughed. It was her nature to laugh in the face of life’s ugliest retorts. “I guess I’m not happy either.”


Wade chuckled, dusting the ash from his army pants and boots.


“Hey,” she said.


“What?”


“Why don’t we escape the Patrol?”

The Patrol was the city’s law enforcement agency – a group of brutes that violently thrashed anyone even remotely breaking the law. Carol honestly preferred the bandits to the Patrol.


Wade shrugged. “It’s impossible.”


“Sure it is.” A cat-like smile came on her lips. “You just have to stay in the dreamscape…forever.”


Wade gave her a strange stare. “What are you talking about? You can’t stay in the dreamscape forever…your body will deteriorate and then you’ll die within the dream.”


The both understood the physics of dreaming. It was a delicate process. But with long-term dreaming, it could destroy the dreamer from within, physically and mentally.


Carol shrugged. “We can try. Maybe when we wake up, we can just do enough to keep our bodies alive…and then continue dreaming.”


Wade shook his head. He looked sickened. “Maybe you… but me, I’ve got dreams, real ones. And I’m not gonna give up my future to…die in some dreamscape forever.”


Carol looked impatient. Her small hands grabbed at the ledge that she sat upon. “What kind of dreams, Wade? What dreams could you possibly have in this hideous hellhole?”


Wade said nothing, looking off into the distance.


“Even you said that it was impossible to escape,” said Carol.


Wade flashed his head back, snarling. “Look, I know what I said! But if you think you can just throw away everything we have for—for the dreamscape, then you’re crazy! The dreamscape isn’t real, Carol, it’s just away to get away from things.”


Carol was hurt by his statements, but she continued. “Then let’s get away. Come on. The dreamscape’s not reality…it’s better.”


They stared into each other’s eyes.


“And you want me…to go with you?”


Carol gulped and nodded.


Wade sighed, turning away, and tossing his cigarette off the roof. He was silent for a moment, and then he stood up and shuffled his feet away from her.


“No, Carol.”


His words were like stones dropping in her heart. “I know I mean a lot to you…and you do too…but it’s not like that. I can’t just give up everything for you and forget things like that.”


He picked up his backpack and sighed.


“Wade.”


He glanced up at her one last time.


“Don’t go.” <i>There’s something I need to tell you—</i>


He gave her a cold stare. Then, something popped in his head. “Be careful. I heard there’s a sickness going around. One that makes people mistake the dreamscape for reality. They end up killing themselves…because they lose sight of what’s in the dream and what’s not.”


Carol’s eyes widened.


“Chances of getting it increase when you share dreams,” he muttered. “I just wanted to let you know.”


He started walking away.


Carol broke out of her trance and called out. “Wait! Wade! I need to tell you—”


He descended down the ladder and disappeared from view.


<i>It was too late to tell him.</i>


Carol sat by herself, quietly staring off to the horizon. Dark shadows elongated, and the red rays of light diminished as they sank under the jagged buildings.


<i>Or maybe…it wasn’t.</i>


There was a quiver on her lips.

<i>You’re wrong, thought Carol.</i> A frail smile appeared on her lips. <i>It isn’t an epidemic at all…well, in a sense it is…but it’s not a mistake.</i>

She stood up.

Wade had a point. But he wasn’t completely right. After people of the miserable city started realizing how much they loved the dreamscape versus the reality, they started spending more time there than in their own worlds. It was only natural…that they wanted to escape.

“Fine, I see how it is. I’ll stay in the Dreamscape forever by myself.”

<i>But if you want to join me…I’ll be waiting. And I’ll wait for you. For when I can finally tell you…my feelings toward you.</i>

Carol stood at the top of the building and unbuckled her jacket, letting it fall to ground. She then closed her eyes and leaned forward. She entered the Dreamscape.

Instantly, her body and senses were consumed with euphoria.

--

The Patrol found her body on the garden below the town hall building. A bouquet of weeds surrounded her body, caressing her broken bones like a monument. Blood was splattered on her face, but there was a smile on her face where she lay.

She had escaped to the final dreamscape. Victory for one, but to the rest of Animus City, she was only a statistic. The world had moved on.

Wade stared at the Patrol from a distance. His teeth bit his lips until he tasted blood and his arms shook terribly. But he slowly calmed himself down and then he walked away, with his head down, ready to retreat into his dreams – whether they were real or not.

He wondered. <i>Should I follow her too? Is it really all just a…</i>

He shook his head, but the doubt wouldn’t leave his brain.

He started running away, but as he did, a thought traced back to his head.

<i>What was it…she tried to say to me?</i>

Could it be? He covered his face with his hand and truth came bubbling back like a burning plague.

<i>“I wanted to say yes.”</i>



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