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Map of Dreams Chapter 1
“No, no, Judith! Don’t you dare start with me again!” Mrs. Carter warned her daughter for just about the thousandth time.
“Mom, calm down. There’s nothing to worry about,” said Judith. “I have some perplexing theories about my dreams, and I need some help comprehending them. You have the mind of a scholar, so you help me.” Judith Carter, although a 16-year-old girl with the heart of an exceptional college student, possessed the mind of a kindergarten teacher. Her mind always seemed to journey to some fantasy world.
“That is exactly what I mean,” continued Mrs. Carter. “For your whole life, you’ve dreamed, fantasized, and imagined up these magical spirits and creatures, and it’s becoming a serious issue. I can never break your dream spell. It’s not healthy.”
Judith gave an amused laugh. “Oh, Mom, I have a slight feeling you’re overreacting,” she replied. “I mean, sure, I have a creative imagination! But how could that possibly be hazardous to my health?” She shrugged, trying to emphasize her point.
“Well, it’s not just your health, it’s my health, too!” said Mrs. Carter, feebly attempting to harbor her increasing exasperation. “Do you even have the faintest idea of how worried I’ve been about you, lately? A girl your age needs to do the right thing, and leave all this nonsense behind.”
Through her mother’s lecture, Judith’s attentiveness gradually started to diminish, until her entire psyche had been dominated by her dreams. Staring intently into space, she merely walked away, without consciousness of it, and didn’t hear a single thing her mother was saying.
When Mrs. Carter noticed her wandering off, she asked firmly, “Judith Carter, are you even listening to me?” Judith was in too much of a daze to respond, and in realization of that, she declared, “Apparently not,” and sighed heavily. “Oh, well, she can enjoy her little wonderland all she wants. It’ll come back to bite her later.”
Judith Carter was truly a one-of-a-kind person. She lived in the Blarney Castle, a colossal place located in Ireland. It was a formal house, so Mrs. Carter naturally expected everybody in the Blarney Castle, including her shy daughter, to act and dress formally. It was her nature: old-fashioned. Of course, what person, who lived in the year of 1865, wouldn’t be old-fashioned?
That night, as her imagination waltzed about in her head, Judith’s eyes began to sag as she lay silently in bed. She put her mind under her dreams’ control as she always did at night, and before long had drifted peacefully off to sleep. Little did she know that the rest of her night was destined to be everything but peaceful.
At about 4:00 A.M., when Judith was still sound asleep, the dreams in her head rebelled against her, and transformed into nightmares. But she never woke up. She didn’t wake up, panting heavily in fright like most people would. Once she was asleep, there was no waking her up. Not being able to wake up in the middle of a nightmare was pure torture for Judith. In her bed, she tossed her head back and forth violently across the pillow, writhing under the covers, and clenching the seam of her pillow with her fingertips. This was the first nightmare she’d had since she was seven.
By 4:30, a thunderstorm raged. The tiniest bit of wind barely managed to squeeze itself through the window frames, and circled into a large tornado. Voices murmured throughout the room in anger and antipathy. Judith was completely oblivious of this, but her skull gradually began to open wide, starting out as a small hole at the top of her head and continually expanding into a large vortex. Then, in a quick whirlwind of various fantasies, she was sucked into her head.
Upon arriving at the other end of the black hole, Judith landed weightily on her back in some strange land, a beautiful place surrounded by incredible scenery and flooded with color and bright, open skies. She remained sleeping deeply, until a brief gust of cool wind passed through her soft, golden hair and woke her from her slumber. Moaning softly, she turned onto her side and leisurely began to sit up, leaning one elbow against the grass for support as she sat up. She rubbed her eyes, and waited for her blurry vision to subside before rising from the ground. Releasing a yawn, she tried to rid herself of that uncomfortable light-headedness she sometimes obtained in the mornings and tried to find her center. It was when her blurred eyesight came into focus and she came to her senses that she realized she was no longer in her bed.
She turned in all directions in a somewhat jerky motion, trying to allow herself to register the fact that she was suddenly in a new, unfamiliar environment. “Where on earth am I?” she exclaimed in bewilderment. She panted for a few seconds in a momentary wave of panic. “This cannot be my room.” Judith was confused beyond comprehension. This was impossible. Where was she?
Suddenly, a brusque bolt of pain pierced through her head, causing her to stumble. “Oh, what hit me?” she mumbled, clutching her forehead and struggling to stay on her feet. Her head was definitely hurt in some way, but she couldn’t fathom how it got that way. Did she bruise it, maybe? Well, she decided to worry about that later. That wasn’t as big a deal as the fact that she was in some weird city or planet that was probably miles away from home.
Judith released her head from her clutches, and although was still a bit dizzy, managed to keep her feet on the ground.
This place she was in seemed all too familiar, as if she had been here before, but she wasn’t sure. But how had she even gotten here in the first place? She figured that she had fallen out of bed, and bumped her head on her nightstand. “Now, I’m seeing things! Yeah, I’m delirious and this is all a mistake!” Judith had difficulty convincing herself that this wasn’t happening. This didn’t seem logical, but somewhere deep inside her she knew that she had seen this place before.
“This is no illusion,” a sweet and mellow, yet loud voice boomed. “This is all quite real, Judith.”
Judith was startled. She jumped in surprise. She felt herself become instantaneously steadier, as if she had never been dizzy at all; she had a feeling that if she didn’t stay on her guard, something abysmal was bound to occur. She knew she had to stay alert, no matter what. “Who are you?” she demanded, feeling asinine for talking to something she couldn’t see and probably wasn’t even there. “I’m serious, tell me who you are.”
“A friend,” the voice said. Judith kept her defensive stance, and looked around herself, scrutinizing the land before her for any signs of movement. But she couldn’t see anything. She was really becoming scared now. Someone definitely was speaking to her, but where were they? What were they? She suddenly felt her left shoulder grow chilled, so she swiveled in that direction, and right there was a sheer, spectral figure of a young man. She stumbled backward, startled by him, and gasped. He held up a hand to calm her. “You needn’t fear me; I am not your enemy,” he assured.
Judith took a cautious step towards him. “Who are you?” she asked, and heard him laugh.
“And who are you that you do not know? I am Daniel Smith. Well…at least, I was, until I resided here one day too many, and my very life evaporated. Now, I am just a lone spirit.”
Judith was confused. “Wait a minute!” she said. “You’re saying you are a ghost, and your name is Daniel Smith?”
The ghost nodded subtly.
“This is too weird. The only Daniel Smith I ever knew is the one I dreamt about. Are you him?”
“Yes. Yes, I am,” said Daniel. “Why must you act so surprised to see me? We’ve met many a time in your dreams before, have we not?”
Judith shook her head. “No! No, it’s not that,” she said. “It’s just that…well, how can you have come outside of my dreams?”
“Foolish Judith,” scolded Daniel with a warm smile. “I haven’t escaped from your dreams, you just simply came in.”
Judith’s eyes widened. “How’s that possible?” she whispered. “That’s not possible!” she exclaimed in disbelief.
“Oh, but it is.”
“Although I am an inanimate object and don’t exist, I possess the qualities of mere mortals,” explained Daniel. “For years, I’ve heard your mother quarrel with you about leaving your dreams behind. I, and many other creatures in this world, have hoped that you’d listen to her, but you never did, so we’ve finally decided to do something about it.”
“Oh, so your solution is to kidnap me?”
“No, that’s not the case at all. Every creature you’ve ever dreamt of just wants to teach you a valuable lesson. You need to learn to leave your dreams behind.”
“Oh, come on! What’s the worst that could happen?” asked Judith.
“You might not know this,” said Daniel, “and I highly doubt you do, but there is a law for every dreamer.”
“What law? Dreams are harmless. Everyone has an imagination and the right to use it freely.”
“Not necessarily. You see,” Daniel explained, “dreaming about fairies and magic is acceptable for children in their younger years who haven’t yet acquired knowledge about reality. For example, if they so desire, they can alter the laws of physics, and imagine two talking fish lighting candles underwater for a Thanksgiving feast.”
“Exactly!” said Judith. “Keep the child alive in you isn’t a crime. It’s not anything, but natural.” She smiled and nodded. “I knew you’d understand.”
Daniel sighed heavily, trying to keep his patience. He didn’t seem to be making very good progress with breaking through to Judith. “Well, whether you like it or not, it is a crime in the worlds of children’s dreams,” he continued. “There is an age limit for dreamers. Once children turn ten-years-old, they are ordered naturally to mature and focus only on using imagination for educational purposes.”
Now, Daniel had Judith’s attention. She was started to feel spooked. “Th-then what happens if they keep on dreaming?” she asked softly, dreading to hear the answer.
“After children become of age, if they continue dreaming, the creatures in their head will start to die, as will their head alone. You can clearly see what has happened to me.” Daniel motioned with his hand vertically to show Judith just what would happen to the creatures in a child’s head.
She felt more and more shame every passing minute. “What happens when all the creatures die?” she asked. “Do they just disappear?”
“For every child that won’t let go of their dreams, they must suffer dire consequences. It’s never a pleasure to have to obtain consequences, but sometimes it just has to be done.”
“Well, then how are the children punished?” asked Judith.
“At some age, and the age can vary, a child who dreams too much begins to lose every realistic feature in their brain, until all that’s left is fantasy,” he continued calmly. “However, if all that fantasy disappears, which it will after awhile, then the child’s mind would be completely empty. You can’t live off of fantasy, much less nothing. If they wouldn’t know how to do anything at all, then why bother living? They wouldn’t be able to sit, stand, run, eat, play…or even breathe. So, ever so slowly, they begin to die.” Daniel was speaking in such a serene tone it seemed as if he felt it were completely appropriate for Judith to ruin her life.
Judith was struggling to listen to this frightening tale. “Is this all going to happen to me?” she asked.
“The process started long ago when you turned eleven,” replied Daniel. “But that is why you were summoned here. Many souls have been lost due to excessive dreaming, but it’s not too late for you, Judith. You still have time. Not much, but nevertheless, you have time.”
“Okay, then, I’ll listen to you. Let me out of here, and I promise to never dream again unless it occurs naturally in my sleep,” said Judith.
“I’m afraid I can’t do that,” confessed Daniel. “Once trapped inside their dream, a child must work to get out on their own.”
That did it. Judith was officially freaked out. “What? Are you insane? I don’t know how to escape from this massive world!” she exclaimed. “How do you expect me to exit a place that I know nothing about?”
“Oh, this is your dream,” said Daniel. “You know more about it than anybody else. All you have to do is believe your dreams, and a door will always open.”
“Wait! How much time do I actually have?” asked Judith. “You said I’m limited with time?”
“Approximately four days,” said Daniel. “However, in the dream world, four days is equivalent to twelve hours in the mortal world."
Judith’s jaw dropped. “I only have twelve hours? That’s ridiculous! That’s stupid!”
“Although twelve hours may seem like a short period of time, it can be used correctly and last as long as one day, but only if you don’t waste time…” Upon finishing that sentence, the ghost of Daniel Smith faded away.
Judith paused for a moment, wondering how in the good world she was going to be able to crack the codes that this fortune cookie on wings had provided her with, and then began to wander around aimlessly. She knew by now that she could trust Daniel. She just had to prepare for their next encounter together. Although he may have been a kind spirit that Judith dreamt of, he was still pretty odd. Judith needed to make sure he didn’t try to pull anything drastic, like abandoning her. After all, it was her fault that he had died in the first place, and that couldn’t have been very pleasing.
After ten minutes, Judith encountered a stone pathway that had strangely appeared out of nowhere. Two roads diverged in a colorful stream of berry bushes and flowers. The two roads each had their own name. One read, “Sweet Cookies Lane,” and the other, “Sour Milk Street.” Even though the names were beyond cheesy, Judith couldn’t figure out if they were a riddle, or if the people who named these roads were just crazy.
She took a few steps towards Sweet Cookies Lane, and stopped. She took a few steps toward Sour Milk Street, and then stopped. “Which road do I take?” she asked herself, shifting her gaze back and forth to each road.
All of a sudden, Daniel appeared. Judith knew they’d meet again at some point, though she didn’t expect it to be this soon. He took a good look at the two street names, and then said, “Having trouble, I take it?”
“Yeah, I’m having trouble,” Judith acknowledged. “Where am I supposed to go, and what’s with these abnormal street names?”
“Just think back to your kindergarten age. What do most of all children enjoy? And what makes them cringe? Take the positive option and go on with your journey. Take the negative option, and you’ll regret ever being born.”
“I’ll regret ever being born? That’s a little intense, don’t you think?” Judith asked, but Daniel had already vanished again, leaving her with her thoughts. She turned to face the two roads again. “What do little kids like…?” she mused. She was assuming that the answer to this riddle was more obvious than she thought; she was just thinking too hard. However, she was under a lot of pressure at the time as well. Something bad was going to happen if she took the wrong path, if what Daniel said was true. She had to make her decision very carefully.
Judith gazed at the signs. Then it hit her. Cookies are a kindergartener’s favorite food, but sour milk would make anyone sick! So Judith took the positive option, and sprinted down Sweet Cookies Lane, praying that she had chosen the right path.
She didn’t stop running until she ran out of breath. Panting, she bent over slightly, supporting her weight by pressing her hands against her knees. Then, a few feet in front of her, she saw the road start to pixelate. Different colors started to gather in the one central area and the image became clearer. After a few seconds, Judith saw that the object before her was a large piece of yellowed parchment, with little pictures printed all over it. She walked over to it and lifted it off the ground. It strangely resembled a jigsaw puzzle. She looked all over it, studying every detail, wondering if this were another riddle of some kind. But it couldn’t be. Every location on the map was all too familiar. Judith finally realized that this map was a smaller model of all her dreams combined. Every road in her dreams connected into a distinct path. The path she needed to take lead to the exit out of her dream world! This was the very thing she needed. She was all set.
The first location on the map she was supposed to travel to after Sweet Cookies Lane was the Forbidden Forest. She remembered the day she’d dreamt that evil place up, the day she had watched a scary movie by accident at a friend’s house when she was six.
At the Forbidden Forest, all was well for a bit as Judith wove her body in between the enormous cluster of trees. She noticed that as she journeyed deeper into the forest, the sky grew darker and the air became colder. When she reached the midpoint of the forest, she heard a deafening roar, followed by some heavy footsteps. She froze in place and dropped the map in front of her. She waited. A few seconds later, the roar sounded again and she saw a wild creature rapidly approached her. It was tall, strong, and fearless. It came to a halt when it saw her, and released another roar.
Judith knew the only way she could cross through the forest was to battle the creature; she could just tell. She was doubtful and afraid, but she took her stance.
The beast opened its mouth to roar a third time, this time baring a set of large, pointy teeth. To flaunt its power, it took its front paw and swiped at a thick tree trunk. The poor tree toppled over, nearly crushing Judith as it collapsed right beside her. Some thick branches snapped off the tree from the impact. Judith picked up the biggest one she could find, and held it in front of her. “Let’s do this,” she muttered.