Awake | Teen Ink

Awake

June 5, 2018
By aliciadaley, Long Island, New York
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aliciadaley, Long Island, New York
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    Jupiter Bloom was a freak. Perhaps that’s why they chose him. He had wavy chestnut hair that stuck out all over and came down to his shoulders. He never spoke much as a child and by the age of 11 he had stopped speaking completely. Nobody wanted to befriend the mute kid and he was sure everyone in his foster home was afraid of him. He found peace in remaining silent; it allowed him to experience the world around him better. Sector X was a place where all the freaks went to die, as Jupiter liked to think. They targeted oddballs and outcasts who didn’t fit in with the rest of the kids and brought them to a hidden lab in a unknown state. The kids are electrically shocked into a sleep-like state to monitor the brain during lucid dreaming. The freaks were kept in rooms called “tanks”. The tanks looked the same as the halls; bright white walls with bright white lights. The fourth wall was made of bulletproof glass that slid open when the Stars put in a code. The Stars were in charge of Sector X. They looked like scientists, but the freaks couldn’t call them that; unless they wanted three lashes. Jupiter’s tank sat across from a girl named Cassie. Cassie had thin, red hair and dark blue eyes that were much too big for her face, and her skin always looked transparent under the intense lights. They’ve never had any verbal communication, but they’ve had plenty of time to observe each other through the glass to feel like they know each other. He could see all the other freaks when they dragged him through the bright white halls to the Dream Room. The Dream Room almost looked like a bedroom except the walls were concrete and there were straps on the bed. On the other side of the room was a window and behind the glass were the Stars.The goal was to get Jupiter to the Land of the Sleeping, a dream world that Jupiter could control. Jupiter had only been to the Dream Room twice in the three months that he’d been at Sector X. He hadn’t made any progress either time. He’d heard about the freaks who were Awake, the Stars treated them better than the rest of the freaks. Those who made no progress in the Dream Room received lashes on the back. The number of lashes depended on how poorly they did or how the person giving the lashes was feeling.

He often recalls his first time in the Dream Room. It was his first week at Sector X and they threw him in after a confusing, three minute explanation. They had him lie down as they strapped him down tight. They put on a nude hood that covered his wild hair and strapped under his chin to monitor his brain. “Open wide”, said one Star while grabbing his face and shoving a metal mouthpiece that looked and felt like a retainer into his mouth. They walked out of the room and left him in quiet for a couple seconds. He began to hear a faint buzzing sound before it grew louder and he felt an electric shock that started at the roof of his mouth and pulsated through his entire body. His eyes rolled to the back of his head and his back arched slightly under the restraints. The shocking lasted for ten seconds before coming to a halt. He sat there breathing heavily for a few seconds before he was shocked again. That process repeated twice a week for the next six months.

Jupiter had overheard the Stars saying he was scheduled to go back to the Dream Room today. He silently prayed he would finally make progress today, he worried the Stars would get rid of him if he was no use to them. As he waited nervously on his bed, he saw three Stars enter the hallway and stop at Cassie’s tank. One was holding a baton. They put in her code and the door slid open. She stood up, assuming it was her turn in the Dream Room. Instead, one of the men grabbed her and held her arms behind her back. Another Star began to rip open her pillow. Feathers flew everywhere as he ripped it apart. He tore every inch of it until it was nothing but clumps of fabric and cotton. When he failed to find anything he began to feel under the bed. He stopped and stood up straight, revealing a large shard of glass. Jupiter recalled her dropping her dinner plate last week, having it shatter all over the floor. The third Star that held the baton turned towards Cassie. Her face was a fiery red and she held up the baton. Cassie looked even paler than usual and she gulped. When she opened her mouth to explain herself, the woman struck her in the face, leaving a gash on her right cheek. She then struck her in the ribs twice. She then kicked her hard in the knee before storming out. The other man let go of her arms and she dropped to the floor as the glass door closed again.

Jupiter sat with shaky hands and wide eyes. His knees were pulled up to his chest and his cheeks felt hot. He felt like throwing up when Cassie looked up at him with a bloody nose and a slashed face. She threw her best smile to him before attempting to stand up and falling back to the floor. Jupiter shot up and ran to the glass. He wanted to help her but he was trapped. He began to bang on the glass to get a Star’s attention. The thick glass muffled his pleas and he could do nothing but watch as Cassie curled into a ball on the floor, clutching her ribs. He sank to the floor and put himself in the same position as her. Jupiter watched as she closed her eyes. A tear ran down the side of his face before his blood began to boil. He was angry. He hadn’t felt anger since before Sector X.

An hour later, Jupiter woke up on the floor to a Star standing over him and nudging him with his foot. “It’s time,” he said in a firm voice. Jupiter stood up and walked out with the Star holding onto his arm. He noticed Cassie’s tank was empty as he walked by. Hundreds of negative thoughts raced into his mind about where she could be. They kept walking until they reached the steel door that led to the Dream Room. He walked over to the bed and let the Stars strap him down. Jupiter wanted this attempt to be different. He was sick of going through excruciating pain without receiving anything in return. The Stars walked out when everything was set up and he was alone in silence. Jupiter heard the familiar buzzing rise and the shock in his mouth surged through his body. His eyes rolled and his back was arched. Everything was white and loud. The pain was different this time; it felt like there was fire running through his veins. His face turned purple and his brain felt swollen. The pain suddenly stopped and everything remained white. “Am I dead?” Jupiter thought. He felt somebody grab his hand and he regained feeling in his body. He turned to see Cassie. The cut on her face was gone and the happiness in her eyes lit up her face. “No, Jupiter. You’re Awake.” How could she have known what he was thinking? He’s Awake? Why is everything still white? “I can hear your thoughts, Jupiter. You allowed me to. This is your world. You have full control. I’m here because you thought of me. Now think of the rest.”

Jupiter closed his eyes and took a deep breath. When he opened them, everything was still white. He looked down at his feet, embarrassed. But when he looked down he noticed grass under him. He looked up for Cassie and noticed she had disappeared. The white void had turned to fog. He was surrounded by it. Jupiter took a deep breath and blew out. The fog moved slightly. He took another deep breath and blew with all his power. The fog slowly cleared to reveal a beautiful scene. Jupiter was standing at the top of a grassy mountain. An enormous, ancient willow tree draped behind him. In front of him were miles of mountains with snowy tops. A scarlet sunrise cast a pinkish shadow over everything around him. The air was warm and it tickled his lungs as he breathed. Jupiter held out his arms as a breeze blew through him. He turned around to see Cassie had reappeared, sitting under the willow tree. He walked over and sat down in front of her. “How does it feel to dream?” She asked. Jupiter replied with a smile. For the first time in his whole life he felt like he had control. He stared down at the grass next to him until a single rose grew. He plucked it from its stem and cupped it in his hands. He closed his eyes for a moment before opening his hands to reveal a cardinal. It looked up at him and chirped before flying off.

Jupiter could do anything he dreamed of in this place. He never wanted to leave. “Unfortunately, everyone leaves eventually. The Stars are still studying what it means to be Awake. They’re not sure how long anyone can stay under before causing any damage. They’ll pull you out in about five minutes,” Cassie explained, once again hearing his thoughts. Jupiter frowned. “Cheer up! Five minutes will feel like five hours. Time works differently here. Come on, let’s go test your mind.” She grabbed his hand and pulled him up with her. They walked to the edge of the mountain and looked down. He hadn’t realized how high up they were. As much as he loved the view, he was eager to see what awaits in the rest of the world. “Now slide down and I’ll meet you down there,” she said and disappeared in the blink of an eye. How could he possibly slide down this without hurting himself? It looked as if he were a thousand feet up. “This my world,” he thought, “I have full control.” He looked down again and took a step off the edge.

He fell for a few seconds before landing on a bed of lilies that felt like a pillow. Jupiter was sliding as Cassie had told him but it felt more like he was floating down. He reached the bottom and landed in dirt. His white pants and shirt from Sector X were now stained. He stood up and wiped off the dirt. Cassie tapped on his shoulder and he jumped before smiling. “From here, the possibilities are endless. You can do literally anything and change your surroundings at any moment.” Jupiter thought for a second and grinned. He’s always wanted to fly. It was a basic dream that almost anyone has but he’d always loved the thought of being completely weightless while having the power to go anywhere. Cassie stepped back to give him space while he attempted to fly. Jupiter wasn’t sure how to go about this. Did he just jump? Did he run first? Would he fly if he had just thought of flying? He turned to Cassie for help but she gave him a look that told him he’d have to figure this part out alone. Jupiter put one foot back, exhaled, and sped off running. He ran about ten feet away from Cassie before he stomped down on his right foot and his feet left the ground. His arms were flailing as he shot up into the air. He thought for a second and came to a stop. He was above the mountains now, floating. Jupiter tilted his body forward and back, playing around with his newfound talent. He leaned back and flipped over. Flying felt similar to being underwater; if he wanted to take off again, all he had to do was push. Jupiter tilted so he was floating on his stomach, put his arms out in front of him and threw them back. He took off once more at lightning speed. He soared over miles of mountains and valleys with the wind yelling in his ears and the sun shining on his face. He closed his eyes and more cardinals appeared next to him. They traveled through the air with him until he began to lower himself to the ground.

Jupiter touched the ground and landed in a tall forest. It reminded him of the walks he took with his mother when he was nine. A light fog blurred the trees in the distance and the air in the forest was cool and damp. The sun still peeked in between the trees. He wasn’t sure why he thought of the woods from his old home. He looked around him before he heard leaves crunch under somebody’s footsteps. He looked to see a woman with long brown hair step out from behind a tree: his mother. His mother had overdosed when he was just 11 years old. At least, it was documented as an overdose. He remembers when she woke him in the middle of the night to kiss his cheek and tell him how much she loved him. The next morning he found her in the cold and pale on the bathroom floor. She was dressed in her lilac sundress that he loved because it reminded him of their trip to California. She stared at him for a moment without saying a word. “I’ve missed you,” Jupiter thought. She stepped towards him. “I know.” She walked over to him and touched his face. “I’m sorry I left you, Jupiter. You know how much mommy loves you right?” Jupiter nodded and a tear ran down his face. He looked into her eyes. They looked so real, so alive. Her hands were warm when she grabbed his. They stood like that for what felt like years before she smiled at him. She kissed him on the cheek, told him she loved him. “Jupiter come back to us,” she said. He was confused. “Jupiter! Jupiter!” She faded away. The fog became thicker and surrounded him. He began to panic. How was his perfect world turning into a nightmare? Everything became white again and he soon understood what was happening. He relaxed his body, closed his eyes and allowed himself to return.

The Stars were following standard procedure for pulling the freaks out of their dreams. Jupiter’s heart rate had spiked when they first began to wake him and was now coming down to normal. His eyes slowly opened to see four Stars standing over him. They took the mouthpiece out and unstrapped him. He sat up and they checked his pupils. One Star held out his finger and asked him to follow it with his eyes. They glanced back at the Stars behind the glass and gave a thumbs up. They all applauded him as he got off the bed a followed the Stars out of the Dream Room. “Congratulations, Jupiter,” said one as they left. He assumed they would be taking him back to his tank but he was led to a door he’d never seen before. They stepped into a room with a couch and two armchairs. The door closed behind Jupiter and a man who was not dressed like a Star greeted him. “Hello Jupiter, I’m Dr. Correly. Please sit.” Jupiter walked over to the couch carefully and sat down. He stared down at his hands and thought of his mother. They sat in silence for several minutes. Dr. Correly seemed to be waiting for Jupiter to say something. Jupiter gave him a look that said “you’re gonna be waiting a while,” and the doctor understood. “Well I understand you’re Awake now. That’s exciting news. Why don’t you tell me what you experienced while you were under?” Jupiter sat longer and continued to stare at his hands. Twenty more minutes had passed and neither one of them had said anything. Finally, Jupiter looked up and at the wall and smiled. He could still feel his mother’s hands in his. He could still feel the sun on his face and the breeze in his hair. He could smell the lilies and he could see the mountains. He turned to the doctor. “I-I felt,” he paused, shocked that he had spoken but he his mouth ignored his mind. He took a deep breath and tried again.“I felt Alive.”



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This book has 1 comment.


on Nov. 16 2018 at 9:29 pm
PrincessWoof PLATINUM, Rock Rapids, Iowa
22 articles 8 photos 23 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Someday everything will make perfect sense. So, for now, laugh at the confusion, smile through the tears, and keep reminding yourself that everything happens for a reason." - Art Thomas

Wow, it's a very nice and vivid story. By the end, I felt like I knew Jupiter! Great job writing it!


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