a year in stories::twenty eight

Just eleven more days and I’m with you, dreaming of you.

Sleep and dreams are the obsession of all of us and this story’s about dreaming and revolution.


Dancing together, Dreaming alone


He became a subject of curiosity, my brother. It took us a long time to realise what it was that was so different about him but when we did all I felt was sad.

I noticed it first, of course.

Every night, dancing through dreams, the whole town brought to the collective dream of humanity. All who sleep and dream at the same time do so together and we used to weave in and out of one another’s consciousness. In dreams we all speak the same language and when we slept we could meet people from thousands of miles away. We were friends, if only in dreams. Even lovers. I fell in love for the first time with an Armenian. He looked familiar, as if I had seen him somewhere before, but Armenia’s so far from here. I’ve been watching you, he said, For a long time. With that he took my hands and we slid through the oceans and trampled on clouds of a seismic mind at the rind of reality. Wrapping stratus around us, he took me, lovingly. From there it became ritual until one night we flew past one another and into the arms of others.

It’s only a dream, after all.

My brother was our miracle. We’re only allowed one child per family and somehow he sneaked through so many years after me. After mom was too old to conceive and dad was too bored to try. But he came through. It was taken as nothing, so far from the capitol. He wasn’t the only second born but he was the only one in our family and probably the only accidental one in the town. Many gave extra births as a slight act of defiance or out of laziness, but my parents were law abiding and believed in the Cause.

It wasn’t until he got older and none of us could find him in the dream. I searched often and sometimes I still regret even telling anyone about his absence. No one would’ve noticed. Maybe we’d all still be dreaming together if I had just stayed quiet.

But those were other days.

He was nowhere in the dream so the next night I waited until everyone went to sleep. I forced myself to stay awake even as my body tried to plunge into the dream. Mom and dad leapt out the window and into the moonlight but I didn’t hear my brother. Out the window, the thin veneer of dream shrouded what happened beyond but my throat went dry and my hands shook knowing I was missing it. Waiting until I could wait no longer, which wasn’t very long. I was and am an impatient person. But I ran to my brother’s room and opened the door, expecting to see him doing who knows what when he should be asleep and dreaming, but I found him there, in bed. Sleeping.

He slept but he didn’t move. He stayed right where he was. Stationary. To be honest, it was hard to look at him like that. It felt so wrong. Revolting. I would have rather caught him masturbating than caught him as he was, sleeping so still. I walked over to his bed and touched him, just to make sure he still lived. I swallowed hard, my head heavy and my thoughts stampeding, and I shook him awake.

He just opened his eyes and asked me what I was doing.

I cried. Threw my arms around him and just cried. I cried so hard and so long that before I knew it I was dancing out in the sky with the rest of the world sleeping. The memory of my brother stuck in bed dragged me back to earth, though. There was no happiness that night. No wondrous dream of beauty filled with dancing and lovemaking.

Only the impossible weight of my brother’s affliction.

And then I told my mom who told my dad and the next night we all waited till he slept, the music of dreams drifting through the windows. When we opened his door mom vomited and dad’s looked furious. He didn’t do anything rash, just held my mom and took her back to bed. Within minutes they were out there, dreaming. But I sat by my brother through that night, learning to not hate him for his difference.

Mom and dad never mentioned it and they barely even looked at my brother after that but I stayed with him through the nights. I grew accustomed to watching him so still and silent and danceless. I imagined he still dreamt but he did it alone, in a still and quiet place.

He always danced alone.

I cried often watching him. The thought of all that he was missing just tore me down. To know my own little miracle brother was missing maybe the most important part of human experience–it was simply too much.

Most people didn’t notice my brother’s absence because they had never seen him dreaming but everyone noticed mine and that brought them to find my brother sleeping so still and dreaming alone.

Well, I suppose I don’t need to fill in all the blanks between those days and these. We’ve all lived through them together. After discovering my brother it turned out I could no longer dream in unison, being exposed so long and so frequently to his disease. My parents started to slip into solitary sleep more and more, though they always dreamt together. At least until the day my dad died.

Everyone said it was the grief but I think it’s because he hanged himself.

One by one and then by the hundred we all stopped dreaming until the disease spread over the whole earth. In two years we lost our connection to one another. Most people stopped being able to sleep. I didn’t know you could die from lack of sleep but thousands and then millions did.

They blamed my brother, of course. Then they blamed my parents for having a second child. They said he was a curse or cursed.

They tried to kill him, and me and my mom with him. The last time I saw our hometown was running from our house in flames, dragging my mom and brother with me. We’re sort of on the run now, though no one really knows what we look like. Everywhere we go there are stories of the boy who killed the dream. The Capitol’s put out bounties and decrees and all kinds of things but much of that stopped after the Godhead died and then the Hands and Feet fell to fighting over the Mouth and the Eyes.

Everything’s pretty chaotic, in part because everyone’s so tired all the time.

He’s still pretty young, my brother. I don’t think he even knows what’s happened.

He looks so peaceful, dreaming alone.