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December 7, 2017

1. The Bad Dreams of Others

The day was moving towards evening. The vitality of the day began to wane to the gradients in the twilight sky. Orange, blue, purple, and pink created a masterpiece in the sky, just above the horizon. The air was warm and quiet. Everything was beautiful. (Too perfect.) 

He could feel the dreamlike state. This could not be real. He played the role of his mind’s hallucination. He knew this place: a discomforting familiarity. He could not place its recognition. Perhaps, he thought, it was not familiar but simply his dream creating the idea of familiarity. He dismissed the thought. 

Seagrass flicked in the cool wind. The sand picked up in the breeze and tickled his ankles. He walked toward a lazy river, his bare feet ignored the softness of the sand. He looked downriver, took a deep breath, and looked upriver. Flotsam caught his eye, some dross in the water. He waited as it meandered toward him in the water. A book. Strange.

He knew this area. Another recollection of this place flooded his thoughts. He took a few paces into the crisp water, his ankles and shins getting wet. He realized his feet. As he approached the book it slowly moved away from him. The water was not deeper than his thighs. As he waded out the book continued to escape his grasp—as if intentionally or pulled by a string. Very strange. Isn’t that always how water works somehow, he thought.

Evening was dimming beyond twilight, gloomy hues painted the upper now, and no stars were visible yet. The sun had retired and a moonless night began to make a slow entrance. There was faint scent of cedar and cypress. Now he got very near to the book and saw it's beautiful leather exterior. Gold trimmed pages and a scarlet bookmark decorated the tome.

Finally, as the cool water met his navel, he grasped the book. How heavy they soaked and soggy book can become. He stood, firm feet on the doughy river bed. No title informed the cover or spine. He opened halfway through the book and very quickly realized his inability to decipher the writing. Perhaps the water had ruined the ink print. Perhaps time had ruined the text. It was also dark and difficult to make out much of anything. But no, this was a strange language indeed, not familiar to his eyes.

In the night the water was beginning to darken, from a clear and natural blue into an inky and dour texture.

As he turned around to regain the shore, the water promptly and deceitfully rose to his armpits. His wading was impaired and slowed. His full-hip steps in the giving sand became incredibly sluggish and cumbersome. He held the book up and out of the water despite it’s complete saturation. The water was moving quickly, now to his upturned chin, licking his lips. He felt his nostrils flair in anger at the coming wetness. How was this possible?

He had never cried for help in earnest and now it quickly crossed his mind. He knew no one was around but knew his life was truly in danger. He opened his mouth, gagged some water, and gurgled a dumb sound. The wet cry muffled in his throat. His second effort was more successful. A clear and crisp plea shook the water and carried over the sand and grass. This must be impossible. This can’t be happening.

He tried to move but the current oppressed him and the book became an anchor to his failing arms. Why did this book feel so vital? And how did it find him? How did he find it?

He set these thoughts aside quickly and became aware that this was his end. The water was now above his head, his feet no longer secured him and and his feet now kicked afloat instead. He made one final thrust for oxygen and attempted a scream. Instead his open mouth became a sluice—he swallowed water and coughed violently.

The familiar and cool fresh water that had become bracken and salty was now burning his eyes and throat. His vision vignetted. His heart pounded through his chest. The burn in his throat had become excruciating and he wanted to vomit. How quickly everything had changed. How quickly his mind had gone to bedlam. 

He tilted his head, looked into the sky, and saw the wink of a star. He closed his eyes and sank into the deep. He closed his eyes and let the water take him.

***

He awoke coughing. His stomach and throat repulsed water into his mouth and he vomited. He turned quickly to look for the book but remembered it was a dream. The quick turn had reminded him the pain was not so dreamlike. He stiffened, relaxed, and collapsed again in the sand.

This dream sequence is an extrapolation of a song, “Words in the Water” by Thrice. The current story was originally written as part of a longer sequence but has been edited for this format.

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