When John got home he stopped before entering the house and took a small breath before he walked in. His father was on the couch watching TV, a small bruise on his cheek. Something was funny on T.V. and the fake audience laughed through the speakers. John saw his mother in the kitchen sitting in a chair nursing a fresh black eye. He didn’t bother making eye contact with either of them; instead he walked in as if nothing was wrong. It was what they all liked to do, and if he didn’t say anything then it wouldn’t be his turn to get hit. He walked into the kitchen and set his bag down by the kitchen door. Commercials snapped on, interrupting the laughing audience, and his dad turned away from the TV to regard John.
“You little shit, have you been getting into fights again!” he yelled. John cursed inside his head. He had forgotten about the bruise. His dad raised one large meaty hand and grabbed his shirt, pulling him to eye level.
“What have you got to say for yourself boy?” His father yelled, an inch away from John’s face, spit hitting his face and the stench of alcohol assailing his nostrils.
John knew better than to answer the question, knew better than to talk at all. No matter what he said it would only make it worse. Thankfully the commercials ended abruptly and his father’s show was back on. He flung John against a wall into the kitchen; he hit his back hard against a wall where he slumped to the floor close to where his mother was sitting.
John didn’t wait for any more invitations; he left for his own room and shut the door. He went to the bed; there was really nothing else in the room to sit on. There were a few books scattered on the floor, as well as some laundry that he needed to remember to do next time he skipped school. John lay on the bed and grabbed a nearby book, and started to read until he was tired. After an hour he set the alarm clock and went to sleep.
When John opened his eyes he saw a desert in front of him. It was nighttime in the dream and there were no stars, but a full moon hung high in the air, illuminating the barren sand. He was naturally confused, before he recognized it was a dream.
John walked without purpose waiting for the dream to end, ahead of him he saw a shift in the sand. The sand bubbled and rose like a geyser and, as it reached its peak, John could see it pop and the sand exploded outwards without a sound. In front of him stood a circular bench surrounded by newly formed glass pillars.
John walked to the bench that sat on one side of the courtyard. The glass pillars surrounded it, while glass tiles littered the sand. He sat down and threw his head back, closing his eyes, and wishing for the dream to end already. While he closed his eyes in the dream thinking of nothing, waiting for his alarm or his father to wake him up, John simply listened. The sound of crunching footsteps slowly approaching interrupted the quiet. He kept his eyes shut, it would either go away without his noticing, or cause him some kind of imaginary harm. He kept his eyes closed and waited.
“Excuse me.” A shy girl’s voice said. John opened his eyes with a look of surprise. It was Sarah staring at him.
“I seem to be lost. I was hoping you could help. I hope I’m not interrupting you.” She said shyly.
John just stared at her, his mind running in circles trying to find out why she was in his dream.
“I’m sorry, John, I didn’t recognize you at first.” She said.
He kept staring.
“Can you speak? I’m really not quite sure what type of dream I’m having.”
“Wait. Dream you’re having? This is my dream.” He said, taken aback.
“Is it, I am pretty sure I just went to sleep and found myself in this desert, which is odd for my dreams.”
“But I’m not.”
Sarah blushed, “What do you mean.”
“You said the desert was different but you didn’t mention the fact that it was odd for me to be here.” A sly grin crept up to John’s face.
“Well no, I mean yes, you are odd as well.”
“Are you sure?
“I don’t…” She said looking away.
“Think of it like this, if this is your dream and I am a normal apparition in it then the real me will be none the wiser and if this is actually my dream, then you are a figment of my imagination.”
“Then wouldn’t I just say whatever you want to hear?” She said with her own grin.
“I suppose so, but what does it matter? If we are somehow sharing a dream then when we wake up we will just think it was our own dream.”
“Well, to be honest, you do appear in my dreams quite often.” She said, clenching her hands together in front of her stomach and avoiding his gaze.
“Please, sit down.” He said to her, patting his hand on the empty space next to him. Amazed at his own boldness.
“I’m curious to find out what kind of dreams that you have of me.” John said while staring directly at her. He had never been able to look at her while he was at school, at least not directly without making himself look like a fool. He found that being able to look at her, with her pink pajamas on and hair down, he couldn’t help but smile at how cute she looked..
“I can’t tell you what I dream, some things are private no matter what!” she exclaimed at him, blushing.
“Maybe because this is a dream I can say what I really want to.” John said, moving his gaze away from hers.
“And what is that?” Sarah said, now turning and staring at him intently.
“It’s just that, I always wanted to tell you that I like you.” John whispered while fiddling with his hands, trying not to feel awkward and failing miserably.
“Really?” she said staring at him more intently now.
“I see. Well, since this is a dream, I have something that I wanted to tell you as well.” She said while putting her hand on his leg. “I have always wanted to tell you that I like you. I don’t know what it is, but every time I see you, I just feel a connection and I just feel weird.” Sarah returned her gaze to the sand at their feet.
John burst into laughter
“What’s so funny?” Sarah said in a huff, dismayed at the response she was receiving from her confession.
“No, I’m not laughing at you, I’m just… I just can’t believe how pathetic this is, the girl I love confessing her feelings to me in a goddamn dream.”
Sarah lifted John’s chin up in front of her and lowered her lips to his. While John did not believe what was happening to him, he kissed her back. He didn’t know what this dream was but the whole time they were kissing, it felt perfect.
Sarah pulled away from him, giving a little girlish giggle.
John’s heart seemed to soar in his chest at that moment.
She looked at John with bright blues eyes. John knew now that he would always love her, dream or not.
“Prove that you love me.” She said to him.
“We are together, and if this is a moment that will only live in one of our minds then I want a demonstration to remember.” She said coyly.
John sighed; he looked at the ground and shook his head. He looked back at her and smiled.
He stood up and walked to the center of the courtyard between all four glass pillars. He turned slowly and thought as loudly as he could, a flower. He looked up into the night sky that was void of stars, and he saw something move, a piece of black drifting against the midnight sky. John crouched, hoping he was right about how the dream worked. He jumped and he felt the ground give way beneath him as he was thrown into the air with his arm outstretched. He felt something touch his hand and he grabbed it as he started to fall.
He felt a sharp stinging pain in his hand from, but refused to let it go. The ground came at him fast, but he refused to look afraid in front of Sarah. He hit the sand and found it was solid. There was no noise as he landed. It was as if he hadn’t even fallen. John opened his hand to see a rose that was the color of the night sky. A thorn had bit into his hand, drawing a drop of blood, the scarlet hue in contrast to his pale hands.
The small drop of blood fell from the thorn that had pierced his flesh and landed in the sand. The ground started to shake. John looked at his feet and saw a green leaf spring out of the sand. The shaking became more violent and then a fountain of water erupted from the center of the courtyard where John had just been standing. Droplets of water fell across the desert like falling stars and where they landed greenery appeared. Trees erupted from the ground while exotic plants came up and wrapped themselves around the glass pillars. It was an oasis in a seemingly never ending desert. Sarah’s gasp of wonder brought John back to her. He turned and walked back, and presented the flower to her, his hand already healed.
She looked at him and at the rose, confusion crossed her face. “Doesn’t black mean death?” She asked.
He smiled.“Only sometimes. Right now it means new life.”
She took the rose from him and planted a kiss on his cheek. He looked at her again and was dismayed to find her almost transparent.
“I hope that this is my dream.” She said before vanishing.
John heard the slow methodical beeping of an alarm clock. His world slowly faded to black and he opened his eyes to his bedroom.
“Me too.” He said.