Contest Creative:6 - 1st Place Winner

By Keith Dugger

Thirty seven seconds of sleep left.

"What if this is all just a dream?" asked a first voice, male.

A dream that must be dreamed by a dreamer. A citizen that can open his or her mind to things outside of dogma, practice, and science. A citizen that is free from bonds of limited thinking. An open mind. A dream that hardens a foundation of belief, of values, and of the very existence of life. An open mind unscathed by the effects of drudgery and hatred and uncommon thoughts and science-laden chemical mind baths. And open to beautifully colorful dreams in a world where black and white isn't the only option. Unrealistically so.

"What if the limits of our imagination are that we can only imagine ourselves? Our existence isn't real. The viewpoints and way points and crossroads of our everyday lives are mere visions. Visions from a lesser place. A smaller place. A place with less than we have here," said a second male voice.

"Where are we then?" she asked.

Another place where dreams are limited. A place where creativity is smothered with doubt and distrust. Smothered by a dying giant of false ideals and control. A place blanketed by a thin sheet of illusion and a masquerade of want. A place where minds aren't open and black and white is the only option--black and white with single channel sound.

"Who are we then?" another female asked.

Just another face of individuality crushed. A race of individuals that must act and work and live as a single entity. A moving part of a larger machine; which without one single part the whole might break apart into tiny unproductive smaller pieces. Unable to work as one. Unable to survive. Where getting to tomorrow is just as much an act of chance as sneezing on demand.

Voices from nowhere. Everywhere. Swirling into one.

Omar fought the urge to run. He wanted to run.

"Do you dream?" asked the first.

"Dream?" asked the second.

A dream that must be dreamed by a dreamer. A dreamer with an open mind.

"If we are only a dream, can we be dreaming inside a dream? Can we imagine that?" asked the male.

"We can't be just a dream. Look around you. See everything that you are. If we were only projections of our own imagination would this place be this place?" asked the second female.

"Certainly we wouldn't imagine every single speck dust hiding away under every appliance. The drudgery to pull them away from drab walls and to clean. Would we imagine such detail?" asked the other.

"If we were the product of our own imagination, wouldn't we dream of a place much better than this?" A place with true color and happiness and laughter. A true place.

"I--"

"There is no 'I'. There is only ‘we’."

One voice. All filtered into one.

"If even our heartbeats, our nerve impulses, our own memories are products of our own imagination, how can we be?"

New question after new question bleeding over, talking over the last. All without answer, without response. No one there to respond.

Omar fought the urge. He wanted to.

"If the hair that grows on our heads, the flakes of epithelia falling from the touch of our whisper white skin on the surface of simply breathing a breath to live, if all of that is a product of us. A product of what we dream, the way we create and imagine. How are we?"

We don't have hair.

"How are we?"

"How are we... 'we'? If we did not exist before we imagined ourselves, how would we have been there to imagine that we exist?"

Twenty three seconds of sleep left.

"But we do. Exist. At least we think we do. We are. At least we think we are. If not, then who?" The voices stretched from just a whisper. They filled the empty void and expanse of space wherever they were, wherever they came from. If an empty box can be filled and sealed with a million voices then that place must be an empty box.

"Then who?"

"Who?" They yelled. Screaming all in unison. More than four. Many more.

Omar fought.

Then quiet.

Nothing. The voices, whether screaming or softly speaking their many queries, were gone. The void was once again empty, as a void should remain to be.

Eighteen seconds of sleep left.

Nothing.

Twelve seconds of sleep left.

"There must be someone, something else." A single whisper. A small curious voice begging to be more than nothing. Something more.

"There must be."

Darkness. Silence, but for the single voice. A sensitive voice. A calm voice of a woman that Omar didn't know.

Seven seconds of sleep.

"Omar? Are you that someone?" the voice asked.

Four seconds. Time was running out.

"Omar?"

One...

"Omar?"

Awake. It was all he could do to wake himself up. Maybe she woke him up, but the process seemed difficult as if he were trapped in the dream, a place he wanted to be. Or didn't. A place where he fought the urge to run and won, but in the end should have.

Omar sat up from his pallet covered in sweat. Was the voice calling his name a part of his dream or the same voice that had intertwined itself into his existence after receiving the summons? He couldn't think. He didn't want to imagine especially in his world where imaginations were punished just as harshly as physical harm. He didn't think.

He wiped the drips from his forehead and swabbed his bare head with a sheet. Omar looked around his room as if he were expecting someone to be there. Someone that might have been there watching him suffer in his sleep. Satisfied in his suffering.

His room was empty. But he still felt like someone had been watching him. Looking. Measuring his progress toward some end. It was their goal for him, not his.

That single moment was one of the few times Omar felt clarity. He'd taken the pink pills. He looked at his hands. The shakes were gone. He'd smoked the herbs. He actually felt like eating again. And he'd drank from some mysterious bottle at the request of an anonymous and hidden voice.

And he had dreams he couldn't explain and fears of someone watching him that wasn't there.

That moment wouldn't last forever. It couldn't last forever, he was sure of it.

Omar stood and moved to the sink. He filled the empty pitcher and sat back at the table in the dark. The city was quiet at night; curfew kept all citizens safely tucked indoors away from whatever it was out there that curfew was meant to curtail. Omar raised his only window. The air was still.

He drank all the water in the pitcher and wiped his hands on his damp, government issued under shirt.

"Dreams suck," he said.

Omar had lived for most of his life without having dreams. He hadn't even questioned the idea and might have wondered if other citizens dreamt. Any other time would have had him asking those questions as long as they didn't violate Metro Code.

And control. Side effects of being controlled by something or someone else was that things most might take for granted, like dreams, simply didn't occur or weren't allowed.

"Omar?" Her voice range out even as a whisper in the openness of his night-filled room.

(C) Keith Dugger

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