It was early morning Monday when I woke, gasping for breath and covered in goose bumps. The blaring red numbers of the digital clock on my nightstand read 5:55. Only five minutes before the alarm signaled another mundane school day. If I didn’t write now, the whole story would be lost.
Thwarting consciousness’s ability to steal away the most beautiful dreams, I drilled flashcards of the dream’s images in my head: the forest, the glowing light, the flowering trees, the townspeople. I crashed into my desk chair and turned my laptop on. Light sparked between my index finger and the power button of the laptop. The static force jolted through my bone, up into my elbow, past my shoulder, and up the side of my neck. I didn’t care enough to draw back my popping, fizzing hair. Intangible memories slipped from my head.
What had that stranger’s enthusiastic, but somehow plotting voice said? Why couldn’t I recall it? Why wouldn’t this infernal piece of metal load faster?!
At the command of my thoughts, the Novella homepage snapped into view.
Muscle memory kicked in. I typed my login, struck the enter key, and opened a fresh story template, eager to release the words driving down from my brain and impatiently jamming like traffic behind my fingertips.
Like a piano maestro in Carnegie Hall, I played the keyboard, translating the sheet music of thoughts onto this virtual canvas.
The luminescent orb hovering in my palm extinguished. Glowing fragments that once composed the orb squirmed into the inky darkness. I stood at the boundary between the city and the forest. I faced the backsides of four-story, brick buildings lining the main road, alleyways separating each one. Shadows of hanging paper lanterns danced on the multicolored, pastel cobblestone. Where had the townspeople gone?
I edged forward, out of the blue-flowered trees and onto the pavement. A single sniff, and the smell of fruit-filled pastries stagnated on my pallet, no longer reminding me of the warmth of home. A deathly silence had replaced the gaiety of musicians playing their lyres and flutes. My stomach churned with the rhythm of the phantom dance.
I wandered to the center of the street. The people were there, uncomfortably crammed at the northern point of the road. They swarmed the village square. From an unknown source a low, authoritarian voice rose that grew louder and stronger. The voice stifled their joyful camaraderie. All stilled in fear of the words spoken.
The dreadful voice, muffled to my ears, ended its speech.
The people ascended into riot.
I finished thirty seconds early, draped myself backward over the desk chair, that unsettling male voice still mumbling in my head. The man said something I either couldn’t remember, or couldn’t make out for it being so muffled, but I remembered the tone. He presented an idea so jarring, the villagers were nearly paralyzed, yet he seemed overjoyed to announce it.
My dreamland couldn’t be any more fantastic or strange. It rang in my ears constantly, like a high-pitched fever dream until I drummed an imperfect version into a word document. Sometimes I journeyed to the arctic where giant seal creatures played, sometimes to the Amazon wilderness where tree spirits guarded the land. My stories originated from this kaleidoscope of adventures, and most of them were zapped out of my subconscious before I could even find a pen.
Ping! Ping! Ping! My alarm went off on the nightstand. I crossed the room and silenced the noise.
But even when written words failed, the tones of my visions swam together in a koi pond of emotions lingering behind my awareness.
When I dipped my pen in for ink, I extracted rippled reflections.