The hardest dream to wake up from, is the one that makes you want to stay asleep.
Written by:  Alex Sandell

I was living back with my parents.  My female companion, who, in "real" life, vanished about a week after I moved in with her, was still gone.  Feeling sorry for me, my parents bought me all of the video games I played as a kid.  Frogger, Pac Man, Space Invaders, Centipede and all of the other games I poured quarters into while at pizza places which have long since gone extinct.  Our house looked like the early eighties.  My parents kept encouraging me to play, my dad even throwing a quarter or two in, himself, just to get me charged up.  It didn't work.  The girl was still gone and I was feeling just as lonely and confused as I did during those dreaded waking hours. 

The house was dark, except for the bluish-purple lighting that the video games flashed across our faces, casting a deathly pallor upon us.  We didn't look very well, and felt even worse.  We kept telling one another how everything would work out, even though we knew it wasn't working.  My parents had spent so much on the video games, that they didn't know how to make their next house payment.  I had spent my entire savings moving in with the girl who decided to move out as soon as she got me to do what she had been begging me to do for over a year.   Two other characters, maybe my brothers, were standing in the far corner, appearing as flickering shadows.  Like two six-foot light bulbs ready to burn out.   Nothing was right.  It was starting to feel less and less like a dream, and more and more like reality. 

Then a knock came.  It was her.  Her father was with.  His tall, lanky body looming over the rest of us.  Like a skeleton, only with less of a heart.  She looked nervous.  She knew the effort we had made for her, and how she had let us down.  "I . . . I," she stuttered, "I forgot some CDs here.  They're in the basement."  We all stood, waiting for her to walk through the maze of antiquated games, and down the steps that led to her forgotten relics of a life thrown away.  After spending 30 seconds doing my best to not look at her, I finally made contact with her eyes.  She was signaling that she wanted me to follow her through the house.  I was scared of what her dad might do.   He had a temper.  It was something far worse than primal.  Brutal.   Definitely not from around here.  He would probably kill me, for what I was about to do, but she had been running away for the past week, and this time, she wanted me to follow.  I wasn't going to miss that chance. 

I followed her through the house.  As we walked through the video game maze, and the flashing lights, I could see through her skin, and into her head, like an X-ray photo.  Her skull would appear, than a blip, or a bang, or some other 1980's video version of good sound effects would rattle my ears.  It was like being in one of those "Haunted Houses" that are at the county fair.   The ones they build inside of an 18-wheeler. 

She turned into my kitchen, and we were out of view of everyone else.  We walked passed the refrigerator, the counters, the drawers, the table, and slid open a large door which led to the basement. She moved like a ghost.   Not walking, but gliding over the tiles.  She floated down the stairs.  At the bottom she turned toward me.  She was crying.  Her face was nearly washed away in tears.  Her hair clung to her cheeks, stuck there by the rivers shed from her eyes.  "You don't want to go back, do you?"  I asked.  She remained silent, only shaking her head back and forth, to indicate that she didn't.  When she spoke, she told me that she didn't like it "there."  I knew "there" was the place she abandoned me for.   "Do you want to come back with me?" I asked.  She nodded her head "yes," but told me she was "scared."  "My dad would kill me," she said.  "You have to be willing to face him," I told her.   "You have to listen to your own heart, and stop living under the lack of his."  She nodded her head in agreement.  "Will you stay?"  I asked.  "Yes," she said.  "And you'll be willing to stand up to your father?"  "Yes," she said.  "Even though it will be the most frightening thing that you've ever had to do?"  I asked.   "Yes," she said.  I took her in my arms.  "We'll be in this together.  I'll be there for you."  She looked up at me, the tears drying upon her face.  "This time it's forever," she said, "I won't leave you again."  I held her tighter, and felt her arms gently squeezing me, just enough to let me know that it wasn't a dream. 

Then I woke up.

1999 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved].

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