Chapter 2 – REM
So there she is, rushing down the corridor of her combat school. She must hurry or she will miss her father leave. As she reaches the assembly hall she sees she’s too late; her dad is already sailing off into the forest on a paladin ship. He’s laughing about something, but it doesn’t stop Aléi from hugging him. As she let go off the parchment she looks up and notices the stars are out, and she is looking down on the world below. The plateau. She remembered being there. It’s a nice place.
As she’s feeling compelled to inch closer to the edge to see what’s below, she catches a glimpse of something red in the corner of her eye, Ashling.
In an instant she’s aware. It feels like everything suddenly makes sense. She’s dreaming.
She lets the feeling sink in for a moment. Ashling removes his hand from her shoulder.
“Do people from your world have a concept of being aware you are dreaming?” he asks her.
“What?” she blurts out, still feeling as if she just woke up.
“Lucid dreaming,” Ashling continues. “Being aware you are in a dream and allow you to control it. It’s a really cool thing and can be used by anyone with training.”
Lucid dreaming. Aléi tastes the words. They sound strange but powerful.
“I don’t think so,” she says after a moment. “We have something called a Realm of Dreams, but not many know how it works.”
Curiosity suddenly striking, she looks around. Moments ago she had been standing on the highest spot in her homeland, but now finds herself in a forest. The trees are pale and doesn’t seem to ever end. The ground is littered with colourful flowers, with patches of grass breaking up the pattern.
She’s baffled, but Ashling just smiles.
“It’s called REM sleep, Rapid Eye Movement. It’s the part of the sleep cycle where you dream. No one is completely sure why we have it, but we do know it’s integral for a lot of things. Dreams can seem random and scrambled, but during the dream they can make perfect sense. It’s only when we wake up the dreams feel weird,” Ashling explains.
It’s true. Aléi thinks back to the dream right before Ashling showed up. The boat in the assembly hall (or was that the forest?), being back at school at all, how the scenery changed so quickly.
“It’s chaotic, and only the first layer of tonight’s adventure,” Ashling says.
“Oh?” Aléi says while looking at Ashling. She can’t quite put her finger on it, but Ashling seems less androgynous than before.
“Let’s head into my dream.”
He grabs her shoulder again and before they know it rapid images flash before their eyes. It’s a rapid jumble of scenes. However, it ends as soon as it has started and they see that things have changed again.
Despite what Ashling just said about REM sleep, his dream is incredibly non-chaotic. They are standing on a small floating island, with more littering the landscape. Far below them is an ocean and the twilight sky is lit up with stars. Old ruins and thin trees are scattered around the islands.
“It’s… pretty,” Aléi finally says.
“I always seem to create this particular landscape whenever I get the chance to. It’s a good Dreamer practice location,” Ashling responds.
Ashling nods and flies over to one of the nearby crumbled ruins.
“How did you do that?” Aléi is baffled. She was told Ashling was more or less a normal person, but now he’s flying like it was second nature.
“It’s a Dreamer ability, give it a try. Just want to fly,” Ashling tells her.
Aléi is sceptical. Flying can’t be that easy right? However, she decides to give it a try and almost begin to panic as she’s lifted into the sky.
“Whoa, that’s amazing!” Ashling exclaims. “You got it first try!”
Aléi has no time to celebrate though as she’s trying to convince her mind to get down on the ground again.
“You definitely have the qualities of a Dreamer,” Ashling says after Aléi has landed.
“Dreamer?” she wonders.
“Ya, Dreamers differ from other people who dream as we can enter others dreams, much like how I entered your dream and pulled you into mine.”
“Ah,” Aléi says with amazement.
It dawns on her that what she has been seeking might actually be found in this dreamscape: relief.
A while later, Ashling has been teaching her some more Dreamer abilities and given her a bit more explanation on how the REM sleep works. It might not have been the best explanation though as Ashling’s own dream hasn’t changed one bit since they got there.
They had been spending what felt like hours just flying around the floating islands.
“Okay, I think it’s time to show you the rest of the layers,” Ashling says while they are taking a break under a tree.
“The rest?” Aléi asks.
“Yeah. As Dreamers we can go deeper into the mind layers by using portals, or gates, that connect them. The location of the portals can wary, but in this dream it’s looming right above us, far up in the sky.”
Aléi looks up, but can barely make out a small purple spot in what seems to be miles above the islands.
“If you want, I can show you them,” Ashling says. Aléi nods. “Sure.”
They take off from the ground and head towards the purple portal above. Not too far above they get close. The portal swirls illogically, shifting in colours between purple and black. Where everything around them feels lucid, the portal extrudes an aura of what can best be described as REM sleep. Fleeting, making sense but at the same time not.
“Prepare yourself,” Ashling says as he slowly moves towards the portal. It’s about his size, or is it as short as Aléi? It’s hard to tell.
After a bit of hesitation she nods.
Ashling grabs her hand and they both enter the portal to Ashling’s second dream layer.