I floated in a formless gloom, the sense that up and down were in opposition to where sanity insisted they should exist. I reached for comfort, but found torment instead. I sought perspective and reference, but confusion directed me nowhere.
I knew not from where I’d come, yet sensed there was a road beneath my feet if only I’d look down. Instead, fear stole my vision and cackled in my ear.
I shuddered to think…
Wakefulness brought definition to the darkness, but not escape from…
“From you.” I jumped at the voice and wanted to cry out when I saw the dim shape across the room.
So much for bravery. I scooted back in the bed until I struck the headboard. The words that formed in my brain failed to reach my lips. The meager strength I required to power my vocal cords deserted me.
When movement returned to my inoperative muscles I dove across the bed and slapped my hand down on the switch that powered beside light.
“I understand your fear, but you don’t need to be afraid of me.”
“Who are you?”
“The person who knows you better than anyone else.”
Even with my eyes adjusting I couldn’t create a distinct form using the vague, gray shape that occupied the shadowed space. It was if the image was clear, but I lacked the ability to bring it into focus.
“That doesn’t mean much…”
“We need to step outside.”
The gray form, one shadow layer stretched over another, crossed the room to my bedroom door. “This won’t take long.”
My back straightened and I tensed. The room’s stale air whispered that I should follow, but I resisted. “I’m not going anywhere.” I pushed back my hair with both hands. “I don’t even know what you are.”
“That’ll become plain outside.”
“No. No way.”
“Your life depends on this.”
The words did nothing to convince me, yet I heard melancholy that bordered on sadness. Deeper, an underlying pleading caused my heart to ache. I slid off the bed and into night air neither warm nor cold. No wind shook the windowpanes. No dogs barked beyond the walls.
“I need to dress.” I said the words, yet little believed them, for I wasn’t certain I was awake. I moved my toes and felt the carpet beneath.
The overlapping shadows wavered, the motion suggesting a head shake. “There’s no need.”
“I’m not going outside in my nightgown.”
“Add your robe and slippers…it’ll be fine.”
I slid my feet into my slippers and slipped on my robe, but before I stepped forward I faltered, my eyes glassy, my hands shaking. “Am I crazy?”
“I’m talking to…talking to…I don’t know. I don’t know what you…and I’m following…” My lower lip trembled. I wanted to sit on the floor and cry, but the gray images-that-were-one touched me inside in a way that kept me on my feet. How strange that I should trust what I was certain was an illusion. There was warmth then and I knew I was the source. “I’m afraid…”
“I know.” The voice was soft, gentle.
“It’s okay, and if you follow me you’ll see that.”
My indistinct visitor left the bedroom heading for the front door. As if my sanity depended upon it, I followed. I caught up in the front yard.
Or rather, where the front yard should have been.
The grass was there, but it went on forever.
“Where are the houses? Dear God, where’s the street and the driveway and my car and—”
“This is all you need.”
“What?” No answer. Before I could relocate my smoky guide a single light appeared in the distance. Blinking did nothing to clarify. “What’s that.”
“My dream?” I looked away and when I looked back the light remained. “You mean like how I couldn’t sleep?”
“Not that kind of a dream.”
My voice trailed off, for though I’d asked the question I knew the answer before the word was fully uttered. No answer did my companion provide.
As if she knew I already knew the answer.
And I did.
I shivered. My breathing quickened.
“Can’t or won’t?”
“Now. Now is the time. You have to follow your dream.”
Tears ran over my cheeks before I knew they’d entered my eyes. “I’m scared…”
“And that’s okay. It wouldn’t be your true dream if you weren’t scared. We both know this is the right one.”
I gasped and turned toward my soft-spoken escort. “You’re me!”
“Your younger self.”
The light remained. My shadowed self remained.
Fear stepped between me and the dream I must follow. “What if…?”
“If is in the future. This dream that you’ve always yearned for and that beckons to you now is in the present so you must be in the present in order to follow it. There’s no if, no then, no later. Only now.”
“But is merely if in a different disguise.”
“The cats…” At that moment they rubbed against my legs, the light reflecting in their eyes. I turned to my other self. “I have to do this, don’t I?”
“I’m but a shadow from the past. Don’t become a shadow in the present.”
My tears still running, I nodded. Despite my apprehensions, despite the unknown path that began at my feet, I knew there existed within an internal light that matched the dream. I knew the light within was hope and that so long as I remained aware of its presence it wouldn’t desert me.
I stepped to the side to see around the fear and nodded again. “I’m ready.”
And I was.