The girl was four when she learned not everybody’s dreams came true.
It was fortunate that she hadn’t been plagued with night terrors, that her mother was the kind to keep close watch on the TV, that she was an only child without siblings to fill her mind with monsters. She mostly dreamed of puppies and kittens and bunnies and her mother wondered why so many strays found their way to the house.
But one night, when the girl was four, she dreamed of dinosaurs. They were small dinosaurs, thankfully, not even big enough for the discarded dolls in the corner of the room to sit upon. But they were dinosaurs still, alive and hungry. Her mother screamed when she saw them, waking all three dogs, both cats and the white and grey bunny, and promptly fainted. “Can I keep them?” the girl asked when her mother regained consciousness. The mother didn’t see any other options, and the miniature Brontosaurus and Stegosaurus stayed in an old fish tank on the kitchen floor for three days, munching on lettuce and brussels sprouts and broccoli. On the fourth day, a Wednesday, the girl awoke from a dream in which she had lost them and they were indeed gone.
The girl was four-and-a-half when her mother started taking her to sleep specialists. Five when it became psychiatrists. Her mother told them all the girl had anxiety, maybe even psychosis — that she thought her dreams came true. The mother never mentioned the dinosaurs. The girl took the hint. Eventually, the mother found what she had been looking for: a doctor who would prescribe the right cocktail of pills to silence the girl’s dreams altogether.
For nine years, the girl’s nights were still, and dark. She forgot about the concept of dreams.
Then, one night, a crack of thunder woke the girl. She was on an inner tube in the middle of a lazy stream, a near-perfect replica of her trip to the national park the summer before. The sun sparkled on the water as she floated south, trailing her fingers beside her. She fell back to sleep and, slowly, the sky darkened and the water evaporated, the river transformed into a dreamscape-version of the girl’s room. When she woke for the second time, her homework was missing and her formerly brown carpet was a deep blue under the piles of clean clothes and damp paperback books.
She took a demerit on her geometry worksheet but was given an extension on the essay on world civilizations. Later, at the computer, her cursor blinked impatiently below the words “The Impact of Ancient Greece on Modern Society” and the girl clicked over to her browser.
“how to control your dreams”
The girl started small, turning her focus to changing her carpet back from blue to brown. The first night, she did not dream. She was luckier the second night, though the brown wasn’t quite right. She got it by the fourth night, but accidentally unleashed a swarm of butterflies into her room when the old, brown-spotted dog jumped off the bed. The dog got her own bed after that.
It didn’t take the girl long to grow bold, willing her mind to visit places she had only seen on TV, from the streets of Florence to the mountains of Peru, careful to draw back to her bedroom with its cracked wall and familiar angles and coarse carpet well before dawn. She was swimming with the dolphins in the Bahamas the night her mother came to check on her, spilling water into the hall and staining the floor. It was a good thing the dolphins were skittish that night and none were near.
The mother took the girl back to the psychiatrist. Adjustments were made for growth spurts and hormones, and the dreams ceased once again. The mother set an alarm and checked every two hours, for three weeks, just to be sure. The girl waited another two weeks before she started tucking the pills
under her tongue at night, way in the back, before flushing them down the toilet.
She resumed her travels. The girl began to expand her boundaries beyond the modern day. She saw the pyramids in progress and the paint drying on the Sistine Chapel. She tasted illegal rum in a speakeasy and ate bison cooked over a fire along the Oregon Trail. Then, one night, she revisited her dinosaurs.
They were full-grown this time, ignorant to her presence perched in a branch of a prehistoric tree. She sat, mesmerized, watching the Brontosaurus stretch its neck to reach the highest leaves, chewing, swallowing, the leaves traveling down the semitruck-sized throat. The girl lost track of time and loosened the grip on her subconscious, watching the dinosaur eat.
When she saw the asteroid in the distance, fear overtook her and she jerked awake.
The Brontosaurus turned its giant head toward the girl, seeing her at last.
Rachel Abbey McCafferty is a newspaper reporter from Ohio used to telling other people’s stories and working on telling her own. Check out her blog at https://rachelamwrites.wordpress.com/ or follow her on Twitter at @ramccafferty.