A dream. It always starts with a dream. My name is Benedict, yet it’s seldom the same when I’m dreaming, but I am always myself. Sometimes the dream is short, only a few hours if I am lucky. Other times the dream is long. The longest that I have ever been gone was a year but that wasn’t until just recently. I can always tell that I am dreaming by looking at my digital watch for the time because it’s always backwards, to me.

In my real life I am married to a beautiful woman, who I am more than happy to call my wife, and two wonderful children who mean the world to me. Every one of their nights I fear that I will never come back here again, and lose my family that I love for good. Each night that I go to sleep, I travel to a far off place, some other time, or some other dimension, and live in that space for a time.

It all started when I was a child. From a young age I have had, what my therapist likes to call, vivid dreams, but I know they are more than that. I know they are real, because when something happens to my body within the dream, it happens to my body out of the dream.  

It first happened to me when I was six. I had already had a few adventures in my dreams, but I did not realize they would affect me in my real life. One night my mother placed me in bed while I was already fast asleep. She had laid me down on my twin sized bed, about to pull the covers over me, and then my leg broke right in front of her eyes. I on the other hand, had just fallen from the sky, into a small forest. My mother, screamed and tried to wake me, to no avail. She called 911 and the ambulance got me out of the house and to the hospital, all while I was still asleep. The EMT’s did everything they could to wake me, but nothing worked. I awoke in the hospital the next morning with a cast on my leg, only after being lost in the forest for a couple of hours, alone, cold, and afraid. To this day the pain from that fall is something I still fear. Will it happen again, or worse.

The next few years of my life I spent with priests of different faiths. My parents did not know what to do, or if it would happen again. They thought I was possessed, and called in a priest to exorcise me of any demons I may have been harboring. Holy water from every corner of the world was used on me at one time or another. There was even a point a bathtub was filled with it, so I could fully immerse myself within it. From there, a Buddhist monk came to monitor me, and guide me. We discussed all different types of things during his waking hours from what happened in my dreams, to what I thought the meaning of life was. I never got to truly rest unless I was in a dream realm for more than a day. The last thing he tried was to free up my flow of chi, but just like the Catholic priest, he wasn’t able to find anything wrong. He went so far as to be impressed by what amazing chi I did have, and said I would be welcome at his monastery anytime.

My parents were coming to their wits end, and had me examined by what seemed like an army of doctors from all types different backgrounds and fields. At first there were lots of scans of my head while I was asleep. This was followed by nightly observations, in which they turned me into a human pincushion. After feeling like a living blood bank for that week of my waking life, I asked my parents if I could go home. Everything was turning up normal, but everything they had recorded in the night was beyond explanation. There were wounds that would appear and disappear within the blink of an eye. All while I was living a normal life in my dream, well normal to me anyway. They soon gave up, because there was no profit, and no evidence of what was causing my condition.

Once I turned eighteen and moved out of my parents’ house, and I tried to develop insomnia. Not an easy task. I went to a sleep doctor and questioned him about insomnia and what things I should avoid doing to prevent it. I then proceeded to do all of them the first moment I got. Caffeine pills, energy drinks, and late night infomercials became a part of who I was for a time, but it only fueled the length of time that I went into the dreams. It was like a weird backlash that I had to figure out, and once I did, I dropped it quickly. 

I met my wife two years ago, during a time in my life I was about to call it quits. I had just awoke from a world that was not friendly. I was in the midst of a civil war of the two ruling factions of beast people. The Cat people had taken me in and given me shelter, but that angered the Gorilla people, elevating the already tense situation the two groups were in. The creatures there were able to understand me somehow, and I them, but I could not understand their writing. I believe it to be an effect of the dream. The Gorilla’s had broken past the front lines and taken control of the camp I was in. Stringing me up against a post, I was about to be burned at the stake. With the fire dancing around my feet, and the smell of burning hair and flesh around me, I woke up in a cold sweat. From there I drove to the nearest bridge, parked underneath, and proceeded to walk to the highest point to toss myself over. I was not about to be burned at the stake, or killed in some other horrifying manor. I was going to take control of the situation right then and there. 

That’s when she appeared. A radiant beacon through the foggy haze of depression I was had been in most of my life. She was waiting at the bus stop, her blonde hair up in a bun, and she wasn’t even paying attention to me. Her eyes were fixed on reading whatever she was reading that day on her e-reader. I know I had a disheveled look about me, it had been days since I shaved, and the rings under my eyes could have given a raccoon a run for its money. She only glanced at me, at first. I didn’t even see her there, because I was so focused on my mission of ending the torment of the ever awaking state I was in. She put her device down, and asked how my day was going. I stopped and stared for a moment. It had been such a long time since someone had asked that to me. She didn’t know who I was or my condition, she just genuinely asked. Her smile was captivating, and her ocean blue eyes broke my conviction. I fell to my knees. I wrapped my arms around myself and began crying a river of tears. I fell asleep right there, and did not have a dream, for the first time since I had turned six. When I woke, rested, only an hour later, she was still comforting me in a gentle embrace.

I got up and sat down next to her on the bench, and we proceeded to talk for hours. For some reason, she stayed. I personally would have thought the person who dropped to the ground and started crying was going through a mental episode, and would then steer clear of said person. She didn’t. It was her warmth in that situation gave me hope. She told me about growing up in south Texas, and how it was difficult for her to be away from her family, but she was determined to make her career work. I told her about my life, and my dreams. She never doubted me, and never thought I was playing her for a fool. She only listened with eager anticipation for what story I was going to tell her next. With wonder in her eyes, I asked her if she thought I was crazy. Her answer surprised me and to this day I know she saved my life with these words.

“Who am I to question what reality we may or may not be in when we dream. It’s like asking the question if there is life after death, only God and the dead know the answer to that question.”

My whole life I have been called every thesaurus match for the word crazy. Then I’m gifted with the presents of this smart, and beautiful blonde. Needless to say I fell for her, and her for me through some strange cosmic gift. A few years later I was blessed with a daughter, and a year after that, a son. I have started this journal for my children in case they have the same condition as I do. My hope is they will never come to read this, but hope is not always on my side.