“And what would you know of my dreams?”
“Nothing. That is why I am here. I came to town earlier this week and happened by a tavern, where I stopped for a drink. I overheard two men talking about a man who has not left his house for the past six months. When I asked what had prompted the man to become a shut in, they told me no one really knows. The last person he spoke to said he mentioned having a dream that never ends, a dream so wonderful he would rather sleep than leave his home. I needed to meet this man, this dreamer. After an exhaustive search, I found myself at your door. Now I must ask, are you the dreamer they speak of?”
Salem fidgets in his seat for a moment. He has tried to tell others, but none have believed him. He has had no one to share his joy with, at least no one in this realm, and even in this agitated state he is thankful to have found someone to share this with.
“Yes, I am the one they speak of. I have had a dream that has continued night after night for the past six months, one in which I have found love more real than anything I have experienced before.”
“I am glad to have finally found you, for I believe I can help you.”
“Help me? You are misguided friend. I need no help! My dreams do not haunt me, they are a blessing!”
“Then why stay hidden here? What keeps you from living you life?”
Salem laughs. “My life is worthless in comparison to the one I live in my dreams.”
“What do you mean?”
“Let me start from the beginning. The dream began about six months ago. I rarely dream, but one night I had one unlike any I’ve had before, one that seemed unreasonably real. In it, I was in my home eating dinner when someone started pounding on my door, much as you did tonight. I opened it and the most beautiful woman I had ever laid eyes on fell into my arms, frightened and wounded. She said she was being attacked, and sure enough, I saw a man running up the street, knife in hand. I came to her defense and fought the man, waking as I landed the killing blow. I thought nothing of it the next morning. It seemed like I had just had a strange dream, but I discovered soon after that this was not the case. The next night I dreamed again, and found myself standing over the man I had killed the previous night. It was as though the world had frozen solid until I returned. You are the dream expert Mr. Streyer; tell me, is that normal? Can people have dreams that do not end when they wake?” The whole time he told the story, Alfred was on the edge of his seat, listening intently. Now, he sits back and folds his hands, as though he is preparing to start a lecture.
“It is not unheard of, but certainly not a common occurrence. Many people will think they are having a continuation of one dream, but in reality are just confusing the elements of both and making them into one in their mind. But I have never heard of anyone who had a dream continue for months without end. But you still have not told me why you have exiled yourself.”
“I am getting to it, calm yourself. Night after night, the dream went on. It became a second life for me. I would close my eyes on this sad place and open them to a world where I was happier than I have ever been. The woman thanked me for saving her, and I told her she should stay the night and rest after her ordeal. She agreed, and from that night on, we began to fall in love. She is the most wonderful woman I have ever met. We are perfect for one another, and I could not imagine spending a moment without her. That is why I was so angry with you, and why I spend my days dreaming. My heart aches every moment I am forced to leave her.”
“How do you eat if you do not leave? How can you live like this?” Salem is quiet, for he is ashamed of his answer. He leads a strange life, one many do not accept.
“For the past months I have had my meals delivered here, and when I eat is the only time I am in this world.”
“My God! You mean to tell me you are sleeping all but a few minutes a day! How is that possible?” Salem diverts his gaze to the floor, for he can not meet the mans gaze, but he still feels the weight of judgment fall on him.
“At first I couldn’t. My body refused to let go of the earthly tethers that held me here, and I have struggled to learn the secrets to sleep. As time went on, I fortified my mind and learned to keep myself in the dream. I have taught myself to sleep at any time, even in the light of day. Only sounds such as your knocking and yelling can wake me up. Sometimes I can even block those out if I concentrate hard enough. Silence is all that I need, my own lullaby.” He looks up and sees a look of fear cross the strangers face.