Endless white as far as the eye can see. Can the eyes see here? There’s no horizon to speak of and not even a hint of walls or structure, so what is there to tell me if I’m seeing or simply blinded comfortably by light. My eyes don’t hurt here. There’s no strain to focus. Echoes of my footsteps reverberate back to me as an eerie tribal beat played on unseen alabaster drums. The sounds must be hitting something in this vast sea of white…mustn’t they? Passing fancies, these thoughts of mine. I’ve had them all before.
It’s just as it always is once I realize I’m in a dream.
I can never quite recall where I was before entering the snowy white cavern, the doorway to my lucid dreams. Some ridiculous whimsy or another, I’m sure, when something gave the dream away. I stop moving for a moment to get my bearing. What nonsense to think anyone could have a sense of where they are in a never ending expanse of definitionless nothingness, but somehow I always do. Echoes of footsteps begin to fade. Here, you have to have a sense of where you are to be sure of where you’re going. Smaller footsteps still. They’ll be consumed by silence before I’m gone. Closing my eyes, breathing deep the cool fresh air, I prepare to make the first shift.
Pa-dump! Pa-dump! The echoes haven’t stopped.
Snapping my eyes open, I try not to appear frantic while searching for the source of the approaching footfalls. Pa-dump! Pa-dump! Louder still, and I have yet to move more than a slight shuffling of my shoes, turning in futile circles. Pa-dump! Pa-dump! Closer yet. Pa-dump! Nobody has ever been here before. Pa-dump! This space has always been mine and mine alone. Pa-dump! Only I can exist here. Pa-dump! Coming from behind!
Filling myself to the brim with sweet burning light, I turn to strike what I’m sure must be an enemy only to find myself facing a young boy with a familiar face. A youthful face with fear-filled eyes, but not fearful of me. Has he been running? Shadows of footfalls fade truly this time as we stand facing one another. I do not release my hold on the light, but rather let it seep into every fiber of my being. Growing behind the fear is…relief? He allows no time for questions.
“I had hoped you would be strong,” the boy said, the faintest hint of a smile forming in the right corner of his mouth, “but I never imagined you being this powerful.” Relief began sowing seeds of hope in the boy. We have never met before, I am certain beyond doubt, but I recognize something within this child. He is no threat to me. Though, he is or was fleeing something. I must protect this young man.
“Who are you?” I ask the boy flatly.
Giving me a quizzical look that spoke volumes of what he thought I should know, he simply said, “I am Me, and we are not safe here any longer.”
Suddenly, a deafening sound splits the air. It’s as if the fabric of the sky is being ripped and torn as something claws its way through. Something so malevolent in its nature that its mere presence turns my pristine haven bit by bit into an ashen wasteland. Definition takes shape around me as tendrils of gray stretch along the expance. A howl like none I have ever heard before, in or out of the dream, rings in every corner of the no longer totally featureless room. Me is being hunted, and now so am I.
Within an instant, Me takes my hand and turns to run. For a few eternal moments, the world around us blurs, ripping and howls fading behind us as we shift. After years of shifts, my stomach has become much stronger, but still I can feel the pains of a full stomach upset. I must have been dreaming of a feast of sorts if I’m feeling this much discomfort.
The blurring stops.
We’ve shifted into a canopied forest I do not recognize. White and gray seamlessness has become a living, breathing forest dense with wildlife. A colorful bird flies effortlessly by above our heads singing its ethereal song. Tiny brown creatures skitter about our feet, darting this way and that to avoid our determined march. “You can let go of my hand, Me.” Startled, the boy looks around just then seeming to realize the change of scenery. Hope began to germinate within Me’s smile.
An awful stench on the wind is our only warning.
It came upon us in a rage barreling down the trees in its path. What is that thing? The beast shares not only the thick, crackled skin with a rhinoceros, but also its size. A behemoth reptilian hound bounds towards us baring venom blackened razor teeth and leaving little time for thought. Still filled to every pore with light, I mold the air around us into a shield of tornado force winds. As fast as the beast is, it is too slow to catch us before we are enveloped in the wind’s protective sphere. This time. A constant buffeting away with concussive force does little to deter the hell hound. It seems only to spur it on. With a fearful cry, Me clasps on to my hand and the world blurs once more.
A pattern of sorts takes form. No matter where Me shifts us, the beast is undoubtedly not far behind. Once it seems I gain an advantage, fear takes the boy over and we shift again.
In a desert, the creature’s steps turn sand to acrid glass. Trailing footprints that mirror the sky, it charges on paying little heed to my assault. Bolt after bolt of lightning streams from my fingertips until I land a direct hit, and the beast stumbles. Shift…
Beside a mountain lake, I hurl stone javelins and pummel with fists of water. It is so much easier than it once was...I never had this level of control before. No time to think. No time to worry. The beast, decidedly not interested in pursuing me, is trying everything to get to the boy. One scratch, one bite, one careless moment, and Me is done for. No time to think at all. Shift…
On and on the battle raged, seemingly as endless as the white room. A tropical island. Bustling metropolis. Dark caverns, flower topped fields, rocky canyons…Me is fleeing blindly now. I can’t keep this up. Each time, the creature manages to get closer. Too close. Stunned by another lightning strike, the beast’s recovery gives me just enough time to grab Me’s hand. “This ends now.” Shift…
In a suburban Florida back yard, on the deck of a peanut shaped pool, we’ve arrived at the safest place in my memory. My childhood home. With a sharp gesture from me, the boy backs into the house through its sliding glass doors. When the door latches shut, a glowing white light to rival any dream room begins to cover the house. Spreading out until Me is safely cocooned behind impenetrable walls.
They will only come down if I say so, and I will only say so once one of us is dead. It comes.
As if forming from mist, the beast takes shape before me. Is that how it appears when humans shift? No time. Seeing the boy safely tucked inside the house, it’s running hard for me this time.
Fire erupted from every pore in my right arm. With a gauntlet of flame, I threw all my force into a blow to this thing’s head. That stops it dead, but still it perseveres, continuing to bite and claw at my arm no matter how it is seared. Only one scratch.
Forcing all the fire into my hand, a miniature sun explodes from my palm and sends the creature flying. This time I will end it. Lightning found its home in a thigh. The chest. The spine. Again and again the strikes fall as it dances in the air trying to avoid them. Digging it claws into the sky, the beast began to charge at me letting out a howl to break worlds. Before realizing it, I’m on my knees dazed and clutching my head. The world is blurry, but this is no shift. I can hear the muffled sounds of snarls and steps padded on air. Focus comes slowly, but the beast does not.
In its final leap, I wildly cast out a net tied with wind and catch the beast before me. Snarling, flailing, it waits for me to relent for just a moment. So very close this time. One moment to my throat and then to the boy.
Raising myself to meet this thing’s eyes, I try to mask my ragged breathing. “You shall not have Me!”
Eyes have never burned with such fervent hatred as I see before me now. Pure unadulterated fury at being denied its prey. Holding it with ropes of wind, I slice away at the creature with thousands of tiny blades. Water, when used just so, can slice diamonds. Boiling lacerations began to leak steaming rivers of black…it is almost done. A cavern mouth thunders open beneath the limp beast, jagged teeth eagerly awaiting a treat. As a child tosses a rag doll, so I toss this dying thing into the crevice. It snaps shut putting an end to the battle. Me is safe.
Turning towards the house, I shift back to that place of pure white. Seamless once more, all is well. Radiating palpable warmth, Me appears behind me, but I do not turn to see. He is safe now, and that is what matters. “Thank you,” the boy whispers as he takes a final step into me. Welcome home, Me.
And that’s when I wake up.