It all began the day that I agreed to help my uncle with a television that he had acquired from a friend of his. Such an innocent beginning to such a frightening experience. So we had discussed a time or me to come over to his apartment, which was tomorrow at around noon, and I was not looking forward to it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind helping him out like this, but my uncle is a bit… peculiar. For starters, he has a mild mental handicap, which makes him a handful to deal with at times. If we are at a family gathering, he constantly wants to talk to me about things that, to be honest, I couldn’t care less about. I always lend him an ear because I know he doesn’t know any better, and I feel bad when I don’t listen. He got married recently to a woman with bipolar disorder, and they live in an apartment not far from my grandparent’s house, but I’m sure that they won’t be there for long. They move around a lot, and it becomes a family affair to get them situated in their new home.
As noon drew near, my grandfather and I made our way to my uncle’s home. Upon entering, I was overpowered by a strong scent of tobacco, cat odor, and other things less distinguishable. Laid out before me was something that you would see on a television show about hoarders. There were tools, books, kitchen supplies, vhs tapes, dvds, video games, etc. They were everywhere, neatly stacked by the type of item, yet packed chaotically about his tiny living space. As we maneuvered through the piles of junk, I came upon the tv, and without going into too much detail as this story isn’t about his tv, solved his problem. As my grandfather helped my uncle put a coat hanger up on one of the few bare spots on the walls, I looked around. Upon reaching the pile of books, I examined a few, looking for anything that might be interesting. There were many books encompassing a wide variety of topics and subject, many of which I’m sure my uncle has never even opened. For example, there was a book written by Stephen Hawking underneath a pop-up children’s book. Upon closer examination of the pile, I found an unlabeled, unmistakably old book. The exterior had wear and tear and an interesting design embossed onto the book, yet when I opened it up, the pages were in pristine condition.
The book was written in a language that I could not read, looking unlike any script that I have ever seen, but I was intrigued. I returned to my uncle and grandfather, who had completed putting up the shelf. I asked my uncle where he had gotten the book, to which he said that he had gotten it from a friend. I asked him if I could hold onto it for a while, and when he began to protest, my grandfather said “just let him have the damn book, you have one hundred others just sitting over there in the corner that you need to read.” My uncle reluctantly relinquished possession of the book to me. We said our goodbyes and my grandfather drove me home. After I got home, I began examining the book further. Looking through the book, the script seemed to change the further into the book, bringing it closer to something I could recognize, but was still unreadable. “That’s odd…” I though. I don’t know any language where the words change the further you progress into a literary work as if they are written in a different language. Grabbing my computer, I began a few hours of fruitless research on anything that was remotely similar to the content of this book. I lost track of time and upon feeling drowsy, glanced at the clock, seeing that it was extremely late, and I had work the next day so I should probably hit the hay.
That night, my dreams were strangely vivid and, even stranger so, I could recall every moment of them when I awakened. My dream began with me in a wide open space, surrounded by white and void of sound. Everywhere was white, and there was no distinction between the sky and the ground. As I walked around, I felt myself running into things that I could not see. Eventually I heard a voice behind me after a long period of stumbling around in the white dreamscape. “Do not fear, this is just a dream” said the voice. The voice was very soothing, like the way a mother speaks to her child. I turned to face my mysterious guest, and I almost missed them. They had absolute white skin and an off-white garb, and had large blue eyes, two small slits for a nose, and no mouth. The bizarre figure didn’t frighten me, to my surprise. Certainly a being with such aspects would instill some kind fear, but I felt none. In its arms, it held a copy of my newly acquired tome, but the cover looked brand new. Presenting the book to me with arms outstretched, I grabbed the book without either of us uttering a word. “You are now the holder of the tome. This is a great responsibility, and your true path will become clear to you… in time.” I acknowledged my hosts statement with a nod of my head, and they faded into the white, beginning with the clothes, ending with the eyes. I looked at the cover and ran my fingers along it. It said keeper of the dreamscape in plain English letters. When I opened the book, the landscape before me exploded into color.
What I saw shocked and horrified me. This was certainly not an earthly biome, and was occupied by unearthly flora and fauna. I watched as everything transpired, and none of the inhabitants seemed to notice my presence. As far as I could tell, all of the plant-life was composed of thin, bone-like structures similar to bamboo but bleached white, and they were covered in what looked like hairs. There were large carnivorous beasts that were a sickly green color with red holes on their bodies with many, many eyes and six legs. They moved gracefully about the “vines” and “trees” in hunt of smaller creatures. The prey animals of this strange land resembled grasshoppers, yet they moved via bipedal locomotion. In terms of height, they came about up to the human knee when fully upright. They scoured the bone trees in great numbers, plucking the hairs and consuming them. With every pluck came an otherworldly scream, subtly, yet noticeable as there were thousands beings plucked at every second. The larger beasts would move through these hoards and as they did, tiny arms would emerge from the red holes and grab several of the smaller creatures. The hands would slowly pull them towards the gaping maw of the beast where the unfortunate grasshopperesque creature would be slowly devoured. Then there came the beating of many drums, like a tribal dance beat, and with it came the beating of a million tiny wings as all of the creatures made a hasty retreat to whereabouts unknown.
With that sound, I had awakened. I glanced at the clock and saw that I was going to be late for work if I didn’t hurry, leaving me little time to ponder over the curious dream/nightmare. Work was uneventful and passed slowly, but when I returned home, I headed straight for my book. When I opened it, I was surprised to see that I could now read the contents of the book. The introductory section told me that I had been chosen to watch over the dreamscape as the owner of this ancient tome as its guardian. Every night I would experience the greatest of mankind’s pleasures, as well as the darkest and most primal of fears. To regulate this realm was my duty, to ensure that the balance of dreams and nightmares never shift to either side. If that happened, both the waking world and the world of dreams would be thrown into utter chaos, ultimately destroying both in a cataclysmic event.
I was certainly reluctant to take on this duty, for who thinks that they could handle the responsibility of guarding the universe from destruction? I attempted to get rid of the book, but every attempt had failed. If I gave it away, I would find it in my home the next day at the foot of my bed and the person I gave it to had no recollection of me giving it to them. Any attempt to destroy it failed miserably, and I soon found that the tome was indestructible; burning, shredding, melting, water damage, even tearing one of the pages was impossible. So each night I drifted into slumber and woke up elsewhere. Throughout my travels in the dream world, I became greatly educated about its inhabitants and the world within. The laws of nature and physics work differently there than they do on earth, and the passage of time is much slower than in the waking world as well. An hour in your bed would last about a month on the other side. After many trips there I began to accept my duty as the dream keeper. I had never slept better in my entire life, waking up with zeal every day, yet I always longed for the dream world. Each day after work, especially if it was a hard and tiring day, I would rush to my bed and drift to sleep, but sometimes when wake up from a nap, something follows me back out…
Sometimes beings from the world of nightmares or dreams follow me out, and this can disrupt the balance of dreams. Just as the denizens of the dream world cannot see me, the people in the real world cannot see them. Of course, as the keeper of the dreamscape, I can see them. While they cannot physically impact the world around them, they can cause people distress. Usually this happens when a person is sleeping, however they can bring about fits of narcolepsy on sensitive people. These beings have only one mission. They will drag a person into the dream world they come from, whether it is a nightmare or a regular dream. While that may not sound bad to be forced to have a good dream, it upsets the balance, creating a shift in power. If the balance was lost, the world of dream and the real world would merge, releasing a wave of energy that would wipe out most of the new world, and plunge what is left into chaos. In order to stop these beings from doing this, I must be vigilant upon exiting the dream world, because after they escape it is impossible to stop them. While in the land of dreams, I am almost all-powerful, able to bend the laws to my will, but in the real world, I am just as helpless as any normal person. This is the most dangerous way that the balance can be tipped, as after it is set into motion, it cannot be stopped, but the other ways are more preventable, yet still difficult to prevent.
In the dreamscape, good and evil are constantly at war over territory, resources, and because each force simply can’t stand the other side. This takes place as conventional warfare on the border of dreams and nightmare. I must make sure that they are at a stalemate whenever there is a large scale battle. Little skirmishes and small scale wars are not a big problem, but a massive offensive from either side can be dangerous. Sometimes a diplomatic approach is effective, as the keeper of the dreamscape is revered by all when I choose to make my presence known. If that fails, I must fight for the losing side in battle to even the odds, but I cannot use the full extent of my powers lest I destroy all of the opposition. I have fought in a few of these battles, and they are quite a sight to behold. For starters, the army of nightmare is comprised of the most horrifying things that can be imagined. Beings created from the primal fears of man, vast armies of the undead, hungry for the flesh of any living creature it can lay its hands on, mighty creatures from various mythologies from around the world. Basically any creature that has haunted the darkest corners of the minds of man fights for the nightmare horde. On the side of good, things become interesting. It is comprised of characters that are dreamed up by people as heroes, including super heroes, characters from movies, books, video game, anime, cartoons, anything that you may have dreamed about as a kid or an adult as a shining beacon of hope in the darkness to combat the darkness.
The final way that the balance can change is people having too many nightmares or too many dreams. This one is relatively easy to fix compared to the others. As master of dreams, I control who goes where when they fall asleep. If I feel that people are having too many nightmares, I send them to the land of dreams, and vice versa. I sometimes feel bad sending people to endure horrible nightmares, but then I remember that most people can’t remember most of what they dream so my pity subsides. If you are having a nightmare, you might be able to blame me. But on the flipside, if you are having an exceptionally good dream, I am also responsible for that.
Things will go on like this for me until the end of my days, when I will pass the title of keeper of dreams onto another person. Until then I will continue to work at my boring job and live my life; both of them. Normal guy by day, powerful demigod by night. Sometimes I wonder if there are others like me. Considering the flow of time in the dream world, there almost certainly has to be at least one keeper there at all times to protect the balance. I may never be able to find out because there is no way to distinguish them from regular people in the waking world, and I have never met one while in a dream. So, if you ever find an old book written in a strange language, pick it up, take it home. You may never know what may happen. You could even become a keeper of the dreamscape…