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It was dark.
The streetlights in the parking area didn't illuminate anything past the rise.
Walking in darkness isn't something that I usually do. But for some strange reason, I wasn't afraid. Or, maybe it would be more accurate to say that I was so filled with excitement and anticipation that my fear wasn't able to work its way to the surface.
As I continued to walk, I felt Chris move closer to my side, so that his arm was brushing against mine. I imagined that Levi was probably doing the same thing on Chris's other side.
There was some soft electricity in the air ahead of us, but since we were in total darkness, I didn't have any sense of what it might be.
Regardless of the darkness, I continued to walk, trusting that whatever had brought us this far wouldn't let me fall and break my fool neck.
With another step, I felt that we had arrived at the threshold. If there were any doubt left in my mind, this would be my last chance to turn back.
Very aware of Chris and Levi with me, I made the final choice and stepped into the unknown.
* * * * *
The sunlight startled me.
I woke up and looked around in confusion. Was that the weirdest dream ever, or what?
I slowly got out of bed and realized that my room was exactly as it had been a week or so before. Nothing seemed to be out of place, but somehow it wasn't right.
Deciding to put that out of my mind for the moment, I quickly changed out of my sleep clothes and into something more presentable.
As I stepped out of my bedroom, I was surprised to find myself not in the hallway, but in the living room of Chris's house. I looked back into my bedroom to find it looking just as normal as it had been when I'd first awakened.
I looked around and saw Adam, asleep on Chris's couch, so I was careful to be quiet as I walked to the hallway to see if I could discover which bedroom belonged to Chris.
* * * * *
I opened the door to find him fast asleep.
To see him there, obviously having a pleasant dream, made me happy.
I stood and watched for a few minutes. The sight of the autobot posters on his walls made me smile. Finally, I decided that I needed to wake him up, so that we could discover what had happened.
"Good morning." I said softly, not wanting to startle him.
"Good morning, Doug... I had the weirdest dream."
"I think you may still be having it. I don't think we're really awake."
Chris looked around his room, then back at me uncertainly.
"I mean, unless my bedroom was somehow suddenly moved into your house."
"Where are the others?" Chris asked with concern as he sat up.
"Adam's asleep on your couch. I haven't seen Emily or Levi, yet." I said frankly, then tried to consciously pull myself out of my daydream.
Needless to say, it didn't work. If this were a dream, I was stuck in it. And if this were reality, well, it couldn't be, could it? I mean, whatever this is seems to be the exact opposite of reality.
As I was trying to sort things out in my own mind, Chris had gotten out of bed and was dressing before I noticed what he was doing.
"Let's go find them." Chris said as he pulled on a t shirt.
I nodded, then followed him out of his room.
* * * * *
When we arrived in the living room, we found Emily and Adam sitting on the couch, holding each other.
"How are you, this morning?" I asked them gently.
"I don't know. I woke up back in my bedroom at home, then when I stepped out the door, I was here." Emily said confusedly.
"Yeah. Basically the same thing happened to me." I said simply.
"Where are we?" Emily asked cautiously.
"This is Chris's house, back in Portland." I said simply.
"Where's Levi?" Adam asked as he looked around with concern.
"Probably asleep in his bedroom. Let's go find him." I suggested with a smile.
Chris nodded his agreement as Adam and Emily stood to join us.
"We can try in there." Chris said as he indicated the door across the room.
"Unless things have been shuffled around since I woke up, that was my room." I said seriously.
"My room was over there." Emily said as she pointed through the kitchen.
"Then let's try my sister's room." Chris said as he led the way back to the hallway.
When the door opened, I had expected to find Levi's immaculately clean bedroom in his house. But instead, Levi was fast asleep in one of two beds in a dingy little motel room. It was the room we had stayed in the first night.
"Okay." Chris said quietly.
I took the initiative, and walked to Levi's bedside.
"Good morning, Levi." I said softly.
"Mornin'." Levi said into his pillow, not opening his eyes.
"Chris, Emily and Adam are here, if you're ready to wake up." I said with a smile.
"Okay. But it's nice here." Levi said as he slowly opened his eyes.
"Once we've figured out what's going on, you can come back here if you want to." I promised.
Levi looked around, then seemed to notice that he was the center of attention.
"Why don't we give Levi a few minutes to dress." Chris suggested quietly as he ushered Adam and Emily out of the room.
"We'll be right outside when you're ready." I told him quietly.
"You don't have to go." Levi hurried to say.
"Okay. I just didn't want you to think that you couldn't have a few minutes alone if you wanted to."
"Okay. But right now, I don't want to be alone."
"Then you don't have to be." I said as I walked to the couch and took a seat.
"What's going on?" Levi asked as he looked around curiously.
"Chris, Emily and I woke up in our own bedrooms. You and Adam woke up different places. I don't know what it means, or if it means anything at all. But all the rooms seem to be in Chris's house in Portland."
"Are we really awake?" Levi asked as he quickly pulled on his clothes.
"I don't know. But if we aren't I haven't found a way to wake up, yet."
Levi glanced at himself in the mirror, then looked at me expectantly, letting it be known that he was ready.
* * * * *
We walked into the living room, and I quietly asked, "Do we know what we're doing?"
"I don't know, but whatever it is, it looks like we're all doing it, together." Chris said as he started walking toward the front door.
Levi and I fell into line behind him. Adam and Emily took their places behind us as we stepped through the door to see what was going to happen next.
* * * * *
So, there we were, all of a sudden, standing in a grassy field with nothing but trees and tall grass for miles in any direction.
"What the hell?" Mitch asked, making all of us turn in unison.
"You got me." I said to her honestly.
"We all woke up in Augie's basement, and when we went upstairs, we were here." Mitch said in confusion.
"We all woke up in different rooms, but when we went through our bedroom doors, we were all in Chris's house. And when we left his house, we were here." I said seriously.
"I know it's confusing for you. Please allow me to explain." A man said from nearby.
He was dressed strangely. It was sort of a toga thing, or maybe he just wrapped himself in a blanket. Either way, I'm guessing that he wasn't with us in the parking lot last night.
"First, children, I would like to welcome you to what is next." He said warmly.
I looked more closely at him. He seemed to be a little bit older than Chris. Maybe thirty. He had brown hair and eyes and seemed to be tanned or maybe he had a lighter shade of dark skin.
"Huh?" Levi asked cautiously.
"In short, you have ascended."
"Are we dead?" Rabbit asked with a tremor of fear in his voice.
The man laughed, then said, "Quite the opposite, I assure you. At this moment you are more alive than you have ever been."
"What exactly does that mean?" Mitch asked nervously.
"In this place, death is unknown." The man said simply.
"Who are you?" Adam asked curiously.
"Lee-i." He answered, then continued, "Please sit and be comfortable, so I may explain."
I immediately dropped where I was standing to sit in the tall grass. I was beyond ready to understand what was going on.
"As I said, death is unknown here, but so is the possibility of new life. In millennia past, we felt an enormous desire to increase our number. So your world was seeded with life from this place, in hopes that procreation would be possible there. It was. But unfortunately, our offspring born in your world couldn't return here. They were barbaric and vindictive by nature. They were driven only by their lusts. It would be impossible for us to bring them here. The very fabric of this realm would not accept them. Therefore, we waited until your people had matured to a point where persons of pure spirit were being born." Lee-i said as he looked into the distance.
"Is that why we're here?" Augie asked slowly.
"When it was determined that you, our children, had matured to the point that you could join us here, we began to open the gateway. When the gateway was beginning to open, the essence of our world began to flow into yours, just a bit. That caused your ascended natures to become more pronounced but, unfortunately, so did the true natures of the primitives." Lee-i said regretfully.
"I don't get why we've all been having the same dreams all our lives." Mitch said frankly.
"When we recognized that our children were finally emerging, we established the beacons to call to you. When it was time, the gateway would open, and you would be drawn to join us." Lee-i said seriously.
"So, are we in a different reality?" Levi asked curiously.
"From your perspective, reality might not be the best word to describe it. State of being, might be closer." Lee-i said carefully.
"I woke up in my own bed this morning. How did that happen?" I asked thoughtfully.
Lee-i smiled at me and seemed to be on the verge of laughing. He finally said, "You, all of you, have been developing your ability to alter the fabric of what you would call a 'dream'. In many ways, this place operates as a dream. If you desire to be comfortable, a place of comfort will surround you."
"But if life is just a dream, then what's the point of living? Especially forever?" Chris asked with concern.
"You will have to discover your point for existing for yourself. All of us do. But I can assure you that as you adapt to your new state of being, you will have incredible challenges to overcome and a multitude of opportunities to grow beyond anything you can now imagine." Lee-i said happily.
"What about our families?" I asked quietly.
"Certain things cause us regret. Opening the gateway into your world had a most unfortunate effect on the primitives. But now that the gateway is once again closed, they should return to their normal selves. Although it's not a perfect solution, and it by no means makes everything right, you can be somewhat comforted in knowing that your loved ones aren't worrying about you. To them, if they remember you at all, it will only be as a distant, half-forgotten dream." Lee-i said softly.
"But if this is a place where daydreams and desires can become real, can't I visit my family whenever I want?" I asked carefully. I wasn't quite sure about the logic of this place, and I really wanted to understand how it works.
Lee-i smiled at me broadly, then said, "There are many things that I know, but countless things that I do not, because I've never thought to investigate and try them. My best suggestion is that if you want to find out, try it and see what happens."
I looked around the gathering and felt nothing but excitement and encouragement.
I patted my pocket and was happy to find my digital camera. I turned it on and clicked a few times, then found the picture of my parents. Then I smiled as I clicked one picture back and began to concentrate.
The change was so subtle that I didn't realize it right away. One minute, we were all sitting crosslegged on the grass, the next, we were in a long boat, traveling up the stream in the painting on my parents' wall.
"Where are we?" Levi whispered in awe as he looked around.
"I'll explain in a minute. Right now, there's someone I want all of you to meet." I said as I guided the rudder to take us to the worn and weathered boat dock.
We helped each other off the boat and were soon walking the path toward the dilapidated plantation house.
A naked little five year old came zipping down the path as Grandmother Loistine approached us more slowly.
"She's a bitch and I hate her! I'm not going back! You can't make me!" The naked little boy screamed at her, from behind us.
Grandmother Loistine looked at us and gently said, "That's alright, Buttercup. I have a feeling that since our visitors are here, there won't be any need for you to return there."
I'm crying. That was beautiful. Honestly, I don't know what to say, other than Thank you MultiMapper. That was a wonderful way to end this truly beautiful story.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher