The mysteries were piling up. My car’s gas had barely moved even though I used it daily, and I noticed that my electricity kept humming on smoothly with no sign of slowing. Even the food in the fridge seemed to stay fresh and ripe.
My phone clock seemed to indicate time passing normally. I even set timers and watched them run out. When that yielded no results, I made my own out of glasses and dry rice, watching the grains spill into the cup below with what seemed a normal rate of gravity and speed. I gave up, leaving the rice out so that I didn’t forget what I had already tried.
I thought about maybe driving to another place, just to see what I could find, but the thought terrified me. It was as if the three block radius I now called my patchwork home wouldn’t let me out farther. I tried, once, just once, and was shocked with such a repulsive bout of anxiety that I spent three days recovering at home. I decided whatever had happened, it was best to stay within my little bubble.
I found a cat wandering through a garden one day that I’d met months before. She was black and white and so friendly when I’d first met that I’d tried to find her person. Eventually, she hopped up onto a nearby porch and I just assumed she lived there. Seeing her now, I think she recognized me. I asked her if she was okay to chill and she bounced up to me, the little bell around her collar happily jingling. The sound of her movement was overwhelming to me amidst the silence I had become accustomed to.
She followed me from then on out with no hesitation. I named her Bell. She seemed okay with that.
When I got home that day, I went back to the stack of papers I had set aside months (weeks?) before. Scrawled on the edge, something I hadn’t noticed before, was a dark pen stroke that simply said, “Always remember, you are in B1.”
Bell jostled. I met her gaze and she proceeded to blink, slowly. She looked at me as if nothing in the world had ever changed, and I found myself smiling. I got out a piece of paper and started to draw thick, dark lines and circles. I was going to make a map.
I drew five circles on top and left them all empty. On the second line I drew five more. I labeled the first circle B1 and skipped a few to B4. One more line of empty circles. Then the fourth where in each circle I drew D1, D2, D3, D4, D5.
I took out a piece of paper to make some notes. The B line represented everywhere I had been, in reality. My physical form had lived in at least two of these realms that I knew of, maybe many more. If the first and third lines could also be represented by letters, then maybe I would find out more about them on the way. I drew a tentative A in pencil near the first line, and by the third scrawled a thin C.
D represented where I had gone in dreams. D being short for Dream, but also as a realm of reality that I had been present in, spiritually, before. I knew from categorizing my many types of dreams before, indeed since I was a child, that these 5 realms existed. I believe the vivid imagery I saw while listening to that album might also be a D realm, but unsure of anything, I left the map how it originally was.
I went back to Aza and showed her my map. She was overwhelmingly pleased to see Bell, who apparently had met her before. Bell, stoic as ever, jingled up to a post and started licking herself blithely.
“Aza, am I on to something here or is this just the loneliness making me crazy?” My intuition told me I was close, but not quite right.” In response, the tree shook with laughter.
“You are terrible at drawing.” I ignored her comment and pressed on.
“Am I close?!” I yelled, catching a glimpse of Bell as she gracefully paused grooming her right paw to observe me.
“You have made this more confusing than it really is, I think, but it is so hard to read your mind. I feel that your intent is right, but your design is flawed.”
I tore up the map in anger. It was burned into my memory anyway. Aza visibly shuddered at the gesture, and I quickly apologized. I thanked her for her time and turned to leave, Bell prancing behind me hastily.
Focus, Cassandra. Back to basics. I realized something. I had not dreamed since this whole thing started. How can that be? How could I not be dreaming? And how am I just realizing it?
Since I was a child, I had dreamed nearly every night. A lucid dreamer by 7, my dream history was long and varied. It was a sign of something greater going on, and I added it to my now written list of memories. For some reason, it had become harder and harder to remember things unless I externalized them. The cups with the rice remained inert on the counter, a sign of trials gone by. When was the last time I had eaten? The mysteries joined together into a larger puzzle, as I realized that I could not be in the same type of reality that I had previously existed in.
It gave me hope that maybe there were other people, other things, just out of my reach. And that maybe, they might be closer than I thought.
Stay Tuned for Part 5!
Photo Credits: Cat With Bell by Liz Spikol
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