The Wormhole of Our Dreams

“Peering out his bedroom window, his eyes flattened into squinting slits, Mitchell Brant saw her.”

So begins The Eye-Dancers,  but is this episode merely a dream or is it real?  Or is it, in some strange, inexplicable way, straddling the sorcerer’s tightrope between the two worlds, with one foot in each?

tightrope

 

This of course begs the question:  What are dreams, anyway?  And should we even preface references to them with innocuous terms like “merely”?

Marc Kuslanski, for one, would certainly answer with a resounding yes.  Or, knowing Marc, he’d probably say, “affirmative,” but that is neither here nor there.  Logical to the core, unwilling to grapple with the mystical or the unexplained, Marc believes that dreams are nothing more than a biological function, a by-product of sleep.

“We’re beings of electrical current, pure energy,” he explains in chapter four.  “While we’re in our sleeping state, the brain needs something to do.  It gets bored.  So, it manufactures stories, adventures, even nightmares.  It’s like a prisoner in solitary confinement.  Nothing going on.  No outside stimuli.  So you need to create your own entertainment.  That’s all dreams are, you know.  Just the brain–your brain–killing time.”

solitarycell

 

Mitchell Brant, Joe Marma, and Ryan Swinton, Marc’s target audience for his mini-dissertation, don’t agree.  They’ve each dreamed of the “ghost girl” three nights in a row (the reason they ask Marc’s opinion on the subject to begin with), and are convinced the dreams have significance.  More than once, over the course of The Eye-Dancers, the characters are struck by the fine line that separates our dreams from our actual lives–to the point that they start to question where the one begins and the other ends.  I suppose that’s a line we’ve all wondered about, at one time or another.

I’ve certainly had my share of dreams that have caused me to take a step back, examine, and delve into the heart of the matter.  And I remember the day–a snowy, frozen January afternoon with the wind slamming into the house, the eaves whining in protest, the world a white snow globe, the flakes swirling, blotting out the yard–when my older brother told me about dying in dreams . . .

snowglobe

 

“You never see yourself die in your own dream,” he said.  “Am I right?  Or am I right?”

I looked at him, shook my head.  He was wrong. There were multiple dreams I’d had, nightmares, where I knew I would die . . .

“But you didn’t see yourself die, did you?” he persisted.  “You didn’t feel your heart stop.  Didn’t feel the fangs gash into your neck.  I bet you woke up right before it happened . . .”

fangs

 

I didn’t answer.  It was as if he were inside my own head.  He had nailed it to a T.  Outside, a stiff gust of wind rattled the windows, invisible fingers seeking entry into the house, an escape from the cold.

“If you actually did see yourself die in your dream,” my brother went on, “we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now.  When you see yourself die in your own dream–and I mean, really see yourself die, not wake up a second before you do–you really will die.  Your heart’ll just stop, right there in your bed.”

“That’s dumb,” I said.  “I mean, how could anyone know that for sure?”

“Ask around,” he said.  “You’ll see.”

I did ask around, and eventually I realized my brother’s theory wasn’t rock-solid unassailable truth.  But it stayed with me anyway, perhaps triggering a lifelong fascination with dreams–a fascination shared by many others.  Dreams have been studied, speculated about, hypothesized, diced, sliced, and spliced for millennia, and surely, a thousand years hence, the field of oneirology will still be going strong.  People want to know, have always wanted to know–what do our dreams mean?  What do they represent?

oneirology

 

Have you ever experienced such an unusual dream–not necessarily even a bad one–that, upon waking, you couldn’t help but ask yourself, “Why in the world would I ever dream that?  Why would I even imagine something so completely bizarre?”

The rapid scene changes.  The helter-skelter quality of the “stories” that unfold.  The themes and dangers and desires that define the world of our dreams.  What should we do with them?  Anything?  Or do we blissfully ignore them, relegating them to some neat, locked box, to be opened only when needed in passing–perhaps to amuse a dinner guest or scare a friend or impress a date–but never to be explored in depth, or grappled with in any meaningful way?

exploreindepth

 

Maybe we tend to push our dreams to the background because, well–how else should we respond?  We can’t let them cripple us or hinder us in our everyday lives.  Perhaps more than that . . . even after all these years, all the scientific advances and data and studies, dreams remain elusive.  No one can say, unequivocally, what they mean and why they occur.  The answers are likely broad and layered anyway, dependent on the individual person and the individual dream in question.

elusive

 

Are dreams moving symbols, manifestations of our fears, needs, desires, memories, goals?  Are they gateways to previous lives or vehicles for predicting the future?  Could it be that they provide us with glimpses into the multiverse, our assorted lives sprinkled throughout alternate realities and dimensions?  That they are, in effect, another version of reality and not actually “dreams” at all?

multiverse

 

“You know what it felt like,” Mitchell Brant says shortly after he and the others have traversed the void and find themselves in the alternate-world town of Colbyville.  “When she was in our dreams, it felt real.”

Who knows–maybe we even have it all upside down.  Maybe, just maybe, there is another version of ourselves, somewhere, who, every night, “dreams” our lives here on earth, our days unfurling strand by delicate strand in the mind of our counterpart while they sleep. And maybe, while we are asleep, we, in turn, “dream” their lives for them–the two intersecting, interweaving, forever linked . . .

. . . in the wormhole of our dreams.

intersectworldsend

 

Thanks so much for reading!

–Mike

The Greatest Distance Is Only a Thought Away (Or, A Morning on the Beach)

I have always loved the sea.  From the first time I experienced an ocean beach, I felt drawn to it, its vastness, the steady rhythm of the waves, the sounds and smells and textures.  Growing up in Rochester, New York, hundreds of miles from the Atlantic coast, I didn’t have the chance to visit the sea very often (though Lake Ontario is a pretty fair facsimile!).  And so, whenever my family would take a trip to the coast, I always looked forward to it, counted down the days.  The trips never disappointed.

thesea

 

But there was one trip, one particular experience, that stands out, apart from the rest.

It was midsummer 1994, and my family and I took a two-week expedition to Prince Edward Island, Canada–to this day, the most beautiful place I have ever seen.  We toured the Island, took in the sights, the rich red dirt roads and farms and quaint seaside villages.  But most of all, we went to the beaches.  PEI is famous for its beaches.  We stayed at a hotel right by the shore.

pei

 

One morning, at dawn, I woke up.  I don’t know why.  I just felt an urge to get up early and experience the day.  Everyone else was still asleep.  I quietly let myself out of the hotel and walked down the narrow footpath, through grasses still moist with dew.  Off to the left, a raven, an early riser himself, pecked at something in the grass, ignoring me.  I continued on to the beach, empty at this hour, as the sun began its ascent in the east.

raven

 

I walked along the beach, my feet making patterns in the sand, down to the water’s edge.  A gull flew overhead, calling out, perhaps demanding a scrap of food I didn’t have.  The water was warm as it flowed over my feet and around my ankles–just another of PEI’s many charms.  Despite its northern location, the ocean water surrounding the Island is the warmest anywhere along the Atlantic coast north of Virginia.

peiwarmwater

 

The waves were gentle that morning, the breeze blowing in softly off the water.  I looked out, as far as I could see.  The sky was some nameless variant of pink, the sun rising, slowly, steadily, the start of a new day.  Another gull–or perhaps it was the same one–squawked again, its call echoing, echoing.

pinksunrise

 

I peered at the horizon.  It was hard to tell where the sea ended, and the sky began.  It all appeared to be joined somehow.  Not separate, but whole.  Not two, but one.  That’s when it happened . . .

I suddenly felt something, I wasn’t sure what.  It was a jolt, like a surge of electricity, but it was also airy, gentle, a feather swaying, nearly weightless.  I closed my eyes, opened them, and I saw.

featherinwind

 

I saw, in my mind’s eye–so clearly it was as if I were seeing it directly before me–a distant beach across the water.  It was hours later there.  People were milling about.  And some of them were looking to the west, looking toward me.  Maybe they, too, were feeling something above and beyond themselves.

***********************

In The Eye-Dancers, Mitchell Brant, Joe Marma, Ryan Swinton, and Marc Kuslanski travel through the void, whisked to a parallel world through an unexplainable psychic connection with the “ghost girl” who haunts their dreams.  While Marc, ever the rational scientist at heart, attempts to explain their remarkable situation through the principles of logic and quantum mechanics, Mitchell–inquisitive by nature, intuitive, with an imagination constantly in overdrive–believes there is much more to it than the laws of physics can explain.

imagination

 

And yet, he, too, wants a reason, something to grab hold of, something that might begin to explain why this happened, how this happened, and how Monica Tisdale, the “ghost girl,” was able to draw them into her universe.

dreams

 

At novel’s end, when she once again walks in the shadows and secret places of his dreams, Mitchell asks her, point-blank  . . .

“Why did you ever come to me in the first place?  We . . . I . . . don’t even live in your world.”

To which Monica Tisdale answers, “I never really picked you.  I didn’t say to myself, ‘I need to get Mitchell Brant to help me.’  I just called, and you were there.”

But Mitchell needs more than that.  It’s not good enough, doesn’t go far enough . . .

“‘But the distance,’ he said.  He couldn’t even fathom it.  The void.  The gulf.  ‘You and me, we’re so far apart.'”

“‘Are we, Mitchell?’ she said.  ‘Are we really?'”

Later, upon reflection, in his own words, Mitchell states . . .

“Maybe more than anything, I learned that everything’s connected. . . . I’m not sure how I can explain it to make sense.  It’s like, even the things that seem so far away you can’t even imagine . . . even those things are right there with you.  And the people, too.

“Maybe we’re all connected to each other, in ways we can’t even really understand.  And that’s okay, I guess.  Because maybe we don’t need to understand it.

“We just need to believe it.”

allconnected

 

**********************

Standing on that beach along the sandy shores of Canada’s garden province, the sunlight warming the morning air, I felt a part of the whole, as if a million invisible fibers extended from me, in all directions, everywhere, across the expanse of the globe.  I thought of the fish beneath the water, miles offshore, swimming, pursuing, surviving.  I thought of giant squid and crustaceans and blue whales, slicing through the water like living, breathing ocean liners, and blind, glowing creatures with fangs and stings, as yet undiscovered by humankind.

deepseafish

 

Looking across the surface of the waves, their rhythm timeless, eternal, I thought about the continents on the other side.  What were people doing at this moment?  And I realized–everything.  Babies were being born in London, Moscow, Johannesburg, and Rome.  Somewhere in Berlin, there was a car crash; elsewhere, there was an unexpected visitor popping in unannounced, perhaps a long-lost son returning home and bringing smiles to his parents’ faces.  In Ankara, in Casablanca, in Madrid and Paris and Warsaw and every town and village and hamlet in between, life was happening.  People laughed and cried, some shared and felt good; others were alone, in run-down apartments or dark alleyways, thinking of surrendered choices and opportunities now irretrievably lost.

theworld

 

Here I was, standing by myself on a fine Island morning, the sea and the wind and the gulls my only company, and yet–I was everywhere, plugged in, one small cog in an infinite and incomprehensible machine.

The gull squawked again, as if acknowledging my thoughts, and then another gull swooped in low, and then another, and another.

seagulls

 

I watched as, moments later, they flew out over the water, becoming smaller and smaller, until they vanished, like a sea mirage.

seamirage

 

It was then that I heard voices.  Other early risers were coming now, the beckoning of an Island summer day too much to resist.

The spell broken, I turned around and headed back for the hotel.

As I walked, I thought of sandy beaches halfway around the world, fish that swim in the dark, and stars that shine, like diamonds, in the night sky.  I realized, the light from some of those stars, distant beyond imagining, takes millions of years to reach our planet.

Yet reach us it does.

stars

 

Thanks so much reading!

–Mike

Your Place in This (or Any) World

In chapter 8 of The Eye-Dancers, shortly after arriving in the variant town of Colbyville, Mitchell Brant looks around and takes stock of his new surroundings.  It is, to say the least, an unsettling experience . . .

“A red vehicle drove past, its chrome fenders sparkling in the sunshine.  Just like the cars he’d seen in the parking lot, this one looked odd, old-fashioned.  All of the cars did–parked along the roadside, tight against the curb.  And there was something about the town itself, too.  The flowing, curvy shape of the street lamps, the fancy script lettering on the store fronts, the phone booth across the street . . . Everything just looked dated, off, as if the axis of the universe had shifted a quarter-inch to the left.”

booth

 

It is ironic that Mitchell finds himself in such a situation, feeling like the proverbial stranger in a strange land, because that’s the same way he all-too-often feels at home.  About to enter the seventh grade, Mitchell has always envied the popular kids in his class.  He’s never been one of them.  But his feelings of isolation and awkwardness do not occur only on school property.  Even his own mother seems to think he’s a little strange.  In chapter 1, when his mom eyes him a certain way, the text reads  . . .

“Mitchell knew that look well.  It was the one that made him feel like a Martian, or a Venusian, who had crash-landed onto Earth.  Come to think of it, a lot of things made him feel that way.”

mars

 

Mitchell isn’t the only one in the story who harbors such feelings.  Joe Marma is self-conscious because he’s the shortest boy in his class.  On top of that, he has the perfect older brother, and he can never measure up, no matter how hard he tries.  He has an ever-present chip on his shoulder.

Ryan Swinton struggles with always wanting to please the people around him.  He has a hard time making decisions.  What if he chooses a course of action that others don’t want to pursue?  He compensates by making jokes, always feeling pressure to make people laugh.

From chapter 3 . . .

“There was nothing worse than delivering a punch line and having no one laugh.  But the flip side was also true.  Few things could match the high he felt when he told a joke and people cracked up.  It was the greatest.  Winning their approval.  Winning their favor.  It sometimes felt scary, how important that was to him.”

And Marc Kuslanski feels like a social outcast–he has no real friends, is an only child, and sometimes wonders if he ever really had a childhood to begin with.  He sees other kids his age playing ball and having fun, but he always seems to be left out, perpetually on the sidelines.

This is the character backdrop of The Eye-Dancers, and when these four boys eventually find themselves in a new and different world, their sense of alienation only increases.  They continually come across strange things–antique-looking cars, expressions and words they’ve never heard of, a lack of PCs and cell phones, just to name a few.  As if they didn’t already struggle enough to fit in on Earth, now they have to deal with this. 

placeinworld

 

I believe that the struggles of Mitchell, Joe, Ryan, and Marc mirror our own.  We all, at one point or another, have wanted to fit in–somewhere.  Almost everyone has experienced moments of feeling like a social outcast.  I know I have.

I still remember my first day of junior high.  New school.  Lockers.  Lots of new students from other area grade schools all coming together under one roof.  In an offer of support, one of my older brothers walked me in that day, taking me to my locker.  I had never used a locker in grade school.  It intimidated me.  It seemed a cold, alien thing, metallic, gray, impersonal.  For a moment, I thought I sensed it grinning at me, as if it knew a secret I wasn’t privy to.   “You’re gonna hate it here,” I imagined it saying.

My brother, then a college student, looked around at his old stomping grounds, smiling.  A teacher stopped, said hello, remembering him.  My brother introduced me.  I shook the teacher’s hand, wishing a hole would open up right there in the hallway.  I would jump in, feet first, hoping to escape into the basement, hiding behind the old pipes and furnace and whatever else lurked, unseen, in the corners.  Anyplace else would be better than where I was.

The thing is–as time went on, I adjusted to junior high, and it pushed me to become a better student.  I met new friends, learned new lessons.  I began to grow up.  When you’re twelve or thirteen, you are searching for your place in this world.  So many options exist, just beyond the horizon.  After junior high, there is high school, then perhaps college, a career.  It is an exciting yet overwhelming time.

Back then. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life.  For a while, I wanted to be a marine biologist.  Then a private detective.  Then a teacher.  In the end, my love of writing won out, and I decided to pursue a career in the written word.  That, I eventually came to believe, was my place in this world.

For Mitchell Brant and Joe Marma and Ryan Swinton and Marc Kuslanski, they must also find their place in this world.  But before they can do that, they must first find their place, and themselves, in another, far-off world, a world where the axis of the universe may indeed seem shifted a quarter-inch to the left, but where, also, they will be forced to confront and overcome their insecurities and inner demons.

findyourself

 

The Eye-Dancers, at its core, is a story about growing up, discovery, and keeping the faith even in the midst of adversity.  While it tackles concepts of quantum physics and journeys to an alternate reality, it is, I hope, a story everyone can relate to.

After all, we all experienced that first day of junior high.  And if that wasn’t a trip to an alternate reality, I’m not sure what is . . .

universetilt

 

Thanks so much for reading!

–Mike

 

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