"Hey, have you seen Cody?" Ainsley asked, shutting her locker.
"Nah, not in like a week," replied Grace.
"Huh." Ainsley slung her leather purse around her shoulder. "You going to 1st period?"
Grace scoffed. "What do you think?"
"Whatever. Later." Ainsley walked off toward Mr. Thompson's english class, wondering why Grace had suddenly started blowing off class.
Cody felt himself falling, his stomach lurching. He pried open his eyes as the wind rushed past his face. Below him the white cotton clouds flew furiously towards him. He tore through them in less than a second, his face stinging from the water vapor. He screamed as a mountain top emerged as he passed through. He was headed straight for the peak, instant death. He shut his eyes and was ready to accept his end, until a tiny switch in the back of his brain flicked on, and as he felt the first tips of the pine tree plunge into his shoulder, he yelled "STOP!"
And he stopped. He hovered there, briefly, perhaps fifteen feet off the ground. Below he could see a gravel clearing on the mountain peak and a roughly constructed cabin.
Soon his concentration broke and he began tumbling down the branches. The last thing he saw was a thorn bush.
Cody opened his eyes, his vision blurry. Feeling himself with his hands, everything seemed to be where it was supposed to be. His shoulder hurt and was bleeding but not too badly. He was pretty well nicked from the thorns, but as he tumbled out of the bush, the world slowly came back to him. Maybe ten feet away was the cabin. There were no windows, just a door and a small chimney coming out the roof. It couldn't have been bigger than Cody's bedroom at home.
Standing up, Cody stumbled toward the cabin. He could hear the sound of a stream not far behind it, and what sounded like the pots and pans striking rocks. The door was slightly ajar, so he pushed it open and stepped inside, the draft billowing the flame of the small lantern that sat on a desk in the corner. The room was otherwise empty, save for a wooden post in the middle of the room. The fireplace looked like it had never been touched.
Cody walked over to the desk, on which sat a leather-bound book and some old pens. Curious, he opened the book to the most recent page. The writing was so small it was nearly illegible, but he could make out he word "Grace" several times.
"Hey!" the voice boomed from the doorway.
"Oh, and Ainsley, may I see you for a second? The rest of you can go," Mr. Thompson announced, dismissing his first period.
Ainsley walked up to his desk. "Am I in trouble?"
Mr. Thompson laughed. "No, no, not at all. I just wanted to tell you the last story you wrote gave me chills."
"The one about the girl's dream"
"That's the one. Grade A stuff. You should think about submitting it to the upcoming state literary contest."
Ainsley smiled awkwardly. "Really?"
"I mean, it needs a little editing. But I think it could be very good for you. Might even win some money. Maybe get yourself a new phone."
Ainsley fidgeted with the phone in her pocket. It was ancient and Grace never let her hear the end of it.
"I see you in class with it, Ainsley. I'm not blind, you know."
"Don't be. Like I said, you're not in trouble."
The bell rung outside to signal five minutes before seventh period.
"I should get going."
"Think about what I said. I'm happy to help you after school. Just you and me."
"I will. Thanks, Mr. Thompson."
Ainsley dashed out of his room, feeling like she should be happy. But she wasn't. Something was just...off.
Edgar Thompson collected the soiled bandages from around Cody's shoulder and tossed them in the trash bin.
"You shouldn't have looked," Edgar said, wiping his brow. "That was private."
Cody didn't say anything, his hands tied behind his back around the wooden post inside the cabin.
"What did you see? Anything good?"
Cody shook his head.
"Oh come on, the stuff with Grace is really about to get going. Don't act like you're not curious. I know you've got a crush on her.
"Doesn't matter. I'm dreaming and once I wake up this will all disappear."
"Oh dear," Edgar said, walking toward Cody. "Is that what you think? Let me tell you a little something. You may have captured a moment of lucidity when you saved yourself from falling to your death out there, but that couldn't be farther from the truth."
Cody tried to pull free of the ropes around his wrists, but it was no use.
"The others thought it was just a dream too. Sure, maybe that's how you got here in the first place, but you are not dreaming right now. Check it out."
Edgar slapped Cody hard across the face. "Wake up!" He slapped him again. "Still not awake?" Edgar punched Cody in his wounded shoulder, causing Cody to scream in pain.
"Stop! Please!" Cody cried.
Edgar smiled. "You can't wake up from a dream that's not yours."
Cody could feel the tears running down his face, his nose stuffy
"You see, Cody, this little book I have is very powerful. What I write in it becomes reality. But not in this dream world, no. In the real world, if you want to call it that. It's quite fun, actually. I could write you out, you know. You wouldn't even exist. Just a few strokes of the pen and POOF! No more Cody."
"I don't believe you."
"Not really my problem, is it, whether you believe me or not? Now, I'll grant you that I can't control EVERYTHING. I mean, I'm not God himself. But each of us with a book gets to control our own little share of the universe, and mine just so happens to involve you. And your little girlfriend."
"Yes, fuck me. What an asshole. Sad, I thought you might be more interesting than the others." Edgar turned and headed back toward the desk.
Edgar turned the page in his book and began setting the pen to paper. Cody felt himself slipping into darkness. He bit his tongue to stay awake, the sweet taste of blood filling his mouth. But it was no use. In a few minutes he succumbed.
"So guess what?" Ainsley asked from the stall next to Grace.
"Umm, you got your period."
"Gross. No. Mr. Thompson said he really liked my last short story, and that I might even be able to enter it into the state competition."
"Huh. State competition? He told me the New Yorker."
"Shut up, I'm serious."
Ainsley flushed the toilet. Grace did the same. They made their way toward the sink.
"So am I," Grade said, turning on the water. "We're going over the submission tonight."
"What the hell?" Ainsley said, looking at Grace in the mirror.
"Don't be jealous."
"I'm not jealous. I just think it's weird he's giving us so much attention."
"You'll get used to it, Ains. Just gotta grow up a bit first."
Grace grabbed a paper towel on her way out the door, not bothering to say goodbye.
Raindrops peppered Cody's face from all directions as he trudged through the muddy brush. The darkness was all-encompassing, the rain rendering his lantern practically useless. A lightning flash overhead would briefly light his path, though even then the illumination was negligible, so thick was the canopy overhead. He wrapped his leather cloak around him as best he could, clutching the book underneath his clothes, protecting it like a child. It was his only way out.
As he poked his way through the dense forest, a stray branch sprung back and struck him on the ear, cutting it open. Roots pulled at his soggy boots as thorns tore the remnants of his leggings to shreds. The forest closed its grip tighter, but he struggled on. He was nearly there, or so he hoped.
The cries of barking dogs grew stronger in the distance. He recoiled slightly, listening for their direction. If they found him, it would be over. He had a chance at one or two goods swipes with the knife he'd stolen from the cabin, but protecting himself and the book would be nearly impossible after long.
A few hundred feet of desperation later, he came into a clearing, no more than twenty feet wide. The rain seemed to taper off, but he'd lost both of his boots now, his feet raw. The grass nettles of the clearing stung him every step.
In the center of the clearing was an imposing granite rock, at least twenty feet tall. At its base, a small cave had been hollowed out, just large enough for a child to climb inside. A fire burned in the middle of the cave, sheltered from the rain and wind outside.
With a roar, a massive gust of wind tore the cloak from off his body, and nearly his tunic. But he managed to hold onto the book as he lunged forward into the cave. A bolt of lightning struck right outside the entrance and he screamed as he pressed his back against the wall. But save for some ringing ears, he had escaped with his life.
From underneath his tunic Cody pulled out the book, still dry. Quickly he tossed it on the fire. Immediately, the fire flared up with great strength, burning the ceiling of the cave, He felt his skin squeal as the water droplets clinging to it vaporized. But just as quickly as the flame had grown, it shrunk back down to size, weakly nipping at the air circulating through.
"Good morning, class. My name is Miss Margaret, I'll be your first period english teacher this year. Can we go around the room and say our names? It'll help me get used to everyone."
The students started rambling off their names one by one down the line of desks. Ainsley poked the girl in front of her in the back.
"What?" the girl said, turning around.
"Hey, I'm Ainsley. Nice to meet you," she whispered.
"Grace," the girl replied. "Why are we whispering?"
"Excuse me girls, am I missing something?" Miss Margaret looked down the bridge of her nose as the two.
Ainsley and Grace shook their heads.
"Okay then, please continue."
The students continued around the room, some twenty-six names in all.
At the end, Miss Margaret asked, "Is there a Cody here?" The students looked around, confused.
The name stood out to Ainsley for some reason, but she couldn't place it. There was Kobe in her third period math class...but no Cody she knew of.
"No?" Miss Margaret asked, looking around the room. "Old cards I guess."
She tossed Cody's attendance card onto her desk.
A boy stepped into the classroom, soaked from the rain. "Hi. Sorry I'm late. I missed the bus so I had to walk."
"Ah you must be Cody," Miss Margaret said.
He rushed to his seat. Ainsley poked Grace in the back, giggling.
"That's enough, ladies. Now, let's talk about the short story contest coming up at the end of the year."
Dreams are easy fodder for short stories, as you've no doubt seen with some of my other works. But in this story, I liked the idea that instead of the real-world controlling our dreams, it was the other way around. I feel like there's a good idea there that might have to be mined further in future stories...