I was pulled from the stifling darkness with a forceful yank. One moment I was enclosed in a wooden box, paralyzed from head to heels, and the next I was shaken from slumber by terrified family members. The transition from dreaming to wide awake was instantaneous.
My eyes ripped open and their concerned faces filled my vision. I felt a cool hand on my forehead and I bellowed, “Get out! I have to go back! He has something for me!”
They must have thought I’d hit my mid-life crisis, or I was losing my mind.
They took hesitant steps towards the door as I pulled the comforter up to my throat and thrust my arms under the blanket. I ignored their collective concerns, pretended they were gone from the room and settled my head into the pillow. I squeezed my eyelids shut and concentrated all my energy and focus on returning to Joseph’s refuge.
My door creaked closed, the space quieted around me again and I felt my consciousness slipping away back into la la land.
Placed with gentle care, I was returned to the box as quickly as I’d left.
Right where I needed to be.
Relax. Breathe. Close your eyes. This is your reality now. A box. A thick impenetrable box in which there’s no escape. All you have is your senses. What do you see?
“I see nothing.”
You’re not looking hard enough. Look around. Let it come to you. What do you see?
“Darkness. But it’s moving. I see black within the black. One’s darker than the other.”
Tell me about the black.
“Blobs. Like a lava lamp. They creep, split, slither and merge together.”
What do you want them to do?
“Nothing. I just want to get out of here.”
Jeremy. That’s all you do. You seek escapes. Every time you visit me, it’s just conjurings of your imagination. This is all because of you. You’ve created this place. Me. My now dead wife. Karen…
Karen. I told you about her a few months ago. When we first met? I was hitchhiking and you picked me up and dropped me off in the parking lot. Shelby wasn’t too fond of me at first. She kept sniffing at me. Remember? You still have unfinished business with Karen, you know. But we’ll cross that bridge later on.
“Can we get back to the point, please?”
Of course. Like I said, you’ve done this, not me. I am just an extension of this bizarre world you’ve created. So why don’t you do us both a favor and take a step back, think about it for a second, stop being such an asshole and realize it’s you, and not something else. Stop blaming your anger, confusion, and loss of faculties on others. Man up for once. Coward.
“What do I want the blobs to be? How about this. I want the darkness to help me find a way out. I don’t want to be in this box anymore.”
This box is reality. It’s your prison. Only darkness surrounds you. This is your life now. All you have is your senses. If you seek an escape, then this is the only way. Use what you have.
I envisioned an ocean, and the darkness vanished. The water was deep blue, unending, and twinkling diamonds danced along it’s surface. Hypnotic waves rolled and undulated in slow rhythmic pulses. The sun had partially risen and the only clouds in the sky hovered over the distant horizon.
There. That wasn’t so bad. An ocean it is. Why the ocean?
I turned around, found my feet on solid ground, and Joe had joined me on a small island with a single palm tree reaching to the sky from the island’s center. The old man was wearing a three piece suit and sitting in his palm was an oyster. He crossed the sand and closed the gap between us.
I couldn’t move. All I could do was stand and stare.
Want to hear something funny about oysters, Jeremy? Of course you do. The pearl that comes from an oyster isn’t always spherical. Most are misshapen and uneven. In fact, the harvesters of pearls are typically the ones responsible with shaping the jewel. The harvester will slice a slit into the tissue and place a foreign object within the mantle, to increase the secretions that create the pearl. You see, pearls are the result of infection. Pearls come from obstructions or injuries. The oyster is manipulated to produce something of value. It has a defense mechanism and a natural reaction to protect itself. A pearl grows from the obstructions inside it. A jewel is formed from injury and manipulation. We can also eat them.
He laughed and shook his head.
If you could give this ocean a name, what would it be?
“The Rillian Sea.”
Strange name. Why that name? Where did that come from?
Breathe in the air. Smell the salt. Feel the warm wind. Listen to the waves. Taste the sea spray against your lips. This is where you’re free. Here… there is no box. There is no oyster. Here… the infection heals. When you’re here, you’re without pain and obstructions.
I allowed my five senses to activate. The smell of salt water entered my nostrils, I felt the wind, tasted the sea spray, listened to the waves and watched the palm tree sway side to side.
When I turned to face him again, Joe had disappeared. Placed in the sand a few inches from my wiggling toes was the oyster. I plucked it from the ground, ripped open the shell and to my dismay, it was empty.
His voice whispered around me. His final thoughts before allowing me to return to reality. There is no oyster. There is no more infection. The obstacle’s are all in your head. The pain is unnecessarily self inflicted and you want a pearl as a result of that pain. You won’t find a pearl so don’t bother looking for one. What you need to do is think on your freedom. Look at all of this! If the world is yours, what do you want to do with it?
“Damn good question. Will it come to me?”
I think so. Your problem is, you seek a pearl where they don’t exist.
“So, pretend I don’t have any pain, regret or remorse? If injury creates something of value…”
Once you find what it is you seek, and you will find it, that discovery will be your pearl. You’ll find your treasure in the strangest of places. Trust me. Would I lie to you?
I paced the beach and looked for the origin of his voice. “Can I ask you a personal question, Joe?”
Oh, of course.
“How old are you?”
He hesitated before answering. Moments before I opened my eyes and returned to my bed, Joe replied. I am three hundred and fifty seven years old. Next Saturday is my birthday. I’d really like it if you stopped by.
I opened my eyes.
I breathed deep, pushed the blanket from my chest and for the first time in months, I withdrew my dream journal from my book shelf.
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