The reality is this: the dreams begin with waking eyes. It’s just that those dreams aren’t necessarily the good ones.
This was what Booker Nyx knew well, and what he had thought many times in the years since he had married. His wedding stood out in sharp lines and stark, bright colors. A series of moments so real and so clear that they could be nothing but reality, nothing but truth. The flowers, the dancing, the wine, the song. The cake that tasted so sweet and felt so sticky when Lyssa smeared it all over his face and then shoved some up his nose for good measure. The drive home, slow because he was a bit buzzed but still moving as fast as he dared because he wanted to be alone with his bride, the woman who had, for some unknown and unknowable reason, agreed to be Mrs. Nyx.
They made love. They whispered.
A beautiful time. Eyes half-shut in that place reserved solely for those most in love—or perhaps for those most insane, which might be one and the same. Dreamless, every moment experienced to the last atom of its reality. And that is, indeed, the definition of insanity: to understand the world so perfectly that the rest of the universe looks askance. They think you strange, they whisper about you in the dark. They fear you, and what you have.
Booker Nyx started to think he might be insane, early on in his marriage. Perhaps not merely in love, but mad.
Two people, passing through life, eyes half-shut. Existing with one foot in dream, and the other in a place where the world was seen as it truly was: a place of magic, and wonder, and light, and infinite possibility.
Yes, madness, to be sure.
Then the children came. The eyes drifted fully open. The madness disappeared and the dreams began.
Eyes always open when children arrive. There are simply too many things to guard against for a good parent to allow half-closed eyes. That, Booker realized, was why so many parents fall out of love when the children come. They stepped out of the reality of magic and infinite possibility and into the dreamland that came with sleep deprivation and midnight feedings and so many smelly diapers that you took the stench with you everywhere you went. They moved from a place where they heard what was (silence, broken by the real sounds of lovers whispering as raindrops pattered rhythms on the roof) to what might be (ghost cries of a baby who wasn’t really awake, but whom you feared would be awakened by the thunderous crashing of raindrops on the roof).
The children opened Booker’s eyes. They made him tired. He was awake, but dreaming. The dreams killed the beautiful reality.
Lyssa turned from lover to mother. No longer his, but theirs. And though she insisted he was one of the people that still mattered, he knew it wasn’t true. His eyes were open, he was dreaming, and in this dream as in so many others he was always running toward what he wanted but never really making progress…
Read the rest of this story and eleven more nightmare-inspired tales in Shared Nightmares, available now!