Oasis of Dreams

Ben made his way through the crowded bus with his eye on the only free seat left. It was not until he reached the sit, about to sit down, that he noticed the sleeping old man. The frail, wrinkled man rested his mostly-bald head on a bundled up jacket against the window.

Didn’t know eyelids could get wrinkled,” Ben chuckled mentally as he sat down. He took another look around the bus to see if he could spot anyone else sleeping; but, everyone else seemed wide awake. One of the first things he learned about his ability was: the fewer targets he had, the easier it was to control. He learned about his gift at about nine years old. After that, he was eager to set up a sleepover to try it out; it was a nightmare. He felt like he was in all his friend’s dreams at the same time. Five different dreamscapes seemed to overlap on his senses giving him five times the input. The sleepover was canceled shortly after he puked on them. He spent the next few days in a hospital room in a near-comatose state.

Even if he missed one or two napping commuters, Ben had learned to stop the moment anything seemed off. He did not make a habit of using his powers on any sleeping stranger, but he’d never explored the dreams of anyone as old as the man next to him. He let his curiosity win and closed his eyes. He breathed deeply and imagined himself falling into the old man’s mind.

A familiar warm tingle in his chest confirmed the connection; suddenly, Ben felt a plume of hot air hit his face. He stood inside an apartment building inferno. He seemed to be in the lobby surrounded by bright orange flames. The doors of both elevators were noticeably warped. Cries drew Ben’s attention to the stairwell; A younger version of the sleeping man dashed out of stair-door carrying a little girl. Behind him, a woman in a navy blue business suit with sandy blond hair followed while taking notes with pen and pad.

The sleeping hero ran toward the door and Ben made sure to step out of his way. It was more habit than necessity; he never managed to interact with any dreamers. He could not do much to affect the dream itself either; for the most part, all he could do was spectate. Luckily, seeing their dreams was enough to tease his friends. After he ran by and out the door, the crying faded.

“Benjamin Benson?” The blond woman did not follow the old dreamer out of the burning building. She stopped, looked straight into Ben’s eyes and spoke his name. “What are you do-.” Ben forced himself out of the dream and opened his eyes; then, he screamed.

“AAAHH!” The same navy-suited blond woman stood in the bus aisle directly next to him. Despite Ben’s scream, no one turned around to learn the cause. “HELP!” Ben yelled again but no one so much as flinched in his direction.

“Why are you screaming?” the woman asked. Instead of answering, Ben turned around and started shaking the old man. He felt stiff enough to deter Ben from doing it more than twice. On closer inspection, he was not breathing.

“AAHH!” Ben screamed again and tried to put distance between him and the corpse. His mind had not yet caught up with everything happening and he forgot about the woman long enough to slam his back into her front. She stumbled out of the way and Ben fell backward. He closed his eyes to bear the impact, but it never came.

“Why are you screaming?” the woman repeated the question. She looked down on Ben. He was half out of his seat with his legs higher in the air than his head; but, he felt no weight at all. It was as if the rest of his body did not exist.

“What’s going on? Who are you? Did you kill the old man?” Ben fired off his questions; the woman sighed.

“Well, at least you’re not screaming anymore,” she said. “Now that I have your attention; you’re going to land. Careful.”

“Huh? Oh.”  Ben had just enough time to piece together the part about landing and shut his eyes. The moment he did, he hit the ground on his back, followed by his legs and head.

“My name is Oasis,” the woman reached out her left hand to help Ben up. He accepted it and noticed a small hourglass tattooed on her wrist with a 14 on it in golden numbers as he stood up. “I didn’t kill him, time is stopped for everyone except you right now. As for what’s going on,…” Oasis shrugged. “That’s what I’m here to find out. How did you get there?”

“I…,” Ben hesitated. He’d never told anyone about his gift, but she was in the old man’s dream too. And she seemingly had the ability to stop time and she could have killed Ben if she wanted to. He took a moment to breathe, then nodded. “I can enter people’s dreams,” he said. “If they’re close enough.” Oasis crossed her arms, shifted her weight to one leg and looked Ben up and down. He wore a ratty, hole-filled orange t-shirt with a pair of blue jeans. His black hair was arranged as carefully as a bird’s nest.

“Wait here,” she said. She made a dismissive gesture at the empty aisle behind her and a hole opened in the air. It grew into a tall black portal then Oasis walked into it and disappeared. Ben had enough time to blink once before she walked out again holding a navy-blue blazer that matched her own.

“Congratulations,” she said. “You’ve been drafted into the Middlemen.”

Tuning In

“See!? There she is!” Neal pointed at a woman at the top right corner of the screen, almost out of frame. She watched Neal’s dream self play violin for a packed concert hall. She pulled a small black notepad from the inside pocket of her navy blue business coat to take notes. “She’s the same in every other dream I’ve checked. Always watching me and taking notes.”

“And you’ve never seen her before? Maybe you’re crushing on her and don’t even know it?” Leslie, Neal’s assistant, offered. Neal shook his head.

“I’m 47, I don’t get crushes anymore. There has to be a reason she’s in there.” Their meeting was interrupted by a knock at the open door. Neal and Leslie found the same woman from the video standing in the doorway. The same navy blue coat and dark slacks. The same short, dirty-blonde hair that reminded Neal of the color of golden-brown sand. Leslie fell off her chair in surprise but managed to stand up again with Neal’s help. After the short ruckus, with both of them standing, Neal spoke up.

“Yes?” he asked.

“Mr. Smith?” She asked with a smile. Neal nodded then she continued. “I’d like to talk to you about your dreams,” she said, then glanced at Leslie. “Alone, please.”

“No problem!” Leslie was quick to speak up as she headed toward the door. “I”ll go make sure no one interrupts you.” In her mind, she knew Neal would fill her in on everything later. The stranger stepped in as Leslie walked out, then she shut the door. Neal stood from his desk and gestured at the chair in front of it.

“What can you tell me about my dreams, Ms…..,” he trailed off and let her fill in her name.

“You can call me Oasis,” she said and offered her left hand. Neal accepted the handshake; he noticed a small hourglass tattooed on her wrist with the number 14 on it. After the greeting, they both sat down. Neal straightened his back and gave Oasis his attention.

“Well, Oasis, can you tell me why you’re in my dreams?” She smiled and a slight giggle escaped her lips.

“Can you tell me why you are?” she asked.

“They’re mine!” Neal said. “Of course I’m in them,… but you’re not denying that you are,” he added. Oasis shook her head.

“Your first assumption is already wrong,” she said. “They’re not yours.”

“Of course they’re mine! Who else’s would they be?” Oasis tilted her head and took a moment to think.

“Is cable-TV still a thing here? Have you all moved on to streaming services yet?” She asked. Neal blinked at the subject change but decided to humor her with an answer.

“Uh.. yeah? We have both.” She nodded.

“So imagine you’re streaming a TV show. Would you call that show ‘Yours’?” she asked. “Do you have ownership of that show just because you’re streaming it into your home?”

“No, of course not.”

“There you go, your dreams aren’t yours. You’re just streaming them, and it seems you’ve found a way to record that stream.”

“Streaming from where?” Neal asked. He believed her, though he did not know why. Somehow he felt a deep trust for her inside his soul somewhere. He was willing to accept everything she said at face value.

“Other versions of you in alternate universes,” she said.

“What?” Neal asked. He believed her, but he did not understand.

“Dreams don’t come from your subconscious. They’re created when your soul connects to itself in another universe. You get glimpses, and sometimes control of another you.”

“Where do you fit in?”

“In this instance, I’m your caseworker. It’s my job to monitor your progress and take notes as you live your lives. I tune in on the same frequency where dreams take place; that’s why you see me in the dreams you record.”

“This.. whoa… this is huge!  Who do you work for?! Do you work for God? Is he real??!” The questions started pouring out of Neal’s mouth. Oasis smiled and shook her head.

“There’s a lot we’re okay with people knowing,” she said. “Unfortunately, there is also a lot that we are not okay with people knowing. This was that. Good luck in your next life.”

Neal stood from his chair and backed away from Oasis with a bit of panic. “LESLIE!” He called out.

“She won’t hear you, time is completely stopped outside this room,” Oasis said. “

“Stay back!” Neal shouted. “You can’t kill me. I won’t tell anyone! I promise!”

“I can’t kill you?” Oasis asked as a grin spread across her face. “I did the moment we shook hands.”