I know this is a dream because I recognize the shade of green. A tingle of anticipation ripples through me, more a mental sensation than physical.
Then again, without a physical brain, sensations can’t really be felt. Until they reach the brain, the feelings are only signals. So are thoughts. Would I cease to exist without a brain? Ah, it’s so easy to be distracted in dreams. I’ll get back on topic.
Anyway, it’s the shade of green that makes me recognize it. As I admire the color, it takes shape, and even though I already know it’s grass, I look on in wonder all the same. It rolls out in waves, like a living creature snaking across the darkness. It moves just like a giant stingray, more a waving motion than slithering. Grass is never this lush in reality, except for maybe in paintings. Maybe that’s why I named this place so long ago. It seemed too unique to be nameless. Just like him.
This place is the Knolls, and it’s a very special place to me. You must respect it, since I’m generous enough to share it with you.
As the grass stretches into the distance, creating the horizon, it brings the blue sky and sunset along with it. Ah, if you could only really see it. I wish I could show it to you. I’m sure the words are inadequate and lengthy.
But you mustn’t skip ahead. My favorite part is approaching. After the grass invites the sky and sunset and everything is quite still, a rich, earthy pathway begins cutting down the center of every hill. It looks precisely like a cartoon groundhog burrowing beneath the surface, except it does not leave a raised patch of earth. To the contrary, the path is perfectly smooth and without blemish.
Everything about the Knolls is like that. The sky is cloudless, the grass is only grass, and the dirt trail is only dirt. It is a precise and pure place.
I once lamented that there were no flowers, but then Pierre…ah, but that is to come. He will be here after the tree–oh! There! It’s starting!
Upon any ordinary hill, something is there and gone again. It is exactly as one sees a shadow in their peripheral and turns to find nothing there.
Only, I knew it was there. I’m focusing on it now, because this is my favorite part. I want to see! It flashes again and vanishes, such a tricky little thing. Come on, now. No more teasing…
It is there. That’s how it always happens. You think it will slowly fade into existence, but it never does. It uses that one moment of belief to manifest itself.
There’s my tree. Sometimes I have to wait for Pierre, but I must really want to meet him right now, because he’s sitting there beneath the tree.
He’s smiling at me, one leg bent, an arm resting easily on his knee. He doesn’t approach. He never does unless I’m upset.
I walk over, calmly. It’s been a long time and I’ve missed him, so I should probably run to him. When someone runs in this situation, though, I feel like it’s because they are afraid. Afraid that person will vanish.
I never worry about that with Pierre. He’s always there when I need him, sometimes when I least expect it. I can take my time because I know Pierre will stay there.
I also know the dream will not end soon, considering my physical condition. I will be unconscious for a long time, maybe forever.
I’m at Pierre’s side, sitting beside him. That’s how dreams go. One minute, you’re walking, and then you’re sitting without any recollection of crossing a distance.
I face him, returning his smile. Hearing in a dream is much more difficult than seeing. Especially if you’re trying to listen. Effort works against a dreamer. So, instead of trying to hear or even talk, I’m leaning against him, watching the sunset.
Pierre always wears a black dress suit. He reminds me a lot of a butler sometimes. His hair is short, black, and slicked back in waves like an Italian mobster.
He’s not a mobster. Or a butler. He’s just Pierre. You may not understand, since it is not your dream. Dreamers have an uncanny way of understanding their own dreams, where others see it as senseless. But I’m sharing it with you, so do your best.
You probably want to know what I look like, but I don’t care to tell you. You see, if I focus on my physical appearance, I may lose all of this. I’ll be connected to reality instead of the Knolls, and I don’t want to lose Pierre or the Knolls.
Now, don’t complain. Rather than my boring fleshy appearance, I’ll tell you how I look here — in this dream. All right? Okay, then. Pay close attention, because this is much more difficult to grasp than the other things here.
I never see myself here. Sometimes, I’ll be above the tree like an aerial shot in a movie and I might see the back of my hair, but that’s as far as it goes. (It’s brown and long. Now, hush and listen.)
How I “see” myself here is more of a sensation. I am clean and smooth and soft. I’m very bright. I glow sometimes. My body is the perfect shape and size and I am light and airy. In the Knolls with Pierre, I am beautiful, stunning, gorgeous, and angelic. I’m pure and without blemish, like everything else here.
I know, I know. It sounds as though I’m describing Heaven. Maybe it is. It’s my Heaven, that’s for certain.
Ah, Pierre’s arm feels so warm. He’s wearing a long-sleeved suit, as you’ll remember, but his warmth permeates it. Feeling is difficult, normally, but the difficulties are becoming easier now. The longer I stay in this dream, the easier it becomes to live here.
Pierre’s warm arm is like rays of sunlight. That’s the precise degree of warmth I feel against my cheek right now.
“Pierre?” It’s always best if I speak first. Well, easier. Speaking is less of a challenge than hearing.
“Pierre, the sunset…has it ever been this shade of orange before?” My voice sounds soft and sweet, like a resonating silver bell. This voice would win awards and sign record labels in the real world.
“I don’t remember,” Pierre’s deeper, yet silky, voice replies.
Yes, that describes Pierre just right. He is divesting his arm from me, coiling it around my shoulders to draw me nearer.
“Flora, aren’t you scared?” My name is not Flora. I forget my real name here. He calls me Flora because it means, “flower.” I like flowers.
“Are you here?” I ask him, nuzzling further beneath his arm. I feel smaller when I do that. Easier to protect.
“Always,” he replies seriously, giving me a gentle squeeze.
“Then, no. I’m never afraid.”
I notice it in the sun first, a gray patch. I furrow my eyebrows.
“Pierre, do you see…?” I gasp. The gray is spreading, like a disease, over the entire scene. It’s rapidly advancing toward us. “Pierre! Pierre!” I could manage no other words.
I’m standing now and Pierre is standing beside me, clutching my hand.
The gray is upon us, washing over Pierre and I. It’s suffocating. I turn to Pierre and the vitality has left him. He’s a scrambled picture on an old television set.
The entire Knolls are dead. Everything is gray and lifeless. My sensation of self is on the other end of the spectrum. I feel dirty and gritty. I feel rough and polluted. Everything seems like an unnecessary and laborious chore.
I’m barely gripping Pierre’s hand, the Gray is so devastating. He is holding on, though. To me, to this place, to the timeless moments we spent here before the Gray.
I’m awake. Gasp. I’m in the Gray Knolls. Shudder. Awake. “No…uhhh ohhhh…nnnnyengh…”
Bright lights are fighting against me and they win. I’m back in the Gray.
“They took it,” I say, my voice a harsh reminder of reality. I don’t want to speak here without my silver bell voice.
“Flora?” I feel my eyes fill with tears.
“They took yours, too,” I choke out. “All the love here is gone.”
He is squeezing my hand. Though the Gray is forcing a relentless current of despair upon us, Pierre is strong. He drags me against his chest and holds me there in a tight embrace.
“The love here is not gone.” He says this forcefully, which is not his nature. He is not angry. He is scared I’m forgetting.
I’m not. “No, it’s not all gone. But they took our happiness, Pierre. All of this reflected our happiness back onto us. It was our mirror.”
He’s drawing back to look at me, but he isn’t letting go. His fuzzy, static gray eyes almost look brown to me. Like before.
“Flora, you are my mirror. You are warm and bright.”
I feel bright. A bit, maybe.
I’m smiling at him. “You always know the right words.”
Pierre’s eyes are definitely brown.
“The Gray missed your eyes,” I whisper, afraid that it might snatch away the color.
He’s smiling back now. His mouth is rebelling against the Gray, allowing the love and happiness there to shine through. It is the Sun breaking through the black storm.
I’m closing my eyes, pressing myself against Pierre. My arms are tightening around his torso. I feel. I concentrate on feeling.
“Pierre,” I say softly, almost reaching the silver bell.
“Yes, Flora?” Silk. Definite silk.
“You can’t go anywhere…”
“I can’t,” he agrees. He’s sliding his fingers through my hair. A smile touches his next words, “I’m much too vain to be without my mirror.”
I pull back, needing to see his smile.
“Oh…” My eyes are wide. “It’s so bright! The colors! The colors were never so bright!”
The Knolls are shining with an inconceivable vibrancy. Everything feels easier. I can talk and listen and feel and see without any of the focus or concentration I needed before. I have hands-free Dream-On-Demand.
I like that so well, I turn to Pierre and say, “We have Dream-On-Demand.”
He makes a face at me.
I’m looking for that noise. What in the Knolls made such a–
“Pierre, do you…?”
Pierre is gone.
The tree! Our tree! Where…? No! No, I want to stay asleep!
The sky! Gone!
The Sun! So dark…
Bright lights assault my vulnerable eyes.
“She’s coming to! Get her under again!” A panicky guy in a white coat. Doctor. My panicky doctor.
I’m sitting up. The drugs are making it difficult to keep track of my movements. It’s like dreaming, not remembering the journey from Point A to Point B.
I’m still dreaming, I think, because Pierre’s sitting here, holding my hand.
“They’re removing a blood clot from my brain,” I tell him.
“I know.” Pierre seems unsettled.
I blink at the monitor, at the long unbroken line on the screen. It is a recognizable shade of green, like the grass that unfurls on the Knolls. It remains uninterrupted–precise and pure.
Like so many other things on the Knolls.