It was the closest thing to flying Victor Vargas experienced. The wind whipped through his hair and it was hard to breathe from the force of the air pushing against his face. The afternoon was cool, but the sun felt warm on his skin giving him a sense of balance.
Victor knew he was dreaming. There was no deafening sound to the wind circling his ears or a smell to add to the scenery of evergreen and deciduous trees flashing by him. As he looked down, he stood on the passenger seat of an older model Jeep, the ones used in earlier wars where the windshield folded onto the hood. It was unclear who was driving; however, he felt safe.
The stretch of road they were traveling was a byway as they weaved around the curves of a large canyon. It reminded Victor of Autumn. Leaves twinkled with hues of burnt orange and red, as they drifted from the trees like huge, colorful snowflakes. It was the end of a play and all of the arborous characters bowed for their end of the year performance. The serene moment was broken by the displacement of sound.
A phone call sounded somewhere in the distant tree line. Before he allowed himself to wonder or investigate the noise, he was saying hello into the mike of a CB he had picked up from its holster.
“Daddy?” A feathery voice asked from the corner of his mind.
He started to feel the sleepy haven of his dream pull away and knew the more relaxed he was, the longer the dream would continue. His vision in the dream started blurring as he lost concentration. In an effort to keep the dream intact, he slowed his breathing. Gradually, the scenery came back from the milky-grey outskirts of his subconscious. He glanced at the clock in the dashboard pulsing a neon-red 4:45am.
“Daddy!” the little girl’s voice echoed. This time she was more energetic and no longer questioning. There was elation from the recognition of her father’s voice. “Daddy, where have you been? You stopped talking,” she offset in a stern parental tone.
Victor instinctively prepared himself as he had similar dreams for the past few years. On a weekly basis, either just as he nodded off to sleep or just before he woke, Lily found a way to speak to him. By the time he discerned whether it was a dream or not, the voice disappeared, poof, like a magician vanishing in a cloud of smoke. All that generally remained was a phone receiver in his hand.
“Lily, where are you honey? Can you describe it?” Victor began from the tail end of their conversation from a previous dream. He spoke softly in a tone to comfort Lily and let her know things were okay.
On numerous occasions, he tried to distinguish truth from reality, but the moment clarity hit, her voice would vanish. He assumed the dreams were a traumatic symptom, which would go away in time, but his need to trust his gut superseded any other feelings. For Victor, Lily’s voice was real.
Lily hesitated for a moment and a small, sub-dermal fear told Victor the dream was already over. Then, the soft voice spoke again, “I don’t know, Daddy. The walls are stone or marble. They’re shiny sometimes and I feel like they watch me. I can’t tell what kind of room it is, but… oh wait! There’s a window!”
At this point, Victor felt as though the brakes slammed on the Jeep and he went sailing out, but it was just the pull of excitement in his stomach. “A window? Go to it and look outside.” There had never been any mention of a window before. If she could see something geographical, a point of reference, he would find her.
“I can’t see much. It’s dark out.”
“Give it a second, kiddo. Let your eyes adjust and try to explain anything you can see.”
Time unwound as Lily allowed herself time to focus. “I can’t see anything too far out, just the moon.”
“That’s okay, just try and see what’s below you. How high up are you from the ground? Are there any cars? Anything you see just shout it out.”
It was the longest he had ever gone with Lily in his dreams. Usually, he had a few precious moments and then woke himself up or there was a distraction and the dream became as unstable as smoke in his hands.
“I can see the driveway below. I can’t tell how far up I am, maybe 30 feet?”
“That’s ok, honey, it helps. What else do you see?” Victor was hoping there was a car or anything that could point him in the right direction.
“Ok, um… Well, there are a bunch of statues by the driveway. A fountain. There’s a wall going around as far as I can see.”
“Are there any cars in the driveway?” Victor prompted.
It didn’t take her long to reply, “No.”
There was a careful balance of emotions Victor was trying to maintain. He had to remain calm enough to stay asleep yet focused enough to direct the dream. It was more difficult trying to relay the concept to Lily on what he wanted her to look for.
“Oh!” Lily abruptly exclaimed. “Cows.”
“Yeah, there are a couple of cows below.”
Victor was trying to understand the scenery Lily was relaying. “Are you sure they’re cows?”
“I know what a cow looks like, Dad.” She said using her grown up, snarky voice. “They’re all black and have horns. There are three of them. They …”
The pause left Victor apprehensive. Subtly, the scenic trees and landscape whooshing by him as he stood within the Jeep dimmed. Their vibrancy was replaced with shadowy night until he saw nothing else. The wind died down as if the Jeep were coming to a stop.
“Lily? Is everything okay?”
No response. The wind slowed to a trickle and as the landscape faded to black, different shapes emerged. The shimmering moon was reflected by silver clouds as it slowly approached the westerly hills in order to rest until the following night. As Victor looked down, he was no longer in the Jeep. He was perched on the ledge of the house Lily had spoken about, the CB still in his palm.
Victor’s pulse quickened as he noticed the fall before him, but as he continued the mantra in his head I’m in a dream, I’m in a dream, it became clear he was seeing what Lily had relayed. Slow moving, dark figures paced across the lawn below. He noticed their horns swaying with each stride. Cows, Victor thought to himself.
“Daddy!!” Lily cried out in warning.
Reflex had Victor clicking on the CB as he replied, “Sweetie, what’s wrong?”
“You can’t be out there at night!”
As Victor looked down at the ground below him, the cows had been replaced by unstable figures surrounded in black smoke. Tendrils of it carried off their frame and disappeared into the night. There was no sight of flames, but there was a glow somewhere inside them. Even though a body was not detectable, Victor saw three sets of eyes looking up at him. A small and gentle hand was placed on his shoulder, but the voice that whispered in Victor’s ear was not Lily’s.
“Careful,” the child-like voice said, “they bite.”
Before Victor turned to face the voice in his ear, he was pushed from the ledge. As he plummeted to the ground, the shadowy figures waited below to catch him. They opened their mouths with hungry smiles and their gaping mouths were not full of teeth but flames, ready to burn him with every bite.
Victor gasped and a cold panic flashed through him. Silence crept in like a cat through a narrow doorway and he knew his experience was over. Talking with Lily would have to wait for another time because Victor was wide awake and holding the receiver of a phone with a repetitive busy signal. The only light in the room was the shade of light pink reflected by the clock reading 4:48am. An open window allowed the cool morning breeze to push through and gently move the curtains.
To anyone else, repetitive dreams were something easily shrugged off, but Victor felt they were a sign. For one, he was dreaming of his daughter that had died almost five years ago and secondly, her body was never found. He had faith his dreams were actually trying to lead him to her.
Victor questioned his sanity, but he had actively been writing down information from his encounters over the past two years. The brief moments he was able to pull together barely gave him solidarity to corroborate a setting let alone a purpose. As far as he could discern Lily was okay.
She had consistently recalled a bright light pulling at her like an ocean wave towards what she described as a castle. The castle was surrounded by fields of wheat with no roads. Lately, a lot of the dreams were brief flashes and wouldn’t last long enough to pull any conclusions. This last dream added terrifying images making Victor wonder just how safe it was there.
Lily never said she felt in danger. Rather, she felt alone and scared without anyone around. She was trapped and even though she could open the doors, she knew stepping outside on her own was not an option. There were no windows, until today, and no sense anyone was with her, but she said once she knew there were “others” preferring to stay hidden.
Whatever the case, Victor was hopeful. He was making progress. Whether or not it would end with the vindication of his sanity was still open to debate. The cold truth was his wife, Jaime, and his daughter, Lily, had been involved in a car accident years prior.
It was believed she was ejected from the car during the crash and her body drug away by wild animals before rescue crews arrived. An uncharacteristic blizzard promptly followed, making search and rescue efforts nearly impossible. For a month, volunteers searched for her body, but the lack of evidence only pointed to an unknown outcome. Victor’s wife held on as long as she could but passed away before the EMT’s were able to get her out of the car.
The dreams started a few days after Victor buried his wife. The first was simply of Lily, standing by the roadside telling him everything was going to be alright. He had nearly forgotten the pitch in his daughter’s voice or the happy tones that came with each word. He would give anything to have her back for a single day; one full of hugs, board games, reading together, and talking. He had told her so many times when she was alive he would do something with her later, when he could. That time never came and when her time was up, all that was left inside Victor was regret and shame. A giant hole formed inside him where his heart used to be and nothing filled the void. All of the money his family acquired over the past decades would not plug the emptiness. Dreams were his only bits of happiness that kept the rift from growing wider. It gave him focus and determination.
Victor leaned back on his elbows on the hotel bed. The hovering 3D light of the clock spun around slowly like a small planet. The time glowed in large pink numerals and the date reading smaller below 09/17/2042. He waved his hand through the time stamp and it faded until the room was dark.
He moved to the window and opened the curtains fully. The floor his room was on did not provide much scenery past the busy road in front, but the sweet smell of cool air helped him wake up.
“Where are you, Lily?” he called out to the faint reflection of himself in the window pane.
Sensing no reply, he removed his suit from the room’s wardrobe so he could begin readying himself for the conference he had later that morning. As he started the shower, he thought back to where his life started leading him to that point.
Comments, questions? These are mandatory if you’ve made it this far…