Thrice

Samantha Fagan

The words flowed undisrupted, from the young man's hand. His logic did not drive the heavy, metal pen that rested between his fingers. The pen just scratched the surface of the paper, almost drawing lines on its own volition, possessed by some inner conscious of the man.

Zev pushed himself back from the computer, at a loss - if only he could write like that man possessed without having to be possessed. He read over his paragraph, sighing, straining to come up with more, better ideas. He had no muses to write with unless they came from other people. His slender fingers were poised over the keyboard, waiting for direction from his central nervous system.

A young woman tossed in her sleep, smiling. What an interesting dream. She was sure she would not remember it in the morning. That was not something that mattered to her at that time, though. Talk about meta-writing. She giggled to herself as she turned. A dream about a man writing about a man? She needed to stop having caffeine before bed.

The man paused, looking up. His pen slipped from his fingers, crashing on the table with a loud bang, echoing through his bare room. He crumpled up the sheet of paper, tossing it into a harlequin wastebasket by his desk. He stood, beginning to pace. What a day. He was trying to go a night without his muse. But the uninterrupted writing he had been scribbling out was nothing – just dribble.

"It figures," Zev muttered to himself. He tried the stream of conscious writing that he was always told worked so well, but it led him to a dead end with the story - What good was a writer that threw out everything and just paced? "Well, he is then just about every writer, isn't he?" he mused to himself, staring at the computer screen. His eyes focused on the blinking line that sat at the end of the word "dribble," anxious to move again.

The girl remained a spectral spectator of the writer and his figment. They wrote like she did. She never knew three writers could be so similar. But then, they were in her head, so it made sense. She thought. Actually, the dream made no sense to her. But she decided to try and make the senseless thoughts make some sense together.

The young man finally sat down again. He leaned back, contemplating his choices. He could continue his senseless ramblings about nothing. He could also go against his earlier decision and turn to his muse. He decided for the latter. He rose to his feet and walked to a door. At it, he paused, taking up his coat and pulling it on. He opened the door and walked out.

Zev slammed his fist onto the keyboard, and "fgvgghty" flashed onto the screen, obscuring the man's exit. He rolled back from the computer, the wheels of his chair squeaking with the motions. He jumped to his feet, light boots tapping the hard floor beneath him, and stormed to the door – maybe he had had a good idea.

The girl nestled deeper into her covers. She pulled them around her. What strange people. She felt as if she knew them. She felt as if she loved them. Needed to be around them. Needed to find them both. But where?

The man dropped to the ground. Grass softened his deliberate fall. He looked about the empty park, his empty muse. But – not so empty, was it? He heard the soft noise of breathing. He sat straighter, dark eyes looking for its source. He saw a girl, barely into maturity, sleeping soundly. She lay alone, in the middle of an open field. He stood and walked towards her.

Zev strode the winding paths of the recreational grounds, hand buried deep in his pockets. His pale eyes swept the area, picking out the vague forms that passed him – busy for this time of night, he thought. But, as he turned a corner, only one thing mattered to his eyes – a sleeping girl. He could feel the intense energy of the lone girl's dreams from where he stood some yards away. He started towards her, boots crunching the cold grass beneath him.

The girl yawned widely. She stirred. She turned and shifted. But she did not wake. She watched both men approach her in her dream. She had found them both!

The young man knelt beside her. She was beautiful. Pale, strawberry-blonde hair framed her face in wispy strands. Her skin was porcelain pale, but soft as a vibrant rose. A patchwork blanket of millions of colors engulfed her pallid body. He smiled and touched her face.

Zev knelt by the snowy-colored girl. His long hand reached out to her many-colored quilt, then reached under it, his fingers brushing against her bare neck and his thumb pressing the fragile skin above her beating heart. He immediately entered her dream, finding it as unsorted as all dreams, just a mass of colors, feelings, and unworded thoughts, all interpreted and pieced together by the dreamer. He watched her interpretation, felt it rush past him, and knew immediately what he would write when he returned to his house. He held on until the dream abruptly ended, leaving him with a glimpse of things he should not yet have seen.

The girl started. Fingers grasped at her skin. Hands accosted her body gently. She sat straight up. Her black eyes snapped open. The Zev from her dreams knelt on one side. A young man knelt on her other. She knew it was Zev's creation. But how were they both here when she was awake?

The young man rose back up to his feet. He smiled gently down at her, face gentle.

Zev backed up, rising to his feet, pale eyes studying the girl. The flow of energy and ideas entered his mind through colors and feelings dammed, but remained within the reservoir, ready to be put to paper.

The girl stumbled to her feet. She held the blanket close to her. The chill wind nipped at her face. The cold ground numbed her bare feet. She stood in a strange place. She was definitely not in bed anymore. She did not care. She only wanted to know who Zev and his character were. Beyond the name Zev and his creation, of course. "Who are you two?"

"Two?" questioned the young man. He glanced about, but saw no other but the girl. "Do you mean me?"

Zev's hands retreated back to his pockets, and he shifted his stance several times before replying. He knew there was another there, even if he was invisible to Zev – the girl's dream had told him that. "Zev," he intoned dully, "but you already knew that."

The girl was silent. She looked down. "But. . . . You're not real. You're my dream."

The young man looked confused. "You dream? That's impossible – I'm as real as you are."

"As my unseen character has said, I cannot be your dream, for I am as real as you are. I am myself, and you happened to dream of me."

"But you're his character! Zev's!" The girl pointed to Zev as she stared the young man down. Her gaze shifted to Zev. "I'm dreaming you. I know this meeting can't be real. I'm not in a park. I'm in my warm bed."

The young man stared at the girl. What was she going on about? "I'm definitely not in your dream – I was here long before you," he retorted.

Zev just shrugged, not wanting to seem forceful, but he was as sure as she was that he was real. But – if he was only as sure as her, did that make them both as real as the other? He shrugged again, this time to himself, and then formed an answer in his mind. "I came from my own house to this park, and I passed by you sleeping. I know you're not dreaming, because if you were, I would be able to feel it, as you undoubtedly saw in your dream.

The girl looked from one to the other. Her dark eyes stared at Zev. Her head snapped to the left to the young man. They both claimed to be real. But she was real. She knew that. Didn't she? She backed away a step. Her head continued to dart back and forth. She delved into her human reason. "I see you both. You both see me. I have to be real."

The man stared at her. He began to contemplate the idea of this being a dream, while weighing the possibility of the pretty girl being insane. In that instant, he saw the other. Zev? His, according to the quilt-clad girl, creator. He stared at the apparition – or was he real? – and forgot the girl momentarily.

Another figure promptly came into Zev's view – the exact image of the man he had created from his own mind, his only creation not influenced by another's dream. Or was he really his – the girl's dream made him wonder what had made him write that man. Zev's eyes met those of the young man, and gazed intently into them. This was definitely Zev's own work, but how had he been conjured?

The girl looked between the two again. They both watched the other. They could see each other now. Did that disprove her existence?

The young man just looked forward, eyes on grass rather than any stranger. "I know I am real," he said at length. "I can't explain it, but I have faith that I am. Reason defied faith, so by not trying to reason, I have to be alive."

"How could you be alive – how could you exist?" questioned Zev, who had not taken his pale eyes from the young man. "I wrote you out onto a computer screen not three hours ago – from your blurred, undistinguished features to your dull, colorless colors. You are the always forgotten everyday man, and I brought you into being on my computer, which is where you should have stayed."

"But I dreamed you doing that!" The girl drew herself from her silence. She hugged her blanket closer to her. She shook in irrational terror. What if she really did not exist? "I dreamed you making him. I dreamed you writing about him. I dreamed him finding me here. I dreamed you finding me here. I dreamed you both meeting. I dreamed myself meeting you. And . . ." She paused. "And . . . I dreamed me not existing here." She stood wide-eyed in horror at her own words.

The young man looked between the two. He had never seen or thought of either before. If they were truthful – and something irrational in him made him think that they were – then they both knew something of at least one other. If he had no such knowledge – was he truly just a creation of one of these two? Was his walk in the park, as he took every day, just a whim of one of them? Or something higher?

Zev nodded his head – he knew everything that had occurred in her dream, he not only lived it through her, he watched it from outside of her. "I know everything in that dream – I saw the entire thing, felt it all. That is why I believe you exist – I felt you – but at the same time, I know I exist."

The girl looked down. She had no real proof that she existed. She realized that as she listened to Zev. But the young man had no proof. But he was convinced that he was real. Maybe that was the real way to prove her existence. She had known both of them before. That had to mean something. Didn't it?

But then that scene vanished for all three of them.

I blinked as I opened my eyes. The strong rays of the morning sun blinded me. I must have slept out there the entire night, most likely due to exhaustion. My mind raced as I thought of the two strange people I had met the night prior. Zev and . . . I had never found out the girl's name. I wondered if I was indeed real, or if I was fictional, or just a dream. But that passed. Either way, I knew I existed. I thought and pondered and went through with actions, so I had to be something.

I knew then that I had to write out this encounter. I raced home to my pen and paper, and thus created this account.

I woke in front of my computer, to find a couple thousand words flashing across a new document page, punctuating the stark white with stark black. I read through it quickly, and remembered the events of the night before – finding the dreaming woman to be dreaming of myself and a character, only to find that character to be real. Or, at least, for a time being physical. It made me wonder if I had only made that character because of the strange dreams of that girl, but I shrugged it off as I always did. The energy of the dreams flowed through me, went through me to the computer, put into light events and fantasies that others lived. But this event stayed with me after that – made me wonder if I was indeed real, because no matter how adamantly I believed myself to be, that dream made me realize I could be wrong.

I knew then that I had to write out her dream. I edited the stoic words on the page, and thus created this account.

I sat up in bed. My clock blared loud rock music. 7:30 flashed on its surface. It changed promptly to 7:31. But I had no care for minutes. I only cared of my dream. Had it been real? Had I been real? I had no way of knowing after that. I still do not know. I hit off the alarm. I rolled to my side to stare out the window. Where had I been last night? In bed the entire time? Had I been transported to that park? Was I just in someone else's head? I still do not know. But I knew then that it did not matter. If I was real, great. If I was someone else's fantasy, great. I still was, in any case. Maybe I was real and those two were not. Maybe they were real and I was not. Maybe none of us were real. Does it really matter? I sat in bed pondering this until long after school started.

I knew then that I had to write out my dream. I grabbed my dream journal and poured out everything, and thus created this account.