I got sick–or something–but I didn’t want to go to the doctor. I was doing the hermit thing, after all. Did doctors still do house calls? And if they did, would they bring prescription medicine?
The thing was, I didn’t know what was making me feel this way. Maybe it had something to do with my shut-in lifestyle, but I had been doing this for months with no trouble. I still visited the rooftop a lot for fresh air, and I had a treadmill and some weights to keep my strength up. I drank a lot of water, ate lots of greens. Really, I was living a healthier lifestyle than most anyone in the outside world.
Nights were the worst. I kept having bad dreams, dreams of being dragged out my apartment, or someone burning it down, or my apartment crushing me and leaving me deformed. Maybe I needed a psychiatrist more than a doctor, but it took a toll on me physically. My nightmares made me feel cold all day, or sensitive as though I was burned, or like my body is strangling itself with tension. All things that vaguely related to my dreams.
So I went on Kijiji looking for a dream analyst. Mostly for amusement, and for company, and because I couldn’t find any house-calling doctors. I found an ad for a “dreamcatcher,” which sounded somewhat like what I was looking for. I emailed the ad for a consultation. A woman named Jersey emailed me back and said she’d visit within the hour. Good thing I didn’t have a job. Or a life outside my apartment, for that matter.
I heard a buzz about a half hour later. It was Jersey. I let her up, and opened the apartment door.
I expected a dream analyst to look a little bit spacey, but… well, this Jersey girl was carrying what looked like a giant butterfly net with a huge dreamcatcher at the end. This should be interesting.
“Jersey,” she said. “Dreamcatcher.”
“Yes it is,” I said, shaking her hand. “I’m Crystal.”
We sat down to tea and I told her about my dream. She seemed eager to get down to business.
“It sounds like you’re worried your apartment could be turned against you,” Jersey said. Her dreamcatcher net was resting on her lap while she sipped her tea. “Or that you’ll be foreceably evicted.”
“Yeah, that was pretty obvious,” I said, then winced. So much time in my apartment has made me ineffective at socialization.
Jersey smiled. “Your nightmares–they’re perpetrated sometimes by vague antagonistic forces–people pulling you out of your place–and sometimes it’s the apartment itself.”
“Yes,” said Jersey, lips pursed. “Fire is a common one.”
“I know you’re probably thinking that I have some kind of fear of leaving my apartment, but in truth I’m here of my own free will. I’m doing a kind of experiment.”
“It’s important to you.”
“That’s bait for a lot of nightmares. They prey on hope, and on anything that you spend a lot of time thinking about. It’s like they develop a scent for it.”
I tilted my head in confusion. “You sound like nightmares are… I dunno, like animals. Like predators.”
Jersey shrugged, and put down her cup of tea. “I think I can help you. Nightmares–that is, stress–it can all take a psychological toll, which can often take a physical toll. Your brain mediates most of the functions of your body. Your senses. Including pain. Even if there’s no direct physical damage, everyone has a kind of… mind-body link. A psychological spirit, if you will. And if that spirit is harmed, it can erode your entire being–mental and physical.”
She sounded like she was trying to sell me something.
“I can help you,” she said.
“For how much?”
She smiled again. “You don’t need to pay anything. Sometimes clients pay me after I help them. But most don’t believe I’m capable of doing so until I take care of the nightmares. I just need your permission.”
“To take your nightmares. To occupy your dreamscape.”
“Like in Inception?”
“Kind of. But you don’t need to hook up to a machine. I’ll take care of everything. It’s an all-natural remedy.”
I don’t know why I said yes. Curiosity, mostly. But when I went to sleep that night, and saw Jersey in my dream, I was surprised. I watched her swipe her net over shadowy people trying to pull me out of my apartment one night, making the bad guys disappear as though absorbed by the string of the dreamcatcher. In the next night’s dream she used the feathers hanging from the dreamcatcher to fly me to safety from the flames of my burning apartment. In the next night’s dream she prevented the apartment from crushing me by slashing away walls with the hoop of her net. When the nightmares went away and my pains with them, I began to suspect Jersey wasn’t a fraud after all.
Today’s three prompt categories were, “Dreamcatcher,” “Natural remedy,” and, “The hermit.”
I always enjoy combining continuities. So far dreamcatchers have mixed with quite a few. Everybody has dreams, I guess.