It’s so quiet and peaceful here.. Where am I? There’s a playground on the right.. There are no other children around to play with, am I supposed to play on my own?
Hey.. My mommy is waiting for me to go home.
“Mommy! I’m here! Let’s go ho-”.
What is….. that? What… What is happening?
…….WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO MY MOMMY?
Suddenly tears start coming out of his eye sockets like uncontrollable waterfalls, blurring his vision. Blood is covering his mother’s blouse, looking like red rain falling against a car window. A dark shadow with a hat and a hoodie appears behind her, looks at him completely emotionless and then starts running away along with her handbag. She falls down inside the sand pit where the boy plays every day after school, coloring the dirt with her blood. Her eyes, still glowing, are looking back at her son. He tries to run to her but his legs cannot move. He feels paralysed, he screams and shouts with all his might but his voice cannot be heard, cannot come out of his lungs. His heart is beating like crazy, it’s going to break at any moment, he’s desperate to run to her, he needs to save her, he cannot move, he cannot scream, he cannot - .
He’s having a panic attack. His chest hurts. He cannot breathe. “MOM-”
BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP!
Naito wakes up from his deep sleep, with his heart beating fast and loud, drenched in cold sweat. He tries to catch his breath and calm down. This dream has been keeping him awake for many nights since his childhood, and although these occasions had become less frequent with the years, they seem to be coming back since last summer.
He came to realise, that although he thought of himself as a strong and composed person, losing a parent is something that never ceases to hurt, and will forever remain an unmendable wound. He felt disgusted with his weakness and immaturity, picked himself up and got dressed.
“Booths A8, A10 and C10 are occupied. Pay extra attention to the guy in C10. He looked at me with such creepy eyes, like I was food or something. And clean the drinks stand, it’s full of spilled soft drinks. I’m outta here. Goodnight!”
Airi left the building from the front door of the cafe, having already taken her uniform off, wearing her casual clothes and hustling to finish her shift, giving her position to Naito. She wasn’t that good of a coworker, and she always left chores for him, which she could very easily do. Since she was just a university freshman, shouldn’t she respect her seniors more? But for Naito it was too much trouble to even get frustrated about it. It was just not worth it.
He didn’t even look at her leaving. He took a notebook out of his backpack and opened a browser on the reception’s computer. He had work to do.
The night was pretty cold for April, so he was kind of relieved that he had to do the night shift, since the heating at his house wasn’t working properly lately and he didn’t want to pay for maintenance while summer was right around the corner. The manga cafe was warm and comfortable, and most of the booths had their own air conditioning inside - so nobody could complain about the temperature in the main halls or the reception stand, where Naito was sitting most of the time.
Session 7: Sleeping time around 17.00. I still haven’t been able to recognize a dream from reality. It’s still too early for me to control my actions and to do the reality checks during my sleeping state. I had a nightmare about the past. Same dream with Session 2. My emotions were affecting my physical state. I woke up because of the alarm. Wake up time: 21.00.
He was keeping his notes neat and organised. He kept three notebooks: One next to his pillow to write his dreams right after waking up, when they were still vivid in his memory; one to keep notes and insights about the dreams on his desk; and one as an everyday journal for keeping tips and methods he could use - the one he was writing on right now.
It was the seventh sleeping session he had since he found out about it. Lucid Dreaming.
A state when you’re conscious during a dream. It typically happens during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the dream-stage of sleep. During a lucid dream, you’re aware of your consciousness. It’s a form of metacognition, or awareness of your own awareness. Often, lucid dreaming also lets you control what happens in your dream.
That was his goal. To control what happens. To extinguish the pain that was devouring him from the inside out. To erase everything.
After reading about it on the internet a week ago, he started practicing reality tests, which would help him realise he was inside the dream. That’s the first step in Lucid Dreaming. To realise when what you experience is not reality and not get lost between the two worlds. It is very possible to confuse reality and dreaming, and end up… in a comma. Trapped forever inside the realm of your own thoughts. Your brain will still function perfectly, so you will not stop dreaming even if you want to. The uncontrollable emotional state will break you, and if you wake up, you can end up spending the rest of your life in a psychiatric clinic, being psychologically unstable, or never waking up, and eventually… die of repeated heart attacks because of the intense brain function.
This is why reality checks are the most crucial part of it all.
The logic behind reality checks is that when you do specific motions during the day - during the conscious state - very often and the repetitiveness makes your subconscious do them in your dreams too.
Naito tried checking his clock as often as he could.
To realise that you are inside the dream, you just check what a clock shows. If the times are illogical or the clock stops for no reason, you can tell that you’re dreaming.
Another practice that he was currently trying was looking at his hands. If his hand had an illogical number of fingers, then he could tell he was inside a dream.
His dream journal next to his bed helped him keep all the information about the places he was visiting in his dreams, the people he met, the activities he was doing, the emotions he could feel. Psychologists believe that we dream of specific places that our brain has formed. Keeping a journal and recording the different places you visit is like unlocking areas of a map inside an RPG. Then you can choose to “teleport” from one place to another, or move around like it’s the real world, noticing details and interacting actively with the environment you’ve built. But the brain tends to erase these memories, and it is necessary to write them down and read them very often, to plant them in your mind.
But Naito didn’t want to build any special worlds. He wanted to go back. He wanted to correct that scene which was torturing him once again. He wanted to go back and change… who gets stabbed.
To never see that blood puddle again. To never see his mother’s tears mixed with her blood.
At least in his dream.