“Don’t worry. No pressure. We can’t really control what we can dream of in our sleep anyway.”
That was what Erica has been telling me for a few days now. It has been a week since I had my last nightmare.
When I relayed that scary dream to her, she was excited that I immediately experienced one. And, unsurprisingly, I was laughed at when I mentioned I fell from my bed.
However, the following days without seeing another one dampened her enthusiasm as neither of us have experienced that sweet nightmare yet, or even had another nightmare.
It’s not like the two of us weren’t having dreams, however. I’ve had a couple, in fact.
In one of those, I was in my elementary school and I was playing tag with my childhood friends as an adult. Then, for some reason, the next scene was set somewhere else and I was talking to a different set of friends. My other dream was similar where I was in random places I’ve been to with random people I’ve met.
They were more weird and nonsensical, but I still wrote them down as soon as I woke up. But, they didn’t interest Erica when I tried telling her about them.
Erica also had a few dreams of her own, most of which were of the same nature of the ones I’ve had. She did have one nightmare, but she told me, “There’s nothing sweet about a nightmare where you’re stuck in a room without doors and windows with a flying cockroach!”
Seven more weeks then passed and neither of us dreamt of a sweet nightmare in our sleep. The subject seemed to have become history as it became less and less of a topic for conversation between Erica and I. Although, that was mostly because she had been busying herself for the past three weeks.
We kept in touch, but I didn’t know what she was up to until one night she called me to her home.
“Parents away. Come over”, it said.
Considering the timing and the message, I thought she was inviting me for some quality time. The subject of sweet nightmares was already far in the back of my head so I was quite surprised - not to mention confused because I excitedly expected something else - when she gleefully greeted me at her door saying, “Tonight, we’re going to try and induce nightmares.”
Before I could react, she dragged me inside and led me to her living room. As we made our way, I noticed there was barely any light coming from the room, only a dim red glow. I would soon find that all the curtains in the room were drawn closed and the only light source was a row of candles neatly placed on the coffee table. A sweet scent faintly covered the room as well.
Had I been greeted differently earlier, I’d have thought Erica planned something romantic. But, alas.
After closing the door behind us, Erica continued to lead me further into the room until we were between the sofa and the coffee table.
“Lay down on the couch”, she told me.
“Why?” I asked as I sat down, only going through halfway of her command.
“I already told you, we’re going to try to induce nightmares”, she replied. “I want to try something that can make you have them.”
“You’ll see”, she said as she softly pushed me down on the sofa.
“Then, why not have me do this on a bed?”
“Because you’re going to be too distracted when you’re laying on my bed.”
She’s really given a lot of thought to this, I mused.
“I need you to focus on trying to sleep”, she continued.
“And how do I do that?”
“Well, how do you normally sleep?”
“With you by my side - Ouch!”
My quip was immediately met with a pillow to my face. It didn’t really hurt, but I still cried out in pain out of reflex.
“Just go to sleep”, she said without showing her annoyance.
“It’s kinda hard trying to fall asleep at this hour”, I said.
It was only half past eight. I usually sleep around eleven or midnight and I’m not used to going to bed a few hours earlier.
“That’s why I prepared all this so you can fall asleep”, she replied. “If there’s anything else that you think can help you fall asleep faster, please tell me.”
“A goodnight kiss might help”, I joked.
Erica barely gave a reaction as she kneeled down to kiss me on the lips all business-like.
I felt disappointed that it went by without fanfare. But, at the same time, I knew she wasn't kidding around, so I quietly complied when she said, “Close your eyes and go to sleep now”.
Of course, I wasn’t able to fall into a deep sleep just like that. Although Erica seems to have something more in store for me as I hear a chime. It could be a bell or a wind chime, I wasn’t sure, but the metallic sound was small and short.
A few seconds later, whispering in a soft tone, she followed it up with, “Sleep, sleep now.”
Ding. Another chime.
“Relax and sleep.”
Ding. And another chime.
Erica was alternating between speech and the chime rhythmically, but slowly. She repeatedly whispered for me to sleep a few more times, which actually made me feel comfortable enough that I would drift in and out of consciousness for a short time.
Due to that, I wasn’t sure when she started telling me things other than to sleep.
“Imagine you’re in a comfortable place.”
Ding. Still, alternating with a chime.
“Imagine you’re in the house where you grew up.”
“Imagine you’re in your bedroom when you were a child.”
She chanted a few more generic scenarios related to my childhood until I realized I stopped hearing the chime. In fact, I was no longer hearing Erica's whispers as well. I was no longer merely imagining the places she was describing. Instead, I was in it.
For some reason, I had turned into a child. I was in a bedroom with sky blue wallpaper, a floor strewn with toys and an unmade bed with cartoon characters in the sheets. It was my old room back when I was in grade school as I remember it.
I was already dreaming.