Do you dream of me in the next life?
Joseph felt the impact of the knife as it penetrated his back. He fell to the ground. An intense tingling sensation went throughout his body. He could hear Kalah calling out his name with sadness and worry in her voice. Joseph couldn’t say anything to her, his mind tried to catch up and process what happened. Suddenly, he felt intense, piercingly hot pain, unlike anything he experienced before. She told him to hang on. This was not how he imagined he would go out; he never even got the chance to figure out his dream yet and pursue it. He thought to himself, sorry Kalah…please find your dream for my sake and live it to the fullest. Joseph faded in and out of consciousness until he could see nothing.
Then, he woke up like nothing happened. Did he survive somehow or was it all a bad dream? What he does know, he thought to himself, was that he felt drowsy, that’s for sure. Joseph stretched his arms. Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, he realized that this was definitely not his bedroom or the hospital. Surveying the room, Joseph could tell that he’s inside a traditional Japanese house.
“Good morning, big sis!” said a voice.
Big Sister? I don’t know anyone with a sister, Joseph thought. A young boy with short green hair entered the room through the sliding door.
“Is everything ok Josie? You haven’t left bed since I called you for Breakfast.”
One good look at his face and he could tell that the boy before him was not entirely human. His iris was diamond shaped in the middle of his yellow eyes.
“Wh-who are you? Where am I? and who is Josie?”
The boy looked at Joseph with a puzzled face and tilted his head a little. “You're Josie and I’m your brother Aiden, remember? Are you feeling ok?”
Whatever kind of joke this was, Joseph wasn’t laughing. He looked around to see if he somehow got onto some T.V. show and looked for cameras, but there were none to be found. Then he noticed something strange about his own body. Everything looked entirely different to him, including his hands. Thinking about it, his own voice sounded different as well.
“Um, Aiden. Where is the bathroom?”
Aiden tilted his head a little in a different direction. “Down the hallway and to the right.”
Joseph got up and ran into the bathroom. He looked into the mirror and realized this was no joke at all. What he saw reflected back was a girl with short, red hair and green eyes with a diamond shaped iris. Opening his mouth in shock, he noticed some of his teeth were pointy.
“Wait, how is this even possible?”
Aiden went down the hall and was now at the doorway. “Uh…Josie???”
“My name is not Josie! My name is Joseph, and this is not my body!”
Aiden looked at Joseph with concern until his facial expression changed into shock followed by tears and sadness. He fell to his knees on the floor.
“No. I knew this could happen but…I never had the chance to say goodbye.”
* * *
After some time, Aiden calmed down and they had breakfast. It looked like a well-balanced selection of food choices ideal for the morning. Aiden broke the awkward silence.
“Sorry for breaking down on you like that. It’s just…I love my sister dearly. She took care of me for most of my life since mother passed away when I was very young.”
“It’s ok. It’s a lot to take in at once, and I am sorry too that I have to ask you questions like this, but I need to know. So, what was Josie like?”
“Josie...was always hardworking, responsible, and very caring. She liked helping the dragons around Dragon Tooth whenever she could.”
“Wait, does that mean I am a dragon?”
“Yes, you are a dragon. And so am I as well as everyone that lives in this settlement.”
“I see. Ok, next question I wanted to ask. We are not on Earth, are we?”
“Nope, you’re in the Dream World.” Aiden takes a sip of his orange juice.
After some more time of silence while eating, Joseph asked him, “So Josie took care of you all by herself?”
“No, at least not at first. You see, our family has been friends with another family for generations since our great-grandfather saved his great-grandfather’s family from monsters. A man from that family, named Alvin, helped my sister until she got old enough to take care of me.”
“I know…this is going to be hard to answer, but what do you mean by ‘I knew this could happen?”
“Well…” He said while playing with his last pieces of food with a fork, “well, it means that Josie is gone. Anyone in this world can get reincarnated at any time, having their lives taken over for life by that person.” Aiden looked like he wanted to cry again.
“Aiden…I’m truly sorry about all this. None of this would have happened if I didn’t get killed on Earth. I know this doesn’t mean much to you since we are just strangers, but I also feel awful about this. I didn’t choose to get stabbed, and your sister didn’t choose to get reincarnated either. But your sister is not gone, she is right here”, Joseph pointed at his chest, “Josie is in your heart…always with you, forever and always. Just don’t forget her and what she meant to you. This way, she will always be there with you, every step of the way.”
This time, Aiden cried for real. “Can I…”, Aiden said between sobs, “can I hug you please?”
“Yes, Aiden. You can hug me.”
They hugged, and Aiden cried out his feelings for his sister. Joseph cried too.
After they had finished their hugs, Joseph helped Aiden clean up the kitchen table. Then they went back to their seats to continue their conversation.
“I know these are probably some obvious questions, but can I fly and breathe fire?” said Joseph with a smile.
Aiden smiled back. “Yes, to both questions actually.” Aiden proceeded to lightly breathe fire in the air and then he showed Joseph his wings, which manifested into existence.
“Wow, that’s so amazing! You have to show me later how to do that!”
“Sure, I would be happy to.”
“You said there are monsters in this world, right? What kind of monsters exist here?”
“Well, they exist in this world but however, they all died out because of the Nightmares. Nightmares are the only race of monsters that exist in this world since they wiped them out.”
“Nightmares? Like the ones that you can have while sleeping?”
“Yeah. They are physical manifestations of those Nightmares. They have, at least from what I heard, dark, shadow like skin. They have sharp teeth and tend to have between one to three eyes. There are different kinds of Nightmares with their own abilities. They can be very dangerous if one is not prepared to face them.”
“Ok. So, one last question…how do I get back to Earth?”
“That…I don’t know. Alvin might know better than me the answer to that question.”
Aiden got up from his seat and walked over to the door.
“Follow me; I want to give you something.”
They walked down the hallway until coming to a halt in front of a wooden door. Aiden opened it and led the way down the staircase. At the bottom, they arrived at what seemed to be the basement. Various valuables could be seen everywhere you look. Against the wall ahead of them, was an old chest.
“Before I give it to you, I want you to do something for me and my sister.”
Joseph looked at Aiden with a puzzled expression.
“What do you mean by that?”
“I want you to change your name to Josie to honor her life. Also…please promise me that you will live the life Josie never did. She never got the chance to explore the world and experience life beyond our settlement…so please.”
Joseph patted Aiden’s head.
“I’d love to change my name to Josie. Josie sounded like a wonderful person and I would love to honor her life. I promise…that I will live my life to the fullest for your sister.”
Aiden rubbed his tears away and smiled.
“That’s all I wanted to hear.”
He opened up the chest. Inside of it was a sword with a dragon etched on the side of the blade.
“This is Dragwind. A sword that Alvin’s great-grandfather gave us as a thank you gift for saving his family.”
Dragwind glimmered as it beckoned for Josie to take hold of it.