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Disfigured at birth and ostracized at school, Travis Hunter dreams of acceptance and secretly yearns for the affection of a beautiful young woman named Corrine. When a mysterious doctor promises to help Travis through something called lucid dreaming, Travis gets more than he ever bargained for and soon finds himself learning the secrets of love and life in a fantastic unconscious world.



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Natalie Roers




Some kids have normal first memories. Maybe they remember a carnival, or the first day of kindergarten, or riding on top of someoneís shoulders at a Fourth of July parade.

My first memories are white: white coats, white walls, and white rooms.

But something seems off now as I try to navigate through the once familiar halls of the hospital from my youth. I need to get to room 403, thatís my room, but every time I turn a corner it seems Iíve gotten mixed up somehow and am going the wrong way. I look at the doors for direction, but the numbers on them donít seem to be in any particular order or are missing altogether.

A pretty blonde nurse walks by and I try to stop her to ask for help, but she doesnít seem to notice me. She just keeps looking straight ahead as she walks quickly down the corridor. She carries a clipboard in front of her, obviously planning to attend to more pressing matters. Thatís when I hear the crying. It stops me in my tracks and raises the hair on the back of my neck. Itís a childís voice, that I can tell, and although the sound is faint, something about it is eerily familiar. I turn around, my footsteps echoing down the hallway, and follow the cries to the last room on the right. The lights flicker as I approach the open doorway.

As I poke my head inside, I am surprised to see my mother standing there. She is noticeably younger and even more beautiful than I remember; she has long, wavy, thick dark hair and her bright red lipstick pops against her perfect ivory skin. Sheís talking very seriously with a stout older man whoís wearing thick rimmed spectacles and a stethoscope around his neck. "So it can all be fixed?" she asks.

"Well, not a hundred percent," the man replies. "Because of the macroencephaly, his head circumference will always be a little larger than most, but heíll grow into that more as a man and it wonít be as noticeable. Now, as far as the torticollis? Travis will most likely retain a fair amount of asymmetry in his face and shoulders, however with the right treatment plan we should be able to make him look and feel a heck of a lot better."

My mother smiles and nods at the doctor.

I remember this conversation, I think.

As they turn toward the examination table, their bodies part, and I am able see myself as I was at three years old. My face and shoulders are grossly misshapen and my head looks like an orange atop a toothpick. My hair is just as dark, curly, and frizzy as it is now, but my skin is smooth and free of acne. Iím sitting on the metal table, my legs dangling in the air, and my face is puffy and red from crying.

They doctor bends down to pat me on the head. "Youíve seen Gumby, right Travis?"

I look up at him and shake my head yes, my eyes brimming with tears.

"Well, weíre gonna stretch you for a while. Kinda like Gumby stretches. Is that all right with you, young man?"

My mother reaches out and grabs my hand. She squeezes it so hard that even as a young child, I know her squeezing my hand is more for her comfortónot the other way around.

The pretty nurse that ignored me earlier now comes up beside me in the hallway and knocks on the door frame.

"Doctor Rosenthal? Here are the charts you asked for." The nurse hands him the files and then looks over at the childhood version of myself. "Arenít you the cutest little guy?" she coos. "Do you want a sucker?" She digs a lollipop out of her pocket.

"Is it okay, Mom?" the nurse asks.

"Thatís very nice of you, thank you. What do you say, Travis?"

"Thank you," my childhood-self answers shyly.

The nurse smiles politely at everyone and then leaves the room. She still doesnít seem to notice me as she flattens herself against the wall.

Another woman is walking down the hallway towards us and I watch curiously as the nurse motions frantically for the woman to look in the room. The woman appears startled as she pauses in front of the open doorway.

"Come here!" the pretty blonde nurse calls out to her in a hushed tone.

They move a little further down the wall, but I can still hear them as they whisper.

"Yikes, thatís a different lookiní kid," the new woman says.

"I know! Heís so ugly heís almost cute, isnít he?"

"Cute is the last word Iíd use to describe him."

"Did you see who his mother was?" the nurse asks in a gossipy way.

The other woman tries to move past me to look back in, but her friend pulls her back. "Donít do that! Theyíll see you!"

"Well, who is it?"

"Thatís Gary Hunterís wife."

"No!" The woman gasps. "The high school football star?"

"Yup, the quarterback and the prom queenís kid."

"Wow, whoíd a thought it? Boy, they must be disappointed, huh?" The two women giggle.

I get up off the wall and shout at them as they start walking away.

They canít hear me so they continue laughing as they move down the corridor. Each giggle that trails behind them hits me like shrapnel. We live in Middle of Nowhere, Indiana. Who do they think they are? Supermodels?

Smacking the palm of my hand angrily against the wall, I take off running down the hall.

When I get to the end of the hallway, I use my foot to kick open the swinging double doors, but as I do, I find Iím now entering the hallway outside of the biology lab at my high school.

I look around, confused. Am I late for class? Wait? What class am I supposed to be in, anyway? The fog of not knowing makes me feel anxious and upset, but Iím not sure how to figure it out so I just try to blend in.

Kids are pouring out of the classrooms, likes ants out of a mound. I envy that they all instinctually seem to know where to go, who to talk to, and how to talk to them.

Just like at the hospital, no one seems to notice me. However, in this place, this doesnít strike me as odd as Iíve learned how not to draw attention to myself. Youíd never know it from my silence in the stands at the pep rallies, but on the inside Iím on my feet hollering and cheering along with the rest of the school.

As everyone rushes past me, I stop to look at a poster of a snarling opossum on the wall. It has a caption that reads, "The Awesome Opossums of Wesley High." The opossum is our mascot, and there are posters just like this one plastered all over the school, but for some reason I canít stop staring at it. Somethingís not quite right about all of this. Thereís something that I want to remember, but my mind canít seem to focus.

What is it? What isnít right here?

The more I try to figure it out, the more kids fill the hallway. They start bumping into me, knocking me off balance, but I keep my ground, my eyes fixed on the poster.

"Hey, Hunchback, move!" I hear someone scream. "Youíre in the way!"

Pep rallies, school, classĖwhatís not right?

The crowd gets thicker and thicker until everyone is standing shoulder to shoulder; packed in like sardines. They all move with the exact same rhythm and I can feel myself starting to being carried off down the hall with the crowd. I look back over my shoulder at the opossum one more time, and as I do, it hits me.

Schoolís out!

"Itís out!" I scream at the realization. "Schoolís out!"

None of the blurry, nameless, faces react at all to what Iíve said, but Iím thrilled with myself for remembering.

"Schoolís out!" I scream again. "You donít have to be here!"

The students keep mindlessly moving down the hallway and I find myself getting angry at their ambivalence.

This is my shining moment and theyíre ruining it! I think. For me, the summer just means I get to sleep in late. But itís the last summer before our senior year; for everyone else my age, school being out means lazy days at the lake and long nights out, doing things that their parents would kill them foróthat is, if their parents ever found out about it.

Here I am, sharing the single greatest piece of news they could ever hear, yet everyoneís acting like Iím screaming out the lunch menu!

Disgusted, I use my elbows and shoulders to push through the crowd. A few people I donít recognize give me nasty looks or mutter things under their breath as I move past them, but again, nobody reacts at all to my great revelation that school has ended for the year.

When I get to the stairwell, I stop. Indignant, I look back at the crowd and yell, "Well, I donít know about you, but I donít have to be here, so Iím going home!"

But when I turn back around, instead of seeing the stairs, I see a beautiful pool of crystal clear water. I look behind me and the school is gone. Iím on a diving board suspended high up in the air with nothing around me but blue sky. Normally, Iím afraid of heights, but it doesnít even cross my mind now.

Arching my back, I reach my arms way out to the side and without a secondís worth of hesitation let my body fall forward. Air whooshes past my face. For a brief moment I feel the sweet, weightless freedom of falling. This only lasts for a moment, though, before my natural senses suddenly come rushing back.

My stomach flutters. I am completely overcome with the very realistic sensation of tumbling through the air like a skydiver without a parachute. I can feel myself start to panic, and in a desperate attempt to slow the descent start frantically spinning my arms and legs around like pinwheels. I open my mouth to scream. Then just as I am about to hit the water with unthinkable force, my body jerks awake.

It takes me a moment to make the connection, but as I do, I let out a deep sigh of relief. Comforting myself in the same way countless numbers of dreamers have done when things go bump in the night, I tell myself, "It was just a dream."

It was just a dream.

It was just a dream.

I have absolutely no way of knowing that this is the last time Iíll ever be able to tell myself that.

I think back on that dream a lot now. Itís funny, with everything that happened after, you wouldnít think that this dream would stand out that much, but it does. That memory represents simpler timesÖ and thatís what we all get nostalgic for, isnít it? Simpler times.




"I need some pills."

"Ya do, do ya now?" Doctor Kelly chuckled and glanced momentarily up from her desk. She was leafing through a folder of what I only could assume contained my vast and sordid medical history.

"Well, if it isnít my good friend, Travis Hunter. Itís good to see you again Trav; itís been awhile." Doctor Kelly smiled. She slapped her hands playfully on her thighs and rolled back on her chair, "walking" a few steps towards me while still seated. "Den I should let you know somezing." She looked around as if others might be listening in.


She cupped one hand around the side of her mouth, and in an exaggerated whisper said, "Iím a zerapist. Not a drug dealer."

I smiled from the doorway.

"Now come on in here and sit down. I want to catch up on everyzing datís been going on wid you."

Kellyís accent wasnít overwhelming, but was definitely detectable. Iíd never asked her what it was, maybe German? The only words you could really hear it on were the ones that have a "th" in them. For her it came out sounding more like a "d" or a "z."

She stood up, gave me a warm hug, and patted the chair directly in front of her desk for me to sit down. "Whereís your Mom?"

"She had stuff to do at the store."

I watched Doctor Kellyís skirt swish about her legs as she pulled her chair back behind her desk and sat down. She always wore long skirts and soft cotton tops that seemed to float about her when she moved. Kelly was very pretty in an earthy kind of way. She was tall and slender and her long hair was so blonde it looked almost white. I guessed she was probably around forty, but she looked exceptionally good for her age. She didnít have any wrinkles yet. In fact, about the only line on her face was that of an old, thin circular scar that hooked around the outside of her right eye.

"So whatís up? How are your folks?" Kelly asked.

"Good, I guess."

"Youíre about to start da big senior year, arenít you?"


"I ran into your Dad da odder day. He told me all about da new room dey gave you. Datís a big deal! You know how many teenagers would kill for somezing like dat?"

Iím not good with small talk. Kelly knows this, but I think itís her way of getting me to practice. Silence is my best defense when I realize Iíve been taken in. It works well in a number of ways. Mainly, I donít have to answer the questions, but it also it eats up a lot of time so I can stay in her office longer.

"Travis? Your room? Datís a big deal, huh?"

I take in all the strange statues and prints around her office. Itís cool and dark in the room and thereís always a faint smell of eucalyptus oil in the air. I like that.

"Travis? Whatís going on? You said you wanted some pills when you came in here. What was dat about?"

"Yeah, I canít sleep."

"Dere he is. Welcome back. You canít sleep. Okay, so how longís dis been going on?"

"Iím not sure, a few weeks I guess? Maybe a month or so."

Kelly looked down and scribbled thoughtfully on a piece of paper from the folder.

"So, since about da time school was getting ready to let out. Has anyzing else changed in dat time?"

"Other than me not sleeping?"


"I dunno." I said, blowing air out of the side of my mouth. "I guess Iíve had some kinda weird dreams and stuff, too."

Kelly stopped writing and looked up.

"What kind of weird dreams?"

"Just weird school stuff Öand, likeÖ I dunno, I guess Iím remembering a lot more of them."

"Huh." Kelly looked momentarily intrigued. When I said nothing more, she shook her head and looked back down.

"Well, we usually treat dat with some kind behavior modification first."

She began digging into a pile of papers on her desk. "I have a hand-out somewhere in dis mess. Youíd be surprised at how a couple of simple changes can really just make a world of difference."


At first it barely came out as more than a whisper.

"Okay, well I canít seem to find it, but I have a pretty good memory and I can probably-"


It came out with such force that Kelly flinchedófreezing mid-dig.

Everything stood still as our eyes met in the uncomfortable space my outburst had created. Oddly enough, I was the first to break it.

"That was weird. Iím sorry Doctor Kelly. Itís just, I donít want a handout. Thank you very much, though. What Iíd really like would be to try some sleeping pills." Then almost as an afterthought, like politeness would help my cause, "Please."

Doctor Kelly planted her arms firmly in front of her and instinctively leaned in.

"Now, Travis, you know Iím not da kind of doctor who just gives out pills."

"But you are a real doctor, right? You could if you wanted to."

The jab obviously got under her skin. "I donít believe a real doctor should simply medicate problems," she said. "I believe dey should get to da root of dem, but if you mean do I have a degree? Den, yes, I have several. Iíd be happy to show dem to you if youíd like."

I crossed my arms and sulked in retaliation.

It was another failure in my life. The line for the mid-day medication break in my school was just as long as the lunch line. Of course my Mom wouldíve had to set me up with the only psychiatrist across three states that didnít believe in medicating her patients. Unless you counted herbal remedies. Doctor Kelly was a holistic therapist.

Her voice softened. "Travis, why do you zink you need medication?"

"I told you. I have a sleeping problem." Then under my breath I added, "Everyone else does it. I donít know why I canít."

Again silence. My eyes dropped from hers to the floor and then floated back up to settle on the bookcase just over her right shoulder. She watched me closely, waiting for me to say more.

On the shelf in a thick silver frame was a photograph of a man with two small children.

"Thatís a nice picture," I said. I got up from my seat and walked over to the bookcase.

Doctor Kelly shifted uncomfortably in her seat, absentmindedly brushing her fingers over the scar on the side of her face. "Dank you."

I picked up the photo and looked back at her. "Is this your family?"

She nodded.

"They look good." I said. "They all have nice smiles." My hand lifted self-consciously to my own mangled mouth as I said this, then jerked back down.

Doctor Kelly picked up her pen and tapped the bottom of it on the desk a few times, her face tightening.

I held my breath, waiting for her to take the bait.

Itís not like I felt sorry for myself. You see all people use their looks to their advantage. Whereas a beautiful woman might use her sexuality to manipulate people in certain situations, a person with unappealing looks can just as easily use guilt and sympathy to get what they want. Itís a basic survival technique.

Even the great Doctor Kelly Jansen was not immune to this strategy. With her many degrees and years of practice she may have had a better idea of what I was doing, but in the end she was still human. She had the basic primal need to help me. "You know," she said, "youíre right, Travis. You arenít like everyone else."

Kelly exhaled deeply and stood up. She walked over to me and gently removed the photograph from my hands. After running her hand over the image, Kelly placed the picture back on the shelf. She turned to face me. "I know dat you donít understand dis now, but itís not always a bad zing to be different. Itís da people dat go against da grain dat are da most interesting."

"Hm," I hummed. "Thatís easy for someone like you to say."


"Youíve never had to deal with not fitting in."

"And how do you know dat?"

"I can just tell," I said, turning away. Leaning over, I began to inspect some of the others items on the shelf.

"Is dat what you want, to fit in?"

"I donít know." I shrugged. "Itíd be nice to try, I guess." Then I picked up a little white statue. "Whatís this?"

"Ahhh," Doctor Kelly sighed. "Datís Dub-belt-jeí."


She laughed. "Dub-belt-jeí," Kelly repeated. "According to Dutch folklore Dub-belt-jeí was a cat dat saved da life of a beautiful little girl when her grandmodder didnít want her."

"Why didnít her grandmother want her?"

"Because she was a girl."

"Huh." I turned the statue over in my hands. It was made out of stone and had the head of a panther with the body of a man.

"It was a very long time ago." Kelly said.

She took the statue from me and placed it back on the shelf where it belonged. I leaned in and continued looking, my hands behind my back.

"Zanks to dat cat, da little girl grew up to be quite a loved and respected woman," Kelly added.

"Cool. So are you Dutch or something? Is that how you know about that?"

"Yes." Doctor Kelly answered. "Or somezing."

"So is that your accent then?"

"Yes. Why? What did you zink it was?"

"I dunno, German or something."

Kelly laughed. "Well, it is a West Germanic language so I suppose I can see dat. Of course, English is, too. Do you know any odder languages, Travis?"


"Ahh, Americans and deir schools." She sighed. "In Holland we start speaking English at a very young age. Za Dutch speak many different languages. Iíve never understood why Americans are so satisfied wid just speaking one."

She watched intently as I continued to rummage through her things. Then in a low voice, more to herself than to me, she said, "I guess sometimes we all need a little help."

Doctor Kelly walked over to her desk and got a key out of the top drawer. "You know what? I have somezing you might like even better." She took the key over to a cabinet in the corner of the room.

I watched with curiosity as she unlocked the cabinet and pulled out a thin drawer lined with blue fabric.

"In fact, it might even help you." Doctor Kelly removed a black velvet pouch. "Dereís another legend," she said." Dis one is even older."

"Is it Dutch, too?"

"Itís kind ofóeverybody," she answered thoughtfully. Closing the cabinet, Kelly walked over to me and handed me the bag. "Dere is said to be a secret society," she explained, "called ĎDa Lucid,í Who has found a way to escape all of da constraints of humanity. Dey are believed to have created deir own worldóso whatever laws, uprisings, or challenges dey are ever faced with, dey can find solace."

"Where?" I asked. "Where is this world supposed to be?"

Doctor Kelly tapped the bag. "In zeir dreams."

I gave her a funny look and loosened the drawstrings. A dark green stone fell out into my hand. It had little red splotches on it and was hung with three small chains from a silver crescent that looked like the moon. The metal of the crescent looked very old, as if it had been pounded by hand.

"You made me zink of it when you mentioned your dreams earlier." Kelly said. "I zought you might appreciate it."

"What is it?"

"Itís a talisman. According to legend, it was originally used by da Lucid as a gateway to da dream world."

"Thatís really cool," I said, "Whatís it got to do with me?"

"Talismans are very magical. Dey have da power to make extraordinary transformations. Why donít you keep it for a while? See how it works?"

"Oh, come on," I disagreed. "You donít really believe that, do you?"

Doctor Kelly smiled. "I believe very much in powerful transformations. Besides," she added with a wink, "bloodstones are supposed to be great healing stonesóexcellent for sleep problems." She took the talisman, dropped it in the bag, and handed it back to me.

It took a moment for me to realize what she was doing, but as it sunk in, I shook my head. "Youíre good." I said. "Youíre really good."

She laughed and patted my back. "So youíll try it?"

"Yeah, Iíll try it."

The moment must have grounded me, which probably was all part of Doctor Kellyís plan. Because of this, I was actually able to sit back down and talk with her. We discussed the weather and my familyĖnothing big.

When I left, though, she asked me to be careful with the talisman.

I promised her I would, but really, I wanted to give it back. It seemed so old and so special, something that had great value to her. (It had its own locked space in her office, for Peteís sake!) I wondered if the talisman was worth a lot of moneyóa thought which instantly made me feel even worse.

You see, I didnít have a sleeping problem. Iíd made the whole thing up. I just wanted something to talk about. Thatís the thing with therapistsóthey like to talk, and I had absolutely nothing going on in my life worth talking about. I chose a sleeping problem simply because it seemed like something that was hard to prove.

Little did I know that my lie and the doctorís talisman were about to make all of my dreams come true. And that as I began my walk home, I was about to run into the one person who (despite her own knowledge or wishes) was about to take that journey with me.



She was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. The most beautiful girl the town of Everton had ever seen. Her name was Corrine Johnson, but Corri is what her friends called her.

If only I could be named in that company.

Everton, Indiana, is small by big city standards, but not small enough where you absolutely know everyone in it. Although Corri and I are the same age, we go to different schools. With the myriad cliques and subcultures that come with adolescence, saying you go to different schools is pretty much the same thing as saying you live in different states. She recognizes me, Iím sure, because I come to the store all the time. But weíve never had any kind of exchange long enough to be considered a real conversation.

And Iím certain that Corrine Johnson doesnít remember the first time we ever saw each other. Even though, for me, it was one of the defining moments of my life.

She had been thirteen and was walking with friends outside of the town library. The sun caught amber tones in her hair that day and the fiery tips made it look as though she were being illuminated from within, like the small white bags with candles that line our neighborhood streets at Christmas. She had this way of throwing her head back when she laughed that got her whole body involved. Iíd never seen somebody laugh like that before.

As I walked past her on my way into the library, she smiled at me. Iím sure it was just a passing acknowledgment to her, but for me, the whole universe shifted. A charged light filled my entire beingófor the first time, I felt completely alive.

I had witnessed perfection. And for a moment it had witnessed meóit had smiled upon me!

My heart began to pound as I neared the coffee house bookstore where she worked. Every crack in the concrete was studied, counted, and memorized, so that without even lifting my head, I knew by the step how close I was to the entrance. A charming, familiar bell rang out as I pushed open the door.

That bell is as close to religion as I come.

"Hello!" Corri waved, then promptly turned her attention back to one of the coffeemakers behind the counter. She always had the same greeting and smile for everyone.

I said nothing in return, just quietly shuffled back to the metal book carousels on the other side of the store. Plucking a paperback from one of their shelves, I pretended to skim its pages. My breath quickened and went shallow at the realization that all that separated us were just a few cafe tables.

"Corri, can you make the regular first? Iím dyiní ova here!" Marissa came bounding out of the back kitchen speaking in a horrible, over the top, fake New York accent. She stopped and sighed when she saw me, as if someone let the air out of a balloon.

"Oh. Hey, Travis." After a beat and awkward stare she whipped back around to Corri, theatrics returning. "We had soooooo much fun last night. You really should have come out." Yanking the coffee pot out of Corriís hand, Marissa droned on about people I knew, doing things I never would. I let her voice fade into the background.

Unlike Corri, Marissa did go to my school. She was a year behind me, a self-proclaimed theatre nerd who was neither nice nor cruel to me. Everything about her was loud: her voice. Her makeup. Even her hair was loudóhard, black, sharp, and sprayed.

The two of them standing next to each other made for such a stark contrast. Taking advantage of their conversation, I summoned the courage to peer over the top of my book.

Corri was standing sideways, listening with a light smile on her lips. She never tried to look pretty; she just was. Her profile was perfect, with a delicate frame and flawless pale skin. Her shoulder length light brown hair had subtle waves in it, which you could still kind of see even though she usually tied it back at work. If she wore make-up, I couldnít tell. And almost every time I saw her, she wore blue jeans, a white t-shirt, and tennis shoes. I wondered what she looked like in a dress.

The bell above the door rang loudly and two forceful baritone voices ripped into my musings. "Whatís up, ladies?"

"Oh my God, John, I was just telling Corri how much fun we had last night!" Marissa leaned over the counter smacking her gum in what I could only assume was her attempt at being seductive.

His younger brother Terry stayed up front, but John bypassed Marissa immediately and walked a few steps down the counter so that he was opposite Corrine. I hated how tall he was. On a good day, I was 5í5". John must have had almost a whole foot on me.

Grinning, he used his strong forearms to prop himself up on the counter. "Whatís a guy gotta do to get you to go out with him, Corri?"

"I go out with you guys plenty," she answered, picking up a rag to wipe down the counters. "Iím not missing anything. We do the same old thing every time."

"I mean just you and me, Core. Whaddya say? When you gonna let me take you out?"

"Find someone your own age."

John snorted with laughter. "Iíve tried, but none of themís as pretty as you. Sides, I ainít that much older than you."

"Iím busy."

"I didnít say when."

"Iím not big into going out. Iíd rather just stay in and read a book."

"A girl like you doesnít need to be stuck inside reading. You donít have any sense, girl!"

"I have enough sense not to get involved with the likes of you."

Without realizing it I let out a laugh from behind the book carousel.

The room stopped.

Terry, who had been silent until now, asked, "Hey, whoís back there?"

I sidestepped a bit, clutching my book to my chest.

"Who is that? I see you back there."

Terry was only a year younger than John and although they had similar features (perfect white smiles, blonde hair, and striking blue eyes), Terry was significantly smaller. But what he lacked in size, he more than made up for in bitterness.

"Thomas? Thatís your name right?"

I just held up my book as if that explained what I was laughing at, or what I was doing at the store in the first place. Looking down, I quickly walked over to the counter and put it down to pay.

Corri came over to the cash register, smiling politely and kindly.

Terry began to whistle some little nondescript tune as she did. The notes were all terribly off-key, but something told me that even if they werenít, I still wouldnít be able to make out the song.

"So you think Corriís funny, do ya Thomas?"

Terry stopped whistling and I could feel his eyes move over me as I pulled my wallet out of my back pocket.

"Leave him alone, Terry," she said. "Itís nice to see you again. Thatíll be eighteen sixty four." Corrine put her hand out for the money.

"What? Iím just askiní. Youíre funny. Sheís funny, right guys?"

Marissa and John chuckled.

Terry came closer to me. He leaned his back against the register crossing his arms and legs. He was so close I could feel his breath.

"Sheís real pretty, too, isnít she? You like looking at her?"

"Terry, knock it off."

My body, as I was so accustomed to, once again betrayed me. I willed it to stop, but the warmth had already moved up my spine and into my face as I handed Corri the twenty dollar bill.

"Heís turning beet red! Oh my God look what you did, Corri! You didnít even have to touch him!" Terry roared. "You got this guy all hot and bothered. Just look at him!"

Everyone but Corrine erupted into laughter.

"Terry, I said knock it off!" She looked at me and smiled again. "Donít pay them any attention. They only just started walking upright." Corrine closed the register and handed me the change.

Calmly, she picked up the book. "I like Bill Bryson. This is one of my favorites." She leafed through a few pages of "A Walk in the Woods." "You know, he grew up in a small town like this? In Iowa."

All I could do was nod and look back down at the floor.

She smiled and handed it back to me.

Seeing her reaction, Terry now tried to put his arm around my shoulder. "Hey no hard feelings, kid. I was just kidding around. Just haviní some fun, OK?"

I wriggled out from under his arm and quickly hurried over to the door.

Corri must have given Terry a look because as the door closed behind me I heard him yell, "What? How was I supposed to know the guy was a mute?" Obviously he had forgotten my laugh was what had sparked the whole exchange.

None of that mattered, though. She had spoken to me. It was one of the most thrilling things that had ever happened. Not only had she spoken to me, but I was now holding something that was precious to her. "One of her favorites," she had said. I hadnít even looked at the title until she said that.

* * *

My strides were wide and fast, yet the concrete seemed to stretch and lengthen with every step.

I lived only a few short blocks down from the coffee shop, right above the laundromat my parents owned. Our building was three stories high. The bottom floor was completely devoted to the laundromat. The second floor was our living space, and until recently the top floor had been used only for storage.

My Dad had cleaned in out a few weeks ago. "Your first apartment" is what he called it. He was so excited when he first showed it to me. He and my mother presented it as an early graduation gift. They said it would give me more privacyómake me feel more independent.

I think they were disappointed by my reaction. It would have been any other seventeen-year-oldís dream-come-true, but what did I need privacy for?

By the time I reached the building, I had broken into a full-fledged run. Bursting through the side entrance, I stumbled at the base of the stairs which led up to all three floors. I must have only touched down twice before reaching the top. In one swift movement, I made it through the door, across the room, and over to the modern gray fold-out couch I used as a bed.

I flopped down on my stomach, gasping for air. With the book in front of me, I used my feet to work off my shoes, and began reading. The book was about one manís quest to hike the entire length of the Appalachian Trail. It was almost voyeuristic, imagining Corrine as she read, sharing in what must have been her reactions to the authorís every triumph and defeat.

The idea of being somewhere she had been and feeling things she must have felt was so intoxicating that I couldnít let the story end. When I got to the last page, I refused to read it. Instead I went back a few chaptersójust to make sure I hadnít missed anything. The next time I got to the last page, I flipped back to the beginning and started skimming through all of the chapters againóreliving passages at random.

This game went on for hours, during which my mother must have come up three or four times to ask me to come down for dinner. I told her I didnít feel well. She ended up leaving a half a sandwich and soup by the side of the bed.

Daylight retreated unnoticed and the food remained untouched.

When my eyes and body finally did succumb to the strain, I folded the second to last page and placed the book down next to me on the bed. I put my hand on its cover, as if swearing on a Bible, and vowed to save the end for a time when I really needed it.

Being in one position for so long had made my entire body stiff. I felt the soreness in every muscle as I carefully rolled onto my back and stared up at the ceiling. Every time I blinked, there was a bright flash of light and the ceiling appeared to get closer. Hoping to counteract the effect, I turned to the side.

Thatís when I felt the talisman. Its hard, round edges dug into my skin through the pocket of my jeans. I fished it out with my hand, and laid it out on the bed in front of me. The red flecks against the dark green of the stone looked like blood, but it was really quite beautiful. Flipping the talisman over, I discovered that there was a word carved into the back: dromencian.

I ran my finger over the deep groves of the letters, then groaned and fell back on the bed as a fresh new wave of guilt washed over me. If Doctor Kelly had really believed and cared enough to give me such a precious artifact, I least owed it to her to try one of her hippie therapies.

Placing the talisman on my forehead I closed my eyes. "Do your magic." I said sarcastically. Taking a deep breath, I laced my fingers together, and rested my hands on my stomach.

Over the next twenty minutes, I gradually felt my heart rate slow. As I concentrated on the rhythm of it, a warming sensation started at the crown of my head. It pulsed at the same speed as my heart and spread slowly, like honey, down the entire length of my body. Whatever tension there was in my muscles or care that existed in my mind completely melted away. It was extraordinary! An exquisite state of relaxation I never knew was possible.

Was I asleep? Was I awake?

Curious, I tried to open my eyes, but instead of seeing my room, my mindís eye was lit up with a few bursts of brilliantly colored light.

What was that?!

The flashes of light had startled me, but my body did not react. Willing myself to move, I was surprised to find that I no longer had control of my body. I was physically powerless, locked somewhere in this mysterious state between sleep and wakefulness.

This is certainly an odd situation to be in. I thought. Should I try to sleep or should I try to get up?

It didnít take more than a few seconds for me to come to the conclusion that being awake was nothing worth fighting for, so I let go. I surrendered myself fully and completely to whatever powerful grip this strange place of limbo had over me.

For a brief moment, I felt as if I was floating.

Then, just as my mind began to succumb to sleep, suddenly and without warning, the most unusual thing happened.





Author Bio

A veteran writer, voice artist, and on-air personality, Natalie Roers has been the host of hit radio and television shows in just about every region of the United States. She also owns her own voice-over business where she creates everything from songs and ringtones to commercials and sound effects for clients around the globe. A journalist by trade, Natalie is excited to venture into the world of fiction and hopes to raise money and social awareness for worthy causes with each book she writes. She lives with her husband Cory, and son Austin, in Columbia, South Carolina.

TTB title: Lucid

Author web site.




Lucid Copyright © 2013. Natalie Roers. All rights reserved by the author. Please do not copy without permission.


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List Price: $6.50 USD

Format: Trade Paperback
    Available July 2013!
List Price: $15.95 USD


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"...Brimming with adolescent angst regarding intimacy and choice, this simplistic bildungsroman will most appeal to young fantasy fans."
~ Publishers Weekly

"Roers' debut novel heralds the arrival of an intelligent, heartfelt voice in the world of young adult fiction. The rich characters, emotional complexity, and confident prose are matched only by the landscape of dreams that Roers sets them against... a landscape brought vividly to life by the author's seemingly boundless imagination. This is a novel that respects its readers as much as its characters, and that's a beautiful rarity."
~ Mike Flanagan, Filmmaker, Absentia and Oculus

"Natalie Roers' debut novel is both riveting and relevant. More than a paranormal/fantasy/thriller, this is a complex tale that cuts to the very of heart of issues facing young adults today. Well sculptured characters and powerful imagery propel Roers' fascinating narrative."
~ Jason Tinney (Award-winning freelance journalist, musician, actor and the author of the story collection Bluebird.)

"Lucid is an interesting story and a fun read."
~ Amy Carol Reeves, author of Ripper and Renegade

"Natalie Roers' voice is amazingly confident for a first novelist. Her journalist's eye for human detail draws you in, and makes you care about the people who populate the LUCID world. The more I got to know them, both awake and asleep in the world of lucid dreaming, the more time I wanted to spend in their world."
~ Jeff Howard, writer for Film District and Focus Features.





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