What Unbound Us

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Chapter 2: A Little Bit of Insight

When my eyes finally opened, my first thought was that I entered space, because it looked like every image I had seen of it; a blackness only interrupted by twinkling stars in the distance. My next thought was that I died, but when my arms moved to my torso I let out a sigh of relief. The nothingness around me felt claustrophobic even though it seemed to stretch on for infinity, and in my panic my arms flailed around, looking for something to hold on to. At not seeing anything I decided to resign myself to the emptiness, but then a voice called out to me.

“David!” the voice groaned.

“Who’s there?” I asked, flipping in the air in search of the voice’s source.

“Look above you David.”

I did what it asked, and gasped. Hanging not far above me was an elderly man with tufts of white hair sticking up from his head. The man wore a gray suit with a striped red and yellow tie, and he sat on a huge comfy chair, a small table with some books on it next to him. He smiled when he saw me, but I just frowned, not sure what to think of him. His appearance was so out of place there that it verged on inappropriate for me, and while he seemed innocent enough, something didn’t feel quite right about him, especially his gaze. When I drifted closer to him, he spoke again.

“David Emmanuel Turner. Born September 29, 1993, from a small town in California.”

I narrowed my eyes at him. “How do you know who I am?”

“I know who everyone is. It’s my job to.”

“What, are you supposed to be God or something?” I asked, raising an eyebrow at him. I didn’t believe that as a possibility, but I listened to what he had to say next.

“No, I am not God. My name is Grim,” the old man said, extending his hand out for me to shake.

“Oh no, I am dead!” I cried, shrinking away from him.

Grim scowled down at me. “You’re not dead, but you are in a delicate state of being right now. Tell me David, do you remember how you got here?”

“I was trying to save Emma from the dragon,” I said.

Grim shook his head. “No, before that. How did you end up in the dream?”

I sighed. “If you really know everything, you would know that I honestly don’t remember. Why are you even asking me? I’m pretty sure you know how I got into this mess.”

“You’re right, I do know. I just wanted to see if you could figure it out for yourself,” Grim said.

“Well it’s obvious I can’t, so can you just get me out of here, please? I don’t want to do this anymore. I played along with Emma when she wanted to go into that knight story, but this isn’t funny anymore.”

“I’m sorry David, but I can’t get you out. This is something you need to do yourself.”

“What? I don’t understand,” I said.

“The truth is there’s a reason you and Emma are connected, and you both can’t leave until you figure it out and do what needs to be done,” Grim explained.

“So we’re definitely not dead then? Are we in comas or something?” I asked.

Grim gave no answer in response, and instead just stared at me with his piercing grey eyes that looked disturbed, as if they had seen too much. Maybe it went into the personality of an otherworldly being to have eyes that tried to dissect your soul with their gaze.

When I couldn’t take his stare any longer, I let out a groan. “Look, I honestly don’t know what you want from me. What do you want me to know? How I got into this dream? I have no fucking clue. For all I know I could have been in my own dream before this!”

“You were actually, but I was actually trying to get you to remember your real life, not your dream one,” Grim said.

I froze, glancing up at Grim again. “I really was in my own dream? Well what was I doing, and how did I even get out?”

“You got out because you finally figured out what you truly wanted in life.”

I glared at him. “This conversation doesn’t seem like it’s getting me anywhere!”

“No, there is a point to all of this, but you’re just too stubborn to see it. Just think about it for a bit and you’ll realize what I’m talking about. Before this dream, what were you doing with your life?” Grim asked.

“I already told you I don’t remember.”

“I know that’s not true. I know bits and pieces are coming back to you, no matter how much you try to repress the memories. Just sit and think for a second. You’ve got time. Do you remember anything, anything at all about your life or the night you ended up in the dream?”

I frowned up at him, not wanting to think about it. When his gaze became unsettling again though I sighed and closed my eyes, allowing myself to drift away into my own mind.

I guess it made sense that the easiest thing for me to recall was my last real memory. Even so, the details of getting to that memory remained foggy, like reading a story where someone has prior knowledge because the book got spoiled already, but not knowing how the pieces fit together or when they even came up in the narrative. The more I concentrated though, the more the memory took shape in my mind. What came back to me first was an image of me sitting at my desk in my apartment bedroom, my computer screen glowing brightly as I tried to arrange a music playlist for one of my class finals. If I made a good enough playlist my professor would surely let me have my own segment on our college’s radio station that upcoming spring semester, and that’s all I really wanted. As I contemplated using several possible songs, I heard my cell phone ringing and saw that it was from my mom.

“Hello?” I said, waiting for her to reply.

“David! I’m so glad you’re still awake. I need your help. Please, have you heard anything from Pete lately?” my mom asked.

I frowned. “No, I haven’t even seen him since Thanksgiving. Why? He’s not home?”

“No, he’s not. He hasn’t been home for a week.”

I sighed into the phone. “Mom, Pete’s twenty three years old. He’s not a kid anymore, and he’s definitely disappeared for longer stretches of time than this.”

“But he hasn’t done this in years. I’m worried about him, I mean, what if he’s doing drugs? We still never figured out where he used to go off to. Why does he hate us so much? I’m also worried about Tricia though.”

I froze at the mention of my younger sister. “What do you mean? What’s wrong with Tricia?”

“She just seems very depressed lately. She doesn’t talk to us anymore, and just hides up in her room watching movies. I think she misses you and Pete,” my mom said.

Once again I sighed into the phone, glancing at my laptop’s screen just as it turned one in the morning. “Would it help if I came to visit for a little bit? I mean, finals week starts on Monday, but I could come home for a couple of days.”

“Oh David, you don’t have to do that. We’ll be seeing you next week anyways.”

“Then why’d you call me so late if you didn’t want me to do something about it? Just wait okay, I’ll be home in an hour or so, and there shouldn’t be any traffic. Talk to you later,” I said, hanging up on her.

Getting up from my desk chair, I stepped over to my closet and grabbed a bunch of random clothes and shoved them into the backpack usually lying on my floor. Then I turned off my laptop and shoved that into the bag as well before putting on an olive colored jacket over my red shirt and slipping on my grey Chucks. With one last look around the room I made sure I wasn’t forgetting anything before leaving. Out in the living room sat my roommate Greg on the couch, watching some late night cartoons. When he heard me exit my room he turned towards me and yawned.

“Hey David, where are you going?” Greg asked.

“Home. My family needs me,” I said.

“What? How late is it? I don’t think you should be going out dude. It’s almost finals week. Do they really need you so soon?”

“Something’s going on with Pete. He hasn’t been home in a week.”

“What? Your low life brother? But you don’t even like him. You complain about him and your family all the time, and yet you’re just going to take off in the middle of the night? That doesn’t make any sense,” Greg said.

I groaned. “It’s complicated dude, trust me.”

“Not really. Usually if you don’t like something, you stay as far away from it as possible. That’s common sense.”

“Look, I have to do this for my mom. And…I have to take care of Tricia. I do love her you know. I know I’ve said that much before,” I said, turning to him.

“Oh, your sister? The one with the problems?” Greg asked.

I glared at him. “Tricia doesn’t have problems! She’s just going through a rough time right now and I want to help her, okay?”

“Fine, do whatever. I’m going to bed soon anyways. Make sure you lock the door on the way out,” Greg said, clicking off the TV.

I watched him get up from the couch and step around me to walk down the hall to his room. When his door closed behind him I sighed. While I appreciated Greg trying to be helpful in his own way, he wasn’t the most tactful individual I knew, and it made him annoying to be around sometimes. Then again, most of my friends acted just like that. It made it hard to talk to them, because they saw the world only in black and white when life really was a messed up shade of grey. At that moment too I remember becoming self aware of my own actions towards my friends and family, and how I really wasn’t as grey as I strived to be even when I injected the color into the majority of my wardrobe.

The last thing I remember was growling in frustration and heading towards the door, hoping I’d be able to help Tricia. After that, I could only hear honking and the last image of bright lights taking over my vision.

My eyes snapped open and I shuddered, hugging myself tightly. At the action I noticed my outfit was different than the one in my memory; a black jacket, a simple grey shirt underneath, jeans, and my grey Chucks. If it was supposed to be symbolic, I knew it was better not think about what it could mean.

“That looks like the face of someone enlightened,” Grim said.

I jumped, forgetting about his presence. “Not exactly, but it helped me remember the moments before…what, a car crash? I’m still not sure how Emma is involved in all of this. Was she in the same accident? Oh no, did I cause the accident?”

Grim just sighed. “I guess it’s too early for you to understand, but you didn’t cause the accident.”

“Okay? But then why would Emma and I magically become trapped in her dream? What’s the point of all of this?” I cried.

“David, you were placed in Emma’s dream for a reason: you must help her get out. I’ll admit that I pulled the strings on this, because I think you’re perfect for the job. Emma hasn’t been able to save herself, so I thought some additional support would be good. It’s not going to be easy, but I know you can do it.”

“What? What do you mean I need to save Emma? I’m pretty sure she’s capable of handling things herself. She’s been unraveling this dream well before I showed up. How can you have such little faith in her?” I asked.

“It’s not that I don’t have faith in her—”

“But that’s exactly what this is! You’re suggesting that Emma is some damsel in distress, and I reject that. Despite the story we just went in to, Emma showed me her stack of books. She’s not giving up on getting out of here, and she’s definitely tougher than I am about that. She really doesn’t need me.”

“But she does,” Grim said.

“No. No she really doesn’t. And in any case, I barely know her! How can you ask me to do this for someone I don’t know? I don’t even know how much I’m going to have to sacrifice by the end of this, but I’m not okay with not knowing what lays in store for me, and I just want to go home. I’m not just going to trust some creepy old man with my fate because it’s the only way for me to get out. You’d have to be crazy to believe I’d be okay with this.” I crossed my arms over my chest and glared at him, waiting for him to reply.

Grim just raised an eyebrow at me in response, but his piercing eyes had an angry gleam in them. “Is there something wrong with being selfless? And you do realize that over time you will get to know her. I see that you’re already taking a liking to her anyways.”

I blushed. “Well I find her interesting is all. Like I said, I don’t know her well enough yet. This isn’t my fight, it’s hers. I don’t appreciate being tugged like this.”

“You will soon enough David. And secondly, there is more going on in the background that you have yet to understand. Yes, Emma is strong, but everyone has those inner demons that never truly go away. They gnaw at your soul, and even if you are strong, they can trip you up. That is what is happening to Emma, and that is why she needs help.”

“Inner demons? So she really just needs support, not someone to save her. That sounds like she’s being held hostage or something,” I said.

“Whatever you want to call it, you’re still going to help her. You have no say in this. Both of you will not be able to leave the dream until you figure it out. I guess for now I’ve said all that I could possibly say. More than likely I will see you again, so for now you must go back and save Emma from the dragon,” Grim said, staring down at me.

“Wait! I still have so many questions to ask you. Please, you can’t be doing this! Like what inner demon can possibly be bothering Emma this much? Who even are you that you can be pulling all these strings?” I asked, stalling for time.

“Those questions can only be answered in time. You will have to figure them out by yourself. Goodbye David,” Grim said, as I felt myself being sucked away from him.

“No wait!” I said, but it was already too late.

I tried to drag myself forward, but some invisible force kept pulling me back. Then I went flying backwards towards a light in the distance, and everything turned grey.

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