Roy was enjoying himself immensely on the beach of his dreams. He was in his bed, at home, in Rugby, North Dakota, and had never before in his waking life been to a beach. But in his subconscious, Roy was on a beach, enjoying himself immensely.
As he often told his friends, Roy was good at dreaming. He dreamt lucidly, powerfully, with a sort of command over the entire experience. Since early childhood he had dreamt of his beach, and in the intervening years had constructed around it an island, with mountains and valleys and jungles, all known to him as well as one knows his own house. He had named everything, and had even drawn a map of the entire isle while awake, to show his closest friends. He was not sure what they made of him, except that they were polite and at least feigned a reasonable amount of interest when he spoke about his time on the island. He had dreamt himself there every night of his life as long as he could remember.
Roy lay on the sand with no towel, as there were no towels on the island. Roy was somewhat strict about what was and was not allowed on the island, for if he materialized objects recklessly, it put a strain on his ability to maintain the clarity and realism of the dream. Simply willing a beachfront cabin into existence, for example, was highly disruptive to his subconscious, and he would be much more inclined to provide himself with a saw, hammer, and nails and build one out of materials already present on the island. Only on the rare occasions he chose to expand the island did he resort to such drastic forms of conjuration.
It was understandable then, that Roy, in over twenty years of such dreaming, had never even considered attempting to produce a person to accompany him in his dream. To do so would simply be too difficult. It would be impossible to construct and maintain a complete personality, wholly separate from his own, without first losing his sanity. It was likewise no surprise, then, that Roy was nearly startled awake when, while lying blissfully on the beach, he opened his eyes to look at the blue sky, and instead found himself staring into two blue eyes. A long-haired, dark-skinned young lady was kneeling at his head, leaning her face over his, looking expectant.
“Is this your island?” she asked.
Roy pushed himself away rapidly and jumped to his feet. He felt an impulse to ask the obvious question, but the highly developed sense of self control that made his concrete dreaming possible allowed him to prevent himself. Asking who she was would be meaningless. Something was simply going wrong. Perhaps he had simply lost his subconscious concentration and had allowed some normal form of dreaming to take place. Such an occurrence would be easy to fix.
Roy spent a few moments trying to will her out of existence. The young woman simply knelt on the sand, looking at him quizzically.
“Go away!” Roy ended up saying, audibly, hoping verbalization would make the mental command more powerful.
“Go away?” the young lady said, sounding a little sarcastic, “And where would I go? You haven’t even told me where I am!”
Shocked by being confronted with outright defiance in a world of his own making, Roy turned and walked away down the coastline, talking to himself.
“She’s not there, there is no woman. I am not losing it, this is my dream.”
He could hear the young woman following him.
“My name is Celia,” she said. Roy stopped abruptly and tensed. He slowly turned around and glared at her. She looked back, unabashed.
“You have a name?”
“Why, of course! Shall I give you one?”
Roy sputtered uselessly for a few moments, causing Celia to giggle at him.
“I HAVE a name!” he practically shouted, “Because I am real and this is my dream! What business do you have, having a name?!”
“A dream?!” Celia exclaimed.
“Of course,” Roy said, softening his tone, “I, uh, I’m sorry, I just feel ridiculous. You are a part of my dream and here I am talking to you as though you are a real person, it just, it’s strange, y’know?”
“But if this is your dream, I’m not a real person, am I?”
“Well, no, you wouldn’t be.”
Celia seemed distressed by this news. In spite of himself, Roy felt compelled to comfort her.
“But, uh, you do… seem very real. I do not appear, to, um, have control over you, and I usually do. Have control over things, I mean.”
“Then, could we at least… pretend I am real?” she asked hesitantly.
“I, uh, suppose we could,” Roy said, feeling a bit bewildered.
Celia brightened at this and approached Roy, taking his arm in hers.
“So, this is your island then?” she said, smiling up at him.
Roy felt an unexpected rush of excitement. As much as he enjoyed telling others about his island in the waking world, here was someone to whom he could actually give a tour.
“Yes!” he exclaimed, “Let me-- come with me! I’ll show you everything!”
For several weeks Roy and Celia traversed the island. It had grown, of course, over the years, and was currently a rather impressive size, with all sorts of interesting locales: A semi active volcano, some ancient ruins (which were in reality only eleven years old), myriads of ponds and lagoons, and plenty of beaches to walk along.
Roy knew full well Celia was merely an illusion, and he reminded himself of this constantly. Still, bit by bit he found himself becoming enamored by her beauty and enthusiastic personality. At first he was determined to remain emotionally detached, as she was not real and would not be with him when he woke up, but gradually the rationality for doing so seemed more and more remote to him, and eventually he allowed himself to become romantically inclined toward her. The fact he had absolutely no control over her helped strengthen this emotion; even if she wasn't, she seemed exactly like a real person, and he found he liked her a great deal.
Roy was tremendously embarrassed to find himself afraid to inform Celia of his feelings. Was he actually fearful of being rejected by a woman who did not, in fact, exist? Roy felt absolutely ridiculous.
Still, he approached the issue as clumsily as any normal lover would. Though the world he stood on was his, he was no god, and Celia did not belong to him. He picked some flowers one day and presented them to her in a nervous fashion.
“These, are, ah, these are for you,” he said simply.
Seeing her large blue eyes light up with pleasant surprise dispelled most of his tension.
“Oh! Thank you!” she said, and hugged him firmly about the middle. Roy took the opportunity to gently grasp the back of her head and kiss her on the top of it.
Celia froze suddenly, her entire body going rigid. Roy looked down at her as she backed away slowly. Upon her face was a look of extreme fright, and tears began to flow.
They were only separated a moment before she threw the flowers aside and crashed back into him, gripping him tightly and burying her face in his chest. He could feel her nails in his back as she wailed.
“No! Don’t wake up! Please! Please don’t wake up! Please! Stay asleep, don’t wake up!”
Roy’s mind reeled. He was suddenly struck with immense length of the dream. How long had he been asleep? Would waking up mean death for Celia? Her terror quickly convinced him of this.
“Celia!” he shouted above her, “I won’t wake up! I’ll stay asleep!”
“No!” her screams became deafening, “They’re waking you up RIGHT NOW!”
Roy shouted incoherently, sitting straight up in his hospital bed as a nurse finished administering a powerful stimulant via injection into his arm. He swung at her viciously, striking her in the face with the back of his hand, the needle still stuck in his arm.
Roy screamed himself hoarse. Friends and family tried to comfort him, but he shouted at them until he was left alone to cry until he was cried out, and then sulked and spoke to nobody for two full days. He ate nothing.
But eventually hunger got the better of him, and he ate, and he spoke a little, and learned he had been in a coma for over a month. And eventually, gradually, he came to terms with what had happened, or rather, had not happened. Several days more and he had recovered enough to be sent home.
That night Roy sat up late, reading and giving furtive glances at his bed. He had barely dozed since being awoken several days prior. Soon, fatigue, like hunger and all other human needs, asserted its power over him, and he lay down to sleep.
He did not dream.