The Dream Counsellor

Here is another one of my stories from twenty years ago. Hope you like it!

 

The spirit hovers over the pool oblivious to the noise and confusion below. In fact, the spirit cannot hear what is going on, the screams, the cries. All the spirit can sense is the wavering life force of the small body being pumped free of chlorinated water and artificially forced to breathe. The spirit would make its move soon. The tiny body it had been imprisoned in had already lost it’s fight. It’s life force had drifted off into the ether, freeing both the spirit and its spiritual guard. It must find a resting place before it too was dragged off into spiritual infinity.

Below, the life force begins to glow more strongly around the little body. The time had come. The spirit dived straight down into this force, causing a brief flash of deepest purple as it did so. It was safe. It had a new home. It was no longer a prisoner. A brief flash of pale mauve belied this thought as the guard too found a new home, before the life force of the child strengthened and closed itself off to potential invaders. All was as it was before, only guard and prisoner had found a new home.

The little girl opened her eyes and screamed and screamed, ” Mummy! Mummy! The man! The man!” she sobbed. “The man!”

Twenty-three years later.

 

“I had that dream again last night.” The anxious grey eyes of the short, plump, red head met those of The Counsellor’s across the desk. “I can’t stand it any more. I’m frightened to sleep. I try to stay awake as long as possible, until I do fall asleep and immediately he’s there. Help me. Help me. He pleads, and I can’t help him. Please! You’ve got to go in and help me confront him, or help him, or whatever it is I have to do. We’ve got to do it soon.”

Sierra Godfrey slumped back in her chair, the pale skin, limp hair and smudged eyes an indication of disturbed sleep. The Counsellor leaned forward and patted her hand. “We’ll do it tonight Sierra. I think it’s time. I’ll need all of today to make the preparations so maybe you can relax, have a massage or something. I want you to be as relaxed as possible tonight. We’ll meet back here at 9:00pm. Remember, don’t eat after midday and don’t drink after 6:00pm. I need you with an empty stomach. Sometimes the process can cause physical symptoms like nausea and vomiting. Is all of that clear, and okay with you?”    “Oh perfectly, thank you. I can’t wait to be free of that man.” She stood, plain, tired face transformed momentarily into near beauty as she smiled goodbye to the counsellor.

After she’d gone, The Counsellor placed her head in her hands and rested for a moment. In her over twenty years as a Dream Counsellor she’d never met such an enigma as Sierra Godfrey. Sierra had come to her nearly three weeks before, complaining of the return of a childhood nightmare in which a terrified {and terrifying} man is screaming to be let out. He pleads and pleads with her, face in agonising close up. Sierra’s grief is for the man’s plight and the uselessness she feels in not being able to help him. She senses that she is indeed there in the dream with him but cannot bring herself to either move or open the gates to let him out. Her frustration and fear is mixed with the shame she feels in not being able to help a man in such obvious distress.

The Counsellor had tried to help by getting Sierra to talk about her life and any problems she may be currently facing. Especially something that may have triggered an event from her past, where the nightmare had first materialised. Sierra cannot remember much of her childhood. she lived with her father, her mother and brother dying when she was little. The Counsellor had worked on the father angle, the significance of a man being imprisoned in her dreams not having been lost. All had come up blank. Sierra’s relationship with her father had always been mutually respectful, and except for a few teenage skirmishes, amicable. As for events in her life now, the only major stressor was her postgraduate course in Psychology, which she’d barely started. In other words Sierra  was leading a perfectly ordinary life, had no steady lover, went out regularly with a bunch of friends, ate well etc. etc. No counselling skills could come up with any everyday reason for her nightmares.

There was no alternative, the Dream Counsellor would have to project herself into Sierra’s dream world and investigate empirically. No wonder she needed the whole day to prepare. Mainly to prepare herself mentally. It was always risky entering someone’s personal dream realm, you may not get out again. Leaving a body back in the physical world like an  empty shell, with no soul home.

She rose stiffly from her chair, a sharp and sudden pain making her gasp, halting her progress. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply, willing the pain to leave. After a few moments her breathing became more even and the pain subsided. She moved slowly into the backroom, ready to begin the preparations for the evening. All thoughts concerning pain, death and incipient old age swept briskly into an untenanted corner of her mind. Death was only something that could happen to someone else.

Sierra approached The Dream Counsellor’s rooms that evening with her mind in a state of flux, due to thoughts of finally dealing with those nasty nightmares and fear as to what those nightmares might really contain. The Dream Counsellor opened the door and smiled, “Come in. Come in. It’s all ready. Go right on through to the back room, we’ll begin immediately.”

“Now all you have to do is lie here quietly, breathe deeply and listen to the music. Eventually you’ll forget about breathing as the rhythm will adapt itself to that of the music’s even tone. Finally you will drift into sleep and into your dreamworld. The frequency of this music is attuned to that of the dreamworld’s rhythms, easier to make the transition. Don’t be frightened as I too will enter your dreamworld and will be there to protect you.”

The Dream Counsellor watched as Sierra first fought the rhythm and then eventually allowed her body to attune. When she was satisfied that Sierra had reached the dream level of sleep, she allowed herself to enter the same state. She would meet her client on the dream plain.

Sierra walked along the red plain. In the distance, she could see rocky outcrops, much as she’d always envisaged the Kimberley’s to be. She’d never seen them in reality. This was her dream world.The sun was beating down upon her head, usually anathema for a pale skinned redhead, yet she felt no heat and her skin did not burn. She was still Sierra, but a taller, thinner, more vibrant version. Her hair longer too, fuller with  a rich chestnut glow. She laughed delightedly. Her dream world was a nice place to be, dreams do come true sometimes. She wondered if her eyes were green, she’d always wanted green eyes.

After this interval of self discovery, Sierra began to wonder where the Dream Counsellor could be, and to worry a little in case The Man turned up first. How would she fight him? Waking up was no longer a possibility, she’d need the Counsellor herself to show the path back.

The red dust seemed endless. The only landmark being those rocky outcrops she’d spotted earlier. It made sense to move towards them. She set out across the desert, a lone figure striding out athletically, the way she’d always seen herself in dreams. In seemingly no time at all, dream time, Sierra reached the foot of the rocky hills. At first there seemed to be nothing about, only more rocks and dust, until she looked more closely and saw palm fronds sticking out from behind an outcrop. She walked around the corner and found a miniature oasis, of the kind seen in screaming desert horde type movies.

A small lake, a fountain, date palms loaded with dates, coconuts, exotic flowers and over in one corner, a small stone hut incongruously reminiscent of an Irish cottage. Sierra accepted it all. Of course you’d find a shepherd’s hut in the middle of an oasis in the middle of the Australian outback.

She was reaching up to grab some fresh dates when a voice boomed out, breaking the silence, “Don’t eat the fruit!”  she turned swiftly, in time to see a petite brunette step out of the stone hut. At first Sierra thought she was a little girl, but on looking closely, saw she was a woman, a very strong and wiry one.

“Why not? Why can’t I eat the dates? It’s only a dream. I won’t really be eating them.”

“This may be your dream, but if you eat or drink anything in this realm you’ll never leave.”

“Oh come one. I read something like that once in a phantasy novel. It’s all made up.”

“Not really. If you ingest, then you root yourself in the dream world, simple as that. You don’t think you can take any of the dreamworld back with you, do you? If you ate something you would be.”

“Unless I digested it and got rid of it.”

“Aah! but you wouldn’t be able to excrete every little bit back, something would remain within your cells.”

Sierra thought fast, she really didn’t have an answer to that one. Besides, she was finding the thought of being stuck inside her own dream world a fascinating one. Paradoxical. How could you exist if you were contained within yourself?

“Exactly, ” came the reply from the small woman. Obviously mind eavesdropping was something else you could do in this world. “Your mind can’t exist in two places at once. while you’re here, your body is completely unattended. If something happened to that body and it ceased to exist, then this section of the dream world would also cease. If that happened then we would go spinning out into infinity, floating on in disembodied form forever. Unless we were lucky enough to encounter another mind, at a point of severe weakness. Then take up residence inside, either in their section of the dream world or in their daily mind, shoving the existing mind out into the ether itself. It’s quite simple really.”

“Is that what you did? I’ve never seen you in my dreams before.”

She laughed, “I didn’t think you’d recognise me, even though you were expecting me to show up. Look closely Sierra, the eyes always stay the same, no matter how you change the form around them.”

Sierra stared into those laughing eyes. Then realisation struck, she’d looked into those eyes nearly everyday for the last three weeks.

“Oh My God! It’s you! The Dream Counsellor.”

“Here you can call me Isobelle. That is my name. Anyway I don’t feel like the Dream Counsellor now.”

“I’m so pleased you’re here. And relieved. Have you seen him yet?”

Isobelle perched herself on a stone bench outside the cottage patting the space beside her for Sierra to sit too. “It’ll be up to you to point him out. I won’t recognise him.”

“He’s the only one in my dreams. All my other dreams disappeared months ago. If you can see a man then that is him. I’m positive of that.”

As they sat upon the bench, musing on the whereabouts of the man, the sun sunk rapidly, causing the light to be clearer, less hazy. Outlined against the sky rose a castle. A red castle hewn out of red rock. Invisible during the haze of the midday sun but highlighted in relief against the shadows of approaching dusk.

Sierra’s gasp caused Isobelle to look up. She smiled. “Sierra that is where we have to go. The dream world always gives us clues..” She got up. “Come on, ” she said, grasping Sierra by the arm and pulling her up. “We’d better hurry before the sun disappears altogether. I don’t fancy this dream in the dark.”

They entered the castle as the sun dropped below the horizon. The interior consisted of one large room, medieval style with huge fireplaces, long wooden benches, tapestries on the walls. At the four corners an entrance lead to turret towers. A simple design.

Before they had a chance to examine the room, footsteps were heard coming down one of the turret stairs and a man entered the room.

“That’s him!” shrieked Sierra, “It has to be.” Though she did sound puzzled after the initial shout. She had reason to be, for the figure moving into the room to perch on the edge of a bench was not a bit like she’d remembered him. He was small and dark, not the huge, pleading man who’d haunted her.

“Hello Isobelle ” he said.

“Ariel.”

“I thought you’d come, if I put out enough bait. Heaven knows it’s taken long enough for this stupid woman to go and seek help. I knew she’d have to find you, you’re the best at what you do. I bet you didn’t have the faintest idea that it was me behind her dreams. Go on, you don’t have to lie to Ari, we’ve known each other long enough.”

“No, I didn’t realise, but I should’ve. It’s typical of you.”

“You must be getting complacent. That’s what you get for living so long in a human body.”

“Maybe that’s true. I did leave you safely locked away with Tyrell, so you can hardly blame me for assuming that all was well. Where is Tyrell?”

“Dead. Gone. Buried.” He got up off the bench and began pacing up and down. Isobelle watched calmly.

“It took me years to catch him off guard, and then a few months ago she dreamed up a rampaging herd of buffalo. Tyrell, being the hero he is, sorry was, went to protect us from them. He turned his back, you see. What an opportunity. Not to be missed.”

“I see.”

“Oh no, you don’t see. I’ve waited years for this. You know that child you put me in, well he died. He drowned, and I nearly went spinning off into infinity. If it wasn’t for this one”, flapping one hand in Sierra’s general direction, “springing back to life then I could be anywhere. Anywhere in existence.”

“Ah, so that’s how it happened.” She turned to Sierra. “I’m so sorry. You seem to be the pawn in all of this. I take it, it was your brother who died? I apologise for that too. It’s our fault these things have happened. Ariel and I were “friends” for many years, until he sealed me up into a tree. Now it’s out and out war.” She turned to Ariel. “You left me sealed in that tree for years Ari. I didn’t get out until a woodchopper killed it and released me, and you wonder why I took my revenge!”

“The tree was a joke Isobelle. You know that. I was coming to release you.”

“When?”

“When the joke wasn’t funny any more. ”

“87 years!”

“”I was still laughing!  Anyway”, he said dismissively, “None of that matters any more. Not now that I’ve got you here on equalish terms, so to speak.” He reached out and grabbed Isobelle before she had time to react to the danger she sensed. Maybe years in a sluggish body had dullened her. “Your turn to remain here now. Permanently. ”

He grabbed a small bottle out of his pocket, expertly opened it one handed whilst still hanging on to Isobelle. He laughed as he forced the fluid down her throat. “You’ll never leave now until she dies. Sierra! I’m going to return to your old body. She’ll be lying there….vulnerable. Let’s see how the two of you survive in oblivion.”

He pushed Isobelle aside and left the castle at a run. Isobelle grabbed a shocked Sierra and herded her through the door after Ariel. “We must hurry!”

“But Isobelle it’s no use. He’ll definitely get there first.”

“Sierra, it’s your dream. You can reach your pathway whenever you want to. Instantaneously. He, on the other hand has to find my pathway, the way I came in.”

“Oh!”

“Besides when you get back, you’ll be in a younger, stronger body and he’ll be in a diseased one.”

“Diseased?”

“It had cancer. It was only expected to live for another three months or so, but he doesn’t know that. Think of your pathway across the desert and where you first arrived. Now wish yourself there.”

Sierra barely had time to blink before she was standing in the middle of a darkened plain. She hoped it was the right place. Isobelle had held onto her hand, in order to come with her. She let go reluctantly.

“I’m sorry you got involved with all of this. You’ll have to watch Ari, he sees you as an enemy now too. I’ll always be here ready to help you. I’m not going anywhere. Just follow the pathway you came in on. Visit me, please.”

Sierra opened her  mouth as if to speak. Isobelle pushed her forwards. “Go, before it’s too late.”

Sierra turned and disappeared.

 

Copyright March 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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