Dreams of Insomn

~ a short story

~ art by Kathryn Beals

Oha and Lam laid in the grass, side by side, staring up at the constellations. It’s late, but they aren’t tired. Their forms now unmoving, their minds energized and ponderous. The night sky, quiescent, panoramic. It stretched across their full purview. They’d gazed up at the sight long enough for it to invade their entire sensory experience. At the moment, it was the only thing that mattered. Neither could say they knew the star signs very well, but they are taken in by it all nonetheless. Full illumination of the starlight is partly marred by the urban sprawl just south of them. This is the best they can do. Up on a hill, just outside of the city limits, they make their escape; laying down on the soft ground outside, staring up and night-dreaming when they should probably both be asleep.

Oha finishes a deep breath before she begins to ramble. Lam tries to listen, but his own intent lies upon the twinkles of the stars.

“So I tried that thing you mentioned, last night, for the first time. Y’know, the thing. I thought it might help…”

“Yeah,” Lam says absently.

“Yeah. But I decided to use it specifically before bed. Or rather, while I am in bed.”

Oha continued, her eyes now closed from the night sky above, trading in one sight for another.

“I decide I will use this thing, this state of mind, to calm myself and allow me to sleep better… to sleep at all. This is my intention. So laying in bed, I spread my arms and legs out wide, just like the ancient man in the painting. My palms are open towards the ceiling, my feet are relaxed, my head and torso are stationary. Eyes closed. Corpse pose. I start to breathe deep, then steady it out. All as you said.”

“The room is in utter darkness of course, and I haven’t stared at a screen for at least an hour or so before climbing into bed. That’s important. I have taken the sheet off of the bed — ”

Lam suddenly interrupts.

“What is your state of mind?”

Oha considers the question before responding in kind.

“Well, I guess I’m not sure. There was no discernible state persay. I’m calm, relaxed. The mania of the day fades as I prepare myself in this way,” she opens her eyes back to the starlight as she explains.

“Good,” Lam nods.

She continues excitedly.

“I thought the conditions were pretty good to drop into it, and now, looking back — it is quite clear they were perfect.”

“I start to breathe. 1–2. 1–2. 1–2. In and out. It’s easy, it’s calming. Yet it’s so novel. My inner mind is fascinated at the effects. They’re immediate. I focus to maintain my count, and my peaceful manner. My body feels lighter immediately. My mind imagines things but they slip away instantly. As I focus my breaths, I feel as though I am in a deeper sense of control of myself like I have never felt before.”

“Sounds about right,” Lam interjects quietly.

“Well, that’s just the beginning. Then my mind — uninhibited — starts to imagine a landscape. I see through my mind’s eye as though I am gliding easily over grid-like formations of a wide, varying, topographical-type landscape. I fly, I’m soaring. I’m slow at first, but increase in speed the longer I’m out there. And the faster I go, the more the flavorless, colorless grid turns into a vibrant land of terrain, plants, people. It becomes filled out with all kinds of color and motion … and life!

At this point, Oha is breathless, her eyes are closed again as she envisions the sight once more from memory. She finds it is just as vivid as when she first lived it, perhaps even more so now, illuminated by the full context of what it all meant. Lam is silent.

“And Lam, I have never done this before. I haven’t done anything like this, as far as my imagination goes. And I cannot think of any recent sights or sounds, TV shows, movies, books, which would trigger such a vision. Needless to say, it is exhilarating. And it’s so, so lifelike. It’s like this whole inner world, shaped in-the-moment from my own subconsciousness, is effortlessly populating my mind’s eye via the appropriate combination of darkness, breathing and relative sensory deprivation. It is as if, through these simple means — “

“ — you have achieved a higher state of consciousness. Yes. I told you, this — “ Lam interjects once more, more forcefully. He tries to match her excitement.

“I haven’t even gotten to the best, most crazy part yet!” Oha exclaims. She grips the grass at her sides with vigor, almost grabbing Lam’s hand instead.

“So despite all this inner mental energy and exhilaration, I continue to breathe at a steady cadence. Soon enough, I am beyond the hills, the mountains, and the oceans of this increasingly complex and populous grid-world. I am beyond that initial landscape entirely. I find myself — ,” Oha opens her eyes now, staring consciously into the starscape once again.

“ — I am here, amidst the stars.”

Oha reaches up and out towards the twinkling canopy overhead. She takes a deep breath, reimagining the vision and her place in it. Lam follows her motion with a smile. Oha now stands up and begins to speak even more forcefully, continuing to regard the sky.

“And it happens in both places. In my mind’s eye … and within the body, laying like a corpse in bed. I am here and back there! I am up and about. I recall feeling my body emerge, like a spirit materializing its astral aspect, long forgotten but never gone. I lift up from my mattress and before I know it, I find myself up in the starscape. Up there!” Oha points her index finger towards a seemingly random constellation.

Lam stares unblinking at the visage of Oha’s silhouette, backdropped against the night sky. The starscape reflects off of his own unblinking eyes, and he does not breathe for a few more breaths. He can see her, just barely. She’s beautiful; no judgment of his own enters into the matter, it’s a truth. He listens with an intensity as Oha continues.

“So… breathing and breathing, in a state of mind unlike anything I have ever experienced — my body — my astral body — and my mind are both serene yet animated in an vivacious energy. I feel unstoppable. So, when the time comes, I don’t make an effort to stop what feels like the natural thing to do — “

“And what is that?” Lam asks.

Oha stares back, eyes wide and arms out.

“Travel! I begin to move about the cosmos. I travel all across the wider light and dark spaces. Only what I see, at first, and then — I go further. The more I discover, the more I explore. I see planets, and I go down to their surface to witness the red and yellow and blue rock of alien tectonics. I stare into the roil of the gas giants and their infinity storms larger than stars. Kegromia, Palypso, Lushaurus, Kuanus, Iacarro, Xaou, Heplarius. Thousands of other names of places that I cannot pronounce or begin to comprehend. I know them intimately here and now and glide over them and through them, not unlike my time in my own grid-world where I humbly started.”

“What are these places? Where are they?” Lam asks.

“Not sure. They are planets. And I think… they are far away. Of course, it is hard for me to gauge where I am while in this state. My astral form is capable of so much beyond what reality normally allows. There are decisions in the moments in between my breaths, of course. Little movements and dictates which take me lightyears one way or another. But they feel so simple and lack the finesse needed to truly understand what it even is I am asking myself to do. So I just let it happen. I make the decisions based on intuition, or something like it. It’s easier that way. Most of all, it feels natural. You must know, I moved beyond my own understanding, from the very beginning…”

“Well, what did you learn? Where did you end up? Why — “ Lam asks intently.

What did I learn? I am still figuring that part out,” Oha looks away from the sky and now down at Lam, still lying in the grass at her feet.

“I am still figuring that,” Oha repeats more quietly now.

Each of them stares at one another, considering and deciphering the words Oha has spoken in flurry. There is nothing but the silence. In these intervening moments, in his focus, Lam misses a shooting star as it glides directly behind Oha’s standing form, still partly blocking the stars behind.

Finally, Oha resumes her account, speaking methodically, as if reasoning it all out.

Where did I end up? Yes… it’s true… I did ‘end up’ somewhere. After a while — at this point, it is all too clear that I have lost track of time, in my bed breathing as well as soaring across the starry sky of the cosmos — I begin to grow tired. Perhaps it is only an overload of stimuli, or a lack of continuous motivation to explore a universe I barely understand or perceive. I don’t ever figure out what my role is to be in these places. But I eventually stop power gliding across the full expanse of it all and come to a stop. Whether by fate or subconscious design, I come upon a planet which notes my presence and welcomes me down. They invite me into the very thing I wish to engage in — restfulness. My astral body sets itself down here … in the mystical land of Insomn.”

“I haven’t heard of it,” Lam speaks at length, after considering the name.

“Few have,” Oha responds reverently, dreamily. Her demeanor shifted to one of knowingness. Lam did not take notice, lacking the wherewithal.

“It is a land reserved for those few…” Oha lies back down in the grass next to him, closer to him, taking his hand in her own.

“…and I wish to show you this place.”

“How do you know you can?” Lam asks sincerely.

“I don’t. But I know I am able to return whenever I want,” Oha responds.

“How… how do you know I would be welcome there as well?”

“Because I know. I know you. And we are similar in the way that matters most…” Oha returns. “None of this requires knowing anything. It takes something else. We have it, together. I believe…”

A long, pensive pauses passed between the two. Each considers the other.

At length, Lam muttered, “Well… how is it… that maybe … it wasn’t all just… a … — “

“A dream?” Oha lights up.

“Yeah.”

“Because Lam, I don’t dream. I do not sleep.”

Oha smiles, leaning closer and whispering.

“Lam, I never fell asleep last night. Just like every night before…”

Lam turned and looked at her, smiling too. He didn’t fully understand and tried to hide it.

“So it didn’t help, I guess,” Lam said, whispering.

“But it did,” Oha said. “Stay up with me.”

Lam nodded, and they both returned their gaze to the night sky. They held there for a long breath, or two.

They remained until dawn, silently breathing corpses, palms up, eyes closed, mind opening, together. ~