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Jonathan Poku's Blog
They created it. It took on a life of its own. They’re trapped inside it. Will they ever return home?
Christopher wakes up to discover the exact injury he sustained in a joint dream with his friends. Realising their safety is dependent on closing the portal that takes them to the realm of Borlosanti, they endeavour to stay awake. Will they live long enough to understand the immensity of power their dreamworld possesses? Maybe, maybe not, after all one boy’s dream is another’s worse nightmare.
Nathaniel Brown opened his eyes. Stars filled the sky.
Wot the — Not again. How did he get here?
The grass he lay on pricked him. He got up and looked around, oak trees surrounded the clearing. The moon light shone on them, creating ghastly shadows. Their silhouettes mirrored their movements as if they were dancing, every time the wind whistled through their branches, making them shake. He breathed faster. A few leaves fell to the ground.
Wot woz dat?
He turned towards the direction of the sound. Leaves rustled. He glanced around. The moonlight lit up the trees closest to the clearing, beyond this lay darkness. He stared. Nothing was there.
Someone woz watchin’ him. No doubt about it, someone woz definitely watchin’. But who?
His heart beat accelerated. Footsteps approached over fallen leaves. He focused. A pair of red eyes, not connected to a body, appeared out of the darkness. Nathaniel ran towards them.
Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.
Huh, wot woz dat?
Everything faded to black.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
Nathaniel took short sharp breaths and opened his eyes. His alarm clock flashed on his bed side table, and his curtains fluttered after each gust of wind blew through his open window. He was sweating and his skin was clammy. He glanced at the photos on the walls: him skateboarding, ridding his BMX bike and playing chess with his father. Nathaniel’s breathing slowed down; he reached over and switched off his alarm clock.
Ten years of dreamless sleep, and den suddenly der same dream eight nights inna row. Wot did it mean? Or did it mean nuttin at —
Bang. Bang Bang.
He flinched and turned towards the sound, nothing was there apart from his cream carpet.
Phew, it woz just his mother bangin’ der kitchen ceilin’ wid her broom.
“Wake up, Nathaniel,” his mother, Sarah Brown, yelled from downstairs.
“I’m up already.”
“I know you’re up, but if you don’t hurry up, you’ll be late for school again!”
Nathaniel jumped out of bed, got ready and left the house.
Wot did der dreams mean?
Nathaniel was standing outside his school gates.
“Nathaniel,” said Ravi Patel.
“Huh,” replied Nathaniel.
“I’ve been trying to catch up with you for the last five minutes... I called your name at least a dozen times; you must’ve heard me.”
“I didn’t. Sorry bredrin.”
Nathaniel looked. Ravi’s black hair, damp with sweat, clung to his head. Panting, his ribs rose up and down.
Ravi bent his lanky frame over and put his hands on his knees, while taking deep breaths. “Now you know I love school just as much, if not more than the next child, but please enlighten me, why were you in such a hurry to get there, when you’re not even late?”
“I wozn’t. I’ve just gotta lot on my mind, right now.”
“What’s troubling you? You know they say a problem shared is a problem halved.”
“Err, it’s nuttin really.”
Ravi raised his left eye brow.
Change der subject.
Nathaniel said, “why do you always sound like you’ve just swallowed a dictionary?”
“I know you’re more than aware that changing the subject with me can only be a temporary solution, so the mere fact that you’ve done so, suggests that you really don’t want to share what’s on your mind — As I’m your friend, I’ll respect this, but please remember that if you ever need to talk, I’ll be ready to listen.”
“Thanks bruv. I didn’t mean to lash out at you. There’s nuttin wrong with reading a few pages of der dictionary, every day, if you enjoy it.”
“Nathaniel, I enjoy anything that stimulates my mind and improving my vocabulary does just that. I know my behaviour is a little weird for an eleven year old, but think of it this way, at least one of us needs to be able to speak properly, without butchering the Queen’s English.”
“Can we play der Borlosantix game, Ravi?”
“You know today’s the anniversary of the Borlosantix game, and when we all go to different secondary schools in a couple of months, we’ll no longer be able to play it so often.”
“I know…. I’m dreadin’ it… Life without der Borlosantix game will be crap. I’m so use to you, me, Wayne and Christopher playin’ it every break time and every lunch time.”
“I’m dreading it too, Nathaniel. I guess we can still meet up on the weekends to play it. Anyway, enough doom and gloom; let’s play the Borlosantix game: it’s night time; you wake up in a clearing. What are you going to do?”
“Get up and take a look around,” said Nathaniel.
“The clearing is surrounded by trees; the moonlight shines on the trees closest to the clearing, but beyond this is darkness... The wind howls as it passes through their branches, making them shake. Then suddenly you hear something. Snap. What are you going to do?”
“Turn and look in der direction of der sound.”
“The sound came from the trees just beyond the clearing. You stare but nothing seems to be there. Crack. The sound comes from the same direction, but even closer. What are you going to do?”
Nathaniel said, “stay where I am, stare and listen.”
“You can hear the sound of footsteps approaching over fallen leaves, but still nothing can be seen. Then suddenly a pair of red eyes, which are not connected to a body, appear out of the darkness. What are you going to do?”
“Run towards dem.”
“Before you reach —”
Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding.
Bafflin’. How did Ravi know about der contents of der dreams? If only he could talk to someone about it, but he couldn’t, not yet anyway, he had to process everything dat woz going on first. Wot if he told someone and dey thought he woz mad? Woz he mad? Woz he slowly losing his mind? Please god no. He woz too young for dat. He wozn’t even twelve yet.
The school bell was ringing and the school gates were a short distance away.
Wow, he walked all der way to school in a trance like state, coz his mind woz focused on — Damn, der school bell.
Nathaniel and Ravi ran through the gates and rushed to their classroom; when they reached its door they slowed down and entered the room. Nathaniel gazed around. Their class mates were sitting at their desks, Mrs Smalls was sitting at hers and the clock above the black board said two minutes past nine.
Dey were late, but Mrs Smalls hadn’t looked up yet, so if dey could just sit down quietly, everythin’ would be ok.
Mrs Smalls said, “thank you for blessing us with your presence. If you could just take your seats, so I can start taking the register.”
“Sorry, Mrs Smalls,” said Nathaniel and Ravi.
Wot der — did she have eyes all over her head or sumtin?
They sat down beside Christopher Smith and Wayne Charles. Christopher handed Nathaniel a folded piece of paper. Nathaniel unfolded it and stared. It was a picture of the pair of red eyes, not connected to a body, appearing out of the darkness.
What the — he didn’t tell anyone about der dreams, so how did his friends know about der red eyes?
Nathaniel looked at his hands. They started to shake.
They kept on shaking.
Nathaniel glanced at Christopher, “oi, where did —”
Wot woz dat?
Nathaniel turned towards the sound. Mrs Small’s chair scraped across the floor as she got up. She looked like a bull, which had just seen red.
She sternly said, “Nathaniel Brown, it seems like you are not satisfied with just holding up my class, you also seem determined to disrupt it. This is not acceptable. Your punishment for your despicable behaviour is that you’ll spend your breaks and your lunch time in this class room doing lines.”
Talk about over reactin’.
“Sorry, Mrs Smalls,” Nathaniel said and then he peered at Christopher. Christopher wrote women on a piece of paper, scrunched it up and put it in his pocket. Nathaniel shook his head and then faced the black board. The heading World War Two was underlined.
Great, just wot he needed, a lesson in history, when he had so many problems to deal wid in der present.
Nathaniel was sitting in his class room alone, doing lines. He stopped and glanced around; the class room was empty, and on the black board Mrs Smalls had written:
I will not disrupt the class.
He put down his pen and flexed his wrist.
A fly flew around the room and then it landed on the window. Nathaniel peered through the window. The school children were playing in the playground. Some of the girls were playing double dutch, each time their skipping ropes scraped across the ground, dust rose into the air. Some of the boys were playing football, but Christopher, Ravi and Wayne were in the corner of the playground talking. As Ravi’s mouth opened and closed, Christopher’s facial expressions changed from focus, to fear and finally to joy.
Wow, der anniversary of the Borlosantix game... It all began a year ago, during a wet break; he could remember it like it woz just yesterday: Raindrops pelted down, a few of dem ricocheted off the classroom window... Each class stayed in their own classroom. Some of his classmates played tattered board games and others stared out of the window, wid bored expressions. He and his friends sat in the corner, away from everyone else. His friends seemed bored. Ravi suggested dey create a game, which would be based on their collective imagination. Wayne woz reluctant at first, but as soon as Christopher showed interest, Wayne decided to give it a go... Christopher asked Ravi wot dey needed to do... Ravi said dey should start by coming up wid a name for der imaginary world, where dey would play the game... Dey came up wid at least a dozen names, but den dey narrowed it down to three possibilities: tererdena, oceantere and borlosanti... In the end dey decided dey liked borlosanti der best, so dey decided to call der world dat, and der people who inhabited it der Borlosantix... After dat Ravi got dem to create der main characters in der world, giving each of dem a back story, goals and personalities... Dey decided dat some of der people in der world, like Seriya der main bad guy and Naraymer der main good guy would have magical powers, but der rest of der inhabitants wouldn’t. Dey also decided to make der main language in der world English. Christopher drew pictures of der different characters and a map of der terrain based on what dey imagined... Finally, once dis woz done, Ravi told dem wot dey were doing in der world and wot dey were coming up against, and der rest of dem told him what dey would do in those situations — At first, der game felt weird to dem, but by the end of der break dey were so engrossed in it dat dey played it at der back of der class, throughout their lessons... By der end of der first week dey were playing it during every break time, and rushin’ to Ravi’s house after school to play it... Ravi got a lot of his inspiration for der game from der vast amount of books he read; one day when dey visited him after school, he got dem to do a form of meditation he found in a book about ancient Egyptian rites of passage, coz he believed it might help to intensify their experience of der game... From dat day forth, every evening, each of dem practiced dis meditation for half an hour, coz dey wanted to make der game as good as possible.
Ravi, Wayne and Christopher were standing in the corner of the play ground. Wayne glanced. Christopher concentrated on Ravi’s every word.
Ravi said, “ok you’re at the edge of a clearing, which is surrounded by a dense forest. The largest tree to the right of you has a small dagger carved into its trunk…What are you going to do?”
Christopher replied, “put the spade in my left hand, take out my sword with my right and take a closer look.”
“Take out my sword, and follow Chris, while glancing around the clearing,” said Wayne.
“The initials L.M are engraved under the dagger.”
“Ok, I put away my sword, take 10 paces from the tree and start digging,” said Christopher.
Wayne said, “while Chris is diggin’ I stand guard.”
Ravi looked at Christopher. “You dig for 20 minutes. The hole you’re digging gets deeper and deeper, and your back starts to ache. What are you going to do?”
“Keep on digging.”
“After 15 more minutes, you’re shoulder deep in the hole and the spade hits something solid,” said Ravi.
Christopher smiled. “Ok, I put down the spade and start removing the dirt from the object with my hands.”
“After a few minutes, you uncover a large treasure chest,” said Ravi.
He faced Wayne. “Suddenly six Saber toothed tigers step out from the forest, and surround you. What are you going to do?”
“Pull Chris out of the hole.”
Christopher frowned. “What about the treasure?”
“Forget it! Get your sword out,” demanded Wayne.
“Ok, ok. I take out my sword.”
“The Saber tooth tigers growl and move closer to you. What are you going to do?” said Ravi.
“Pull out my dagger and throw it at the one closest to me,” said Wayne.
“It leaps out of the way and then they charge towards you.”
“I scream follow me, and dash in the direction I threw the dagger.”
“I follow him,” said Christopher.
Ravi looked at Christopher. “The Saber tooth tigers try to block your escape route, but you just make it through the gap — one of them leaps towards your back, baring its claws. What are you going to do?”
“Run faster and swing my sword backwards.”
“Your sword slices across the Saber tooth’s chest. It winces, twists its body away from your blade, and then it continues to chase you, with a furious expression on its face” said Ravi.
Nathaniel turned towards the black board and then he looked out of the window.
His friends were probably playing der Borlosantix game without him. Not fair. Not fair at all. If only he could speak to dem, he would be able to find out where dey got der idea for der red eyes.
Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding.
Nathaniel put his pen on his desk, and glanced at the clock. It was three o’clock; his class mates stood up, shoved their books into their bags and rushed out of the room. He packed away his stuff, and made his way to the door.
Mrs Smalls blocked the doorway. “Just one moment, Nathaniel, I need to talk to you about your behaviour today.”
Nathaniel walked up to Mrs Smalls.
She showered him in a fountain of saliva, whilst telling him off, and then she let him go.
Nathaniel made his way home.
Today couldn’t get any worse?
Nathaniel opened his front door, walked into his corridor and looked. His mother stood there frowning.
Yes it could.
She put her right hand on her waist and shook her head, her plaits swung from side to side. “Mrs Smalls called earlier to complain about your behaviour at school... She said that over the last week you’ve been disruptive and you haven’t been paying attention in class... What have you got to say for yourself, Nathaniel?”
Would her adult brain be able to understand wot he woz going through? Probably not. Adults always over rationalised stuff — dey didn’t have open minds like children...She would probably dismiss his dreams and tell him dey meant nuttin.
His mother said, “look, I know this is a very difficult time of year for you. God knows it’s difficult for me too, but you can’t afford to jeopardise your education. This is a very crucial year for you.”
He hated havin’ to keep secrets from his mother, but he had to for a little while longer...
She closed her eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. “Well, what have you got to say for your self?”
She huffed. “Go to your room; don’t come out until you’re ready to talk, and don’t even think about watching TV, using the phone or going on the computer.”
He went to his room and lay on his bed.
He needed to talk to Ravi and Christopher.
Nathaniel looked around. His mobile phone and his laptop were on his desk.
If only there woz another way to talk to his friends.
Tap. Tap. Tap
Raindrops struck his open window. He got up, walked over to the window and shut it. He gazed at his father’s picture.
If only his father woz here to tell him wot to do.
Nathaniel started to cry.
Why did his father have to leave him? Life woz so unfair.
He listened. His mother was playing Beethoven’s 4th symphony on the piano in the living room.
Nathaniel was lying on his bed. He sniffed, the scent of bread fruit, chicken and fried dumplings filled the air.
“Nathaniel, come and get your dinner,” his mother yelled from downstairs.
He wiped the tears from his eyes, went downstairs and ate, and then he came back to his room, lay on his bed and cried himself to sleep.
Cold air blew over Nathaniel. He opened his eyes and looked. Christopher and Ravi were lying beside him in the clearing. Ravi opened his eyes, glanced around and then he shook Christopher. Christopher awoke. They got up. Christopher’s mouth opened wide.
Nathaniel said, “hey wot are you guys doing in my dream?”
Ravi shook his head. “No no no, you’re mistaken, this is my —”
They turned towards the sound. A pair of red eyes, not connected to a body, stared at them, from the edge of the clearing. Nathaniel ran towards it and listened. Two pairs of footsteps were running behind him. The one on the right seemed closer. He glanced in that direction. Christopher overtook him. Nathaniel looked ahead. The red eyes disappeared and the sound of eerie laughter travelled deeper and deeper into the forest. Christopher dashed in its direction. Nathaniel ran faster. He entered the forest. It was dark and Christopher’s silhouette was in the distance.
Twigs and leaves crunched under his feet. His heartbeat accelerated.
Dis place wozn’t safe. He had to catch up wid Christopher.
Nathaniel opened and closed his mouth. He listened. No words came out.
He wanted to scream. Why couldn’t he scream? He needed to tell Christopher to slow down. Wot would happen if Christopher caught up wid the red eyes, on his own?
Something pricked Nathaniel’s legs. There were stinging nettles and weeds all over the ground. He listened, one pair of foot steps was behind him.
At least dey hadn’t lost each other.
He looked ahead. Christopher collided into something. Staggering, he slowed down. Nathaniel ran faster.
“Wake up,” Christopher’s mother’s voice said from above.
Nathaniel looked up. No one was there.
“Wake up, Christopher,” she said more sternly.
Everything faded to black.
Nathaniel opened his eyes and looked around, he was in his bedroom and his alarm clock said eight am.
Woz it just a dream?
Nathaniel’s legs were stinging; he pulled up his trousers and stared at his calves, he had a rash on them.
Dat wozn’t there before he went to bed. It couldn’t have been caused by der nettles in der dream or could it? Nah dat didn’t make any sense. There had to be a rational explanation, right? But wot if there wozn’t — Christopher!
Nathaniel got out of bed, walked to his desk, picked up his mobile and sent a text to Christopher and Ravi:
Meet me outside the school gates at eight thirty.
He then put his phone down and got ready for school.
Nathaniel looked, Ravi and Christopher were standing outside their school gates.
Nathaniel walked up to them. “I had a weird dream last night.”
“The spooky woods,” Ravi and Christopher said in unison.
Ravi raised his left eyebrow and rubbed his jaw. “Either something truly remarkable happened last night or this is one hell of a coincidence and I don’t believe in coincidences.”
The three friends told each other exactly what happened in their dreams.
“Wow, we were in the same dream,” said Ravi.
“I’ve been havin’ the same dream, for over a week; each night it lasts a little longer than the previous night and more iz revealed. The only difference between yesterday’s dream and der rest of dem iz der fact dat you guys were in it,” muttered Nathaniel.
“You should’ve told us,” said Christopher.
“I know. I just…”
Nathaniel rubbed his jaw and stared at Christopher.
Christopher asked, “what you looking at?”
Nathaniel continued to stare.
Christopher frowned. “Nathaniel you’re freaking me out. What’s wrong?”
“Yesterday, in der dream, you looked like you injured yourself.”
Christopher lifted up his top; he had a cut on the right side of his chest.
Nathaniel shook his head. “It can’t be... Bredrin — please tell me you had dat cut before you went to bed last night.”
“Sorry mate, I didn’t. After bumping into a fallen branch in the dream, I saw a cut on my chest, and when I awoke I found the exact same cut.”
“Extraordinary, you’re not supposed to get injured in the real world, when you hurt yourself in a dream,” said Ravi.
This wozn’t happening. Couldn’t be happening.
Nathaniel struggled to breathe, the muscles in his hands and his feet started to spasm, and his fingertips tingled.
He had to calm down.
He closed his eyes for a few seconds and took deep breaths.
A little better.
“I got stung by some stinging nettles in der dream and when I woke up I found a rash where I got stung... You know wot dis means, right? It means sleeping iz dangerous for us — I suggest we stay awake until we can work out wot’s happening,” said Nathaniel.
They all agreed on this.
“Something else has been puzzling me. Last night, I could’ve sworn I heard Christopher’s mother’s voice in the dream, and I don’t know how that could be possible,” said Ravi.
Christopher nodded. “Neither do I — None of this makes any sense. My mother was in my room, telling me to wake up and we all heard her in the dream.”
“We need to get to der bottom of dis as soon as we can, coz sooner or later one of us iz gonna fall asleep,” said Nathaniel.
“I’ll check the library this evening to see if any of their books can shed any light on what’s going on,” said Ravi.
Christopher frowned. “Why is it that whenever something happens, the first thing you suggest doing is looking in a book —”
“Alright lads, what’s sup?”
Nathaniel turned around. Wayne Charles stood a short distance away from them, with an enquiring look.
Nathaniel said, “Wayne, how long have you been standin’ there?”
“That’s not important right now, Nat. What is important on the other hand and wot I really wana know is why you three look like you’ve just seen a bleedin’ ghost,” demanded Wayne.
Christopher asked, “should we tell him?”
“What do you mean, should we tell ‘im? You better tell me. Come on, spit it out boys. I ain’t got all day,” said Wayne.
“I think we should, he’s a part of dis,” said Nathaniel.
“Ok, you can break it to him, Nathaniel. But I bet he doesn’t believe you,” said Christopher.
Nathaniel told Wayne everything that had happened over the last eight days.
Wayne shook his head. “Yeah right and I’ma monkey’s uncle. Stop plonking around and tell me the —”
Ding ding ding.
The school bell was ringing. The four boys ran to their class room and sat down. Nathaniel looked at the clock. It was nine o’clock.
Thank god for dat. Mrs Smalls would’ve been furious if he woz late again.
Nathaniel listened. His class mates whispered amongst themselves. Some of them got their books out of their bags, whist others stared at the front of the class.
“Ok that’s enough; settle down. Settle down. Today I’m going to give you a little test to see how much your math skills have improved,” said Mrs Smalls.
The children collectively sighed.
Wayne woz one of der four members of der Borlosantix game, which meant Wayne woz at risk... How could Nathaniel convince Wayne dat dey were tellin’ der truth? If Nathaniel couldn’t, Wayne could get injured or even worse killed. Nathaniel had to convince him.
Nathaniel, Wayne and Christopher walked into the play ground. Nathaniel glanced. The sun beamed down. A group of girls on the right were playing hopscotch. Another group to the left were playing pat-a-cake. A few of the boys to the right were playing British bull dog, and at the far end of the play ground, eight boys were surrounding Ravi. One of them, Dean Davis, grasped Ravi by the collar. Nathaniel ran towards the commotion, and Christopher and Wayne followed. When they reached the group they barged their way through them and stood beside Ravi.
“You better get your hands off Ravi, Dean,” insisted Nathaniel.
Dean smiled and looked at Nathaniel and his friends. “Or what?”
“Or we’ll make you,” said Wayne.
Nathaniel sniffed. The sent of stale body odour came from Dean. Nathaniel clenched his fists and looked at the boys surrounding them. Christopher stood in a Karate stance and glared at Dean’s gang.
Wayne took a step forward and clenched his fists. “This is yer last chance. Wot’s it gonna be?”
Dean’s gang took a step backwards. Dean glanced at them and stopped smiling; sweat ran down his forehead. His eyes filled up with fear, like a deer surrounded by a pack of hungry lions.
He took his hands off Ravi and said, “whatever, I was going to let go of him anyway. His lot stink.”
Ravi said, “oh please, you can’t be serious, Dean. I mean you — You of all people are telling me that I smell... Huh. When was the last time your skin touched soap or water?”
Ravi’s friends laughed, and some of Dean’s gang sniggered.
Dean lunged at Ravi.
Nathaniel grasped Dean’s neck and pushed him backwards. “I’m tired of playin’ wid you idiots. If you don’t back off right now, you’re gonna get hurt.”
“Whatever, four of you against eight of us,” said Dean.
Wayne grinned. “Yer right, four of us against eight of you ain’t fair. Why don’t you go and get yer selves a couple of more lads to even things out?”
Dean’s gang edged backwards. Dean looked at them, shook himself free and walked off. His gang followed.
Wayne asked, “are you alrite, Rav?”
Ravi said, “yes, I’m perfectly fine, thank you; it will take more than a smelly bully with inadequacy issues to get me down...would any of you like a hubba bubba?”
They all nodded. Ravi gave them each a square of gum. Nathaniel un-wrapped his, put it in his mouth and chewed.
Hmm, cola flavour.
Nathaniel faced Wayne. “We weren’t lyin’ about der dreams earlier, you need —”
Wayne shook his head. “Ahh, change the record mate. A dream can’t have any effect on the real world.”
“Look, Wayne, you don’t have to believe us, but please promise us that you’ll try to prevent your self from falling asleep, until we say otherwise,” said Ravi.
Wayne looked at Ravi. “But —”
“Please, Wayne, just do it,” said Christopher.
“Alrite, alrite, keep yer bleedin’ heads on lads. I promise, but you better not be lying to me, because I’ve gotta practical boys brigade test tomorrow” said Wayne.
Nathaniel smiled. “Thanks.”
Wayne smirked. “Don’t mention it mate. Wot are you doin’ after school?”
Nathaniel said, “I’m going out wid my mum. Wot about you.”
Wayne said, “I’ve got boys brigade at six o’clock… Wot have you got planed, Christopher?”
“I have to go to my karate lesson, and then I’m going to help out at the homeless shelter with my dad,” said Christopher.
Wayne looked at Ravi and smiled. “And let me guess, you my old chum are going to the library.”
“Actually, I’m going to chess club and then I’m going to the library,” said Ravi.
They all laughed and then they played the Borlosantix game until the end of break.
That night, Nathaniel and his friends fell asleep and nothing happened. The next day, Wayne refused to talk to any of his friends, because he thought they played a prank on him the day before his boys brigade’s practical exam. No matter how much his friends tried to convince him that they weren’t lying about the dangers of sleep for them, he didn’t believe them. The school year ended. Christopher, Ravi and Nathaniel played the Borlosantix game many times over the school holidays and they repeatedly promised each other that they would continue to play it, on weekends, when the school year began. However, Wayne kept himself to himself and refused to talk to any of them. After the holidays, they all went to different secondary schools and despite their repeated promises, they didn’t continue to play the Borlosantix game, because they were too busy with school work and homework — Three years passed, Wayne continued to shun the rest of them, and the only communication there was between Christopher, Ravi and Nathaniel was the occasional, email, text or brief phone call.
It was Friday afternoon; Nathaniel was checking his emails in the school’s computer room.
“You and your friends are in grave danger,” said a disembodied female voice.
Nathaniel looked around. No one else was there.
If he ignored it everythin’ would be ok — No it wouldn’t; who woz he kiddin’ — last time he did nuttin — it ended up wid Christopher gettin’ injured... He had to warn his friends.
Nathaniel sent a text to Ravi, Christopher and Wayne:
We need 2 chat. I think it’s all starting again. Don’t sleep tonite. Meet me at my yard tomorrow.
He put his phone in his pocket, closed his eyes and shook his head. His phone beeped. Momentarily startled, Nathaniel jumped out of his seat and opened his eyes. He pulled out his phone and looked. There was a text from Wayne. He opened the text and looked:
Stop texting me u liar! I’ve got a test 2morrow & I won’t allow you to make me fail it like last time.
Nathaniel replied to the text:
I swear on my mum’s life. I’m not lying.
He received a text back from Wayne:
Nathaniel and his mother were standing in front of his father’s grave. He wiped his eyes, warm tears rolled down his cheeks. He looked, it seemed like his mother was putting on a brave face for his benefit. She hugged him close, and then they made their way home, took off their coats and went to the kitchen.
Nathaniel’s mum looked at him. “Would you like to help me to make chicken korma and rice for dinner?”
“I’d love to.”
Nathaniel and his mother made the meal and ate it at the kitchen table. A mild curry aroma filled the air. They went into the living room; he sat on the sofa, while she walked over to the piano and sat down. She played Beethoven’s 9th symphony and then Alicia key’s fallin.
Nathaniel kissed his mother on her cheek. “Good night mum.”
“Good night, Nathaniel. Sweet dreams.”
No dreams would be better.
Nathaniel went to his room, put his lamp on the floor, turned it on, walked to the light switch and turned it off. He looked, apart from the beacon of light coming from the lamp, darkness filled the room. He made his way over to the light, sat down in front of it and crossed his legs. The floor was hard and uncomfortable.
He had to stay awake. Hopefully his friends would do der same... Fallin’ asleep woz way too dangerous for dem.
Nathaniel looked at the lamp, the light was bright. He glanced at his alarm clock, it was 11 pm. He looked back at the light.
Tired. So tired. No, he had to stay awake.
Nathaniel’s eyes started to close. He shook his head and stared at the lamp.
Nathaniel was sitting on his bedroom floor. He glanced at his alarm clock, it was one am. He looked back at the lamp; his body slumped sideways, his eyes started to close, the light got smaller and smaller and everything faded to black.
“Wake up,” said some bird.
Wayne opened his eyes and looked. No adults were around. He was lying on a piece of damp grass, in the centre of a clearing, and his clothes were dank and clammy. His friends were lying beside him. They stood up. Oak trees surrounded the clearing. He glanced. Darkness lay beyond the trees closest to the clearing.
Wot the heck? He usually dreamed of cars and gadgets. This woz weird to say the least.
Wayne looked at his friends. They had fear in their eyes. Christopher bit his lower lip, and Nathaniel clenched his fists and looked around.
Weird.... Usually, Nat wozn’t afraid of anythin’, but Nat woz definitely afraid now.
“Damm it, we all fell asleep,” said Nathaniel.
“Chill out liar, this is only a dream, nothin’ to get all hot and bothered about. In the mornin’ I’ll wake up and it will be over,” said Wayne.
Nathaniel looked into Wayne’s eyes. “I swear on my life, Wayne, dis iz not an ordinary dream. We can get hurt in here.”
“Come on liar, I wozn’t born yesterday. You and I both know that dreams don’t have any effect on the real world,” said Wayne.
Christopher frowned. “Something’s different… something’s definitely different; where are the red eyes?”
Wayne shook his head. “Enuff of the melodramatics; if you can’t stop yer selves from being drama queens, please leave me to dream in peace.”
Nathaniel put both hands up. “Let’s stop arguing and start exploring deez woods.”
They entered the forest. Wayne looked around. There was no path. The rays of moonlight struggled to penetrate through the gaps, in-between the branches, and the deeper he and his companions went the more everything faded to black.
Spooky? Just a little.
Nathaniel shuddered. Wayne looked back at an oak tree; it was a few feet away from where it was before.
Not possible. Trees don’t move. Get a grip Wayne... But it did. It did.
Wayne looked at the stump of the tree, moss and mushrooms were growing on it, and its large roots were firmly placed in the ground.
He needed to fix up.
Wayne and his friends walked deeper into the forest. Nettles and thistles surrounded their legs. His legs itched. The trees drew together in thickets. He glanced at a fir tree, its trunk was leaning over to the right. He looked at his friends, and then he looked back at it. The trunk stood straight.
That tree woz definitely leaning over a second ago...Weird? No, not necessarily. He woz dreamin’ so anythin’ could happen. Yeah that woz it, had to be.
They walked until they came to the edge of the forest, and then stopped. A glade full of thorn bushes and brambles stood before them, and beyond this fir trees stood tall and strong.
“Beware of the black castle…. If you enter it, you and your friends will surely meet your doom,” said some bird inside Wayne’s head.
That woz the same bird that said wakeup, earlier.
Wayne glanced around. His friends looked at him inquisitively.
Nathaniel put his hand on Wayne’s shoulder. “What’s wrong?”
Wayne looked at Nathaniel. “Nothin’ … I mean…did you hear that?”
Nathaniel stared at Wayne with a concerned look. “Nah, I didn’t hear anyting… Wot did you hear?”
“Nothin’… it woz nothin’…” said Wayne.
Should he tell his friends wot he just heard? Nah, that would mean admittin’ he woz wrong and they were right. But wot if they got hurt? They wouldn’t. It woz just a dream.
“Let’s keep going,” said Nathaniel.
“I need a rest... I’m exhausted, and my feet feel sore,” said Ravi.
Nathaniel sat down. “O.k., we’ll rest for fifth teen minutes and den we’ll keep going.”
Wot if the voice woz right? Wot if his friends were tellin’ the truth earlier?
Wayne rubbed his jaw.
They sat down for a while, and then they walked into the glade. Wayne protected his eyes with his hands; as he trudged through the brambles, thorns tore his clothes and scratched his skin. He glanced at his friends. Their clothes were ripped; they had pieces of thorns and bushes in their hair and sweat poured down Ravi’s face as he breathed heavily. Wayne sniffed. The air was damp and musty.
Don’t panic. Mornin’ would come soon enough... Just a dream... Just a dream.
The boys made their way through the glade and stopped. Ravi leaned against a fir tree, and wiped the sweat from his face.
“This place gives me the creeps. I think we should go back to the clearing,” said Christopher.
Wayne glanced at the trees on the other side of the glade. Like an impenetrable wall their trunks stood close together.
Those trunks weren’t that close a second ago.
Nathaniel looked at Christopher. “I wanna get outa here just as bad as you do bredrin, but we have to keep going forward, coz we need to get some answers —”
Christopher touched his chest and winced. “I know. I know. I just don’t like it here.”
They walked between the fir trees.
Wayne turned around. Ravi was sitting on the ground, holding his ankle.
“Sorry, I tripped over a fallen branch,” said Ravi.
Nathaniel looked at Ravi’s ankle. “Iz it ok?”
“Yes it’s fine, just give me a few minutes and then we can continue with our journey,” said Ravi.
Nathaniel looked at each of his friends. “Please be careful. Remember if you get hurt in here you get hurt in der real world.”
They sat down for a couple of minutes. Wayne tapped his right foot. They started walking; after a while they came to the edge of the forest. They halted. A castle made out of black boulders stood ahead of them. Christopher’s eyes and mouth opened wide.
Nathaniel took a step forward. “Let’s go and see what’s —”
“No!” said Wayne.
Christopher looked at Wayne. “Why not? I thought you said dreams don’t have any effect on the real world.”
“No reason. I just don’t feel like it,” said Wayne.
Nathaniel shook his head. “Ok, you better wait here den, coz we’re going in to investigate.”
Nathaniel, Ravi and Christopher made their way to the castle.
Wayne paced up and down, whilst rubbing his jaw.
Tell ‘em. Don’t tell ‘em. Tell ‘em. Don’t tell ‘em... “Beware of the black castle. If you enter it, you and your friends will surely meet your doom”… Tell ‘em.
Wayne’s friends walked through the castle gates.
“Get out. Get out now!” screamed Wayne.
The castle gates slammed shut. Wayne ran up to the castle and rushed over the drawbridge. He looked, the black gates were made out of oak, and they had carvings of humans being tortured all over them. The carvings moved as if they were alive. Wayne tried to pry the gates open, but they didn’t budge. He scanned every inch of them, there was a crack at the edge of one of them. He scrambled towards the crack and peered through it. His friends were in a large courtyard, surrounded by three hundred pairs of red eyes that didn’t have bodies.
Wayne’s heart beat increased, his mouth became dry and he started hyperventilating.
Oh god, wot had he done? He had to get —
Wayne looked in the direction of the sound. A pair of gold pupils, with red flecks that swivelled around, shone like beacons, within the shadows at the far end of the courtyard. Wayne held his breath. A man with ghoulish green skin and black eyeballs, stepped out of the shadows. The man’s pupils focused on the children, like a hawk preparing to swoop down on its prey. Wayne strolled in their direction; his fiery red hair swayed each time the wind blew. He stopped a short distance away from them. His face was emotionless and gaunt and his gaze was piercing. A gold vein throbbed on the side of his neck.
He bellowed, “how dare you enter my castle uninvited. Who sent you? Was it my weakling of a brother?”
Wayne looked at his friends, they seemed petrified. None of them opened their mouths.
“It doesn’t mater; you’ll pay for your mistake with your lives,” said the man.
Nathaniel clenched his fists, ran towards the man and yelled, “arrhhhhhhhh.”
The man’s hair set alight, the red flecks in his pupils became aluminous and a flash of purple light shot out from them. The light struck Nathaniel in his chest, he disappeared.
Ravi and Christopher ran towards the man. The man raised his hands and Ravi and Christopher disappeared. The flames around the man’s head vanished.
They couldn’t be dead. They couldn’t.
Wayne ran into the woods, blabbering like a new born baby. He kept on running until exhaustion set in, and then he collapsed, curled himself into the foetal position and cried himself to sleep.
Wayne’s eyes were closed.
It woz just a dream. It woz just a dream. When he opened his eyes he would be back in his bedroom… It woz just a dream… If he listened hard enough he would be able to hear cars racing past his bedroom window... It woz just a dream. A dream!
Wayne opened his eyes and looked around. It was day time, and he was lying on the ground, in the middle of the forest. He sat up and started tapping his right foot.
He shouldn’t be ‘ere — He should’ve woken up by now — His friends — No. No. No. They couldn’t be dead… It had to be a dream.
The bird in his head said, “it wasn’t a dream.”
That woz the same bird that gave the warning yesterday.
Wayne looked around. No one was there.
Wayne asked, “who are you?”
“You’ll find out when the time is right.”
“Please tell me this isn’t real.”
“This is real, Wayne, if you get injured in this world, you’ll receive an identical injury on earth.”
“Oh my god, that means my friends are really dead.”
“Your friends are not dead —”
“Huh, I don’t understand. I saw the man with gold pupils kill ‘em.”
“The man with gold pupils is called Alizarin the sorcerer. He didn’t kill them… He merely stole their spirits and put them in an enchanted sleep.”
Wayne asked, “wot do I have to do to save ‘em?”
“In order to save them you must go back to the black castle, find the chamber of lost souls, retrieve your friends’ spirits and find your friends.”
Wayne asked, “wot’s this planet called?”
“Haven’t you worked that out yet?”
Wayne said, “as in the imaginary world which was created as a part of the Borlosantix game.”
“Yes, the very same,” said the bird in his head.
Wayne wiped away his tears. “But how?”
“It was created out of you and your friends’ collective imagination.”
Wayne smiled. “Hold on, if this place woz created out of our collective imagination then all I need to do to get us out of ‘ere is imagine us safely back on earth.”
“I’m afraid that won’t work —”
Wayne frowned. “Why not?”
“Haven’t you noticed that this place isn’t exactly how you imagined it? Borlosanti was created out of you and your friends’ collective imagination, but then it took on a life of its own.”
“I don’t get it.”
The bird in his head said, “let me give you an example... Do you remember you or your friends imagining Alizarin?”
“That’s because you didn’t… You created his father, Naraymer; his Mother, Kelisier, and their arch enemy Seriyah… After that point Borlosanti took on a life of its own.”
“Brilliant, I’ve got to sneak into a castle that belongs to a sorcerer who has anger management issues.”
The bird in his head said, “I must leave now… Go into that bush with the round leaves… Inside there you will find some food and equipment for your journey.”
“One last question, wot were those red eyed things that didn’t ’ave bodies?”
“Those were Alizarin’s loyal army of invisible minions.”
“Great, things just keep gettin’ better and better.”
“Good bye and good luck, Wayne.”
“Hold on. Hold on. Once I find my friends’ spirits, how do I find my friends?”
Wayne listened. Silence. He glanced to the right, a bush with round leaves stood a short distance away. He crawled into it, picked up a satchel and crawled out. He opened the satchel. Inside of it, there was a dagger, a pencil, a catapult, some pebbles, a piece of paper, a mirror, a candle, some matches, a flask of water, some rope and some bread and cheese.