“Adrift: Part 1”

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By: Julian Bass
Artwork by Bielle Baral

The human mind is indeed a thing of great beauty… with its profound purpose and capabilities. It’s a powerful tool, and its ability to store memories and information is certainly a great feat in itself.

Yet, not only does it control our thoughts, emotions, and actions, but it can also create some of the wildest fantasies under the most seemingly abstract concepts. It’s pretty much why I pursued a degree in Psychology, to begin with; people poke around in the stars and dig through the depths of the earth in high hopes of finding something extraordinary, yet they forget that one of the greatest enigmas is sitting inside us all.

But our minds are much more powerful than what we give them credit for. There has always been a defined distinction between reality and the concoctions that our minds cook up while we slumber, as I saw in great detail last night.

Let me introduce myself a bit; my name is Isaac. I’m a licensed psychologist, graduated as the top of my batch a few years ago from a prestigious university. You could probably say I’ve always been a bit of a fanatic of the human mind, partly thanks to a lot of pop culture, but I suppose I’ve always just been so…intrigued by our own capabilities. Not even the latest, cutting-edge supercomputers would’ve existed had it not been for the billions of neurons firing in our heads.

What mostly drew my interest was a bit of a stretch from reality though; dreams. Their creation, existence, and diversity, despite being so…temporary. I wanted to learn more, more of the link to these illusions which seemingly appear beyond our control.

You see, I have a theory about our minds. As crazy as it sounds, it could spark a new revelation in the scientific community… should it be true. I believe there’s a very real connection between our reality and our fantasies, a hidden connection of sorts that we must pass through to get from point A to point B. I call it the “Astral Bridge,” a link between the physical and mental; the real and immaterial reality to our dreams. The mere prospect of a hidden relationship between the two variables has been a question lingering in my mind for far too long, and I just had to sniff around a bit. The concept would be astonishing.

I took a leave from my work, postponed my other projects and spent some time at home to do some formal research on the topic. I gotta say it did feel a bit lonesome at home, but an old friend stayed by my side. Winston, my 8-year-old Golden Retriever, was always a cheerful soul who seemed to lighten up the room he was in. I still remember the day I got him as a pup. His cheery yelps as I raised him from the floor where the tell-tale signs of a lasting bond.

It’s amazing, isn’t it? How the simple mentality of a common animal can form something so precious that can triumph the empathy of even some humans.

Anyway, back to the research. After some weeks of experimentation, I came across an interesting idea. You know that heaviness you feel right at the edge of your consciousness when you’re at the closest point of falling asleep? What if this brief moment was some sort of… transference? The first gateway to a hidden bridge that brings us to the deepest reaches of our minds where we drift on our memories?

There must be a way to tap into it, yes! The night this idea popped into my head, I was tossing and turning on the topic. If such a bridge did exist between reality and fantasy, how would we see it while we are unconscious? I thought, thought, and thought more.

Then it came to me. For sure it was a long shot, but the pure simplicity of it was worth a try. I simply had to stay awake. Not literally, of course, or I wouldn’t be getting any sleep at all, but what if the point… right at the edge of consciousness, the “edge of sleep,” what if we could linger a bit longer and see if something new could transpire? I know what you must be thinking; it would be just another foolish charade. I’d just keep myself from getting a decent night’s rest and wake up frustrated.

Well, if you were only right.

I had to experiment. What good is a claim without proof? I laid out a small assortment of sleeping pills before bed as a little ”motivation” to keep going at the idea of the breaking point between the two worlds. I said my hopeful prayers and gave Winston his goodnight hug. He usually stays next to my bed on his own, watching the light dance through the window till he too moves on.

I let my eyes close.

I controlled my breathing, ever so slowly with a rhythm like waves lapping softly at a shoreline. I couldn’t help but smile a bit as the idea of the Astral Bridge crossed my mind yet again.

It really is a thing of beauty, so mechanical yet so undoubtedly…intelligent and complex. I felt my eyes grow heavy, while my body grew light, but I held fast and kept myself awake, if ever by the slightest glimmer of light in the room. I felt the soft sheets cool at my touch, while my head fell seemingly even deeper into my pillow. I was reaching that point.

But I kept at it. I needed to stay awake, to keep at that point. I swore I would find the bridge and explore its possibilities. I thought of Winston, fast asleep near me. I focused on the softening emotions and sensations of my body, filling my mind with silence and rest.

Then it all went black.

But this…wasn’t like sleep. I understand that no one can really elaborate on the sensation without being awake, but… that’s just it. I still felt very much awake. If you could picture those days of when you were a kid pretending to be asleep on your mother’s arms as she carried you to your room, it sort of felt like that; I felt the world around me morph, ever so slightly, as my body fell limp.

But that wasn’t the oddest bit. The odd part was how everything just seemed to… cut off. From the cold of my room and warmth of my blanket, it just faded into nothing, almost like a void. As a matter of fact, I felt no explicit heat or warmth, it felt so empty.

The next thing that caught my eye was, in contrast, quite striking. From the softness of my bed, I felt the light stroke of grass on my skin.

I slowly opened my eyes, only to be greeted by deep darkness; not dark enough to fully obscure my vision, as silhouettes began to form, but deep black like the evening twilight.

Whatever it was, it certainly wasn’t a bed, nor my room.