This story is by Camila and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I dream in a world of my own devising. This is not to say that I travel into a fantasy in my sleep, no. It has been so long since I last slept I am certain I have forgotten how. I dream during my waking hours, which, we have established, is always. But this is not to say that I live in a world of my own devising, no. I have inhabited a world that is not mine for so long I am certain I’ve never known another. One day I will live in the world of my own devising. One day I will inhabit the land that I built grain by grain and one day I will lay under a sky which I painted stroke by stroke. I will live there for so long I will remember how to sleep and I will forget this wretched place in which I live.
I live in a world of grey. Four grey walls, equal in height and length, a grey floor, and a grey ceiling. They do not differ from the other. If I was to spin around in quick circles until all the grey smeared together into one never-ending loop and I stumbled, not knowing whether I floated or fell, I would not be able to identify the floor from the ceiling from a wall. Believe me, I have tried. There are no cracks, marks, or blemishes that are not exactly copied onto the other surfaces. The room I live in is replicated to the most perfect mirror image. The endless grey mural is uninterrupted by a window reporting on the world beyond the one in which I have been sequestered. It is a small mercy, There used to be a door with a slit from which my daily nutritional supplements were provided. It used to be my clock, the only way to mark the passage of time was to judge the colour and quality of the sliver of light that cut across my eternal grey landscape. I misplaced the door a while ago and since then have been unable to make accurate descriptions of the passage of time. I would not attempt even a rudimentary guess, for I wager time itself was lost when I misplaced my door. Not that it was my door, or my clock, or my room, or my walls, or my floor, or my ceiling. Nothing in this grey hellscape belongs to me. Once, I knew the names of those whom this world belonged to and I would curse them for condemning me to a grey existence. It is a constant reminder, that colour, an irritating callback I can never escape–a tether I cannot sever. Back when I knew the names of those to whom my existence belonged, I would curse them for not making my existence a white bright enough to blind me or a black dark enough to lose myself in. But I cannot. So I sit here in the vast and lonely grey which belongs to nameless captors who lord over my existence. Now I claim the only bit of it that still belongs to me.
I painted my dreams blue. I took a bucket of each shade and I poured them out like a gradient across the sky. I watched as they twined around each other and dried into new shades and colours. I drank in the explosion of blue through all my senses, I listened to it shout and whimper and sing, I tasted its sweet tartness and surprising bitterness. I felt it caress the air around me as I smelled it, crips and so full of life unlike the sale sameness of the grey where I lived. But the sky alone was not enough to stave off the world in which I live. I wanted more. So I took each new shade of blue and I splashed it onto the ground to make an ocean. I added in some specks of green lest it tries to form a mirror image of the sky. It never did. By the time I took some white to paint the clouds and sprinkle in the salt, I could hear the waves crashing against each other and I could smell that thick ocean scent. By the time I let the purples and the blacks dance into a spectacular night, the water caressed my calves and the wind cradled my face. Then I reached down to rip the first handful of earth and place it in my mouth where it burst into all the long lost tastes I had hungered for. The tastes of roots and leaves and bodies and blood. The taste of life. And by the time I had completed my first dream, I had created a world of my own devising in which I was both mother and child, master and servant, author and audience. I had made something which truly belonged to me.
The second time I dreamt, I had an island teeming with life. I did not know what to do with it so I asked my sprouting saplings in a voice I had never heard in a language so old that I did not question its presence on my tongue and on my lips. The saplings wanted to grow, so I drew the warmth of a long-forgotten sun and I called for the heavens to shower them in rain, and then I stood there feeling hot and cold for the first time as the world around me grew and grew and grew. I did that with all the life on my island. The birds wanted to sing, so I wrote them golden arias. The wolves wanted to court the moon so I made her a vain and distant goddess who revelled in the nightly praise. My residents asked me to build them homes in which they were to live but I told them all I knew was lonely grey boxes. My residents smiled at my plans and proudly placed their houses. They had four walls and a ceiling and a floor but not a single one was grey. They were bright enough to invite guests.
By the third dream, I had built a city in the middle of the island of my own devising and I wanted a place within it. I was both giver and recipient after all. I built a clock tower and watched as time sank into the cycles of my world. Then, slowly, a soft ticking came from the tower. It sped up a bit as if becoming more sure of itself and then, with a confident smile, set the rhythm for my dreams. As such, I dream in a world of my own devising. But as long as I reign in the dichotomy of both its ruler and its subject, it will be but a dream. Some faraway place of refuge to escape the enveloping grey sameness. A place to see and hear, to smell, to taste, to touch, to feel. I could not live in a life in which I was in control. So in order to move into my dream, I must relinquish my power.
I asked the residents of my island if they would like me to be one of their own. They welcomed me with toothy grins and open feathers. They shook my hands in their paws. They did not ask why I was the only outlier among them. I was indebted to their gratitude. A debt they assured me I could pay back with nothing more than my presence. But sometimes, when the grey creeps back into the peripheries of the world of my own devising, I indebt myself even further, just so I can prolong the dream.
I have made preparations to leave my life here in the grey. I have a world of my own devising after all. One full of sounds, and life, and colour. One where time ticks on and in which I am not alone. It is time to start living in my dreams.