Author’s Note: I had originally intended to enter this story into the CBC fiction writing contest of last year. To be honest, I didn’t really feel my story was “first place worth”, so I decided to enter next year instead with something different. I wanted a story that was absolute perfection, as I wanted to aim for the number one spot. I unfortunately found out about the contest too late, and rushed to make something good within the course of a month.That’s not to say I hate this story, not at all. I’m glad I came back to it this year and looked over it again.

What I initially thought to be a bit bland I found to be interesting, and even re-wrote certain portions of it to give it more flare. I liked the idea of a MMO contained within one dreams, which is why I wrote this story. Surprisingly enough, this wasn’t inspired by Ready Player One, but rather my love for online gaming as a whole.

The nameless protagonist in the story was originally meant to be an adult version of Nemo from the “Little Nemo” series, at least in my eyes. Of course, due to copyright, it’s a separate unrelated character. The idea in my head while writing this was that it was Nemo as an adult, thinking he’s moved past the joys of both his childhood and dreams. The story was meant to be him recapturing his lost childhood, while discovering new wonders. Anywho, I hope you all enjoy!

Dream: The Game

I was lost, I had no idea where I was. I was surrounded by purple swirling clouds, and nothing felt real. I knew what was going on though, I was in some sort of dream. It was easy to tell, nothing felt truly real. Dreams combined the real with the surreal, and made it into something truly alien. Still, I never had a dream quite like this before. I had gained lucidity in this dream, a state of mind where I had a modicum of control over what happens in it. I have had lucid dreams before, but I never managed to pull them off this easily.

I looked how I normally would in my dreams, possessing my regular coif of black hair. I stood at my usual height of 6 feet tall, with my usual semi-muscular body build. I was clad in a white T-shirt and pair of brown sweat pants, the attire I typically wear to bed. I continued traipsing through the mist, while my bare feet pressed against what felt like solid ground.

I pushed through the smog and made my way into what appeared to be a large open area. The smoke around this area was practically non-existent; it gave off an almost eerie vibe. I noticed that at the front of this large area was what appeared to be a gate, with a rather intimidating gatekeeper protecting it. The metal sentry towered above me with its enormous size, had a dull-grey paint job, and appeared to be bolted together with large bulbous screws.

Sticking out of the metal leviathan’s back was what looked like a pair of large pipes, which gave me the impression that the machine was steam-powered. “Why ‘ello there, guv!” Exclaimed the robot in a thick Cockney accent, which caught me off guard. “Um… Hello.” I said in a voice that wasn’t entirely my own. It sounded like me, but it had a strange echo.

“Oi, welcome to “Dreamscape Online”! The first online game ever that connects to a server through dream-waves, Guv!” I reached my hand up towards my head and began to scratch it out of sheer confusion. “An online game in a dream? That just doesn’t sound possible. Even if it was, I’m beyond the age of playing a video-game.”

The robot then let out a bellowing laugh, causing large clouds of steam to billow out from the pipes on his back. “If ya didn’t believe or care, ya’d have already walked away! No one is too old for a good game, even if they say otherwise. Ya can lie to ya’self, or ya can go deeper in. That, or ya could walk away and never learn of the treasures that await ya.”

The robot was correct, if I wasn’t interested than I would have already left. I was morbidly curious what about lied beyond the gate, it was something that I knew I had to see. “In that case, I will enter. Let’s see what makes this game so special.” Without saying anything, the robot shuffled to the side of the gate. It let out yet another billow of steam, as the gates slowly slid open.

The metal gates let out a rather melodious noise as they pulled themselves open, revealing a humongous city before me. The city was truly massive and was also covered in a veil of absolute darkness. Normally when I have a dream that takes place at night, I feel this overwhelming dread. I wasn’t feeling any such sensation this time, only an overwhelming urge to explore.

The robot backed up and disappeared into the mist, as I found myself uncontrollably walking forwards towards the gate. I entered through the gates, and found myself assaulted by a strange sensation. It felt as though my body was cold and hot at the same time, as if a mixture of different levels of temperature were assaulting every part of my body at once.

I found this especially odd, as I usually didn’t feel anything in most of my dreams. I walked through the landscape of the city, while gazing at how empty everything seemed. This was an online game, so where was everyone else? Despite this being an experience meant to be shared with multiple players, there wasn’t a soul in sight.

I then realized I was in a dream, a dream that I supposedly had control over. Why look for other beings, when I can just summon them here? I started to concentrate deeply, trying to summon a being into the Dreamscape. I stood there in solemn silence, as I focused my mind on the summoning. As I did so, I thought of how wizards in fiction would often summon beings from other universes into our own.

As I stood there concentrating, I wondered that if I should really be summoning anything at all. Before I could contemplate too hard on the issue, a massive blue ball of energy emerged before me. The ball flattened itself out and formed into a large blue portal, one that was emitting a strange energy.

From beneath the the portal’s powerful pull emerged a pretty large scaly paw. The emerald green scales combined with the thick white claws gave off the impression of a large mythical beast. Another paw came though afterwards, planting itself firmly on the ground. The beast threw its paws further through the portal, revealing a pair of scaly front legs.

The creature then dug his claws into the cement, before pulling his body through the shimmering blue gate. Emerging from the portal was what appeared to be a humongous green dragon! The massive scaly monstrosity stuck its head through the gate, before pulling its entire body through.

The dragon stood on four legs, was covered in green scales thicker than the strongest armor, had a pair of massive wings, and an overall intimidating appearance. The dragon looked down at me with its big yellow eyes, as if it was staring right through me. “Greetings, mortal.” Said the dragon in a surprisingly calm and gentle tone.

“Um… Hi.” I responded, somewhat confused by the soft voice of the big burly beastie. “I believe you summoned me. Is there anything I can assist you with?” I paused for a moment, feeling a little nervous about asking a dream dragon a question. “Well, I was just wondering where all the other players are.” The dragon chuckled softly in response, as if my question was amusing to it.

“This game is vast, they are most likely elsewhere in this gigantic labyrinth of a world. Considering this is a very early version of the game, we still don’t have a large player-base.” I crossed my arms as I stared intently at the dragon, while trying to fully comprehend what I was seeing and feeling. “So, you mean I won’t be able to meet a single player before waking up?” I asked, as I tried desperately to ignore the fact that a massive mythical monster was standing before me.

The dragon grinned, right before spreading his wings wide in front of me. The dragon’s grin intensified, as he started to beat his wings heavily. “Well, how about we look for them together? After all, you still have a few hours before your alarm goes off.” I stared at the dragon, my sheepish nature once again taking hold. “W-Well, I wouldn’t want to be a bother. After all, I don’t really play games and I’d just be wasting your time!”

“Everyone plays games, even those that say they don’t. Regardless, this dream is more than just a game. Here, let me show you how grand it can be.” I blinked in confusion at the dragon’s words, not noticing that I was now high up in the air. I looked down and found that was I now seated atop the back of the gigantic dragon!

“H-How did I get up here?!” I shouted as I threw my body down on the dragon’s back and gripped tightly. I was incredibly afraid of heights! “Who knows how you got up here? A dream is always changing, always morphing. What I do know is that you need to throw your anxiety away and enjoy yourself!” Exclaimed the dragon in his usual soft-spoken voice.

“I can’t, I’m afraid of heights!” I shouted out of desperation. The dragon didn’t care too much and started to flap his wings, as he prepared to take off. “Good thing this is just a dream and falling from heights can’t hurt you. Now, let’s see the world!” Despite my protests, the dragon took off into the air. The two of soared of us high into the sky of the Dreamscape.

It was odd though, the higher we soared, the less nervous I got. It was as if my anxiety was vanishing, while my attempts at over-rationalizing something that didn’t make sense became non-existent as well. I felt a calmness wash over me, something I rarely feel outside of my dreams.

As I soared high above the clouds with my draconic ally, I regretted the fact that I would soon awake. A game within my own dreams still seemed like far-fetched idea. Still, I couldn’t deny how alien and strange this dream felt compared to all others. This was a world I felt I could truly get lost in, a game that I could truly enjoy. For the first time in years, I felt like I could take on the world. And to think, all of this was because of just one little dream.

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