Wherever I was, I could not see much, just gray darkness similar to the warm and safe kind beneath my blankets when Zoey and I used them for tents in my bedroom. But I was not beneath my blankets. The grayness was infinite here, wherever here was, and I floated and rolled and swam in it, which made me certain I was dreaming.
There was nothing to look at, only my hands and arms and the rest of my body below my head, though they were almost impossible to see in the grayness. I wore a gown—no. Not a gown. It was a long T-shirt—the kind I wore as pajamas. I also had a pair of white ankle socks on feet that seemed far away. They floated in and out of sight.
I soon grew bored with floating, so I sat, surprised to find a plush seat beneath me—a sofa by its size and shape when I stretched out my arms on either side.
“Nice,” I said.
The sofa made a comfortable bed.
I floated alone. And I liked it.
I floated with my sofa, going nowhere.
There was no sense of emergency here—no alarm to awaken me to another day of chores, no schedules to follow and adhere to, and no places to be at, like Chase’s baseball games and Trina’s piano recitals.
I liked that, too.
Except for the infinite grayness. It was like being underwater. I searched for color. I had seen plenty of colorful underwater worlds of coral reefs and tropical fish.
But this was not the ocean.
“Where am I?” I asked a pinpoint of white light far above me, shining like a solitary star a billion miles away.
An urgent need to go to it overwhelmed me. Whatever was there was important. Perhaps color was there. I sat up.
“Hurry,” I said to my sofa, which floated and ignored my requests for it to speed to the light. “I need to go there. Now.”
“Let it come to you,” a familiar voice said from the sofa seat to my right.
“Daddy?” I squealed, delighted to hear his voice.
“Be patient,” he said from the grayness, his thin body an almost featureless shape next to me. I scrambled into his embrace of long arms that wrapped around me and held me close. His Aqua Velva cologne made me grin wide while I snuggled against him.
Sudden white light bathed us as though someone had flicked on a light switch. I fell from Daddy’s embrace but remained snuggled against him. He wore his usual dark work suit and polished, black leather Florsheim wingtip oxfords—all business. And my T-shirt was the Bugs Bunny one from last Christmas.
I felt a change in the cloth against my left cheek. Daddy now wore his blue silk robe and matching pajamas and slippers from the same Christmas.
“How did you change clothes so fast?” I asked.
“It’s Christmas,” he said, pointing a long finger at the infinite white space in front of us. I looked, wanting to see a Christmas tree and decorations there, but there was none. No Christmas smells of cookies and cake, and no carols playing in the background. No noise at all.
Someone coughed. A quick, soft cough loud enough that it sent my attention to an armchair that descended from above us. It stopped in front of the sofa and a girl looked up from an open, oversized hardcover book.
“You look like me,” I said.
The doppelganger smiled at me, then closed the book softly and laid it in her lap of skinny leg jeans—my favorite pair from last Christmas. She even wore my oversized tank top with a print of Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night on the front, which had also been a Christmas gift. Her blonde hair—either fastened in a bun or a ponytail in the back—was pulled tight from her face.
I brushed a hand against my hair. It was loose and draped around my neck and shoulders.
“Who is she?” I asked Daddy. “Why does she look like me?”
“I am you,” the doppelganger said.
“This is such a weird dream,” I said to Daddy. “I don’t think I’ve ever dreamed about me before.”
“’Tis no dream, girlfriend,” the other me said. “Welcome to one of death’s many realities … home away from home … the land of repetition and boredom.” She yawned audibly.
“Hush,” Daddy said to her. Then, to me, he said, “She’s your subconscious. She needs to be a part of you, not floating here without you. You must pull her in so you can recover. The two of you need to be one again.”
Recover? I clutched Daddy’s arm in a tight embrace. “Recover from what?”
“A coma,” the other me called out. “Lightning struck us. It killed Daddy and put us in the hospital, dying.”
I scowled at the girl. “I don’t like this dream. I wish you’d go away.”
“You’re in denial, girlfriend. But that doesn’t change the facts. You need to wake from this coma.”
“I don’t believe you,” I said. “Daddy’s right here. This is just a dream trying to go bad.” I searched Daddy’s solemn face. “Tell her she’s crazy.”
Daddy met my gaze. “To awaken from your coma, you need to be one with your subconscious and create order in your mind. You need to embrace your subconscious again.”
“What are you saying?” I shook my head.
“You can do this, Vree, honey,” Daddy said. “The lightning separated you from your subconscious, but it also triggered special abilities in you. You need your subconscious so you can live.”
I let go of his arm, scooted away, then crossed my arms over my chest and said, “This is just a dream. Nothing more. Just a dream.”
No one said anything.
My clothes felt damp and cool. I uncrossed my arms and looked down at myself. I no longer wore the Bugs Bunny shirt. My red KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON T-shirt made me think of rain, thunder, and—
“If this isn’t a dream, then where am I?”
“Somewhere between life and death,” the other me said.
I moaned and shook my head. “Stop talking about death.”
“Hey-hey, girlfriend,” she called out, “where’s the love?”
“I don’t love you!”
“Without her, you cannot live,” Daddy said.
“If all this is true and you’re dead but I’m not, I don’t wanna live without you.”
“Hush your nonsense, Verawenda Renee. You need to continue living. You need to do important things where you’re going. Now, sit up straight, chin out, and bring your subconscious to you. Think it and it will happen. Accept her and she will come. Let it happen.”
I frowned at him. He had moved closer to me. He reached out and took my left hand, lifted it to his mouth and kissed the back of it. Then he released it. A white light glowed from my hand, spread up my arm, then over me until the light bathed me.
Across the short distance, white light bathed the other me.
“Now that you’re awakening, it’s time for me to go.” Daddy’s form grew translucent. “The path of your new life will be difficult, especially where you are headed. But your subconscious will be with you to help.” He raised a finger to hush my interruption. “You can do this.”
The light hurt my eyes, so I covered them with my hands.
“Breathe,” the other me said, her voice coming from all directions.
“I am breathing,” I said.
“Breathe,” she said again.
I sucked in a breath. “See? Breathing.”
“Deeper. I want you to take a deep breath this time. A really big breath.”
“You know why.”
I wanted to tell her I didn’t, but she was right.
I uncovered my eyes. Then I took in a deep breath. The pinpoint of white light far above me, shining like a solitary star a billion miles away, rushed at me and consumed me in blazing light.