Only in Dreams
They say that when you dream, you're actually sorting through your mind to determine what you will remember and what you'll forget.
In other words, sometimes dreams are the last time you'll think of something... or someone.
A dream came upon Zach shortly after he fell asleep.
The checkered Gelert found himself on a wooden dock stretched out over the ocean. And, for some reason, it stretched until he couldn't see the ends of either side. It was a line that connected the horizon, and he was standing in the middle of it.
"Zach," he heard a voice gasp.
Startled, he whirled around, searching for the source of the voice.
"Down here," the same voice called, followed by a rapid flurry of splashing.
Zach looked down, and was surprised to see an eventide Xweetok clinging to the edge of the dock. Her deep-blue fur, dripping with water, framed her face. A wave of relief washed over bright blue eyes.
"Help me," she whispered, not sounding particularly afraid.
She stuck one of her golden paws up.
Zach, bewildered, took it, and heaved her onto the deck.
"Thank you," the girl said, her eyes gleaming with admiration.
"Umm... you're welcome," Zach replied, averting his gaze from the girl's beautiful eventide face. She looked about his age, and he was nearly positive he had seen her before. He couldn't help but think how much he wanted to be painted eventide, but he was a Gelert, and that particular paintbrush didn't exist for his species, so he had to settle with his second favorite paint brush, checkered.
The more Zach looked at the girl's dark blue ears and fiery tail, the more he was convinced that he had seen her before.
"Do I know you from somewhere?" he finally asked.
The girl, who was sitting at the edge of the dock, smiled. She took his hand and pulled him over.
"Sit down. I'll tell you."
"I'm Akiane," the girl said. "Remember?"
Zach found himself gazing into her blue eyes. Suddenly, he felt uncomfortable, as if her eyes were searching through his thoughts. But no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't look away.
It was as if he was trying to remember something, to pull out something from his past...
"You still don't remember me?" Akiane asked, a hint of hurt in her voice. "You really don't?" The intensity in her eyes had been replaced by a dull emotion... almost sadness.
"I'm sorry... no... I... I don't," Zach managed to mumble.
He forced his gaze from her eyes and stared his front paws.
"Maybe you don't remember, but I met you before, a really long time ago. You were really special to me."
Suddenly, a trance seemed to come over Zach, as if time had frozen. He felt as if he was dead weight sinking to the bottom of a pool.
Then an image flashed through his mind.
It was only a split second before it moved on.
But it was long enough for him to remember.
The image was of him, when he was very young, about three years old. He was sitting at a table with a young Xweetok his age. Both had vibrant smiles: the girl had bright blue eyes and an eventide coat of fur.
He looked over his shoulder.
Akiane's face appeared, seeming very concerned. Again, the intensity was restored in Akiane's eyes as she searched his face.
"You remember me," she whispered.
Akiane stared into his eyes in wonder and silent delight.
"Zach... so you didn't forget me!"
Her eyes shone blue, brighter than ever.
Suddenly, a memory slashed through Zach's mind. Following it were more and more memories, throwing themselves faster and faster until his mind was overwhelmed.
Zach jolted back to his senses.
Akiane was still next to him, but now she was sitting up.
"Are you okay, Zach? You kind of zoned out for a while."
Zach hurried up to his feet.
"Yeah, I guess I'm fine." He pressed his hand against his forehead, trying to suppress a mild headache. The tips of his Gelert ears were throbbing. It must have come from him thinking too much.
"Good. Then let's take a walk."
"Do you think this is strange?" Akiane suddenly asked.
"What?" Zach asked.
"We're in a dream."
Now everything became clear to Zach—the never-ending dock, the reason why this place looked like no place in Neopia, Akiane...
But all he said was, "Yeah... I guess. I guess this is kind of strange."
"You know, Zach... sometimes your dreams are the last time you see a person."
Zach noticed, with surprise, that there indeed was an end to the dock—and it was coming up a lot closer than he had expected.
But Akiane didn't seem bothered at all, and she kept talking.
"I mean... You know what dreams are, right?"
Zach nodded, peering at the end of the dock they were nearing.
"Dreams," Akiane explained, "are when your mind is trying to sort through what you want to remember and what you want to forget."
Akiane delved passionately into a thorough analysis of dreams: meanwhile, Zach couldn't help but noticed that if they walked any closer, they might fall off the dock. And past the end of the dock was the rest of the ocean, the rest of the world... He wondered where Neopia was.
Suddenly, Akiane stopped and turned to Zach.
"Please, Zach," she begged. "Please... don't go."
Zach blinked, confused.
"Don't leave me," Akiane continued. A teardrop rolled down her cobalt blue cheek. "Stay here, with me. Remember me," she begged.
"I... I'll always remember you," Zach replied slowly, hoping his voice was reassuring. It must not have been, because Akiane swung her tail around to her side and stepped away.
"No!" Akiane cried. "You don't know! If you step off this dock... All will be lost..." She turned to face far beyond the end of the doc. Zach couldn't help but notice another tear roll down her cheek. "If you jump off this dock, you'll lose all memories... of me."
"No, I won't," Zack promised.
Akiane whirled around to face him.
"Yes, you will! You will... and you know it!" Tears streaked freely across her face.
Zach himself knew it, deep down. But it was like he was trying to deny it.
"This is a dream. It's not real life!" Akiane cried.
Zach cast his gaze over the ocean, then let it wander back to Akiane.
"How do I stay?" he asked.
"You don't go," she answered, her voice almost a whisper. "You stay. If you don't jump off the edge."
"Then... when will I wake up? In real life?"
Akiane's eyes dropped.
Her answer left Zach confused, but before he could ask anything, Akiane looked back at him again. Her bright blue eyes shone from behind her soft eventide fur.
"Have you ever wondered what a coma is?"
Realization hit Zach. Memories surged through his mind, harder than before.
His friend... Akiane... gone... to the Neohospital... in a coma!
Zach's eyes snapped open in horror.
"I stayed for you, Zach! You're the reason why I'm still here! Don't go!"
The sound of Akiane's pleading voice mixed with the weight of the memories left Zach's head pounding.
His breath came in short, fast heaves.
His head seemed to thump harder, harder. The sound o f the waves beyond him crashed louder, louder...
And without a second thought, Zach spun around and plunged into the dark depths of the water.
Akiane woke up with a gasp.
Her fur on her forehead was damp with sweat.
Her eyes burned with the sight of light, which she had not seen in years. Her heart thumped rapidly.
Confused, she scanned her mind, straining to remember anything that may have happened to leave her in such a restless state.
Akiane remembered the place she had spent for fourteen years—on a dock, waiting for Zach.
She smiled at the memory.
But she stopped smiling when she remembered what happened next.
Zach had jumped into the water.
Akiane, on the other hand, had simply willed herself to stop dreaming.
Something she hadn't done in four years. The thought of meeting Zach again propelled her with vigor to stay.
She should have told Zach that he could have just willed himself to wake up, too... but she was selfish, and she wanted to spend more time with him, on the dock, in a dream...
But now Zach was gone, really gone, out of reach, just as she was now gone from his memory.
Akiane lay out a towel at the beach in Krawk Island. When her mother had discovered her awake that morning, she had promised to take Akiane anywhere, in celebration of her finally waking up.
Akiane didn't choose the shore at Krawk Island because she liked it. In fact, she was almost scared to go there. She chose it because she knew it was Zach's favorite place.
A day at Krawk Island in the hot summer months was irresistible to him.
Surprisingly, it didn't take long for Zach to arrive. Two younger Gelerts, a boy and a girl, ran out into the waves before him.
Of course, Akiane remembered with a smile. Elena and Joey.
She watched as Zach followed them into the water,
She put down her book, took off her sunglasses, and approached him.
She waded into the water. The waves felt refreshing as they washed over her paws.
She spotted a loose beach ball nearby. She smiled and grabbed it. Then she threw it purposefully at Zach. It hit his checkered shoulder.
He turned around and met Akiane's eyes. He held her gaze for a second, and hope fluttered in her heart.
But that instantly dissolved when he asked, "This your beach ball?"
Akiane swallowed, forced a smile, and nodded.
He tossed it back to her and turned away.
"Wait!" she called. He turned around. She swallowed again. "I mean... Have we met? I... feel like I know you."
Her eyes searched for a clue in his eyes, any clue that he might remember...
But his eyes held only a blank stare. He shook his head.
"Nope," he replied. "I don't think so."
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