Author: Mishal Imaan Syed

I woke to a ceiling gilded with stars.
“She’s awake,” someone murmured. I rubbed the dreams from my eyes, trying to make out the fluttering form of someone.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“A creature of the night.” The voice was pure velvet and silver lace.
I remembered the night vaguely—I’d fallen into a deep sleep, exhausted from the daylight, as vampires tend to be.
“The ceiling,” I said blearily. “Stars.”
The velvet voice laughed. “Oh, Eiliyah. That’s not a ceiling. This is the Otherworld.”
“I’m…in the Otherworld?”
“Obviously.” It seemed amused.
I smiled. A visit to the Otherworld was the highest honor bestowed on
a vampire
But the creature wasn’t done talking. “Eiliyah, love, it’s not what you think. The Otherworld is a place of dreams. You create it yourself.”
“You mean…this ceiling, this room…it’s all a product of my dreams?”
“Of course.”
“So…” I didn’t understand. “It’s not real?”
“Oh, love. Dreams are always real. Here, let me show you.” The velvet creature materialized in front of me, violet eyes fringed with rose lashes. The room lightened and the stars in the “ceiling” turned to swirling nebulae.
Suddenly I realized what the creature meant. “Ceilings are limits,” I said. “But dreams don’t have limits. And that’s why it looks like a ceiling—but it’s not.”
“Precisely,” said the velvet creature. “It’s illusory. The Otherworld contains many illusory facets.” It coaxed me out from under the covers, leaving trails of wispy smoke in its wake.
“Am I in another dimension?” I asked as I sat up.
“Yes. You lived in a gated world. I simply opened one of the gates.” The velvet creature traced one icy long finger along my forehead. “Other dimensions are a trust. You must take care of them. And this…this is the dimension of dreams. Be careful which dreams you choose to handle. Ask permission.”
The air turned thick with vapor. Golden rays shone from the broken ceiling.
The velvet creature pointed to the rays. “That’s the manufacturing center.”
“Dreams are manufactured here?”
“Why, yes. And packaged. See?” It pointed.
I looked. “Oh my God.”
Silver snowflakes packaged the dream and wrapped it in lavender and tied it with a satin bow.
“That’s a good dream,” the velvet creature explained. “But there are bad ones.”
As if on command, a ribbon of black snaked around the edges of the room, which (I now realized) were expanding. If ceilings could be broken or cease to exist, then why not walls?
“Bad dreams expand more quickly than good ones,” the velvet creature whispered. “That is why you must be careful what you release when you break open the gated realms.”
“Why do bad dreams expand so fast?” I asked.
“Because we trap ourselves in them. We mire ourselves in nightmarish fears with no basis. They expand, and they envelop us and suffocate us,” replied the velvet creature. Its voice had taken on a tone of unbearable melancholy. “Such is the fate of humankind—and of vampirekind. We lose ourselves in bad dreams with no understanding of the good that awaits us.” It turned its luminous eyes on me. “I brought you to this realm so you would not make the same mistake as those who came before you.”
I was starting to understand now. “So this is the dimension to which we escape when we sleep.”
“Yes, Eiliyah, and when you find yourself drifting off on a lazy summer day, and when you happen to fall asleep as the teacher drones on in class, and when you imagine yourself a vampire. This is that dimension.”

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