Falling: tumbling, toppling, descending, collapsing. Using any other word can’t change
what’s really happening: A drop from a higher place.
And right now, I’m falling. Falling because of the boy in the silver cloak or for him, not
sure. Falling off a branch because of the sudden gust of wind or by my own fault, can’t tell.
Falling because of ignorance of my surroundings or uncalled for familiarity with them, the world
may never know.
Maybe all of those things happened, or maybe none of them did. Maybe they’re just
excuses for a job not done. All I do know is that I went in to steal a dream and instead fell out of a
And I plan to set things right.
Usually I start with a dreamscape. Not an empty one, but not a lively one either. Not on
either side of the spectrum, it just is.
Then add there’s the thief. That’s me. But not just any thief, a dream thief. Not a thief that
steals into dreams or from them, but a thief that steals the dreams themselves.
The outcome of the equation is almost always the same. Once I come in, I do what I came
to do. The original dreamer wakes up, losing their grasp of their subconscious and losing their
ownership of the dream. The thief gets exactly 3.5 minutes in the world they can temporarily call
their own before the dream sinks back into the sea of oblivion we call sleep.
Except last night I messed up and threw that entire narrative out the window.
If this were in the real world it would be game over. I’d either be in custody, rotting away,
or I’d be hiding out in the middle of nowhere, regretting my life, or something just as sorry. But
with dreams, there’s always a second chance. To relive a moment and fix it, to change from the
villain to the hero, from townsperson B to the star of the show, all those things that are only
possible in dreams.
Because dreams don’t abide by the laws of reality.
Almost everything else in life is decided by destiny. Skill and talent are gifted by fate to
the lucky few or lucky many or lucky however many there are that have them. Even the ability
to breathe hangs on the off chance of being born with a functioning heart.
But dreaming isn’t like that. Dreaming isn’t some divine favor or cosmic lottery ticket. It
isn’t decided by the spin of a wheel or roll of a die. Dreaming is more of a muscle, something that
thrives with attention and withers away with disuse. Dreaming is something built on outlandish
fantasies and youthful ignorance. Dreaming is built by the simplicity of children, by their
yearning and desire for something and everything. Dreaming is built on a child’s devotion and
ability to hope.
Dreaming is built on childhood.
In the traditional sense of the word, I didn’t have a childhood. I wasn’t given one nor was
I allowed to have one.
“You’re a prodigy,” They would tell me proudly as I was taken out of soccer for extra violin
lessons. “Nothing like the rest.”
“Talented like no other,” They said as I was shipped off to New York for Willborough’s
Conservatory of Music.
“Astounding,” They would whisper as They crowded around me after a concert. “Simply
“A shame,” They said sadly as I dropped out of the conservatory to stay with a dying
“A has-been,” They now say in the streets whenever I pass by. “A child prodigy, you
know? Played in New York and all that. He could’ve gone places. So sad, really.”
I lived a life dictated by Their orders and wants, never enough time for what I wanted or
truly needed. What I needed was a friend or sunshine or pointless cartoons. I didn’t ask for a
world of endless music lessons and dreamless nights and tuxedo fittings and friendless birthday
And that’s why I became a dream thief: to steal back all the chances They stole from me.
Them and their expectations.
Except I’m not always all that great at the stealing part.
“Stupid,” I mumbled as I got out of bed at 3:47, unable to deal with even the mere thought
“Idiot,” I muttered as I pulled my hood up while waiting at the bus station, the crisp April
air cooler than a December wind.
“Plain dumb,” I scribbled in my notebook as I tried to pay attention during math.
“Despicable,” I sighed as I stepped out of the school building.
Something’s bothering me about last night. Well, lot’s of things, especially how vividly I
remember all of it, but most of all how real it all felt. Usually, dreams will feel like a set for
someone else’s play, a scene that can never belong to you. But last night was different, as if that
world was always there, just waiting for me to make an entrance.
Yet I still managed to mess something up and botch the whole heist.
“Why am I like this,” I groan out loud, scaring the crow that was on the telephone pole
“Keep it down will ya,” the crow squawks before flying away, leaving me alone at the bus
Not that it really talked, but its annoyance was all there in its tone. Low enough to be
irritated but too high to be fully enraged.
I wave once towards the flying bird before sitting on the bench.
“Well, that was rude,” I hear a cat say beneath me.
Again, the cat didn’t actually say anything, but tone is everything.
I bend over and look in between my legs to see the cat sitting beneath me and staring up
at me with wide gray eyes. Most likely a tabby, with fluffy orange fur that makes you just want
to pick it up and cuddle it and cuddle it and cuddle it.
I get up and squat down next to the bench, beckoning to the cat and whistling a soft tune.
The cat cautiously comes out, nudging my hand softly before ducking its hand underneath,
asking for me to pet it.
I try to change my position so my back is against the bench with the cat on my right side.
“You don’t want to go home either,” I ask softly. “Too empty to deal with?”
When the cat meows and nudges my hand again I could swear I hear it say “More ghosts
than breathing souls.”
I’m not sure how long I sat there. I must’ve drifted off for a while because when I open
my eyes the cat’s no longer there.
“Goodbye,” I whisper to the air with a soft smile before getting up.
I stand there for a while, next to the empty bus stop, not sure where to go. The sun is still
in the sky and none of the streetlamps have come on, so it’s probably still early in the afternoon.
I start walking, not really sure what direction I’m headed in until I find myself in front of
Mrs. Bott’s bookstore. Or at least where it used to be. I’d heard that an old styled cafe had opened
in its place but never seemed to remember it when I had the time to go.
Walking in feels like a dream. Not the fantastical part of it, where aliens can ride dragons
but the comforting part of it, the part I crave for and steal for, the feeling of home and solace,
that peace of mind one finds when they truly have no worries.
The tinkling of the bell overhead eases some tension out of my shoulders, tension I didn’t
realize I was holding. Everything feels just right, from the wooden floors to blackboard walls to
the grand piano in the corner.
I can feel it calling me, the sunlight dancing on its lid beckoning to me, the cover over the
keys begging to be opened.
I decide to ignore it, instead walking to the front counter.
“Good afternoon,” the boy behind the register asks. “How can I help you.”
“Iced coffee,” I say, taking out my wallet. “Two thirds sweet and three fourths ice please.”
“Okay,”he says punching it in. “Anything else?”
“No,” I say, finally looking up at him.
His eyes. Not the only thing on his face, but the only thing I can see. Their color. It seems
familiar. Sometime, somewhere I’m sure we’ve met. I want to say something about it but instead
glance down at his name tag.
“Gale,” I repeat mentally, immediately banishing all thoughts that have anything to do
with hunger games.
“That’ll be four fifty-two,” he says with a small smile.
I stupidly smile back, unable to process for a few moments what he just said.
“Oh yeah,” I say, handing over a five dollar bill.
“By the way,” I manage to say in a nonchalant tone despite the turmoil within. “Can I play
I didn’t want to ask, didn’t want to play, but I wanted to stay there forever, stare into his
eyes just a little longer. Looking down at the register they seem purple, a bit like the inside of a
seashell. Yet when he looks up at me I realize they’re silver instead, kind of like a moon reflecting
over the ocean. But they’re also blue, like the sky on a perfect day. Clear and bright. Endless.
“Course,” he says, his eyes brightening with a smile.
I think I forgot how to breathe.
“You’d be surprised how few people actually decide to play,” he says as he hands me back
my change. “Either most people don’t know how to play or they just think we put ‘er up for
“Yeah,” I say with a helpless chuckle, mentally kicking myself for not having anything
cooler to say. “Guess it’d be cool to have an audience.”
The small laugh he gives makes something snap together in my mind.
He was there yesterday. The failed dream, the boy in the cloak in the middle of an endless
winter, it was him.
Maybe I shou-
“It’ll be nice to hear you play,” he says finally, one last smile and spark in his eye before he
I don’t get a chance to say anything, instead stare at his back momentarily before
realizing that only a complete weirdo would stay standing at the register, watching the barista
like a total creep.
I turn and walk towards the piano, hating myself for forcing myself to play. I rest my
backpack against one of its legs before sitting at the bench. Oddly enough the bench feels like a
better fit than the one at home, the perfect height so my elbows don’t feel awkward without
having to hunch over the keys.
My fingers ghost across them, playing a silent melody before finally pressing a key. The
E3. The note sounded familiar, reminding me of a song I once learned for Cassey’s birthday. The
last one before she got sick.
Then it goes to B. Then another E. And a G.
My right hand falls in, filling the room and the empty spaces between the notes.
And as I play I remember. I remember first mastering the song in an empty music room
back at the conservatory, willing myself not to send Cassey a recording right then and there. I
remember first coming home after the diagnosis and how i tried to ignore all music, locking
away my violin and bass in the attic, ignoring the piano on my way out. I remember when I first
sat at the piano, the day Cassey was fully admitted to the hospital. I remember the way I played
song after song, everything i could remember, trying to forget the mother who didn’t care and
the sister that wasn’t there.
I remember the cat from earlier, how well it seemed to understand the loneliness I felt
without saying a word. I remember snippets of dreams I’ve stolen, those last futile attempts at
normalcy despite the pleasure never lasted long and definitely not to whatever went on last
Last night. I remember it all too well. The way I balanced on a branch in the snow, the
inexplicable familiarity of the place. I remember the way my heart raced despite being
completely still. I remember the way the snow felt against my skin, the way the wind seemed to
give me an invisible hug, the way even the wildlife didn’t seem to mind my presence.
Then I remember the boy. I remember Gale. The way his eyes never seemed to settle on a
single color yet could trap me so easily. The way the tilt of his head and smile immediately
stopped any train of thought I had.
But then I realize that for all I’ve remembered, I don’t want to forget it. None of it. I don’t
want to forget the pain and disappointment and surprise and whatever it is I felt last night. I
don’t want to forget all that I’ve had and all that I lost. Because forgetting the bad means
forgetting the good, and what kind of life would it be if we lived in ignorance of everything that
And just like that the songs over, my fingers pressing the last notes a little longer than
necessary. But I don’t jump into another song right away, instead letting my hands fall into my
lap. Not because there isn’t a silence to fill or something to forget, but because I feel something
For once, I feel content. Not the facade of calm after another recital or the forced smile in
the midst of a crowd but the calm that comes with knowing that you’re not alone. That
someone’s there to catch you, hear you, watch your back.
I look up and meet his eyes, an identical smile on his face and I know he feels it too. Not
just what happened in the dream yesterday, the flurry of snow and firsts, but right now. The
serenity and ataraxy.
And I know, I just know, this feeling will last.