When I woke up I heard screaming, ripped from a raw throat. Vocal chords stretched to the extent, a fraction more and they’d snap like a toothpick. I tried to close my mouth, tried to stop the sound emanating from it, but it was as though some other-worldly force was holding me there, suspended for all time like a bug in amber, mouth forced open in an eternal scream. Where was I this time? Who was I this time? Questions raced through my head as the piercing sound continued. I tried to focus on what I knew to be true, to solidify an image in my mind. To begin with, I reviewed the explanation of my “peculiarity.” I could picture the scientists and doctors conferring, puzzling out the reason for my changings at night. For the “dreams” and “hallucinations” as they called them.
They could never come up with a satisfactory answer, but they did establish the fact that there were more children like me, with the same “hallucinations” and reactions. They also determined that in every case, the children all became “sick” before the age of twenty and died before the age of twenty-five. This didn’t help me much in my understanding of the changings that were happening almost nightly back then, but one night I met another plane-skipper, in a world of swirling fog and vaporizing phantoms. He explained the rest to me before his brain drew him out in search of new information.
Certain people are born with a different brain, set on a different wavelength than that of normal people. Their brain attempts to learn everything that would take most people a lifetime within a few years. It actively pursues knowledge at an incredible velocity until there is no new knowledge left to discover. At first there will seem to be nothing different with the brain except a slightly higher level of activity, but this brain will be absorbing information at an alarming rate. So while a child might not appear to be learning anything, their brain is solving complex trigonometric riddles in the blink of an eye. These children are so often thought to be slow or retarded because their brain must sort through so much information to find what is asked of it that the answer can take minutes to be revealed.
I was one of those children. For every child like this, the turning point is different: for me it was my sixteenth birthday. My brain had learned everything it could from this world, from this plane. It now sought to learn from the other planes that existed in this sphere of time. My brain would wait until normal body functions had slowed or ceased, such as while I slept, and then it would skip to another plane. When I next awoke, I could be anywhere and appear as anything while my brain digested all the information it could find. I had feared to shut my eyes ever since that birthday- the day the changings started- afraid of what I would see then I woke.
This time, while I tried to force my mouth to close, to cause my scream to stop, I attempted to reveal the nature of the place in which I was held. I couldn’t tell from the darkness if I was on some new plane or still imprisoned in the sevent- no, the eighteenth mental institution my terrified parents had locked me into throughout the past five years. If I was lost on another plane, someone or something would surely hear my screams soon and seek me out. If I was lucky, they would not be hostile, but I held little hope of that, for in my life I had enjoyed about as much luck as a hunk of road kill imbedded in the freeway blacktop. If I was in the asylum, an orderly would soon hear the screams and come rushing in with a needle full of Thorazine to plunge me into the darkness again.
It was the latter horror that compelled me once again to attempt to choke off the anguished scream wrenched from my throat. If they came, bearing their “gift of sleep,” I would be sucked into the abyss of nightmares, into the gulf of learning, once again. Abruptly the scream faded, as though the volume dial was being slowly rolled down. As the scream paled I felt my jaw muscles loosening and clamped them firmly shut. I was still unsure as to where, when, and who I was, but I felt a difference in the darkness. It felt as though the darkness was not expelling the light, but awaiting it, eagerly.
Through this darkness a figure appeared, and though I could not yet tell its intentions, I felt a safeness I had not felt in five years. As the figure approached I recognized it as a man, cloaked in a deep blood red robe, his soft, silvery, feathered wings ruffling slightly as he walked, glittering in the pale light. He carried a large volume in his hands, warped and wrinkled with age. Its leather cover held in place by hinges of solid gold. At first I believed he carried a light with him, for the shadows shrank from his steps as if banished by his presence. As he drew neared I realized that the light emanated from the pages of the tome he reverently carried.
At last he stopped a few feet in front of me and placed the book gently on the ground. I knew, from some knowledge stored deep inside my brain, that I must open the book to a specific page, that somehow I must pick the correct one. I felt as though I had endured this ordeal before, that I had faced it and failed. I knelt down before the book, took a deep breath, and opened it quickly. The luminous page was blank, save for one line of scarlet words- my name inscribed along the top. A disappointment consumed me, and, fearing I had failed, I moved to close the volume.
As my hand touched the page I felt a chilling sensation, as though a cool breeze was brushing against the back of my neck. The breeze trickled down my shoulder and into my arm. When it reached my hand I saw words blossom from my fingertips and flow onto the page. As though a dam had broken, I saw all the knowledge that my mind had discovered, the imprints of all the planes I had experienced, surge forth from my fingers and cover the page. I’m unsure as to how long I knelt there, but at last the page was full and my limp arm dropped away. The breeze flipped the pages over until the tome was again shut; its dark leather cover and golden hinges again muffling the pure glow radiating from its pages.
I felt then a great sense of emptiness, of relaxation, which I had never felt before. It was as though my brain had finally learned enough, that it could now cease its relentless search for information. At last I could end the learning and knowing and working and float in a sea of nothingness forever. I felt a cool touch on my chin and, looking up, saw in the shining silver eyes of the winged figure the sorrow of a brain which could never cease the learning, never cease the knowing, never cease the activity that had kept me going for the last twenty-one years.
A voice spoke from the darkness, carrying on it the taste of icy lemonade on a burning summer afternoon, the smell of the wildflowers and fresh grass waving on gentle puffs of air as clouds meandered across the sky. It carried the warmth of a mother’s lap, rocking quietly before a crackling fire during a snowstorm, the smell of the wood mixed with her perfume as she comforts her child. It carried the sounds of children laughing while racing barefoot through a schoolyard in mid-spring, the swush of jumping ropes hitting the sidewalk and the thud of feet chasing a ball. It carried the crackle of dead leaves under booted feet, the smell of ripening apples that permeates the countryside in the fall, the mild nip in the air foretelling the coming frost. It carried the call of mothers and fathers across the world to their sons and daughters who have become lost.