It took some courage to start reading the book again. I mean seriously: imagine exactly how you would feel if someone threw you a book and said "Here! Read this and learn how to go to the realm of the dead". Dead as in deceased. Dearly departed. Who - or rather what - would you expect to meet?
And I could never even watch horror movies, because my imagination was way too active. My idea of the dead was pretty close to the creatures in Michael Jackson's Thriller video. Did I even want to reach that realm? Before Kitty's death, no, definitely not. But now... I missed her so much that I knew my curiosity was growing to see if I could contact her again, for real, not just through some mysterious hints. Especially after that night's dream, and seeing the shadowy creature. Yes, it had scared me out of my wits, but it also confirmed for me that the message of the book and the dream were real.
So I took a deep breath and opened the book to read how to find the gate that took me, literally, to the Other Side. The Unseen Worlds.
"We cannot give the location of the gate in writing – this book may fall into the wrong hands. It may have done so already, physically, or by word of mouth. So we need to reach you in a place where it is safer, and where we can guard you against any shadows.
"In short: you need to learn lucid dreaming and wake up in the buffer zone. We will be waiting for you there. We are already observing you and your dreams, so we shall be ready for you."
Someone was watching me dreaming? They would know all my deepest secrets in that case. I blushed out of sheer embarrassment.
"Do the following: firstly, during the daytime, look at your hand frequently. Every time you see your hand, count the fingers and say to yourself 'Is this a dream or am I awake?' Secondly, look at books and anything with writing on it, read the words, concentrate hard on the letters. And thirdly, if you see a clock – look at it quickly, twice, to check the time. Ask yourself again, 'Am I awake or is this a dream?' And teach yourself to stay very calm, almost emotionless when you are doing this.
"It may take you days, even weeks, but your mind will learn to look for these things, and it will happen that one night, when you sleep and dream, you will notice a book or some writing, a clock, or your hand, in your sleep and your mind will remember what you taught it while you were awake. Your mind will pay attention to these things.
"When this happens, do the same thing you did when you were awake. Count the fingers – you notice they are not normal. They may be stumps, you may lack a finger or have too many. You notice you cannot read text. You will see the time has changed between your glances at the clock.
"When you have taught your mind to always question if you are dreaming or are awake, it will do so in your dream too, when you see any of these signs. And this is when you wake up in your dream. If you don't get excited, you will remain there, in your dream, fully awake. If you get excited, the dream reality will fade away from around you, because your strong emotions draw you back to your waking reality.
"This is why it is important to teach yourself to remain calm. It will give us time to pass our message to you. Trust us, we are here all the time, seeing you when you dream, waiting for you to wake up in the buffer zone."
And that's it. There was no more text in the book. Frustrated, I threw my blanket aside and got out of bed. I had expected a map at least. Or some magical object that would transfer me to another realm. But lucid dreaming? Sheesh...
Still, to be on the safe side, I had to hide the book, if only so that Mom would not find it... But where? If these shadows could come and go as they pleased, surely they might lurk anywhere, and see where I hid the book. But if the book said it should be hidden, then hide it I would.
It was too thick to put behind a painting. Anyone would turn the paintings around if they were looking for hidden stuff.
If I put it in my bookshelf, it would be enough to pull all the books out of the shelf and find it.
Then I saw Nugget. He was curled up in his very hairy cat-bed under my desk. Mom never touched the bed ("Too much of a big, hairy deal - pun intended!"). There was no point in cleaning it, because Nugget shed a fair amount of hair, and the black, round pillow he slept on had turned red with time.
The pillow had lots of padding, and a zipper at the side - the idea was that you could toss the outer pillow case into a washing machine. Mom announced that all that cat hair would just choke the machine and that it would be my responsibility to clean the pillow using some other method.
Well, I had never done that, which did not seem to bother Nugget in the least. The pillow looked a mess, to be honest. Not something you would want to touch voluntarily. But Nugget loved it, and the more "Nuggety" it became, the more he adored it and the deeper his purring grew as he rolled about on it.
It was the best I could come up with, anyway. I lifted Nugget out of his bed and opened the zipper on the side of the pillow. I separated the layers of padding inside and slid the book in there, closed the zipper, and put the pillow back. Nugget had already hopped on my bed to continue his dreams.
I stopped to look at my hands, when I pressed the hairy pillow back into its basket. I counted my fingers and asked myself quietly:
"Am I awake, or is this a dream?"
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