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Electric Dreams

by  philerupnicely

Posted: Monday, June 27, 2005
Word Count: 1774

Electric Dreams

I’m falling. Fast. Far above the ground. There is the sound of screeching and commotion all around me. There are images dancing in front of my eyes that I can’t make sense of. Then there are just me, the clouds, a boy and his blob. I look at the boy, and he looks at me. He smiles.
‘Doesn’t look good for you, does it?’ he says cheerfully.
‘What do you mean?’ I ask. In answer he points to the floor, then grabs the blob, which promptly turns into an umbrella, slowing both of their falls into a gentle descent. Mine does not slow. I look to the ground and realise that it is no longer far away.

I awake to the tinny sound of cheerful music all around me. Sitting up I find myself to be in the middle of a field of some sort, looking around at a panorama quite unlike any I’ve seen. In the distance are perfectly round hills and here and there large maintenance pipes jut inexplicably through the terrain.

A plumber in red dungarees and a matching cap bounces out of the nearest pipes and trundles over to me. Seconds later a similarly attired but rather leaner plumber dressed in green follows suit. The two stand either side of me and for a moment seem content to watch me, watching them. Then one of them speaks:
‘I’m Mario,’ says, ‘and this is my brother Luigi. Who are you?’
‘I… don’t know,’ I respond hesitantly. ‘Do you know who I am?’
‘Only you can know who you are,’ Mario says, and with that he turns and, with his brother following half a step behind, bounds up and into the pipe again.

I shake my head and rub my eyes, trying to get the world to come into focus and, mysteriously, it does a little. I look around now at greener fields giving way in the middle distance to woodland and, beyond that, mountains. There are pine trees nearby, with neatly bunched coconuts in their eaves. A small monkey watches me from one, malice glinting in his narrowed eyes.

A blue figure becomes visible in the distance, approaching me at quite a rate. It is seconds before he is stood right before me, and I am amused by the familiar absurdity of him. It is a six foot tall hedgehog, covered in blue fur from head to foot apart from across his belly and mouth, which are bare. The fur stands out in long, fused spines on his back from the base of his spine to the top of his head.
‘You’re Sonic, aren’t you,’ I say.
‘That’s right, friend, but the question isn’t who I am, it’s who are you?’
‘I don’t know,’ I reply.
‘Well come with me if you want to find out!’ the hedgehog says, turning. ‘But you’ll have to keep up!’ he adds, and with that tears away as quickly as he approached.

I try to keep up but there’s no way I can match his speed. He is a blur in the distance when I break from my sprint into a steady jog, then gradually relax to a walk. A young boy is resting against a strangely round bush, dressed all in green.
‘Who are you?’ I ask.
‘I’m Link,’ the boy replies. ‘But you already knew that. What you want to know is who you are.’
‘That’s right. Who am I?’
‘I have the answer,’ he says, ‘but not to that question.’
‘What do you mean?’ I ask.
‘You’ll find out,’ the boy replies.
‘When?’ I ask, as he begins to walk around the bush.
‘When the time is right,’ he says, and is gone.

My travels for the next three days were with a Bandicoot called Crash. He and I talked of beginnings and ends but neither of us got any closer to finding my name as we wandered through the jungle. At last he turned to me and said:
‘I’m leaving you now, and you must make your own way out of the jungle. Do not fear it, but do not stay too long.’ And he went, and I wandered the jungle, as lost as a lost boy indeed, for hours, until again the sound of distant music lured me into the trees.

Deeper and deeper into the forest, I went, for that is what the jungle had become, its tropical humidity and angular landscape replaced by a temperate forest of soothing green. Each time I thought I had found the source of the music it became distant again, until after some time I realised I was being led on a merry march.

‘You forgot what the Bandicoot told you, didn’t you?’ says a familiar yet somehow different voice from behind me. I turn to see the young boy, looking slightly older now and sounding so, leaning once again against a tree.
‘I’m out of the jungle aren’t I?’ I reply.
‘You’re not out of the woods yet,’ he answers, then jumps onto his horse and gallops past me through a darkened archway I hadn’t seen in the trees.

Immediately it is lighter, and I know that I have left this part of the forest. Around me is a wide grove, with a small stream flowing through it. People are here, perhaps a dozen of them, perhaps more, all children, all wandering carefree through the grove.
‘You’re Phil, aren’t you?’ says the nearest, a young girl with a big smile.
‘Am I?’ I ask.
‘You silly,’ she replies, ‘don’t you even know who you are?’
‘I’m Phil,’ I reply.
‘I told you that,’ she says teasingly, but the revelation is still a welcome one. With my name in my mind my thoughts begin to focus slightly.
‘Where am I?’ I ask the girl.
‘Ah, but that’s the next question,’ she answers.
‘Well,’ I demand, ‘where is this?’
‘This is the Kokiri forest!’ she replies.
‘Why didn’t you just say that?’ I ask.
‘Because you didn’t ask!’ she says brightly, before skipping off. I follow her a short way, but then she rounds a corner and disappears.

I look up into the sky and try to think, and one thought keeps popping back into my mind. These are all games, I think, all games I used to play.
‘I think I must be having a dream,’ I say to no one in particular.
‘Not quite a dream,’ replies a man’s voice behind me. I turn to see the youth from before, and as I do I realise I’m outside the forest now, in a wide open field again. ‘Almost a dream,’ the man continues, ‘but not quite.’

It is the boy from before, but he is a man now. Only his eyes betray his identity.
‘I know who I am now,’ I say.
‘Yes,’ he replies.
‘And I know where I am.’
‘No,’ he replies.
‘The Kokiri forest,’ I say.
‘No,’ he replies again.
‘Okay, Hyrule field,’ I challenge.
‘No. This is Hyrule field,’ he continues, ‘but Hyrule field is not where you are.’ With that he turns on his horse and gallops off again.

I walk down a shallow bank until I reach water. At first I think I am by a lake of some sort but I see two men fighting up ahead of me, ten yards out but still only knee deep.
‘Hello?’ I call, but they are too intent on each other to notice me. There is a flurry of movement and one of them swings a firm punch into the other’s jaw, knocking him off his feet and into the water where he struggles to get up, but then falls, still.

The man walks towards me. As he nears I realise with a moment of panic that he has a tiger’s head instead of his own. Before I can react, he speaks:
‘Phil,’ he says.
‘Yes?’ I reply.
‘Good,’ he says, ‘then I’m in the right place.’
He turns and, with a devastating mix of grace and power, brings his forearm forward into my face. My vision explodes into dancing red diamonds and I fall to the floor.

I wake in a jungle. There is no sign of the Bandicoot anywhere, but his words ring in my ears.
‘You must make your own way out of the jungle. Do not fear it, but do not stay too long.’ I realise the sense of it now. Part of me feels a pervasive sense of panic, like I must escape the jungle at all costs, but a part of me feels quite content simply to stay where I am.

The sound of music lulls me from a stupor I realise with a start I have occupied for what may be hours. I follow it dumbly, like a rat after a piper, but again it seems to get no nearer. I come to a stop in a small copse. Behind me is the jungle, hot and intense. In front of me I see the forest once more, cool and inviting. None of it, somehow, seems quite real. It is as though I have built a patchwork of reality made up of squares of how things should look but not quite managed to capture how they do.

Sitting on a stump in the centre of the clearing is the boy in green, Link, the many time saviour of Hyrule. He is playing a tune on a small ocarina that I recognise with an odd foreboding.

‘Where am I?’ I ask.
‘You think you know,’ he says, ‘but you’re only close.’
‘Not quite a dream,’ I say.
‘Like it, but not quite.’
‘Like a dream.’
‘Something bad has happened, Phil.’
‘Do I need to go on a quest?’
‘Do you think you do?’ the boy asks.
‘It’s worse than that, isn’t it?’ I say.
‘It’s worse than anything,’ the boy replies.
‘Everything’s games here. Games that I’ve played.’
‘That’s right. You’re nearly there.’
‘Am I in a coma?’
‘Nearly a coma?’
‘It’s like a coma, but… longer,’ he says.
‘Longer?’ I say. ‘What’s longer than a coma?’
‘I’m sorry,’ he says. He plays a short tune on the ocarina, then disappears in a ball of white, leaving me alone in the clearing with the stump and the ocarina and my thoughts.
‘It’s all games,’ I say unhappily to the air in general, watching the space where he was sitting. ‘Nothing here is real.’

I sit on the stump, and I play on the ocarina, for a long time. I realise that my whole life has just flashed before my eyes, and I lament at how mournfully I have wasted it.