“I’m serious. My soul does leave my body when I am asleep.”
“Nonsense, Gaby,” my mum exclaims as she turns away from me and walks across the cream coloured tiles in the kitchen toward the counter where the kettle waits for her.
“Why won’t you believe me?” I ask with a definite tone of despair in my voice.
She sighs and even without turning back to me I can tell she is probably rolling her eyes. “Because it is highly improbable. Your soul cannot separate from your body. Your soul only leaves your body once, and that is when you die.”
Feeling a little frightened, I slip off the chair by the breakfast counter and storm out of the kitchen.
Am I dying every night?
I brush past my dad as he comes down the stairs. He is freshly showered and shaved; the spicy scent of his aftershave surrounds me in a pleasant, familiar smell. He beams a cheerful smile in my direction while I grimace. He is a morning person, and it really works on my nerves that anybody could be so happy so early in the morning.
“Good morning, Sunshine.”
“Morning,” I mumble on my way past him. Only he will know why he would call me Sunshine when I obviously look more like a Thundercloud.
He starts to whistle a tune, not in the least bothered by my mood—as always. I am definitely not a morning person, and thus one of the reasons why I believe my soul goes gallivanting at night when it is supposed to be resting. I always wake up tired, no matter how long I sleep, and I always seem to wake up violently, with a jerk, which is probably when my soul rushes back to my body after a night of wandering around.
In my room, I trip over the pile of laundry in front of my bed and knock my knee against the wooden leg of the foot-end of my bed. I curse under my breath and make a sideways flip onto my dishevelled bed. Usually, I do make my bed before I go down to get breakfast, and typically my room is relatively tidy. Not as neat as my mum wants it to be, but I know where everything is and if she makes me clean more than I usually do, I will be lost and looking for my stuff continuously. I like to refer to my decorating skills as organized chaos.
I mumble to the ceiling, “There must be an explanation.”
I am one of those people who are referred to as ‘sleeps like the dead,’ because once I fall asleep, I am gone—like genuinely gone, and I doubt even a bomb exploding right next to my bed can wake me up. I always wake up brutally, with a dry mouth and a sore throat. Most importantly, my dreams are vivid, multi-coloured, mega screen three-dimensional dreams. When I wake up it feels as if I have really experienced the things I dream. I do not dream silly things like suddenly acquiring the ability to fly or turn into candy floss and then proceed to eat myself like Isaac, my brother, did the other night. My mum rushed to her computer that day to Google the meaning of his dream, because it was a weird dream, yet when I try to talk to her about my dreams and the fact that I believe my soul goes roving at night, she scoffs. It is really not fair.
Why does she give more credit to his dreams just because he is eleven years old, and she thinks my theories are silly because I am four years older than him? I am not a child anymore, as they keep telling me, so my speculations should be correct, and they should be concerned when I tell them that I truly, honestly believe my soul leaves my body every night.
Deep in thought, I stare at the ceiling as if the off-white paint will give me the answers I am looking for. “Where does my soul go?”
My mum walks past my room and calls, “Come on, Gaby. Get ready for school now.” She hesitates in front of the door and, with a scowl on her face, she adds, “For heaven’s sake, tidy up your room.”
With a grunt, I heave myself up and off the bed. I tiptoe over the clothes between me and the door and swing it closed.
At my wardrobe, I page through the clothes hanging from the rail. It is civvies day at school, and I feel like wearing a dress, which in itself is peculiar. I am not even sure whether I have a dress decent enough to wear to school.
I find a dress I forgot I had. Pulling it from the hanger and clutching it in my fist, I walk over to the full-length mirror in the corner of my room.
I hold the dress up in both my hands so that it hangs from my shoulders and I turn my head sideways as I contemplate my choice. Choosing the right outfit can sometimes be extremely complicated, especially if a person wants to blend in.
Yesterday I wore my usual uniform of grey school pants, powder blue shirt, navy and gold striped tie, blue jumper, and navy blazer, but yesterday is yesterday. Usually on casual days at school, I would wear my favourite faded jeans and a T-shirt, but after the dream I woke up from only an hour and a half ago, I feel girlie.
I pull my nightgown off and slip the dress over my shoulders. Moving my hands down my body to my waist, I smooth the material and then twirl in front of the mirror. A sock gets tangled on my foot and I fall on my hands and knees. Thankfully, the other clothes collected on the floor cushion my fall. I could have ended up with seriously bruised knees, and the pretty pale blue dress I am wearing comes just above my knees in soft frills.
In one motion, I sweep the entire bundle of clothes on the floor in my arms and dump them into the hamper in the corner of my room, behind the door. I think some of the clothes in that bundle are clean, but no harm will be done to give them a second wash, I justify my actions.
Hurriedly, I fling the comforter across my bed and scatter the cushions. I always tell my mum they are supposed to look spread out on the bed when she comes in to look around. She never actually says it, but I know it is the weekly inspection to make sure I am not hoarding alien immigrants, lost puppies, pet rats or snakes, or, even worse, growing my own strain of bacteria on plates and in cups which I might have forgotten to take down to the kitchen.
At the bedroom door, I glance across my room quickly. It is as clean as I want it to be, and already I have the impression my room is waiting to welcome me back into its comfort and cosiness.
When I get downstairs, my mum gives me a glimpse. “What’s with the dress today?”
Pulling my hairbrush through my long, curly, mousy brown hair, I reply, “We can wear casual clothes today.”
Isaac chirps from behind me, “You never wear dresses.”
I roll my eyes as I turn back to him and he stops a step before knocking into me. “Why are you all making such a big deal about me wearing it? Honestly! Give me a break. All I ever hear is complaints, even when I think I am doing something right.”
Isaac sidesteps me and follows my mum out of the front door toward her red Honda, standing in the driveway.
I hurry out the door behind him, but he starts running to the car.
“Isaac, I am sitting in the front!”
“First come, first served,” he says as he pulls open the front passenger door.
“Isaac! Mother! Mum tell Isaac to sit in the back. I am the oldest and I cannot believe we have to have this fight every single day.”
My mum looks across the roof of the car at me. “Neither can I.”
The car door next to me slams shut, and I look down at Isaac’s pleased face through the window.
“Come on, Mum!”
“Get in, Gaby. There is no time to argue about a silly thing like who sits where.”
For a moment, I want to storm back into the house, but I take the two steps to the back door of the car and get in. I slump down into the seat and glare out of the window.
My mum gets in and, after she starts the car, she reverses out of the driveway.
The school I attend is not too far away from where I live, but it is too far to walk, and I would rather sit in the back seat every day than get the bus to school.
“Please drop me on the corner.”
“Don’t be silly, Gaby. I am dropping you off in front of the school. There are two apartment blocks between the school and the corner. It’s not safe.”
“You actually take pleasure in embarrassing me, don’t you?” I sulk.
I can hear the exasperation in her voice. “How am I embarrassing you now?”
“How do you think it looks when I get out of the back seat every day while my brat brother sits in the front seat?”
“Gaby!” Okay, she is starting to lose her temper, which means I have to back off. She pulls into the parking area in front of the school, and I lean toward her between the two front seats.
I peck her on the cheek because I know this placates her. “Bye, Mum. See you later.”
“I hope you get home in a better mood.”
I open the back door and as I slide my bag across the seat, I insist, “It’s that dream I had--it was very weird.”
She turns in her seat to look at me and I have to hunch into the car so that she can still see my face. “What do you mean weird?”
I should have used the word weird sooner, instead of coming out with it straight away and saying I believe my soul leaves my body at night. “I will tell you all about it tonight. I have to go.”
Stepping away from the car, I close the door and swing my bag across my shoulder. The strappy sandals I am wearing click on the ground, and I feel too pretty today to depress myself with the idea that by the time tonight arrives, she would have forgotten about my dream. Me too, probably.
The day drags by the same as always, and when the last bell rings I walk out to the sidewalk in front of the school. Without a choice, I get into the backseat of my mum’s car again.
We stop at the shops first, but I stay in the car and wait for my mum and Isaac. I did not feel like walking down the aisles and buying the same things we buy every day.
I want to get home, because instead of trying to get my mum to help me figure out what is going on with my soul, I have decided to go online and to search for my answers there.
An hour later, we stop in front of our house and I rush up the stairs to my room, saying, “Maybe later,” when my mum asks me if I want something to eat.
In my room, I push all the papers on top of my keyboard aside as I sit down on the small metal chair in front of my desktop. I log on and open Google.
I type in a few search words and then I click on the first link that appears. After a quick glance, I click the back arrow and open the following link.
A few links later, I find a forum. I register as Confused_Soul and then I ask the question: Do souls leave your body at night?
Almost immediately, there is a reply.
DarkHorse: They do. It is called an OBE.
DarkHorse: An Out of Body Experience.
Confused_Soul: What does that mean?
DarkHorse: It is an experience which typically involves a sensation of floating outside of your body and sometimes you can also see your body from outside of your body. Sometimes it is also called astral projection, soul travel, or spirit walking.
At last it seems as if I am going to get some answers to my questions, and I am happy DarkHorse is online just when I decide to do my search. My soul is definitely doing a lot of walking.
Confused_Soul: Does it happen to everybody?
DarkHorse: One in ten people has an Out of Body Experience once, or more regularly. Why are you so interested in this? Did you have an Out of Body Experience?
Confused_Soul: My soul leaves my body every night.
DarkHorse: Did you have a hard knock on your head?
DarkHorse: A near-death experience?
DarkHorse: This is personal. Are you on drugs?
I scoff at the screen.
DarkHorse: Prescription drugs?
DarkHorse: Does it happen while you are sleeping?
DarkHorse: People who experience Out of Body Experiences sometimes report lucid dreams.
DarkHorse: Are you having clear and logical dreams.
Confused_Soul: I do; they are very real.
DarkHorse: Tell me about your dreams.
I did not think it would be appropriate to share a thing as personal as a dream with someone I did not know, so I hesitate. Then I decide to tell him the bare minimum.
Confused_Soul: There is this recurring dream I am having.
DarkHorse: Tell me.
He seems excited and I have a desperate need to share this experience. He appears to know about strange dreams and souls leaving, and I am not divulging any personal information, so I decide to tell him.
Confused_Soul: I am walking down this road towards a little house in a small town. Sometimes I get to the house from the side and other times I get to the house from the front. The house is on a corner and it is always the same house. The house feels familiar, but I never go inside. I just stand there looking at it, but I get the feeling I used to be happy there.
My fingers pause above my keyboard for a split of a second as I wonder if I should tell DarkHorse about another dream I keep having, a dream that frightens me.
Confused_Soul: There is another house I started dreaming about a few nights ago. This one is scary though, and even though it frightens me, I always go into this one. When I am in this house, it is always as if I am looking for something. Everything about the house is always the same, the same décor, the same neglected and empty rooms. Sometimes I dream I am looking for something, but other times something is chasing me, and I wake up in a sweat.
DarkHorse: You seem stressed about this, and you shouldn’t be. Did you know Thomas Edison used Out of Body Experiences while he was working on his inventions? He would rest a silver dollar on his head while sitting with a metal bucket on his lap. As he drifted off, the coin would noisily fall into the bucket, restoring some of his awareness. He purposefully wobbled between awake and asleep states to cause spontaneous trance episodes. By moving deeper and deeper into relaxation, he eventually encountered a feeling of slipping out of his body while his mind was still alert.
I notice he did not say anything about my dreams.
Confused_Soul: I do not feel the slipping feeling, but I believe I do feel when my soul re-enters my body again just before I wake up.
DarkHorse: How do you know when your soul returns?
Confused_Soul: I always wake up with a jerk.
DarkHorse: Can you change the outcome of your dreams?
Confused_Soul: What do you mean?
DarkHorse: For example, if you are dreaming something unpleasant, can you change your dream?
I consider this for a moment.
Confused_Soul: Sometimes. Not always though.
DarkHorse: When you sleep, is it as if you are paralysed?
I laugh at the screen.
Confused_Soul: Yes. I sleep like the dead, as they say.
DarkHorse: This means your body is on autopilot while your attention is elsewhere. Your soul always remains connected to your consciousness even though it leaves your body. I think you are experiencing the free movement stage of Out of Body Experiences. This is where your soul leaves your body and goes a great distance while still maintaining contact with your consciousness. That is why you sleep like the dead, why your body is in a paralysed state while you are sleeping.
Confused_Soul: Is this the reason why I always wake up with a jolt? My body ventures too far away?
DarkHorse: I believe it could be the reason. Your soul might need to return in a hurry when your consciousness starts getting aware of other things around you, like the movement in your house or the light outside changing. This could result in an extremely fast snap-back of your soul into your body.
“Gaby,” I hear my mum’s voice calling me and I look up from the screen. I did not realize it is almost dark outside. My room is gloomy and shadowy, with only the light from the screen providing any light.
I call back, “Yes, Mum?”
“Come, it’s dinner time.”
I let my fingers fly across the keyboard.
Confused_Soul: Please don’t go away. I will be back in twenty minutes. Please! I need answers and so far, you have been a great help.
I stay logged into the forum and, as I rush out of the room, I flick on the light switch.
“Don’t run down the stairs, Gaby,” my mum complains from the kitchen.
When I walk into the kitchen, the table is already set, and my dad and Isaac sit at the table. My mum puts a dish with rice and another dish with chicken curry in the centre of the table.
As I sit down, I say, “Hi, Dad.”
“What have you been up to, working so hard on your computer?”
“Doing some research for this project I'm interested in.” I consider telling them all about it, but my mum keeps scoffing whenever I tell her about my soul leaving my body, and my dad will never believe me either.
We start eating and it is mostly my mum and dad talking to each other. As always, I hardly listen to what they have to say.
When we finish eating, I wash the dishes as fast as I can and make a beeline for my room.
My parents and Isaac are in the lounge and as I hurry past the door, my mum asks, “Aren’t you going to watch Supernatural with us? We always watch it together.”
“Not tonight, Mum. I want to finish this quickly.” I add, “I have to hand it in tomorrow.”
As I walk up the stairs, I hear my dad say, “At least she's interested in something which can hold her attention for longer than a couple of minutes.”
My mum mumbles, “I suppose so.”
In my room, I slide into the chair in front of my computer again after drawing the blinds in front of my window.
I look at the screen.
DarkHorse: There are four stages, but the first two stages become non-existent as a person becomes more familiar with Out of Body Experiences. Have you had any training?
Confused_Soul: Are you still there? Please say you are.
For an agonizing ten minutes, I stare at the computer screen in front of me and then I sigh with relief when I see the words: DarkHorse Typing.
DarkHorse: So? Did you have training?
Confused_Soul: Training for Out of Body Experience? No, never. This is just happening.
DarkHorse: I am jealous! Your mind can make a mental shift, almost like changing a radio station. Once you fall asleep, you naturally have a different focus level of attention.
I laugh softly, feeling impressed with myself. My dad just said I have a low attention span, and now this stranger tells me I have an exceptional ability to concentrate and focus.
Confused_Soul: The reason why I am so tensed up about this today is because last night I dreamt I was at this party, which in itself is pretty weird, because my parents won’t allow me to go to parties—just yet. I was dancing closely with this boy, and then suddenly he just leaned forward and slumped onto me. He became a dead weight I had to support. So, I was wondering. Are there others like me? Did his soul have to go back to his body and is it possibly the reason why it was as if he wasn’t there anymore? It was just a shell of who he was in my dream?
He does not reply for what seems like forever. Did I freak him out with my eerie dream?
DarkHorse: We are conducting studies about this specific area of sleeping and dreaming here at the Dreamcatcher Sleep Institute. I just consulted with my colleagues and we will be interested in speaking with you face to face.
He gives me the address and I recognize it as downtown. Imagine the odds of finding somebody right on my doorstep. It seems a bit fishy.
Opening another tab on my browser, I type Dreamcatcher Sleep Institute in the search area, and I press the enter key. There are pages and pages of links and I open the first one. As I scan the information, he seems legitimate, but there is absolutely no harm in making sure.
DarkHorse: Let your parents phone me in the morning.
He gives me his telephone number.
Confused_Soul: Okay, I’ll ask my mum to phone you tomorrow. Will you be able to fix me though?
DarkHorse: You don’t need fixing. This is phenomenal and I am extremely excited to meet with you. I need to go now, but please let your mother phone me first thing in the morning.
Confused_Soul: Okay, I’ll ask her.
I know my mum will never phone, but maybe if I showed her this conversation, she might believe me.
DarkHorse: We hope to meet you and your parents soon.
Confused_Soul: Thank you, DarkHorse, for taking the time to speak with me.
I sigh as I log out of the forum and push myself away from the desk.
After a long, hot bubble bath, I snuggle into bed. Turning onto my back, I close my eyes and wonder how I am going to convince my mum to take me to the Dreamcatcher Sleep Institute.
I feel myself drift off to sleep.
Then I am walking along a road in a little town where I have been many times before and, as I stop in front of a house, I get a feeling of déjà-vu. I have seen this house before, but I cannot remember where. The house sits on the corner of the street and it does not have a front garden, but wide steps lead from the sidewalk up to the front door. The windows are open and a breeze dances with the lace curtains. I stand there looking at the house for the longest time.
As I walk away, everything gets brighter and the colours become vivid. The grass is bottle green under my feet, butterflies flutter around me. It is a wide open expanse of green. The sky is powder blue with a few wisps of feathery clouds on the horizon. In the middle of the green vastness, there is a tree. I walk toward the tree and, as I get closer to it, I recognize it as a lemon tree. I smell the sharp fragrant citrus smell of bright yellow lemons.
From the other side of the tree, I see a dark shape moving toward me. I smile happily because I recognize him. I am well familiar with his long, confident stride, his auburn brown hair, his well-built appearance, and his warm smile as he looks at me.
I have been waiting to see him all day.
Copyright © Stephen Simpson (published by Fiction for the Soul). All rights reserved.