This post is part of the November Blog Chain at Absolute Write. This month’s challenge is to write a drabble: a story exactly 100 words long.

“But it seemed so real…” Ohns said, tears in his eyes.

“That’s how dreams are,” said the dark-haired child. “We make sense of them, fill in the details.”

“What’s going to happen to everyone?” Ohns cried.

“The sleeper must awaken, but nothing will be lost. We will wake up, and be whole once more.”

Ohns nodded hesitantly. “I think I’m ready.”

The sky bloomed with radiance, overwhelming everything—from the twilight city of Eswe to Clen by his lake–and gently washing it away.

In the ICU, Jackie Sullivan awoke, and Ohns’ world vanished into the recesses of his being.

Check out this month’s other bloggers, all of whom have posted or will post their own drabbles:
Bettedra (direct link to the relevant post)
FreshHell (direct link to the relevant post)
CScottMorris (direct link to the relevant post)
AuburnAssassin (direct link to the relevant post)
Aheila (direct link to the relevant post)
Bibbo (direct link to the relevant post)
hilaryjacques (direct link to the relevant post)
Proach (direct link to the relevant post)
jonbon.benjamin (direct link to the relevant post)
rmgil04 (direct link to the relevant post)
PASeasholtz (direct link to the relevant post)
Regypsy (direct link to the relevant post)
Madelein.Erwein (direct link to the relevant post)

Johanssen took a fresh puff from his cigar. “Phantasms are manifestations of residual emotional energy, kid. That means when you get right down to it, they spring from the human mind. And as anyone ought to know, the human mind is a seriously messed up place. God really should have taken that one back to the blueprints.”

“Like what?” said Adrian.

“For example: the more agitated you are, the more emotional energy you put out and the more likely it is to stick around,” Johanssen said. “So a lot of the really fun phantasms tend to be associated with old mental hospitals. A drooling lunatic with paranoid delusions puts out major emotional wattage in the same padded room for twenty years, you’ve got a good chance of a phantasm. He croaks, you’ve got a good chance of a motile phantasm. Best of all, there’s a strong chance the phantasm will take the form of something from the nutjob’s coconut.”

Adrian crossed his arms and looked at Johanssen expectantly. “You’re not going to just leave it at that, are you?”

In fact, it was clear from the fire in the old man’s eyes and the rate at which cigar smoke belched out of him that he’d been tearing at the bit to share ever more. “This one time we were called in to sweep a San Fran kookhouse. Found a whole nest of ’em. Loquacious bunch, too: Gil got them talking. There was the Chosen Sloth of the Beginning, which came out of a paranoid delusion of a luminous treehanger that was going to remake the world in its own image. Then you had the Banjo Skeleton, which really doesn’t need a whole lot of explanation. And the Disco Colossus of the Drive-Through…well, maybe when you’re older.”

Having a worrisome disposition and an introspective bent, my mind likes to keep itself busy by staging existential crises in moments of downtime when I ought to be relaxed or otherwise blase. I call these “Holy Shit” moments.

Standing in the express line at Metromart behind a pair of sorority girls with far more than ten items and a series of credit cards that kept being declined, without even a rack of tabloid magazines to glance over, my mind decided it would be a good time for a “Holy Shit” moment.

“Holy shit,” I said to myself. “This isn’t a game, or a movie, or anything else. It’s real. I’m here, right now, looking through my eyes.”

I reeled a bit as the sisters from Theta Theta Whatever pulled out their fourth card of the transaction. “I’ve never experienced anything outside of me; I’ve never even seen myself outside of a mirror,” I continued. “I really am Derek Ulster. I’ll never be anyone else, never see from anyone else’s point of view.”

A rising panic clutched at my heart. “My life is real, I’m living it right now, yet I’ve wasted so much of it. I’m wasting it right now! I could die tomorrow. What if this is all there is? I could be watching the sunset on a tropical beach, and instead I’m waiting in line at Metromart for the five-hundredth time in my life!”

“Next please,” the teller cried. The feeling rapidly vanished, and I felt the panic subsiding. Sheepishly, I added a bag of potato chips to my meager basket–a little starch to keep my mind sleepy and listless.

“What are you talking about?”

Sharon tightened her grip on the handset. “You mean you didn’t know someone named Paul Phillips? Someone who passed away about six months ago?”

“No,” the voice on the other end said airily. “Why would I?”

“What about…’millerpond1987?'” Sharon said, mind racing. “I think that was my brother’s screen name.”

“I don’t know anyone with a screen name like that,” said the girl.

“Are you sure? You were on all his contact lists…I even read some of the emails that he sent you!”

“No,” Umbriel said. “This is just too creepy for me…I’m going to hang up now.”

“Wait..!” Sharon received only a dialtone in reply, and slammed the receiver back into its cradle.

Legend has it that the Saudeleur grew to resent the power of his nahnken, who wielded power absolute over their own weis but were bound to give tribute to their lord and master. And so it was that the idea of Nan Madol came to the Saudeleur in a dream: a great city of stone islands, where the nahnken and their saudeleur would reside. He could keep an eye on them by controlling the boats that plied the stone islands and even keep an escape tunnel ready under the coral to the edge of the reef should his overthrow be imminent.

Thus bound and determined, the Saudeleur had a problem. Though the isle of Ponape had stone and coral aplenty for quarrying, it lacked the manpower to move the stones once they had been hewn. It was to this end that the Saudeleur sought out the magician Isokelekel, who lived in seclusion on the north of the island. Isokelekel, said to be the son of a woman from the isle of Kusaie and the thunder god Daukatau, had sworn to hold himself and his powers separate from other men. But the Saudeleur prevailed upon him, and Isokelekel agreed to move the stones as the Saudeleur saw fit, breaking his vow.

Knowing that to do so would anger his father Daukatau, Isokelekel extracted from the Saudeleur three promises which would secure the magician’s future. First, Isokelekel asked for the Saudeleur’s totem of Nahnisohn Sahpw, the god of agriculture; his request was granted. Second, Isokelekel asked for the Saudeleur’s throne…in 1000 years. The Saudeleur readily agreed to this condition, thinking such a promise impossible to enforce. Third, Isokelekel asked for the isle of Ponape itself…in 2000 years. Again, the Saudeleur agreed to what he saw as a mere flight of fancy.

True to his word, Isokelekel used his powers to move rock and coral to build the magnificent canal city of Nan Madol. He then vanished with the Saudeleur’s totem, never to be seen again. One thousand years later, a man claiming the name Isokelekel led a band of 333 rebels to topple a corrupt and decadent descendant of the Saudeleur, founding a dynasty that lasted until the pale men in boats arrived 900 years later.

Of the last promise the Saudeleur made Isokelekel, nothing was heard…until now.

“I think…I think you might be right,” I said. “I also think I might be going crazy.”

“What if you’re not?” she asked.

That night, I resolved to see for myself. Fortified on the flights of fancy I’d seen during the day, I felt like a book, open and ready. Not to be read, but destined for something entirely unexpected. To be bronzed, maybe—a book made statue. Or perhaps to have flowers pressed between the pages—my pages—each leaving a mark upon and changing the other.

It was all easy enough. Reach up, grab, pull down. The tearing sounded much as you’d expect it to.

On the other side?

Stars. The corner of Leighton and Burrick, downtown. A dusty old gas station with a sign in Arabic. A city growing out of a vast, purple forest canopy. All at once, in a rush like a breaking wave.

So I stepped out—just for a moment. There’s something to be said for Myra’s paper-thin membrane, wrapping the everyday into a neat brown package. There’s something to be said for seeing only what you can perceive and nothing more.

But for now, I was content to skate among planetary rings in the arm of a distant spiral galaxy, to pirouette on a molten surface all but consumed in a solar corona, to break upon far-distant shores thrilling with every undulation.

I was stepping out. I’d be back—but I wouldn’t ever be the same. Myra would be proud, wherever she was.

It was called “The Game of the Dreaming.”

Every autumn, when the first leaf fell in the Xia Valley, the masters of the local school would open the tournament and many would respond to their call, from all corners of the Empire. The Xia tournament was far from ordinary, however, which led considerably to its allure.

The masters would go out at midsummer to the nearby mountain, returning after a week’s absence with strange purple flowers that no one who lived in the area could ever recall seeing in the wild. Ground up, fermented, and placed into ornate bottles, the flower draught was the centerpiece of the tournament. A special arena in the form of a labyrinth with an open top was maintained at the school; competitors would quaff the flower draught and then enter, seeking a plain clay pot placed at the center.

Spectators would watch as the champions, many of them accomplished martial artists, ran about wildly, screaming, fighting invisible spirits, and otherwise acting in ways most unbecoming. For the challenge was not one of mere strength but rather mental and spiritual fortitude. The flower draught would inflame the mind with fantastic visions, veiling the world of the real and reducing the strongest of men to gibbering wrecks in the face of torments only they could see.

Xuan Li entered the 217th Xia Valley Tournament as its last entrant, arriving only hours before it began.

It would be the last such tournament the valley would ever see.