Arn and I fell feet-first into a black, seemingly bottomless hole as we held on to each other.
“What happened, Tammy? Arn screamed.
“It looks bad, but I think we’re going somewhere and we’ll be alright,” I shouted back.
Even though we were shouting at each other, there was no sound other than our voices. No roaring wind as we descended. No tumbling. No nothing. We were falling into nothingness.
Our rate of descent slowed. Like a high-speed invisible elevator slowing to a stop, we stopped, still in the middle of nothingness. Then we felt something solid beneath our feet and a faint, distant light appeared.
“Where are we, Tammy?”
“I’m as clueless as you. Let’s walk toward the light and see what we find.
We’re Not In Hoth Anymore
We began walking. The ground became irregular, and very hard. The light gradually grew brighter.
“I think we’re in a cave, Arn. We must be getting closer to the entrance.”
We turned a corner and the light source ahead of us grew brighter. Five minutes later we approached a curtain of dense foliage.
“Wherever this is, we’re not on Hoth anymore. There’s no place with plants like these on Hoth.”
“I was thinking the same thing, Arn. I guess we fell down the rabbit hole. Do you think there’s a tea party waiting for us?”
“I read that book. I thought it was a strange story.”
“Yeah, I always thought so too, but not any stranger than what I’ve experienced the past couple of weeks.”
“You’re probably right, Tammy. You traveled through time to get to Hoth. Do you think we traveled through time again?”
“I don’t know, but we’ve either traveled through time or landed in another dimension, Arn.”
“It must be the past. McKaren told us the planet is doomed. I don’t see how all of this green stuff could grow up anywhere on the planet after it’s doomed.”
“Maybe. Let’s get out of this cave and see what’s out there.”
We pushed through a thicket of dense bushes and vines and emerged into a lush tropical forest. Plants I had seen only in drawings from the age of dinosaurs surrounded us. Trees several stories tall were draped with thick vines covered with large flowers.
Birds soared in the sky. Monkeys chattered. A large snake slithered past. Insect sounds came from every direction.
“I think we’re in Jurassic Park, Arn.”
“It was a movie about a giant park filled with ancient animals, dinosaurs and stuff like that. Shit! Maybe we went way back to dinosaur times. Some of those guys were nasty. If there’s any of them around, we may be their lunch.”
“I don’t see any big animals, Tammy.”
“Yeah. Me neither. No tracks either.”
We turned away from the bushes from which we’d emerged and began walking.
“We’ve got to remember where we came out. If this place is filled with things that eat people, we need to know how to get back into our cave.”
“And go back to Hoth?” Arn asked. “No way. It’s cooler here and there are plants, clean air and animals. If we can survive on Hoth, we can do better here.”
“I don’t think our time on Hoth is finished, Arn. Remember what McKaren said. I have two more years on Hoth. Gramps workshop is filled with supplies for everyone on Hoth.”
“Yeah, but McKaren can distribute them. Tammy.”
“True, but just a few minutes ago you were afraid to walk through the old door. Remember what I said. McKaren must have known it was there and that it was safe for us to go in. When we fell into the black hole I said I thought we’d be o.k. That’s because McKaren told us we’ll have two years together on Hoth.
“We’re going to be o.k. here. Whatever it is we’re supposed to see, we’ll see. Then somehow we’ll get back to Hoth.”
“You’re right, Tammy. It’s not right that we stay here and leave all those people behind. Maybe McKaren only shows up when we’re there, so if we’re not there no one gets the stuff in Gramps’ workshop.”
“Maybe. We never asked McKaren that question. But for now we need to figure out how to find this place again.”
Can We Find Our Way Back?
We turned around to face the bushes and vines from which we had emerged. An enormous palm tree of a variety I had never seen stood on a ridge behind the bushes. It towered at least five stories above us. A thick vine with leaves the size of a small car entwined itself around the palm almost to the top of the palm. Huge orange trumpet flowers with deep red throats, flowers that attracted dozens of humming birds the size of large sparrows, hung in clumps from the vine.
“Do you see another tree that tall or another vine with leaves that big and orange and red flowers anywhere in sight, Arn?”
“I guess we know how to find our cave. Now we just need to remember how to find the way back.”
We turned our back on the cave and walked into the dense, lush forest. We picked our way between ferns higher than us. Moss and decaying plants and leaves covered the forest floor. Many of the trees looked like they must be centuries old.
“This is fantastic, Tammy. Plants, flowers, animals, birds. I’ve never seen anything like this. It must rain here every day.”
“Yep, but it’s sunny now,” I said looking up through the forest canopy. “Look at that blue sky. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sky prettier than this one.”
A large clearing of sorts appeared ahead of us. Not a meadow with short grass, but an area with only a few small trees, bushes and small plants.
“I hear running water, Arn. There must be a stream just ahead.”
We didn’t have far to walk until we saw the stream. It was about as wide as my living room on earth, and maybe a couple of feet deep. The banks were strewn with rocks, behind which stood flowering bushes.
“This reminds me of the place where I began my journey to Hoth, Arn. It doesn’t look quite the same, but sort of does. A stream. Flowering bushes, but the trees are different, and that stream had trees and flowering bushes on both sides.”
“I guess that stream was on earth in your time, Tammy.”
“To be truthful, I don’t know where it was or how I got there. I woke up in the middle of a cornfield, and the stream wasn’t far from the cornfield. I don’t see any cornfields here.”
“You’re telling me that before you arrived in Hoth, you were somewhere between earth and Hoth?” Arn asked.
“I think so. Maybe it’s somewhere in the time I come from, but I doubt it. I’d never seen the place before that. But the man on the rock said I’d be going back there after I leave here. Or maybe it’s after I leave Hoth.”
“The man on the rock?” Arn asked.
“Yeah, the man on the rock. I don’t know who he is, but he seemed to know me. I was talking to him when everything started spinning. The next thing I knew I was waking up next to you on Hoth. Oh, oh. I do remember something else. When I was spinning out of there, I could hear him laughing.”
“So you’re saying all of this is some kind of joke?”
“I don’t think so Arn. It wasn’t that kind of laugh. It was more like the laugh of someone who likes you very much, enjoying a good laugh with you over something delightful you’ve both discovered. Although I have no idea what we discovered.
“I think we’re safe here, Arn. I think we’re here to look around and then we’ll go back to Hoth, then in two years I’ll go back to earth. The part that bothers me is that McKaren said that you’ll be staying behind. I’m hoping we can figure some way around that.”
Are We Stuck in the Same Dream?
“I think both of us are stuck in the same dream, Tammy. Did you ever have a dream and you couldn’t wake up?”
“Yeah, I’ve had those kinds of dreams.”
“Have you ever had one where you and the other person in the dream were having a conversation about being stuck in the dream together?”
“I don’t remember one like that, Arn. Have you had dreams like that, Arn?”
“I used to have them.”
“Who was stuck in the dream with you, Arn?”
“I could never remember who it was. Now I’m beginning to think maybe it was you.”
“So you think we’re stuck in the same dream together?”
“Maybe, Tammy. Maybe. What other explanation could there possibly be for all the weird stuff that’s been happening?”
“Have you ever considered the possibility that Hoth is the dream and this is what’s real, Arn?”
“No, I never thought of that. But Hoth seems real.”
“It seems real too, Tammy. But it’s so different from Hoth and so much better. So this must be the dream.”
“When Gramps was with you before I showed up, did you think that was a dream?”
“No, but then everything about that seemed normal. No flying car that turns into a woman, no cave filled with supplies, no chocolate pudding. No forest with plants and animals. Nothing weird.”
“But I’m weird?”
“No, no. You’re not weird. But you’ve got to admit the past few days have been very weird. Maybe you’re real, but everything since we found Gramps’ workshop is just a dream. Maybe we crawled into my underground hideout when it started raining, fell asleep, and everything since then is a dream.”
“Well I still have to deal with waking up in a cornfield, then next to you. Hoth isn’t my space in time. How do you explain that?”
“Maybe everything since the night I laid down to go to sleep, the night before you showed up, is just a dream. I dreamed you up. There aren’t any pretty women on Hoth. No one except Gramps has ever loved me. Since it’s my dream, I just keep making it better. Now we’re standing by a stream of running water.”
“Look straight at me, Arn. Since you’re making it all up, what’s that over your right shoulder? Don’t look. If you’re making it up, you should know.”
“Why couldn’t I make up something and then not know what it is?”
“You’re hopeless, Arn. We’re not stuck in a dream. There’s a deer and her fawn drinking from that pool in the stream.”
Arn turned and we both watched the doe and her baby drinking. After a couple of minutes, they both turned and walked into the bushes.
“That was amazing,” Arn said. “I’ve never seen anything like that.”
“Ya ever go swimming, Arn?”
“No. There’s no place to swim on Hoth except a polluted sea.”
“Well there is here.”
“But I don’t know how to swim.”
“I’ll teach you.”
We walked to the edge of the pool. I guessed it was maybe fifty meters across. I stuck my hand in. The water felt perfect.
“Time to swim, Arn”
I stripped off my clothes and jumped in. Poor Arn. I don’t know if it was seeing me naked, or the idea of jumping into the water that shocked him.
“Join me, Arn.”
“I thought, I thought you didn’t want to….”
“Forget the clothes thing. Take ‘em off and get in. You don’t have to jump in. Wade in. You can walk over to me. I’m standing on the bottom of the pool. The water only comes up to my shoulders.”
Arn stripped and waded into the pool. I noticed that he had a great body, even if he was very white beneath his clothes. He walked slowly through the water until he reached me.
“This is new for me. You can guess I’ve never been in water before. Just the rain. What now?”
“Let’s teach you to swim.”
Arn was a fast learner. After several tries and expert instruction from me, or at least I thought it was expert, he was able to swim across the pool.
We stayed in the water a couple of hours, swimming, playing and talking. The water was not too cold, not too warm. We had more fun than children on their first visit to a water park.
Eventually we climbed out and stretched out on a large warm rock to dry. As we dried, we talked, then kissed.
“If it’s a dream Arn, and you’re the one in control, how about you just keep us here.”
“We need something to eat.”
“There’s fruit on some of the plants, Arn.”
“We need a place to sleep.”“We’re used to sleeping on the ground. We can pile up some leaves and sleep.”
A Beautiful Sunset
“What else would you like then?” Arn asked.
“A beautiful sunset.”
I looked up. The sky was turning pink, streaked with gold and orange. As we watched, the colors grew more intense. Soon we were completely surrounded by color. We weren’t on the rock. We were suspended in color.
“Are you doing this Arn?”
“I don’t think so.”
“I guess we don’t have to find the entrance to the cave. Looks like we’re going somewhere.”
“We’re naked Tammy. We left our clothes back at the stream.”
“I think we’re going to be o.k.”
Then we woke up. At least it seemed like we woke up. We were back in the huge supply cavern next to Gramps’ workshop, lying on the floor next to the ancient door. The door, however, had disappeared and only a blank wall remained.
Our Missing Clothes
“Weird,” Arn said. “I had this strange dream that we were in this place with plants, a stream and a pool. You taught me how to swim and then we were lying on a warm rock.”
“Yeah, I had the same dream, Arn. Except it wasn’t a dream.”
“Sure it was.”
“Then explain to me what happened to our clothes.”
“Oops! Maybe we left them lying around here somewhere.”
“Right, Arn. Tell you what. You find them and McKaren and I will take you off-planet.”
“You can do that?”
“Only if you can find the clothes we were wearing.”
We could not find our clothes, but found replacements in the boxes of clothing that filled the shelves around us.
Is This Today or Tomorrow?
“Did you enjoy your swim?”
We turned to find McKaren standing there, smiling at us.
“You arranged that whole thing, didn’t you?” I asked McKaren.
McKaren smiled, but said nothing.
“Is it time for us to go back to the fields?” Arn asked McKaren. “Didn’t you say we have to sleep in our usual spot tonight, then work in the fields tomorrow?”
“No. You still have tonight here and another day. You will return to your usual sleeping place tomorrow evening.”
“How can that be?” Arn asked. We left here a little past nine in the evening. We spent a day in the place with the forest. It has to be the day we go back to our usual place.”
“You left here a little past nine. Nine thirty one to be exact. It is now nine forty nine. You’ve been back for eighteen minutes,” McKaren answered.
“How is that possible?” I asked.
“No time passed here while your were gone. You returned at the same moment you left.”
“Then it was a dream?” I asked.
“No. Nor is Hoth
“Why am I here, McKaren?” I asked.
“You’re here to learn.”
“To learn what.”
“To learn about humanity and yourself. Consider yourself an apprentice, along with Arn. I will assist both of you.”
“When does this start?” Arn asked.
“It began for both of you when you were born. Now you’ve entered into a more focused phase of the apprenticeship. Since you’re both tired from your adventure, I’d suggest you both get some sleep, then you’ll continue your learning tomorrow.”
The three of us turned and walked back to Gramps’ workshop. Arn and I lay down and soon drifted off to sleep, to dream yet again, or perhaps to continue the dream from which we could not escape. Would we ever wake up?
If this is a dream, please, please be there when I wake up, Arn.