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  • Nick Janicki

Hoppy Endings: I Want To Believe

The blue people first appeared to Kyle as flashes some three weeks ago. As is the case with any fleeting figure, nothing seemed to stick around after he woke. Besides that denim skin tone — that he could never forget. It reminded him of a movie his dad once watched a few years back, one in which a team of human scientists studied from afar the lives of ginormous blue creatures on another planet. They were like humans in more ways than one, but they were aliens nonetheless. He couldn’t share this comparison with his dad because he wasn’t supposed to be watching a movie like that at the time. He would’ve been five at most, and that movie was at least PG-13.


The flashes developed over time the way a series of photos might develop in a darkroom. The blue people weren’t just short sparks of light after awhile; they were animations. And tonight, they were moving as if they were right in front of Kyle. Which was impossible because, according to Dad and Mom, these dreams were just a result of “the imagination coming out to play.” They certainly knew far more than him, so Kyle didn’t doubt their diagnosis about this, either.


This wasn’t to say Kyle’s fascination with the blue people disappeared with mere words of comfort from his parents. Quite the opposite, really. Their reassurance made Kyle safe, which meant he could indulge in these visions without a sliver of fear. Tonight was no different, even while they were appearing to him more vivid than ever before. He was watching them, perhaps for the first time able to study these creatures from head to toe without his mind lingering on their skin tone alone (which now reminded him not only of that movie filled with blue aliens, but also that little blueberry girl from Willy Wonka).


There were two of these creatures, as there always had been, and they were standing alongside each other (also as they typically tended to). One appeared to be waving at Kyle, the other gesturing for him to come closer. They had mouths, but neither was smiling. If anything, they looked upset. It was frustration Kyle couldn’t help but take as directed toward him. He could (and would) observe the blue people, but he knew better than to give into their commands. Dream or not, he considered, I have to remember other wise words from Dad: “stranger danger.”


Fear didn’t poke its nasty head back up for Kyle at what seemed to be attempted luring this time, so he resumed his scanning of the blue people. All from a distance. He observed them as if cramming in some last-minute studying for one of Mrs. Farney’s pop quizzes, spending more than a moment on each part of their body. He had noted their blank (or possibly frustrated) expressions, but he otherwise found their faces to be generally no different than his own. What struck a chord of curiosity in Kyle, though, was something that shouldn’t have at all. What he was finding was that, beyond their denim-dipped skin, these people were like anyone he had ever seen. Even more so than that movie with the blue aliens. They were like Dad and Mom. They were like Mrs. Farney. They were normal — no exceptional height, pointed ears, or long tails hanging out from behind them.


“Buddy . . .” Dad’s voice called to him. “Buddy, c’mon, you’ve got to get up or you’ll miss the bus.”


Kyle’s eyes shot open. No blue people. Just Dad, hovering over his bed as he had for as many mornings as he could remember.

“What’s wrong, son?”


2


“What do you expect me to say, Marcy?”


Kyle was crouched down around the corner from the kitchen, poking his head out just slightly so that he could pinpoint his parents’ precise location. They had apparently not heard him come through the front door getting home from school. After having heard raised voices, he did what any kid would do: he turned himself into a master spy, backpack still on and all. And he tried to understand everything.


“It’s clearly something to be concerned about,” Mom said. “The way he describes them so vividly, the rate in which they’re occurring. It just scares me, like something’s wrong with him.”


“Nothing is wrong with him!” Dad snapped. “They’re just dreams is all. It’s a normal phenomenon, especially for someone his age. He has an overactive mind.”


“If you’re wrong about this . . .” Mom started, struggling to find the right words. “We can’t afford to be wrong about this. If it gets any worse, I’m getting him help.”


Dad laughed with a sort of twisted tone Kyle couldn’t remember hearing before. “Help from whom?”


“We know people. People who can at least understand what’s going on better than we can.”

They didn’t need to say his name for Kyle to realize they were talking about him. He remained crouched behind the corner awhile longer as his parents went back and forth, wondering exactly the same thing his mom was: What is wrong with me?

3

His dreams arrived fast again a few nights later, and they arrived with a sort of intensity Kyle hadn’t thought possible after his most recent imagined encounter.


This one was much different, at least at the start. A wave of relief crashed over him for more than a moment as he considered if he had rid of the visions of the blue people altogether, because he wasn’t standing in a monochromatic white room, and there were no creatures in sight. This dream was new — welcoming, even. He was in the very bedroom in which he had drifted off, sitting on the edge of the bed with his hands clasped in front of him.


It was all familiar, but just foggy enough for him to know it wasn’t reality. He felt as though he were entirely present yet at the same time sitting in the backseat, a passenger in his own body. Once again, the fear was nonexistent. So once again, he indulged in what his dad had labeled “an overactive mind.” He had said that to calm Mom, but Kyle found that explanation to be rather uninviting, as if he were some sort of freak.

Kyle lifted himself from the bed and walked across his bedroom floor, shuffling his feet to get around (he was thankful that even his subconscious was sensible enough to tread carefully in the black of night so as not to trip on anything). As he moved, he heard every other wooden board on the floor creak, and noted that this was the first time he could recall hearing anything in his dreams. So, too, did he find another sense worth his attention. There was a cool rush beneath his socks not dissimilar to the one he felt most mornings when getting up out of bed, only that feeling was now dulled.

The boy in a restful slumber continued to watch himself from the passenger seat as a dream counterpart made his way down the hallway, past his parents’ room, and down the stairs. Kyle was also thankful his dream self was cautious enough going down the stairs. Such a slip and fall would surely send him bolting up out of bed, putting an end to the first dream in awhile that wasn’t cannibalized by blue people. (He again considered if they were even people. They looked like people. They motioned to him like people. But they were blue, and Kyle was pretty sure by now he’d have learned about any blue civilizations in the world while in school.)

His dream brought him to the front door, then just outside of it. He felt an inviting summer night’s breeze sweep across his face that, while pleasant, summoned another feeling within Kyle. There was an ember of fear in him growing slightly in intensity the longer he was outside, because in front of him was the endless night, and this was all coming across as a little too real now. It was to the point where even his parents’ words of reassurance seemed to vanish.

Still, his dream self moved forward as if without second thought, aloof to his true self’s feelings toward the situation. He made his way onto the front lawn, crouched down in the middle of it, and retired to his rear end before repositioning his legs to sit crossed-legged. This was all unusual. Then again, dreams in general were unusual to begin with (he told himself this more as a way to try and put out that growing ember of fear than anything else). And at least in this one there weren’t any—


Blue entered Kyle’s mind. What was a freshly cut, bright-green lawn by day and a black one at night was now covered in a blue hue, illuminated with a powerful beam that seemed to cover not only the lawn but even part of the neighbor’s house next door.


This was the rush that made every dulled sense come rushing back to him with full force. His dream self could no longer maintain control like it had been doing. He was there, present in such a way that it couldn’t just be another illusion. No, there’s no way.

Kyle lifted his head (his movements this time, not some dreamer’s) to identify the source of the blue light. A wide spotlight. He put a hand over his forehead to block at least some of the light shining down, and what he saw was something he was now positive no person could have created. This wasn’t in any history book he had skimmed through without an ounce of enthusiasm (but absorbed nonetheless). It was something from the movies — beyond the movies — something massive and metal that wasn’t making contact with the ground.


The light began to dim, and with it part of the metal mass cracked open. It was revealing something, and that something was meant for Kyle and him alone. He wasn’t sure how he knew this, but there wasn’t a doubt in his mind that the operator of that metal mass was there for him. They had brought him here in the flesh, not in a dream. And he had a suspicion about what exactly would reveal itself once that crack shifted to fully open.


“Kyle!” Again the voice of one of his parents entered his ears. It was Mom, and it had come across not as a punitive shout but rather a high-pitched squeal. It was a call of desperation.


Not more than a few seconds later, Kyle’s parents were on either side of him, kneeling in their pajamas with arms wrapped around their only son. He turned to the side, shoving his face in his mom’s chest. He began to cry, although he didn’t quite understand why. He didn’t understand much of anything, for that matter.


“Honey . . .” Mom’s voice was now the soothing one Kyle heard on most occasions (at least when she was aware of his presence). “What were you doing out here all by yourself?”

“And in the middle of the night, no less,” Dad chimed in. His tone was a little tougher than Mom’s.


Kyle pulled his head back from his mom’s now-damp shirt. He glanced up at her, then Dad. “I thought I was dreaming! I followed myself out here like I was watching T.V., but then it wasn’t a dream at all. It was really me!” He wasn’t crying anymore, but each word was filled with emotion. “I think it was that blue light that made me come out here. It brought me out here!”

He already had a hand pointed toward the lawn before turning to look at it. All that was there was his arm, which appeared blacker the farther he looked down toward his hand, as if it were being swallowed by shadows. There was no blue light, only night. A blackness that now seemed comforting.


“Blue light?” Dad asked, more so curious now than anything. “Son, we didn’t see any blue light.” He turned to Mom. “How ‘bout you, honey?”


Mom shook her head, then lowered it to Kyle’s level. In that warm tone: “You were sprawled out on the lawn when we found you, Kyle. We only came out here because you were yelling in your sleep. You must have been sleepwalking, and that’s a very scary thing.”

Kyle didn’t believe it, but it must have been true. The alternative was far too unbelievable, so he accepted it without making a case for just how real it had all been. He looked up at the night sky, only more blackness along with a few stars to look back at him.


“Marcy . . .” Dad sighed, lowering his voice to a whisper despite Kyle being able to hear everything. “I think you’re right. He needs to see her. This has gone too far.”

4

The sessions made Kyle feel uncomfortable, but not as much as Doctor Thompson requesting that he call her by her first name, Gwen. He’d never called an adult by their first name. Intimate conversations intended to reveal all or not — he knew everything about these visits were strange.

Still, Kyle did as his parents requested, spilling every last drop of his dreams to the doctor. She was a good listener; he’d give her that. What she was better at was something he did admire about this woman old enough to be his grandma. Doctor Thompson had a talent unlike any Kyle had seen before, in the movies or otherwise. She would start talking, responding to his tales of the blue people, and not long after he would find himself rubbing his eyes in the backseat of his mom’s minivan. And that was a regular thing he’d come to anticipate. It was as if the woman’s voice alone would put him to sleep, sending him off somewhere far away where even images of the blue people couldn’t reach him.

“That’s quite fascinating,” Doctor Thompson (Gwen, eh, Kyle remembered) would always start. What came next was usually a sort of suggestion, the meat of which Kyle never seemed to remember. “Let's pretend . . .” or “I want you to imagine . . .” Just a few words, then he was gone.

At the end of the day, when Kyle lay in bed, it didn’t matter what words had come flying out of the doctor's mouth. Whatever she said, it made the blue people disappear. It made Kyle’s dreams empty, and he found that rather peaceful.


5


Bi-weekly sessions with Gwen (Kyle felt all right calling her that at this point; he was numb to it) went on for close to half a year. Some kids would end the school day and head to soccer practice while Kyle’s mom drove him to the doctor’s quiet little office on the edge of town. He told his classmates he was headed to violin practice, and he prayed they’d never ask him to play a song in front of them.


Six months of visits meant six months of dreamlessness, though. And that was enough to get under anyone’s skin — even a boy who dreamed of blue people that called to him. It was this curiosity (perhaps even plain boredom) that prompted Kyle to tell his parents that he felt well enough to skip his sessions with Gwen one day. That one skip became a once-a-week thing. It became a twice-a-week thing. Before long, Kyle found all of his afternoons free of Gwen’s wrinkled face. He felt bad lying to his parents, but he figured it the only way to experiment a little.

“I’m glad you’re doing better, son,” Dad said from Kyle’s bedside. He ruffled his hair.


“Yes, Kyle, we’re very proud of you,” Mom followed. She landed a kiss on his cheek.


When the two left the room for the night, Kyle drifted off. It was only a little this time, unlike the past six months that had left him blind to life itself. As quickly as he had disappeared after hearing Gwen’s words, he found his dreams returning much faster, as if they had been bottled up waiting to explode for some time now.

The blue people were there, blank faces still staring back at him. One was waving at him, one was motioning for him to come closer, both just as Kyle had left them. Like a movie he had left paused all this time. Only now he didn’t observe them. It was clear what they wanted, and although he was certain his parents would’ve advised against it, he forced his dream self to step closer to them. He did this until he was only a few feet away. He noticed their arms were now relaxed at their sides.

“What are you?” Kyle said. His mouth moved, but he couldn’t hear his own words.


Their faces remained blank and motionless as one of the blue people lifted an arm and extended it toward Kyle. Its tight fist opened slowly. It reminded him of the way his mom’s flowers in the backyard bloomed every spring. Its palm, denim like the rest of its skin, revealed nothing at first. Then, a blue light (not dissimilar to the one Kyle had seen swallow his front lawn) beamed up and out of it, able to shine a few feet upward despite the white room being almost blindingly bright on its own.

Kyle knocked his head to the side. His eyes widened as his brows lifted.


Projected in the blue light was an image, one of the two blue people before him. They looked as stern as they did now, and as still as they did now. The only observable difference was a gap between them, and in that gap stood a smaller blue being. It went just past the other two’s thighs in height. The taller beings’ hands were rested on its shoulders.


Kyle leaned in, finding his eyes growing impossibly wider. There was something familiar about the smaller blue person. He recognized it, which he couldn’t quite comprehend, for it was as peculiar as the taller creatures on either side of it. It was human in many ways, like him and everyone he had ever met, but there was that blue skin that made him certain it wasn’t from this planet.


He never did wake up from that dream. But maybe that was all right in the end.

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