I HAD A DREAM THIS MORNING, which isn't odd since I have dreams almost every dawn. They wake me in the subtle embrace of inspiration, alongside the birds chirping outside my window. She was there, this morning. I met her again. It's amusing, isn't it?, the recurrence of an illusion. One starts to ponder the possibility of hallucination, willful self-deceit. She pushed a shopping cart through the alley, which was defined by a vacant factory on one side, and the backside of the city's underfunded and dilapidated psychiatric facility on the other. I had only just finished returning my new-found companion Jefferey to his necessary residence, from which he had escaped in the frightful riot of the previous night, and whose staff was still working, tirelessly and frantically, to return the uninjured patients to their rooms and restore a semblance of order to their infirmary. Talking with Jefferey as we walked along the train tracks that cross Broadmoor Street, I got the sense that something was a bit peculiar about him, but he certainly didn't strike me as a psychotic. I suppose people produce different reactions in different people. We discussed our plans for the future. He remarked on his intention to stay in the city, which he found to be a beautiful reminder of the community's accomplishments. I replied in kind with my desire to leave the city, where I had grown up, only to return once I had seen the world. It was strange, how Jefferey walked up to one of the nurses as we approached the hospital. She was overwhelmed with relief to see his face, and our eyes, Jefferey's and mine, never met again. The last I saw, he was standing alone with hunched shoulders in the loading dock, waiting for instruction. The dismay I felt for Jefferey was tempered with a quiet empathy, one which at least attempted to accept his institutionalization. Jefferey knew what he needed, despite what anyone else thought. Then, it all disappeared. All of it. Everything that I could remember about life vanished in an instant. The morning sunlight obscured her form through the distance that stood between us. It showered the alley in that auspicious luster of the rising sun, which bathes every surface in ethereal resplendence. The cart she followed behind was filled with refuse, which I could only assume was for the purpose of artful recreation. As she walked further along the alley, taking care not to hit a pothole and damage her collection, I attempted to subdue my anticipation, walking casually along the other side. The details, which I had committed to memory long ago, gradually came into focus. Abundant chestnut hair that whisped gracefully in the breeze and faded into a deep burgundy in the sunlight, was tied into a knot atop her head with a colored scarf. It swept delicately back and forth across her angled shoulders with each deliberate step. Pride disguised as bashful charm saturated the wry smile she tossed in my direction, obviously not expecting a familiar face as she turned her gaze towards the uneven surface of the alleyway. Upon catching a glimpse of her green and blue flecked irises, the eyes that could belong to no other, a rare and beautiful peace filled my astonishment. There she was. It could be denied no longer. My expression must have jogged her memory because she stopped, raised her eyes to mine and stared at me for what seemed like an everlasting moment in time, an echo throughout the dimensions of eternity... The very next instance I can recall, we were walking along a street with no buildings and cracked asphalt. Only empty lots filled with weeds could be seen for several blocks before the city rose from the ground like an obstruction, casting long shadows that blanketed the dried dirt and gravel, but which stopped just short of our feet as we strolled without care or worry into the embrace of the morning sun; with a thousand words remaining to be spoken, but not one of them seeming worthy. Before I knew exactly what had happened or how much time had elapsed, I found myself sitting at a table fashioned from used bike parts atop the roof of an apartment building overlooking the streets below, and the city beyond. As she sat down in the seat across from me, behind her I noticed the modern facade of the new housing complex. Blue glass fixed to the concrete edifice in a repeating pattern of squares and rectangles gently reflected the enduring brilliance of the morning's aura. "It's pretty great isn't it?" she said in reference to the building behind her, but while looking down at the welds in the surface of her table. Yet, somehow, I understood she was talking about life, the very nature of existence. "Yeah," I said smiling at her. "It is." It's remarkable, isn't it?, the recurrence of an illusion. One starts to ponder the possibility of hallucination, willful self-deceit. Or perhaps insanity is nothing but a convenient explanation for the discovery of something beautiful and real and true. Perhaps my dreams are but memories of my destiny. — J. CHRISTOPHER JAMES
J. Christopher James is an avid fiction writer and poet. As a former journalist, the Colorado State graduate has been published in over a dozen publications, including two national awards. He lives in Parker, Colorado.