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Vivid and uncontrollable dreams have haunted Hayat since childhood. But they've learned to control it over the years, until they've encountered the dreamkeepers.

By Karina ThyraPublished 24 days ago Updated 16 days ago 8 min read
Photo by Ameer Basheer on Unsplash

It all started when Hayat began to remember. They were barely a year old then, just beginning to learn how to talk. The first word they ever spoke was “ayaw,” meaning “no” in Filipino. In fact, Hayat would grow up saying or demonstrating this all the time whenever they felt uncomfortable.

It was only in dreams that Hayat could not say no. People always thought Hayat was weird for having incredibly vivid dreams. They would attribute it to the child’s penchant for daydreaming, always listening to their great-grandmother’s surreal folktales, or watching a lot of age-inappropriate horror tales, mainly of the supernatural variety. But Hayat knew better. Over time, they’ve used the dreams to fuel their creativity and storytelling.

In kindergarten, Hayat would often get notes from the teachers for interrupting the class and telling unlikely stories that would enthrall the other children instead of listening to Christian living stories. For them, it was an interruption; for Hayat, it was to keep the dreamkeepers at bay.

The dreamkeepers, as Hayat called them, were responsible for their dreams. Hayat didn’t know whether other people had their own dreamkeepers, but Hayat’s own controlled the quality of dreams and who or what appeared in them.

Over the years, Hayat had ‘kept’ people whom they talked to about their dreams. These people became the anchor between Hayat and the Dreams. These anchors lasted for six months on average before the person eventually disappeared or left because they were affected by the dreaming, as Hayat would refer to the vivid dreams. Hayat would often preface and tell these people that they were “idea factories” and mainly for Hayat’s writing. Because how could they understand that they’d essentially become tethers? Hayat was likable enough, reasonably attractive, and smart, so these little dream stories they told were brushed off as “weird dreams” and quirks. Hayat did not help their case by saying, “I’ve trained myself for a long time to dream lucidly so I could write better stories.”

One of the tethers even implied that psychedelics might cause even trippier dreams. Hayat never tried, of course. If only these tethers knew how dangerous the mazes of one’s mind could be; psychedelics might render them completely out of control in their own head.

Hayat had desperately wanted to stop entering The Dreams. They had succeeded at one point—keeping the dreamkeepers at bay and having normal dreams that didn’t leave them exhausted and confused after waking.

Until one day, when Hayat was writing about consciousness, enlightenment, and Buddhism. After typing out a thousand-word paper and sending it to the professor past 1 a.m., Hayat went to bed and immediately drifted off to sleep.

It was then that the dreams returned in full force. The dreams that viciously haunted Hayat as a child. Dreams of spending a whole life, only for it to be spread too thin. Not enough time, but also more than enough… too much. A life that Hayat had lived over and over, like purgatory. A dream that forced them to live too long at one stage in life and never seeming to grow up, like one of Peter Pan’s lost folks. In these dreams, or lives as Hayat experienced them, the child-Hayat never grew up. They woke up, went to kindergarten, and dreaded ever moving up another stage in their life, for it would mean that they would age and die just as they were beginning to live and love a particular life. To be a child and to stay a child, rather than for one’s life to be cut short—a fear that haunted Hayat in these dreams. Now, at twenty-something, The Dreams were still an ever-present threat in Hayat’s waking life.

After The Dream, Hayat woke up panting, took their phone, and messaged the anchor. Their anchor of almost three years now. Each anchor was a separate person, but each anchor was often ingrained in Hayat’s neural pattern that they acquired their manner of communication to mimic in their own brain as a ‘dissenting voice’ or point of view. Hayat often solipsized, having conversations with the anchors, sometimes even getting upset over something superficial and imagined.

On an occasion such as this, Hayat needed to wake up early, and they would keep their phone by their bedside but switch the Wi-Fi off. Hayat quickly switched the Wi-Fi on and messaged the anchor.

“I’m in a dream loop. Just texting you to make sure I’m already out of it.” Hayat sent the message, intending to delete it once they’d fully woken up; there was no need to spam the anchor once they’d made it out of the dreaming. It was late, and Hayat knew the anchor wouldn’t see the message, but part of them hoped that the anchor was awake to keep them from falling asleep again.

A few moments later, Hayat got a text back.

“Sounds crazy! I hope you’re okay!”

“I’m fine now, thanks! Have a good night.”

Hayat put the screen down, then heard a voice.

“Who are you talking to?”

It was Hayat’s youngest sibling, on the other bed across the room. The side looked like a different room from Hayat’s side of the bed. Hayat’s dormitory had transformed. It took them a few moments to realize that they had not, in fact, woken up.

They pretended to go back to sleep while the entity with the sound and profile of their brother was kept busy by a game on its phone.

A loop * third grade. Only, it wasn’t as Hayat remembered it. There was a new student.

It looked like a girl, but it also looked more like Regan possessed than an actual child.

It looked in Hayat’s direction, almost like an owl looking at its prey by turning its head 360 degrees. Hayat hastily looked away, but the creature had already seen Hayat or felt their presence. The entity was blind, Hayat now realized. One of Hayat’s old classmates said “she,” referring to the creature, was a new student. An inner voice that sounded a lot like Hayat said,

“It’s a cannibal witch and you must run!”

Hayat stood up. Thankfully, the third-grade room was always in a ruckus before the class started and Hayat’s classmates were none the wiser. Hayat didn’t know how or what happened next, but they suddenly found themself in their ancestral home.


The TV was on, their grandaunts were there in the living room, but there was something odd. The brain seldom knows the difference between reality and dreams while in the thick of it, for both can become true at once.

The house was exactly as Hayat remembered, even the noise. The eldest grandaunt came to the living room with snacks, and Hayat, in panic, said that they were being chased by a cannibal witch. The moment of realization came a little later when Hayat noticed the stillness of everything. The grandaunts were no longer arguing about the television. In fact, it had gone static—when had it gone static?

The eyes of their relatives were glazed over.

“It’s me! I’m here! You know me!” Hayat pleaded.

But when the relatives remained unmoving, Hayat grabbed the bread knife from the standing grandaunt’s tray and thought to stab themselfwith it. If Hayat was in the real world, they would get hurt, but perhaps they would also wake up from the stupor. If they were dreaming, they hoped it would also end the loop. So Hayat aimed to stab themself in the stomach. However, solid as they appeared to be, even holding the knife, the blade did not strike true; it went through as if Hayat had just been a specter. They decided to try again, thinking that they had just missed themself the first time because they were not really looking, but they could not indeed hurt themself. Somehow, the loop restarted and Hayat again woke up standing in front of the living room at the ancestral home. Everything was as it was, and as the eldest grandaunt approached with the snack tray, Hayat asked her to hold out the bread knife, for they were going to cut something. She did, and Hayat stepped forward, grabbed the grandaunt’s arm to thrust the knife into themself, even as they heard their grandaunts screaming in panic. Hayat felt nothing; there wasn’t even blood. And when they opened their eyes, they were still not awake. Another loop.

The voice spoke again,

“Great job escaping that loop. Remember, you cannot escape a loop if you’re hurting yourself. Others must assist you.”

“In hurting myself?” Hayat asked out loud.

“Assist you to escape a loop in whichever form or way necessary.”

A few other loops later, Hayat had woken up again. In their own bedroom. They looked around, a bit disoriented, but soon realized that it was perhaps the real world.

Hayat once again texted the anchor, hoping this time it was for real.

“I slept at 2:15 am and woke up at 3:47. Not enough time, but damn that dream was bizarre. Anyway, I hope I’m truly awake this time, and you’re actually you. Not some monster illusion from my dream. It’s weird, but I just had to tell someone who might still be awake, just so I don’t dream about it again.”

Then another text.

“I got saved by a little lady in my dream (the one in memes!). She took me out of the chaos of one of the loops and told me to follow her. She said I should roll over 7 times until I roll down to the end side of the road. We were at a bus stop and I saw an illusion of what seemed to be Jessica Chastain on a date, but it’s probably actually the cannibal witch lady from the previous loops. Then I did roll and count up to 7, as I was in a ‘corpse’ position. My hands crossed over my chest, same with my legs (like I actually rolled down lol), and I was shaking. I didn’t sweat because it was cold.”

The reply from the anchor came the next day; it was a different time zone for the anchor, but for Hayat, it was 3:47 a.m.

Hayat replied, noted it down, then went almost immediately back to sleep. Tomorrow was another day, and they hoped the dreams wouldn’t be as aggressive as that.


Somewhere in a research facility, a computer was noting down a young woman’s internal monologue. The mind-to-machine text program had finally been progressing, due in part to the young woman’s participation in dream research. She knew the risks and was fine with them, but the researchers were confounded about the creation of the “dreamkeepers.” They hypothesized that it was the mind’s way of tethering to reality, to remind the body that it was not, in fact, awake in the real world but rather in the mind’s own maze. The woman almost woke up for real, because her mind was telling essentially telling her 'no', and to wake up. The stimulations were no longer working, and the 'dreamkeepers' take on different forms to avoid giving the woman nightmares which might have a different physiological effect on her.

The ‘anchors’ were a new development, but the researchers had only realized their existence and significance when the woman had recurring dreams talking about them and to them. She was still solipsizing, and the researchers deduced these were actual memories that merged themselves into her sleeping state. With the anchors and the dreamkeepers in place, it's almost as if she had forgotten her true purpose was to sleep for at least two years to get her payment. But her mind was already forcing her to wake up.

It had been almost a year since her participation in the dream research, but the researchers hoped she would sleep… for a long, long time still.

Short StoryFantasyAdventure

About the Creator

Karina Thyra

Fangirl of sorts.

Twitter: @ArianaGsparks

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Comments (3)

  • Jenelynnno13 days ago

    I've been binge-reading your stories, and this is one of the best pieces. Kudos to you! I love it!💗

  • Sweileh 88824 days ago

    Thank you I am happy with your exciting stories Watch my stories now

  • Dani McGaw24 days ago

    Oh wow - that ending - was not what I expected! Great job!

Karina ThyraWritten by Karina Thyra

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