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Lucid Paradise

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There is an ancient story which tells of how a spider creature named Iktomi created a web which filtered good dreams from the bad dreams. He shared the secrets of this web with a brave leader, who in turn told the world of the web to ensure his people were not haunted by nightmares. This led to the creation of the special object known as a dream catcher; a circular wooden hoop containing a beautifully handcrafted web design with many different coloured feathers tied to thread, suspended from the hoop. The feathers would store the good dreams, whilst the web of thread would trap the bad dreams.

In a small city located in England, this tale was being recounted one spring afternoon, inside one of the city’s libraries. The audience it was addressed to though, a group of children aged between seven and ten, were a little preoccupied in order to be paying full attention. They were all sitting around a large table, scattered with scraps of wool, feathers, beads; some children were arguing over scissors and glue, with the library assistants having to remind them to share properly. They were all making their own dream catchers.

The storyteller reciting the story of Iktomi called himself Dr. Lucid. A hired entertainer, some parents concluded, as his appearance represented someone such as the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland. He wore a dark purple frock coat with lighter purple patterns of leaves and vines printed upon it. He had a matching waistcoat and pants to go with it, along with black shiny shoes and a black high collared shirt with a wine-red bowtie fastened around his neck. Upon his head he donned a large purple top hat with a single black ribbon tied around it. In his hand he held a red swirly walking stick, although it was clear that this man was not crippled in any way. He was not even of great age, he only looked to be in his mid-forties, with dirty blonde hair showing under his hat and a short stubbly beard on the lower half of his face.

His manner of speaking was very formal, but he possessed a cheerful demeanour which kept the children in a happy and comfortable mood, even if they weren’t paying attention to the actual story. Dr. Lucid was aware he didn’t have full attention, but none-the-less, he continued to recite the tale whilst circling the table, observing the children and the many different results of their dream catchers. This initially made him unaware of the person sat in the corner of the room, who was staring intently at him. This person looked to be an average teenage girl, with long chocolate-brown hair scraped back in a ponytail and a sprinkle of freckles across her nose and rosy cheeks. Her light blue eyes were looking towards the doctor and it was evident that she was taking in every word she said, as opposed to a few minutes ago where her ears were blocked up by earphones connected to her iPod.

This was Ruby Bentley-Smith; a sixteen year old girl who had only turned up to this craft fair as her mother had insisted that Ruby should take Eddie, her seven year old brother, up there, as both of their parents were working that day. She had reluctantly agreed, not wanting to cause a fuss with her mother. So here she was, sitting in the corner whilst Eddie was struggling to thread beads onto the wool. Initially uninterested by the children’s activities, the words of Dr. Lucid had suddenly attracted her attention. As a psychology student, the subject of dreams was one that interested her. She’d grown past the age of making little trinkets like this, but the idea of dreams flying through the air and the possibility of a special web capturing these dreams; now that was interesting.

Dr. Lucid soon took notice of this girl when he eventually lifted his head and caught her gaze. Ruby was quick to look back down to her iPod, but the doctor wasn’t stupid, far from it actually, he’d noticed her stare and knew that she’d been listening the whole time.

“You there!” he called to her in his posh London accent. Ruby looked up to find him pointing his walking stick straight at her. “Yes you, child! Come here at once!” He beckoned her over. Ruby pocketed her iPod, stood up, and followed him to a table he was walking to. “Now then,” he said. “I notice you seemed to take interest in the tale of Iktomi and his web. Tell me, do dreams fascinate you?” She wasn’t sure how to reply.

She eventually muttered, “I… umm… I suppose so.” The doctor’s face took on a satisfied smile. “Splendid… I think I have the perfect thing for you, child.” His hand reached under his coat. After a few seconds he pulled out something. A dream catcher, but a very unique one, Ruby noticed.

“Now, this dream catcher,” Dr. Lucid continued. “Is one that I crafted with my own hands. Its difference to the average dream catcher should be apparent to your eyes.” He was correct, for Ruby was quick to notice this difference. The dream catcher looked normal to begin with; the circle being made out of normal wood and the web being made out of purple thread. But there were no feathers. Hanging down from seven different threads were seven miniature dolls, each one smaller than the size of an average thumb. Ruby looked closely at them. They all differed to one another: three were boy dolls, four were girl dolls, several had different coloured hair and the small eyes stitched onto the dolls were of different colours as well, one of the girl dolls even had spectacles stitched onto her small face. They were all sewn into black and purple outfits.

“The children suspended from this dream catcher are not just your typical dolls you must understand. Nor do they capture the pure dreams of the night sky, like the typical feathers.”

“Then what are they supposed to do?” asked Ruby.

“Ah,” the doctor tapped the side of his nose with his finger.

“All will become clear when you begin your slumber tonight.”

“Oh, well you see,” Ruby shook her head slightly. “It’s awfully nice of you to offer it, but I don’t have any money on me.”

Dr. Lucid let out a hearty laugh. “Who said anything about money? My dear, this is a gift!”

“A… a gift? Are you sure that’s okay?”

“I am absolutely certain,” the doctor responded, not letting his smile drop for a second. “As long as you promise to keep it safe. Do you have any siblings?”

“Yeah, I have my brother here,” she said, signaling to the little brown-haired boy sat at the edge of the table.

“I see,” said the doctor. “Well please refrain from ‘sharing’ it with him. This is solely for you. Do you understand?” Ruby looked at Dr. Lucid, then back to the dream catcher. After some thought, she lifted her hand to take the dream catcher, and he passed it to her.

“I understand. Thank you, sir,” she said, smiling politely.

“Splendid!” he exclaimed. “Now, hang it on the wall beside your bed tonight. No doubt you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you experience.” Ruby was tempted to ask more, but Dr. Lucid was quick to turn back to the table to see how all the children were getting along. Shrugging her shoulders, she returned to her spot in the corner, handling the dream catcher with care.

When the two siblings got home, Ruby rushed up to her room, setting about to hanging the dream catcher up. After she attached it to her bedroom wall with Blu-Tack, the day continued as normal. Ruby did her homework, went on the Internet for a while, had dinner when her parents returned home, took some Metformin pills for her diabetes soon after, read Eddie a bedtime story, and soon went to bed herself. Lying down, she looked up to the dream catcher beside her on the wall. Hoping that it would give her a good dream, she fell fast asleep.

Morning, and Ruby found herself teetering on the rim of consciousness. She pushed herself up, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. When the sleep was clear, she opened them… and gasped. She was no longer in her room. She was still in her bed and still wearing her pyjamas, but her entire room was just… gone. What surrounded her in its place was a void of black and purple swirls of fog. The colours appeared to be moving, as if they were mixing together. It clearly wasn’t morning now… but then Ruby realised she couldn’t be sure, as there were no windows to show if it was dark or light outside, and there was no clock to tell the time.

“Aah, I see you’re asleep!” The sudden voice made her jump out of her skin. Her head quickly darted to her right in the direction of the voice. There stood a very familiar man, clad in a purple frock coat, wearing a top hat, carrying a swirly walking stick…

“Y-you!” she stammered. “You’re the guy! The guy from earlier, aren’t you?”

“Yes, dear Ruby, it is I, Dr. Lucid at your service!” Dr. Lucid, having not changed at all since their encounter earlier that day, bowed to her gracefully. Ruby just stared, open-mouthed. But the doctor spoke before she could. “I predict you had many questions,” the doctor chuckled. “Allow me to answer them for you. You are in the land of Paradise!” He threw his arms out to his sides as he exclaimed this proudly. "You could say a dream far beyond your wildest imagination,” he continued. “I am here because I am the creator of this land. And as for me knowing your name, well I don’t mean to boast, but I am well practiced in magic and it wasn’t too hard to achieve it. After all, what effort is needed to find out a simple name compared to creating my beautiful Paradise?” His laugh echoed throughout the void of a room.

“Wait,” said Ruby, interrupting his laugh. “Since when has magic ever existed? That’s just a load of story legend, right?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, girl!” Dr. Lucid declared. “Magic has most definitely been around since the dawn of time! Such a shame you lesser mortals are too ignorant to believe fully in it.”

“But how did I get here?” Ruby finally asked the obvious question.

“Simple, because I brought you here!” he replied. Ruby’s eyes widened. “Oh Ruby, don’t look so alarmed! It wasn’t as if I climbed into your room and stole you in the dead of night. On the contrary, I think you’ll find that I was already in your room.”

“What?! But how?!” Ruby demanded to know, feeling slightly violated.

“Well voodoo magic has its perks, dear Ruby. I may walk abroad among you mortals, as you observed before, but long ago I split my soul and deposited it in the very dream catcher I gave to you today. In short, Paradise is located inside the dream catcher.

“Now that all of that explaining is over, I think it’s time for you to meet my friends.”

“Your friends?” Ruby asked. “Who are they?” In response, the doctor reached into his coat pocket and brought out a handful of miniature dolls. Ruby recognised them as the dolls that hung from the dream catcher. Holding the dolls in his right hand, he clenched his fist tightly and recited these words:

“Dolls and figures, up you tot, And show some smiles you miserable lot! It’s time for some fun, so off you pop, dust off those shoes and give ‘em a flop!”

With that said, he casted the dolls behind him and as they hit the floor, smoke suddenly erupted out of nowhere. The smoke soon cleared, and Ruby was met with a surprising sight. There, in a straight line, stood the seven dolls, but they were life-sized! In fact, they looked like normal humans. Four of them, two girl and two boys, looked to be no more than ten years old. The other two girls looked younger than Ruby, maybe about twelve or thirteen. A boy of about Ruby’s age, with ebony hair, stood in the centre of the line, towering over the others in height.

All seven of them wore black unitards; the girls had an additional dark purple tutu around their waist whilst the boys had a purple ribbon instead. And they all shared the exact same qualities as their dolls, from the colour of their hair to the colour of their eyes, even the doll with the spectacles stood there with the others. They stood straight with their arms in a preparatory position, both arms down and rounded with both hands just in front of the hips, as if they were a troupe of ballerinas; ballerinas with smiles, but with no emotion in their eyes whatsoever. They just stared blankly ahead.

“Well don’t just stand there!” the doctor snapped. “You must greet our new guest. This is Ruby Bentley-Smith.” He slammed his walking stick down on the void floor, its sound echoing loudly just as his laugh had done before. In an instant, all seven dolls had lifted their arms up and spread them out wide, all in perfect unison.

“Welcome to Paradise!” they all said, smiles fixed rigidly on their face.

“Do they have names?” Ruby asked the doctor. He shook his head.

“No, my dear, these are merely dolls. They are not people like you and me, so I saw no reason to name them. Now watch closely, because with a slam of my stick, these dolls will do my bidding. Allow me to demonstrate!” Dr. Lucid slammed his stick down again, and the dolls were quick to reassemble themselves into a triangle formation: the four younger children in a line at the front, then the two girls, then the boy right at the back. Another slam, and their arms lifted in front of them in first position. Every time the stick’s sound echoed, the dolls moved accordingly.

Right arm out, right arm in, left arm out, left arm in, right arm up, left arm up, turn one-hundred-and-eighty degrees to the right, right arm down, left arm down.

“That’s… that’s…” Ruby was trying to find the correct word. “… that’s incredible!”

“Isn’t it just?!” said the doctor happily.

“Is it… is it possible for me to come back here when I wake up?” she asked.

“Yes of course! As long as the dream catcher hangs on your wall, you shall return here every night from now on.”

“Oh that would be wonderful!” she said, then suddenly yawned. “Geez, I feel tired all of a sudden.”

“Aah, you’re waking up, my dear,” said Dr. Lucid. “You need to return to your bed.”

“But I just got here,” she said sleepily.

“I know, but time works differently in Paradise. These few minutes you have stayed here have counted for hours in the real world. Do not be down-hearted. I guarantee you’ll return here tomorrow night.”

He slammed his stick and the dolls waved their right hands at her and said, “We’ll see you then!” Ruby waved back, returned to her bed and closed her eyes.

“Good day, dear Ruby,” she heard Dr. Lucid say before she drifted asleep again.

When Ruby awoke the next morning, she spent a long time wondering if her dream had been real or not. It had all felt real, but surely all the talk about magic and the doctor controlling the dolls couldn’t have been true, could it? Eventually she just shrugged and resolved to waiting until she went to sleep again to see if she’d return to Paradise once more. Her day was normal, with nothing unusual or supernatural happening. It was Monday, so she had to go to school, but she couldn’t fully concentrate. She found that her mind kept wandering to her memories of Paradise. Whenever she snapped back to reality, she found it irritating how she was still stuck in her lessons. The next six hours dragged so much, that Ruby felt very relieved when the bell rang and they were allowed to go home. She still had to go through dinner and diabetic pills and Eddie’s bedtime story, but finally she collapsed into bed and fell fast asleep.

“Aah, I see you’re asleep!” she heard Dr. Lucid say. Ruby opened her eyes and smiled at the sight of him, as she realised she was back in Paradise.

“Good evening,” she said, but then looked around. “Umm… where are the dolls?”

“Aah, they are with me, my dear,” he said, pulling the miniature forms of the dolls out of his pocket again. “Tonight we shall have some playtime. Let me take you back to the wonders and fun of your childhood, Ruby.” Ruby looked confused, but let him get along with summoning the dolls. “Dolls! Let us play some classic games with our guest!” he commanded. Slamming his stick down, the dolls all joined hands in a circle. Another slam, and twinkling music began to play from nowhere, sort of like the sound you would hear from a jack-in-the-box. The dolls suddenly started leaping around in a clockwise movement, all still holding hands. They all chanted:

“Ring a round the roses, a pocket full of poses, atichoo, atichoo, we all fall down!”

On the last line, they all collapsed to the floor, seemingly lifeless. “Wow,” said Ruby. “I haven’t heard that chant in years.”

“What about any of these?” said the doctor. In minutes, he had the dolls performing all sorts of little nursery rhymes and childish chants: The Farmer’s in his Den, Oranges and Lemons, Down by the Banks of the Hanky Panky… by the time they got to Miss Lucy had a Baby, Ruby had come forward to join in, without any objections by Dr. Lucid. The dolls didn’t seem to object either, so they all made their way through circle songs and clapping games, making Ruby happy with nostalgic memories of her early childhood. When Ruby eventually felt sleepy, the doctor asked her if she had enjoyed herself. She happily said she had.

And every night after that, Ruby found herself in Paradise, enjoying herself in many different ways with the dolls. They sung songs together, they danced together, they played games together despite the dolls lack of natural joy, but what Ruby enjoyed most was re-enactments. Some nights Ruby would choose a story, and Dr. Lucid would make the dolls take upon the actions of each of the characters, with Ruby happily joining in. She played Little Red Riding Hood, where the ebony haired boy saved her from the little kids who all made up the wolf. She played Cinderella, dancing with the boy, losing her glass slipper and being saved from the two twelve year old girls who played her ugly stepsisters. She played Alice, falling into Wonderland while the dolls muddled her mind with all of the different characters. With her long hair, she even found joy in playing Rapunzel. Obviously her hair wasn’t long enough for her “prince” to climb up, but she enjoyed the story nonetheless.

Then one night in the summer holidays, after they finished the Six Swans, where Ruby saved her “siblings” from being turned into swans by staying mute, she started murmuring sleepily, “No… no, I don’t want to wake up.”

“Why not?” asked the doctor. “You’re going to return here tomorrow night, aren’t you?”

“I-I know,” she replied. “But I just don’t want to go back to the real world. I like this world… a lot… I wish I could stay here forever.” Without warning the doctor slammed his stick down with such force, that Ruby snapped out of her sleepy trance. All of the dolls and Dr. Lucid has their eyes fixed on her.

“Repeat what you just said,” the doctor commanded.

“I… I wish I could stay here forever,” she said, worried that she had done wrong by saying it.

Dr. Lucid glared at her for a while, before saying, “Do you truly wish that?” Ruby thought for a bit, and then nodded. A smile started to creep onto the doctor’s lips. “If that is what you truly wish, then I would be more than happy to allow you to stay. What do you say to this, everyone?”

With a slam of his stick, the dolls opened their arms out, smiled firmly and said, “We would love for you to stay.”

But as Ruby’s eyes lit up in happiness, the doctor suddenly said, “But you will have to perform a difficult task in order for you to remain here permanently.”

“Oh I’ll do anything!” said Ruby. “What must I do?”

“Well, I have estimated,” the doctor said. “That every night you sleep for roughly ten hours. To stay here, I need proof that you can possess the ability to stay here for much longer. So I need you to slumber for twenty-four hours straight. If you can do that, then I will allow you to stay.”

“Twenty-four hours?!” Ruby exclaimed. “But that’s a whole day! Is that even possible?!”

“Anything, I believe, is possible. It was possible for me to create this world; it’s possible for me to manipulate these dolls to do my bidding; sleeping for twenty-four hours is child’s play compared to those things. So you should be able to do it. And after all, you did just say you would do anything, did you not?”

“Well yes… alright, I’ll do it!” Dr. Lucid held out his hand, and Ruby shook it.

“Then the deal is made!” he declared. “You will continue to return to this world every night, and each night I will time you to see how many hours you have managed to slumber for. If you hear the sounds of large bells ringing, then you will know that twenty-four hours have passed and your wish will be granted.” Ruby nodded, and then began to feel sleepy again. “Good day, Ruby, and good luck,” was what she heard the doctor say as she returned to her bed.

And so began the weeks of Ruby trying to complete her task. On the first few nights, she simply tried to stay awake longer to tire herself out more. But she only managed to add a couple of hours to her sleep pattern. She quickly realised that this method wouldn’t work so she tried a new technique. She started to exercise a lot, going way over the recommended time of one hour a day. Her parents paid no heed to it at first, but soon became a little concerned. They were used to her staying in her room a lot whilst she was on the internet, but it seemed really out of place for her to be jogging around for five hours a day.

Overtime, Ruby’s methods became more disturbing. She started to skip meals, only regularly having small snacks and drinks to keep her blood sugar level stable. Her weight dropped, her skin turned pale, but the longest time she managed to sleep for was sixteen hours. Even in Paradise, whenever she felt sleepy she refused to return to her bed, trying to stay awake and play with the dolls, only to collapse where she stood and wake up in her bed in the real world. At one point she sneaked into her parents’ room and stole a bottle of her father’s sleeping pills. When the recommended doses didn’t acquire the results she had been hoping for, she started taking more than was required, but this only gave her headaches and made her groggy during the day. Oh how she cursed the real world.

She became angry with it, she became sick of the sight of it, preferring the sight of the misty and dark Paradise. She became sick of seeing her friends, ignoring their texts and emails, completely shutting them out of her life. And most heartbreaking of them all, she eventually became sick of her own family. She wouldn’t say a word to her parents anymore and she refused to read Eddie a bedtime story at night. The only communication they would usually share was Ruby screaming at them to leave her alone. All she wanted to do was go to sleep and see Dr. Lucid and the dolls. They were all she loved now.

But finally, she found the solution. A horrible solution. As she was about to take her diabetic pills one night, she was reminded of words that her doctor had told her when she was little, soon after she found out she had diabetes. He had told her, “Never ever take more than two pills after meals. If you take more than two, then you’ll fall into a really deep sleep, and you might never wake up. And that will make your parents and baby brother very sad.”

A deep sleep… she might never wake up…

Without another thought, she rushed to the bathroom, tipped the whole bottle of her Metformin pills into her hand and set to work on consuming them all. All that she could think of were the words “deep sleep”. These pills could give her the twenty-four hours she needed. She didn’t even stop for a second to consider the fact that there would be no turning back. The desperation of wanting to stay in Paradise had taken over her completely. When all the pills had gone, she rushed back to her room, snatched up the small number of sleeping pills remaining and swallowed them as well, just to make sure she’d definitely fall asleep. Almost instantly, she began to feel dizzy and unstable. She stumbled back onto her bed. Her mind was starting to haze over, but she managed to make herself lie down. As her vision faded, the last thing she saw was the dream catcher hanging on her wall…

“I see you’re asleep.” Dr. Lucid’s voice didn’t sound happy and cheerful today. It sounded plain and firm. When Ruby opened her eyes and looked to him, she saw that his face was also plain and firm. She guessed that he’d witnessed her actions in the real world. But it was okay, she thought. If nothing in the real world interrupted, she’d finally be allowed to stay in Paradise forever. “I would like to reenact a story of my own creation today,” he said. “It is called ‘The Lonely Prince’. Would you like to witness this story?” Ruby smiled and nodded. The doctor made haste in summoning the dolls and making them run off to hide until they were called for.

“Once upon a time,” the doctor started to tell the story as a happy melody began to sound throughout Paradise. “There was a land ruled over by a king and queen. The land was a happy, where children and adults would smile and laugh every day.” He slammed his stick down and the four younger dolls appeared, running around the doctor in a circle, making giggling noises. The doctor made them perform a fun little ballet act. Such skills in ones that had no life. Ruby admired the doctor’s magic; it was incredible. “Even the servants of the king and queen’s palace shared the joys of the land, performing their chores with glee and happiness.” The two girls were summoned. They performed a ballet act too, making motions with their hands as if they were sweeping floors or polishing windows. It was all done in such grace that after a while, the younger dolls joined in and they all danced together. It went on for so long that Ruby soon found herself sitting on the floor whilst she watched it, but not once did she get bored, for the dance was so skilled, so happy and so enthralling, that the possibility of getting bored was absolutely zero.

“But alas,” the doctor continued after what seemed like an hour. “There was one individual who did not bask in the joys of the land.” Another slam of the stick, and a white staircase materialised behind the dolls. The dolls parted to each side of the staircase and all turned their heads up to the top of it, where a large platform was connected to it. The music suddenly turned quiet and solemn. “Observe the summit of that staircase and tell me what you see!” the doctor exclaimed.

“That’s the eldest doll!” Ruby said, recognising him instantly.

“Correct, but in this story he is much more than the simple ebony-haired doll. What you see here is what the people of the land call: the Lonely Prince.”

“The Lonely Prince!” the other dolls declared in unison as they looked to the sad doll.

“This poor soul has been eternally locked in the palace,” said the doctor. “His parents have forbade him to make friends or have fun, lest they distract him from his duties as a prince. But this deprivation of the joy of the land has made the prince sink into a deep depression.” The boy went on to do a solo dance. The dance was beautiful but no joy emanated from it. He had his eyes closed the entire time, but towards the end of the dance, they suddenly snapped open wide. His arms started to reach out, his head turned this way and that, as if he was searching for something.

“Observe!” Dr. Lucid suddenly shouted from behind Ruby. “He seeks companionship!” The “prince” looked towards all of the other dolls, but Dr. Lucid’s stick was quick to make them turn away from him. “His isolation has caused the people to believe that he wants to be alone. But that is falsehood. He needs a friend. Who will be his friend?!” And then the prince’s eyes rested on Ruby. He stretched his arms out to her. And Ruby suddenly found herself standing up and rushing up the staircase. Her heart reached out to him, as she could no longer stand to see this poor doll alone in despair.

“I’ll be his friend!” she shouted, and threw her arms around him as soon as she reached him. He returned the embrace, although it felt stiff and unnatural.

“Finally!” the doctor called from below. “A person has come forth to free the prince from his solitude!” The two of them pulled away to look at each other and, to the now once again happy music, they begun to dance. Ruby wasn’t much of a dancer in the real world, but somehow she knew how to perform this dance. She pointed, she twirled, she moved her arms lightly as the prince lifted her into the air. And as the dance came to an end, the two embraced once again.

“I’ll never leave you, my prince,” she whispered into his ear as she smiled to herself. But then she heard something. Something close to her ear. It sounded like… a breath. But a shaky breath. Coming from…the boy? She quickly pulled away to look at him…

And saw a tear fall down his cheek.

Before she could say anything, a loud sound interrupted her thoughts. The sound of bells; large bells you would find in a clock tower. She looked down to see the doctor looking up at her and applauding her with a happy grin on his face.

“You’ve done it!” he called out. “Twenty-four hours have passed!” Ruby slowly walked down the staircase with the boy. As they walked down, the steps behind them vanished until they reached the bottom, and the staircase was no more. “Well done, my dear! You’ve completed the required task. Now I shall grant your wish!” Ruby did not return the doctor’s smile. “What is wrong? This is a happy moment, your wish has come true!”

Ruby looked at him for a few more seconds. Then she pointed to the boy without looking at him and said: “He’s not a doll, is he?”

Dr. Lucid barely reacted. He merely stared at her too. After about a minute, he finally spoke. “You mortals are far too slow to see the obvious,” he said coldly.

“So… is he…?” Ruby tried to speak.

“Yes. This boy is not a doll. He is a human. In fact, look around you.” Ruby turned back to look at the other dolls. The realisation finally hit her.

They were all humans.

“But… but… how did this happen?” Ruby asked.

The doctor started to chuckle then: a deep chilling chuckle. “These children were all like you, Ruby. They were captivated by Paradise, they also wanted to stay here forever. All seven of them managed to find a way to sleep for twenty-four hours. And I granted their wish.”

“But why are you controlling them like this?!” she shouted. Dr. Lucid looked to the boy. The boy stared back at him with a tear stain on his cheek.

“This boy was the first to come to Paradise,” he explained. “He ended up throwing himself under a bus in order to sleep for long enough. But after a while, he grew bored of Paradise. He wanted to leave. But as he ran away, I stopped him.” The doctor held the stick up. “I used this to manipulate him. Now he cannot leave. None of these children can. I wouldn’t want their wishes wasted now, would I?”

“I… I-I've change my mind,” Ruby suddenly said. “I don’t want to be here anymore. Please, let me go home!”

“Oh it’s too late for that now,” he said with an edge of evil in his voice. “You overdosed. You’re dead in the real world now. And besides, didn’t you just tell your 'prince' here that you would never leave him, hmm?” Ruby ignored him. Pushing past him, she rushed towards her bed. But in horror, she realised it was nowhere to be seen. “I told you,” the doctor said. “You can’t return to the real world now that you’re dead.” But she continued to run, desperately looking around for an exit. Right until she heard the doctor slam his stick down.

And then she froze.

Her body was as stiff as stone. She couldn’t move, even her eyes remained motionless. Another slam, and she found herself standing up straight, her arms in a preparatory position. “Oh deary me, Ruby,” she heard Dr. Lucid say. “I thought you’d be more cooperative and stay free in Paradise. But it looks like I’ll have to force you to stay. Never mind though.” Another slam and Ruby was made to turn around and walk towards the doctor. She had no control over her body; it was as if she was a puppet attached to strings. Dr. Lucid made her stand by the boy again along with the rest of the dolls. “Oh give me a smile, you miserable lot!” he demanded. He slammed his stick down and all eight of them, including Ruby, soon found themselves with smiles fixed on their faces, despite their emotions being far from happy. “Much better!” Dr. Lucid declared. “Paradise must always be a happy place. People would just kill to stay!” He laughed loudly, the haunting sound of it echoing throughout the dark void of land.

Ruby Bentley-Smith was declared dead at 7:43pm on the August 30th, 2014, after overdosing on Metformin pills and Imovane sleeping pills and falling into a coma for approximately twenty-four hours. Her death was ruled as a suicide. To this day, her family have never managed to figure out what caused her change in behaviour and why she decided to end her life.

On the night after her funeral, her younger brother, Eddie, couldn’t sleep. He missed his sister a lot. The past few weeks of arguments and screaming between Ruby and their parents had scared him, but at least she was alive then. Now she was gone forever. Eddie slowly got out of his bed and tip-toed down the landing to Ruby’s bedroom. Maybe, just maybe, all of this was a bad dream, and he would find Ruby asleep in bed, very much alive, as opposed to when they found her unconscious only a week or so previously. He opened the door slowly and peeked his head around it. Everything was untouched. The red walls were the same, her desk was in the corner by the window with her books stacked neatly upon it, her wardrobe was closed and her bed was pushed up against the wall. Ruby wasn’t there, of course, but something else was missing too. Eddie noticed it and gasped.

Ruby’s special dream catcher was gone…

On a beautiful autumn afternoon, the storyteller known as Dr. Lucid was walking down a gravel path, heading towards a town where he was due to host another craft fair. As he walked, he reached into his frock coat and pulled out a dream catcher, entwined with dark purple wool and had miniature dolls in the place of the regular feathers. “Let us see if we can find a lover of dreams today,” he chuckled to himself. No longer did seven dolls hang from the dream catcher. Now there were eight. The eighth one had long chocolate-brown hair fashioned in a ponytail, and small blue eyes stitched on its face…

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