Within the Dream (Flash Fiction)

Bob parked his car along an empty sidewalk near an old stretch of green that split the heart of his home town, and walked toward the setting sun. The shadows of the limbs hanging above groped out for him, for the world, for seemingly anything. Yellow leaves crunched under his feet and were swept away by a cold wind. It would freeze that night, despite the weatherman’s claim of the last days of fall staying balmy. The guru was there, under the old tree with twisted knots in its trunk and the carved hearts surrounding faded initials. Bob paused, considered turning back, and then joined the old man. As always, he was greeted with a smile.

“Hello, Bob,” said the guru. “It’s a pleasure to see you. You’ve been away for quite some time, my friend.”

“Yes,” Bob said, feeling like a negligent child. “Yes, I suppose I have.” He sat and took a relaxed form of the lotus position.

“What brings you to me this day?” asked the guru. His eyes seemed to hold a sparkle over the normal pale blue. He sipped at a cup of warm tea and motioned for Bob to have some. Bob shook his head initially. “Ah, come now,” said the guru. “It’ll spare you from this chill that is brewing in the air.” And so, Bob did. The tea poured into him like a waterfall diving into a narrow canyon, and its warmth splashed into his body, into his blood, and flowed throughout.

“Delicious,” said Bob.

The guru nodded and waited. Together, they watched as the sun drifted toward the edge of a wide and sleepy river.

“I’ve come to say I won’t be coming around much longer,” Bob said. He looked at his cup while he said it, not wanting to see that faint sparkle in those blue eyes diminish.

“And why is that?” asked the guru with a subtle smile.

Bob felt an overwhelming urge to speak, but held his tongue. He waited until his thoughts settled and could flow like that sleepy river on the horizon. “I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the things you’ve taught me. What you’ve said. And I think that really, deep down, it’s not for me.”

The guru nodded and sipped from his tea. The sparkle in his blue eyes was still there, but Bob did not see.

“I think what it really comes down to, what I feel in my heart,” Bob continued, “is that if it’s true, if all this is as you say, just a dream, then I’d rather dream the dream than try to wake from it. I’d rather embrace what this dream may hold than try to understand it and my place within.”

“I see,” said the guru. He set his tea on the ground and folded his hands in his lap. “And you’re quite sure of this?” he asked.

Bob nodded, a quick and continuous motion that looked more like a vibration.

The guru smiled. “Well I must say, Bob. This is wonderful news.”

Bob looked up and saw that the old man was smiling quite clearly, more than he’d ever seen before. The sparkle in his pale eyes glinted in the sun and burned with life. “Why?” asked Bob.

The breeze came through and stirred the old man’s hair, and he turned his eyes to the river. “Because you’ve realized that there’s nothing to realize, Bob. And that is by far the most important realization of all.” The old man chuckled, a raspy sound that was both cough and laugh. “You’ve skipped ahead, Bob. You’ve skipped ahead and read the final chapter!”

Bob frowned as confusion settled in. “I don’t understand.”

The guru smiled and reached out. “Did you know that in all my years of sitting here, not a single tree has asked me what will become of their leaves in the fall? That not a single bird has come along to ponder with me what may happen tomorrow? The stones smile at me when they see me sit, for they know deep down, just as I do, that I only stand and walk away again. And they snicker when they see me return the next day to resume the charade.” Another whip of cold snapped through, and the guru paused to clear his throat. “You see, Bob, to say you’ve found your place within is so much more than the promises of priests or pharmaceuticals or money. You’ve decided to be, like the river has decided to flow to the sea, like the squirrels have decided to scamper along the bark.”

The guru laughed again, and this time it was a delightful sound. “I envy you,” he said with a sly wink.

Bob sat with the man for nearly an hour after that, and neither of them said another word. They watched as the sun fell into the water and the river flowed into the first hints of blinking stars. The cold wind stirred about as if trying to chase them out, but they simply sat and sipped their tea. Somehow, it was still warm, and most certainly delicious.

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