and everyone else (they don't matter now)

The First Cut is The Deepest
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the first cut is the deepest

 

and everyone else (they don't matter now)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imagine a world exactly like yours. People inhabiting it like yours, the uncanny likeness.

 

With an exception that this time you are able to travel in your dream.

 

Safe to say that it's an ability possessed by the teeny tiny part of the population. Experts won't say anything about it because everything that comes out of their mouth will be just speculations: there might be more of them in this world, more than we'd care to admit.

 

These people are called 'daydreamers'. Calling them people is a bit of an understatement because recent findings reveal that animals, even plants, come with the possibility to concoct their universe in a dream as well. Soon enough dreams about people able to meet their pets in the same universe of a dream surfaced, and quickly shot because for now, it is impossible to determine what our pets think about us, let alone taking a peek inside their dreams. But if that future comes to fruition, soon enough people will find ways to bond with their cactuses. Didn't sound like a bad idea, in all honesty.

 

Pets and cactuses aside.

 

It's the third time Ahn Hyejin explored the dream lane this week. Garbed in her usual satin one-piece that reveals her tan arms within laces, she steps barefoot along this greenery of woods, passing the planetarium that she's been into three times. After playing with the telescopes and checking every constellation in the night sky, maybe she can just stop by later.

 

The night sky littered with milky way slit in the middle and stars in bluish dark.

 

Yes, in case you wondered, Ahn Hyejin is one of those gifted who's able to create her dream and shape it to any way she wants it to be. Within a plane of consciousness, one cannot be too sure, and like other daydreamers, she's not keen on letting everyone know about this either. Her family and closest friends, maybe.

 

In a way this activity becomes a pastime to her, an escape from piling work and things to do in the real world. As much as she's aware that there are others like her as well, Hyejin is relieved that daydreamers have the lowest chance (close to zero) of running into each other in real life, even recognizing each other.

 

The feeling will be similar to meeting your online friend in real life. Sometimes wanted, mostly unwanted and awkward.

 

The shrubbery crushed beneath her feet as her steady step brings her to the edge of the forest. The first thing caught her sight is piles of books, hundreds of them, scattered haphazardly or forming their tiny towers. The woman step forward and proceed to tidy the whole mess with grumbles and grunts, putting them in their respective 'towers'

 

The Genealogy of Morals.

 

Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

 

Moby-.

 

Plato. Aristotle. (she can't be bothered to restate the lengthy title of those books).

 

Pride and Prejudice.

 

Hyejin furrowed her brow at the remaining book in her palm. That's an unusual choice for that person. The person who can't seem to be anywhere even though she's halfway done with tidying the mess. Is she out?

 

As she step into the tiny tent with a stick jutting out of its fabric as a pillar that hold the whole thing together, her fingers mindlessly tracing the yellow interior, the feeling of soft rags knitted together under her feet, making a slow, calculated steps as soon as she heard light snores.

 

Two books and three obstacles later, she finally finds the culprit.

 

The White Tiger mask hung perfectly covering her face, the snores coming out muffled. Her body splayed along the books formed in such a way it resembles a structure of a throne, her brunette locks covering her left side. Hyejin heaves a small sigh and gets on fours, proceeds to crawl to this person who has been inhabiting her dream for a month until now.

 

A month ago

 

"Who are you?"

 

Because the daydreamers have a penchant to skip wherever they like, the chance of two daydreamers running into each other, in the same land of dream, is a possibility in itself. Hyejin is about to create a skyscraper in this vast land of ice before finding out somebody has taken a spot in her dream. Her relaxed countenance grows wary, because two strangers meeting (even if this figure might be a residue of another's dream as well) can end up with a good or less than desirable result.

 

Judging from her brown, chestnut hair tied in ponytail (the thin-as-a-stick figure lead her to assume it's a she) and the black-striped tiger mask over her face (what left is a pair of blue, hypnotizing eyes), Hyejin can't assume anything at all. Probably because this daydreamer didn't say a word.

 

"Well?"

 

Hyejin crossing her arms in an impatient fashion is enough for the masked woman to fish out a notebook and write. The writing took her half a minute.

 

This is a coincidence.

don't worry, I will mind my business over there.

you can continue to dream as much as you like.

 

That leaves Hyejin in the middle of an icy expanse of a field, snapping and clicking her fingers to create intricate snow flowers falling from the sky and reversing. Shards of bigger ice blocks falling from the sky and Hyejin almost sculpted it to a skyscraper before turning to the back.

 

The tiger-mask girl sitting at the corner, under a tree, reading a book. It reminded her of her niece waiting to be picked up from the daycare. After another minute of silence, she can't take it anymore. The structure crumbled to the ground and Hyejin marched to the other daydreamer.

 

"Hey!" Hyejin called out. "Don't you have anything else to say?"

 

Every other day dreamers she encountered before usually fall under two reactions: either trying to kick her out so they can have all the space for themselves (some people live for dreams, after all) or capriciously flirting with her. Either way gets to be ripped to pieces by Ahn Hyejin. She can't waste any time in the dream world.

 

So this dynamic throws her off. Kinda. Sort of.

 

It's impossible to discern an expression behind that mask, but Hyejin saw her shoulder jolted when she called her abruptly.

 

can't speak much. Not enough strength to do that in a dream (yet).

most times may be two words.

 

Some daydreamers have their level of energy they can focus on creating their dream world or skip between universes, and it depends on how much energy they had conserved in their body at the moment. You can consider yourself quite strong to be able to create dream cities, like Ahn Hyejin.

 

While Hyejin is busy wondering, the woman writes on her notes again.

 

I just need a little time in the dream world to read, I'm sorry.

next time it won't happen again.

I will be out of your way.

 

Hyejin lifts an eyebrow. "What do you mean? You can stay and visit here sometimes. You just want to read, right?" She can sense her confusion, but nevertheless she keeps going. "I'm Hwasa. What should I call you?"

 

there's no need.

I'm just a dream.

 

Obviously it doesn't sit right with Hyejin. "Dream, tiger… Ah." The tanned woman smiles, pulling this daydreamer to a stand, taking the novel away and weighing it in her palm. "Dream tiger. Kkumie, then."

 

The white tiger gets a name that day.


 

 

Back to the present is the same masked woman snoring on the top of books, and Hyejin crawling close enough, shaking her arm. "Wake up."

 

Maybe she's too tired in the real world. Hyejin had a heart to leave her to sleep, but paused at the mask.

 

The black stripes lining the white fur of the mask indicate high-quality material. It wraps her face so completely that Hyejin's hope to see underneath it whenever they are together is dashed to pieces. She traces a pattern along its softness, and the curiosity wins.

 

"...Hng."

 

The white tiger wakes up while Hyejin's halfway pulling the mask. Understandably, she jumped with a gasp, causing the messy tower of books to fall onto her. A long groan. "What's with that reaction? This is a shared space. I have the right to be here, you know." Hyejin cleared , masking her nervousness. "Besides, why are there more books compared to when I left last time? I told you so many times already that when you want a book, you have to lose a book–"

 

The reprimand falls on deaf ears when the tiger skips a shorter wall of books and exits the tent, followed by a pouty Hyejin.

 

"Hey wait! Seriously, you're the only one who dared treating me like this…"

 


 

Night sky is still twinkling, sheltering over a pair of daydreamers with their respective books across each other. Hyejin flipped over the fairytale book she gave earlier, stealing a glance at the white tiger, currently drowning in her own reading.

 

Because this daydreamer cannot speak easily and Hyejin gets easily bored, this kind of pastime has become a daily norm whenever Hyejin returns to the dream lane. Mostly because this woman is not interested in building cities and universes (wouldn't even pay attention to Hyejin while she's doing it) and the only moment she would give her a time of her day is by doing the same thing she did: reading.

 

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