Everyone has them. Those beautiful dreams where you wake up, and immediately you want nothing more than to go back to sleep and just slip right back into that perfect world that you know is still there, waiting.
Many years ago, when I was young, I found somewhere beautiful, and I still go there when I sleep. It’s a vast and bright place, so much more infinite than this curved world. None of it will ever be fully discovered, no matter how many times I go back. Sometimes, when I fall asleep, my father is there to greet me, and for a few moments he smiles and reaches out to me before he hurries away to some other place I will never know, just the way I remember him when he was alive.
My father was a wild man, his hair long and untamed, his eyes always moving. Just standing near him I would feel all the storms inside him, whipping at him, tearing to be free, and I knew that behind everything he did was his one magnificent and destructive quest for the storm that would finally take him and let them all out. I could never decide if he was a genius or a madman, in his workshop with those endless machines and devices, all of them hastily bound together and ready to fall apart at any second. At the end he thought he could control the weather. Maybe he could.
The last time I saw him was on a rainy night in October, standing on top of the hill where he had proposed to my mother all those years ago. I remember I'd somehow had a hunch that he'd take the machine there once it was finished, so when he went missing one cold evening I went there to find him. The wind was lashing rain so hard into the windscreen of my car that I had to drive at a crawl, but when I arrived and ran across the long and soaking grass, slipping and tripping on rocks hidden by the darkness, I looked up and saw the lightning breaking through the rolling black clouds and illuminating a tiny figure on the hilltop.
I was knocked to the ground by the power of the wind, and I tried to look, shielding my eyes from the rain, as an almighty roar filled the air and almost overwhelmed the thunder.
I swore the storm was heading right for him, as if it had roamed the sky looking for him and was reaching down to the earth now that it had found him. The dark spinning cloud loomed monstrous over him, stopping dead to let him stare into its heart, and then the wind became too powerful for me to look anymore and I curled up against it amongst the tall grass.
When everything had calmed enough for me to look again it had taken him. I saw it spinning away back into the sky and it never came back.
I don’t know where the storm took him, but it was only after that night that I started to see him in my dreams. I began to wonder if he had known all along, if that endless world is where he had always wanted to go, but I’m still not sure. Everyone dreams of someone they’ve lost.
Even when I collected the scattered pieces of his machine, thrown all around by the wind, and took them all back home I still didn’t know if it had worked. I could never be sure if my father had found the storm or if it had found him, or if he really had called it from the hilltop with his machine.
That is why I took all the pieces back into his cramped and littered workshop, and spent the next year laying them all out across the old wooden benches and the concrete floor to find out what they all did. Sometimes I would sit back in the worn dining chair that he had kept in there and I would close my eyes and sleep, but whenever I slept near the machine I would never find my beautiful bright world, and instead I would be standing in the rain at night, watching the sky unfolding, taking away that wild and wind-lashed figure at the top of the hill.
Soon I found those dark dreams following me, even when I slept in my bed. Every night I would be back there, staring up at the storms. I eventually decided to walk on toward the hilltop, but each time I did the wind would stop me and the rain would get in my eyes. Still I carried on, walking a little further each night, until some months later I had reached the hill and was climbing up the wet grass.
It was the night I reached the top that I finally saw how the machine worked. I straightened up at the summit and looked around, but the lonely figure was gone and there were no storms to be seen anywhere. It was just me facing the squat hulk of the machine in the darkness while the overcast clouds swelled and rushed past in the sky. Suddenly it all made sense, and I knew. I knew which parts belonged where, and how they all worked below the layers of everything to summon the violence needed to tear a hole in the world and pull me out of it.
I awoke and went straight to the workshop, and I worked and worked for two days without sleep or food or dreams, until I felt so tired I could almost see the edges of my dream worlds fading into the waking light. When it was finally finished and I had lashed it tight to the small trailer behind my car it was already dark, and the rain was starting to fall. It was just like that October night when I had last seen my father.
It took a long time to pull the machine around and around the hill, spiralling up towards its summit until I had reached the top, and I felt the strength of the wind now it had found its playground in the blackness. The rain was intermittent but cold, and I walked around the machine, unhooking it, adjusting and switching on all of its parts until it was sitting in the soft grass and slowly coming to life, strangely quiet as it began to tear at the sky just beneath the surface of the air.
It took a long time but the clouds began to notice and to part, tumultuous as dark waves in the sea, heaving and surging overhead, opening and spinning in the distance until suddenly, far away from me, I saw the spinning mass drive down and hit the earth with a crash, distant and strangely gentle. I smiled and thought of Michelangelo’s painting in the Sistine Chapel, how the storm had reached down and touched the earth so gently with its power, just like the way God had touched the tip of his finger to Adam’s to give him life.
That was when I closed my eyes and waited.
I am still waiting, but I know it won’t be long now. The thunder and lighting started a long time ago, moving closer and closer. It has seen me and it is coming to take me out of the world. I still don’t know if it will work, but even if I am taken nowhere except flung into the sky, I know I have found my own perfect world, my beautiful dream, and it will always be there.
It has found me now. I can feel it, close, ominous, looming dark over me. My face is numb from the cold rain but I can feel myself smiling. I’m being pulled from the ground, forced to leave the earth behind, and all I can do is let it happen and wait for the beautiful dreams to come back.
I’m weightless, being pulled apart, smashed into atoms, thrown away. Who knows where I will land?