He was there from the beginning. My first dream occurred when I was seven. I was in an orchard of sakura trees, the floral saccharine scent in every gust of wind. After my first few steps into the pink cloud, I saw him. A little boy huddled against the bark. I wondered briefly if he was lost or had settled down for a nap when his shoulders shook and the pink petals that had gathered fell from his blonde hair. He lifted his chin up to wipe the tears from his face and stared up into the blue sky with a look of resignation that seemed out of place on his youthful countenance. For the next few nights I kept returning to that place. Each time, he was there. Sometimes in the trees, sometimes laid out on the tall green grass or wandering through the orchard.
I remember these dreams because I rarely ever dream. My nights are usually filled with blackness. Other times, I dream of this boy. Even though their durations are so brief, I wake up with my heart pounding and the images still bright before my eyes. Once I turned thirteen I stopped dreaming altogether; just a calm sea of darkness, lulling me into a stream of dreamless nights and stringing them into years. That is how it was until two months ago.
I recognized him instantly in that same orchard of buds blooming, the wind wafting in the rosy snow. He was older now, perhaps a few years my senior. Though the same thoughtful eyes, the difference was made up in his height and physique. His face had changed and grown to make room for that premature wisdom from before. It embodied his whole persona, echoing the young boy who was always deep in thought, thinking and mulling. As always he never seemed to acknowledge my presence. I know these are only dreams but to feel his familiar warmth once again I couldn't help but smile as I stood close to him. This feeling flowed into the following night and the next but the dreams began to change.
The orchard came back into full view once again. He sat against the bark, an arm resting across his one raised knee, the other fiddling with a long strand of grass. His eyes wandered across the skies, watching the distant clouds. I smiled at his lazy expression. It was a nice change.
Almost drawn to the compulsion to brush back the strands of honey-blonde, I raised my hand towards him. Suddenly a strange sensation rippled through the air, almost a cool chill against my skin.
"It's peaceful, isn't it?"
I started. Half shocked that someone was actually speaking in my dream, and half wondering who was talking to the boy. The voice was male, though the sentence was a question it was spoken more as a statement. I turned.
Another older boy stood in front of me. He wore a dark robe and high black boots. His hair, almost raven, glinted a deep mahogany. Then there were his cold steel eyes that bore into me. Startled, I could feel my heart ricocheting against my ribcage.
I woke up in cold sweat, feeling the clamminess of my fingers against the cotton sheets. I was almost certain I had startled myself awake.
Who was that?
A million thoughts racing, I tried to remind myself that it was just a dream yet I could not shake off the uneasiness. My arms and back continued to tingle with the strange sensation. It was the smile that unnerved me—a smile that couldn't be deciphered. Surely it wasn't a show of good-will; there was nothing warm or kind about that smile.
I never saw that boy again yet the restlessness carried on into all my dreams. As I watched the soldier boy—as I liked to call him due to the regal sun-shaped crest that rested on his headband and sometimes on the hilt of his sword when I saw it—I found myself looking around the dream not because of its newness but for that strange boy. He never appeared but in some ways, perhaps in odd logic, I felt him responsible for the changes in my dreams. I never saw the orchard again, instead venturing off into distant forests, trekking across mountains and sand dunes, or in the horse fields. Wherever I went, the soldier boy was there and I tried to hold onto the familiar comfort and security from before.
Morning woke me. The golden sunshine reminded me of his hair. But as always, I whispered quietly to myself that it was just a dream, that he was just a dream, and shook it all off with the flinging of my sheets to welcome the new, real day.