The land of Dream, as vast as it is, is located on the banks of a realm even more infinite.  The origin of every thought stems from this unnamed eternity; the birthplace of monsters and gods.

We, as humans, upon falling asleep, demand direct deposit onto the beaches of Dream, so as to conjure our reveries from its copious dunes.

Alas, we do not know the way to Dream.

To traverse the unnamed eternity, we cross in the vessel of the Stygian.  Everyone knows that the first dream of each night’s sleep goes to the Ferryman (it’s only upon Death, the final sleep, that he deals in currency), but some mistakenly believe that this is the charge for the use of his ferry, which is not the case.  The ride is free.

The payment is for safe passage, to and from, untouched by what dwells along the way.

*     *     *     *     *

Nancy had the most vivid dreams before the car accident.  Each night she’d fall asleep wondering what amazing adventure she would end up having; a night of dancing with princes and thieves in an array of radiant clothes woven in colors one only finds in dreams, roller coasters that touched the clouds only to rush down through the bowels of the Earth.

Since the accident, however, Nancy hadn’t been sleeping well.  The doctor said there was no concussion; to take the next couple of days off of work and to get plenty of bed rest.  Try as she may, it took Nancy forever to go to sleep now, and when she did, she never felt rested upon waking.

She no longer dreamed.

Nancy noticed the bites after the first night, assuming that a rogue mosquito had found its way into her room and had had its fill of her bare legs as she lay sleeping.  She did find it odd that the bites didn’t itch, though, but were quite tender.

She found a bigger bite, about the size of a quarter, on the back of her neck after the second night.  It was ugly, purple and black.  Nancy felt queasy and couldn’t think straight.

Insomnia set in the third night.  Nancy had a heightened sense of fear that she couldn’t explain.  On edge, she turned off her phone and watched Disney cartoons, trying to find a rational explanation as to what she was afraid of.  It was just something.  No more substantial than out there.

Nancy’s hands trembled.  Her eyes were bloodshot.

After a momentary lapse of insomnia’s thrall, Nancy screamed awake in pain.  A mouth-sized bite’s worth of her left arm was missing.  Blood was streaming from the wound, coating her bed.  She turned her phone back on and called 911.  The paramedics arrived and carted Nancy off to the hospital.

Nancy lied in the hospital bed, looking down at her gauze-wrapped arm.  She hadn’t let them relieve her pain with shots, even going so far as to deny surgery to keep from falling asleep.  She looked to the bites on her legs, felt where she knew the one on her neck to be.

Another doctor came in then.  This one, Nancy knew, was a shrink.  He asked how she was feeling.  Fine, she said.  He said he knew she had been in a car accident recently.  Yes, she said.  The doctor asked if Nancy knew what had happened to her arm.  I can’t dream, she told him.  It was the only truth she understood.

The doctor had injected Nancy before she knew what was happening.  In her sleep deprivation, she had been too wrapped up in the dripping of her I.V.  As the room started to get foggy, less defined around the edges, Nancy tried to explain to the doctor about dream-rendered colors and roller coasters in the clouds until, finally, she was asleep.