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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 15 page 06

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So it is established, he is the genuine article. But is she? Does he have any way of assessing this? In purely practical terms, would he act any more or less considerate to an entity which although she could not experience suffering, would act thoroughly as though she could? As wagers go, it feels too much to risk. Not chancing it, he adopts this soft reasoning, this faith that the both of them are 'real' with all the rights and responsibilities entailed.

Though how real can one be in a dream?

Whilst he finds himself in not an immediately unpleasant environment, the toll it would exact against him were it the be-all of his existence is almost too great to consider.

Politely, he tells her, “I would like this to stop now. I would like to wake up.”

She raised an eyebrow as if to say, “Why ask me?”

At her non-answer he wants to reach out and grab her, to shake her, to demand and coerce her to release him. But, keen to maintain the civility, he does not. Instead, a new avenue of thought opens. In as much as he is not in control of the dream, how much can it be said that it is his dream? Surely if he is begging her to relinquish him, then by dint of him having to ask something of her, she must be the dreamer. Her unfazed demeanour serves only to reinforce this argument. On the other hand, that his identity is merely a stock character in the dream of a little girl is also impossible to contemplate. So he discards the notion.

“If you wanted to leave, you have always known how,” she states cryptically, tilting her head towards the window. He looks through the glass and sees the white foam of the waves crashing against the timbers of the pier. That is enough. He is convinced. One last time he looks her straight in the eye before he leaves, to assess her and weigh her humanity before leaving and retreating with purposeful stride in a proud march back to the lift, which he locates without difficulty.

This time selecting the ground floor, he is returned to the lobby. He crosses the floor, each self-satisfied footstep a reminder of his assurance of their finality. His hat, if it is still upon the hat stand, will remain forgotten. Upon exiting the front doors, wide open for him, he descends the stairs to the flagstones.

He meets the wooden decking at a brisk pace. The sun beats down upon his bare head. Still with not a person in sight, he crosses the promenade and takes his first steps upon the pier. The saline smell of the shoreline, its existence true or false, embeds itself on his tongue. The seagulls chant and soar above him. He sheds his jacket, too heavy now. Halfway along the length of the pier, his stride breaks into a jog. The excitement mounts. His shoulders are lighter, his back straighter. He takes deep breaths: his heart is racing. A broad grin trickles across his cheeks.

Sprinting now, he meets the railing at the end of the pier. His palms grip the rough, salt-stricken edge. Without pause or doubt he vaults over. His idea is secure, certainty is within his grasp. The hotel, the girl, the hat are nothing, they are the past. Fully clothed in shirt and tie he leaps from the edge of the unknown pier and executes a perfect dive into the waves beneath, his legs straight and paired, his arms arcing ahead of him, his eyes open wide in anticipation.

Reality awaits...