lb_lee: A pencil sketch of me drawing/writing in my sketchpad. (art)
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This story was prompted by [ profile] 403, who wanted surrealism on the theme of "strange, but never a stranger," and was sponsored by Falconer!  Happy Homeathon, everyone!

The Ship of Dreams

Every night, it is different, and every night, it is the same: Vicki’s ship of dreams.

Sometimes, it’s a full-bellied Spanish galleon with billowing sails and a rowdy crew who joke and shove, but never push her out. They sail the seas of blue, gray, and green, chasing the gold and pearls of the sun and stars, fighting sharks and fellow corsairs in a grand never-ending adventure.

Other times, it’s a rocket, all sleek and silver. Here, there is no crew; she can be alone and at peace, just her and her ship in the vast silent emptiness of imaginary space. Oh, sure, sometimes she and her ship go to faraway planets with bizarre inhabitants, but that’s rare. When it’s a rocket, her ship is not meant for adventuring, it’s meant for sitting and thinking and quiet. In space, nothing is treasured more than nothing.

When she’s in-between her rocket and galleon moods, it’s a vast zeppelin, drifting slowly across the sky. There’s no real destination, no real hurry, and she waves to everyone who passes below, and they all wave and smile back. If she likes, she can land and take someone up with her, or she can stay in the sky and watch the world drift by underneath her like a never-ending living quilt.

The ship’s form is constantly changing, and yet its substance always remains the same, instantly recognizable even though the amnestic fog of dreams. Wherever it takes her, it is her haven, her home, patiently awaiting her return every night.

But that was when she was a child. Then Vicki grew into Tori, and ships and dreams seemed so silly and childish. Tori preferred to focus on day things, real things, like boys, and colleges, and mechanical engineering. She studied steam power, and water power, and electrical power, and nuclear power, and she took what felt like an adult’s pleasure in scientifically proving that the ship of her childhood dreams was physically impossible. Instead, she spent the nights of her adolescence designing probably motors for improbable spaces—deep underwater, or high in the air, or in the belly of a volcano. She dreamed of gears, pistons, and crankshafts, powering her creations.

Part of her knew that it was still the same ship of dreams, just inside out, but she pretended not to notice. She was planning real things now, having real scientific thoughts, and if inverting her childhood creation was adulthood, that’s what she wanted.

One evening, while she was sipping cheap beer from a plastic cup at a party—which she didn’t enjoy so much as the maturity it signified—she met Brad. He was handsome, husky, and popular, and more importantly, he had a thing for cars. They spent an intoxicating, intoxicated hour discussing the innards of old muscle cars—or rather, Brad talking while she tried pretend she knew less than she did. Attracted to his mechanical propensity, she told Lily to tell Aaron to tell Brad to ask her out, and he did.

They got along well, and fueled by their mutual adoration for mechanics, they became each other’s first kiss, first love, first sexual encounter, first everything. They were happy. Tori took an adult pleasure that her relationship with Brad wasn’t an ephemeral, fleeting thing like high school expected. What they had was solid, committed, and truly adult. They swore to each other that they would go study at the same college together. Brad would study mechanics, Tori would study engine design, and upon graduation, they would open up their own business together, customizing cars.

It had seemed like such a good plan. So practical. So sure. Tori didn’t understand what had gone wrong…

It’d all gone according to plan, at first. They’d graduated high school together, tossed their motorboards together, and in the middle of all the cheering, Brad had gotten down on one knee and pulled out a ring. They’d been so happy. Everything had seemed so right and good.

On mutual agreement, they’d sworn not to marry until college was finished, and that had been fine. They’d gone to school together upstate, and they’d studied their respective fields, just as they’d said. They’d both done well, and they’d both enjoyed their work… with a difference in degree. Brad had done well; Tori had excelled. He had enjoyed; she had enthused. He’d found his course of study fulfilling, and she had found it transcendent.

And somehow, with both of them studying a thing they cared about, things had fallen apart.

Had his pride been wounded? Had Tori not been understanding of his frustration, when it all came so elegantly to her? Had he done something wrong? Had she? Should she have tried harder?

She didn’t know. Even on the train, heading home to her mother’s with her engagement ring in her pocket, she didn’t know. She sat in her train seat, numb and shell-shocked, and as the trees and roads flashed by her window, she fell asleep.

She dreamed she was in her childhood front yard, and there, as always, was her ship of dreams, outside in for the first time in years. Today, it was a battered shipping crate, turned on its side to turn its open lid into a door. Windows were drawn on the sides with Sharpie, along with a clumsy sign reading NO BOYS ALOWD.

The ship of dreams had seen better days, but Tori was glad to see it. She got down on her knees and crawled inside. It was a tight fit, but not cramped. The inside was smooth, polished wood, smelling of lumber and sap, and otherwise unadorned. Even like this, stripped of its childhood glory, it still felt just right.

She sat inside, waiting, but no adventure was forthcoming this time, no sailing horizons or flights over Shanghai. The ship stayed just where it was, with her inside it.

She sat. She sniffled. Finally, she cried. Cried like she had in childhood, cried until her head hurt and her nose clogged, cried until there were no tears left. Held snug and safe inside her little shipping crate of dreams, she wept for the end and her loss of Brad.

And finally, she finished. She wiped her eyes, she blew her nose, and just as she realized she felt better, she woke to the sound of the conductor announcing her stop.

She got off the train, and Victoria began her next adventure.

Date: 2013-06-24 01:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That was awesome.

Date: 2013-06-25 02:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed reading it; I enjoyed writing it.
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