Miles Away

Miles was eleven when I met him. He was mildly autistic. It was hard to pinpoint his abnormalities. He appeared to be an average kid, maybe just a little mixed-up. It seemed like his mind was working faster than the way he could express his thoughts. He had a peculiar tic – his left eye blinked rapidly when he seemed impatient. His sister Gretchen was my girlfriend. We were both seventeen. I thought she was the most beautiful girl on this planet. 

Miles had been home-schooled; they said there was too much trouble at the public school, and that he had suffered at the hands of bullies for a long time. 

In time, Miles learned to like me because I treated him like a normal person. I thought he was a likable kid and nobody should treat him any differently.

His room was full of WWII memorabilia, all original stuff. He had boots, helmets, medals, diplomas, and other interesting things. He even had a first edition book written by Sigmund Freud. His grandfather emigrated to the United States to escape Nazi persecution. He also had several notebooks written in German. All of it was arranged in perfect order, everything in the room was his pride and joy. His grandpa had been an inventor.

Conversations with Miles were sometimes a little bit incoherent, but not when he was talking about dreams. That was his favorite subject. He appeared to be an expert in the matter. I never showed him indifference, regardless of how absurd his comments seemed. Gretchen and her dad avoided conversations with Miles about his dreams. They thought the dreams were interminable and boring.

I thought Miles’ brain was balancing his deficiencies with his proficiencies, the way it happens to blind persons when other senses get more acute, perhaps to compensate for their inability to see.

At first, I couldn’t decide whether he was handsome or not, but the more time I spent with him the more I realized he was a handsome kid. His face was mild and peaceful. 

The day I knew that I had gained Miles’ complete trust was when he showed me a helmet and mentioned that he wanted to share his dreams with me. 

“Randy, let me show you something,” he said, “Look, this is the coolest thing ever, I call it ‘the dream projector’, it helps me to travel in my dreams, and sometimes I can visit Grandpa.”

The thing was weird-looking. It was a gray helmet like the ones bicycle riders use. The frame wasn’t solid, it had gaps or slots, probably to avoid the head from sweating or to avoid the brain from getting too hot. Along the underside of the helmet, there were dozens of dull, hard rubber tips that looked like pencil erasers. It had copper wires and a few transistors.

Then, he continued, “This is my most precious treasure. I never use it for protection. I’ve been wearing it every night since Grandpa gave it to me.” after a short pause, that seemed more like a moment of hesitation he said, “look, I love my dad, I adore Gretchen, and you’re okay Randy, but my grandpa was something else.” as he said this, his eyes sparkled with pride and tears.

Afterward, when I asked Gretchen about the helmet, she said her grandfather built it himself and gave it to Miles just days before he died, and that Miles wouldn’t go to sleep without it, despite his dad’s insistence to not wear it in bed. It looked uncomfortable to use for several hours at a time, especially in bed.

“I like my other me better than myself,” he said while tapping his chest with his right open hand. “I’m happier with my inside me,” he said.

“What do you mean Miles? Is there another person inside of you?”

“Yes, he’s always there when I’m asleep. He is smart; his brains are good, he can think better.”

“Can you communicate with him? Does he talk to you?” I asked.

“Are you crazy? He is me! There’s no need to talk to me, we just think, that’s all. When I’m in there with him, we’re smart the same. I like him better than I like myself. Do you want to talk to him, Randy? You can borrow my helmet tonight if you want.”

“Is he inside your helmet?” I asked.

“No dummy, he’s in my dreams, ha, ha, inside my helmet, ha, ha. You’re a little retarded Randy. Sorry, I didn’t mean to insult you, Randy, you’re my best friend, sorry.”

“It’s all right, Miles I don’t feel insulted, you’re also my best friend. But tell me, Miles, how does your helmet work?”

“You just put it on your head before you fall asleep and you start dreaming,” he said.

“But I’ve never needed a helmet to dream, and I’ve dreamed all my life without one.”

“Yes, but with my helmet, you can talk to me in your dreams, you can have real dreams and you can also see my dreams.”

“Well, it sounds a little bit complicated, but I’ll give it a try. Are you going to be okay without it for one night? Gretchen told me you haven’t slept without it since your grandpa gave it to you. What if you change your mind and I have it at home with me.”

“It’s alright Randy, I can still have normal boring dreams without it. Sometimes I remove it in the middle of the night, sometimes, I’m boring myself.”

“Before I take it, just tell me how it works. Does it need a battery or a charger, do I need to connect it to an electrical receptacle?” I asked mockingly, which I immediately regretted.

“I don’t know how it works, my grandpa never gave me any instructions. He just made it and gave it to me and said, ‘dreams are its energy’”.

I didn’t know why I accepted to take it with me. Probably just to be polite to him, but I was somewhat curious.

I had to admit; the device looked a little medieval. Like you would expect a torture device to look, like an apparatus someone would use to reanimate Frankenstein.

When I went home, I placed the “dream projector” on the nightstand, next to my books. That night, I read a little bit until I got sleepy. After a while, as I reached for the lamp switch, I saw the helmet and grabbed it.

I put the helmet on in the dark. The blunt rubber tips inside the helmet rested on my thick hair. The tips felt like fingers, and when I moved my head it felt like I was giving myself a massage. The way it feels when you’re shampooing your hair. It didn’t feel bad at all.



*****

That night, I dreamed I was on the roof of a tall building and I was afraid to fall, I was paranoid. The roof was very small, a little bigger than my bed. I was lying on my back, grabbing the sides of the building with my extended arms. It was windy and I was exhausted from resisting my prolonged fears.

Within my dream, I knew I was dreaming. I wanted to end the dream and my suffering, but I couldn’t. When I accepted I wouldn’t be able to stop it, I decided to jump from the building. I thought it was my only escape. But I decided that instead of jumping to my death I was going to fly or glide and enjoy the ride.

I went straight down a hundred miles an hour. After I relaxed, my brain took control of the situation and turned my nightmare into a sweet, beautiful dream. I could see the entire city. I could see the sky, the clouds, and the horizon. I could fly above the treetops, I could go back up to the roof. I conquered my fears. I was happy.

When I woke up I didn’t open my eyes and didn’t move. I was lying in bed and I was sure that if I had been at the top of any building I would have jumped and I would have been able to fly.

A moment later, I thought it was ridiculous.

When I opened my eyes I had a hard time convincing myself that I’d been dreaming the entire time, including the time when I thought I was awake. Then, I removed the helmet from my head and I wondered if I could have had the same dream without the helmet.

I realized there were two of me inside my dream! There was me, acting my dream, and then the other me, watching me act. Or the physical me dreaming in my bed and my other me inside my dream, and I liked the other me, the one with the authority to control the dream. It seemed very clear.

“Did you wear it, did you dream?” Miles asked the next day.

“Yes Miles,” I said, as I gave the helmet back. “I wore it, but honestly, I wasn’t thinking about using it. I just put it on and fell asleep and had a normal dream.”

“A normal dream?”

“Well, yes, nothing different. It was vivid, it felt real and I enjoyed it because I could control it.”

“Did you like the other you better?”

“Yes Miles, I liked my other me better.”

“You see what I mean now, now we’re equal. I like my other me better and you like the other you better.”

“What? Wait a minute Miles, there’s only one of me. The conscious one when I’m awake and the unconscious one when I’m asleep, but we’re the same, there’s no need to separate me in two, (I felt a little stupid because I was contradicting myself) when I say that I like the other one better, I mean that I want to act like him in real life. I want to be unafraid and in control.”

“You have to admit it, Randy, you are feeling envy of the other you, but it’s amazing, isn’t it? Your first dream and you are already struggling with you and yourself.”

“No Miles, it wasn’t my first dream, I don’t envy me and I’m not struggling with myself. But let me tell you one thing, you are a lot smarter than most of us. And don’t believe anybody that tells you otherwise.”

I was confused. I thought the damn thing was useless, it couldn’t protect your head, much less your brains. I was glad for Miles, though. The helmet was his only toy, he loved it. 

As for me, I wasn’t attached to any material things. I wouldn’t run to save anything during an earthquake. I would just run with me and myself.

The following day, Miles came up with an unbelievable commentary.

“Hey Randy, I saw your dream. I’m glad you know how to fly now, from the treetops to the roof of a tall building in just a few seconds.”

“What? That’s impossible, who told you about it? Nobody knows, I never told anybody that’s not possible Miles, how could that be?”

“Randy, you shouldn’t be so surprised, it’s in my helmet. You knew that. Didn’t I tell you that I wanted to show you my dreams?”

It just blew my mind! How could that be possible? To know about that dream he had to be inside my head unless the dream was somehow recorded in the helmet, but that’s so out of this world, so science fiction. There had to be a better explanation. I needed more evidence.  

That was beyond normal comprehension. If the helmet could work like that, the world needed to know about it.

I was going too far ahead on my conclusions.

Miles probably saw all the provocative questions in my head because he gave me the thing back and said, “Here Randy, try again.”


*****

Gretchen wasn’t demanding or submissive. I knew she could be happy with me or without me. She had a strong character. She was also a little overweight. What some people might consider being on the verge of obesity I considered voluptuous.

Knowing that we were both virgins, I decided to do a little experiment with her in my dreams. 

Sometimes, when I did something repetitiously for hours during the day, I would dream about it. If I swam for hours, or if I watched a movie that impressed me in any way, I would dream about that.

In my dream, Gretchen and I would make love for the first time.  There was no need to take any precautions. No condoms or promises. Oh, and I wanted lots of foreplay.

I imagined the whole thing, including all my fantasies, and she would enjoy them too. We’d make love all night long. I’d take advantage of my experiment; after all, it would be just a dream.

I put the helmet on and I concentrated on my future dream until I fell asleep. 

I woke up with a big smile on my face. The dream I had with Gretchen was vivid and real. It was so real, when I woke up I still had an erection. My penis was still sore in the morning. I’m sure it hadn’t been a wet dream because my underwear and the bedsheets were clean and dry. 

***** 

The day after I gave the helmet back to Miles, he said . . . “Randy I saw what you did with Gretchen, you dirty man! I couldn’t believe it. I had to turn it off.”

I couldn’t find a rational reaction. I just said, “It was just a dream, Miles, don’t pay attention to it.”

I never imagined that Miles was going to be a witness to such a dream. It was not a PG13 dream, I felt ashamed. 

“I’m sorry you had to see such a horrible dream. Listen, Miles, can you try not to see my dreams in the future. I’m not an expert like you and I cannot control them, besides my dreams are too wild.”

“Don’t worry, I didn’t see the whole thing,” he said.

I realized I was in the middle of a complicated dilemma. Should I tell the entire world about this amazing invention? Should I get a patent and sell it for a hundred million dollars? 

No, of course not! The thing belonged only to Miles and I had nothing to do with it. Nevertheless, I knew the future of the helmet was in my hands. I could decide to be quiet or expose it to the world.

The potential was limitless, but I wasn’t concerned about its enormous value. I decided not to tell anyone, not even Gretchen. I needed to find its real potential, and make sure there were no risks involved.

“How do you turn it off?” I asked Miles, after a short pause. “You just tell yourself to wake up, as simple as that,” he answered.

“Please, Miles, don’t say anything to Gretchen about it, okay?”

“Why would I tell her? It was just a dream, right?”

“Yes, and completely unpremeditated.”

After that day, I asked Miles many questions regarding the helmet, without trying to be too fastidious. I didn’t want to lose his trust or his friendship. I asked him if I could read his grandfather’s notes and books. He accepted, but it was useless because half of it was written in German. Miles was the only expert on the matter. 

“One day I’ll be with my grandpa Dieter forever. He was my best friend. He showed me love, he was patient and caring. In the end, my grandpa was crazy like me. I know two crazy people can understand each other. After he died, he was in my dreams and I felt safe there with him, only there. The helmet was our connection; he gave it to me to visit him in my dreams.” I saw his eyes sparkle again.

“I still miss Grandpa, I miss his caressing hands, his hugs, and kisses. In his stories, I was always the hero, not like in this life, where most people are so cruel.” 

And then, he affirmed with conviction, “All things are better when I’m with Grandpa.”

Miles said the helmet transported him to another world, to another real world. Better than the one he lived in, and that he wanted to spend more time in his ‘dream world’. He believed that one day one world was going to cancel the other.

He said he wanted to erase bad memories from his past and add only good things to his future. It was hard to understand him. 

Could it be that his defective short-circuited brain was, in reality, a superior brain? 

All recent experiences had me excited. I tried to simulate my enthusiasm with false indifference. I told Miles that I wanted to experiment more. I asked him if we could alternate using the helmet, and I was glad he agreed. But I didn’t want anything to ruin our ‘partnership’. 

That night, I thought I would take a tour in hell. It sure was a drastic change from having sex with Gretchen. I figured that since I could control or manipulate my dreams if I didn’t like hell, I would turn it into heaven. I was a little hesitant about that choice, but I’ve always been stubborn. 

After I gathered some paintings from the masters depicting hell, I focused on them, then I put the helmet on and fell asleep.

In the morning, I woke up a little disappointed. No hell whatsoever. Probably hell didn’t exist or I couldn’t invent it in my dreams. Maybe I didn’t concentrate enough. 

All I dreamed about was Miles having lots of fun with a kite and an old man cheering him up until Miles fell on his knees. I was there next to the old man when he was comforting Miles after his fall. I saw Miles in my dreams for the first time, but I felt a little frustrated. I thought the dream was a failure, it proved nothing.

When I went back to Gretchen’s house I got another surprise when I saw Miles. He had some scrapes on his knees. I asked him right away what had happened to him, and he said he didn’t know. He said he woke up like that and that he probably fell from his bed, but I knew that was very unlikely. Could it be possible that he was in my dream and somehow . . . ? no, no way. Either way, I didn’t tell him about my dream.

The following day he told me about his dream.

“Randy, I saw you in my dreams! I was having a lot of fun with Grandpa. I was running and having fun with a kite, until . . .” then I interrupted him and finished his sentence,  “. . . until you fell and scraped your knees!”

“Yes, Randy, I was very happy with Grandpa. I knew I was inside a dream and I didn’t want to wake up. I wish I could stay there forever, but instead, I feel like it’s harder for me to connect with him. Like there’s more distance between us.”

*****

One day Gretchen told me she missed her period. Then she said that she probably just missed it, period. She said that she was curious and asked me to join her to the pharmacy to get a pregnancy test. Later, I heard her screaming in the bathroom.

“Positive? Positive! Positive?! It can’t be. Something’s wrong; somebody is playing a joke on me. No way. I’m a virgin! I have never even seen an erect penis in my life! Randy! You have to believe me. I need to get another pregnancy test, this was probably defective. Let’s get another one.”

On the way to the pharmacy, she kept going at it. I didn’t know whether she was mad at me for not believing or for believing. I never said a word. Gretchen, the always composed and undisturbed Gretchen was mad at me, at God, at the entire world. The second test was positive again. Then she took a different approach.

“The Divine Providence, Randy, that’s it, a divine mandate! God chose me!” she said with a sarcastic smile. “What are we going to do, Randy?  Well, not you, obviously it’s not your fault. What am I going to do? I can’t tell my dad, it can’t be possible, help me, Randy!”

“Well, if you’re pregnant, and that is beyond far-fetched, would you have the baby? Would you keep it?” I asked her, considering I was the only accusable prospect. After all, I did do it in my dream.

Then I thought about Miles’s scraped knees, did that happen in my dream or his dream? Was it possible for things to materialize from a dream to real life with the helmet?

“It makes no sense, why would I need an abortion if nobody has impregnated me? It’s impossible. But if I claim I’m innocent, I’ll be ridiculed. I need you to believe in me Randy, if I ever get pregnant it would be only by you.”

“Yes Gretchen, I believe you. But if you want, we can make it real.”

“Oh, Randy, don’t joke about it, not now.”

“Sorry, sorry. I tell you what Gretchen, let’s wait a week and then take the test again. Then, you’ll decide what to do, and of course, if it’s negative we’ll do nothing, or we’ll celebrate and . . .  oh, never mind.”

That night, I elaborated on a plan.

I thought that if I impregnated her in my dreams, perhaps I could undo it in my dreams too. It sounded absurd, but I wouldn’t lose a thing if I tried it.

After I gathered all the stuff I needed to provoke the required dream, a picture of a hospital with a doctor included, an operating room, and of course, Gretchen’s photo. Then, I focused on my intentions and put the helmet on. And after performing my relaxing ritual, I fell asleep. In my dreams, abortions are legal.


*****

A week later we got another pregnancy test. When Gretchen came out of the bathroom she said with a sigh of relief, “false alarm”. Of course, I was ready to show a false expression of surprise.

The instructions claimed ninety-nine percent accuracy. But it could be misleading. It could be less accurate if it’s done within the first days of a missed period. Anyway, I was glad for both of us. I could never know if I got her pregnant in my dreams, or if the abortion in my dream was a success. Or if it was all just a fluke and nothing ever happened at all.


*****

A few weeks later, Miles said he was going to miss me. I didn’t understand what he meant. 

“How can you miss me, if even in our dreams we are together?” 

“Yes, Randy, but it’s like a rubber band when it gets stretched to the limit, it could suddenly snap and push us even further apart.”

Sometimes, I just couldn’t understand him. Sometimes, he expressed himself like a philosopher, other times like a complete lunatic. But I always loved him either way.

*****



Then one day, Miles disappeared into thin air. Nobody ever saw him again. His dad filed a police report and they looked everywhere. The city offered a large reward. Nobody ever claimed it.

It was the saddest day of my life. And only I knew where he went. 

A day after his disappearance, I saw him in my dreams. He had finally decided not to come back. He said he was happier there, with his grandpa. He said that maybe he could use the helmet to come to visit us. 

But I had the helmet with me.

I told Gretchen exactly what had happened to Miles, but it was too hard to convince her. She would not believe me until I gave her instructions on how to use the helmet. 

I didn’t care if she saw all my dreams. All I cared about was for Gretchen to see how happy Miles was with his grandpa.

The following day, she grabbed a hammer and broke the helmet into a million fragments.


Edmundo Barraza

Visalia, Ca. Aug-22-2011

2 thoughts on “Miles Away

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