“All right now, Phillip, it’s nearly midnight. You had better get up to bed,” said Mrs. Aisling gently. “Your brother is already asleep and you’ve got to wake up early tomorrow, you know. Your Aunt Delores will be here bright and early to help us decorate for your birthday party and all your cousins and friends will be here around noon. We still have a lot to do in the morning. So, go on now and get up to bed.” Phillip peeked over the top of his book, his messy brown hair falling into his sleepy green eyes. He looked at his mother to gauge whether she was really going to force him to go to bed on the night before his birthday or not. She had never really been that strict on bedtimes, but midnight was pushing it. She looked firmly back at him through her spectacles. Her round, kind face made it difficult for her to give a stern look.
“But Mommm! I’m not … tired yet!” he said with a half-yawn. “Can’t I stay up until it’s my birthday? I’m almost done with this chapter!”
“No, no. Come on now. Off to bed. Get some sleep, you have all day tomorrow. Remember it’s Sunday tomorrow you know and … ”
“Yes, of course I remember,” he interrupted. If there was one thing that Phillip could never be accused of being, it was forgetful. He had an uncanny memory. He could remember everything that ever happened to him since he was seven, even things he wished he could forget.
Phillip placed his book, Igo the Explorer, down on the sofa in an unconscious admittance of defeat. “And my friends are coming over and Aunt Dee Dee and my cousins and…“ But, before he could finish, he let out another big yawn.
“OK, OK, yes, I see you’re not tired. Up you go now,” she interrupted.
“OK, Mom. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight honey,” she said after granting a peck on his forehead.
Phillip grabbed his book and stumbled up the stairs, clearly tired, and his uncoordinated, long legs didn’t making it any easier. He wrestled into his pajama bottoms and went to the bathroom to give his teeth a brisk brushing. Then, he returned to his room, closed the door, and climbed into bed. He opened his book to where he had left off. There were only two more pages left to read in Chapter 22 and he was just about to find out how Igo escaped from being held captive by savage barbarians.
In just a few minutes he quickly finished the chapter. He closed the book with a smile, thinking about how Igo had outsmarted the barbarians. He placed it on the nightstand next to his alarm clock before switching out the light. The alarm clock’s digital display glowed in the darkness. Only 11:51, he noted. Only nine minutes left until I’m thirteen. Finally, a teenager! I’m not tired. I can easily stay awake for my birthday, he thought.
Phillip lay there thinking about the day to come. Let’s see, who all is coming to my birthday party? Jack and Cynthia, of course. Hmmm, who else? Oh, and my crazy aunts. I hope Aunt Dee Dee doesn’t embarrass me in front of my friends! he pondered. Or, Aunt Meredith! I hope she doesn’t make it this year. Most likely she won’t. Probably has got some sort of flu or rash or something. I wonder what Aunt Penny will bring this year. She is always so thoughtful. Maybe chocolate chip cookies, I hope! And, Aunt Laverne will probably come, too.
A quick glance at the clock showed six ‘til. Just a few more minutes, thought Phillip. His eyes felt heavy and his mind began to cloud. He forced his eyes to open but they gradually, involuntarily re-closed and he was muttering to himself. Chocolate chip, yeah, and Laverne makes the best pies… almost thirteen.
A pleasant sensation of heaviness prevented his eyes from reopening. The blankets covering his boyish form began to rise and fall with each deep breath. A peaceful clarity came over him as he sensed the coming sleep. The clock’s digital lights blinked 12:00 AM.
Fading into view slowly at first, but then all at once, Phillip finds himself all alone in what appears to be a very long, opulent hallway. Black and white marble tiles checker the wide and nearly empty corridor. It feels incredibly warm, like a late spring day when the air is still brisk yet the sun comfortably warms your skin. The sun shines through the enormous leaded glass windows in straight, bright beams, shining diagonally down onto the opposite wall and floor. These rays are filtered into various sizes by the dark green ivy that is flourishing on the heavy iron trellis outside the window. The entire right side of the hallway is floor to ceiling windows that stretch all the way down the hallway and stop just above the elegant, wooden furniture against the wall. The lofty ceiling is at least forty feet high and the vastness of the place makes Phillip feel very small, even if he is slightly tall for his age.
There is a peaceful calm about the place. The only sound Phillip hears is that of his few, cautious footsteps. He thinks about calling out to see if someone would answer, but it seems wrong to disturb the stillness of the place. Phillip occasionally steps into a ray of light that shines blindingly into his eyes, making him squint. The sun feels so warm and the air smells fresh and clean. He can barely see out the windows due to a combination of the ivy covering one half of the glass and the sun’s blinding rays giving little chance to peer through the other half. But, Phillip is able to make out some sort of courtyard or garden, with bright green hedges and white flowers. Maybe he saw a sparkle reflecting from a fountain, but he wasn’t quite sure.
On the other side of the long hallway, opposite the giant windows, there are a number of wooden doorways, a total of four that are clearly visible; however, they are inset a few feet so it is hard to see exactly how many are further down the long hall. Phillip quickly reasons that this house, or mansion, or whatever it is must be gigantic based on the size of this one, seemingly endless hallway. He slowly advances down the hall, but the further he goes the longer it seems to get.
Then he notices something strange. The large glass windows appear to morph before his eyes into transparent fish ponds. They fill with water which defies gravity, calmly forming a glassy vertical surface. The fish swim up and down the windows, in and out of the ivy leaves. That’s impossible! Phillip thinks. Am I dreaming? I must be! This is a dream! A sudden rush of energy flows over Phillip and then there’s nothing but a calm stillness. He has the clearest understanding that he is dreaming. A strange pressure pulses in his ears, like water flowing through them.
“Come on in here,” calls an unfamiliar man’s voice. Phillip stops in his tracks, his foot still in the air mid-step. He slowly puts it down, toe first, and then heel. He looks around to see who was talking, but he is still alone in the hallway. Phillip doesn’t reply. “Don’t be frightened, Phillip, you’re not intruding. You are welcome here,” says the voice. Phillip tries to place the deep, elderly sounding voice. He doesn’t recognize it and there is no hint of anger in the voice; quite the contrary, the man sounds very friendly.
“Where is … here?” Phillip replies.
“I’m in the first door on the left, Phillip. Come on in. We have a lot to talk about.” Phillip’s eyes shift quickly to focus on the large, imposing wooden door and he notices that it is slowly swinging open without any sound.
“How do you know my name? Who are you and where am I?” Phillip asks.
“All good questions and all will be answered in due time.” Phillip looks through the doorway, but it is dark inside. He isn’t frightened. Something tells him that he is not in danger, so he decides to investigate. He steps slowly towards the now wide open door. The voice didn’t seem as though it came from any particular direction, so Phillip doesn’t know where exactly to look once he steps fully into the room. “I’m over here, my boy.”
Phillip’s eyes slowly adapt to the comparatively dark room, which takes some time after being in the bright sunlight. He can see that the room is quite large, yet the lighting creates a warm, cozy feeling. He notices that most of the lighting comes from a fire blazing in an oversized brick fireplace in the far left corner of the room. He stands just in the doorway and allows his eyes to further adjust to the strong contrast in lighting from out in the hallway. He now can see that the walls are lined with books in bookshelves just as tall as the hallway outside with rolling ladders leaning against each wall. A pair of deep red armchairs with wooden carved legs sit facing the fire and the blaze from the fireplace only gives a silhouette of a man sitting on one chair leaning crouched over on a cane in front of him.
“I’m sorry for not coming out to greet you personally, my boy, but you’ll understand when you reach my age,” the man says with a chuckle. “Congratulations, Phillip! You’ve managed to pass through the First Gate of Dreaming! It is quite difficult to do and only those who are the most creative and open minded ever accomplish the feat. Now that you have penetrated the dimensional barrier you have awakened and are able to start training as a lucid Dreamer. But before we begin, I want to be the first to wish you a very happy thirteenth birthday, Phillip. Happy Birthday! Happy birthday, happy birthday!” The man’s old deep voice strangely gets higher and higher in pitch. “Happy birthday,” he says and now his voice sounds very familiar. It sounds almost exactly like his mother’s voice! Phillip cocks his head sideways and with a very puzzled expression, watches the words come out of the man’s withered lips. “Happy birthday, Phillip,” says the man, but strangely now in a voice that is undeniably that of Phillip’s mother.