Three Dreams

Three Dreams

There are three children, one boy and two girls. They are meant to represent everything we are as children growing up in a world that threatens to drown us in loneliness.


Coming-of-age / Young adult fiction


Shelby Garnier (United States)


January 10th, 2016

12:03 AM

They lay together, three children. Eyes bright, glowing. One leg curled into another, elbows locked. The air rests on their shoulders, presses against their chests. Slivers of skin and slivers of moonlight, pale and gleaming. The grass shifts around their feet, waving demurely. They lay near a sullen lake, one where the water does not ripple on its own and its depths are notably murky.

And they are awfully quiet for a good, long while—shadowy faces inclined towards the sky.

One child breathes stars. A silvery mist, a dripping beam of light. Her eyes are unclouded, shining. You can see her soul quite easily, fluttering around in her belly like a startled bird. There’s a lightness to it, a clear-cut, feather-like innocence. She’s young and smooth, soft around the edges. She’s sincere and faithful. She’s Hope.

She’s safe.

One child breathes fire. Embers flickering, wreathed in smoke. His eyes are deep black circles, sparking and sputtering. His cheeks are hollow. You can see his soul if you look very closely, if you squint and lean in until you’re able to feel the heat on your skin. It pulsates in his neck, veins popping. His soul is cracked and straining. It’s mottled black and blue, a bleeding star. He’s taut and wiry, a blistering wound. He’s a swirling, tinted mess. He’s Despair.

He’s scared.

One child breathes only faintly. She lies in between the other two. Her eyes are slitted, eyelashes quivering. Hope holds her hand, fingernails digging into her palm, and every now and then she will begin to glow again—like a firefly, almost—before dimming out once more. Her soul is wheezing, wrapped in ice. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for her to hold on, to focus on the sky and Despair’s warm shoulder. She’s lovely and sickly, a fresh start. She’s pure and stained. She’s Resignation.

She’s blurring.

“You’ll be okay,” Hope says, and her voice is like honey. Her lips tremble a bit. “We’re still here. We’ll always be here. You’re going to get better.” Despair looks over, his expression pained, but he says nothing. He shifts closer to Resignation, closes his eyes. A muscle in his jaw tightens.

You have to understand, they already knew.


May 17th, 2015

9:13 PM

Three hurricanes; dappled t-shirts and swinging arms. Three pairs of flashing teeth and three pairs of dew-caked legs. You’d recognize them, even now,—warm, flushed, alive—just by the way they clump together, like minnows. Despair is delighted (head thrown back, heart racing), Resignation is laughing (a belly laugh, bubbling in her throat and tickling the roof of her mouth), and Hope is leaping through the air (feet slapping against the steaming pavement, hair streaming). On these damp streets, in their damp socks, they’re known officially as Hunter, Emma, and Kate.

And they’re shimmering, smelling of rain.

“My legs are cramping!” Kate shouts gleefully.

“We’ve been running for five minutes,” Hunter gasps back, but there’s a smile in his voice. Dark-haired and all sharp angles, he’s the boy who will love them for the rest of his life. “I think you’ll be alright.”

“Five minutes too long!” She retorts, and grabs playfully at Emma’s ponytail, giving it a few, gentle tugs, “Walk with me, Em.”

“Don’t,” Emma says, veering away.

This is how it begins, the unraveling; a clump of hair curled around Kate’s finger. Ponytail coming undone and faint, flowering bruises at the base of her neck.

“Jesus,” Kate says, stunned.

Emma starts to cry.

“She’s really quite sick,” Emma’s parents will say dismissively, later on, “She didn’t tell you?”


July 24th, 2016

11:33 AM

Two children, one ghost; draped loosely between them like silk, ruffling the tops of their heads. They don’t touch. Hope’s legs are drawn up, digging into her chin, and her eyes are wide and sad. Despair is carved from stone, gazing at some point far away. Or pretending to, Hope isn’t sure anymore. They haven’t talked much today, haven’t in the past couple of months. She’d ask what’s up with that, maybe shift a bit closer, but she’s so tired. It fills her chest, an unsettling, crawling sensation. Like a string of curious ants creeping along both arms.

This is what it feels like to die, she thinks briefly.

Out loud she says, “God, I miss her.”

Despair lowers his head slowly, glances at her, “I know.” It’s said simply, honestly. The coldness has gone. Now he just looks shattered, eyes raw and unblinking. She notes immediately the bags under his eyes, but then again it’s always been that way. He’ll say that he hasn’t been sleeping well and she’ll pretend that he still tries to.

“I don’t know what to do anymore,” Hope’s throat is beginning to close up, it burns when she swallows. “What are we supposed to do?”

A thin, humorless smile, “Wait, I guess.”

“For what?”

“A sign, Kate. Or we wait until it’s our turn, I don’t know what to tell you.” He inhales shakily, closing his eyes, “I don’t even know how to talk to you. I don’t know what to say.”

Kate is quiet. Hunter’s shoulders have begun to shake, almost imperceptibly. She notices this too. It breaks her heart, this second unraveling.

“Because there’s nothing we can do, and this lake spot—” He gestures jerkily to the area around them, to the dirt squelching in between their toes, “—was our spot, and now there’s just yours and mine.” He pauses, “Maybe it’s not healthy to keep coming here, I don’t care.”

You do care, Kate wants to cry, and we cared so much but it didn’t matter.

Her soul has frayed and his has gone gray, she can feel this in her bones. It flashes through her brain—this sudden knowing—and all at once the world is lit with a brilliant flare of light, spilling like ink into the wet grass.

You’ll be okay, Emma’s voice says, look to the water.

It’s rippling, clear.

It’s living.

Competition: Friendly feedback, Round 2



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