The Concept of Reality | Teen Ink

The Concept of Reality

May 29, 2009
By Laura Ratliff BRONZE, Ashburn, Virginia
Laura Ratliff BRONZE, Ashburn, Virginia
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

“Jack, you must realize, nothing you experienced could have been real. Just close your eyes and take me back to when this all started happening.” My therapist said as he patiently waited for me to relax.

Two weeks ago I was sitting in Central Park on a rotten bench, the one that was gray because the sun had washed out its original brown color. I was listening to my ipod and writing in my journal for my therapist. I was keeping track of my dad, by writing down everything involving his mental issue.

Depersonalization disorders run in my family. My father had been suffering from it severely. What scares me, is that my dad an I are all too similar. A strange resemblance would be our lucid dreaming. When I was younger, I’d sleep walk and have night terrors. When I say night terrors, I don’t mean I wet the bed and cried. I mean, I’d have frightening images that seemed too real. I couldn’t wake up, disturbing images that I force myself to forget. Once, I remember dreaming about a man who came out of my mirror and had a clock for a face and he cut my torso open.

I was afraid I would end up like my dad one day, my dad had been in a coma for two weeks.

I glanced over at the police officer, and he gave a friendly smile, I just nodded and looked back down at my journal. God, I must have looked like such an emo freak with my little journal and black skinny jeans. I knew people probably thought I was weird, but quite honestly I didn’t care. I hadn’t cut my hair in months, so the bangs were obnoxiously long and in my face, but yet the top was still short enough to spike. My hair was a bleach blond.

So basically, this guy was sitting on a bench writing in a journal. And was carrying a notebook bag that could be mistaken for a man-purse. Spectacular. I mean, I couldn’t even grow a normal manly beard! It’s like a farm of fuzz! Fuzzy-face the emo freak! Further more I-

“Hello?” asked the voice of some girl. And as if to make sure I wasn’t a deaf-fuzzy-emo-kid, she repeated herself. I didn’t even hear her sit down on the bench.

“Oh, hey?” I asked confused. I looked to my right and the first thing I noticed was that she was about as bleach blond as me, with a short choppy haircut and blue eyes. Since her skin was so light like her hair, her eyes seemed like the only color I could distinguish at first glance.

“I’m Fiona. I’ve seen you here before and I just thought I’d say hello, because...” she didn’t finish her sentence, but I didn’t care because I wasn’t intending on keeping the conversation going. I just nodded and told her my name was Jack and that it was nice to meet her.

“Well, Jack, it’s nice to meet you too!” she said joyously almost spitting on me she was so close. Her tiny mouth bent into a smile. “What exactly are you writing?” she interrogated noticing my journal. She probably thought it was a creepy diary or something. Oh how great life is.

“Notes. Just notes,” I said distantly, hoping she’d get the notion ‘I didn’t want to talk to anyone at the moment’. After a couple of seconds of silence, she spoke again.

“Listen, I don’t mean to intrude but is your dad Roger Bolson?” she asked, slanting her thin eyebrows slightly to express her question in her facial features.

“Why do you ask?,” I asked defensively (probably hugging my journal).

“Listen, just take this. I promise this isn’t what you think. If you’re anything like your dad you’ll be just fine. Just read the label and directions, we need to help your dad,” she said in a hushed tone and slipped a plastic bag into my grip and she gracefully walked away.

I didn’t open the bag, because if it was drugs or something I didn’t want to look suspicious. The officer glanced over at me, but didn’t smile this time. I stayed for a little while watching nothing and writing nothing. I just sat there with my big-ass headphones too lazy and unmotivated to move. Eventually I did though.

“I’m home mom, you don’t need to alert the authorities or get a body bag,” I said shutting the door to our apartment.

“Where have you been Jack?” she asked me quixotically, because I could tell she didn’t really care. She was too busy working.

“In the park with Jocelyn and Rory.” I had to lie, because she didn’t like me off on my own, even though I was seventeen.

“Well, alright, I just wish you’d call once in a while. That’s what you cell phone is for.” Yeah. About that. My cell phone was actually in a public toilet in Scarlotti’s Italian Restaurant on 45th.

“Yeah, I’m sorry, I’ll call next time,” I mumbled so she couldn’t exactly know for sure I said it, just in case she got angry the next time I didn’t call.

“Wait, Jack?” my mom bellowed from her room.


“Could you take the kettle off the stove? It’s going to begin screaming in a moment.”

“Sure,” and that was about the extent of our communication on a daily basis. My mom was frantic and stressed. I always heard her crying to herself and as horrible as it seemed, I couldn’t be near her. I didn’t want to deal with my crazy dad, since she only reminded me of him. I know it bothered her, because she’d always compare me to one of her old clients (she was a psychologist). She’d say things like: “You sound just like him! You know? He’s in the hospital! That’s where you’ll be if you don’t start talking!”. She would never mention his name, and he’d apparently been on life support for about a month. He went crazy with a drug overdose, which at first, was what we thought my dad was doing. My dad had been seeing hallucinations and having frequent night terrors. He’d talk about jungles and 17th century ships, and was always writing in his journal. Just like my mom’s client. We figured he was just trying to get high enough to hallucinate, so he could write about it. He wrote about being trapped in his own mind, locked in a place that he couldn’t explain. A place he thought shouldn’t exist.

About two hours later, I looked at the clock on my mantle next to the empty Monster can. 12:20 a.m. I sat down on my bed and slipped off my new shoes(black diet butcher slim skin high tops that I spent my savings on since my others were stolen by some gangster guy at the gym). My friend Rory thinks they make me look like a space freak. Like a character from Star Trek or something. Yay verily.

I looked over at the bag that the girl had given me. What a strange conversation that was. I guess she could have been one of my dad’s students from when he was working in the English department at NYU? Who knows and who cares? I grabbed it hastily and untied the top. Inside it was a capsule of a per-scripted medication, a letter, a dog-tag on a chain with my name on it, a key, and a pocket knife. “Why?” I said aloud kind of squinting. I opened up the letter first.


I don’t have time to explain everything, but I really need you to pay attention. You dad isn’t insane. First I want you to take the key to open your dad’s safe in his office. Read his journals about his dreams. The things he’s been writing about are real and are hurting him. This is hard to explain because it sounds irrational and insane, but I promise this is the truth once you follow these instructions you will see for yourself. I know you’re one of us. I just know these things. You’re like your dad. Good luck, and see you soon.

key- for journals in safe. Read entry from 4-4-05
Put dog-tag around your neck before you go to bed
Take ONE capsule from the medication I put in for you, but don’t take your regular medication for sleeping.
Put the pocket knife in your pocket or somewhere strapped on your body

After I finished reading I was immensely confused, but for some reason I didn’t think it was too weird to ignore. I took the key, as instructed, and slipped into my dad’s office. All his work papers and coffee mugs were still strewn all over the place as if he’d just left yesterday. I found his safe in the corner under his desk. I put the key in the slot and unlocked it. After rummaging through it I found his five journals dated from 1983-2008. I found the 2005 section and looked for April.


I woke up at 4:40 am this morning. I talked to Evan about Travis. We don’t think there is any way to get him to stop. He’s addicted to this, because of the problems he’s going through at home. How can I convince a kid to go back home forever to a cluttered, yet broken, family, when he’s much happier in this place that shouldn’t exist? Is this real? Are the insane really insane? Or just different? How would a doctor be able to comprehend something out of his psychological availability? If I truly am able to use more of my brain than an average person, then maybe I’m not insane. Maybe other people just aren’t able to understand something far too complex.

I was curious, and that night I took the pill and wore the dog tag. I even strapped the pocket knife to the inside of my shin. I went to sleep almost five minutes after the drugs were taken.

I woke up about an hour later. I stood up and walked to my bathroom to look in the mirror. My eyes looked bloodshot I stumbled around looking for my eye-drops. That’s when I saw myself lying in bed. How could I be standing next to myself? Before I could shout someone grabbed my hand.

“JACK! Oh I’m so glad you came!” Fiona shrieked and locked me in her thin arms.

“Yes, well would you care to explain?! This is weird as hell,” I said putting my hand on the back of my head.

“This is a ‘lucid dream’ as they call it,” she said. “Here I’ll show you.”

I can’t fully explain what happened after that. The whole time I couldn’t figure out if it was a dream or not. We stepped into my shower that wasn’t really my shower. The tiles behind the shower door weren’t there, instead there was a 17th century-looking ship and a tall thin man with a chin beard and mustache whom seemed to be the captain. He tied on his red bandana thing and jumped down onto the docking area that seemed to appear out of no where. “Ah, right on time then!” He said smiling, and Fiona nodded. He looked at me then, studying my every move. “Jack! We’ve been wondering when you’d come back again. I don’t know if you remember me, but I’m Captain Heath Waulk” he gestured to himself. Then he picked up this mangy looking cat. It had long gray hair and yellowish green eyes. It made a chirping noise instead of a meowing one, and it would walk on it’s hind legs sometimes. Basically, the cat was a psycho. He looked fairly young(not the cat, Heath), maybe late twenties. “WELL THEN! WE MUSTN’T DALLY! LET’S SHOVE OFF NOW YE TOSSERS!” he said, his British accent heavy. He might have been a scouser from Liverpool.

Fiona and I stepped on board. I looked up at the sky that was almost as black as the water. It was dark and the water seemed a bit upset.

“Is a storm coming?” I asked stepping away from the edge as Captain Waulk rolled in the anchor.

“Oh! Don’t be such a lady. You’ve got to be a bit braver than that lad! No little storms going to getcha!” He smiled showing his crooked teeth (yeah definitely British).

The thunder started and the waves crashed against the ship tossing it forward and back as we headed east. I tried to stand up, but it was no use really. Waulk was dancing and singing spinning the steering wheel nonchalantly.

Fiona was watching the water from the edge and it made me nervous. “You’re going to fall in, if you keep that up!” I growled at her.

“No no, I have excellent balance! No worries mate,” she chimed. But then a huge wave struck the ship and she wobbled and leaned far against the edge. Without thinking I ran to grab her, but instead I tripped over Heath’s stupid cat, who in the event clawed up my left leg. I went over board into the dark water. I didn’t panic at first, I was a fairly good swimmer, but when I couldn’t find the surface I started to freak out. I couldn’t even tell if my eyes were open or not it was so dark. Salt burned my face and I swam frantic to find the surface. Minutes went by and I noticed something strange. I wasn’t dead, even though I was underwater for more than two minutes. I was still breathing... Underwater... How? Then I head someone whisper in my ear and giggle. I heard distant singing and saw a light above me. I swam towards it, and then I was on the surface.


Heath jumped into the water and retrieved me, but I think I could have made it up on my own. I felt like such a baby girl, instead of a guy turning 18 in October. I coughed up nasty stuff and one of the crew members got me some water. Fiona was still helping me stand. “I think I can stand on my own.”

“You look like an angry wet cat!” Fiona laughed handing me a brown itchy blanket.

“Thank you, truly you’re too kind,” I smiled sarcastically. Then as if by magic, the sun was out and we were in the Caribbean sun. The water was blue as the sky.

“We just crossed the border! Two more days!”

“Till what?” I asked dropping the blanket on the cat, purposefully.

“Till you wake up.”

“Two days?”

“About four hours back home.” Without further delay we were a yet another dock. I stepped off and looked around at the beautiful island. No sign of civilization. Just tropical trees, white sand, lagoons, and other ships at the docking area. I stepped onto the beach, and was immediately attacked by a naked old man. My eyes were scarred.

“I never told him I stole those blueprints. He never found them! I HAVE THEM! He’ll never know!” then he cackled off in another direction talking loudly to himself.

“Okay then....” I laughed awkwardly.

“What do you think?” Fiona asked linking arms with me.

“I don’t know... It’s very eclectic,” I said quietly, as the naked man in the background started laughing and spinning around.

“You’re not much of a talker are you?” she smiled.


“Why not?”

“Got nothing to say.”

“Fair enough,” she said imitating my voice and scrunched up her pixie looking face. “Don’t you even wonder why I brought you here?”

“I suppose so,” I said dismissively, not wanting her to know my true intrigue. “But I don’t see how it matters. None of this is relevant to my life, it’s not real. I’m just all drugged up.” I sighed. She frowned and crossed her arms.

“You know what? I thought you’d be excited to see this. You have a gift! People don’t normally remember coming here. I thought you could help me find your dad, but apparently your pride prohibits you.”

“WHAT? You make no sense! NOTHING HERE MAKES SENSE.” I stated.

“You truly are an idiot,” she rolled her eyes. “Come on, I’ll show you.” she took my hand and lead me into the forest. I glanced behind us to see Captain Waulk petting his annoying cat while another man docked the ship.

“Where are you taking me?” I asked.

“I want you to meet someone.”

“Right of course!” I said, not satisfied with her answer. We were approaching a rather large tree, probably 200 feet tall, no joke, and about 20 feet wide. The thing was huge. Fiona found a notch in the tree, tugged on it, and behind it was a rope. She pulled the rope and opened a door into the tree. inside, there was a manual elevator type thing. We stepped in it and pulled on the ropes. When we stepped off we were in a lounge type room with dirty sofas, smoothies on wooden tables, and about eight people laughing and talking.

“Hey, has anyone seen Travis?” Fiona asked. Everyone looked at me, and I couldn’t tell if they were happy or disappointed but trying to hide it.

“He’s upstairs,” a tiny dark haired girl said as she studied me. When I made eye contact with her, she didn’t look away. I did, embarrassed.

“Jack just wait here,” Fiona said touching my shoulder.

“‘Wh-.. wait I can-” I started, but she’d already started up the elevator. I turned back to the 16 eyes staring at me.

“Hi. I’m Jack Bolson?” I said with a cheesy smile and a hesitated and pathetic wave.

“Hi Jack, I’m Charlotte. Do you remember me?” asked the girl with the dark hair.

“I’m sorry-” I stuttered, but a voice from behind interrupted me.

“Jack Bolson, just the man we’ve been waiting for. The savior of us all!” I turned round to see a tall guy maybe a little older than me with tousled brown hair and hazel eyes.

“Oh... hello. Did I do something wrong?” I asked confused by his angry tone.

“No, just you don’t look suitable for the job,” said Travis, and Fiona whispered something in his ear. “Do you know where you are Jacky?” asked Travis sneering.

“Not exactly, but it’s quite nice. I like the crazy old men walking around in the nude,” I joked.

“Have you ever been here before?” asked a younger boy from across the room.

“No,” I answered. They all laughed like it was a really funny inside joke they’d spring on new comers.

“Wrong Jack. You have been here, everyone has been here. This is where kids go when playing imaginary games, where the senile minds end up, where people’s dreams and nightmares take place, where people go when they’re insane,” Travis ranted smugly.

“What fresh hell?” I asked confused. “What do you mean?”

“Haven’t you ever wondered where someone’s mind goes when they lose it? Where kids get their imagination? Where senile' memories are kept? Nomad’s Nook.”

“Then why doesn’t anyone know about this place? I’ve certainly never heard of it,” I said crossing my arms.

Travis grabbed a smoothie off the nearest table and dumped it on me. “Because it’s hidden! Normal people don’t have access to it consciously. They either have to be dreaming or insane.”

“Only special ones like you and us have the ability to come here consciously. Lucid dreamers they call us. We are able to use more of our brains, if other people could do that, they’d be able to see it too.” Fiona explained as best she could.

“Thank you for the smoothie. You’re all insane. There’s no such place. Nomad’s Nook? That sounds like a children’s book. Now I'm rhyming!” I shook my head. “Time to wake up Doctor Seuss!” I said to myself, and backed up against the door.

“There’s only one way out,” Travis smiled, and slid open the door and let me fall out of the tree.

Fiona leaned out of the tree. “Hope to see you again soon! We need your help! Your father will be lost here forever! He’ll die Jack!” Fiona shouted while Travis laughed. Were they crazy? I thought I was going to die, but before I could hit the bottom I woke up in my bed. I was sweating and my heart was beating faster than it usually does in sleep. I sat up and saw it was morning.

“Ugh.” I groaned. “Where are my contacts?” I asked aloud. I put my hand on my head because it was throbbing, but immediately noticed it was wet also. In shock I gasped and fell off the bed entirely. Since I didn’t have my contacts in, I had to lean in to look at my left shin that was bleeding, and saw that cat claw marks still were visible. I smelled like a banana coconut smoothie. I ran down the hall and into the kitchen, where my mom was cooking eggs and bacon.

“Mom? Was your patient’s name Travis?” I asked still startled.

“Yeah why?”

I knew I had to go back to a place that I wasn’t absolutely sure existed.

The author's comments:
This writing was inspired by my favorite movie Donnie Darko and a few people I know going through a rough time with psychotic disorders.

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This article has 4 comments.

on Aug. 14 2010 at 3:48 pm
kiwi12 PLATINUM, Austin, Texas
28 articles 10 photos 365 comments
oh, and by the way, it's added to my favorites. I just reread it, and it's still super awesome.

LaylaViolet said...
on Aug. 27 2009 at 4:59 pm
Wow. This was totally crazy. I love it. I want a magic pill (I'm in school as I write this). Keep on keeping on, Laura R!

Zero_K DIAMOND said...
on Aug. 24 2009 at 1:21 am
Zero_K DIAMOND, Moosic, Pennsylvania
83 articles 0 photos 435 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Life's no fun if you're not insane, otherwise you grow up to be an accountant." -Moi

I like this. Can I have one of those magic pills? Hold that thought. . .I'll probably be insane enough in a little while. <(o.0)> ZERO

on Aug. 23 2009 at 5:38 pm
kiwi12 PLATINUM, Austin, Texas
28 articles 10 photos 365 comments
OMG this story is the most amazing story ever. You've done a terrific job.