In my Dreams I am Alive

August 10, 2020 / Shreya Rajhang

Fantasy stories light the only fire in my life that reality can never put out.

I open my eyes to a world dipped in gold. Dipped in gold and cast in fire. Balancing on the edges of my mind, a world that eludes my touch but beckons me closer. Closer, until I’m deep in the thicket of wonder. Closer, until the fog that worships Abandon envelopes me in a cool embrace of smoke and clouds. Losing myself into the heightened sensations of the air tinkling with laughter as it teases my skin, the earth boasting of its flexibility by dipping and rising under my feet. I cease to question where I am as the fog invades my brain, whispering of excitement and adventure and something new.

I tread every path in sight, now just curious like a newborn instead of questioning like the skeptical adult I tend to be. Doctor. Daughter. Someone worthy. Choosing my destiny for a world gone oblivious, oblivious to me. The only thing that matters is that I exist in a world that molds me, shapes me to carry the flame of the future, a warm and promising fire that talks of me being the savior. An ignorant commoner rising from the unknown and saving the people of this land from the clutches of vile villains. When I turn the first page of J.R.R. Tolkien or Erin Morgenstern, I tune out like an old wireless radio. I’m engrossed in their words, their stories. My once familiar bedroom falls apart to a world that can’t fail me. Because it’s mine and I have the power to run it.

My subconscious tries to tell me this is false; I am living a fantasy. But I want this to be my reality.

Escape plagued me since the beginning. Because life is monotony, and escape is the sin of desire. Being rejected from an internship I worked too hard for reminds me that life is a series of hoops, reality tells me when to jump, and the future yearns to be a declaration, not a question. I yearn, not just for any escape, but one forged for me. I yearn to slip through the clutch of time like a wisp and enter a world that ensnares me, one in which I am a stranger, yet also the savior. A world above mere existence, raising the stakes to life or death.

I create a destiny for myself, to champion a cause, a people, a kingdom. I vision epic battles, heart-wrenching romance, trying quests, and a fabulous wardrobe to wear through it all. Fantasy captures my attention like no other genre and refuses to relent to the sly attacks of reality. The characters I admire are noble and conflicted. They’re exaggerations of teen angst juxtaposed in settings of class warfare and crown politics. All the tropes and stereotypes coalesce into characters that represent “complicated.” I love and hate these personalities, many of whom embody my deepest fears and insecurities and others who I grow to idolize and treasure. They become facets of me I never thought existed.

Sitting in my room, I unravel like the book in my hands, feeling who I am underneath the shy surface come alive as the words on pages gaze back at me knowingly. I am always on a journey, whether that is destroying a clichéd force of evil, claiming my right to a throne, or rescuing people from captivity. And I enjoy every exhilarating minute of it ⁠— the giddiness of discovering civilizations with mysterious cultures, meeting new creatures with unrealistic powers, battling unforeseen villains till the last breath overtakes me. And while I discover the edges of this new world’s horizons, I uncover the parts of myself that went ignored. The stress of cramming for my exams in a dull, gray library melts away. I realize I created this world to reflect the person I never had the chance to become. Beyond being compliant and unsuspecting, I take charge of this world, free from the suffocating burden of expectations.

It’s euphoria unlike any other, a rush of excitement to my head and weightlessness in my stomach because this is my secret. And no one has the power to take it away from me. But as I turn the last page, read the last line, and feel my last emotion, I’m slammed into reality with twice the abruptness I left it with. In my room, a stranger in my home. Disappointment coursing through me, I’m trapped in a life I didn’t choose but must see through till the end. I am again tangled in the responsibilities of my life that I so desperately wanted to abandon.

And try as I might to become weightless and fly into my precious world, where strange creatures regard me with respect, the ballads remember me and my friends with fondness, and the earth welcomes me with relief, I am undone.■

By: Shreya Rajhang

Layout: Jessica Nguyen

Photographer: Erin Walts

Stylists: David Garcia & Vivian Yu

HMUA: Julie Garcia

Models: Rebecca Wang & Shelby Scott

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