When I was sixteen years old, all I wanted to be was a hentai artist. The thought of doing nothing except drawing naked girls and anthropomorphic animals all day really did seem like the ideal life at the time. I wouldn’t be forced to work every day surrounded by people who annoyed me with their words and demands, nor would I even have to leave the house, let alone commute. And it would revolve purely around doing something that – with a year’s work – had come perfectly natural to me, which was drawing. Maybe even some animating too once I got there. Over time, I would gain enough of an audience to start making thousands off of donations and commissions per month, and I would be living the dream in my pornographic castle; which in reality, would just be some low-level apartment block somewhere in Montreal. I didn’t care for the fancy shit. I just wanted to draw tits and get famous. That was what I wanted.
Well, now I have become famous off of drawing tits – as well as every other sensitive body part (and position! And fan character!) one could possibly imagine – and I would be remiss to overlook the fact that, technically, my dream has indeed come true. I indeed do this for most of my day, and I make enough money from a loyal cult of followers to survive on doing it. But dreams are hardly ever idolised utopias; most of the time they are merely a jumbled maze of random thoughts and memories that try desperately to come together and make something that is comprehensible, but they practically never do. The truth is that there is a perpetual ambivalence to the experiencing of dreams, and the dream of which I am now living out in no exception.
That’s how it feels every single day for me. Like I am simply living out a real, raw, organic dream. Like something straight out of an Osamu Sato project, though even that is granting a tad too much leniency since his works are actually deducible at a certain point. There is nothing deducible about the life I have inadvertently chosen to live. That is what makes it so much more like a real dream, both in how it came to be and how I am still stuck in it for almost every waking moment of my life. I never feel as if I am actually awake. Every time I sit down at my chair with my drawing tablet to sketch out the next lesbian wolf couple, it feels as if the world around me is constantly collapsing, melting, and re-emerging unto itself; sometimes I can sense familiar sights, other times I almost can but it still feels alien. And this stylus pen is the only maintenance of order around. So, I imprint myself right above my tablet and my computer, my eyes fixed like chain locks gluing the whole system together like telekinesis, including the stylus pen. Because without my eyes, my pen is just as useless.
That is my life. Living in a world that does not remotely resemble any type of reality but gives off hints of it, combined with a trance-like feeling of energy as I am unwittingly grappled by its embrace. If I were to come out most people with such a statement, they would probably ultimately agree that this is what a dream generally feels like most of the time. After all, a dream is just your brain re-arranging all the thoughts and memories of the day and the past, some of them recognisable and some of them alien. That is the world around me as I live. Therefore, my life as it now is effectively a dream.
There are some temporary reliefs where it feels as if I am truly awake – going outside to walk or run errands are the usual ones – but aside from a few of these brief moments every so often, most of the time it feels as if I am in a perpetual state of sleep, with no chance of ever fully waking up to start the day. Just me, my stylus pen, my eyes, and the chaotic dreamscape that is my surroundings.
This personal apocalypse of mine has been in the making since I was sixteen years old, or for about eight years at this point. It used to be crazy trying to imagine something that had happened eight years ago, because seemed like such a long time. By the time you’re in your late teens, four or five years becomes relatively easily enough to look back on, but eight years still doesn’t quite cut it. Now I am at the age when looking back eight years feels like looking back four years at age sixteen. Which I guess makes sense, because I am now two fours ahead of being sixteen years old.
Point is, it’s surprising how deeply I can look back at the beginning of my “dreaming” years with such remarkable clarity. Usually, I’m quite bad at remembering things in general, but maybe there’s a purpose for this. Maybe, in this new dreamscape of which I am a prisoner, the one gift from the outside world I am allowed to keep are my own visions of what it was like to walk free, soaped up and polished and served to me in a smooth glass container. A container, because that’s what it’s doing; containing memories in an enclosed bottle so as to prevent me from manipulating them.
Let’s pick this bottle up and examine it, and maybe we can find somewhere to start.
April 2020, just around seven years ago. Not a perfect eight, but I think I know why. This was the beginning of my involuntary submergence in the dream world. It had to have been. If it was eight years ago, I would have still been awake. It’s seven years ago, so it’s the exact time that I fell asleep and never woke up again.
We were in our second week of what we thought was just a temporary break from school, as the entire province locked down for a few simple weeks to prevent COVID-19 from taking us over. After that, we were due to return to classes as normal. I don’t remember the exact date, but I remember everything else about what happened that night.
I was with Vicki, and it must have been around seven 'o'clock because the sun was still in the middle of going down. It was strikingly warm out; must have been at least twenty degrees above zero, the warmest day of the year so far. To commemorate this occasion, Vicki asked me if I wanted to go swimming. We were sitting out in her backyard with not much else to do, so I impulsively agreed and we set out for the bridge we both knew we were going to without needing to say it out loud: the one atop the hydroelectric plant a few blocks from my own house.
As we passed through my neighbourhood in silence, a blueish pink tint filled the sky. I don’t know why, but it seemed to bring out the red dye in Vicki’s hair even more than the daylight did. There was something about watching this red-haired girl walk by all the unattractive old brick homes of my neighbourhood, trying her best to casually trek over the many cracks and quakes of my sidewalk. She had on her usual black denim jacket overtop a grey shirt with an illustration of a deer on it. Standard pair of jeans – no ripped holes – with a pair of worn white sneakers to complete it. Her whole exterior, completed with the exterior around her, made her look like a character in a hidden gem of a movie that every internet critic would rave about. I felt ready to make some profound statement to her about what it meant to live in the American Midwest.
She turned to me and said with a smirk, “What are you looking at?”
“Nothing. You just go really well with your surroundings with that outfit.” A bit overly forthcoming, but better than a movie monologue.
“What do you mean?”
“Not sure. You just do. It’s a very nice look.”
“Are you saying I’m pretty?” she flatly asked.
I said nothing, and just continued to look at her intently. This wasn’t the first time we had done this kind of banter with each other.
Eventually, she slugged me in the arm, and I made an exaggerated “Ow!”
“Why are you such a fucking weirdo?” she said while desperately trying to hold back a smile.
“I’m not a weirdo. I’m just observant.”
“So observant that you can’t even describe what you’re observing.”
“That’s the beauty of it though. Sometimes you just look and you can’t understand it, but you appreciate the ability to just be able to look at it anyway.”
She looked at me like I had just asked what two plus two was. “That’s a very drawn-out pickup line you just whipped up.”
“I got a 95 in English, I am a master of words!”
“Alright, dude.” Her faint Southern American accent came out unusually strong on the alright part.
We eventually made it to the end of the street, where a small hill lead downwards towards the park where the bridge was. Go straight down the road and you’ll end up in the parking lot for workers at the plant; take a left and you’ll take a small paved pathway that goes behind the last house on the street and through a small patch of green, and within a few feet, the bridge is right there in front of you. Because the bridge is so close, the pathway is just a few steps away from the plant’s reservoir, which gives way to wide open floodgates a few more feet ahead. By the time you’re walking along the bridge, you can look straight out at the plant itself, which supports another bridge some distance away that goes right along the edge of the floodgates. You’re at the top of a massive dam and it doesn’t even feel like it.
Our bridge, meanwhile, was a simple series of wooden planks held together by nails, rusty steel bars and support beams. We reached the middle of the bridge where the water has got to be more than a dozen feet deep. It was still quite warm out, so much so that I felt hot in my black sweatshirt and shorts with the sleeves rolled up.
I leaned over the railing and looked out at the sky, as the pink tint got ever increasingly faint. I wasn’t thinking about swimming; I was thinking about how I was going to get a particular art commission done that night. It was supposed to be fully-coloured sketch of one of my original characters (was it the lizard girl or the deer girl?) sucking off a giant mutant dragon. I was not looking forward to drawing it – I've always preferred purely lesbian content – but it was one of my first ever paid commissions and I needed to have it done in two days. I had already forced myself to complete the rough sketch, but I just didn’t want to think about having to colour all of that crap.
I almost got completely lost in thought before I heard a loud “Hey!” come from Vicki.
I looked over at her. Her denim jacket was on the ground, bringing the white deer on her grey shirt out on full display. “Are we gonna do this or not?” She gripped the railing with her left hand and gave me a look of intrigue.
It took me a few seconds to realise that she was asking me to strip. Flexing shirtless in the mirror almost every night had not prepared me for this. Theoretically I should’ve been more than happy to flaunt myself in front of a girl, but now I felt almost nothing.
It’s not like she was my girlfriend anyway.
I took off my sweatshirt and threw it on the ground next to her jacket, and instinctively pulled my red t-shirt back down to my waist. She continued staring at me, waiting for me to go further. I thought it unfair that she was making me strip down before she did, but then I remembered that she wasn’t even my girlfriend, so I went along with it. I took off my shirt, showing off my pathetic skinny abs, and then I unbuckled my pants and pushed them down to my ankles. I stepped out of my shoes along with my pants and lightly kicked them aside, far more worried that someone was going to come by and see what I was doing than I was of whatever Vicki could be thinking.
“Wow, you really work out!” she said, looking me up and down as I stood there in my boxers.
“Fuck off. You gotta strip now.”
“Why do I gotta turn around? You made me strip right in front of you!”
“Because it’s different with guys. Now look away! And keep watch.”
Begrudgingly, I did as I was told, staring straight ahead at the clearing at the end of the bridge making sure no late-night stoners would come strolling by. I had no clue what to actually do if someone did come by or what Vicki planned to do about it, but I had nothing else to do so I kept watching.
“Hey, check this out.”
I looked back at Vicki. She was now in her underwear as I was, though she still had her sneakers on. She was standing on top of the railing, holding onto another concrete steel bar above, her back to the water below. “You watching?”
She pushed off and did a complete 360-degree backflip off the railing, creating a much lighter splash than I anticipated. She bobbed back to the surface and did a little “woo!” as she did.
I looked down at her and gripped the railing. The sight of her in the water, mixed with the breeze I felt on my bare skin made me start to shiver. Then I remembered that I couldn’t even swim, so the shiver turned into a quaky stomach pit.
“That was pretty good,” I mustered out.
“You bet it was!” she replied as she lay onto her back in the water. “You coming?”
“I don’t know anymore. I’m not a good swimmer.”“Come on, get your ass in here! Would I let you sink?”
She meant it rhetorically; of course, she wouldn’t let me sink, and she meant it in earnest. But she only thought she was keeping a promise. It’s not her fault at all, because she didn’t realise that I simply had no ability to rise back up to reality. And neither did I know this at the time. Perhaps I should have known, but at the same time how could I have? I was too blinded by my own length to recognise the depth below me, or the inherent weakness of my stride that was no match for its gravity.
Either way, I complied with Vicki’s orders, and I stood up on the railing with my socks still on. I didn’t plug my nose, that would be too corny. I simply inhaled as I jumped off.
I immediately felt a strange aurora of disconnection as I landed in the water. There’s always that split second of adjustment that goes on whenever you get submerged in water, but this was not the normal kind and I knew pretty quickly so. It was like I could see everything and nothing at once. It was like my life was flashing before me except it wasn’t. I could almost see myself, but I couldn’t. At first it seemed as if I was floating in space, but then I realised it didn’t feel like that at all. Either way, it didn’t feel like I was in water, or any kind of liquid or dark matter. I didn’t see blue; I didn’t even see black. Everything and nothing was all around me. It was a sort of a trance that no drug could ever create.
I felt like I was in there for both a billion years and a few microseconds, before Vicki pulled me up and asked me how that felt.
I don’t remember what I told her, but I guess it was positive or at least neutral because I don’t remember her reacting badly to it. I think we swam around for a little bit before we climbed back up, threw our clothes on the best we could and walked home as the evening heat dried our underbodies.
But I can’t remember any specifics like I could before I jumped into the water. Seems like almost nothing at all after that point can so easily come to me now. I can remember plenty before that moment though, and every so often I might remember one or two specific minor events that happened after it. But that exact moment will always be a blank to me. It was the first time I ever truly felt blank, and it never went away. It only got more intense over time as I trekked deeper and deeper into the dream that I did construct on my own.
But the moment I realised I was finally dreaming was not the beginning of it. Because of the extreme starkness of my capacity for memory before and after that moment, I have come to the conclusion that was when my dreaming really did begin. Because nothing has seemed so lucid after it. Every day I come closer to feeling like Clive Wearing; soon all I will have at my disposal are my motor skills of drawing and typing, and the dreamscape around me won’t feel any different than if it wasn’t a dreamscape; if I was actually still awake for real. Soon none of this will matter. All I will have left is the hentai, which is what I always wanted in the first place. That was my dream from the start, and it will be my dream until the end.
But I need to remember as much as I can, because it’s the only way I can fully know what happened. Because all I currently have is speculation. I used to think it simple: I came to the realisation that I was trying to be a hentai artist while also trying to be Vicki’s companion, and the two couldn’t be reconciled. And as I hit the water, it all came to a head for me. But we didn’t stop being friends right then and there. I still have all her contact information to this day; she’s just a message or a dial away at all times. Vicki never left my life, and I didn’t leave hers. I left my own life, and now all she has left is a vegetative patient.
What I do know for now, is that it was at that exact moment of hitting the water below Millennial Park Bridge that I fell asleep for the last time in my life. Because I have never woken up since that moment. And maybe – just perhaps – if I write as much as I can still remember about my former time as a conscious being, I can start to gain a clearer image of why and how this moment happened and what transpired after it. Because a simple recounting of that night does not bring me closure anymore. I need to know everything, and I need to know it before I fall even further into a deep sleep and lose it all forever.
I’m very busy right now. I’m sitting on ten commissions I have to get done by the end of the month; I’m working on the storyboard for a new animation featuring my two most popular original characters; and I’ve been hired to do the writing for a new sex simulation game. But right now, writing this entire story is what is most important. I need to do it before I don’t have the capability to do it anymore. I don’t have much time left.
I need to wake up. It’s time to start the day.