I first saw Gillian in my dreams.
I didn’t know her name then of course. She was just a figure I saw in the background of some occasional dreams. I had already half-forgotten her before I noticed her – if that makes sense. I slowly became aware of her in the background of my dreams. I used to have dreams about parties, things like that. Gillian would be there in the background of those dreams, another bit part actor in my mind’s latest creation.
Then, by the time I noticed, Gillian was a frequent visitor to my dream world, she began taking a more important role. She would be the librarian, the bus conductor, the assistant at the check-in desk for my flights of fantasy as I slept. These were not main roles, of course, but now they were speaking parts, still a minor character, but now one with a voice.
Still I did not know her name.
Over time though, I somehow learnt her name. We grew closer. She became the friend, the helpmate. She was sometimes even the mentor or the trickster turning my dream from a jumble of images into a narrative.
After a few months of this I was beginning to wonder who this woman was who had become the co-star of my dreams. Sometime over those weeks where the winter became spring and the days grew longer, Gillian and I became lovers in my dreams.
Each night as I fell into sleep I would look for her. I was eager to see her, touch her, hold her. My days were just the time I spent waiting for the night, waiting until I could fall asleep again. Each evening would be a time of tension as I watched the clock, waiting until it was time to go to bed. Waiting until I was tired enough to sleep.
By then the project was taking up most of my working life. We had the game almost ready for testing. The scenes, the characters, the story, were all there. It was exhausting work. But even though my thoughts should have been filled with the game and its release date, all I could think of was Gillian and falling asleep and falling into her arms.
We did not speak much in those dreams. We did not need to. Gillian was in my dreams, a creation of my mind, or so I thought at the time. I thought we knew all we needed to say to each other. After all, by the time we became dream lovers she had already spent so much time in my dream world. It was almost as if she knew my dreaming mind better than me. After all, I thought, she spent all her time there. I only joined her once I fell asleep.
I began to imagine what it would be like to sleep forever. Never have to wake up. Never have to trudge through the waking world into work each day to wrestle with the inevitable bugs that were making the game slip further and further past its promised release date.
One day I had to get away. I hadn’t had a lunch hour for several weeks. At the café where I usually ate, they thought I’d moved away, or lost my job.
I sat at my usual table with my black coffee and cheese salad baguette, staring out of the window trying to remember what the real world looked like.
‘Jeff,’ she said.
I looked up, recognising that voice as Gillian sat down in front of me.
‘It’s all right,’ she said, taking my hand. ‘I’m here now.’