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The following essay is excerpted fromMysterious Realities: A Dream Traveler’s Tales from the Imaginal Realm by Robert Moss, published by New World Library.

A note from the publisher:

Sigmund Freud called dreams the “royal road to the unconscious,” but to bestselling author and world-renowned dream explorer Robert Moss, they are more: portals to the imaginal realm, a higher reality that exists at the intersection of time and eternity. The traveler’s tales in his new book Mysterious Realities are just-so stories in the sense that they spring from direct experience in the many worlds. As you journey from the temple of the Great Goddess at Ephesus to an amazing chance encounter on an airplane, from Dracula country in Transylvania to the astral realm of Luna, you’ll confirm that the doors to the otherworld open from wherever you are. You’ll see what it means to live on a mythic edge and to make a deal with your personal Death for a life extension. At any moment, you may fall, like the author, into the lap of a goddess or the jaws of an archetype. We hope you enjoy this excerpt from the book.

 

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How many lives are you living right now? That’s a bear of a question.

“Why aren’t you in bed with me?”

I was shocked to see Amanda getting dressed. I looked at the beautiful slopes of her body, the perfect globes of her breasts. I had longed for her across the years of our separation. I jumped from under the covers and nuzzled her neck, touching the places where she had always been most easily aroused. She moved away, breaking contact in a way that was painful, because I was hard and urgent to be inside her.

“Don’t tell me you don’t remember.” Her luscious red lips tightened into a straight line.

“It was beautiful,” I said uncertainly, trying to remember what was going on earlier. I remembered the thrill of sneaking into this apartment like naughty high-school seniors. The apartment belonged to a friend who was away. I knew that he never locked the windows at the back, so we had left the car down the street, scampered through the garden, and climbed into the guest room at the back. We were now in the master bedroom, because there was plenty of room to romp on that king-size bed.

And we had been romping royally, hadn’t we? I was ready to explode as soon as she took off her blouse, and I knew when I touched her between her legs that she was more than ready for me. Years of age and of absence fell away. She was as beautiful and as sexy as she had been on our first date at the fish restaurant, when she wore a pink dress and swallowed two plates of oysters and said — when we were on the second bottle of bubbly — “I think really good friends should make love together, don’t you?”

I sat back down on the bed, with my face in my hands, trying to remember what had happened to make her so mad at me. We had finished tearing off each other’s clothes — then we were all over each other, on the bed — and I was about to penetrate her — and…

I did not know what happened next, except that we did not have sex. It wasn’t a failed performance. Had I blacked out? We hadn’t been drinking, and I didn’t use any other kind of drugs. Had I fallen asleep? How was that possible, with so much energy raging in me and between us?

I was called away.

It suddenly hit me. One moment I was on the bed with her, hungry for sex after long starvation. The next moment I was somewhere else. Where, why, how?

I am suddenly there, in the place I must have been when I went missing from the love bed. I am lumbering like a bear walking on two legs. No, that’s not quite right. I am a bear, walking like a man. I have an assignment. There is someone in urgent need of healing and protection, someone who needs me now. She is very young and very frightened, and there is no way I am going to let her down.

In my great hairy body I am crossing a chaotic hospital lobby. Nobody seems to notice that a bear has walked in. I ride the elevator up to a high floor. I hesitate in the corridor. Then I see her, the girl who needs me. “Mister Bear!” she beams. She hugs the bear the way she hugs her teddy. “I knew you were coming.”

I take her by the hand and sit her down on a sofa in a waiting area near the restrooms. “I want you to stay right here,” I told her. “Don’t talk to strangers and don’t go wandering off, okay?”

“Can’t I go get a snack?”

“Not till later, sweetie. Wait till I come get you. Then Nana will take you.”

I leave Ellie on the sofa, swinging her legs. I walk down the hall in the direction she came from. I ignore the red light above the door of the operating room. The door opens, and I am among doctors and nurses in scrubs and breathing masks. They have opened Ellie’s body, the one she left in here when she went walking down the hall. Nobody pays any attention to the bear in the room.

I scan the space. They can see me, and some try to hide, slithering behind medical equipment, diving under the bed, crowding into a darker corner up under the ceiling. One tries to lie flat against a drip line, pretending he is part of the setup. I make that little coughing sound in the chest that bears make when they start to get mad. Some of the sluagh — the restless dead; the old Irish name fits them well — flit out of the room. But some are still hovering, hungering, waiting for their chance.

It’s mine, one of them hisses. I got here first.

The thing shows itself as it was — a disgusting, toothless old man with sagging dewlaps. It leans over the body on the operating table. It hoists a leg. It’s trying to climb into the girl’s body.

I take him out. The blow from the bear’s giant paw scatters the hungry ghost like a mess of chicken bones.

There is no reasoning with hospital spooks of this type. I’ve had to deal with them many times. The problem with hospitals is not that so many people die in them, but that lots of them don’t leave when they die. They’ve had no preparation for what comes after the death of the body, or they have forgotten, so they hover around the last place where they were alive. Sometimes they don’t even get out of the intensive-care unit or shared ward where they died. They drift around in sick, diseased shadow forms, their butts hanging out of their hospital gowns. Then sometimes they get a whiff of fresh meat — a body still healthy enough to make home if they can manage to move in. That’s when the body snatching, or attempted home invasion, begins.

General anesthesia is meant to drive soul — even if doctors won’t call it that — out of the body. That creates an opportunity for unauthorized entry by another soul, one of those hungry ghosts. This is why you don’t want to let yourself be knocked out by anesthesia in hospital unless there is someone to watch over you.

That is why I am here, loaded as bear. To watch over Ellie, my best friend’s little girl, who has been like a daughter to me.

The atmosphere in the operating room has been transformed. It is filling with friendly spirits. Can that be Ellie’s grandfather?

I watch the medical team remove the appendix, stitch the girl’s body up, rinse off. They look at clocks. They discuss how long it will be before she wakes up as they wheel her into recovery. Time to go find the Ellie I left on the couch by the elevators.

“I was very good, Mister Bear,” she greets me. “Do I get a treat now?”

“We’ll have a teddy-bear picnic later on,” I promise. I take her hand and lead her to recovery. We swing our arms and sing,

Today’s the day the teddy bears have their picnic

At the bedside, I pass my hand over Ellie’s eyes. Unlike the Men in Black, I don’t have a neuralyzer to erase memories. A simple pass is enough. All I want to do is to blur the transition, so Ellie will wake in her body with just a lovely dream about a bear.

“That bed looks so comfy,” I suggest. “Why don’t you lie down and take a little nap? I’ll tuck you up nice and tight.”

She smiles and yawns and slips into her body as easily as she might have pulled up the sheets.

Amanda was putting on her power boots, the ones with four-inch heels. She said, “I’m leaving first. By the front door, like a grown-up. Give me five minutes’ start.”

Her eyes dropped. She could see I was still standing like a flagstaff.

“I don’t know how you could just check out with that part of you so — upstanding. Must be the booze.”

She brushed my lips with her mouth.

“It was really good before, wasn’t it?” I instantly regret saying that.

“You are the love of my life,” she said. I couldn’t see this in her eyes, because she had put on the oversized Sophia Loren sunglasses I detested.

“Just not in this life.”

“Not when you can’t stay with me where we are.”

I don’t recall the rest of the conversation. I’m not even sure that she left the apartment. I seem to remember us back on a bed, but a different bed — a single bed, the kind you can push together with another, which in this case was on the other side of a little table. I wanted her urgently, and although she was still mad and sad and holding back, I could feel her body eager to receive me.

Then grinding of a different kind called me away. I opened my eyes and realized I was at home in my usual bed and that the sound was the noise of my current girlfriend grinding coffee beans for the first caffeine infusion of the day.

I pulled on my robe, rinsed my mouth with Fresh Burst, and padded down the hall to the kitchen.

“I see you made it through the night,” said Vivien, handing me a mug.

I did not tell her I’d been with another woman, or that the scene with Amanda was as real to me as — maybe more real than — the scene in the kitchen. I turned on the TV in the living room. The national nightmare was still playing, each installment crazier than the last. I had promised myself that one day I would wake up and find, along with everyone else, that we had left this alternate reality and returned to a sane world. Not yet.

I could not shake the feeling that my unconsummated tryst with Amanda was quite real, that we had been together in our physical bodies. Could what I would now describe as a dream be a scene from a continuous life that Amanda and I were living in a parallel world that was different from the one I was in, sipping my coffee in front of TV?

It was tantalizing that the dream interruptus was so close to my present event track. Amanda and I had broken up, painfully, years before, as in the dream. I had dreamed of a life in which we had stayed together, and that life had not seemed happy at all. This was a further variant.

I had been so excited in that bedroom. Yet I had been called from lovemaking by something stronger, the need to be present for a child who was at risk of things I couldn’t easily explain to the people who were at the hospital with her.

How many lives was I living right now? Which of the dreams was most real?

The phone rang. My friend told me, “I thought you’d want to know that Ellie did fine. She wants to tell you something.”

When she came on the phone, Ellie spoke in a conspiratorial hush. “You’ll never guess what happened. Mister Bear came to see me in the hospital.”

***

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