Part Four

Chapter Ten – “You’re Not Real!”

Josh is fishing. It’s an idyllic summer day. He catches a giant fish and is ecstatic. He rides home on his bike and tells his mother to start making hush puppies. His dad comes home and tells Josh they’re going to the ball game that night. Afterwards, they stop at Baskin Robbins and get ice cream. It’s wonderful and Josh goes to sleep wishing that every day could be this much fun.

The next day Josh is going to school and suddenly a black boy comes up and starts calmly talking to him. Josh doesn’t recognize him. Apparently, Oliver also managed to erase all their memories of Nuworld. More or less. But this black kid – who introduces himself as Token – knows all sorts of things about Josh. That his dog’s name is Jock, that he likes old John Wayne movies, stuff like that. These are all things that have never come up in any context before this book and that Josh and Token have never talked about. I guess we’re supposed to assume it happened off-screen.

Token says that he needs to talk to Josh about something important – more important than school or anything. Josh looks at him funny, and then suddenly Token seems vaguely familiar. Token asks him to meet him down at the creek where he caught the fish after school.

Later, Josh shows up. He didn’t really want to be there, but he gives Token ten minutes. Token starts explaining the history of the Seven Sociopaths. Forty-five minutes later he wraps things up. Josh tells Token that he’s a fantastic storyteller and he should write a book:

You could call it The Seven Sleepers. Nobody’d ever believe it, of course, but the world needs good fantasy like that (page 102).

The Seven Sleepers’ was the name that the first book was originally published under. And that book was many things, but ‘good fantasy’ is not one of them.

Josh takes off. Token watches him go sadly. Suddenly he hears a voice from Goel telling him to be faithful. What Morris is saying is that if you follow God’s will, you will hear disembodied voices telling you what you need to do and giving you encouragement at the right times.

That night Josh wakes up. He sees his window opening and a shadowy form climbing in the window. A burglar! He tackles the intruder and starts hollering for his dad. Mr. Adams pops in and switches on the lights. It’s Token, of course. Now, while deciding to climb in through the window of a white family’s home in the middle of the night is not really the best of plans, you have to admit that it takes balls of steel to do something like that.

Then again, they are just in a dream. And I’m pretty sure if you are killed in the Matrix, you don’t die in real life here.

The Adams ask Token a few questions. He calmly says that he wasn’t intending to burgle the place. So finally they call the cops but decide not to press charges. Some policemen arrive and haul Token away. Josh watches him go, and again, something seems really familiar about him.

Josh is really depressed for the next four days. Plus he’s been having weird dreams – riding sharks, fighting dinosaurs – all that crap that Token had told him in the stories. Finally he talks to his dad. Mr. Adams went to Token’s hearing and put in a good word for him, but Token made no defense. So the judge decided to send him to reform school. Josh is still sad. Mr. Adams tells him he should go visit Token or write him a letter.

Token is sitting in a cell with several other boys. A guard comes up and tells him he has a visitor. I’m not sure they allow kids to visit other kids at jail, juvie hall, or wherever they’re holding him, especially without parental consent. But the guard sticks him in a room and Josh is standing there. Josh asks him if it’s all real. Token says it is. He explains how to break off a dream – we’ll never find out how to do this, of course – and tells Josh that he has to be the one to do it.

Chapter Eleven – A Calico Dress

Josh wakes up and looks around. Next, I suppose, all his memories come flooding back to him, and he never has any side effects or lasting problems from being in the Plot Device.

Token says they need to hurry and get everyone else out before Oliver shows up. He explains how to do it, and Josh takes charge. He tells Token to go fetch Reb, and says that he’ll go and get Sarah. Considering that they know that you don’t retain your memory, and they also know that Reb used to be a racist, I have to say that sending Token to get him isn’t actually the smartest of decisions.

Token asks Josh what sort of dream he thinks Sarah’s in. And this is the only explanation we’ll ever get:

“I doubt that the dream machine let her go home. She always liked to read books and watch TV programs about farm life” (page 110).

Again, something that we’ve never heard of until now. But basically, after convincing the Sociopaths that they could go home for good, Oliver hooked them up to the Plot Device, which, I assume, scanned the Sociopath’s mind and figured out what dream they would be happiest in, erased their memory, and dumped them into a new life. Of course, only Josh was the one who would be happiest living with his parents, friends, and old life. Or something. Nothing about this is properly explained or even makes sense. I think Morris didn’t expect his target audience to actually care about things like logic.

Josh enters Sarah’s dream. He appears in a valley surrounded by mountains out in the middle of nowhere. He walks along the road for a bit and comes up to a house and a barn. There’s a boy working outside. Josh asks him for a drink. The boy says sure and invites him inside for some buttermilk [!]. They chat for a bit and Josh sees a newspaper. It’s November, 1880.

They start asking Josh questions, so he says that he’s looking for a girl with black hair and brown eyes, named Sarah Collingwood. This rather sad story doesn’t really fool anyone, since they’re miles from the closest town, but they invite him to spend the night. Josh hangs out with the boy, Rob.

The two boys spent all afternoon together. Rob Faulkner shared his dreams with Josh, and Josh enjoyed being with him (page 115).

Proofreading. Vital for weeding out bits of text that are…shall we say, delicately phrased?

That night they head inside and Josh is astonished to see Sarah there at the dinner table. See, instead of going back and living with her actual parents, Sarah’s subconscious just cooked up a new family and inserted her into it.

Josh has to lie like crazy to answer all the questions, but he excuses it to himself by saying that it’s just a dream. That night Rob and Sarah and Josh go down to the creek to catch frogs. Sarah and Josh talk about nothing in particular, although Sarah does say that Josh looks familiar.

The next day, as he’s leaving, Josh pretends to fall down the stairs and twist his ankle. The mother immediately says he’ll have to stay until it heals. Rob makes him a cane and Josh walks around with a fake limp, feeling glad that it’s just a dream so he’s not actually deceiving anybody. And later, he’s going to rape the mother, because she’s not real and it’s just a dream, so it’s not a crime and he’s not cheating on Sarah. I mean, the logic works.

Josh tells Sarah all the stories about the Seven Sociopaths. Finally he tells her that they’re all real, and the girl in the stories named Sarah – it’s actually her. Sarah is shocked. But she’s been having weird dreams. One dream was about Amazon women. In Princess Leia gold metal bikinis. But eventually Sarah is convinced, and Josh explains how to cut off the dream.

Sarah wakes up and starts to cry because Josh came and rescued her and it was very heroic and dashing or something like that. They look down at Token, who’s still in Reb’s dream. Apparently he’s having issues getting Reb to come back.

Chapter Twelve – The Soldier

Reb rides along with the cavalry. Yes – he’s fighting in the Civil War. That means that Reb’s idea of the perfect dream is fighting in a war that he’s destined to lose, spending his days butchering his fellow Americans.

He’s riding along with General Jeb Stuart. When they get back to the camp, Stuart comes up to him and congratulates him on a job well done. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and suggest that all of these dreams are designed to keep the dreamer happy with what’s going on, because otherwise it suggests a level of competence far surpassing the Sociopaths I know and hate.

That night he’s lying down and sees a figure sneaking along. He leaps up and grabs him. Surprisingly, it’s a black boy. Reb asks him what he’s doing. He says he wants to help him. Some men take body servants along when they join the army. The black kid wants to be Reb’s body servant. Reb says he doesn’t have one, and he and his family never owned slaves, or wanted to. Oh, and in this dream, Reb’s not racist at all. Progress!

Finally Reb agrees. Some time passes. The other men make fun of him a bit. Reb finds that Token is psyching him out, because he’s sure he knows him from somewhere. Plus, Reb’s beginning to have weird dreams. And then one day Token asks Reb if he’s been dreaming about him.

“How’d you know that?” The sentence was before Reb could catch it. He stared at the boy with astonishment. “How did you know I dreamed about you?”

Token turned and looked at him, and Reb found himself dizzied by his large brown eyes. “We’ve known each other for years,” he whispered. “We were lovers once, you and I” (page 126).

Okay, so I made up the second paragraph. The point stands though.

Token describes some of their adventures together *cough* and surprise surprise, it’s just like Reb’s dreams. Reb refuses to believe it, though.

Later, the army takes off to fight. Token remains behind. When they return, he notices that Reb’s not with him. A lieutenant tells him that Reb was hit and didn’t make it. Token refuses to believe it. He saddles up Reb’s spare horse and heads back to the battlefield, searching until he finds Reb, who’s wounded but still alive. He boosts Reb onto the horse and takes him back to the camp.

Reb has lots of dreams. Weird ones.

…in every dream, the small black boy called [Token] was by his side (page 129).

So romantic.

Reb wakes up. Token’s hovering over him. Reb asks if it’s all real. Token says yes. It takes awhile more, but finally Reb’s convinced and they head on back.