Stella Samuel is a women’s fiction author whose credits include her debut novel 34 Seconds as well as several short fiction pieces published in various literary magazines. Though she spent her early years studying theatre, Stella is now earning her BFA in Creative Writing for Entertainment from Full Sail University. With a love of children and a passion for writing, each summer she teaches a children’s writing workshop with the goals of teaching children how to create and publish unique stories. Stella has been an Alliance of Independent Authors member since 2016 and was inducted into the National Society of Collegiate Scholars in 2018. She lives in Arizona, a place she calls a mile south of the sun, where her snow-loving Saint Bernard dogs and chocolate lab sunbathe. When she’s not hiking the hot desert, Stella can be found writing poolside.
The first time Jordan slipped away into a dream, she barely noticed. Dreams, after all, aren’t often memorable. The second time, she woke with the all too common feeling of existence. She’d brought something back with her. But, being a young student, constantly challenging and learning, Jordan blew off the idea that the ribbon she woke with in her right hand came back with her and decided rather, that she’d simply fallen asleep holding it the night before. It wasn’t until the fourth night Jordan began to take notice of how her dreams and her reality integrated, crossed over, and collided with a defying action. She had no choice but to sit up and take note. That particular night, Jordan had taken a sleep aid. Not the one her doctors had given her to help with the demons or the agoraphobia, just good old fashion cold medicine. With the help of a head cold and the medicine, Jordan drifted to sleep. According to her sleep app on her watch, she slept peacefully for hours without movement or disturbance. At precisely 4 AM, Jordan’s heart rate increased which disturbed her sleep with arm and leg movement. This moment in her dream, Jordan called her father. “Hello, pumpkin.” he said as he always did, when he was alive. This time though, he didn’t wait for her greeting. He answered as if he knew she was on the other end. A convenience of modern times; something unavailable when her father was alive. “Hi, Daddy!” Jordan said. She stood next to a man she worked with. She didn’t know him when her father was alive. “I know I’m an adult.” Another thing she wasn’t when her father was a live. “But, I didn’t want you to worry. I stay with Rome last night at his house. He worked late, and it was too late to drive all the way to my apartment.” Though she heard her father say hello as he’d done a million times before, she didn’t hear his response. Those were words he’d never used in her lifetime. At least not all together at once in a response such as in her dream. It wasn’t something her mind was capable of conjuring. “Sure, Dad. I’ll be safe. Rome’s mom has this really pretty dress she let me wear today. The ribbon sash is to die for.” Jordan’s mind did exactly what it wanted without telling Jordan its plans. The dress she referred to in her dream was the very one she wore in a play in college. Her best friend Sean had made it with the help of his mother who was the props master and costumer for the theatre department. Sean hid her beloved costume one night then dropped it and watched as it fluttered from the catwalk above onto the stage. Jordan stood in the spotlight in an empty auditorium in a slip looking for her dress. As the reality of the dress of Jordan’s past weaved in and out of the surreal dream of a father who hadn’t taken a breath in fifteen years and a man from work who Jordan only knew virtually, Jordan held onto the sash ribbon from a cheaply made costume long ago fallen to shreds, and woke with it in her hand. As she woke to the early sun’s rays, the ribbon as soft as the day she first wore the dress, Jordan cried. “I heard him. He was there,” she said. Her eyes remained closed. Medicine head washed over with a groggy wake. When she opened her crusty eyes, her hand grasped the edge of her nightstand. “Daddy,” she said and let go. As the day faded to night again, Jordan repeated every action from the night before. Cold medicines, check. Childhood blanket, check check. Thinking of work and a man she didn’t know along with the father she lost before she entered the world of adult cold medicines, yeah, sure. As with every sleep initiated by a sleep aid, Mr. Sandman was quick to visit Jordan. Again, a foggy sleep took over Jordan’s body holding it still. As she entered the stage she’d shared with Sean under the bright lights of her old college auditorium, Rome walked on stage, bowed, arms hugging his waist on either side, and opened a door Jordan knew opened only to backstage. As Rome’s arm waved before the doorway, Jordan’s father stepped out. In that very moment, Jordan heard her father’s voice cheer from the same seat he bought for every show. Second row, number twelve. He claimed no matter the show, the light wasn’t as harsh from that seat. Unsure of which father to go to, the one in his regular seat or the one entering through the doorway to the stage, Jordan tossed her ribbon out to the doorway and jumped off the stage. She woke with her hand grasping the nightstand panting. “I will bring you back, Daddy.” She tried again. And she tried again. Night after night. Each morning she woke with a trinket from her dream bringing her present reality of her home and drugs to falter into a place so surreal the blur between the two could no longer be distinguished even with her colleague Rome who refused to work with her until the company did a welfare check on the occupant at 5472 Fall Road. The final night Jordan fell into her dream with the aid of cold meds, prescribed meds, and three shots of vodka, she reunited with her father. Two days after that sleep, EMTs took Jordan’s limp body through the hospital hallway. Like seams on a bridge, the lights above Jordan’s faces bumped along her path to a room she’d sleep in as long as the machines were left on.