Some Faraway Place, the third Bright Sessions novel from creator Lauren Shippen, features Rose, who has her humdrum life flipped upside down when she starts to travel into dreams.
Rose Atkinson’s mother can see the future. Her father can move things he doesn’t touch. Her brother Aaron can read minds. And Rose, well, she makes a mean spaghetti bolognese.
Everyone else in her family is Atypical, which means they manifested an ability that defies the limits of the human experience. At nineteen, well past the average age of manifestation, Rose is stuck defending her decision not to go to college and instead working in the kitchen of a local restaurant, hoping to gain the experience she needs to become a chef.
When a rollerblading accident sends her to the hospital, she meets a girl she can’t forget and she starts to feel like maybe her life isn’t quite so small. But when she starts falling asleep mid-conversation, she thinks, then again maybe I’m doomed to never have good things.
Rose should be happy to learn that she’s Atypical after all—that diving into dreams makes her a part of her family in the way she always wanted. But the more time she spends in the dreamworld, the more complicated her ability becomes. Trying to balance her work, her power, and a girlfriend who doesn’t know about Atypicals, Rose seeks help. But she soon discovers that being Atypical comes with dangers she never could have imagined. Even her carefully constructed dreamworld isn’t safe.
This is the story of Atypical Rose, who discovers that your dreams coming true isn’t always a good thing.
Some Faraway Place will be available on September 28th, 2021. Please enjoy the following excerpt!
AUGUST 24TH, 2016
There’s something in the corner. Something enormous and breathing. Air rattling through its lungs, claws scraping the floor of this deep and dark void. Something hides. Something waits.
Every night is exactly the same and also totally unpredictable. I fall asleep suddenly and get dropped into an empty, endless space and then . . . nothing. I stand in that void, changeless and infinite, never knowing when I’m going to wake up again. If I’m going to ever wake up again. I always do, obviously, but when I’m in that space, it feels real. Like that’s where I live now and I’m no longer in control of waking up and going back to my actual life. Which, you can imagine, is pretty anxiety inducing!!
I don’t know why the doctors thought keeping a dream journal would help me. “Doctors.” Who am I trying to impress here? It was a high school nurse. Despite the fact that my own mother is a nurse, I went to the nurse at a school I don’t even go to anymore to talk about the fact that I’m sleeping so much—too much—but never feeling rested, my head full of strange, as-real-as-life dreams, and he suggested keeping a journal.
“It’s most likely anxiety,” he said, as I sat on the sticky plastic chair in his un-air-conditioned office.
“What?” I said, “I’m getting so anxious I’m passing out?”
This seems like a dubious diagnosis to me, but then again, my idea of medical intervention is holding up my bleeding hand until it stops and julienning single-handed so that the sous chef doesn’t yell at me.
“You’re in the workforce now,” the nurse went on. “That’s a very stressful transition.”
“High school was stressful.” I snorted. “A restaurant kitchen is spa-like compared to this place. I don’t feel more anxious than I was before.”
He just smiled at that sadly and patted my knees. A little patronizing, but I’m the nineteen-year-old who went to her old high school because I’m . . . taking too many unplanned naps? So . . .
Wasn’t as bad as it would have been if I had gone straight to my parents. My mom would have a million things to say about my life-style and “those restaurant hours aren’t good for you, why can’t you just consider going to college” but that wouldn’t even be the worst part. No, if I tell my mom and dad that I’m having an unusually difficult time staying awake, they’ll make me go see their doctors. Their special doctors. And I just don’t want a bunch of people poking and prodding at me to see if I burst into flames. I’m nearly twenty—if I were Atypical, we’d know by now. Or my mom would have had a vision about it. Something would have happened. But no, instead I have to be the ONE person in my family with a normal human ailment. And I just couldn’t stand the disappointed looks when the Atypical doctors tell my parents I just have extreme anxiety or narcolepsy or whatever other boring non-superpowered thing I might have.
So we’ll give this dream journal thing a shot.
There’s a door in the middle of the void. It isn’t shaped like a door, doesn’t have a handle or a frame, but I know that’s what it is. Light seeps through the cracks around its curved edges and I can feel a breeze, crisp and clean, flowing through from the other side. I walk toward it, my feet tracking over something solid, even if there’s no floor beneath my feet, wanting to see what’s on the other side.
The light fades and I wake up.
AUGUST 27TH, 2016
Describing dreams is . . . hard. Not to mention, usually mind-numbingly boring, even if the only person you’re describing them to is yourself. The edges of that void are getting clearer with each sleep. But trying to picture it—the look of the place, the way it makes me feel—is like trying to catch light in my hands.
Writing has never exactly been my strength. Neither has talking, if I’m honest. I’m at my best in the kitchen, moving silently through my routine, or having orders barked at me by Chef and frantically prepping the mise en place. Restaurant communication is the kind of talking I can get behind—efficient, straightforward, with no expectations around “politeness” or “socializing.”
It’s not that I’m an antisocial person, it’s just that I’d much rather spend my time laser-focused on mastering a brunoise or getting the perfect rise on dinner rolls than trading stories with a bunch of people I’m squeezed into a kitchen with day after day. I meant it when I told the nurse that a high-paced restaurant environment was more relaxing than high school. I was never into the “school” part of school very much—too active and impatient to sit and focus on a lecture or a test—and I barely talked to the other students, too afraid of being made fun of for being chubby and gay or, even worse, somehow revealing my family’s secret. To my classmates’ credit, I never was teased for anything. I mostly wasn’t noticed at all.
Sometimes it feels like that in my family—I skate by unnoticed except on the rare days, like today, when my mom takes TOO much notice of my life choices.
“I just wish you would save some of that hyper-focused energy for things unrelated to food,” she’d said as I was cooking dinner tonight (last night? it’s 3 a.m., so whatever).
“But I like food,” I said, hoping that’d be enough to end this conversation. It wasn’t.
“You don’t only like food,” she said and I braced myself for a list. “You like rollerblading and Lord of the Rings and girls.”
“Oh my god, Mom, you’re making me sound like an eleven-year-old boy.” I had to speak up to be heard over the sizzle of the metric ton of wet spinach I’d just dumped into the hot pan in front of me, dampening the delicious smell of garlic already in the pan.
“There’s nothing wrong with your interests.” She sniffed.
“I know that.” I rolled my eyes. “But none of those things translate to a career. I’m not going to be a professional rollerblader or Silmarillion scholar or . . . well, I guess I could translate liking girls into a career . . .” I mumbled.
“Rose!” she gasped, trying her best to sound scandalized, even though my mom loves a saucy joke. “You’re spending too much time with those edgy restaurant people.”
“Mom, no one has ever called Milton edgy,” I said. Milton, despite the vaguely pretentious one-word name and gold lettering on the windows, was less Michelin-star and more “old man Boston supper club.” The menu hasn’t changed in a thousand years and we don’t get a lot of foodies in, so it isn’t exactly cutthroat. The fact that I’m allowed to do meal prep at all, as a teenager with no formal training, is proof of that. “Inappropriate jokes aside,” she said, “when was the last time you
went on a date?”
“Whenever it was, I distinctly remember it prompting a conversation about you staying out of my love life,” I muttered. The memory of looking my mom straight in the eye and asking her to back off still makes my skin crawl. Usually evasion and deflection are the best modes of escape with my family, but some things require a stronger hand. And BOY do I hate that.
“Oh, are we sticking to that?” she asked innocently. I turned my back on her again, facing the stove in the hopes that giving my full attention to dinner would be a sign that she could leave me alone for the time being. A hollow wish.
“I just think it might do you some good. You never hang out with your high school friends anymore—”
“Because they’re all away at college . . .” I explained calmly, the air around me filling with steam and making this already oppressive conversation even more claustrophobic. I didn’t mention that plenty of them ended up at college in the city because then I would be forced to admit that we weren’t really all that good friends to begin with.
“—and I know that Aaron has invited you to go see a movie with him a few times this summer.” Her voice was moving into dangerous “you’re making me sad, Rose” territory, and I really hated wading in those particular waters.
“Pity invites from my brother aren’t exactly the height of social life.” I wiped my forehead with the back of my wrist—I can normally handle the heat of the kitchen, but I had started to feel distinctly sweaty and woozy.
“I wouldn’t know what your ideal social life would be, Rose,” she continued, like a dog with a bone. “That’s part of the problem.”
I sighed. I avoided confrontation with my mother at all costs but she’s so unrelenting about this stuff. I turned toward her, keeping my voice steady, trying to explain this as rationally as possible.
“Just because I want to live my life a little differently from you doesn’t mean—”
And that’s when I passed out.
I know! This journal just got interesting.
I don’t know where I went—if I did go anywhere at all. I remember everything going black, a quick flash of light, and then I woke up on my back to see my mom’s face above me, pulled tight in worry, her hands gripping my shoulders to shake me awake.
“’M fine,” I mumbled, though I wasn’t sure that I was. She made a fuss over me all the same, making me sit down at the kitchen counter while she attempted to finish dinner for me. “Attempted” is maybe harsh—she actually did a pretty good job even if I did have to add a lot more salt at the last second.
And I do feel fine! I mean, as fine as I’ve been feeling, which is a lot more run-down than I would have expected to feel at nineteen. Despite the fact that I keep sleeping in longer and longer and, apparently, now just passing out randomly, I’m still inexplicably exhausted. Maybe writing down all my thoughts in the middle of the night isn’t all that helpful.
Enormous trees stretched their branches over me like a loving canopy, their roots floating above pristine, glittering, blue-green water. The smell of salt and pine filled the air, even though there wasn’t an evergreen in sight. I glided over the water, watching it ripple underneath me, and I felt like I was barely touching the air, skimming weightless and free.
Flowers blossomed up from the tree roots, sending sweet perfume up to me as I flew along. I’ve rarely felt such peace, such calm understanding. I was contented but still curious, moving forward to something exciting and glorious. A light shone bright in the distance, reflecting off the water of the horizon, and I felt as if the water must be cascading down the side of the earth, falling into the sun, mixing with its beams to create warm, swimmable light. I moved swiftly through the trees, out onto the open water, closer and closer to the light, ready to touch it, knowing it wouldn’t burn me and knowing that, when I did make contact, I would finally understand.
But before I got there I suddenly did understand—I was dreaming, I was somewhere deep inside my mind, or somewhere else entirely . . . but that light . . . if I just kept soaring toward that distant horizon, everything would come into sharp focus, the dream would be mine again and then—
I woke up.
I don’t remember ever . . . waking up inside a dream before. Is this what lucid dreaming is?
I know I should go downstairs, eat breakfast, start the day. I slept right through my alarm, again, wanting to stay forever in that breath-taking beauty of water and trees. But I could feel consciousness encroaching back on me, the water underneath me starting to ripple away, the horizon growing dim. I feel tired and heavy, and like if I just stayed in that place, flying through that world, I’d figure out how to finally get some rest.
AUGUST 29TH, 2016
“Skate to work today,” she said. “You’ll be glad you did,” she said.
I wonder, did she have a vision of me sitting in urgent care with what feels like a broken wrist? Because that’s exactly what I’m doing right now. Sitting in a cold plastic chair in an overly air-conditioned waiting room, writing with my one remaining good hand (thank GOD I’m a leftie), trying to keep my mind off the heinous amount of pain shooting through my right wrist at the moment.
Having a psychic for a mom is usually . . . well, it’s FINE. Mostly because she never tells us anything, for fear of steering her children’s lives TOO much, which, I’m realizing as I’m writing this, is actually pretty ironic considering she’s always trying to steer our lives in every other way?? Like, I rarely get the benefit of “study hard for that math test because it’s going to have this question on it about this type of equation that you do NOT understand currently” but I DO get the constant pestering about my love life, my career choices, “are you sure you don’t want to at least apply to some colleges?”
Despite this, this infuriating hypocrisy, the fact that my mom has visions of the future, which should be unbelievably cool and useful, except she chooses NOT to share them more often than she does . . . despite allll that, I still listen to her every. Single. Time. Even when she sends me falling ass over head into asphalt. I don’t get to be special like the rest of my family and I don’t even get to interact with their specialness in a good way. I’m always on the outside, face-planting into the ground.
Oh my god, oh my god, okayokayokay—
Maybe my mom isn’t totally cracked after all.
All right, so, yes, my wrist is a little messed up, but it’s more bruised than anything else (thankfully, not broken), and I’ll have to get new skates because my front wheel is cracked from when I went careening into the curb, but.
There was a girl.
At the urgent care, there was the most beautiful girl I have ever seen.
Firstly, she came in because she wiped out on her skateboard, so, like, BIG mood. Normally, I find skateboarders a little annoying, but she rides a longboard so that’s a whole other thing.
She also came in with a broken wrist—really broken—and we sat next to each other and got to talking about rollerblading versus skate-boarding and it made me entirely forget about the pain in my arm.
“Are you a writer?” she asked, once we had gotten past the initial “broken wrist? broken wrist! same hat!” stuff. She gestured with her good arm (the right one, which immediately made me think how it felt like fate that we hurt opposite wrists, leaving our good arms still perfectly equipped to hold hands) at my notebook and ink-covered hand.
“Oh,” I said, “um, no, not really. I mean, yes, I am literally writing”—I continued when she lifted up one perfect eyebrow—“but I’m not, like, a writer. I’m just . . . journaling.”
The moment it came out of my mouth I wanted to sink into the cold plastic and die. I couldn’t tell how old the girl (woman? are we women now?) was—she seemed about my age but so much more effortlessly cool. Her dark brown hair was cropped short on one side, her curls chin-length and bouncy on the other, the ends of them kissing her jawline, making me want to reach out and touch. She was wearing a tank top with a graphic of the Iron Man helmet on it and jorts cut off at the knee and her legs were all scuffed up from where she’d crashed. She had a pierced eyebrow and bright brown eyes that were filled with such incredible warmth, I could feel my face getting red.
Or maybe that was just because I told this hot girl that I was journaling. Like a thirteen-year-old. But she just smiled and gave a little nod and said, “Cool, cool. That’s cool.”
I don’t know that I believed her that it’s cool, but I found myself smiling in return.
“What about you?” I asked. “Are you a writer?”
“Trying to be,” she said, grinning. “Poet, more specifically.”
A poet. This cute girl with the longboard and the warm brown eyes is a poet. Kill me.
“Oh wow,” I said, the blush on my cheeks getting to a truly lava-like degree. “That’s amazing.”
“I don’t know about that.” She laughed. “It’s not exactly the most lucrative career, but there are worse ways to spend your time in college than reading Márquez and going to spoken-word nights.”
She smiled at me like we were in on a private joke, like I would immediately understand what she was getting at. My stomach dropped— this always happens. Anytime I meet someone new my age, they just assume I’m in college. That’s all anyone can talk about. College college college. But I’m not in college because a) who can afford that level of debt and b) why would a chef need a liberal arts degree?
“Oh, I’m not—” I started, before promptly falling unconscious. THE GODDAMNED TIMING OF THIS THING I SWEAR.
So, on the plus side, I guess, passing out in an urgent care usually leads to someone, you know, checking on you and wondering why the hell a girl with a broken wrist went off to dreamland. I’m wondering that still. I can barely remember the dream—it was fuzzy even while it was happening, blurred and cracked around the edges, like I was watching a broken TV—but there were two men in snowy woods, blood a helmet. I swear I’d seen the men before, some-
where, but it slips away if I think about it too hard.
Anyway, after a long chat with the doctor, she was pretty certain that I have narcolepsy. Which, okay, yeah, I should have seen coming, given how much I’m randomly falling asleep, but I don’t know that I believed that it was a thing people really had. I live in a family full of superhumans and somehow the medical condition I have is a totally normal, but still really rare one. What are the odds?
She wants to run a bunch of tests, so I guess I now have to do some weird sleep study things. Guess I’ll keep writing in here. Seems like something that should be documented.
Anyway, all of that hardly matters when I didn’t even get the girl’s name! That’s right. I passed out, she, I guess, went in to get her cast put on or something, and we totally missed each other. My mom might have been right about skating to work today but I wish her vision had been a little more specific. Meeting the girl of my dreams doesn’t count if I never see her again.