Their trips to the drive-in movie theater were always the same. He would fall asleep and she would quietly leave the vehicle to get popcorn, Milk Duds, and soda. As she walked back with her goodies, the car-side speakers stopped and the screen went black, throwing the entire lot into darkness. She stopped, temporarily blinded. Then, the screen lit back up again, showing…

(Stories need only touch on this topic in some way to qualify.)

The viewers were getting unruly until a dragon appeared behind orange bursts, engulfing a castle in inferno. The people at the drive-in movie theater roared in elation as the village folk screamed in horror. Robin gasped as the beast plucked a knight from the ground and threw its snout up, the knight’s dirty, bloody hands clawing at the screen.

Robin watched her husband sleeping peacefully. She wished he could hear how the crowd shouted for him, but he needed his noise cancelling earmuffs. He was sound asleep in the cot at the back of the van.

Then the screen faded to a dark house. The front door opened by itself, inviting the viewers to come inside. The people screamed like the village folk. Her husband’s dreams were cinematic.

No one dreamed like him. There was no telling what would be seen, but that’s why the people showed up. That’s also why they had to sign a liability release. It had been embarrassing when a blonde woman’s naked body filled the screen once. Robin had black hair, and dreams could be unpredictable. That elementary field trip would never be the same. So it goes in Sleepy City Studios.

Robin turned to the medieval book on Ward’s cot. It depicted a valiant knight shielding a firestorm from a scaly beast. Visuals helped to implant the dream right before sleep. Sometimes nightmares crept into Ward’s dreams, though. Ghosts and ghouls always seemed to make a late appearance.

Ward shifted under the covers as the screen faded to black. Boos and jeers took the place of dragonfire and nightmares.

Robin wanted to chide the people and tell them not to get out of their cars and stare. He would never be able to go back to sleep.

“Would you go get me some water, Robin?” Ward whispered from the back of the van.

Robin smiled from the passenger seat. She desired to lay in the cot with her husband but her subtle movements always stirred him awake.

Robin kissed Ward and said, “You’ll be able to sleep. Don’t worry.”

“Maybe you’ll appear on screen, sweetie,” Ward exhaled, feigning a smile.

“Dream me with a tan, please,” Robin laughed, kissing him once more before she left.

When Ward started having trouble sleeping, the revenue became scarce. Robin needed pills to fall asleep, and it was like her insomnia infected her husband. People would pay a lot of money to see his otherworldly talent, but it was useless if he couldn’t sleep. Ward tried everything like staying up the night before a show, taking one of Robin’s sleeping pills, tiring himself through exercise, or dizzying himself with booze. Nothing seemed to work, and every showing became riddled with intermittent breaks. People stopped coming to the show until tonight when they promised a night viewers wouldn’t forget…and tickets half-off.

Robin would order her usual: popcorn, Milk Duds, and a soda. Ward didn’t really want a cup of water. It was his way of politely asking Robin to leave because he wanted to be alone when he was stressed.

Robin waited in line at the concession stand even though she and Ward owned the place.

“Can I have an autograph?” was followed by “When will he go back to sleep?” and finally to “Can he dream about that dragon roasting my ex-husband?”

Robin smiled, noddled, and uttered a few rehearsed words like a pageant girl or politician.

When Ward fell back asleep, dragons burned another countryside. Then Ward ran through his childhood home, demonic creatures hot on his trail.

Robin sipped her soda, wondering how such a quiet man could have the loudest dreams. She wanted to go back into the van but didn’t want to risk waking him up.

As if she cursed him, the screen blackened the lot to darkness. Robin quivered, thinking her husband must be in a manic sweat.

The screen lit back up again, showing flight through his eyes. Ward flew over lush treetops, and the crowd cheered as if they could fly, too.

The dreams didn’t stop. When people didn’t dream, they followed someone else’s. The masses clung to Ward’s dreams with buggy fixation.

Robin let the showing go well into the morning until the people themselves decided it was time to go. When the first cars began to drive away, Robin walked back to the van with a bucket of popcorn for her star.

Robin opened the van door and shrieked, “You were incredible!”

She nudged Ward, but he didn’t move.

Robin glanced at the screen as Ward ran through a grassy plain among a bright, afternoon sun.

“Ward?” Robin shuttered, feeling his cold neck. A bottle of her sleeping pills rested by his pillow.

The screen was still alive with vividness. Ward held a black-haired woman’s hand as they sat on a grassy knoll.

Robin screamed at his lifeless body. She ran up to the screen and pleaded, “No, it’s not real! Come back to me!”

The woman, who looked just like Robin, eyed the screen and beamed, “We’re in paradise, baby.”

A month later, Robin placed Ward on her mantelpiece. She couldn’t let his mind be trapped in his body. Robin didn’t know which was worse: the world knowing death’s secret or that the black-haired girl wasn’t Robin. Dreams could be so unpredictable. Trips to the drive-in movie theater were never the same.