Marks of the Hoppers

Date: 5/23/2017

By Keraniwolf

This dream began with a girl named Tonari who loved two people. One had been her best friend since they were children. The other was just a classmate. Both, of course, were girls just like Tonari. One day, Tonari confessed her love to the classmate she admired. She was rejected in front of their whole class, and mocked in the halls for thinking she could win the most popular girl in school. When her childhood friend tried to comfort her later, Tonari took the chance to admit that she loved her friend, too. More, in fact, than she had ever loved her classmate. Tonari's friend was offended, mortified, and vowed never to speak to Tonari again. The main character of the dream was left in her home, abandoned and rejected by both of her crushes. She retreated to her home, with her parents and brothers and sister and uncle and a pet cat. When she went to sleep that night, the cat came into her room through the window. It had a small, smooth, oval-shaped stone in its mouth that glowed a faint, dark blue in the darkness. The cat walked over and stood behind Tonari's head. It dropped the stone onto her forehead, leaving a dark blue mark on her, and stepped over her to walk off into the night. Meanwhile -- or so it seems to me now that I'm awake -- a nameless incarnation of Spider-Man decided he didn't want to do the job full-time anymore. The universe complied. He was stripped of some his powers, but none of his memories or awareness. He got to watch as another was bitten in his place, and Peter Parker became the Spider-Man that the city came to know. Nobody remembered him, but he was able to cover small crimes when Peter could not and that kind of part-time vigilantism suited him just fine. He did feel a bit restless, like he needed something more than just school and work and moonlighting as backup Spider-Man. Not going back to full-time, Peter had that more or less handled anyway, but... SOMETHING. Then the dream returned to Tonari. She was filling the cat's food bowl in her small, concrete backyard area when she spotted him. A boy a little older and taller than her -- in college, probably, not high school like her -- who seemed dazed. He wobbled from one end of her yard to the other, staring at each awning-supporting post and crack in the concrete like it was the most amazing thing he'd ever seen. Suspicious but not feeling like she was in danger, Tonari walked over to the boy with her arms crossed and asked why he was there and how he had seemed to just magically appear in her backyard. Somehow, though I don't remember whether or not words were actually exchanged, the two came to understand what had happened. The boy had a dark orange mark on his shoulder, one that Tonari never saw nor knew about. This mark designated him as someone who could teleport between dimensions. That much, she knew. He was a traveler. A Hopper, officially; silly as the name was in retrospect. He would go back and forth between his own dimension and Tonari's until he fulfilled some unspecified purpose. He would stay with Tonari, using her as a guide, and the two would find his purpose together. She called him Keisuke, because his original name was either too difficult for her or too painful for him. He didn't mind. Keisuke was a fine name, especially since Tonari had given it to him and she was his guide. The two quickly became friends, and spent less and less time actively searching for Keisuke's purpose and more and more time just hanging out. Keisuke himself Hopped back and forth against his will; spending anywhere from a few hours to several weeks in Tonari's dimension before being pulled forcefully back to his own for a few days, and then waking up one morning back in Tonari's yard again. It was erratic and unpredictable, but the pair made the most of the times they were together. They felt like siblings, able to confide in each other and have fun together even when they fought. They were connected now. Keisuke was ace, but in romantically in love with Tonari. He understood that Tonari was gay, and let his feelings gradually shift into something less tearing and more protective. One day, when the two were shopping together, Tonari saw her childhood friend. Keisuke tried to speak to her on Tonari's behalf, but Tonari herself intervened. She then apologized for both his behavior and her own. It hadn't been fair of her to announce her feelings when her friend was just trying to provide comfort. Her friend huffed, lifted her black parasol, and turned on her heel to leave the store. She kept to her vow to never speak to Tonari again. It was depressing to watch for Keisuke, as he hovered on the edge of the conversation and saw just how thoroughly Tonari had been pushed aside. He worked hard to keep her mind off it from then on, to make sure that everything they did together was as fun and distracting and enjoyable as possible. He had them race shopping carts, ride bikes, go on a roller coaster, make a little potted garden in Tonari's backyard. He stopped caring about his purpose altogether. He just wanted to be with his friend and make her happy. Tonari wanted the same. Of course, all good things must come to an end. Tonari's father mentioned at dinner one night that there was a problem. An international problem that nobody could figure out how to solve. When they heard this, Tonari and Keisuke knew that this was the boy's purpose. This was what he had initially Hopped to their dimension to do. So they set out the next night, packing only the essentials. Tonari's uncle caught them, but didn't tell. Instead, he offered to join them. He was a tall, muscular man with fighting experience, so the pair agreed to take him along. He would be a valuable asset if it came down to violence. The trio took a train and a ship from Tonari's homeland to a far away, icy continent. They picked up several other explorers along the way, who swore themselves to the trio's cause. Still, I had no idea what it was that they were doing. It was important, and their followers believed in it as they believed in Tonari and Keisuke, but I was never told what it was that they had to do. When they reached the continent, there was a ceremony to decide what forms they would take in the fight to come. Keisuke was so excited when he got to be a wolf. He spent all of his time as a wolf, while Tonari would only take her spider form when she was absolutely certain she needed it. Her uncle was the same with his bear form. One person was disappointed to be a seagull, but I don't remember anyone else's forms. From there, I remember only a murky, unclear fight scene where everyone was injured but ultimately came out victorious. I remember a strange victory party and an odd amount of reporters who had radio broadcasting equipment but no cameras of any kind. I remember that as everyone celebrated, Keisuke noticed one last agent of whatever nebulous nefarious cause he'd been fighting. The enemy took the form of a Labrador Retriever. Keisuke was still in his wolf form. The two fought, falling through a hole in the ice flooring and biting at each other's throats under the freezing water below. With one last bite and help from Tonari, Keisuke managed to eliminate the threat and be dragged bodily from the water. Tonari held him in his arms and tried to warm him with petting until long after all the party-goers had left and only her own supporters from the quest itself remained. She felt him start to fade before she saw him. Again, I don't remember if words were exchanged, but they both knew what was happening. Keisuke was leaving for the last time. Either Hopping to a different dimension or returning home. Either dying or recovering. To Tonari, both realities felt the same. He Hopped away, and Tonari howled his name like a child calling out for a lost pet she knows she'll never see again. To her, it felt like death. It felt like loss. It felt like he had died in her arms, and there was nothing she could do. Days later, after the questers had dispersed and she and her uncle had made the long boat and train trip home, Tonari curled up in her bed and cried over her lost brother. She had no childhood friend to comfort her, no girlfriend to love her, and now no best friend to be her support. She was alone, and it was Keisuke she missed the most. He had been family, moreso even than her blood family, and now he was gone. Never to return. Her uncle came to her, and sat by her bedside. He had seen the way Keisuke had faded away. He knew that was not death. He'd heard stories, and met a few people who had lived them. He began to tell her that there were some people who were known as The Marked. They possessed colored Marks on their bodies, which designated them as people who could travel between dimensions. Hoppers, he told her. He emphasized the Marks in his story, until Tonari lifted her bangs and revealed that she, too, had a Mark of her own. Her uncle sank, as did his heart. She would leave one day, and rarely return home. She would be beyond his protection. Still, he told her that maybe one day, she would Hop to Keisuke's dimension, and see him again. Tonari couldn't bring herself to believe it. It felt too much like he had died. Like he wasn't IN his own dimension. Like he wasn't anywhere at all. It was a nice thought, though, and she thanked her uncle for it. The very last scene in the dream was of the cat, who had apparently been missing for some time, returning to Tonari's home. It scratched at the sliding glass door, looking far fatter than when it had left. Tonari's sister shouted to her that the cat was back (everyone considered it Tonari's cat because it liked her best), and opened to door to scoop it up in her arms. That was when she noticed the dark blue mark on its soft grey forehead and showed it to Tonari and her uncle. Both became exasperated with the cat as they realized it had been the one to mark her. Tonari's uncle told her to keep it close when she could. She never knew what role the cat might play in her future. With that, both Tonari's and the cat's Marks glowing as they all talked in codes about Hopping, I woke up and the dream ended.