“Deja Vu” by Emily Kompier

Emily Kompier

Summer closed her eyes and laid back on her bed. Three weeks. For three weeks she had been trying to lucid dream. She had spent hours and hours researching different tips and tricks, she had tried everything the internet had to offer her, and nothing. Nothing at all. Her dreams were still the same mix of strange fantasy and dull reality. The most interesting thing that had happened was seeing her favorite book character at her family’s Christmas party that was for some reason being held in July, but even then she wasn’t aware that it was a dream. Same old, same old. She was getting tired of trying. 

One more night, she decided. She would try for one more night. If she still couldn’t do it when she fell into her dream tonight, she would give up. It wouldn’t be worth any more of her energy. There were only so many reality checks a person could do before they felt like they were going crazy. 

She let her thoughts drift away and tried to sleep, prayed that she would find herself in a dream she could control.


She was at the zoo. One moment, she was in her bed about to fall asleep and now she was at the zoo. At first, Summer thought nothing of it. She had wanted to go to the zoo lately. The weather had been nice and she hadn’t been in a long time. There was nothing strange about it. Sure, the people walking around had purple and blue skin, but so did she, and hadn’t she always?

The balloons caught her off guard, though. They definitely weren’t supposed to be square. Balloons were round. Definitely. She knew that much.

She walked up to the vendor. “Excuse me?” she said. 

The man turned around and smiled. “How can I help you?” he asked.

“How did you make the balloons square?” She pointed up at them.

The smile on his face shifted and he looked a little more blue than purple now. “What do you mean? Balloons have always been square.” 

Summer shook her head. “No, balloons are round.”

The man laughed. “Round balloons? You’ve got to be kidding me. I’ve never even heard of such a thing. That’s like saying giraffes have long necks or elephants are gray.”

“But they do,” Summer started to say, but then she cut herself off. Balloons weren’t square. Giraffes did have long necks. Elephants were gray. She looked down at her hand and tried to push her hand with her finger, like she had done so many times during the day. Her finger went straight through.

She was lucid dreaming. She was lucid dreaming! She almost jumped for joy as she realized. She had spent weeks trying to get to this point, and just when she was about to give up, too. She was finally in control of her own dreams. She looked down at her blue and purple hands and willed them back to their natural color. When she looked back up at the man, his skin tone had changed as well.

“You know what,” she said to him, “nevermind. I think I was wrong about the balloons. Thanks for answering my question, though.”

The man looked confused. “You’re welcome?” he said unsurely.

Making little details about her dream more like reality was unimportant to Summer at this moment. She had other things she wanted to get to before she woke up. “Have a nice day!” she said to the balloon man before running off towards the adventures she had planned.


Summer had been successfully lucid dreaming for about a month now. Every night when she fell asleep, she would suddenly be in a world she controlled completely. She had gone on a date with her celebrity crush, taken a trip to France, and even caught up with her grandparents that she hadn’t seen in a few years. Normally, when something amazing happened in her dreams, she would wake up sad at the notion that everything she had just experienced wasn’t real. But when she was in control the whole time, she woke up excited. Refreshed for the day although also eager to go back to sleep.

She had been pretty busy during the day lately, but today she had an off day. And with her free time she was going to take a trip to the zoo. The weather was still as good as it had been a few weeks ago and her urge to go had just grown stronger as time passed. She had been in her dream all those weeks ago, but that was only for a moment. As soon as she realized she was dreaming, she left to go do something she could only do in her dreams. The zoo was free and wasn’t even far out of her way. Going was perfectly suited to real life. 

Her excitement was cut short as soon as she walked through the gates. Only a few yards ahead of her was a strangely familiar man selling strangely familiar square balloons. 

Her heart almost stopped beating in her chest. She wasn’t dreaming, right? The man wasn’t blue and purple, the giraffes on the signs had long necks and the elephants were gray, and her finger didn’t go through her hand when she tried. That meant she had to be awake, didn’t it?

Tentatively, almost afraid to find out, she walked over to the balloon vendor. “Excuse me?” she said quietly.

He turned to face her with a smile she’d definitely seen before. “How can I help you?” he asked. 

“How did you make the balloons square?” She pointed up at them, even though she was starting to feel like she was going just a bit crazy.

“Oh, those?” he asked. “It’s a special kind of rubber that holds its shape better than the rubber used in normal balloons. It’s really neat, isn’t it?”

Summer let go of the breath she was holding on to. It was fine. She was awake. Everything was still under control. “Yeah, that is,” she said, trying not to show the man how freaked out she was. “How much are they?”

“Five dollars,” he said with a smile.

So Summer bought the balloon and she went about her day at the zoo. She enjoyed the giraffes with long necks and the elephants with gray skin and the people that weren’t blue and purple. But she couldn’t shake the feeling. And every time she looked up at her square balloon, she was reminded of it.


Summer was asleep. She was sure of it. One moment she was in her bed, the next she was sitting at a cafe with the main character from her favorite movie enjoying a lemon scone. That wouldn’t happen while she was awake. Probably. 

“You seem tense,” said Miranda, otherwise known as her favorite movie character of all time. “Is everything okay?”

Summer glanced around the cafe, trying to see if anything would suddenly show that she actually was in reality. She sighed. There was no point in lying to Miranda, she wasn’t even real. “So you know how I’m dreaming right now?”

Miranda frowned. “No, you’re not,” she said.

Summer ignored it. “When I was awake, something that happened in my dreams happened in reality. It really freaked me out. I feel like I don’t know when I’m awake and when I’m asleep anymore.”

The girl across from her hummed and stirred her tea with a spoon. “That sounds complicated,” she said. “I don’t really know what to tell you. Except that you’re awake right now.”

“Sure I am,” Summer said with a roll of her eyes. The bell on the door chimed and her eyes glanced towards it. It was a boy from her class. She didn’t know his name and he probably didn’t know hers, but he did recognize her. He looked over at her and smiled, then waved. She waved back.

“Can I have a bit of your scone?” asked Miranda, seeming to have forgotten the conversation they were just having.

“Yeah, sure.” Summer broke a piece of the scone off and passed it across the table. 

Just as the part of the scone left her fingertips, a loud crash rang throughout the cafe. Instinctively, Summer’s eyes turned towards the source of the sound. 

The boy from her class had knocked the tip jar off of the counter and it had shattered. There were broken glass and coins and bills scattered all over the floor. No one else seemed to notice the noise as no other eyes were on the sight. The boy now had a broom and was sweeping up the glass. 

“It’s too distracting here,” said Miranda while standing up from the table. “Let’s go talk somewhere else.”


Summer was at the same cafe that she was at in her dream. Miranda, however, was not. And because Miranda wasn’t there, that meant Summer had to be awake. She hoped.

It didn’t matter that she was sitting at the same table or that she was eating a lemon scone because she came here all time and that’s what she always did. It had probably only happened in her dream at all because it was an important part of her daily routine. That’s what she was holding on to, at least. She sipped at the coffee in her hands and resisted the urge to try to push one of her fingers through the table. 

The bell on the door chimed and Summer looked up, then almost spit out her coffee.

It was the boy. The one from her class. The one that had been at the cafe in her dream. As she stared at him, he glanced over at her. He smiled, albeit a bit awkwardly, and waved. Summer waved back, even though she definitely didn’t want to.

She turned back to her coffee and closed her eyes. There was definitely an explanation for this, right? Everything was just a coincidence. The vendor, the balloons, the scone, the boy. Those were all things that could happen in real life. They just happened to be happening in her dreams and in her real life. It was fine. She didn’t have to do a reality check right now. 

And then there was the crash. Summer spun her head around to the front of the cafe. The boy had knocked the tip jar off the counter. The glass and coins and bills had scattered all over the floor. This time, though, the boy apologized profusely and the employees quickly came out with a new jar and dealt with the mess. He never grabbed a broom and Summer never left with Miranda. She still tried to push her finger through her hand. 


Summer thought she had gotten pretty good at telling what was a dream and what was reality, but she was wrong. She didn’t remember getting in bed and going to sleep, but she didn’t remember walking to the cafe either. It was a Saturday, though, so she supposed it didn’t really matter at this moment. She had a cup of coffee in front of her. This time, she avoided the lemon scone. 

The boy from her class–she had now learned that his name was Max– walked in through the door. He was wearing a green jacket that probably could’ve been seen from space that she had never seen him in before. Instead of smiling and waving like he did last time, he came over to her table.

“Hey Summer,” he greeted. “How’s it going?”

She definitely wasn’t going to tell him that she wasn’t sure if she was dreaming or not right now. For starters, that was weird. It would also elicit the same response no matter where she was. “It’s going,” she answered with a sigh.

“Yeah, school’s getting pretty tough right now, isn’t it?”

That wasn’t what she was talking about at all and yet she nodded her head in response.

“Do you mind if I sit with you?” he asked, putting his hand on top of the chair adjacent to her. 

“Go ahead.”

He took his bag off of his shoulder and placed it on the chair. “I’m going to go order really quick.”

Again, she only nodded her head.


Summer opened her eyes. She was at the cafe. Max’s bag was not sitting across from her and he was not standing at the counter. She still didn’t have a lemon scone. Had she been asleep? Was talking to him a dream? She hadn’t done a reality check. She couldn’t be sure.

That didn’t make sense, though. Why would she have fallen asleep at the cafe? She wasn’t even sure that she was awake now, except for the fact that she had just woken up. She didn’t want to entertain the thought that she could’ve just woken up in a dream and was now in a different dream. If she thought long and hard, she had vague memories of walking to the cafe, but her memories now felt like dreams. It was hard to remember which was which.

She rested her head against the table with a sigh. This was getting out of hand. 

The bell on the door chimed and she didn’t look up. She didn’t want to know who it was.

A few seconds passed and a voice came from above her. “Summer?” it asked. “Are you okay?”

She picked up her head to face the owner of the voice. It was Max. He was wearing the bright green jacket. 

“Am I awake?” she asked instead of answering his question. 

She didn’t know that it was possible but Max looked even more concerned than he had been before. “Yes…?” he said slowly. He sounded unsure. That was a good sign. In dreams, they were always adamant that you were awake. “Why do you ask?”

Summer hummed. She still wasn’t sure if she was awake or not. Her reality checks had started to fail her lately. “I started lucid dreaming a few weeks ago and I think it’s gone too far. I can’t tell what’s real and what’s a dream anymore. I was sure you had already come in and sat down with me, but I think it’s clear that that’s not actually true.”

Max pulled out the chair across from her and slid into it. “Have you tried like…” he paused for a moment to think, “like pinching yourself or something? People always do that when they’re checking if they’re dreaming in movies.”

“I have. It worked at first but not anymore.” Summer sat up fully. “They still felt like dreams at first. There would always be something that I would see and know that it was a dream. They’re so realistic now, though. And I swear, things that happen in my dreams are happening in real life after. Or, at least, I think they are. Sometimes it’s obvious, other times it’s just a strong sense of deja vu.”

Max drummed his fingers on the table. “Can you always wake up when you’re in the dreams?”

“I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve ever tried, I’ve just let them play out. Why?”

“Well, if you could always wake yourself up, if you ever thought you were dreaming, you could just try to wake yourself up. If you wake up, you’re dreaming. If you don’t wake up, you’re not dreaming.”

“I mean, I guess that’s worth a try. I’d have to establish that it’s a dream first, though.”

Max shrugged his shoulders and checked the time on his phone. “I have another class to get to now, but I could try looking some stuff up for the next time I see you?”

Like she hadn’t tried that, thought Summer, but instead of saying that, she smiled. “Thanks, Max. I’d really appreciate it.”

He smiled back. “It’s no problem. See you later, Summer.”

“See you,” she answered.

Max stood from the table, ordered a coffee, and left with a final wave after it was handed to him. 

Summer stayed sitting at the table, but now she had something to try for when she fell asleep again.


She was back at the cafe, head down on the table. She sat up. She was awake. She was almost sure of it this time. Her coffee was hot to the touch, the lemon scone was soft to the touch. Those were tell-tale signs she was awake. But did those signs mean anything anymore?

Max came through the door before she had time to think about it anymore. “Hey Summer,” he said. “I was looking up the lucid dreaming stuff like I said I would and I–”

She cut him off. “When did you get that jacket?” she asked. It was red instead of the usual green.

He tilted his head to the side. “What do you mean? My jacket’s always been red.”

“No,” she said slowly. “It’s green. It’s a bright green. I know that it is because I always tell you how obnoxious it is.”

“Why would I ever wear a jacket in a color that obnoxious?”

“I don’t know? You just do.” The reality of the situation seemed to be fading away. But then again, maybe Max always wearing a green jacket was the dream and he had in fact been wearing a red one the whole time. She couldn’t be sure anymore. 

“I don’t even own a green jacket,” Max said. He pulled out the chair across from her and sat down. “Now, about the lucid dreaming st–”

“Am I awake, Max?”


“Am I awake? Like actually.”

He seemed upset by the question. “Why would you ask that? Of course, you are. I’m talking to you right now, aren’t I?”

“Yeah, but…” Her mind drifted back to her previous conversation with Max, one that she was almost positive was real. “I want to wake up,” she said suddenly.

“What? I just told you, you are awake–”

“I want to wake up,” she repeated. She thought it over and over again, I want to wake up, I want to wake up, I want to wake up, I want to wake up.

I want to wake up.


Summer sat up at the same table she always sat at. Max wasn’t sitting across from her. She wasn’t eating a lemon scone. Her coffee had gone cold. Again she tried to wake herself up. Nothing happened. She did a reality check. Her finger didn’t go through her hand. She did it. 

The excitement that rushed over her was just as intense as the first excitement of being able to lucid dream. This time, however, the excitement was cushioned by relief. 

Max walked through the door of the cafe and his eyes fell on her. “Summer,” he said, “I’ve found some stuff about dreaming–”

He stopped speaking as Summer stood from her chair and hugged him. “I’m awake,” she said before he could say anything else. “I’m awake!”

He hugged her back. “You figured something out?”

“I did what you suggested and it worked!”

“How can you be sure?”

Summer pulled away from the hug and smiled. “Because dream-you is so pushy.” She started walking back towards her table and gestured for him to follow. 

He walked behind her and then pulled out a chair and sat down. “What is that supposed to mean?”
She waved him off. “You look better in green, by the way.”

“Really? You always tell me my jacket is obnoxious.”

“Green looks way better than red does.”


“Nothing, nothing,” she said, but she smiled. Three weeks. Three weeks she’d been trapped back and forth between her dreams and reality. She was glad she was finally free.