He was stunned - the stranger in front of him looked exactly like the woman he'd been dreaming about.
"Wileen?" He asked, unsure if she was real.
"I'm sorry, you must have me confused with someone else. My name's Joan."
He stepped back, confused. This was Wileen. This had to be her. She said she was going to meet him in the waking world today. She promised. And Wileen never broke her promises...
At least, not the ones she made to other people.
He turned, running away, not caring that the woman was telling him to wait, saying that perhaps she'd be able to help him find the Eileen he was looking for. He didn't even turn to correct her on Wileen's name.
Collapsing on the park bench, he ran his fingers through his hair. It had gotten long, so long...he should cut it, but then Wileen wouldn't be able to recognize him. She said so herself, a few nights ago, when he brought it up.
Wileen...the most wonderful person he'd ever met, even if it was only when he was asleep. She was still perfect.
But last night...last night had been different. Wileen seemed sadder, more elusive, she didn't want to talk, she just wanted to stare out the window. More than once he had threatened to leave if she didn't tell him what was wrong, but she'd just sigh in that pretty way of hers and say, "It's nothing, dear, don't worry."
Eventually, she did say something.
"There's not much time left. Only six months."
It hit him like a slap in the face. Yes, he knew about Wileen's terminal illness, but he thought that she had at least a year, or more. He put a hand on her arm, but she pushed it away, her green eyes welling with tears.
"I'll meet you in the waking world tomorrow." She promised, saying that maybe in the waking world there was a way for her to live.
He started to weep, his tears blending with the rain that was falling. He stood up, taking the ring out of his pocket. Wileen, beautiful Wileen, he had planned to ask her to marry him today. And she wasn't here - perhaps she was already dead. He hurled the ring into the street, screaming out, "Dreams aren't real! Wileen isn't real! This is...this is all crazy! I'm crazy!"
He sank back down onto the bench, crying out in great, heaving sobs. Burying his face in his hands, he sat for a few moments. The realization seemed blasphemous, and he bit his lip, hardly believing such words had come from his mouth. But he could not deny their truth - Wileen was not real. She was just a figment of his imagination. She was no more real than, say, a hobbit, or a unicorn.
He felt a hand on his shoulder. It was Wileen's look-alike, Joan, she said her name was.
"I'm sorry about earlier...I can help you find Eileen, if you like."
He shook his head. "It's okay...I was just terribly confused."
"Are you alright?"
"Yeah, I just...lost someone. Someone close to me."
"I'm so sorry."
He did not dream of Wileen that night.