A long time had passed since her last dream of Ruby. Aria was now nine years old, but she held out hope for at least one more. Her parents had written the important dreams (there were a few others where she and Ruby talked only about silly things) and gave copies to a few people her parents knew… Aria knew only one of them, her dad’s uncle.
Then, finally, Ruby appeared in another of her dreams. She started by telling Aria that she didn’t think there would be more of them… that Aria was getting older and would have to leave kid things behind.
Still, Aria was very happy to talk to Ruby, and thanked her for coming back.
“I’m happy for this too,” Ruby said, “but I’m here because there’s one more thing I don’t understand.”
“Sure,” Aria said, “what is it?”
“Why don’t you pick faster?”
She had no idea what Ruby meant. “Pick what faster?”
Aria was still entirely lost, and so she just waited.
“You can do so many things that we can’t even imagine, but when we play together, you choose slowly and I choose right away.”
Aria thought about this, and thought she understood.
“When we play with a ball or something, you grab it faster than I do, right? Is that what you mean?”
“Yes,” Ruby said. “You’re better at everything else like that, so why don’t you pick faster?”
Aria thought and thought, but she didn’t find any answer for Ruby. And so she apologized and added, “Maybe we’re just not good at choosing.”
Ruby shook her head, as if she didn’t think so. “You’re better at all the thinking things, so it’s probably not just that, but I hope you can figure it out some day.”
“Thanks,” Aria said. Then they played for a while longer. Soon enough the dream was over, and she again had a feeling that there wouldn’t be others.
The next morning both her parents were sitting at the kitchen table when she came for breakfast (here mom was always there, but a lot of times her dad got up early and was gone by that time), and so she told them the story and asked in they knew the answer.
“I think I do,” her dad said. “I actually discussed this with Uncle Nathan not long ago.” Uncle Nathan was the man Aria knew, who got a copy of the dreams.
“What did he say?” her mom asked before she did.
“Well, it seems that animals like Ruby lack the self-reference routines that we humans have.”
He mom gave her dad a stern look.
“What I mean is, animals react faster than us, not because their brains or muscles are faster, but because they don’t question themselves while choosing. They just choose. We… humans… we self-refer… we ask ourselves questions: ‘Am I playing too hard or soft?’ … ‘Would I like someone doing that to me?’ … ‘Would Ruby like if I did it that way,’ and things like that.
“Dogs don’t ask those things, they just grab the ball or don’t grab the ball. They don’t have the middle step, and so they pick faster.”
“Is that better or worse? Aria asked.
“It depends what you want,” he dad said. “If all that matters is fast, the middle step isn’t good. But if you want to do all the things Ruby called superpowers in your dreams, then middle steps are absolutely necessary.”
Aria sat silently, until her mom asked her, “Which do you think is more important, Sweetie?”
“Oh… the superpowers for sure! I want those forever!”
With that she ran back to her room. Her parents looked at each other and smiled. “I’m gonna call that a win,” her dad said. Her mother nodded that she agreed.
Then they could hear Aria running back. She stuck her head back into the kitchen and asked, “Can we figure out and do anything… everything?”
“No one really knows,” her dad said. “We’ve thought lots of things were impossible, and them someone figured out how to do them. There are probably things that are impossible, but we don’t really know.”
“Huh,” was all she said, then ran back to her room.