By Ellen Bartyzal  – [email protected]

Imagine having a dream where you can’t control a thing. You are placed in an apocalyptic world and vividly witness the experiences of people suffering at the world’s end. It plays like a movie—you are there but you can’t interact with the people and you can’t control what happens. What would you do about it?

SJU junior Andrew West decided to write it all down.

“On Nov. 23, 2015, I had this just unbelievably vivid dream. I remember the people. I remember the conversations, the scenery, the architecture, their backgrounds, where they came from, how old they are, so on and so forth,” West said. “I woke up and I remembered it. And, it was like watching a movie.”

ILLUSTRATION BY JILLIAN SCHULZ•[email protected] In Andrew West’s series, Heaven’s Gate, 30 characters are chosen to face the challenges of the Tower to save humanity.

For one year and two days, West continued having a dream sequence portraying the detailed story of a society on the brink of the end of the world.

He wrote 8,360 pages and is currently working on editing the story down to an eight-book series called “Heaven’s Gate.”

The prologue and first three chapters of West’s first book, “Wrath Among Men,” is available to view on wattpad, an online storytelling community that allows writers to share their work.

West is working toward publishing the series eventually, and hopes to release e-book versions of the first book on Amazon and Kindle by the end of summer, 2017.

West’s dream is set in a time when humanity has used up all of its resources—natural and artificial—and the planet has five years left. The governments of the world collectively decide to set off nuclear weapons in the polar ice caps to create a nuclear Ice Age re-vamping and restarting the planet. As the world comes to an end, selective individuals of wealth, skill and power are chosen to take cover in bunkers around the world. The rest of the people will die as a result of the nuclear explosions—except for 30 characters.

The characters are the main focus of the series. They each navigate a mysterious tower hidden within the Amazon Jungle and a mythological Golden City known as Heaven’s Gate which floats above the tower.

These 30 characters must work through the eight floors of the Tower—each representing a deadly sin and human struggle that must be overcome—to reach the top in order to save humanity.

West originally decided to write down this story because his aunt encouraged him to record dreams that seemed out of the ordinary.

“My Aunt Stella is very into this spiritual aspect of life and she ended up sitting me down when I was very very young and said…‘if you ever wake up and you have a dream that you just can’t get out of your mind, you need to write it down’,” West said. “So, that’s how it started.”

Throughout the year, West consistently set his alarm two hours early so he could wake up and write down everything he had dreamt the night before. He says if he didn’t do this right away, the contents of the dream would consume and distract him for the rest of the day.

He says one of the most difficult parts of this journey was experiencing certain feelings in the dreams. If he had not previously experienced a feeling that one of his characters had in the dream, he would be put in their body to experience it.

During the fifth book, that experience was suffocation.

“For some reason, [the character] ended up suffocating, and I was put into his body while it was happening so I could experience it and know how to write about it,” West said. “I was terrified to go back to bed that following night.”

Though this night of dreaming traumatized West, he says he thoroughly enjoyed the progression of his dreams and the excitement he felt throughout the process.

SJU junior Marty McGuire was one of West’s roommates during the Greco-Roman study abroad program last fall. He says that at first he doubted the legitimacy of West’s dreams.

“I couldn’t see how someone could have a continuous story as a dream,” McGuire said. “But as the days and weeks went by, I knew there was no way he was making it up. Every morning Andrew would wake up [and] he would write pages and pages down on his laptop. It wasn’t uncommon for him to come out of his room telling us he just wrote 10-15 pages the night
before.”

Other than talking with family and friends from the study abroad program, West kept the book to himself and didn’t broadcast what he was creating.

Then, when returning home from abroad, West was able to contact Joan Holman, a Book Marketing Diva & Internet Marketing Guru, who agreed to work with him.

With the help of Holman and an unofficial editor, West is currently working through the process of editing his 8,360-page story into chapters so it can be published.

CSB junior Grace Kilgore, a close friend of West’s, admires his commitment and drive to getting his story published.

“He is so talented and he doesn’t let other people know that,” Kilgore said. “I believe he should get so much more recognition for this than he is. He’s incredibly motivated and he took this idea of his and just went with it—I don’t know if I would have the courage to do that.”

West sees this entire experience as very spiritually-embedded and almost as an awakening. But, he says that is not the point of his writing.

“I guess for me, if someone is reading this, I want them to read it because it’s a really fun read,” West said. “And I mean, not to toot my own horn, but I love the story and I haven’t heard anything like it before. It’s an adventure, it’s a journey, it’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s got a lot of action, a lot of hard-hitting topics kind of like ethical standpoints…I would love for people to just enjoy
reading it.”

If you’re interested in learning more about his book, visit West’s Wattpad profile here.

Feature image and illustration: JULIA ECKART•[email protected]