So here I am. I've discovered a way out of the hell. But will it be enough? This was the question that crossed my mind each night before I slipped off to sleep. The problem with this trick was understanding that I was in a dream. It wasn't quite as fluid as simply going "Oh, I'm dreaming now." Not always at least. Often I would realize I was in a dream because of an incongruity. Someone's name being wrong, a face being off, a room looking slightly askew. Once it clicked I'd realize and close goes the eyes. Wake up in a sweat but if I was quick enough I would at least not be in pain.
Other times I would realize I was in a dream entirely by accident. Squeezing my eyes closed tightly in fear and then getting a glimmer of the world outside of my dreams. That was always the strangest experience. Thinking I was experiencing the last moments of my life only to realize in the penultimate frame that I wasn't actually "alive". Taking up temporary existence in a rough approximation of reality. I often felt bad about the people in my dreams that didn't survive the ordeal and anger to the real world doppelgangers of my nightmares.
Naturally I would never tell them. Just somewhere inside of me would be a level of distrust or discomfort towards them. Ultimately the problem remained. I had found a way out of hell, but it was still largely reactionary. I was often responding to a stimuli or getting lucky. Sometimes this was too slow and I'd still get killed. And I still had the problem of waking up from one nightmare into another. This nesting hell could sometimes go very deep with me awaking from dozens of them before I finally reached the real world.
The next course of action for me was clear. How do I enter a dream knowing it is a dream? Is this something that I could teach myself?
There was only one way to find out.