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  • Writer's pictureJavier Berrellez

Dreamland

Updated: Oct 18, 2023

INTRODUCTION


This chapter is a preview of my newest novel, which I'll be releasing in the coming months. The rest of the book is currently in the painful editing process :-). All good things come with a bit of pain.


Elly hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in months, and it’s not because she can’t sleep. Her mind has been returning to the same, dystopian nightmare where she’s been in a hellish loop in search of something or someone. It’s not until Jim, a classmate she’s always disregarded shares his dream with the class and realizes he too has been caught up in the same dreadful dream. Elly and Jim become the unlikeliest of allies and begin a journey they don’t know they will endure.



Chapter 1


Jim cracked-opened his dry, bloodshot eyes and hastily pulled the thick, warm, comforter off his sweaty body. It took him a moment to register the world around him. In the meantime, his body moved autonomously off the bed as if it was in zombie-mode. The first sense Jim registered was his bare, dry feet hitting the cold, concrete floor. Shivers shot up his leg and through his waking body. His dry, cracked heels caught the cracked, concrete lines that painted the large, open loft.


Jim remembered little from the previous evening, or anything for that matter, as he sat on the bed. His memory was hobbled by a throbbing headache, and he rubbed his temples thoroughly with his palms until he felt the pounding pressure fade. Reticently, Jim pushes himself to a stand and takes his first step. He instantly feels his equilibrium is off as if he’s inebriated or recovering from a bender. He knows he can’t just stand there like a mannequin, so he starts by testing himself. With his eyes still closed, he drifts his weight on to one leg and lifts the other to see if he can balance: he smiles when he doesn’t tip over. He repeats the process with his other leg: he’s still up. Gingerly he puts his hanging foot down and takes a step toward the bathroom. The first two steps though reveal something is amiss. His entire body is sore, not the exercise type of soreness, but the injury type. Every step throbs an intense thunderbolt of pain up and down his back and legs. His calves scream as if he’s just run a marathon, which he’s never done. His thighs and lower back are ridiculously tight as if congealed together with cement.


"Fuck, what’s wrong with me? I feel like an old, beat-up man." Jim says this aloud searching for an answer from the ether. Upon reaching the restroom, he lifts his gaze to an impressive mirror that spans the bathroom’s large and impeccably decorated wall. Jim doesn’t know how to respond to the person looking back at him. "Fuck!", he yells aloud. "What the hell happened to me last night?" He pushes his face closer to the mirror to get a clearer look. Dirt and bruising cover much of his face. Quickly, he looks down at his hands, which he finds to be covered in dried muck filled with tiny shards that appear to be fiberglass. The shirt he’s wearing is caked with dry mud and dark red stains that look like blood. What terrifies his thoughts are the long strands of dark hair that are clumped together with some type of greasy gunk and plastered on his shirt.


Frightened, Jim yanks off his shirt and underwear. and fervently checks his body for more unseen damage. He’s dumbfounded by what he sees: bruises, scratches, and cuts from head to toe. His toenails are broken as if something had tried ripping them from their base. His hands are no better. He only has two fingernails left on each hand, and even that’s a stretch. Jim’s right pinky nail is precariously dangling by a thin sheath of skin. Without much thought, Jim pulls his finger up to his mouth, bites down on his nail, and yanks it like a cat trimming its claws. The pain that rips up his right arm reminds him of a tooth extraction. His current situation is terrifying his now racing mind.


Scared, confused and still wobbly, Jim’s worries grow as the lights to the bathroom and his room won’t turn on. He searches the bathroom drawers for a flashlight, but the more he stresses, the more he wants to pass out. He stops, takes a long deep breath, and lets out a long sigh. The stale air in the bathroom feels off, as if the air is dry and acrid, and the smell reminds him of an unkempt box of kitty litter that’s gotten out of control. Jim walks towards the opposite end of the bathroom and peeks his head out towards the living room and stares at the battery-operated clock on the wall isn’t working either. The clock’s hands are arrested at eight sixteen in the evening. Jim looks down to his wrist and compares the time on his black wristwatch and sees they match.


Jim shuffles his feet to the kitchen and checks the rest of the lights. None of them are working. He places his hand on the refrigerator door, and it feels warm. He’s hesitant to open the door, but he still pulls the door open. When the door’s seal breaks, the smell punches him in the nose. He reels back like a stunned fighter. The smell is worse than death, and his stomach gurgles and bubbles instantly. He slams the door shut, but it’s too late. Just those few seconds were enough to allow the smell of rotten death to permeate the room and extract tears from his eyes. The quick glimpse into the fridge though brings worry. Everything in the fridge is moldy: the meat is crawling with critters; the fruit is black and fuzzy. Jim knew that whatever caused the power to go out must have happened days or even weeks ago.


Jim groans aloud, hoping the unbearable smell will dissipate. It’s at that moment that Jim notices something that makes his skin crawl even more: everything is too quiet. No cars are on the street revving their engines or blaring their horns. Air conditioners that normally play the rhythmic soundtrack for the city were all absent. Jim turns and rushes to a living room window, and pulls open a set of heavy, black-out curtains. Sunbeams strike him straight in the face, and he pulls his head back and grimaces as his eyes abruptly adjust to the light. Jim notices that the sun is raining down from the southeast side of his room – meaning that it’s around ten thirty or eleven in the morning. The silence and estimated time of day bewilder Jim. The streets in Old Town Pasadena are normally bustling by this time, and people are moving about as stores open and restaurants prepare for the lunchtime rush. This is not the case though: there are no people, no moving cars, and even the skies are empty of planes ferrying people and freight. Jim’s skin crawls as he moves to an adjacent window near the kitchen. This time though, he aggressively yanks the curtain to the floor. His jaw hits the countertop. Colorado Boulevard is filled with cars, but the people in the vehicles are all inanimate. Across the street, he notices a man under makeshift shade keeled over his panhandling, glass jar. A few dollars flap through the jar’s cracked lid, as a calm wind whisks by silently. Jim quickly closes the curtain and drops to the floor. After several haggard breaths, he peeks out the window again. This time he’s careful not to call attention to himself to any potential threat outside. He barely moves, except for his racing breath that won’t slow down, and his head bobs up and down. After not seeing anything moving, he plops back on to the ground, with his back against the wall.


Jim notices his hands shaking and his heart rate racing. He feels mind going numb, almost into a trance-like state. To break the fear, he forces himself to his feet and shuffles to the bathroom to wet his face. When he turns the faucet on the sink, not a drop falls. He’s not surprised. Instead, he asks himself, "Why can’t I remember what’s happened? Remember, damnit!"


The anxiety building in Jim is starting to overwhelm him. He shakes his arms and hands trying to rid of the heebie-jeebies and takes another deep, calming breath. He instantly gags. The smell oozing from the refrigerator and across the loft smacks him in the face. Annoyed, he walks back into the living room and drops onto the sofa. He closes his eyes and faces the ceiling. He putters unintelligible words through his lips and keeps ruminating on several questions. Did someone attack those people? Why? He shakes his head. There was no evidence of explosions outside. He then recalls an article about something called the Carrington Event. The event was a massive solar event in eighteen fifty-something that knocked out all the telegraphs around the globe. If something like that were to happen today, all electronics would be fried. He looked down at his useless wristwatch. “Maybe,” he said aloud, “but I’m not going to know by just sitting on my ass.”


Jim walks towards the bedroom area and examines a large dresser next to the bed that seems too fancy for his taste. As he opens the drawer, nothing seems familiar to him, but he finds that the clean clothes fit him perfectly. The reflection on the large, gold-trimmed mirror over the dresser also feels odd. It’s as if the reflection belongs to someone else. He moves his face closer to the mirror and examines every pore, scratch, and hair on his face. He knows he’s staring at himself, but he can’t pinpoint what’s wrong.


The small, walk-in closet next to the dresser also feels odd. At the base of the entrance, Jim finds a black backpack filled to the brim. Just like everything else, it too is weird. Carefully, he pulls on the large zipper slowly and hears the zipper part one tooth at a time. Inside he finds scores of perfectly packed foods. He pulls on another zipper and first-aid gear sits atop something else: weapons. Carefully Jim pulls out the weapons and finds three handguns, a folded submachine gun, and plenty of ammo to take on a hardened street gang. He scratches his shoulder as the creeps start to settle in. Under the backpack, he finds a bulletproof vest. The vest looks like it’s been to hell and back. Numerous rips, holes, and what appears to be dry blood cover the neckline and the left part of the vest. He looks for any identifying information on the vest, but there’s only mud and dirt. In a vest pocket, Jim finds an old-school flip phone. His eyes widen and he tries to turn it on, but no luck. It’s dead too.


Resolute to know what’s happened and why, he decides to venture outside the loft. Before he leaves, he stops and looks back at the closet with the vest and the backpack. He decides to take the items with him, just in case.


Fastening the last strap of the vest, it feels snug on his frame. A perfect fit. The backpack too. The straps are adjusted perfectly to the vest. The pack hangs perfectly over his shoulders, and the base aligns perfectly with his lower back. When he moves, he doesn’t feel any chaffing or restrictions with his movement. As he steps out of his loft, he stares down a long, empty hallway where dry, stale air fills the void. Quietly, he heads down the hall and finds the stairwell. The floodlights that line the stairwell are dead, just like everything else. He pulls a small, crank-operated flashlight from the pack and carefully navigates down the hallway at a fast clip. He notices that the vest feels tailor-made for him; all the coincidences should be giving Jim anxiety but, he’s learning to adjust and adapt to his circumstances.


At the bottom of the stairwell, Jim pauses by the door. Instinctively, Jim draws the Heckler and Koch .45mm pistol from the right hip pocket on the backpack and checks the chamber for a round. A sliver of brass glistens in the chamber and he releases the bolt letting the round chamber back into its position. Before he opens the door to the outside world, Jim pauses with a befuddled mind. The gun in his hand felt like a natural extension, almost like a sixth digit. He can’t remember ever holding a gun, let alone checking the chamber and readying himself the way he just had. He felt himself a stranger in his own skin. Before he steps out of the stairwell, he sees the corner of a yellow post-it note sticking out from the pocket he just pulled the gun out from. The note had four words written on it, remember when you wake up. He recognizes the chicken scratch as his own. "What the fuck does this mean?" he whispers in an agitated tone. Quickly, he pushes the thought aside, crumbles the note, and lets it roll off his hand and onto the ground.


Just beyond the door, Jim sees three dead bodies. They are all stiff as a board. Jim kneels next to a dead woman who’s wearing a short dress. Callously, he tries pushing the lady’s head to one side, but she’s been dead for some time. Her body is rigid, like a solid object. Jim grimaces at the state of the body. It seems like birds have pecked and chewed at everything soft and accessible. The eyes have been plucked out, the nose and lips completely gnawed away. Jim looks up to the sky, but he does not see or hear any birds. He wonders if they’re all dead too or if they’re hiding from something malevolent threat he hasn’t seen yet. What bothers him the most though is the dead person’s skin. The skin is aged, as if months have gone by. Everything is utterly dry, like cured cowhide.


For the next thirty minutes, Jim walks from one building to another down Colorado Boulevard. At first, he was careful and took cover as he moved down the street; he crouched behind cars and sprinted from one to the other. After fifteen minutes, he gave up on that tactic. There wasn’t a single sign of life, except for crawling maggots feasting on the corpses.


As Jim walks by a bicycle shop, he stares at his reflection on the large glass window. Again, he feels like he’s out of his skin. Beyond his reflection Jim eyes a bicycle hanging on a display mount. The bike looks expensive, but more than that, extremely functional. Jim reaches into his pack, retrieves his handgun, and uses the butt of his handgun to break the large store window. Excited, he pulls a Cannondale Mountain Bike with thick, nubby tires off the display mount. The bike is better than anything he’s ever ridden before. It’s the perfect companion for a rugged environment. Just a few peddle strokes in, and he knows the bike must be expensive. The bike has shocks, gears, and a ton of bells and whistles that make the ride comfortable and almost effortless.


Jim rides up to Pasadena City Hall and finds himself at the base of the beautiful, Renaissance-style building. Jim looks up towards the sixth-story dome that towers over an immaculate, open court that reminds him of pictures of the Vatican courtyard he’s seen online and in books. Intent on getting a better vantage of the city, Jim walks into the building and finds a stairwell that seems to lead to the roof. On his way up the stairwell, Jim comes across two dead bodies. Just like every deceased he’s come across; he can tell that the pair died instantly. Both women were clinching lunch bags and drinks. Carefully, he sidesteps the bodies and continues up the stairwell until he walks onto the balcony. Jim is astonished at the beauty of the view beyond the cement railing. The jutting buildings and trees across the city skyline are situated with such symmetry that the structures blend into one another. The beauty is in stark contrast to the death all around him. Taking the sight in, Jim takes the opportunity to inhale a deep, long breath, which he holds for fifteen seconds. Before he lets the air out of his lungs, he opens his eyes. In that instant, his peripherals catch a moving object. He instantly releases the air out of his lungs and whips his head in the direction of the movement.


His entire body flinches the moment a parked car’s window explodes. Immediately following the window exploding a loud crack disturbs the silence. Thousands of tiny birds he hadn’t seen or heard suddenly flee in all directions. The birds temporarily surprise him more than the cracking of a gunshot, but he soon regains his senses. Somehow, Jim recognizes that the crack was the recoil from a rifle, specifically, a 7.62mm round caliber rifle, and likely the popular Remington M700 model. Jim has no idea how he knows this, but he knows it with a degree of certainty, just as he would hear a trumpet if he were a trumpet player. A second crackle of a round rings out and steals his attention. He sees that the round hits the same parked car. That’s when he notices that the aggressor is shooting at another person. The person he’s staring at is taking cover behind an old, nineties F-150 that has seen better days. What’s more surprising to Jim is what the person is wearing. Jim rubs his eyes and sees that the person is wearing a large, white suit, akin to an astronaut’s suit, but not as clunky.

Jim sticks his head beyond a large cement beam and over the balcony’s railing. He notices that the person in the suit also looks in Jim’s direction and they lock on to each other. Surprised, Jim pulls his head back. The person in the suit doesn’t lose their attention on Jim, and slowly brings an e-tablet towards its large, domed helmet. Another shot rings out. The person ducks its large bulbous target of a head and drops the tablet. The bullet explodes a piece of the truck, which smacks the suited person on the large, reflective helmet. Jim looks south, towards a series of tall buildings looking for the source of the shots. He knows he won’t see anything, since the shooter is at least five to six hundred yards out. Jim pulls his head back behind the large cement pillar, holsters his pistol, and takes his pack off. Hastily, he removes the rifle from the pack and assembles it in under thirty seconds and loads a full magazine of rounds into the upper receiver, and quietly pulls back the charging handle chambering a round. With the rifle at the ready and tucked against his shoulder, Jim kneels and peaks through the balcony’s railing using the 10x magnifying scope mounted on the rifle. Minutes later, Jim spots the shooter at the top of a building. Jim moves the safety selector off and calms his breathing. At the top of his breath, he slows his exhale. At the end of the breath, the target is centered on his crosshairs; he pulls the trigger, and the hammer drops on the round.


The instant the round explodes out of the rifle’s barrel, the suited individual jumps to its feet and makes a mad dash for the entrance to city hall. Jim misses his target, and he sees the aggressor laying fire on the target moving to Jim’s position. Jim stands, lays the rifle on the railing, and readies for another shot. Jim quickly locks onto the target. He suddenly sees the shooter's muzzle flash. The bullet hits the person in the suit. Jim watches as the person withers onto the ground. He can hear muffled agony resonating from inside the suit, and he hesitates for a moment. He's never seen anyone shot, or at least he can't remember.

When Jim finally looks back into the scope and prepares to shoot. A bullet smacks him in the shoulder; the force of the bullet spins him around. He drops to the floor before he can even register what's happened. With his face towards the ground, his eyes see blood pouring from his shoulder and onto the smooth, cold, concrete floor. Jim still can’t process what’s occurred – it all happened too fast. As soon as he comes too and moves, another bullet hits him. Jim tries to yell, but blood stifles his words. Jim feels he’s drowning, being pulled into a subconscious state he refuses to accept. He knows his life is fast leaving his body. He desperately reaches and pulls with every haggard breath to escape the darkness he’s being pulled through to no avail. His mind is going numb and his senses becoming serene. Every bit of him tries to resist; he grasps for an edge that keeps slipping his fingertips. Gravity pulls his soul harder into an unseen abyss. “Help.” It’s as much as he can whimper out. The word echoes quietly throughout the domed chamber. He can’t believe this is how his life ends: helpless, unable to change course. Darkness consumes his consciousness, and he feels it flee his body.

Frantically, Jim pops his eyes open! He can feel sweat pouring out through every pore. His breathing is stressed and labored. He’s confused. He’s in a bed, gripping at a soft comforter as if he’s holding on to the edge of a perilous cliff about to fall. He recognizes that he’s in a familiar room. It’s dark. He can see lights along the wall that he recognizes as racing stripes. It’s his bedroom.


“Shut the fuck up, Jim. Stop making so much noise,” a groggy voice murmurs through a pillow. A young man across from him pulls a comforter over his head and tries to block the noise coming from Jim. “If you wake up mom, she’s going to whip your scrawny little ass. She’s been working her tail off the last few days. Don’t be an ass!”


“Holy shit! I’m alive. It was a freaking dream,” Jim says with elation and terror in his voice. He watches his brother pull the pillow from his face and delivers a snarky look that suggests violence is imminent if he doesn’t shut up.


Jim quickly shuts his mouth and drops his head onto his comfortable pillow. He runs his hands across his chest and it’s soaking wet. He can feel his heart beating through his chest and pushing adrenaline-laced blood through every extremity. After closing his eyes, Jim takes three deep breaths, followed by controlled exhales that are twice as long. Jim saw this technique in a documentary about elite soldiers who use it to calm down their stress, adrenaline, or heart rate. Whatever it was, it helped them relax, and that’s what Jim was trying to do. He continued doing it for almost ten minutes.


Eventually, Jim musters enough courage and quietly shuffles his feet to his brother’s bed. He crouches until his face is flush with his brother’s. With a bit of trepidation, he places his hand on his brother’s shoulder and gives him a shake until he wakes up. Before his brother can say anything, Jim is already talking. “Bro,” he reels back after his brother’s eyes pop open, hoping to avoid a karate chop to the bridge of his nose. “I need to tell you what I just dreamt about.”


David, Jim’s older brother, doesn’t say a word. Instead, he simply stares at his younger. He too was having a dream, but David’s was one he didn’t want to exit. A brunette, with fair skin, who was a bit taller, stronger, and more intelligent than he was filled his subconscious. This beauty of a woman had just pulled him from an overturned car, and he was trying to muster the courage to make a move and kiss her large, pouty lips. As he leaned into the woman, he was violently pulled through a netherworld and back to his darkened room. Now, starting at his brother, he’s thinking about what part of his face to hit. Unfortunately, he doesn’t want to deal with his brother’s cries. Instead, he stares straight at Jim, the puppy begging to be played with at the most inopportune time.


A few awkward seconds later, David nods a yes to his little brother. Instantly, Jim recounts the entire story from the moment he woke up in a stranger’s body, in a strange room, and how he stared at himself through a mirror, confused at the stranger looking back at him. He emphasized the surreal feeling of being shot, and how his soul exited his body. After another bout of awkward silence, David sits up and looks at Jim, and clears his throat. “Okay. So, you had a nightmare? We all have them. Why are you telling me this now?”


“Don’t you think it’s crazy? What do you think it means?” The young boy is brimming with excitement hoping he can get his brother to feel just as excited.


“Next time, don’t stick your head out the balcony. Keep your head down. Everyone knows this, bro. Now, shut the fuck up and let me go back to sleep.” David pushes his brother hard enough that Jim rolls onto his back. Like a cat, Jim jumps to his feet still pumped with adrenaline from his dream and continues staring at his brother with a big smile. “Ugh. You’re so annoying. Go to bed. If you don’t, I’m going to beat you.”


Jim quickly jumps back into his bed knowing the words aren’t an empty threat. His brother had come through with his promises on more than one occasion. He didn’t need another traumatizing event that evening. Laying on his back, Jim rubs at the location where the round hit him in the shoulder. Strangely, it feels tender – almost to the point where it hurts. He then cranks his arms into an unnatural position until he reaches the other spot where he had been shot. “WTF,” he spells out in a whisper he can only hear. He quickly gets out of bed and quietly walks to the bathroom in the hallway. Jim stares at the large mirror and finds his body whole. No holes. He knew this was the case, but he just needed to confirm. The dream was so unlike anything he’d experienced in his short life. He needed to assure himself of one thing though: would he recognize his reflection? He did. The reflection in the mirror felt right.

 

Before mid-morning, Jim had told all his friends about his crazy dream. He didn’t label the dream a nightmare, but more an adventure he wished to relive and dig deeper into. All his friends were uninterested and shrugged Jim off. Little did he know that wish would become a sore reality.


Jim continued sharing his dream, even to his Advanced English class. His teacher found the topic to be an opportunity. The teacher asked Jim to think deeper and critically about the dream and encouraged him to present a five-minute synopsis for extra credit. Jim jumped at the opportunity and agreed. Minutes before the class ends, Jim jumps to the head of the classroom. With the utmost enthusiasm, Jim recounts his story in detail. There was little synopsis to the story, it was flush with details. By minute three, he’d lost most of the class, including the teacher who was scanning her phone’s social media for anything interesting. At minute five, the teacher stopped Jim and asked the students if they had any questions or feedback. Two classmates asked questions, and they were asinine inquiries about why he didn’t do this or that in his dream.


Jim stood awkwardly at the front of the class and answered the questions. After answering the students, he waited for the teacher who still had her face buried in her phone. The moment she noticed Jim gracelessly waiting, the school bell rang, and the school day was officially over. Before the teacher could thank Jim and confirm his extra credit points, the students and the teacher all rushed out of the class like cattle, piling up at the barn door. Jim rushed back to his desk to retrieve his bag. As he grabbed the bag and swung it over his shoulder, a girl in his class whom he had never spoken to, Elly, stood firmly in his way. Elly was striking compared to all the other students his age. He sat back at his desk, thinking Elly needed to pass, but she didn’t move. Instead, she stood there and played with a long thread of her blonde hair. Jim didn’t know what she wanted and simply stared at her like a confused puppy, most likely with his head cocked to one side.


Elly recognized Jim was stuck and broke the uncomfortable moment. “Hi, I’m Elly,” she said as she continued playing with her hair, nervous about the encounter. Jim just stared and didn’t respond with anything intelligible, besides uh huh. “That was an interesting dream you shared with us. I missed the beginning part of your story; I was doodling on my phone.” Again, Jim just repeated the same two grunts that Elly interpreted as words somehow. “When did you have this dream?”


Jim cleared his throat and the words that came out of his mouth were embarrassing as his pitch jumped one or two octaves. It was as if puberty had suddenly introduced itself at the most inopportune time. “Last night…Yea, last night.” Each of the last nights came from two different people. Jim nervously rambled on. “I don’t remember what time, but I was dreaming that up until I woke up. And then, I woke up my brother and told him.” That’s when he caught himself rambling and stopped. He had also noticed over Elly’s shoulder that the teacher was back in the room and staring at the two as they struggled with the most basic of human interactions: talking. The teacher smiled and looked back down at her phone, giggled a bit and gave the two a bit of privacy.


“In your dream, you said that you saw someone wearing a strange space suit, the kind an astronaut would wear, right?”


“Yea, it was white from head to toe. The helmet was cool. It reminded me of that old cartoon,” it took him a while to recall the movie from his childhood. “Yea, I remember now. Toy Story. That one character, the overly serious one…”


“Buzz Light Year?”


“Yeah, that guy!” He smiled, excited that this girl finished his sentence. “Yeah, the only difference is that the helmet was completely tinted black, with a reflective tint, and it was smaller. Enough to just cover the person’s dome.”


Elly just nodded and didn’t say much. Inside though, her heart was starting to race. It took her a moment to ask the questions circling in her head. “What about the other person in your dream? The one you were supposedly playing. Do you remember what he looked like? Can you describe him to me in detail?”


Jim knew exactly what he looked like. The reflection from the mirror was etched in his brain. Over the next two minutes, he painted a detailed description for Elly of the man with the ragged, dark hair, an unshaven face, the dark pants and shirt, the bulletproof vest, and the backpack. He described the bruises on the man’s face and the dirt and blood on his shirt. The more he described, the more Elly was drawn to the words coming from Jim. As Jim kept describing the man, Elly pulled her backpack off, zipped it open, and pulled out her iPad. The whole time, she kept her eyes on Jim while he spoke. When the iPad lit up, she poked and swiped at the screen and turned it towards Jim. “Like this? Is this what the guy looked like?”

“Huh!” Jim couldn’t understand what he was seeing. It was a perfect illustration of the man Jim was describing. He stumbled on his words until three words came out shakingly. “What the fuck?” Jim’s jaw dropped open. Elly swiped at the screen and showed him another illustration. This time, it’s the individual in the space suit. “How the…” his eyes were glued to the screen. Jim snatched the iPad from Elly’s hands. He stared into the digital display and zoomed in and out of the two illustrations trying to understand how she had these drawings on her iPad.


“I’ve been dreaming about the person in the space suit for weeks.” She sees Jim’s eyes scrunched up in confusion. “Yea, the person in the space suit.” Then she drops the real bomb. “I’m the person in the space suit.” Jim’s head reels back as if he just got sucker punched. “It started weeks ago, and it’s been a constant dream, every night. The moment I drift into sleep, I’m in the space suit. At first, I thought it was just a normal dream that I couldn’t shake. After a third night of waking up in the same suit, I realized that I remembered everything from the previous night’s dream. I learned that I was looking for someone, a person that was on a digital display on my arm sleeve.”

“Who was it?” Jim asks.


“It’s the person I drew and just showed you. The same one you described.” Jim again was stuck in thought. He didn’t respond, he just let Elly keep talking. “In my dream, just like the one you described to the class, everyone in the city was dead. Everywhere I looked, it was like people just dropped dead mid-step. I looked everywhere for any signs of life. This dream replayed night after night. Every time I close my eyes, I pray to enter a different dream, but I can’t, no matter how much I try. Every time I fall into my dream, I wake up alone, in a city full of the dead. The crazy part, I always know I am dreaming. I try to make sense of the whole thing, but I have this burning desire to find someone, but I don’t know who.” Jim just sat and listened to Elly. He was enthralled with the words tumbling out of his classmate.

“Some nights ago,” Ellu continued, “a digital screen on my suit’s arm sleeve magically turned on and displayed the face of the man in my drawing. Somehow, I automatically knew I had to look for this person. I didn’t know why. I didn’t know who he was. I didn’t even know if I was looking for someone alive or dead.” Elly shook her head and shrugged her shoulders as she continued with her story. “Every night as I drift to sleep, I have no control over my intentions. I look high and low for this person as if I’m madly obsessed. I’m like a moth trying to find a light in the dark. Everything changed last night though.” She stared at the drawing of the man on her tablet. “I finally found this man.” She pointed at the man’s face. “The instant I spotted the man, I began following him. I abandoned any attempts to be discrete or stealthy. I just ran to him like a bee to a flower patch. When I got within fifty yards of him, I called out to him. At that instant, I felt the air cracking around me. The disturbance seized me in my tracks. It took me time to realize that bullets were raining down upon me. The window of the car I was standing next to exploded and shards of glass hit my helmet. That’s when I had a clear line of sight to the target I had been chasing. I saw him notice me from the perch of the balcony he was on. I could see the man’s confused look as he saw me in my space suit. That's when I was first shot. When I turned to look up to the balcony again, I saw the man had been shot too. I tried to move, but I was done, I was losing consciousness and slipping to my death. That’s when I woke up and began drawing the man’s face. I really didn’t finish the drawing until my mom dropped me off at the front of the school. When we started class, I was planning to forget about the man and drop my drawing. All of this had become an obsession, and I needed to stop, but then I heard you speaking.

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