Parker woke up with a start, gasping for air. He was still wearing his clothes and drenched in sweat. He looked around, but it was too dark to see anything. After a moment, his eyes adjusted and he realized that he was in his own bedroom.
For what seemed like an eternity he simply sat there confused. This dream had been different, and he remembered most of it. Monica; that was her name. She was in some sort of trouble and needed help, and he felt the strongest compulsion he’d ever felt to provide it. But he couldn’t figure out why; it was only a dream. He remembered something else, too; there was someone trying to help her, but he didn’t know who. He remembered talking to her, but at the same time he knew that it wasn’t him; he was an observer. And he felt all the emotions that the helper felt: Anxiety, fear, helplessness, anger. He was shaking, and not from the sweat that was drying on his skin; this was not a normal dream, and Monica was not a random woman.
Then Parker remembered something he had forgotten; how did he get home? The last thing he remembered was being with Alora at a diner, and then everything was blank, as if the day had simply ended up back home. He sat there, replaying the situation over and over again, trying to recall some sort of clue as to how he got home, but try as he might he simply couldn’t remember; there was nothing there.
He looked at his bedside clock; it was only 8:30 in the evening, there was still time to call Alora and ask her. Maybe they had gone out drinking after the diner and he had a little too much.
Parker climbed out of his bed and decided to take a quick shower before calling her; he felt like he hadn’t bathed in months. He looked into his bathroom mirror and saw dark circles under his eyes, which leant weight to the idea that they had been drinking. When he looked down and saw the photo of his mother he had the strangest sensation of confusion for a moment, as if something was different about it. He picked it up and looked at it, but the feeling vanished and he knew that it was the same photo that had been there this whole time. You’re losing it, Parker, he told himself. You’re over-tired; just go jump in the shower and you’ll feel better.
After he got out of the shower he grabbed the phone from his nightstand and dialed Alora’s phone number. As it rang, he inspected the photograph of his mother again, wondering why he had felt so disoriented before.
“Hello?” Alora’s voice answered on the other end of the telephone.
“Alora, hi,” he greeted. “It’s Parker.”
“Oh, my gosh, Parker!” she exclaimed, as if she hadn’t seen him in years. “Where are you? How are you doing?”
“What do you mean? I’m at home. Is everything okay?”
“What do you mean ‘What do you mean’?” she demanded. “I haven’t heard from you in days and then you call me at 9 o’clock at night as if nothing's happened!”
“‘Days’?” he repeated incredulously. He would’ve taken it for a joke but her tone suggested that this was a serious situation. “What are you talking about? I just saw you earlier today.”
“This isn’t funny, Parker,” Alora spoke sternly. “If you didn’t want to see me again all you had to do was tell me; you didn’t have to ignore me like that.”
“I’m not joking,” he protested. “The last thing I remember was sitting with you at the diner, and then I just woke up 30 minutes ago in my bed. I don’t know what happened.”
“Maybe we should talk in person,” she suggested. “Can I come over?”
“Of course; you remember where it is, right?”
“Yes,” she answered. “I’ll be there in a little bit.”
Parker hung up the phone and just stood there for a long while. Days? he asked himself. That’s not possible. She must be playing some sort of joke. But then why don’t I remember how I got home? Questions kept running through his mind, and as hard as he ravaged his thoughts he simply couldn’t put the pieces together.
He decided to make a pot of coffee for when Alora got there. He went into the kitchen and began preparing it, and then stepped outside on the patio to sit and think while he waited.
Perhaps ten minutes later he heard a knock on his door. He went to open it and Alora immediately gave him a hug and a deep kiss.
“I was so worried about you!” she exclaimed after pulling him away. She shut the door behind her and continued speaking. “What happened to you?”
“Hold on,” he said, gesturing for her to come into the apartment proper. “I’ll get us some coffee and we can talk.” He went into the kitchen and poured their cups, and then joined her out on the patio.
“What do you remember?” she asked after nodding appreciation for the coffee.
“I remember drinking my coffee with you at the diner,” he explained, “And then I remember waking up tonight in bed, wearing the same clothes. You can’t be serious that you haven’t heard from me in days; this is a joke, right?”
“No, Parker,” Alora assured him imploringly. “It’s been 3 days since I last saw you! I came here looking for you, but when you didn’t answer the door or the phone after the third day I assumed the worst. I’m so glad that you’re alright. You’re sure that you don’t remember anything?”
“No,” he repeated. “What happened? I don’t even remember leaving the diner.”
“You just…left,” she stated. “You got this blank expression on your face and didn’t even respond to the server when she came over, and it seemed like you didn’t even see me; you just looked right through me. Then you said something—a word that I couldn’t hear—and got up and left like a zombie. You didn’t even say goodbye. I tried calling you over and over again but you didn’t answer, so I tried coming here, but you didn’t answer the door either. I knew something was wrong because you didn’t even take your car. I had to talk to the manager of the restaurant and convince him not to have it towed after the second day.”
“Three days,” Parker mumbled, more to himself. “That’s…not possible.”
“Look,” she began, “If you really don’t remember the last few days then we need to get you to a hospital because there’s something wrong.”
“Yes,” he half-heartedly agreed, not even looking at her. “We need to go to the hospital.” Then he paused and looked up at her. “How can this happen?”
“I don’t know, but we’re going to find out.” She stood up. “Come on and get your coat; I’ll drive.”
In the car, Parker didn’t say anything; he was lost in his own thoughts. He had understood getting drunk and blacking out, or even the people who got too stressed. After his mother was diagnosed, she suffered from short blackouts, but it never lasted for days. That immediately put him on edge. What if he had a tumor? His mother had died of cancer, and it wasn’t unheard of for that to run in family lines.
He snapped out of his internal monologue when he realized that they were sitting in the parking lot.
“What are you thinking about?” Alora asked cautiously.
“My mother,” Parker replied. “She used to have blackouts after she got cancer. You don’t think it’s possible…?”
“I don’t know,” she responded honestly. “But you’re not alone, Parker. I’m right here with you.” She grasped his hand, and Parker gave it a firm squeeze. “Are you ready?”
“As ready as I’ll ever be.”
The emergency room was surprisingly empty—every time Parker had come here it seemed like a bus had just dropped off a load of people—and the silence was deafening. He hadn’t been to a hospital since his mother passed, and he’d hoped to never visit one again. The smell—so distinctive of a hospital—flooded his head and he felt like crying; the familiarity of it was bittersweet. It didn’t take long before they were called back with a room available.
When Parker entered the small hospital room he hesitated. For a moment he thought he saw his mother lying there, beckoning him to hold her hand. He blinked away the tears and forced himself to sit on the plastic mattress with the blue cotton sheets. A few minutes later the nurse came in and took some basic information and then told them the doctor would be in momentarily.
Everything seemed to be going by in flashes; not signs of blacking out or anything, but it seemed to all be happening so rapidly, and his anxiety level was through the roof. What if it really is cancer? he asked himself. Alora was talking to him comfortingly and he was responding, though he couldn’t say what the conversation was about; he was too lost in his own thoughts to offer more than non-committal responses to whatever she was saying.
The doctor came and asked him questions, most of which Alora answered, and then left. A man in red scrubs came in and wheeled Parker and his bed down a long hallway through a pair of double-doors and into a small room. They asked him to lie down on a plastic bed that was cold and hard on his bare skin behind his hospital gown. The bed slid forward as if on a conveyer belt, and he heard the doctor’s voice through a loudspeaker telling him to lie completely still. He was sweating despite the cold hospital air, and his heart was still racing.
The man in the red scrubs wheeled Parker and his bed back to the room with Alora and told them to wait, that the doctor would be in shortly. When the doctor finally came in he told them that he would have the results within a couple of hours and that they had the choice of leaving and having him call them when they came in, or of waiting. He said that normally he would send them home and call them on Monday, but since this seemed to be an emergency basis—“days of lost consciousness”—he would inform them right away. They opted to wait.
Minutes went by like hours, hours like days. Parker felt tired, alert, cold, sweaty, sad, and anxious, but most of all he felt afraid; afraid to even close his eyes until he found out what was going on.
After what felt like an eternity of impatiently waiting, the doctor came into the room with two sheets of large film in his hands. Parker sat up intently, time seeming to slow down for the first time since they entered the hospital what felt like days ago. He slid the film over a backlit display and turned to Parker and Alora.
“As you can see,” the doctor began, “The scans came up normal. There’s nothing wrong with you physically.”
“That’s not possible,” Parker uttered, sounding almost disappointed. “My mother had cancer. And if it’s not a tumor then why can’t I remember the last 3 days of my life?”
“Yes,” he validated Parker’s statement, “But just because a parent has cancer doesn’t mean that the child will. Your brain is as healthy as it can be, but a lot of things can cause blackouts. Stress, Anxiety, a knock on the head, anemia, or dehydration, for example.”
“But for days, doctor?” Alora implored.
“True,” he affirmed, “Blackouts usually don’t last that long, but it’s not unheard of. I’m going to refer you to a psychologist who may be able to provide you with more answers. In the meantime, stay hydrated and try not to over-exert yourself.” And then he made his goodbyes and left, just like that. Not long after a nurse came in with some papers for Parker to sign and the referral slip to a psychologist not that far from the hospital.
On the ride back to Parker’s apartment Alora was ranting angrily. “That’s it? They’re just going to give you a referral to someone else as if this weren’t a big deal?”
“It’s okay, Alora,” Parker consoled softly. “It says the office is open tomorrow, so I’ll call and see if they accept walk-ins. Maybe it was nothing; a one-time event.”
“How can you be so calm?” she demanded.
Parker slowly turned towards her with a frustrated expression on his face. “You think I’m calm?” he raised his voice. “My thoughts are racing a million miles per second, I’m unsure of what’s wrong with me because I lost 3 whole days of my life, and the only two realistic scenarios are that I’ve got cancer or I’m crazy! I am anything but calm!” Alora didn’t respond, so Parker took the opportunity to turn back towards the window, and that’s how they drove for the rest of the way back to his apartment.
“Would you like to come up?” Parker asked when they were safely parked.
“Would you like me to?” she shot back, seriously.
“Yeah, I think I would.”
So she got out of the car and they went upstairs together. When they were in his apartment with the door closed, Alora looked up at Parker in the doorway; they stared at one another for a moment, Parker feeling like he was about to cry. She reached up and ran her fingers through his hair, and then leaned up and kissed him. The kiss seemed to last for an eternity, and for that eternity all thoughts and worries fled from Parker’s mind.
He put his hands around her waist and she began to back up into his bedroom, lying back onto his bed. She began fumbling with his belt and pants, while he frantically struggled with her shirt buttons. At one point she chuckled behind their kissing lips and finished unbuttoning her own shirt for him.
The next morning, Parker awoke with a start. He looked around worriedly, recalling what had happened the previous evening. Then he relaxed once he saw Alora lying next to him. She looked so peaceful, almost like an angel. He remembered that she tasted like toothpaste. He thought, This is the closest to heaven that I will ever be.
He put his arm around her and she unconsciously pulled herself onto his chest, snuggling deeply as if she could become one with his heart. She already has, he thought to himself. Her hair smelled like coconut, and her skin was like the smoothest silk. This was a moment that he wanted to treasure; no matter what happened he would always have this moment.
He hadn’t realized that he had fallen back asleep until he heard the toilet flush; Alora came walking out with his oversized shirt on. She stopped and smiled, staring at him.
“Good, you’re up,” she declared. “I made breakfast, and I called the psychologist. They’re closing at 3 o’clock, so the receptionist said that as long as we get there before 1 o’clock he should be able to see us for the initial evaluation.”
Parker leaned across the side of the bed and grabbed her by the waist, seating her next to him. He reached up and kissed her.
“You’re amazing,” he proclaimed when they parted lips. “Thank you.”
She giggled. “Well you remember that next time you see Monica.”
Parker froze. “How did you know her name?”
“I think you were talking in your sleep,” she explained. “I think you mentioned it.” She stood up and began walking towards the door. “Why don’t you get up and we’ll talk about it over breakfast; we need to make it to this doctor today.”
He rolled out of bed and went to the bathroom to perform his morning routine. When he came into the kitchen she had laid out an assortment of breakfast foods; orange juice, coffee, eggs, bacon, toast, pancakes.
“You did all this?” he questioned as if he thought his eyes were deceiving him. He leaned over and kissed her again. “I was wrong; you’re the best.”
When they sat down to enjoy their meal, Alora began,
“So tell me about Monica.”
“Why? Are you jealous?” he jested.
She smiled. “Just curious, I suppose.”
“I’m not sure what to say,” he replied honestly. “I now know her name, but I don’t know anything about her; I'm sure that I’ve never met her before, though.” He then went on to explain what he remembered of his last dream; the one where he found that she was in some sort of trouble. “I don’t know why, but I feel like there’s more to this than simple dreaming, and I need to protect her.”
“Are there any clues as to where she is in these dreams?” Alora asked seriously, “Any landmarks or people or anything?”
“No,” he responded, sipping on his coffee. “Like I said, I think there’s someone helping her, but I don’t know who, only that he’s genuine.”
“How do you know that?”
“I’m not sure,” he replied. “I just got the feeling of safety when I knew that she was around him.”
Alora quietly contemplated what he said for a moment, finishing her breakfast. “I think that’s definitely something that you should bring up with the doctor; maybe the dreams and the blackout are somehow connected.”
“Maybe,” he offered. “I wish my grandmother were here; she always knew how to make sense of the senseless.”
“Oh, you’ve never told me about her,” Alora said, wiping her mouth and looking up at Parker.
“What do you mean?” he asked, unbelievingly. “I talk about her all the time.”
“I know,” she chuckled. “I feel like I know her myself.”
“Ha-ha,” he replied sarcastically, standing up. “Let’s get dressed and get this over with. Like the doctor said, maybe he can offer me some answers.”
A little over an hour later they were sitting in a reasonably spacious office with two chairs placed in front of a large oak desk; a man was seated behind the desk in an office chair taking notes. There was one large window behind him, and though all the lights were off it did allow for a perfect amount of lighting.
The man was not a remarkable one. He was the epitome of average; average height, average weight, and average voice. He had thinning brown hair and brown eyes that peered at them over a notepad. His wire-framed glasses and crossed legs completed the picture of the stereotypical therapist.
After Parker and Alora had finished telling him their story—including the dreams—the doctor lowered his notepad slightly and looked up at them.
“Well, Mr. Lewis,” the doctor began, “I find your situation very interesting, and I believe that there is more than meets the eye. I’ve looked over your test results from the hospital and that, taken with what you’ve told me here today, leads me to believe that perhaps I might be able to help you discover the root of what’s going on.”
“And what about the blackout, doctor?” Alora asked.
“Honestly, it’s too early for me to make any informed opinions on that,” he replied. “I do, however, believe that it is, indeed, connected in some way to these recurring dreams. Based on your medical records, there doesn’t seem to be anything physically ailing you, so that would lead me to believe that it is truly psychological. That’s not to say that there couldn’t be something else physically that caused this, and we’ll know more about that when you get the rest of your medical tests back, but I would venture to say, as I mentioned, that it is more psychological. And that being said, if we add in the recurring dreams, it only adds to my suspicions.”
“Well, Doctor,” Parker began, “Is there anything we can do? Will these blackouts keep happening?”
“As for those, there’s no way to tell right now,” he confessed. “And as far as treatment goes, I’m hesitant to put you on any medications right now, only because, though this blackout was severe, it’s possible that it was an isolated incident. So my recommendation is to continued therapy so that we can observe the situation and any—if there are any—developments that may occur. I also think that perhaps therapy may help us to discover the root of the dreams, and I believe that anything we discover about them may also lead us to the cause of the blackout.”
“That sounds great,” Parker responded. “You have no idea how much of a weight this has taken off. I can’t wait until we begin.”
“I can only imagine; I read your file and saw that your mother passed away of cancer—I’m very sorry to hear that, by the way—so I can imagine what must’ve been going through your mind. Please see Jeanine on the way out so she can give you the necessary forms and schedule your first appointment.” And with that they all stood.
Parker extended his hand to the doctor. “Thank you so much. I really appreciate your time and consideration.”
Then Alora reached out and shook the hand of the doctor. “Yes, Doctor, thank you very much.”
“My pleasure,” he replied. “I look forward to getting to know you both a little better.”