Sunday was awful. Usually when Finn woke up after a night at the bar, he feared hangovers. Now, he feared waking up. He never knew where he was anymore. In the morning when he woke up, he kept his eyes shut. He wanted to be sure he was home. In his own bedroom. He stayed indoors all of Sunday, in case anything happened. It was a quiet day, and by Sunday night, he did not mind the day at all.
Monday morning, it was the same. The alarm rang, so he knew he was home. Still, he kept his eyes shut for a bit. He pressed his fingertips into the surface - it was his bed. Finally, feeling a little confident, he opened his eyes. Just the ceiling. He sighed with relief and hopped into the shower. This was no way to live, he told himself. This constant fear and worry was unfair, but what could he possibly do, he asked himself.
No matter who he told, he knew that he would be ridiculed. Most people would not believe him, and he would only be making a fool out of himself. And even if he did tell someone, what could they possibly do to make it stop? It all seemed useless. He thought of something silly, and chuckled at himself. Then he pitied himself because the situation he was in was like no other. No one could help him. He thought of delivering a message to whoever could listen, the next time he was transported to the strange place.
"I'll tell them. I'll tell them, 'Hey, whoever you are, I'm not interested in this. Stop it. I don't want to come here, so cut it out'", he kept practicing the line in front of the mirror. As if whoever was responsible for this was just some salesperson, trying to pitch an offer.
When Finn got to the office, he noticed that some of his friends were looking at him differently. They were not looks of concern, but it did not feel like they wanted to avoid him either. But he knew they were judging him. They knew something they were not supposed to know, and they were having a good laugh about it. But they did not want him to know.
"Cassie", he said to himself.
He knocked on Cassie's door.
"Hey Cassie, you got a few minutes?"
"Of course, Finn! What's up?"
"Well, I just had some...", he tried to find the right words as he took a seat. "Concerns, I suppose, that I'd like to talk to you about", he finished.
"Sure. Umm, work related. Or is this something to do with what happened Saturday night?"
"Well, technically, it was past midnight. So it would be Sunday morning. But, yes, it has to do with Saturday"
"You did pass out in the alley, didn't you?", she asked anxiously.
"No, I didn't pass out. But more importantly, why did you tell the others?", he asked impatiently.
Her face twitched at first, and then flushed red. Finn knew that she had told others about finding him in the alley, but in secrecy.
"I-I'm so sorry, I was just concerned. And it showed on my face when I got back to the bar. I didn't mean to-"
"It's fine, I just wish you hadn't, it wasn't a big deal and I really did not pass out"
"Who told you that I told them?", she demanded. She wanted to know who it was she could not trust.
"No one said it. But words don't have to be said to get the point across. They all had these smiles on their faces"
"I'm really really sorry", she genuinely apologized, "It wasn't my intention to make fun of you, or have a few laughs at your expense. I was concerned"
"It's fine. I just wanted to make it clear that I'm fine, and I hadn't passed out"
"Okay, well, I'll get back to work and leave you to yours"
Finn wanted to leave his seat, but could not. Suddenly, he had an urge to tell Cassie the truth. He knew that it would not get him anywhere. She would not believe him, no one would. She may not ridicule him, but he knew she would think less of him. Nonetheless, he wanted to tell her. He thought maybe it was best to just say, "alright, I did pass out", but it seemed unfair to himself. To have to lie.
"I didn't pass out. I was abducted by aliens"
"You said the same thing at the restaurant", she laughed. "Am I that boring?"
"No," he flustered, not knowing how to convince her. "I'm really being serious. I was back then, and I am now"
"Come on, seriously now. Stop messing around"
"I'm not!", he grew impatient. He felt like he may have said that out too loud. She looked shocked. "Sorry, I didn't mean to yell. But no, I'm not kidding. I swear, off lately, I've been having these weird experiences. I just end up at this strange place, and it doesn't feel like Earth. When you found me in the alley, I had just come back from wherever I was"
She looked down at her table, and started playing with her pen - clicking the ballpoint pen.
Click, click, click.
"Have you told anyone?"
"No. You were the first person I told"
"How often has this happened?"
"Four times so far"
Click, click, click.
"Out of the four times, three times I was asleep when it happened. Like, I woke up on that planet, I guess. The fourth time was in the alley. One moment, I was walking down the alley, and then I was there. And then suddenly, I was on the ground, back in the alley", Finn continued. He felt like he should have said more than just how many times it had happened.
"Do you have any evidence? You walked to the planet after bar night. You had your phone. Did you take any pictures?"
Finn must have blushed out of embarrassment. He felt his face go red. Up until Cassie mentioned it, he had not even thought about taking pictures, or collecting evidence.
"No, I do not. I didn't take any pictures, no. Sorry", he sheepishly said.
"I see. Is it then possible at all that this was just a dream?"
"Not at all. At first, I thought it was a d- Wait, I do have evidence! See, the place that I go to, let's say it is a planet - it has red cracked soil. The third time, I sat down, and walked around barefooted. When I woke up, there was red soil or dust on the floor and on the rear of the sweatpants I was wearing"
"I see", now she seemed intrigued. Either she was interested in the story, or she thought he was going mad. "Look, not only as your HR person in the office, but as a dear friend, I'm telling you this - seek someone. Someone professional. Someone to talk to"
"I'm not crazy. I swear, I've been through this. It's real", he said in agitation.
"Well, there's no harm in -"
"Forget it. Forget I said anything, sorry", Finn got up and walked to the door.
"Wait! Wait, fine. Don't go anywhere, don't talk to anyone, but can you do me a favour? Don't sleep at home tonight. Maybe for a few nights. Assuming it's a dream, and I'm not saying that it is, let's say you just need somewhere different to sleep? You are more than welcome to crash at my place. Bring your stuff for a few nights. Please?"
Finn considered it for a moment. He knew that his story sounded unbelievable, so he could not blame her for her skepticism.
"Alright. But I'm bringing my evidence to show you I'm not crazy. And you better not tell anyone about this"
That evening, he took a few belongings and made his way to Cassie's house. They made dinner together, and after that, he got down to business. From his bag, he removed a plastic ziplock bag. In it, were a pair of shoes. He told her that these were the shoes he had worn to the bar and showed her the heels. There was red dust ingrained in them.
"Maybe it was something you walked on. In the alley, or in the bar. On your way home?"
"Then what about these?", he asked as he pulled out another ziplock bag with his sweatpants. "See the rear? Red again"
"I don't know, maybe it's something in your home? A door frame"
"Nope, I checked"
She said that she would have to think things over. This was just something she never thought she would have to deal with. They both decided to call it a night, and think things through with a fresher and more open mind the next morning.
Finn got comfortable on Cassie's couch. After she turned off the light, he waited to start drifting into sleep.
The lights turned on. He stirred to wake up.
"Relax, Finn". It was not Cassie's voice.
Finn jerked up. He was not in Cassie's living room. He was on a bed made out of liquid. Yet he did not feel wet. He looked around. There were faces looking right at him. They were not human.