Rebecca checked her phone and sighed. Only one minute before her alarm was supposed to go off. Instead of waiting, she got out of bed, washed up, got dressed, and grabbed some breakfast.
“That was a little easy.” Rebecca grabbed her sling bag and walked out the door. As she stepped out on to the icy sidewalk, she felt her foot slip out from under her, and she fell back.
Rebecca lurched and opened her eyes. She was back in bed. It took her a moment to realize that she never got up in the first place.
Noticing how light the room was, Rebecca leaped out of bed and grabbed her phone. She had fifteen minutes.
She finished getting ready for work and grabbed a protein shake on the way out. She took care to step carefully on the sidewalk.
When the elevator doors at work opened, Rebecca stepped out and nearly bumped into her coworker.
“Wow, you are actually late - by two minutes!”
“Hi, Tonya.” Rebecca stepped out of the elevator and headed towards the office. Tonya followed. “I overslept my alarm. I don’t understand. I never did that before.” Rebecca checked the folder in her hand. “I finally finished the database entries. So maybe that will make up for it. Now I have to give this to Ms. Schneider. I guess I have another client to woo now.”
Tonya laughed. “Yeah, the market is getting better, I’ve got one, too. Good luck with that.”
Rebecca grabbed herself a cup of coffee and headed towards her office. She took a sip and groaned. Not only did it taste terrible, but it was cold, too. Shivering, she grabbed her sweater she kept in the office and put it on. She sat on her chair in front of her computer and rubbed her arms in an attempt to warm up.
I hope I’m not coming down with something, she thought as she wrapped her sweater tighter.
After checking her emails, and making a few follow-up calls to her other clients, she began to feel sleepy. She fought to stay awake but lost. Rebecca laid her head on her desk and fell asleep.
She dreamed of breathing underwater with people walking around outside. A woman peered in and said something, but Rebecca couldn’t hear anything.
Rebecca found herself back in her bed. The only light in her room came from her phone. She picked up her phone and checked it. There was a text message from her boss. In a near panic, Rebecca fumbled as she tried to unlock it. The anxiety subsided when she saw the message read: “Great job getting the client.”
Giving her phone one last glance, she thought, How did that happen?
Immediately after closing her eyes, Rebecca found herself standing next to a bed. It wasn’t hers. A set of doors were open, and they led outside to a balcony. Over the rail, flashes of light seem to shoot by through the fog. Looking up, she saw two moons. One was red with green and blue blotches. The second moon was tan in color.
I know I’m dreaming now. Rebecca forces herself awake, and she finds herself back in her office.
Looking up, Rebecca smiled. “Hey, John. What’s up?”
“I was about to ask you the same thing.” John’s smile accentuated his dimple in his right cheek. “We thought a bunch of Smurfs with chainsaws invaded your office.”
“I don’t snore!”
Widening his eyes in mock fear, he glanced around the office. “Then where are the Smurfs?”
Rebecca scoffed then laughed. “Okay, I might snore a little. I seem to be very tired.”
“Well, I’m on my way to the coffee shop.” John leaned up against the door post. “I can get something for you if you want.” As Rebecca reached for her purse, he added, “Oh, no. You paid for mine last time, remember? I got it.”
“Oh, okay.” Rebecca let her purse drop to the side. “Double expresso would do. Black.”
“Wow, you’re that tired.”
“Maybe you can have it mixed for me with an energy drink.” Rebecca smiled as John laughed. There was something about him that gave her butterflies. She wanted to ask him to dinner, but every time she thought she had an opportunity, she would chicken out.
“I could get you a case of that stuff, but don’t drink all of it at once. We don’t need you to have a heart attack.” John winked and left.
Rebecca could feel her face get hot. I’ll ask him out today. No, tomorrow. I’m too sick today.
“He is so hot,” Tonya whispered as she set another sheet of paper on Rebecca’s desk. “You two would make a great couple.”
“If only I had courage. Maybe I’ll pay a visit to the Wizard of Oz.” Rebecca grabbed the paper. I thought I got all of the entries done. How did I miss this one?
“I heard you were napping on the job?”
“I don’t think I’m feeling well. My head feels like it’s in a cloud right now.” Rebecca massaged her temples. “I think I may be coming down with something.”
“You know, you are almost always on time, and you have yet to use any of your sick days. I doubt that Ms. Schneider would mind if you went home early.”
“I’m going call the potential client first. If I get her on board, I go home early. If not, then I’ll stay and help with the umpteenth attempt to make this office paperless.” Rebecca shook the paper at Tonya.
“Well, good luck with that.” Tonya chuckled and left.
It took only an hour. Rebecca scored the client, and Ms. Schneider gave her a raise along with the rest of the day off.
“Hope you are feeling better,” Rebecca’s boss called out after her.
On her way home, Rebecca felt like she was floating, and it wasn’t because of the high from the success she had. The early spring sun was shining bright, but Rebecca still felt cold. She got to her apartment and unlocked the door. Nothing seemed to be in the right place.
Oh dear God, I didn’t get into the wrong apartment, did I? Rebecca thought as she closed her eyes. When she opened them again, everything was normal.
Maybe I am really sick.
She looked towards the kitchen. It was a studio apartment with a bathroom. It reminded her of a hotel room with a kitchenette. Rebecca wondered if she should make some tea or go right to bed.
At that moment, she thought she saw a woman in her peripheral vision, near the window. When she looked in that direction, only the curtains flowed in the breeze. Rebecca couldn’t recall leaving the window open.
I think I’ll go to bed. I’m hallucinating.
After closing the door and crawling into bed, Rebecca buries herself in her blankets. The next morning, she wakes up to hear “Wake. Up. Wake. Up. Wake. Up. Dreaming. Up! Up! Up! Wake. Up.”
As soon as Rebecca sat up, the talking changed to barking. Falling back into bed, she groaned.
I must be still feverish.
It was the weekend, so the office was closed. Rebecca decided to get up and get dressed anyway. It took a moment to find her favorite over-sized T-shirt buried in her dresser.
“Aha!” Rebecca turned quickly to go to the bathroom.
The woman was in front of her. Dark auburn hair, pale blue dress, and white glowing eyes.
“I’m dreaming again!” Rebecca began to feel ice cold. She could no longer feel the ground beneath her feet. “I’m dreaming.”
“Wake up!” The voice came from the woman, but she didn’t move her lips.
Rebecca opened her eyes to see herself floating in the water again. She could feel herself lower as the fluid drained. When the level of the liquid reached below her face, she began to expel it from her lungs and stomach.
“It’s okay. You’ll be okay.”
Rebecca looked up to see a man staring back at her. The droplets on the glass distorted his face.
“I...” Rebecca coughed. Her throat was sore, and she still had some of the fluid in her lungs.
“Don’t say anything yet. We’ll get you out.”
The fluid drained and warm air blew through the overhead and lower vents. It was a welcomed feeling, and Rebecca lifted her face towards it. Her memories started to come back.
“I remember,” Rebecca choked out. She cleared her throat.
“Wait until we can get you out. We want to hear what you remember, but we need to record it for our records.”
After a long while, the glass slid up, and Rebecca tried to step out only to find that she couldn’t lift her foot. She fell into the arms of the man.
“Whoa, whoa, it’s okay. Let us take you out.”
Rebecca looked up at him. She thought that she could get lost in those dark eyes of his.
“Looks like a slight variation in temperature makes the brain go into dream mode.” Rebecca could hear the voice from behind her, but she couldn’t turn to see who it was.
“We’ll fix that and make sure that it doesn’t happen again,” the man said.
A nurse reached over and picked her up while another held the wheelchair steady as the first one put her in. Rebecca noticed several other tubes like hers, lining the walls of the room. All had someone inside.
Even though Rebecca had some form of a skin-tight body suit, a nurse helped her put on a thin hospital robe.
“I don’t think I remember you.” Rebecca looked up at the man. “I mean, you look like John, but...”
“Well, you did flirt with me a little when you got here. You even told me you had a crush on me.” The man chuckled as he followed the nurses pushing the wheelchair. They came to a different room that had a table and exercise equipment for physical therapy. The nurse pushed her up to the table, and another man wearing a lab coat walked in.
One of the nurses pulled out a stethoscope and a blood pressure cuff. Anticipating what was coming, Rebecca put out her arm.
“Hello.” The man with the clipboard dug his reading glasses out of his lab coat pocket and put them on. “My name is Dr. Weinstein. I will be asking you some questions while my assistant, Jake, here, will take your vitals. Is that okay?” He pointed towards a security camera that was in the ceiling. “You are being recorded.”
“Yes, that’s okay.” Rebecca’s voice was still hoarse.
“Okay.” The doctor jotted something down on his clipboard. “How much do you remember since your accident last year?”
“I remember falling on the ice, and I remember taking the pain medication.”
“I thought I didn’t take a dose and I took another one. The next thing I know I was handcuffed to my hospital bed. My mother was there, and she said that she was going to make me pay for leaving them like that. I told them I thought they disowned me. I thought I wasn’t going to see them again, but I guess I forgot to remove them from my emergency contacts.”
The doctor nodded and continued with his note.
“I’m sorry, I’m all over the place.”
“No, that’s okay. It’s common. Sometimes, patients will confuse their dreams with their memories.”
“Well, I do remember telling someone about it...” Rebecca paused as more memories surfaced. She looked at the man. “Oh, it was you! You were the one who told me about an opportunity to get out of my parent’s grip.” She glanced at the exercise equipment. “I guess this is the research facility.”
The doctor and the man seemed pleased.
“Your name is Samuel, right?” Rebecca asked the man.
“Samael. Eh,” the man sighed, “close enough. You can call me whatever you like.”
“Do you remember going into the tube?”
“No. I only remember riding a van here. It had no windows.”
“Well,” Samuel said, “it is a secret project. We can’t let anyone know where we are. Since nothing is patented yet, we can’t risk letting any of this out.” He took a deep breath. “You, have been a wonderful asset to us.”
“Maybe, but I thought it was to research a way to reform people.”
“You are the control,” Samuel said. “You passed all of your Psych tests. I only told your parents that it was to help you reform, but I knew what type of people they were. I knew you were trying to get away. Your parents are classic narcissists.” Samuel leaned up against the table next to her. “Come to think of it; I think your father is more of a sociopath. Great for business, terrible for parenting.”
“The others in the room with you are also trying to get away. Lost loved ones, homelessness, desperation, and, like you, trying to get away from a dangerous situation.” Samuel put his arm on the back of Rebecca’s wheelchair and leaned in. Rebecca could feel his breath on her temple, and her heart skipped a beat. “After you exercise and change your suit, we would like to help you to make your separation to your family more permanent.”
“We could tell them that you died. Give your parents an urn of your...” Samuel paused for a moment. “Your ashes. The paperwork you and your parents signed says that if anything unfortunate should happen, your body is to be cremated due to you being a potential biohazard.”
“You’re going to kill me?!”
Samuel scoffed and stood up. “Not literately. Just legally.” He walked around the table to face her. “And whenever you decide you had enough of your fantasy life, we could give you a new identity. Well, you would have no money, no place to stay, and no past life to draw on. But you would have a birth certificate, social security number, and a new name.”
“And just dump me somewhere.”
“Do you have any idea how much this research costs? Of course, if we use it for recreational purposes, we could give you a small sum. For the time being, however, we have no grant money to spare.”
Rebecca looked down at her hands.
“I guess...” She stopped and sighed. “I guess I will stay.”
Rebecca did her exercises and changed into her new suit. She studied the tubes in the room as the Doctor, Samuel, and a couple of workers prepped her tube. She could hear their conversation as she walked by each tube, checking out the people in them. Black, white, Asian, Middle Eastern, and Hispanic.
Equal opportunity soaking, Rebecca mused.
“This time no variation in temperature. Any variation will trigger lucid dreaming. We don’t want that.” One of the workers grunted as he pushed the tube back into place.
Rebecca glanced over at the workers as she paused in front of another tube.
“Yeah, next time we take them out right away instead of trying to fix it. It may cause some serious problems later. We don’t know, and we don’t want to lose our funding.”
The tube Rebecca stood in front of was slightly different. It wasn’t plugged into the wall like the others. Instead, a glowing light blue box hummed next to it, the same color as the light that illuminated the tube. All the other ones were lit with white.
“That...” Samuel startled her. “That is the one who came up with the idea. She lost her family, friends, and everything she knew in one disaster.” He leaned in and whispered in her ear. “Sad, really.”
Before Rebecca could ask what happened, Samuel went back with the others. She looked at the face of the woman. Her hair floated around her face like a cloud. Her hands hovered in front of her. Her muscles jerked as if she were dreaming. The heart monitor next to the tube clicked for every heartbeat. It began to slow as Rebecca recognized the face. It was the woman in her dreams.
The clicking slowed even more, and an alarm sounded. There was a fizzing static-like sound, and the body jerked. Things around her became muted as all she heard was “Be-eep. Be-eep. Be-eep.”
The woman’s eyes opened and looked at her.
Rebecca lurched and opened her eyes. She was in her bed.
Grabbing her phone, she thought, I need to change the alarm on that thing. Music would be so much better.