I had no idea what happened, still don’t in some way…but what came next
made me truthfully wonder if any of what followed was real.
“What the hell?” I was standing in the mall. 'The same place…' I thought, 'Where’s Brandon?'
“Hey, you okay man?” I turned and in front of me there was some guy with half-rim beatnik glasses and we were standing beside a curio stand that from the stuff on it sold some stuff I thought were phones.
'What the heck are these things?' I wondered, 'I've never seen these models before.'
I thought as I looked at the selection the stand held. “Hey buddy.” The guy’s whiny sounding voice pulled me back. “You alright man?” I didn’t answer I walked off quickly.
'What the hell is goin’ on here?!' I asked myself frantically as I walked; I took a second and took a look at myself. 'I thought I was wearing a hoodie, tee and jeans weren’t I? My jacket was different too wasn't it?' Right at that point though I was wearing a slacks, shoes, a button up and had a jacket. I started moving again and bumped into a few people. 'Still the holidays?'
Among all the weirdness around me one thought kept flooding in. 'Was it real?' I asked myself. 'Did that all really happen?' “I need to find Mike.” I said to myself as I hurried through the people. I moved quickly as I could to where I remembered Mike’s work was. I rushed in and moved quickly to the front register, there was someone behind it. 'Thank god!' I thought, “Excuse me,” I said, “I’m looking for Michael Marquez, he started here recently.”
“Chase?” The man behind the register turned and I was astonished at who stood there. His hair was longer, he didn’t have his earrings in or his stud. He was wearing plaid for Christ’s sake.
“Mikey?” I asked,
“Mike, where’s Brandon?” He looked at me like I was crazy.
“Chase…” His faced shown torn emotions; I wanted to know why.
“Where is he Mike?!” Some people turned their heads, I didn’t care.
“Chase…Brandon’s dead…has been for three years man.”
'No…' I thought, “Chase? What's the matter man?” 'No it isn’t true, Brandon ain’t dead!' A voice raged in my mind.
“I…I need to get out of here.” I said as I turned to leave,
“Chase wait,” He called after me, I had to stop, where was I gonna go? “here, go wait out front for me and I’ll be there in a minute.” I just nodded…
'What the hell is goin’ on?' I asked myself.
I waited out of the front of the shop. I rushed in so fast I didn’t even notice the changes. “Mike’s exotic pets…” I had to re-read it a few times. I looked around the area and noticed the other changes, new stores, people wearing clothes I’ve never seen before, hell, I even saw hairstyles stranger than the ones I remembered. “What day is this?” I asked myself aloud.
“December twenty-fourth, 2018.” I turned and behind me was Mike without the smock, “C’mon Chase.” He said motioning me to follow him. I followed Mike to another part of the mall, he took me to a place where there was a sign that said, “D@VEY’S!” 'An internet café?' I asked myself.
We walked in to see tables with computers on them, and a few people drinking what I was guessing was something resembling coffee. I looked around and then my eyes were caught by a man who made eye contact with me and for some strange reason ran excitedly over on his short, thin legs to Mike and I. “Mike, Chase, what’s up guys?” He asked holding his hand out, Mike took his hand and shook it then he held his hand in front of me. 'I know this guy?'
I didn’t want to cause anything so I took his hand. 'Limp…that’s always a good sign.' I thought to myself. “So what’s up guys?” He asked, Mike fielded that one for me,
“Not much Davey,” He said, “ I'm good, but Chase needs a drink and a seat.”
“Everything okay?” He asked looking at me concerned,
“Everything’s fine Davey, just a drink and a seat.” I reiterated. He nodded,
“Alright, c’mon back.” He said motioning us to follow.
In the back of the place there were a few chairs and a couch, “Have a seat buddy.” He told me pointing to the couch. I took the seat. “What you want to drink man?”
“Water.” That’s all I said. 'Alright, let’s try to figure out what the hell is why it’s o’ eighteen.' I said to myself, 'Why I’m here and…the reason I’m wearing a ring!' I looked down to my left hand and right there, I saw a ring on my left hand.
“Hey Chase, here you go man.” Davey's words snapped me back and he held a bottle of water which I took with a nod to thank him.
“Finally can’t believe it man?” He looked at me strangely,
“What’s you mean?” I flashed my ring,
“You’ve been wearing that thing for the longest time Chase.” He said, “It looks like it's just now getting to you.”
“I guess” I said unsure, “Feels like I just got it today.” I told him, if only he knew. He chuckled,
“Where is she anyway?”
“Probably with the others.” He said as he shot a glance to the digital clock over the door we entered from,
'So I'm engaged...' I said to myself, 'Engaged!?' “Okay…Where’s Mike?” I followed up quickly while I twisted off the cap to my bottle.
“Here.” He said suddenly as he plopped down beside me. I drunk the bottle in two gulps and took a deep breath.
'What the hell man?' “Where did you go?”
“I just went to make a call.” He said lying back,
“Whom love, whom.” 'Huh, did someone just have the audacity to correct me on my grammar?' I turned my head and in the doorway entered three girls, a blonde with a light orange blouse and blue skirt which went down only past her knee caps, a brunette with green eyes and more professional attire with a dark brown button-up, with a beige undershirt and a black skirt, also wore a ring and finally a red head with brown eyes, a long sleeved sweater, blue jeans and a pair of sneakers. I knew the blonde; Carla, she’s Mike’s girl and they’ve been together for a while, even longer if that moment was any kind of suggestion. The other two threw me through a loop though.
Carla went over to Mike while the brunette looked expectantly at me. 'Why not?' I got off the couch and awkwardly embraced the brunette; she was surprised slightly but returned the hug. “Chase, you okay?” 'How many times are people gonna ask me that?!'
The hug felt good for some reason, slightly familiar if I guessed. 'Guess I made the right choice.'
I eased up on the hug and just took a look at her, needed to see if this was real too. “Chase?” She asked concerned,
“What’s wrong, are you okay?”
“Yeah…I’m fine.” 'Am I really?' I asked myself.
“You sure?” I nodded and sank back into the couch next to Mike. I just glanced at him,
“I called Charlie while you waited outside of my store and waited for her while you stayed inside here with Dave.” 'Charlie?' I asked myself, 'I hope to god its short for Charlene.'
“Uh, thanks Mike.” I said, I didn’t look at anyone I was busy wondering what thehell was going on.
“Chase doesn’t look so well.” I heard Carla whisper
“I know what’ll cheer him up.” 'You can tell me what the hell is goin’ on and show me that Brandon is somewhere with my dad?' I asked inwardly, “I’ll call Lucille.” 'Who?'
“Lucille?” She just looked at me shocked and said finally,
“Wow Chase, you are not a good daddy at all.” I chuckled, 'Heh, that’s funny,' I thought to myself, 'she called me… DADDY!?' “Lucille, come over here Lucille.” She called, she looked at mestrangely, “C’mon Chase, call her.” 'She’s serious?'
“Right…uh, Lucille,” I called, “C’mere Lucille.” Everyone turned to the door as ifwaiting for someone and truly I was scared. I held my breath as I watched the door then saw something come in from the other side of the door,
'A paw…' I said to myself, 'A paw? Thank god it’s just an animal.'' I took a breath of relief and waited for the thingwhich came through that door. 'Alright paws, whiskers…pointy ears…it’s a cat…A FRIGGIN’ CAT!?'
Charlene picked up the cat with care and held it close, “Hey Lucille.” She said softlyto the cat. 'Seriously?' I asked myself, '…a cat?' I thought, “Here, go to daddy.” She held out the cat in frontof me and waited for me to take it. 'You must be kidding me.' I thought as I slowlyreached for the cat, had to stop once the damn thing started hissing at me, its clawseven came out. “What’s the matter with you Lucille?” Charlene said as she thankfullypulled back, its eyes had become slits. 'I don’t like cats much' I said inwardly, 'Why do I have one?'.
She looked at the cat then back to me for a minute then said, “She’s never donethat before.” Mike chuckled,
“I’m surprised it hasn’t happened before honestly,” He said, “Chase never liked cats.” Iwanted to yell thank you at that statement.
“It was more of a mutual thing really.” I stated,
“Really?” Charlene, “They always got along well.”
“Maybe it’s his cologne.” The red head said.
“I don’t wear cologne.” I said,
“Yeah you do honey, remember you put some on this morning.” Charlene toldme,
“I did?” I took a quick whiff. 'I must because I don’t smell like this.' At that point Ibelieved I was dreaming. I had to have been, I had a female cat. My thoughts must’vemade an image on my face because Charlene then said,
“You really don’t look too good babe, maybe we should get goin’.” She had nocomplaints from me on that one. “Lucile’s appointment finished a while ago so we can just take off.”
We got up and said our goodbyes then left. I followed her out to the parking lotand was surprised at the number of cars that I’ve never seen before, hell one lookedlike it could fly a little bit. “Chase!” I turned my neck quickly to see Charlene standingbeside an S.U.V. 'A Ford?' I thought to myself, '…You must be joking.'
She looked at me expectantly and I wasdrawing up a blank. “Chase, we can’t go until you get the keys out.” She told me.
“Oh right!” I said reaching into my pocket and pulled out a set of keys. I stared atthe keys for a second with a single word going through my mind. 'Damn, damn, damn, damn.'
“Chase?” I then had a quick idea and walked over to her and held my keys in front of her.
“Here,” I told her, “You drive, I’m a little tired.” She quirked an eye-brow at me,
“You’re serious Chase?” She asked I nodded,
“Here, I’ll hold Lucy here while you drive.” I said taking the cat and smilingthrough several of the small scratches that damned thing gave me when I grabbed it.She hesitated for a moment but didn’t argue. She got to the driver’s seat and Isat in the passenger’s seat holding the cat. 'I know I’m the one who said I’d do this but I feel cheated somehow.' I thought.
We took off and I watched the outside as we drove. 'Wow,' I thought, 'things sure look different.' Looking at all those detailed buildings and how real they seemed made ithard for me to believe that this was a dream, but it seemed darker for some reason. There were more homeless than I remembered and the tags around town were all too familiar to me but it seemed people had been expanding where they shouldn't, but-. 'No, can’t think like that.' I chastised myself, 'It’s a dream; nothing else…Has to be.' I caught Charlene looking at me and I looked at her in return, she smiled. It was reassuring to know that at least I was someone people could smile at.
Charlene drove us to the more industrial side of the city and parked at the side of a decent looking apartment complex which made me think that this was a really good dream.
I followed Charlene up a few flights of stairs, somewhere on the fifth floor, and exited into a hallway that really seemed to have overdone it with the Christmas spirit. 'Oh hey, dancing Santa.' After I had to forcefully restraining the cat in my arms and sustaining several scratches on my arms Charlene and I reached “our” apartment. '413,' I grimaced at the sight of that,Charlene used the keys she still held to enter the apartment and I followed. 'Wow, must be doin’ good to live in a place like this.' I thought as I looked around the apartment. It was a decent sized one, plenty of room which was filled with Christmas decorations; the tree was a big one as well trimmed and decorated nicely, 'Big star.'
I began to look around more and was caught by somethings on the mantle; two photos. The photo was one from a week or two before my oldest brother, Jack, was shipped off to the marines. He stood with a big smile and his arm on Mike’s shoulder. Mike wore his piercings and a fitted cap. I was on the left kneeling in front of Mike and Jack, kneeling beside me was Brandon wearing a black t shirt which was a size or two too big for him. I focused on Brandon for a minute. The image of him at the mall flashed through my head. “Brandon…” I whispered.
'He’s fine!' I yelled inside my head, 'none of this is real, everything is fine!' I was trying desperately to keep myself believing that.
I quickly turned to the other picture, it was of Charlene and I and judging by the smiles and the lightly running makeup it was after I had proposed to her. It was a restaurant and from the looks of it a Chinese one, a fancy one at that. It was an odd scene to me but I couldn't help but look back at the other photo.
“Chase?” I heard Charlene ask me. I turned from the picture and saw her with aconcerned look on her face.
“Yeah?” I asked,
“Chase…Are you okay?” I chuckled a little bit, “You’ve been staring at a picture of your brothers and the engagement photo for a littlebit.”
“I was?” I asked, she came over closer to me and looked at me intently,
“Chase, you’re starting to worry me.” She said “Are you sure you’re fine?”
“Yes.” I told her obstinately, “I’m just having an off day, don’t worry.”Charlene didn’t want to believe the off-day excuse which was nothing new for me, she tried to get me to open up but being in a family of four boys prepares you for those kinds of things. Besides, it’s not like I would even know where to begin. Whatwould I tell her? I thought I saw my little brother get shot and am now dreaming that I’mthree years into the future? Not the kind of things you say to people, especially asignificant other. I tried to make it seem like I was concerned about that damned cat andstuff like that but judging by her expression she didn’t think I was telling the truth. Sheseemed bright; I always liked that from women.
'If this is a dream it’s definitely one of the craziest ones I’ve had.' I thought as I sat in the apartment’s living room and watched a little bit of TV. On it I had seen things that struck me as odd; commercials for products I’d never seen before, a comedian I used to watch on the net when I was growing up now was in his own one-hour special. It left me questioning if this really was a dream but I wouldn’t let those kind of thoughts go anywhere.
Charlene pretended to watch the TV but I always caught her looking up at me periodically, mostly during the commercials. She laid her head on my thigh and I rested my hand on hers. 'Her hair is very smooth.' I thought as I felt her head. I slowly moved my hand to her shoulder. 'Why…why does this feel so normal to me?'
“Chase?” Charlene was now looking up at me.
“Yeah, what’s up?” I asked,
“Are we still going to your parents for Christmas dinner tomorrow?”
“Of course.” I told her, “Haven’t missed a dinner yet have I?” She shook her head and smiled slightly. “Why?” She turned her head back to the TV,
“Well, I’m just worried with the way you’ve been acting today.” She told me. I put on a smile, couldn’t see what for though as she couldn’t see my face. I think it was more for me than her.
“Hey, don’t worry.” I told her, “It’s just an off day alright?” She turned over and looked up at me.
“You sure?” She asked worriedly.
“Have I ever lied to you before?” Her eyes darted to my left shoulder, it was only for a split second but I saw it. She put on a smile and said,
“Never.” She then grabbed my head and pulled mine down to hers and kissed me. 'What was she looking at?' I thought.
Charlene had already left to bed, told me she couldn’t wait for tomorrow. I told her I’d be there shortly, just wanted a drink; and it took me three friggin’ minutes to find a damn cup.
I found a room which seemed to have been used as an office or something. 'Bookshelves, books…Chicken soup?' I was making sure that everything in there was at all me. I had hoped we shared the use of the room. I looked around more and found a framed diploma from Stone Hurst U. It was mine in, Journalism? I thought, I remembered that I was actually studying criminal justice at Stone Hurst. I looked around at some of the other frames there and saw awards in journalism for…Crime? 'Okay, not what I thought I would be doing out of college but…'
Something else was actually gnawing at me. 'Do I still?' I looked around but could not find any indication that I still did it. I looked for a few minutes before I stopped and let out a small sigh, “Guess not.” I said aloud.
“You guessed what?” I turned quickly and saw Charlene standing in the doorway wearing nothing but a Stone Hurst U shirt. 'Oh, white socks.'
“Oh um…yeah, what?” I was distracted. She cocked an eye brow,
“You said guess not, what were you talking about?” She asked stepping further into the room.
'THINK, THINK, THINK!' I yelled in my head, 'THINK DAMN YOU!' I yelled in my head. “I was…looking for a paper I was working on…” I said quickly, “I thought I left it in here and was looking for it and couldn’t find it, hence: Guess not.” Her eyes began to burn holes through the shirt I wore for a moment before she shook her head.
“God Chase.” She said,
“Just hurry up and come to bed before I decide to take back your present.” She turned and walked away.
'Wait...' I thought for a minute, '…JACKPOT!' I practically sprinted after her. 'Thank you god for this dream.'
Charlie was fast asleep already, she held onto me tight as she slept. I looked at the clock on a nightstand to my left, said three in the morning. I don’t know why but as much as I wanted to get out of the bed I couldn’t, partly because my movement would’ve woken Charlene, but mostly because my body didn’t want to. I looked at Charlene for a moment and wondered about why she gripped me so tight even in sleep. 'I don’t know much about women,' I admitted to myself, '…but I think something’s bothering her.' I didn’t focus too hard though, it was a dream and it would be over soon. I couldn’t help but think about what would happen if I fell asleep right now. 'If I fall asleep in a dream will I wake up for real in my life?' I asked myself. 'Or is this my life?'
'NO!' I told myself, Brandon’s face flashed in my head before I closed my eyes.
'This is a dream…it is a dream…'