Chapter One: Blackout
I sat alone, sipping at my coffee slowly without really tasting the searing liquid.
The ordinary coffee shop was dimly lit, and about to get dimmer; as one of the hanging lamp’s bulb pulsated, flickering like a Morse code message. It was a twenty four hour place, and at three in the morning there was a surprising amount of people scattered throughout the shop; sitting at tables and bar stools at the counter. I wondered what they were doing here at this time of the morning.
I took another sip of the bitter coffee and tried not to grimace as the harsh flavor slid down my throat, warming my body as it traveled down. I used the coffee as a distraction, something for my hands to do while I waited. The more I forced myself to drink it, the more I regretted not just getting something off the laminated breakfast menu. The waitress sauntered over to me again, and presented me with what I was sure was meant to be her most enticing smile, sticking out the pot of coffee in a flirtatious offer.
“Can I get you anymore coffee?” Her voice was syrupy sweet and that, combined with the suggestion of coffee, made my stomach twist.
“No thank you.” I said just as sweetly, returning her smile. I had the feeling I could have been a complete jerk, and she still would have swooned.
“Well then stranger, can I get you anything else?” It was hard to miss the invitation in her question, but just in case I had, she made sure her point was made with her body language.
“No, but thank you. I’m just waiting for a friend,” her face fell slightly, but brightened when I added who I was waiting for. “He shouldn’t be much longer.”
“Well if you need anything, you just holler.” She winked and turned away.
I couldn’t help but follow the swish of her hips as she walked behind the counter and disappeared into the kitchen. I shook my head and tried to grind away the image that was burned into my eyes lids, with my fists.
I turned, looking out the window. It was pitch black outside, with no light to be expected for months. Big billows of angry clouds covered the sky with the promise of stormy weather for the people of this small town.
It was the middle of the year on this side of the world, and the middle of winter as well. Most of the towns that surrounded this area, had been sunless for months and expected to be sunless for a few more. After almost twelve years of this pattern, it wasn’t a big fuss anymore. If scientists couldn’t explain it, then a town of less than five thousand people didn’t have a chance.
I looked down at the table and began to skim the outdated article that had been cut from a newspaper ten years ago, and placed under a thick piece of glass. It talked about how the town looked as though it would be left without any sun for the second year in a row. A year before the published date of the article, the sun suddenly disappeared for nearly seven months, leaving nothing but storm clouds in the sky. No one could explain why this had happened or how long it would continue.
There was an epidemic of chaos after the first month with no sun. Crime, in the towns affected by the missing sun, sky rocketed to an alarming high. You wouldn’t think so much violence could exist with only a few thousand people, but it was there. Everyone swore it was the end of the world, an omen for the sins of all the wrong doers. Stores were raided and houses were broken into, people spent weeks underground expecting the worst. Reinforcements were finally called in, and everything eventually started to calm down enough that it was safe to go out without being harassed.
After almost eight months of no sun, the town’s people had awakened one morning to find the first sunrise. Again, no one could explain what made it reappear or why any of it had happened in the first place, but people considered it a positive sign and a blessing when it returned. When it happened the next year and the year after that, no one knew what to think anymore.
No one except for me.
I knew what caused the sun to disappear and hide for months at a time, depriving this side of the earth its warmth. What I didn’t know was why or how it happened.
I took another sip of my cold coffee and made a face of disgust. Blah! I didn’t know why I continued to drink the stuff. I pushed it to the other side of the table, so I wouldn’t impulsively pick it up again. I waved off the waitress as she started to work her way toward me once more, she put on a full pout but turned around.
I looked at my watch and realized it was just about time to get moving again. We still had another day of traveling if all went well, and I wanted to get out of here before we got hit by this storm.
I decided to wait for Aaron outside and shifted out of the booth, reaching into the back pocket of my jeans, and throwing down enough cash to cover the coffee and tip. As I passed the counter I tried to ignore the look of longing in the waitress’s stare down, as she drew lazy circles on the top of the counter with a red finger nail. The door of the coffee shop chimed, and I nodded a goodbye to the waitress, pushing my way through to the outside.
I stood off to the side, knowing Aaron would be back anytime now. I shoved my hands into my pockets, and rocked on the balls of my feet to keep myself occupied. It was cold, but it didn’t bother me. I kind of liked it, or at least had adapted to it. I played the part because it drew less attention to me. People tended to notice the only person that wasn’t trembling and flinching away from the icy bite of the weather.
This would be our last stop before we finally reached them, and Aaron had needed to get some last minute supplies before we headed out. I wanted to be there already. The closer we got to our destination, the more anxious I felt, which I took as a good sign. Everything I had been put through, my entire life, up until this point, had been put in fast forward, literally. I had been waiting for this moment for as long as I remembered. Now I just wanted this task to be over, but everything seemed like it was going in slow motion. It had been so long since I had had to live life at the natural pace of time.
I saw Aaron walk around the other side of the diner. Pulling my hands from my pockets, and cupping them around my mouth, I blew hot air into them. The bitter smell of stale coffee filled my hands, and I grimaced.
I was going to have to brush my teeth before we left, I thought to myself.
Aaron walked up to me nodding, and I took a deep breath.
“Let’s go get ourselves an ice Princess.”
Chapter Two: Ripple Effect
I couldn’t remember exactly when I had become aware of the fact that I was in a dream.
I couldn’t remember anything actually.
It was so dark I couldn’t tell at first if my eyes were open or closed. I blinked rapidly, trying to distinguish a difference between the two. It was an intense kind of darkness and it immediately had me feeling claustrophobic. It didn’t help that I felt almost completely restricted, but by what? My breathing came harder and faster, and I tried not to freak out.
I didn’t know how long I had been asleep, everything in the ‘where and when’ department of my brain seemed to be pretty fuzzy. The more I realized just how little I could remember, the more the small pin needles of panic started to spread throughout my body, making my fingertips and toes tingle with numbness. I desperately tried to construct some memory of where I had been, or even what I had been doing last, but everything seemed to blur in my mind - including this dream. I knew it had to be a side effect of still being comatose somewhere, and honestly that’s all that kept me from going into full on hysterics. Everything inside me was screaming that something wasn’t right, and it went a lot deeper than being held hostage inside a dream.
I hate the kind of dreams where you know you were in one, almost like looking into a window at yourself, but no matter what you do you just can’t wake yourself up. Sub consciously, you know when you are dreaming; there is always that lingering nagging feeling deep inside, sending off warning bells that something just isn’t right, and I was experiencing those signals loud and clear right now.
Scratch that, this wasn’t a dream; this was definitely more a nightmare.
Dreams, at best, were something that you didn’t mind sleeping through, or getting woken up from at the most inopportune moment. Nightmares on the other hand were trap doors, dead ends around every corner, fear gripping suffocation; and no matter how terrifying they seemed to be, it was almost impossible to be woken up from one when you wanted nothing more.
I had been so absorbed with the disorientation of the memory loss I was struggling with, that I hadn’t actually stopped to let myself think about the actual nightmare itself. But now I was starting to feel…cold? And that distraction took me in another direction. It occurred to me then that I was trapped, and for the first time since becoming aware of my circumstance, I realized I couldn’t move anything. Was I standing? Or was I lying down? I didn’t even know, but the fact that I was doing either of the two in this nightmare, and I was just now realizing it had me freaking out more.
Attempting to focus, I pulled in all the corners of my concentration and tried to figure out my surroundings. I couldn’t see more than a few inches from my face, so trying to squint to see a few feet in front of me was beyond out of the question. My eyes had adjusted to the pitch black I was surrounded by; it was definitely brighter now, like someone had lit a lantern and was slowly adjusting the strength of the flame.
I still couldn’t seem to put into words exactly what I was surrounded by. It didn’t help that my vision was completely clouded either, like I was looking through fogged-over glasses. Whatever I was bound by was solid, and not entirely clear; it had a good grip on every inch of my body. The only thing I had any room to move was my head and neck, and even those I couldn’t move much.
Trying to analyze the situation of my dream could easily have been, hands down, my worst idea ever. At least I thought so. I still couldn’t remember past memories, so trying to remember past bad ideas was probably not going to happen at the moment-
Ugh! I scolded myself. I was getting side tracked again.
I currently had bigger problems to sort through. Starting with: why couldn’t I wake myself up?
Maybe I was just in too deep a sleep, and it was going to take a while to coax my brain to finally react.
I couldn’t seem to feel anything around me; and even though I wasn’t physically uncomfortable, the simple fact that I seemed to be snugly enclosed in something was extremely off putting. Breathing seemed to be next to impossible; and I struggled to drag small amounts of air in through my nose to keep myself from passing out-not only from lack of oxygen, but from the frightening unknown.
Could someone pass out in a dream? I didn’t know.
I tried to focus on what my fingers could feel; but they were numb, so the attempts were useless. I also wasn’t exactly sure where they were, it felt like my entire body had fallen asleep. The loss of feeling also made it hard to determine if I even had clothes on. The list of things I was unaware of continued to grow. Instincts had me attempting to look down, but I was drawn up short; the tip of my chin rubbed up against something smooth…cold and…wet.
Just like that, the memory was there, flashing in my mind like big, bright, neon lights blinking: remember me, remember me! Instantly I was able to breathe just a little bit easier. It was as if the chill had triggered something inside my head, and suddenly I could remember being sick, extremely sick. There had been two weeks of intense flu like symptoms. If flu symptoms could be on steroids, mine had definitely taken a few hits. I remembered having a high fever, cold and hot spells - I had been burning up one minute and completely overcome with the chills the next. Horrible headaches had attacked me, as well as a dull ache that settled into my bones. That’s what this was: I had obviously gone delirious, most likely from the rollercoaster of symptoms I had suffered, and now they were messing with my mind.
I could feel it again, my body was starting to shiver from the coldness I felt earlier, and I prayed that this would be enough to awaken me. My breathing started coming faster, and I could see the small vapor clouds it left in front of me inside the small cave that surrounded my head. Suddenly everything seemed so real to me, making me doubt my earlier thoughts and I was beginning to doubt if this was a dream at all. I was starting to see things clearer now, and the edges around my dream no longer blurred. Instantly the small area I was in was bathed in a soft, golden glow of light. I still couldn’t move my head to look down, or even around me really, but my newly refined eye sight could finally focus on what was surrounding me.
No, not surrounding me, trapping me, I thought.
I blinked several times, and squinted, my brows pulling together in confusion, and I shook my head in denial.
This wasn’t real; I had to be dreaming, my mind argued against the infeasibility of what I was seeing.
I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and dragged my teeth over my bottom lip, and as hard as I could stand it, I bit down on my lip until I could taste the faint metallic flavor of blood. I waited a couple of seconds, waited to wake up, but nothing happened. I opened my eyes slowly and instantly wished I hadn’t, the light around me had grown brighter, and there was no mistaking it this time.
Oh my god! I thought frantically, as I realized what I was trapped in.
Coming October 2010