What Dreams May Come
Read Chapters 1 & 2
Chapter 3: Good News and Bad News
Flinging her bag onto the worn couch, Kaia kicked off her shoes and wandered towards the kitchen. Pressing a hand against her growling stomach, she moaned as she thought of the meager lunch she had snagged when the class had gone on break. Digging through her purse as she walked, Kaia fished out her cell, grimacing as she realized it had died. Turning on her heel, she backtracked into the living room. She dropped to her knees and peered under the table, searching for the power cord. Plopping down onto the floor, she powered up her phone. The new voicemail message blinked back at her insistently.
“Hey there hon, guessing you let your phone die again?” Kaia felt a warm smile spread across her face as the sound of Brian’s deep voice came over the line. “I’ve got some good news and some bad news. Marcus and Devon hired me on as a lawyer now and I’ve already got my first case.” Kaia did a silent fist pump. Brian had been interning for the Marcus and Devon Law Firm since his first year as a law student, she knew how excited he must be to have been brought on as a lawyer right after passing his bar. “Now for the bad news, the case I’m handling is down in Little Egypt. I’ll be down in Carbondale for the next few days. Wish I had time to say good bye in person. Love you!”
The two gargoyles loomed above her, their great wings spanning the archway, the heart of the labyrinth beyond obscured in shadow. Kaia stepped forward tentatively, her eyes darting between the stone guardians. White light speared her eyes and she squinted as she passed through the entrance. Blinking away the tears, she peered around her in astonishment. A typical office complex spread out before her, the neatly ordered rows of cubicles stretching as far as her eyes could see. Bright fluorescent lights washed out all color and dimension the space might otherwise have had, leaving all it touched devoid of any trace of life. There was a grating sound of stone grinding upon itself and Kaia spun about to find the way she had come blocked by a giant stone slab. Engraved upon its surface was a message and her fingertip trailed along the polished grooves as she read.
“Discovered in Africa, I spread like a tide
To become a hot staple known the world wide.
A necessity to some, a treasure to many,
I’m best enjoyed among pleasant company.
Some like me hot and some like me cold.
Some prefer mild, others only bold.
Some take me straight, while some like to savor
My essence to which has been added a flavor.
So put down your cares and sit awhile with me;
I’ll send you back refreshed and full of energy.”
Kaia stepped back and stared at the wall, her mouth twisted in disgust. “What the fuck.” Sighing, she pinched the bridge of her nose between her finger and thumb. “Hot staple…Africa…wait a minute…” her head came up and she frowned, remembering an old history paper she had written, “Coffee! But where would I find…” Turning in a slow circle, she peered down the stark white aisles searching for a clue as to what direction she should take. Closing her eyes, she spun around until her head felt as if it would fly right off her shoulders. Kaia waited until the tilting world came to a halt before setting off down the path before her.
Empty cubicles lay in even, geometric patterns along either side of her. Inside each was a computer, the light from their blank screens casting alternating waves of sickly white light and deep shadow as she passed. Goosebumps tingled down her arms, lifting the sensitive hairs until Kaia felt as if she would scream. There was near complete silence, only the soft droning of the computers and her muffled footfalls along the braided carpeting. She was about to turn back and try another path when she spotted a small placard beside a rather inconspicuous door.
“Room 365: Break Room. This must be it.” Her hand stretched out towards the dented brass doorknob, the metal cool against her clammy palm. As the door creaked open, she stuck her head inside. The tiled floor was a checkerboard of mottled gray and teal squares. Six chairs were placed seemingly haphazardly along the floor, each one fitting neatly inside one of the square tiles. What intrigued her the most, however, was the missing tile directly in the center of the room. Tucking a wayward copper strand behind her ear, Kaia stepped fully into the room. As her foot brushed the first of the tiles she heard the soft click of the door shutting behind her and the chilling finality of the lock sliding into place. Her heart pounded against her rib cage as a thin cloud of dust fell from the panels above and a terrible grating sound tore at her ears. The ceiling was falling.
Kaia’s eyes were drawn back to the chairs. A memory tugged at the dim corners of her mind. There was something familiar about this. On a hunch, she grabbed the first chair and pushed until her cheeks were flushed with the effort but it wouldn’t budge. The taste of copper flooded her mouth as Kaia bit her lip so hard it bled. Stepping back, she tried to ignore the ominous rumbling of the ceiling as it fell, inch by inch, towards her head. Running over to the far chair, she gave it a shove, her breath rushing from her in a relief as it shifted a few squares. Carefully she moved each chair, square by painstaking square, until suddenly one lifted right off the floor. Tossing it aside, she began working on the rest of the chairs until at last there was only the one chair left. The ceiling was brushing against the top of her head now and Kaia was forced to crawl along the floor as she pushed the final chair into the hole in the center of the room. As the legs thumped into position, the corresponding hole in the ceiling clicked into place along the back of the chair and stopped.
Kaia flopped boneless to the floor, the cold tiles pressing against her heated cheeks sending shivers rolling down her spine. There was a sound of a door sliding open and she rolled so she could see the far end of the room where the mouth of a doorway now yawned open. Shifting her weight, Kaia began to army crawl along the floor until she reached the door. As she passed into the inky blackness an insistent buzzing sound filled her ears.
Slapping a hand along the snooze button, Kaia moaned as she rolled over. The sheets were twisted about her body. Pillows lay scattered across the room where they had been thrown. Scrubbing a hand across her face, Kaia gasped as pain lanced through her lips. Drawing her hand back, she stared in shock at the bright smear of red staining her palm as the acrid taste of blood met her tongue.
Chapter 4: It Was Just a Dream
“It’s just weird, isn’t it?” Kaia frowned as she tore the crust off her sandwich. The weak winter sunlight struggled through the windowpane to fall along her table. Emily sat opposite her in the booth, her fork twirling absentmindedly in her pasta.
“I wouldn’t worry about it, it was just a dream. It’s probably just like Dr. Lydell said in class yesterday. Our waking life is thought to influence our dream state. I bet the combination of that puzzle book and the section on dreams is just getting jumbled up in your sleep.”
“I suppose you’re right.” Kaia peeled the pickles off the turkey and replaced the slice of bread. Her dark eyes met Emily’s laughing green gaze as she lifted the sandwich to her mouth. “What?”
“Why do you ask for pickles if you just take them off?”
Kaia shrugged indifferently as she swallowed a mouthful. “I’ll still eat them. I like pickles, just not on my sandwich.”
Emily just shook her head and popped a ripe cherry tomato into her mouth.
Kaia was perched uncomfortably on the edge of the hard wooden chair awaiting the dour librarian’s return. The same ancient lights hung suspended from the dank ceiling, their weak light casting hazy circles on the chipped paint of the floor. Her fingers beat out a quick, staccato beat as her gaze lazily perused the titles along the shelf beside her. Their careworn faces were often scarred, worn by decades of use. Once elegant gold filigree now looked cheap, it’s painted veneer flaking off to reveal the cracked leather hidden beneath. Her attention was drawn to the quiet swish of the librarian’s skirt against the shelves. Her lined face was every bit as worn as the books surrounding her. Not for the first time, Kaia thought she looked like she belonged down here amongst the old, forgotten tomes.
“Your book,” her voice was little more than a hoarse whisper, the harsh tones gravelly as if she had something caught in her throat.
“Thank you,” Kaia replied meekly as she accepted the small cloth bound book. Nearly running in her hurry to be rid of the curmudgeon, she made for the small table near the center of the room. As she slid into her seat, she found her eyes were drawn to the aisle where before she had found the book of puzzles. Ignoring the impulse to try and find that book again, she drew out her notebook and began dutifully taking notes.
A few hours and a terrible crick in her neck later, Kaia threw down her pen and leaned back in her chair until it rested solely on the rear legs. Again she felt an inexplicable compulsion to find that book. This time, however, she pushed her chair back, its feet screeching against the concrete floor as if in protest.
“It was shelf 5 I think,” she muttered to herself as her fingers trailed along the faded markers. She had just about given up when she spotted it lying unobtrusively alongside a treatise on the effects of certain plant oils on rheumatism. Hugging it to her, she ran back to her table and flipped through the pages impatiently until she spotted the last puzzle, the double page maze. Her eyes widened as she looked it over, every detail was identical to her dream. As she held it closer to inspect it, she noticed that something appeared to be written on the other side of the page. Gently, she turned the page, her breath catching in her chest at what she saw. The book fell from her bloodless hands, slamming against the floor with a dull thud. The pages fluttered like the wings of a bird, settling finally with that page facing her. Scrawled along the back of the page, were instructions on how to complete the maze, in her handwriting.
Her hands were shaking as she bent to retrieve the book. Kaia slammed the cover shut as she noticed now that along the opposite page was the same puzzle from her dream from the night before. “This isn’t real. It’s just a trick of my subconscious.” The hoarse whisper sounded insincere, even to her. She shoved the book away from her and grabbed up her bag. Kaia spared only a fleeting glance over her shoulder at the small, insignificant book lying on the table behind her before dashing up the steps to the main level of the library.
“You want it dragged through the garden, miss?” The heavy set man’s face was flushed from the steam pouring off the hot dogs simmering in the water before him. Chicago hot dogs are the best in the world, just ask the guys that sell them. A kosher, all beef hot dog, water simmered, topped with yellow mustard, white onions, piccalilli, pickled sport peppers, tomato slices, a dill pickle and a dash of celery salt all on a poppy seed bun. Kaia’s stomach rumbled just thinking about it.
“Oh yes, thank you.”
“You seem distracted,” Emily’s voice carried a hint of worry, “and I didn’t really want to say anything but those dark circles are god awful. Have you been sleeping all right?”
Kaia sighed and picked some poppy seeds off her hot dog bun absentmindedly as the two began walking away from the street vendor. She glanced at her friend out of the corner of her eye. Emily’s honey blonde hair hang in stick straight curtains, perfectly framing her oval face as she attempted to cram a rather unladylike-sized bite into her mouth. For an instant, Kaia thought about telling her of the second dream and the notes in the puzzle book. “Brian’s gone; it’s funny how hard it is to sleep without him there.” A corner of her mouth lifted in a sardonic grin, “you’d think I’d be sleeping better without him snoring like a bear.”
Behind them at the vendor’s cart she heard an argument erupt. “But I like ketchup on my hot dog.”
“And I told you,” the vendor’s voice was low and brimming with anger, “we don’t have ketchup here. You’ll not be ruining my hot dogs with that shit!”
Emily giggled around the bite of hot dog in her mouth. “Ah tourists, always good for a laugh.”
A shadow passed over the two women as they walked and Kaia glanced up at the century old architecture of the building that loomed over them. Perched atop a crumbling stone ledge near the top floor giant stone gargoyles flanked the dark windows. Their stoic faces scowled in warning down at all who dared pass beneath them.