Short story from David A. Douglas

The Waking World

Kiera ran down a corridor. Black walls. Light stole its way through the sliver of space between the black ceiling and walls. Just enough to see a few paces ahead. She ran faster without the sensation of velocity. A room opened up. Dark with two white chairs. Stacked. She spun around the room. Black room. White chairs. Black. Then white. Repeated. A doppler effect. Her clothing white. She looked down. Her hands black. She lifted the top chair and sat down in the dining car of a moving train.

It was dark outside the train car window. Art-deco interior. Her face and hair reflected the time. Her dark eyes stared into the void. No sound. Uphill, the gradient increased. More and more the train screamed uphill. Silent scream. She screamed. The roar of the engine broke the silence in a violent wave. She closed her mouth. The train was silent again. All was silent. She screamed again. The train joined her. Scream. Silence. Repeated. An echo in reverse. Uphill. Uphill until the tracks looped back in on themselves. 

Conductor with spectacles of perfectly round lenses shouted, “Tickets!”

She looked down at her white dress. Black hands. Pearls draped. Wondered and said, “I’ve been here before,” her hands moved across the table of the dining car. She did not command her muscles. Glass in hand. No movement. She thought to draw the glass to her lips but could not. She willed herself. She took a sip. Nothing. Returned the glass. Pick it up. Repeated. Slowly she stood. Walked. Forced each step. Walked passed each window. Sun. Tree. Sun. Tree. Repeated. She reached the end of the train car. Feet like stone. Door opened. Color. Trees. Sun. Grass. Roads. She saw color! But she didn’t recognize it as color – green, yellow, and blue. Her recollection was rudely interrupted. Her groomed black hair exploded into the wind. She thought to throw herself from the train. She could not make her muscles move. She struggled. A small step. Her flight was stopped. She turned. The conductor faced her. Together they walked back to her seat. She closed her mahogany brown eyes. She lost control again.

On Les Champs-Elysees, Keira sat quietly. The monochromatic world returned. She waited quietly. Hundreds of people passed by. Cars, up and down the boulevard on a late afternoon. Waiter provided her another glass of wine. A man with an unfamiliar face sat down at the adjacent table and ordered a café latte. He drank his beverage; his pale face altered in a slow progression. Eventually, he looked exactly like her publisher, Jean-Marco. Curly hair. Bright sun set behind him. Color emerged. Yellow, then orange sun. He said the strangest thing, “I’ve been here before.”

She mimicked the last two words with him, “—here before,” in unison. Film noir black-and-white world returned. He then stood and walked away. Color faded to black-and-white. His shadow didn’t follow but he remained to finish the drink. Angle of the shadow caused the glass to appear two feet in height and the publisher eighteen feet tall. She tried to stand. To walk. But her muscles disobeyed. She tried. And tried. Slowly stood. Her stride immediately fired like a rocket. She caught up to Jean-Marco. She couldn’t slow down. Walked right through him. She stopped. He walked through her. He stopped. She walked through him. Repeated. Until she turned into his shadow. Then he turned into her shadow. Repeated. 
Sun set quickly. Darkness. City lights. Arch de Triumph replaced the moonless sky in splendor. Brighter. Brighter. And brighter still. Shadows blurred. Suddenly indoors.

Through his dark eyes Jean-Marco looked at his hands, suddenly they were small like a child’s hands. He sat with legs crossed. Family room flickered from an old sci-fi on the black-and-white television. Aliens and space-ships. People ran. People fought. It was late. He fell asleep. He saw the TV screen filled with static. His heart was filled with fear. He stood in the middle of the room. He placed his hand over the screen. The further he backed up the more his hand covered the screen. He backed up all the way to the empty fireplace, “I’ve been here before,” he muttered, but ignored. He sat in the fire place. Hand down. The static replaced by an alien. Egg-shaped head. Black almond eyes. It stared at him. It reached up. Its hand stretched beyond the top of the screen but remained within the tube. Suddenly, through the chimney, he felt the alien’s hand touch his shoulder. He leaped, screamed, and bolted out of the fireplace. He dove for the power button on the TV. It went dead. He rushed to the light switch on the wall and instantly woke up. He trembled. He wiped the sweat from his face. He was an adult again. His breath slowly calmed. 

Shortly, Jean-Marco ran down a corridor. Walls black. Light stole its way through the sliver of space between the black ceiling and walls. Just enough to see a few paces ahead. He ran faster without the sensation of velocity. A room opened up. Black with two white chairs. Stacked. He spun around the room. Black room. White chairs. A doppler effect. Black. Then white. Repeated. His clothing black. He looked down. His hands white. Gloves. He lifted the top chair and sat. Three men in black grabbed the other chair. They quickly placed it on him. It pressed down on his shoulders. He tried to push back. Room spun. Black. White. Black. White. Repeated. In between the black and white he saw – in color – the lobby of a bank. He didn’t understand color. Three men in black robbed the bank. Masks dawned. They turned and glared at him and others in the lobby. Through the masks. They glared at Keira. He hadn’t noticed her beforehand. Distracted. As swift as a passing train, they were gone. He yelled. He flung his arms into the air. And soon he was in his bed. Blankets on the floor. He immediately wrote down what he saw. Pen down. He exclaimed, “I’ve – been – there – before,” – curious; his hands rubbed his face.

Next morning. Phone rang. Jean-Marco. Keira. Spoke. Respective, similar experiences shared. Silent. Each hung up their receiver. Each stood in disbelief. Curious. Wonder. They met at the café. Boulevard. Cars passed. Cobblestones rose and fell like the lights of an equalizer. To the sounds around them. To their voices. Trees whispered reminders. Like static they whispered. Reminders of past experiences. Shared experiences. But neither were with the other. 
“The similarities are too coincidental,” Jean-Marco said.
“Especially the black room,” she exclaimed in a raised whisper.

Silence. Starred into cups. No answers.
“But what about the déjà vu?” he asked.
“Déjà vu?” she replied.
“Yes! The feeling of having already experienced the present situation.”
“I know what it is. I was more curious about experiencing the same thing.”
“But – but—” he evaluated, “they’re both interconnected!” he urged.
She stopped to think, “Perhaps. You might be right. But – but so frequent too,” she stated. More like a question. Then blurted, “I was in that bank! Yesterday.” 

“Weird,” he replied, “but more than weird. What do you think it means?”
“Well, I don’t believe in metaphysics, but—”
“Why not?” he interrupted.
She flashed him an obstinate glare, “But,” the syllable elongated, “I’ve had this experience once before,” she paused. Regained his completed attention, “My sister. We—” a breath skipped, “—were twins. At least that’s what I was told. I was too little to remember.”
Sympathy, “You never told me.” is eyes widened.
“Does it matter?” past emotion crept into her skull like stale frigid air from a crypt. 
“You know I lost a brother,” he reminded her, “also, many years ago. I don’t remember him, but I was told we looked alike.”

Keira stared at him. A train on a circular track derailed in her mind, “No. No,” she backed away from him.
He clasped onto her arm. A firm grip. But not forceful. Concerned. His grip ended, “We need answers.”
She blurted, “I need to go!”
Jean-Marco persisted, “But—”
“No! I’m not ready for—" she reached out for the crosswalk button. Pressed it. Repeatedly as if firing a gun.
“Tomorrow maybe,” he said.
Walk symbol illuminated. Keira stepped off the curb. A ninety degree difference in direction awaited him. An illuminated hand indicated stop, but for reasons unknown Jean-Marco mirrored her action away from her. A bus. Ten feet. Two feet from a collision. Keira screamed. Her hand accelerated. She caught his arm. Shoulder. The two fell backward. Pain came with the impact. Safety on the sidewalk. A split second later and both would have been dead. The cars and buses rose and fell like the lights of an equalizer. Heartbeats. Synchronized.

Breath. Caught, “What in the world were you—?” 
Jean-Marco, “I – I don’t know.”
They stopped. Stood. Looked around. Without warning, the sidewalk tilted a quarter from level. Street remained; cobbles still in motion – up, down, repeated. The incline was too great. They slid down the sidewalk. It started to rain. Further they slid. The crowds on the sidewalk were unaffected, as were those in the shops and cafés. Keira and Jean-Marco turned small. Further smaller. Slid into the grate of a gutter. Slashed! Walls of grime. Grey and white neon lights. Shaped, or painted on the walls. Keira saw her sister. Jean-Marco saw a little boy. Walls moved and bulged with rats. Lights and shapes of a little girl, then the little boy disappeared into the black and grime and rats. They fell. Stopped by the plunge of a sewer pool. Returned to normal size. What is normal size? 
Like a dream, soon they forgot. Soon they forgot once above ground. Above the swirls of nightmare. The rain washed their memories. Rain hid their tears. Tears became the rain. Keira softly spoke; they spoke simultaneously, “I’ve been here before.”

“Wait!” Keira exclaimed, “Was that my sister?”
The same surprise, “Was that my brother?” the same tone. Jean-Marco added, “How?” a full circle examination of the street, the sidewalk, “What is this?” 
“We’ve been here before,” Keira remarked.
Jean-Marco nodded in disbelief but agreement, “But not exactly – here.”
“No,” she thought for a moment, “It’s – different.”
They looked around. Looked at each other. They stood for minutes but felt like hours. Jean-Marco looked at his watched, “I have a deadline.”
“Of course,” Keira said reluctantly, yet understood. The cobblestones settled. Silent.

Shortly after dinner Keira went to bed. Soon she sat in a field of wildflowers. Wall of trees bordered. Dark forest. She was little. Played with another little girl. Looked like her. A boy in a white shirt, same age played with them. He was also with another boy. Looked like him. The other girl and the other boy played near the edge of the field. Keira and the boy in a grey shirt looked up. The other girl and boy were gone. A cloud. Dark and ominous, reached down. Rain. Heavy rain. Field turned to mud. They slid down a muddy hill. Slid. And slid until they stopped. A well, circular with stone stopped them. Tears blended with the rain. Cries for the other two – unheard. Keira screamed. Cried out again, “Jean-Marco!” Keira woke. Her heart pounded. On the edge, the foot of her bed. Sweat dripped from all over her body. She grabbed the sheet and cried. Her heart pumped out tears. Tears blended with sweat. Sweat blended with tears. She wiped her eyes from the sting of salt. Darkness. Her eyes closed. She sat on the edge of her bed. Desperate to remove the wound increased by the pain of salt. The salt of memory. 

Blur. Blur replaced darkness. Slowly her vision returned. Her heart slowed. She sat on the edge of a pier. Water below. A lake. Trees, a forest surrounded the lake. A gigantic head, then another emerged from the water – shaped by water. Shoulders. The figures stopped at a bust. A girl. A boy. The girl spoke, “You can stop crying for us.” 
The boy smiled, “We are in a beautiful place.”

Slowly, they returned to the lake. The lake drained. Empty. But the memory filled Keira. A happy memory. Happy memories. Soon, they began to fade. She awoke in her apartment in Paris. A flood of half-memory lifted her. No tears. 
Dressed. She walked to her study. Walls of her study changed one a time to the walls of her favorite café. She preferred pen and paper. At a small round table she wrote. Quickly she wrote her recent experience, “Wait!” she blurted, then whispered to herself, “I’ve been here before.” Not because of her frequency to the café. Not because of the table in the corner window – she preferred. A specific motion. A certain sequence. She couldn’t place it. She placed pen to paper and wrote it down. She felt pulled. Compelled. Pulled toward the adjacent corner. Her head turned. Jean-Marco stood at the glass door several windows down from the corner window. But he didn’t enter. The windows displayed images. Sequences of images. Her days at university. Lycée school. Family. 

Suddenly, Jean-Marco entered the café. Sat across from her. Silent at first, “A dream—I had a dream,” stunned face. As if uncontrolled, the words came out of him, “You are my sister!”
“But how?” her eyes widened. Unbelievable became more believable.

The table slowly spun. Like a gentle carousel. The people around them transformed. Turned into various animals. Motionless animals and absent of riders. Keira and Jean-Marco sat where the adults normally reside – on a bench within the carousel. A mirror reflected their faces, although they faced away from the mirror. Keira’s lips within the mirror moved, “How?”

“’How?’ is a good question,” the reflection of Jean-Marco replied – added, “I had the craziest dream last night.”
Keira’s eyes reflected his as if to mirror the same.
“I saw a little girl – two girls. I didn’t recognize them, but I felt as I they were you. Well, not both of them. Then I saw a little boy who liked me,” he saw Keira’s eyes nod again in kind.
“We were all in a field of wildflowers.”

Keira altered her expression simultaneously with Jean-Marco’s, “They were taken. But they didn’t appear sad.”
“Jean-Marco added, “But I felt sad about it. Then, they told me—”
“— to stop crying for them,” she finished his sentence as he nodded in agreement. Keira asked, “Who were they?”
Jean-Marco and Keira’s reflections disappeared. But they remained seated. Jean-Marco looked closely into Keira’s eyes, “I don’t know,” he raised both eyebrows. Sighed, “We,” he pointed at Keira and himself, “I do know we have the same dark eyes.”

Keira pondered at his inference. Unlikely. She thought for a moment, “But we’re a different race.”
“It’s possible. I did some research before I arrived. Fraternal twins,” he explained in further detail.
Stunned, Keira interjected after a moment of thought. More thought, until she responded, “Makes sense; but—”
“It’s very rare.”
“Not that,” she smiled at him,” Us. We connect. How?”
Jean-Marco reflected her smile and curiosity. The mirror behind them melted. The slow spin of the carousel stopped. At the same time they asked, “Should we try to prove it?” they laughed. He continued, “It’s an easy test. And inexpensive these days. We can have it done tomorrow,” he said as a matter-of-fact.

Keira thought a moment, “I wonder. I wonder if it will drum up more questions; or worse, more answers?”
He shrugged with a blank face. After a thought he replied, “What if we get the test? Then, go from there. At least we’ll know,” he paused, “we’ll know for sure if we’re – brother and sister!”
“Yes but – I am curious,” she smirked in a contemplative way, “Alright. Let’s do it.”

They both stood to exit, “But what about our dream recall? And we’re having similar dream!” Keira asked then exclaimed. 
“Yes. It’s like this woman in America I read about. She swore she was living another person’s life. Someone in her dreams,” his tone lacked confidence in the story. 
“But what if the other ‘person’s life’ was reality? Is reality,” her volume raised then lowered, “And, this is all a dream?”
“And the other is what? A waking world?”
“Yes,” she said but in a way which still required explanation.
Jean-Marco replied, “That’ll be hard to prove.”
“Besides – well, sometimes I don’t feel awake,” she laughed, 

“And the intense shared déjà vu?”
“We are from the same womb. Who knows, maybe we—” he waved his arms around as is to include the entire world, “—were meant to connect in more ways – at the original design.”
They both walked off the carousel. Their next step took them back to the café. They stood on the threshold of the entrance, “Good reason for coffee, hmm?” they both smiled.

A few mornings later. Keira was frantic, “I need to see you! I – I see—” she swirled around with phone in hand, “Dammit!” she slammed her toe in the corner of the wall. 
“What?” Jean-Marco asked concerned.
“It’s nothing,” she ignored the pain, “Get over here!”
“Take a breath,” Jean-Marco urged, “I’ll be right over.”
Keira waited. As patient as a child in need of a toilet. Finally he arrived, “Took you long enough”

Jean-Marco held both her shoulders, “Tell me all about it.”
They sat. She stood back up. Paced the room. Circled the coffee table, “There’s another one!” she saw in his eye bewilderment. Then added more, “Another me.”
“What do you mean?” he remained calm.
She sat, “In my dreams. Not in my dreams. But here!” she leaned forward.

“Okay. Okay,” Jean-Marco took a breath. Urged Keira to take another, “Start from the beginning.”
She was beside herself. Afraid. Herself beside was she, “I’ve been having dreams about this apartment, my bedroom. I saw a world painted unlike this one. I don’t know what to call it. I couldn’t control my arms, my legs. They moved on their own,” she stood and walked to the entrance of the bedroom. Pointed inside, “I saw a bottle of pills. I couldn’t read the label – not at first, “I – I walked to the bathroom and looked into the mirror. But – but oh Jean-Marco!”

“Take your time,” he reassured her.
“I saw me. But I was looking at myself from the mirror,” she ran her fingers through her shoulder-length hair black hair.
“And the label?”
“Yes – yes. I wrote it down,” she grabbed a scratch piece of paper from the mantle across the room and handed it to him.
He read her note, “I’m not sure of the spelling, but I think I’ve heard of it before,” he looked up at Keira, “it enhances dream recall. Specifically, in the lucid state.”

“But what does it mean?” she begged.
“Can you tell me more?”
“Yes. Yes, my TV was – she was watching, I was watching the news; listening to it. The anchor was talking about us,” she gasped.
“Well, not us. Not you and me. Her and her brother – the other me. The anchor went on about their reunion after more than thirty years,” she paused. Sat down. Grabbed Jean-Marco’s hands in hers, “she said they finally had closure. 

Authorities had found the remains of a little boy and girl. They were going to a memorial. All four were siblings – quadruplets.”
Jean-Marco was engrossed to the point of sorrow, “Parents?” he asked.
“Like ours. Like us,” he said the words but in disbelief. Yet belief, “But how do they know?”

“A test. Like ours,” she shook his hands. Up, then down. Repeated. Silence. She finally blurted, “Jean-Marco! Could there actually be – a ‘waking world’? And the other boy and girl—? How is this possible?”
Jean-Marco looked intently into Keira’s eyes, “I wish I knew.” He sat closer to her. He held her as a comforting brother would. She squeezed him in return. Dark eyes cried. Suddenly, they were on a train as it approached a stop. Together. They exited the train but continued to cry. Together.


Together, their dark eyes cried as they held each other in her apartment. They both shared the same mahogany brown eyes. Keira’s expresso skin was in contrast to her brother’s white skin as they embraced in mutual comfort. They both wore black in honor of their siblings. After the long embrace, Keira reached out for a small white box and removed a crimson red rose. She pinned it to Jean-Marco’s lapel, then gently delivered a comforting hand to his chest and smiled. He returned the sentiment with a kiss to her forehead. Both hands gently placed on either side of her head.

“It’s time,” Jean-Marco said, “Are you ready?”
She nodded.
They stepped out under the blue sky and walked along a short stone path bordered by green grass. Lights flashed from cameras as film crews surrounded them with microphones and questions. None they answered as they stepped into a limousine. The driver shut the door. The crews’ reflection seen in the tinted windows.

Inside the car, Jean-Marco held his sister’s hand, “What about the dreams?”
Keira looked up into the rearview mirror. She acknowledged her reflection. She saw more than herself. She thought of the words in her dreams, of her siblings who had been found. She imagined the beauty which surrounded them and smiled. She turned to Jean-Marco, “I believe I am at peace.”
Jean-Marco replied, “As am I.”

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