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by Christine Amsden





Wet. Water. Weightless. Air. No Air. Must find air. Darkness, all around. Every way is down. Down. Down. Blackness.

* * *

Bill woke from the dream that had been haunting his sleep more and more frequently in past weeks. He took several deep breaths, gulping the air as if his dream might descend upon him at any moment. He drank it in, thirsty for it.

“Are you all right?” his wife asked. “You stopped breathing again.”

“I'm fine,” Bill said. “Everything's fine.”

She gave him the same dubious look she gave him every time this happened. “I want you to go to the doctor.”

“I'll think about it.” Bill looked at the clock. 5:45, close enough to six to get up and get ready. He took a shower, woke the kids, and prepared breakfast.

* * *

Strange, white lights. White everywhere. A steady, unbreakable calm. Hazy. Can't see. Can't move. White.

* * *

“Dad? Dad!”

Bill lifted his face out of his cereal bowl. What had just happened? He used a paper towel to wash milk off his face.

“You fell asleep in your cereal bowl!” Megan said, giggling. Apparently she had decided that, since nothing was seriously wrong with her father, this was all very funny.

“Honey? What happened?” Cindy came in from the bedroom, a frown on her face.

“Dad fell asleep in his cereal,” Megan announced.

“Fell asleep?”

“Yes,” Bill said steadily.

“You will go to the doctor, won't you?” She asked, her gaze challenging him.

Slowly, Bill nodded his agreement.

* * *

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.

A steady rhythm.

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.

* * *

All around him, drivers honked their horns. The blaring noise made a stark contrast to the peaceful, rhythmic beeps he had dreamed of. Thank God he had fallen into his trance at a red light.

Billy shivered as he moved on through the stoplight. He should not drive if he could not stay awake. He was used to the dreams at night, but what was going on with these daytime flashes?

Bill did not drive to work; he drove to the hospital. He went to the emergency room, filled out a mountain of paperwork, and handed over his insurance card.

“We'll call you when we're ready,” the nurse/receptionist said.

Bill sat down in the waiting room and picked up a copy of Newsweek.

* * *

The smell of ammonia. Muscles weak, unable to move. White. Bright, pure white. Voices. Voices saying…

* * *

“Mr. Hinds?” A doctor stood over Bill, shaking him and calling his name.

Bill jerked his head up and stared into a white lab coat. “I'm awake,” he said.

“Let's get you in an examining room,” the doctor said. “If this is narcolepsy, it is the worst case I've seen. You indicated on your paperwork that this has happened twice today already?”


They took him through to an examining room where they took his temperature and blood pressure. “I'd like to do a CAT scan,” the doctor said.

“All right.”

“Wait here,” the doctor said.

* * *

Voices. “Billy?”

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.

White. Hazy white.

The smell of ammonia.

“Billy?” His mother's voice.

* * *

The doctor had not yet returned when Bill awoke from his latest lapse. He shook his head. He had not been called Billy since his tenth birthday when his mother had humiliated him in front of his friends. “Little Billy Goat,” she had called him. The door opened and a nurse poked her head in. “Is everything all right in here? They're ready for you.”

“Fine,” Bill said. He did not feel the need to mention the relapse.

They took him to the CAT scan in a wheelchair. When they set him down in the machine, he was glad he was not claustrophobic.

* * *

“Billy? Please wake up.” His mother's voice.

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.

“I can't believe it, he's waking up.” Cindy's voice.

“Where am I?” His own voice, or so he thought. He kept his eyes stubbornly closed. Maybe if he kept his eyes closed, he would wake up faster.

“You're at the hospital,” Cindy said. “Do you remember what happened?”

“I've been falling asleep.”

“You've been asleep for twenty years.” His mother's voice again. “Ever since the pool party. We thought we'd lost you.”

He was not waking up. He opened his eyes, blinked a few times at the bright light, and focused on - “Cindy?”

“How does he know your name?” His mother again. He did not turn to look at her.

“I don't know. Maybe he's been hearing things in his coma.” Cindy said.

“Cindy, what's going on? Where are Megan and Ben?”

“Who?” His mother's voice.

“Our kids.”

“Honey, you've been in a coma for twenty years. Cindy's just your nurse.”

A dream. No. A reality. He would never wake from it again.

© Christine Amsden, 2005
All Rights Reserved



BIO: Christine has been writing science fiction and fantasy since she could pick up a pencil, but has only recently begun to see some of her short stories published. She lives in the Kansas City area where she has spent the past year working as a full-time writer with the blessing of her husband. She has spent most of that time working on a novel but has enjoyed the faster rewards that come from short story writing.