Fiction Fragment Friday

This story was inspired by a dream. At this point I’m forty-two years old, but I still occasionally have dreams that I’m back in highschool. I even have a recurring dream about having to go back once a year every year. I’m not sure if this is just due to that period in life being rather traumatizing or something in my head that just tells me I’ve never accomplished anything even graduating. I never have a dream of being in college though I do have dreams frequently about returning to past jobs.

In this case I had a dream that I was just returning to class. In the dream I was in the wrong desk and when called out made a comment about it being two years since I had been in class. In the dream this was due to the pandemic and in person school had not occurred. I woke up with that moment fresh in my mind and began to twist a Science Fiction world out of the comment. I did more world building in my head than made it into the story, but I hope I gave enough that it can be understood.

     “You’re in the wrong seat.”  Mrs. Henderson pointed out the latest of the many mistakes I had made that morning. 

     “Sorry.  It’s been two years for me.  I have no idea which desk I sat in.” 

     She let out an audible sigh.  “That’s right you’re one of them.”  The way she said them with such disdain struck me.  I knew that some people didn’t like the dreamers, but I hadn’t faced it personally from someone I knew yet.  Until now it was just an abstract thing on TV.  Having it directed at me by my previously favorite teacher felt like being punched in the gut.  She pointed to a desk.  “Second row, third seat.”

     As I moved to my assigned seat my eyes wondered around the room reading the other student’s expressions.  There was a mixture of reactions.  Some seemed to look at me with pity, some were staring at Mrs. Henderson, but a few were looking at me with disgust.  Of course, I have no idea what was going on in their heads so it all could have just been me projecting what I expected to see.  One girl stood out though.  Her eyes were alternating between looking down and glancing around the room.  She was also taking note of the exits.  I might have been projecting with the rest of the class, but I knew that instinctual situation assessment.  She was another dreamer. 

     I settled into my assigned seat and tried to ignore the stares.  No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t remember the girl’s name.  I supposed we had never really interacted before, but now we had something in common.  It was like finding an oasis in the middle of the desert.  Someone who could understand what I was going through.  Roll call continued without incident and when it got to her I made a point to write down her name.  Nancy Johnson.  Unlike me she had remembered where her seat was.  Thankfully the rest of class went without incident. 

     After class I headed to my locker for the first time since waking up from the coma.  I stood there just looking at the lock and realizing I had no idea what the combination was.  Part of me wasn’t even sure it was the right locker.  To add to the frustration the hall was crowded, and I was feeling extremely overwhelmed.  I couldn’t help but look at everyone around me and analyze everyone as a potential threat.  How could I possibly hold this position with so many unknowns?  Recognizing the thought, I stopped and took a deep breath trying to center myself.  I was in school not on a battlefield.  I wasn’t trying to hold any position I was just trying to make it through my first day back. 

     My hand moved to the lock and I found that muscle memory remembered what my brain couldn’t.  My body had not been away for two years after all.  Only my mind.  I still feel disjointed sometimes expecting my body to move like the genetically altered one my mind inhabited in the future.  Everything seems so slow in comparison and all my senses are dulled like I have a bag over my head.  My body says this is all normal, but my mind says it is wrong.  The disconnected feeling Is not just disorienting it make you wonder if anything is real.

     “Hey.”  I jumped at the voice suddenly behind me.  My instincts told me to either strike or run for the stairs to get higher ground.  Thankfully my body was slower and instead I just spun and backed into my locker.  It was Nancy from Mrs. Henderson’s class.  “Oh sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.”

     “It’s OK.  Just something I need to get used to again.”

     “Yeah I can’t even imagine.  You said you were there for two years?”  I give her a nod.  “Wow.  I got killed in less then three months.”  She suddenly had a very nervous expression on her face and started looking around the hall.  “Uhm I can’t believe I just blurted that out.  I hope nobody heard.”

     “They don’t know?”  I was shocked.  How was she able to keep it a secret.

     “No.  My parents don’t even know.  I was taken on a Friday.  Then I died so quickly I only missed a day of school.  I was home alone all weekend, so I wasn’t even admitted to the hospital.  I haven’t told anyone until now.”

     “Not gonna lie I’m jealous.  By the time I was taken it was all over the news and they had started the registry.”  I was not happy about being on lists and having mandatory counseling sessions.  I mostly just lied during them anyway.  Telling them that everything was fine when in reality I have nightmares, anxiety, and the occasional panic attack.  They are just looking for a reason to distrust us.  Especially if the rumors are true and some of us are developing powers.

     “Uhm, I need to get to class.  If you want to talk sometimes though I’m here.  Only others like us can understand right?” 

     “Yeah, same for you.” 

     As she walked away, I focused all my attention on her.  She way typing away at her phone.  I listened not with my ears, but with my mind.  It came in softly at first, but soon I could see through her eyes at her text message. 

     “Contact made.  He bought it.  Acting lessons paid off.  Target was there two years so should have good intel for the masters.”

                I let out a sigh.  So much for the idea of a kindred spirit.