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Dream Jumper

Summary

Jenson Thorne had always been a vivid dreamer, but after an unusual encounter with a stranger who claims to have been in a dream with him, Jenson discovers that his dreams are not always a simple creation of his brain. In his search for answers, he meets a physicist named Dr. Donald Wesson, who truly puts the “mad” in “mad scientist.”  From Dr. Wesson, Jenson learns that a phenomenon exists called “dream jumping,” in which the consciousness of one body is able to transport itself into the body of parallel versions of oneself.  When Jenson starts experimenting with dream jumping, he finds that there is one particular woman in many of these parallel worlds who captures his attention.  He seeks to discover who she really is, what his connection is to her, and why he hasn’t found her in his own world. Throughout his journey, he is forced to question all he knows about himself and struggles to find his place in the vastness of the universes.

Chapter 1

Foreword


 From the start, I feel it is important to inform you that I am not a physicist. This book deals with a few complex theories of physics, and though I have tried to stay true to the basic principles of these theories, and have tried to avoid turning this into science-blasphemy rather than science-fiction, I cannot assure you that you will not find fault in some of my explanations. I have researched and studied extensively to maintain the integrity of each theory to the best of my abilities for the purposes of this book, but if you are unhappy with whatever liberties I may have taken, don’t knock down my door. This is a work of science-fiction, not a physics textbook. This book is meant to stimulate your mind – to make you ponder your place in the universe, to make you question the beliefs you hold so strongly yet have never truly contemplated. It is meant to introduce you to a new way of thinking, on a grander scale than usual.  Above all else, this book is meant to entertain, and perhaps spark your interest in the sciences.

 

Chapter 1


Jenson was staring down the barrel of a sawed-off shotgun, and the woman wielding it appeared to be deranged. She had wild, curly blond hair, cold blue eyes, and slightly masculine features. He raised his hands defensively, unable to recall how he had arrived in this situation. He seemed to be in an abandoned warehouse.
 

“What are you?!” she demanded, shoving the barrel of the gun closer to his face.

 “Jenson Thorne,” he said hesitantly. He began to slowly step backward.

 “Don’t move!” she shouted, and Jenson froze. “I didn’t ask who you were. I said what are you?!”

 He didn’t know how to respond. “Um, a 32-year-old artist?”

 The strange woman scowled at him and reached for a flask at her hip, keeping the gun on him. She popped the top off with her thumb and suddenly splashed the contents onto Jenson’s face.

 “What the-?!” Jenson hurriedly wiped the liquid from his face. It was only water. He looked at the woman incredulously.

 “Well, you pass the holy water test. Hold this for me, will you?” She lowered the gun and handed him a shiny, silver colored knife. As he slowly reached for it, she quickly sliced the blade across his palm, drawing an instant stream of blood.

 “Ouch! Dammit, what the hell?!” he growled angrily as he pulled his wounded hand close to his chest.

 “You’re just a human?” she said, sounding surprised.

 “What the hell else would I be?!” He was certain now that she was deranged.

 “Well, you aren’t the demon I’m after. Come with me.” She turned and walked away from him, into a long, dark corridor.

 “Wait a minute! What is going on here? Where am I? Who are you?” He hurried after her.

 “I’m Kristine. You were possessed by a demon, but it’s apparently moved on to somebody else. Just stay with me and you’ll be fine.” Kristine walked on with purpose, constantly monitoring her surroundings.

 Jenson was about to speak when she suddenly stopped and halted him with a raised hand. Without warning, she dove into a room on her left. Jenson heard gunfire and shouts, both male and female. He quickly contemplated whether to run away or help, but, being the good Samaritan he was, he ran into the room. He found Kristine standing over a large man on the floor, who had several bloody bullet wounds in his chest.

 “Who is he?” Jenson demanded.

 “Not who. What.” Kristine turned toward him and smirked. She wiped her brow with the back of her forearm, still clutching the shotgun, and walked past him, out of the room. He took one more look at the body on the floor, then went after Kristine.

 “That was a demon?” he asked when he caught up to her.

 “Well, unfortunately it was a person, but there was a demon inside of him. I had to kill him to stop the demon. That could’ve been you, you know.”

 As Jenson tried wrapping his brain around what had just happened, he heard a strange but familiar beeping sound. “Do you hear that?”

 “Hear what?” Kristine asked, giving him a strange look.

 Yeah, I’m the crazy one, he thought to himself in the seconds before he woke up.

 Jenson reached over and shut off his bedside alarm clock. As he lay in bed, trying to regain his senses, he thought about how oddly realistic his dreams always seemed to be. Other than having an outlandish theme, it had seemed like he was having a real experience. He looked over at his girlfriend, Maggie, who was still asleep. She always looked so lovely when she was sleeping, with her long dark eyelashes resting peacefully upon her lower lids, hiding her big, deep blue eyes. Her short, blondish-brown hair was in a disheveled mess around her small, lightly freckled face, and her full pink lips were parted slightly.

He wasn’t sure why he loved the way she looked in the morning, but he had a feeling it was because he was the only one who ever got to see her in such a state of disarray. The moment she woke up, she always ran straight to the bathroom to shower and straighten her hair and cover her face with makeup. She never lounged in her pajamas, not even on weekends, and she refused to go camping or stay anywhere that she couldn’t perform her morning ritual. She was high-class, and while he loved that about her when he had her on his arm at his art shows, he couldn’t stand it at home. He loved her, but it didn’t mean he had to love everything about her.

He sluggishly climbed out of bed without waking Maggie, for he knew that he’d never get in the bathroom if he roused her now. They had a party to attend that afternoon for his grandfather’s 90th birthday in Jenson’s hometown, and with a 180-mile drive in Michigan’s unpredictable autumn weather, he knew he’d have to make his shower quick if they wanted to arrive on time.

 He lumbered to the bathroom in their small, one-bedroom apartment and switched on the blinding light. He blinked at himself in the mirror, wondering if the dark circles under his bright hazel eyes would fade by the afternoon. He’d started a new painting the previous night, a wilderness scene (which was his subject of choice), and once he’d started, he had a hard time putting down the brush. Despite the sleep deprivation, Jenson thought he still looked pretty good. He had a perfectly symmetrical oval-shaped face, a straight, narrow nose, and a strong, slightly cleft chin. His skin naturally retained a light, sun-kissed glow all year long, which made his fair-skinned Maggie envious. He was well built and just tall enough to be taller than his long-legged girlfriend when she wore high-heels. Whenever he asked Maggie, who was a successful marketing agent, why she was with him, an up-and-coming artist, she would just laugh and tell him that he was the best eye candy she could ask for.

As Jenson brushed away his morning breath, he began to feel a dull ache behind his right eye. He cursed himself for staying up so late the previous night, because he knew that ache would only intensify. By the time he emerged from the shower, the ache had turned into a sharp pain that had spread to the entire right side of his head, and his vision had become compromised in his left eye. As always, his lack of sleep had brought on a vicious migraine. He swallowed more than the recommended dose of pain medication, as was always required to tame his migraine pain, and commenced his typical morning routine.

Once he was clean-shaven and had gelled and spiked his short brown hair, he woke up Maggie. When she rolled over and looked at the clock, she reprimanded Jenson for allowing her to sleep so long.

 “Damn it! I have less than an hour to get ready! I knew I should’ve set my own alarm,” Maggie complained as she hurriedly grabbed an outfit she had set out for herself last night and stomped to the bathroom.

 As Maggie showered, Jenson sat in the bathroom and talked to her. “I had a really crazy dream last night.”

 “And how is that different from any other night?” she replied from behind the floral shower curtain.

 “It’s not, I guess. But in this one there was a weird lady who was killing demons.”

 “You’ve been watching too much TV. How much of your painting did you finish last night?” Maggie changed the subject, straight to business as usual.

 “I got the background completed, but I didn’t get to bed until after 3 AM. And now I’ve got a pounding migraine to reward me for my hard work.”

 “That’s unfortunate, especially since you’re going to have to drive. I’m going to have to do my makeup in the car because somebody didn’t wake me up when they were supposed to.”

 Jenson sighed and went back into the bedroom to pack his duffle bag. He noticed that Maggie already had two suitcases packed and sitting by the bedroom door, and wondered why she would need that much luggage for a one-night trip. He shook his head and commenced his own packing.

 When Maggie had finished blow-drying and straightening her hair, she came out of the bathroom. With one look, she displayed her disapproval of his attire.

 “Please tell me that isn’t what you’re wearing.”

 He looked down at his plain gray t-shirt and his favorite blue jeans. “I guess not,” he replied in annoyance. After three years together, he should’ve known that she would object to him wearing casual clothes to an “event.” He quickly threw on the dress slacks and blue, button-front shirt she tossed onto the bed for him. He hoped his brothers wouldn’t give him too much grief for his outfit when they got to White Dove.

 Waiting for Maggie to pack up her last few items, Jenson thought about how nice it would be to see his brothers. He and his brothers had scattered throughout Michigan over the years, and now it was rare that they were all together. They all enjoyed each other’s company, despite their differing political views and paths in life. His oldest brother, Billy, was divorced and in the process of beginning his own farm. Pete was his next oldest brother, married, with two young boys and a successful career as an automotive technician. His youngest brother, James, was an electrical engineer straight out of college with a lively personality and currently single. The one thing they all had in common, however, was that they loved to sit up all night and drink a 30-pack of beer together, talking about anything and everything that came up – whether it be cars, politics, guns, or even science. Jenson was looking forward to spending time with them tonight.

 Jenson carried all the luggage out to the parking lot, and after Maggie insisted upon them taking her car (since it was the nicer of the two, and she was all about keeping up appearances), he packed the vehicle while she sat in the passenger seat and began applying the layers of makeup she thought was required to make her look beautiful. As he climbed into the driver’s seat, he had to pause for a moment because the minor change in altitude from a standing to sitting position caused his head to throb painfully.

 “Come on, we’re going to be late,” Maggie said impatiently as she brushed mascara onto her eyelashes.

 Biting his tongue, Jenson rubbed his forehead, started the car, and headed to the expressway.

 Once Maggie had finished her makeup, she reached over and put a disc into the CD player. It was an artist of the pop genre, which Jenson couldn’t stand. If he dared to suggest that they listen to his rock music, though, he knew he would be starting World War III. Instead, he turned the volume down slightly and tried to start up a conversation so he didn’t have to listen to her bubblegum pop.

 “I’m pretty excited to see James's new house, aren’t you?” Jenson asked.

 “Yeah, but I’m not so excited about his big dog and his roommate. I mean, who buys a house and then moves their roommate into their house with them? I still think it would’ve been better if we had just booked a hotel for the night,” Maggie replied.

 “It’ll be fine. His dog is nice, and I like his roommate. Craig’s a bit wild, but he’s a lot of fun. Craig is just living with him until he can afford a place of his own. Besides, if we stayed in a hotel, I wouldn’t get to hang out with my brothers, and you know that’s important to me,” Jenson reminded her.

 “I know, and that’s the only reason I agreed to stay there. But his dog does not like me. She stands up and stares at me every time I move, like she’s about to bite my face off. It’s unnerving. And I don’t think Craig likes me either,” she said.

 Jenson knew Craig didn’t like her, and suspected that James’s dog, Scooter, didn’t like her either, but he would never tell her as much. In fact, he knew that no one in his family, including his parents, was very fond of Maggie. They thought she was too high-maintenance, stuck up, and, to quote Pete, “bitchy.” But Jenson loved her, despite her difficult personality, and his family supported his choices, regardless of whether or not they thought they were right.

 “I’m sure that’s not true,” Jenson lied. “Everybody likes you. You worry too much. You just need to relax.” When Maggie remained silent, Jenson tried another avenue. “So how’s work been going?” That subject always sparked Maggie’s interest.

 He wasn’t disappointed. Maggie talked for thirty minutes straight, pausing only to make sure Jenson was still listening. As much as he didn’t like listening to her talk about work, he liked listening to her music even less. Neither, however, helped his pounding headache.

 By the time they had put 150 miles between themselves and their apartment, the gas light came on in Maggie’s car. As Jenson watched for the nearest exit, Maggie reprimanded him for failing to fill up the tank before they left. He ignored her and rubbed his forehead, thinking that a break from the car was exactly what he needed right now. When he finally saw an exit ramp, he pulled off the expressway and found the closest gas station. It was small and slightly run-down, but he didn’t care. He just needed to get out of the car.

 When the gas tank was filled, Jenson leaned down and tapped on Maggie’s window. “Are you coming in?”
 Maggie just looked at the building and wrinkled her nose in disgust, shaking her head. Jenson didn’t press her any further and went inside. He headed straight for the coffee station and filled up the largest Styrofoam cup they offered with the pungent, black sludge that passed for coffee at gas stations. It might taste terrible, but he hoped the caffeine would help dull his migraine. He brought his coffee to the cash register and placed it on the counter without looking up. He dug into his pocket for his wallet.

 As he rubbed his forehead and thought about how much he dreaded getting back behind the wheel, he didn’t notice when the woman behind the counter asked him a question.

  “Hello?” she said, waving a hand in front of his face.

 “What? I’m sorry-” he began, then froze when he looked up at her face. With the spotty vision in his left eye, it took him a second to realize that the woman before him was the same blond-haired demon hunter from his dream.

 “I asked if we’ve ever met before. You look familiar…” She stared at him for a moment, then realization spread across her face. “Holy crap, I had a dream about you last night!”

 Jenson just stared at her, not knowing what to say. 

 “Yeah,” she continued, “we were hunting demons! It was awesome. I almost killed you. Weird, huh?”

 “Yeah, weird,” he said slowly. Should he tell her he had that dream as well, or would it just make him sound creepy? He was in shock. This couldn’t be possible.

 “Maybe remote viewing isn’t such a fallacy after all. Anyway, that’ll be $44.62.” She popped her gum and stood there, just looking at him like nothing strange had happened at all.

 He paid for his purchase, trying not to stare at the woman, and walked out the door, looking back once just to make sure his eyes weren’t playing tricks on him. It was definitely the same woman from his dream.

 When he returned to the car, his hands were shaking. What had just happened? How could this woman, whom he was certain he had never met or even seen before, have had the same exact dream that he had in the same night? And what was remote viewing?

 “Maggie, you won’t believe what just happened.”

Chapter 2

Chapter 2


 Maggie looked at him, eyeing the cup in his hand. “Did you find a cockroach in the coffee? Because I would definitely believe that.”

 Jenson shook his head impatiently. “No. Remember that dream I was telling you about this morning?”

 “Vaguely. Something about killing demons?”

 “I dreamt about a woman who was some kind of demon hunter. And just now, when I went up to pay for the gas and coffee, I saw that the woman behind the counter was the same woman from my dream! She looked exactly the same, just dressed differently. And then you know what she said to me? She said that she’d had a dream about me last night and that she and I were hunting demons, and that she almost killed me in the dream. That was exactly what happened in my dream! It’s like we had the exact same dream in the same night! I’ve never even seen this woman before in my life!” Jenson was almost to the point of hysteria.

 “What? That is unbelievable,” Maggie agreed. “I don’t even know what to say. She just came out and told you that as you were checking out?”

 “Yeah!”

 “Did you tell her that you had the same dream?”

 “No. I thought she might think I was making fun of her or messing with her if I did. But she mentioned something about remote viewing. Have you ever heard of that?” Jenson wondered.

 “Is that where you see other places, like a psychic or something?”

 “I don’t know. I’ve never heard of it before,” Jenson said. “I’ve got to say, though, that my interest is piqued. I want to find out more about this. What could this mean? Could I be psychic?”

 Maggie raised one eyebrow. “It’s pretty crazy, I’ll admit, but I don’t know about you being psychic. Besides, how would you even find out more about it? It was one strange occurrence.”

 “When we get back home, I want to research it online. I want to see if anyone else has had anything like this happen to them. I want to know if it’s something psychic, or paranormal, or if there are any theories out there about something like this.”

 “Great, but let’s worry about it later. We’re half an hour behind schedule right now. We should get going,” she urged.
 Jenson spent the rest of the trip lost in his own thoughts, wondering how two strangers could end up in the same dream at the same time. He was bothered by Maggie’s borderline indifference toward the situation. How could she not be rattled by this? It was the strangest thing that had ever happened to him. His head was spinning with the possibilities, but he shared none of his ideas with her. Was it possible that he was psychic, and that the dream wasn’t actually his own? But he had been a part of it. It wasn’t like he was just dropping in and watching someone else’s dream. Or maybe he did drop in on her dream, and when he did so, he altered it somehow by putting himself into it. By the time Jenson arrived to the restaurant where his grandfather’s birthday party was being held, his head was reeling from more than just the migraine.

 He and Maggie hurried into the restaurant, as they were more than thirty minutes late for the party. When they walked into the back room where his family had congregated, Jenson was relieved to see that there were two open chairs for them at the long banquet table. He quickly wished his grandfather a happy birthday, then took his seat next to Maggie, as she had already settled in next to his tall, red-headed mother, Carla.

 “Sorry we’re late,” he apologized to his mother as he sat. “We had a late start this morning.”

 “That’s fine. The servers haven’t even been back here to take our orders yet,” Carla said. “So how was the trip? You look ill, Jenson. Are you alright?”

 “I’m fine. I have a bad migraine, though, and something really weird happened on our trip that rattled me a little. But other than that I’m ok.”

 “What happened?” Carla inquired.

 Jenson told her about the dream and the woman at the gas station. “Have you ever heard of such a thing?” he asked.

 “That’s wild!” Carla exclaimed. “Remote viewing, huh? Do you think it’s possible?”

 “I’m not even sure what it is.”

 “Don’t quote me on this,” she said, “but I think it’s when you mentally travel to another location and can see what’s going on somewhere far away from your physical body. I actually had a friend when I was younger who claimed that her father could do that. She even told me once that her father had accurately described what she’d done in school one day, like he had been there with her. I always thought she was pulling my chain.”

 Jenson was floored. “So this could be a real thing? I’ve got about a million questions floating around in my head right now, and if I could find at least one direction to start looking for answers I would be happy.”

 “I don’t know if remote viewing would exactly explain what happened to you, since it was all in a dream, but I think that’s where I would start looking to get some ideas,” Carla opined.

 From across the table, Pete took interest in the conversation. “Did I hear you guys talking about remote viewing?” After Jenson filled him in on what had brought them to that topic, he replied, “Man, that’s crazy! You know, I had something weird happen recently with my dreams, too. I kept having dreams with one song in them that kept repeating, the same song every time, and then a few days later I heard that the bassist for that band had died. It was weird because I’m not even a fan of that band, so it’s not like I would’ve been listening to their music or anything.”

 As Jenson was about to reply, his Uncle Rick stood up and gathered everyone’s attention for a short speech he had prepared for Jenson’s grandfather. When the speech was over, the servers began making rounds and taking orders, and the remote viewing conversation was put on the back-burner for the rest of the afternoon.

 After the party, Jenson and Maggie headed to James’s house, which was in Brighton. It was about an hour’s drive from White Dove, where the party had been, but was a fairly central location for the brothers to gather for a night before going their separate ways again. That evening, once Pete and his wife, Rhonda, had put their children to bed in one of James’s guest bedrooms, Craig, Rhonda, Maggie, and the four brothers all retired to the garage to socialize. They sat in canvas camping chairs as James handed out cans of beer from one of the cases they had purchased from a gas station up the street. The ladies sipped rum-and-coke from tall glasses and talked mostly only to each other as the brothers and Craig talked about Pete’s latest car project – his Subaru STI.

 As the evening wore on, the garage began to resemble a bar scene, with loud rock music blaring from James’s CD player on a shelf and noisy laughing and conversation. The air was filled with a thick haze from the cigarettes Pete, Craig, Billy, and Rhonda were smoking. Jenson wished he could partake in a smoke, but he knew that the second he lit one up, Maggie would shoot him an angry glare and give him grief the rest of the weekend. He liked to smoke when he drank, but Maggie found the habit disgusting and banned him from smoking in her presence. He hoped she would go to bed soon so he could open up the pack of cigarettes he had secretly purchased at the gas station when they’d gone to get beer. He knew she wouldn’t stay up past midnight, since she stuck to a strict sleeping schedule. He kept his eye on the clock on the wall, waiting for the hands to point to twelve.

 Finally, as expected, Maggie excused herself shortly after midnight. He waited until he was sure she had gone to bed before excitedly ripping open his pack of cigarettes and lighting one up. He sighed contentedly, watching the smoke roll away from him with his exhale.

 “She still won’t let you smoke?” Billy ragged. “Man, she’s got you on a short leash, buddy. You know, it’s only going to get worse if you marry her. Trust me, I speak from experience!”

 “Hey, I’m not ring shopping yet,” Jenson replied.

 “Do you think you two will ever get married?” Rhonda asked. “You’ve been together for like three years, haven’t you? Hasn’t she even suggested it?”

 “Not once. I don’t think she’s in any hurry either, which is fine with me.”

 “I don’t think you guys should ever get married,” Billy declared. “I mean, Maggie’s hot and all, but I think you’d regret it after a year or two.”

 Jenson was beginning to feel agitated. He understood why Billy felt the way he did, as his experience with marriage had left a sour taste in his mouth, but Jenson wasn’t seeking marriage advice. His relationship with Maggie was his own business, and he didn’t want to discuss her less-than-appealing qualities with everyone right now.

 Pete seemed to pick up on Jenson’s aggravation, and he quickly changed the subject to maintain the peace. “Hey, Jenson, did you tell everybody else about that crazy dream thing today?”

 Jenson was glad for the shift in conversation. He hadn’t told them about the dream, so he shared it then. When he had told his story, everyone was shocked.

 Craig asked, “Was the cashier’s name Kristine too?”

 “I don’t know,” Jenson replied. “I never asked her what her name was. I didn’t even think to ask! That would’ve been even better if I had found out that her name was Kristine!”

 James chimed in, “You should stop back at that gas station on your way home tomorrow. It would be interesting to know if she had the same name.”

 Jenson agreed. He wondered if Maggie would object to returning to the run down station. She probably would.

 “So why do you think that happened?” Rhonda asked.

 “I’m not sure, but Mom and I were talking about remote viewing and wondering if that was a possibility.” He explained to Rhonda what remote viewing was as his mother had explained it to him. “I just don’t know if that particular phenomenon explains exactly what happened to me, though. It wasn’t like I was seeing her doing things in real life. I was actually there, interacting with her, in a whacked out dream with demons in it. I think there has to be something else, some other way of explaining it.”

 “Maybe it’s some kind of psychic connection, where both of your brains somehow joined the same wavelength and allowed you to both interact in one dream,” James suggested.

 “Like some kind of extreme telepathy,” Jenson added.

 “Yeah, exactly like that!” James replied.

 “I can think of a few women I’d like to connect wavelengths with,” Billy commented.

 “I bet you can,” Rhonda teased, rolling her eyes.

 “What about the dreams you had, Pete? What do you think that was?” Jenson asked, trying to get the conversation back on track.

 Pete told everyone about his dreams and about the bassist of the band dying. “I think it might’ve been a premonition, but I don’t know how or why I would’ve been keyed-in to that information.”

 “That’s really weird,” Craig said. “I’ve had a dream like that, where you dream about something happening, and then you get Déjà vu when it happens in real life. I wonder if every case of Déjà vu is because you dreamed of it before it happened.”

 “What I want to know is how things like that happen,” Jenson said. “After what happened to me, I’m kind of obsessing over it. There has to be more to dreams than just your mind cycling through the information you picked up throughout the day. I mean, when I was little, I had a dream that my godfather was on a train with a bunch of people I had never seen before, and it was like I was just floating there, watching him. Then suddenly the train exploded, and I woke up. A few days later, he died of an aneurism in his heart. The strange thing was that I hadn’t even seen him in a long time prior to having that dream. Why would I dream that? What would’ve made my brain just suddenly bring him up, especially when he wasn’t a big part of my life anyway?”

 “You dreamed of Uncle Ed dying before it happened?” Billy asked. “You were so little when it happened, I’m surprised you remember him, let alone a dream you had about him.”

 “Yeah. I always remembered it because I always thought it was weird. His funeral was the first one I had ever been to.”

 “Maybe it’s God’s way of preparing you for something before it happens,” Rhonda conjectured. “He shows it to you in a dream so it’s less devastating when it happens in real life.”

 “But why would He try to prepare me for a bassist dying? I didn’t even like that band,” Pete countered. “I don’t think my dream was any kind of divine message. Maybe some are, but I doubt that mine was.”

 “Ok,” James jumped in, “this might be the beer talking, but I have a wild idea. What if there is an inherent knowledge, on some other plane of existence, that we can all tap into without even knowing it. Knowledge of what has happened, what is happening now, and what will happen in the future –“

 “Like a physical manifestation of destiny?” Pete proposed.

 “Sure, why not. And what if we sometimes accidentally tap into that information when we’re dreaming, and that’s how we get our premonitions? It could happen all the time, but we only take notice when it affects us directly in our own lives.” James took the last swig of his beer, then pointed to no one in particular. “Wrap your mind around that one!”

 “Let me get this straight,” Billy said as he lit up a cigarette and handed James another beer. “We psychically connect with other people while we’re dreaming and we look up the skirt of destiny? Maybe that’s why I’m always still so tired in the morning when I wake up,” he joked.

 “That’s kind of a funny way to put it, but seriously, have you ever noticed that sometimes when you’ve had a lot of dreams in one night, you do wake up tired?” Craig said.

 “Yeah, that happens to me!” Jenson exclaimed.

 “Me too!” James said.

 As the conversation slowly shifted to less theoretical topics, Jenson thought about all the things he wanted to research online when he got home the next day. He wondered if he would be able to find anything that would satisfy his questions, or if he would just end up with an even greater obsession for answers. He had a feeling that he had discovered something of great importance, and he knew he wouldn’t be able to stop obsessing over it until he figured out exactly what his brain was doing while he was sleeping. There had to be more to it than what he had learned about sleep in Psychology 101.

 The next morning, everyone went out to a local restaurant for a greasy breakfast to remedy their hangovers. Maggie, of course, had no such ailment, and she had a fine time teasing Jenson about his puffy eyes and sallow complexion.

 “You look like a zombie,” she jested after they gave the server their orders.

 Jenson looked around the table at his brothers, and, for once, he had to agree with her. “We might look like shit today, but we were geniuses solving the mysteries of the universe last night.”

 “Converting alcohol to urine isn’t exactly a mystery of the universe,” she teased.

 James overheard their conversation and chimed in, “We might’ve been drunk, but it doesn’t mean we didn’t have an intelligent discussion. Well, at least until Pete decided it would be cool to turn my deodorant can into a flame thrower. It was all kind of downhill after that.”

 After a fairly quiet breakfast, the brothers said their farewells and Jenson and Maggie hit the road. Jenson’s head was pounding, again, but he insisted upon driving. He wanted to stop at that same gas station and find out his cashier’s name, and he knew that if Maggie was driving, she would probably turn down his request to stop. He was afraid she didn’t understand how important this mystery was to him.

 Jenson waited until they were only a few miles from the exit where the gas station was before he revealed his plan to Maggie. She didn’t seem as irritated about it as he had expected, but she wasn’t overly supportive either.

 “Is finding out her name going to change anything?” she asked.

 “Yeah, it is. If her name is Kristine, then that’s even more evidence that my dream was something out of the ordinary. I just need to know. It’s important to me.”

 As he pulled off onto the correct exit, his heart began to race. When the small, dilapidated gas station came into view, he felt adrenaline begin coursing through his veins. With shaky hands, he steered the car into the drive and parked at the pump. He gassed up the car, frequently looking at the building, trying in vain to see the cashier through the window. Finally, the tank was full, and he headed inside.

 His heart dropped when he saw a young, short, pudgy man standing behind the counter. He looked around the small store, but there was no one else in the building. Disappointed, he grabbed a candy bar and went to the counter.
As the attendant initiated the transaction, Jenson asked him, “Wasn’t there a woman working here yesterday? She had short, curly blond hair.”

 “You mean Kristine?”

 Jenson felt his stomach turn.

Chapter 3

Chapter 3


 The attendant continued, “She works here a couple days a week. Did she do something to piss you off? She does that a lot.”

 “No, nothing like that. I was just curious. She looked a little familiar, that’s all,” Jenson replied, trying to keep his wits about him. He grabbed his receipt from the attendant’s fat sausage fingers and started to walk out the door.

 “Dude, you forgot your candy bar,” the man called after him, but Jenson ignored him. He had no appetite at the moment and knew he needed to hurry to the car to sit down. His legs were suddenly shaky and threatened to buckle beneath him.

 When he made it to the car and plopped into the driver’s seat, Maggie gasped.

 “Your face! God, you look so pale! Are you ok?”

 “Her name is Kristine.”

 “Shut up,” Maggie replied, surprised.

 “Seriously. The guy behind the counter told me. I honestly didn’t expect it to be true.”

 “Wow. You must be psychic!”

 Jenson didn’t reply. He started the car and drove back to the expressway. Maggie tried to start up a conversation with him a few times on the way home, but he was too befuddled to maintain one. He had just received further proof that he had experienced something beyond explanation, and it consumed his thoughts. When they arrived home, Maggie had to call after him to remind him to grab the bags from the car, as he was already running toward the apartment to get on his laptop and begin his research. He hurriedly returned to the vehicle and took two of the bags, leaving the last bag for Maggie, and ran toward the apartment again. He heard an exasperated grunt from Maggie, but he was too excited to care.

 Once inside the apartment, he dropped the bags on the floor in the kitchen and sat down at his desk in the living room. He stared at his laptop screen, trying to sort through the jumble of ideas in his head, and ignored Maggie’s complaining regarding his placement of their bags. He decided to perform a search on remote viewing and dreams, just to see what came up. He was surprised by the overwhelming number of theories he found. As he sifted through all the information, trying to weed out the plausible from the insane, he came across a theory that intrigued him: alternate realities and alternate dimensions. He ran a search using the topics of mind travel, dreams, and alternate dimensions, and what he found greatly interested him. He read about how many of the great thinkers and geniuses in history allegedly had their moments of enlightenment and strokes of genius while in a deep meditative state. Einstein would sit in a chair silently and run “thought experiments” for hours. Leonardo da Vinci would lie in his bed with a lit candle at his feet and stare at the light that flickered off the ceiling until he fell into a meditative state. Socrates would reportedly stop in the middle of what he was doing and stand still and silent for long periods of time, oblivious to his surroundings, as a deep thought overtook him.

Jenson was fascinated by all of this, but one story in particular caught his attention. Srinivasa Ramanujan, the Indian mathematician, claimed that all of his brilliant, groundbreaking formulas and equations came to him in his dreams when the goddess Namagiri revealed them to him. Some of his formulas were subsequently proven to be correct, and some of them are still in the process of being proven. In the articles he read about Ramanujan, the theory of the Akashic record was also mentioned. He learned that a Hindu legend describes the Akashic record as a plane of existence that holds all of the information of the universe. The articles he read postulated that Ramanujan and other geniuses may have been able to connect with this realm of knowledge while in deep meditative states. As he read this, he was reminded of James’s theory of the “plane of destiny.”

Only a few days ago he would have thought all of this information ludicrous. After his experience, however, he found himself nodding enthusiastically in agreement as he read each article. He felt like he had just arrived at the greatest “Aha!” moment in his life. What he was reading was making sense to him.

 After several hours of staring at the computer screen, Jenson’s eyes were beginning to ache, and his stomach was growling incessantly at him. When he looked at the clock in the corner of the screen, he was surprised to see that it was already past 9PM. He decided it was time to take a break. He stood up from his computer chair and headed to the kitchen. As he sat on a stool at the bar in the tiny kitchen, a bologna sandwich in his hands, he pondered the validity of what he had read. The theory of alternate realities and mind travel were interesting, but did it exactly explain what had happened to him? If his dream with Kristine had taken place in a shopping mall or a meadow, he might’ve believed it did. But demon hunting? Was there really an alternate reality where people hunted demons?

 Maggie strolled into the kitchen and stood with the refrigerator door open, contemplating what to make herself for dinner. She looked at Jenson and furrowed her brows.

 “A bologna sandwich for dinner?”

 “Why not? It was quick and easy. I would’ve made you one too, but I know how you detest heavily processed meats,” he replied.

 “Damn right I do. I shouldn’t even allow them in the apartment. Do you have any idea how bad that stuff is for you?”

 “Yep. You’ve told me many times.”

 She sighed disapprovingly and removed a bag of salad from the fridge. As she poured the contents into a bowl and began sprinkling sunflower seeds and frozen peas over it, she asked him how his research was going.

 “I found a lot of interesting information.” He shared with her what he had learned about alternate dimensions and the habits of certain historical figures. He was pleased to see that she was showing some interest in what he was telling her.

 “So you think you travelled to an alternate reality?” she questioned as she stood across the bar from him and munched on her salad.

 “I’m not sure. If that was the case, then that would mean that Kristine would’ve had to have travelled too, at the same time, to the same place.”

 “Do you suppose that’s why you had such a bad migraine yesterday morning? Maybe your brain did do something extraordinary, and your migraine was due to whatever it was that you did,” Maggie theorized.

 Jenson hadn’t even considered that possibility. Whenever he had a migraine, it would start in the morning shortly after waking up. But it usually happened after a lack of sleep, which was exactly what had happened yesterday.

 “I think my migraines are from a lack of sleep, but I guess I can’t rule anything out right now.”

 “Maybe your brain is more likely to do its weird psychic thing when you are overtired, when you go to bed too late,” she reasoned.

 Jenson was surprised at her ideas. He hadn’t expected her to actually get involved in helping him figure out theories. She was an intelligent woman, but physics, psychology, and astronomy weren’t subjects in which she had ever shown an interest. She was usually more into economics and political science than physical and applied sciences. He was glad for her interest and input, and it was times like this that made him remember why he loved her.

 “I do have my craziest dreams when I’m overtired,” Jenson acknowledged.

 “Are you going to do any more research tonight?”

 “I don’t think so. I’ll go to the university tomorrow and search their databases for any scientific papers relating to the theories I read online. For now, though, I think I’m going to go to bed. I think a good night’s sleep will do me good.”

 “Agreed. Just try not to do anything too crazy in your dreams tonight,” Maggie teased.

 As Jenson lay in bed that night, he wondered what his dreams would bring. He felt slightly apprehensive about falling asleep now that he knew his brain might do something psychic or supernatural while he slumbered, but he also knew he had nothing serious to worry about. He would still wake up in the morning, regardless of what transpired in his dreams. He thought about all the outlandish dreams he’d had throughout his life and wondered if any of them had anything in common with the dream from two nights ago. He often dreamed of strangers, so was it possible that those strangers were real people, like Kristine? He also had dreams that were so jumbled and nonsensical that he could barely piece them together when he woke up and tried to remember them. Were those dreams anything special? He continued to think about his past dreams as he drifted into a deep sleep.

 Jenson walked out of his bedroom into a living room that he knew to be his, unaware that it was completely different than the living room he was used to. It was filled with people that he knew to be his roommates, though for some reason he couldn’t remember any of their names. Two young men were planted on a green plaid couch, watching a football game on the wide-screen television. One man was tall and thin, with a long face, bright blue eyes, and short blond hair. The other was shorter, with dark hair, a five o’clock shadow, a stocky build, and dark brown eyes. They both sported football jerseys and had beers in their hands. A third man, about the same age as the other two, was walking out of the kitchen with a long-neck bottle of beer and a bag of beef jerky. He was rather tall, with a muscular build, and had a round, bearded face with a pug nose.

 “Hey, Jenson, come watch the game with us,” the muscular one said, gesturing for Jenson to join them as he plopped down on an old leather recliner next to the couch. “Dave and Tom here are rooting against our team. I need some backup.”

 A female voice then came from the kitchen, “No amount of backup is going to save your team from losing!” Jenson watched as a woman stepped around the corner from the kitchen and came into the room. He was instantly attracted to her. She was tall, thin, and beautiful, with long, voluminous, dark brown hair that hung down to her large, perky breasts. She had a rich, honey colored complexion and large, deep brown eyes that hinted at a Latino heritage. Jenson was mesmerized, and though he knew she was his roommate and that he must’ve seen her every day, he felt like he was seeing her for the first time. She was wearing a low-cut, v-neck t-shirt that exposed a small amount of cleavage that Jenson had a hard time keeping his eyes away from. As she turned to set her beer on the coffee table, he noticed how tight her jeans were and how perfectly shaped her bottom was. He looked away to avoid staring, and walked to the couch where the first two roommates were seated. They moved over to allow him seating space. As Jenson sat and watched the football game with them, it didn’t occur to him that he didn’t particularly enjoy football. He spent much of his time stealing glances at the lovely brunette to his right, whom he soon found out was Andrea.

 Before he knew it, the game was over. To celebrate their team’s victory, Dave and Tom invited the others to join them at the bar for drinks. The five of them walked to a bar only a few blocks down the street from the apartment. It appeared that they lived in a busy downtown area of a large city, which Jenson didn’t find strange in the least. As they sat at the bar, talking about the next big game and their Super Bowl picks, he noticed that Andrea, who was seated at the barstool next to him, wasn’t joining in the conversation.

 He turned to her and asked, “Why so quiet?”

 She looked him in the eyes, distress written on her face. She then took a sideways glance behind her. “My ex is sitting back there with his new girlfriend. You know, the one he cheated on me with.”

 Jenson took a quick look behind him, but he didn’t see anyone familiar. Though he couldn’t remember any details, he seemed to know what she was talking about. “Maybe they’ll leave soon,” he said.

 “I doubt it. If he sees me, he’s going to stay as long as he can just to make me uncomfortable. You know how he is.”

 “You want to go? I can take you back to the apartment if you want,” he offered.

 “Yeah, I think that’s a good idea.”

 Jenson told his buddies about the situation, and they promised they’d meet them back at the apartment before too long.

 At the apartment, Andrea flopped down on the couch and started to cry with her face in her hands. “God, why does it bother me so much? I should be glad that she stole him away from me. He was such an asshole! He was always cutting me down and picking fights with you guys. It was exhausting to be with him. Why the hell do I still have feelings for him?” she wondered aloud.

 “It’s hard to get over somebody that you loved, even if he was a terrible person. I know exactly how you feel. But I promise you, someone wonderful will come into your life and completely wipe those remnant feelings off the map,” Jenson consoled.

 “I don’t know if ‘love’ is what you would call it. He was too horrible to love. It was more of an attachment, I guess you could say. It’s just hard to sever that attachment and be alone, you know?”

 “You’re not alone. You have all of us,” he reminded her.

 “I know. I’m lucky you guys didn’t allow him to push you away from me, or I’d have absolutely no one right now. Thank you for that,” Andrea said as she smiled at him through her tears. Jenson noticed that she was one of those rare women that could still look beautiful when she was crying.

 Jenson reached over and pulled her to him. He wrapped his strong arms around her dainty figure and held her against his chest in a comforting embrace. He lightly kissed the top of her head, discretely inhaling the lovely floral scent of her hair. He then rested his cheek against the spot he had kissed, and held her while she cried. He realized that he badly wanted to be the man that made her forget all about her feelings for her ex.

 When Jenson awoke the next morning, he clearly remembered the dream. He could even remember the way Andrea’s hair had smelled. He looked at the empty spot in the bed where Maggie had been, and thought about how different Andrea had been from his Maggie. She didn’t resemble Maggie at all, and in his dream it appeared that Andrea hadn’t been wearing a spot of makeup. Andrea also seemed much more free-spirited and more open to discuss difficult emotions than Maggie. With Maggie, the only time Jenson knew something was bothering her was when she was being exceedingly difficult, and when he would try to pry from her what was truly bothering her, she’d close up and refuse to talk about it. Even when they had first started dating, Maggie never would have been able to have a conversation with Jenson like the one he’d had with Andrea. He couldn’t help but notice the strange longing he felt for Andrea, even though he was now awake.

 He wondered if this dream had been anything like the demon-hunting dream. Was Andrea a real person? If she was, and he ever met her, he worried what it would do to him. He loved Maggie, he was sure of it, and he was a faithful man. But he had to admit that he was mesmerized by the woman from his dream, and it would be difficult for him to forget her.

 When Jenson went into the bathroom to use the toilet, Maggie was still in the shower. She heard him come in.

 “Any crazy dreams last night?” she asked.

 Jenson knew better than to share his dream with Maggie, so he told her, “Not that I can remember.”

 “Yeah, me neither. Though I never remember my dreams the way you do, anyway. I don’t think I even dream half the time,” she said as she shut off the shower. She pulled back the curtain and stepped out of the shower, quickly wrapping her towel around herself. “So what are you going to be doing while I’m at work today?” Maggie inquired.

 “I’ll work for a while, but I’m anxious to do some more research. I think I’ll go to the university library today to see what kind of articles I can find in their online databases of peer-reviewed journals. I’m not expecting much, but we’ll see.”

 “Why do you need to go to the university for that? You have a computer here.”

 “I don’t have remote access to the database since I’m not a student anymore. You need a student ID and password to get onto the library’s database if you aren’t on one of the campus computers.”

 “Oh, I see. Well, good luck with that. I hope you can find something. But do make sure to get some work done too, because I don’t want you to get so sidetracked by this dream business that you put your art on hold. You have a gallery show in three months, remember?” she said.

 “I know,” he replied reproachfully. “I’ll get my work done.” He felt like she was treating him like a child, telling him he had to eat all his peas before he could have ice cream.

To prove his ability to prioritize, he left the bathroom and went straight to his work corner in the living room. He wished he could call it a studio, but it was more of a nook. He had his table, which served as his easel because he preferred to paint with his canvas lying flat rather than upright, and a wide array of brushes and paints scattered about upon the table. He sat down in his creaky wooden chair and looked at the wilderness scene upon which he had been working. He wondered if there was anywhere on earth that looked exactly like that scene. Had his mind completely fabricated the landscape, or had he seen it somewhere? Perhaps he had seen it in a dream, or visited it in a dream. He squeezed some paint onto his palette, selected a brush, and began blocking in the moose that would be the focal point of the piece. He heard Maggie dashing about the apartment as she hurriedly grabbed her briefcase from the counter in the kitchen and her lunch from the fridge. She was cutting it close on time, as usual, so she gave Jenson a quick kiss on the cheek and ran out the door, barely getting “I love you” out of her mouth before the door slammed shut behind her.

Jenson felt a familiar calm wash over him that always presented itself when Maggie left the apartment. He subconsciously kept himself tensed whenever she was around, and it wasn’t something he could control. He wondered if he would feel the same way if he lived with someone more like Andrea.

 As Jenson painted, his mind became focused on his work, and for several hours he wasn’t plagued by thoughts of his problems. He was calm, centered, and happy. When his subject was completed, he looked up at the clock on the wall. It was already lunch time, which meant he needed to put down the brush and head to the university. From his experience as a student, he knew that if he didn’t get to the library before 2 PM, there would be no open computers. He quickly changed into some presentable attire, foregoing his shower for the sake of time.

 Once he found an open parking space in the metered lots at the school, he deposited two hours’ worth of change into the meter and walked toward the library. He felt a strange nostalgia as he walked the familiar sidewalks and navigated his way through the bustling crowd of college students. It had been ten years since he last stepped foot on campus, but his college days flooded back to him like a tidal wave. He hadn’t realized until that moment just how much he missed those days. It was a time of fun, friends, women, and few real-world responsibilities. Now here he was, ten years older, not much richer, and a hell of a lot less happy. What had happened? He ignored the little voice in his head that shouted Maggie!

 When he entered the expansive library, he was immediately disoriented. The layout of the first floor had been changed, and he had to refer to a map on the wall to locate the computers. He trudged up two flights of stairs and, after several minutes of searching, found one open computer. He sat down and began his search for answers.

 An hour and a half later, Jenson was feeling discouraged. He’d read through several dry articles that had sounded promising in the abstract, but had revealed nothing of interest within their pages. Finally, however, as he was scrolling through the journals one last time, just about to turn over his computer to an awaiting student, an article caught his eye: Dreamscapes as Parallel Universes by Dr. Donald Wesson. He let out an audible gasp of excitement, ignoring the strange looks it had earned him. He quickly opened the link and began scanning the pages. He was not disappointed. Dr. Wesson’s paper was hypothesizing that the mind, when in a certain state of sleep or meditation, may be able to transport an individual’s consciousness into another reality. Through his research, he had discovered that certain individuals exhibited strange brain function patterns occasionally during their dream state. When they were in such a state, they were exceedingly difficult to awaken, and when they were asked to recount their dreams, there were similarities in the descriptions. The dreams always contained people the dreamer didn’t actually recognize from real life and seemed more real to the dreamer than most dreams.

 Dr. Wesson’s article went on to describe several cases in which he had trained individuals to practice lucid dreaming so as to consciously gather information from their dreams. In many instances, the dreamer was able to learn something in their dream about which they had no knowledge before falling asleep, then accurately describe it once they were awake. In one case, the individual was asked to look up and memorize pi to the fifteenth decimal place, and after a dream that produced strange brain functions, he woke up and correctly wrote out pi to the twenty-third decimal place. The individual claimed that in the dream he actively found a computer and looked up the number online and memorized it to as many decimal places as he could.

 Before he was able to finish the article, Jenson noticed that he was almost out of time. His meter would be running out soon, and he knew that an expired meter always resulted in a parking ticket due to the heavily patrolled parking lots at the university. He quickly printed out the article and ran to his car. He drove home with an excitement akin to a child on Christmas Eve.

 Jenson sat at his computer desk at home and continued reading Dr. Wesson’s paper. He was intrigued by the accounts of Dr. Wesson’s study subjects and the information they were able to gather in their dreams. According to Dr. Wesson, he always asked his subjects to gather information on mathematical formulas and equations as it was generally accepted that math was the language of the universe and should remain constant regardless of what universe his study subjects visited in their dreams. At the end of the article, the subject of the Akashic record was introduced. Dr. Wesson indicated that he believed that such a plane of existence was entirely possible, if not probable, and planned to focus future research efforts to discover it.

 When he had finished reading the paper, Jenson wanted more. He needed more. He felt like he had just discovered a rich vein of coal, but knew that if he dug deep enough, he’d find diamonds. Dr. Wesson’s paper proved to him that he wasn’t crazy – or, if he was, then there was someone else out there who was just as crazy. He had to tell Maggie what he had discovered.
 “I’m busy, dear,” Maggie greeted him when he called her cell phone.

 “I know, but I found something amazing,” he replied. “There is a scientist who actually studies the very same thing I experienced! I just finished reading his paper, and it validates everything I suspected.”

 “Huh, I didn’t expect that,” she replied simply.

 “I didn’t either, but it’s true. I need to know more, though. I can guarantee this guy knows more than what he put in his paper. Who knows what he could have discovered in the five years since this paper was published?”

 “Well, maybe you should try to contact him. He might be interested in what you have to share,” Maggie suggested.

 “I know, I was thinking the same thing. I have to get involved in some way. I just hope I can find a way to get a hold of him.”

 “Sounds like you’ve got work to do, then. I’ll talk to you when I get home tonight. Good luck,” she said before ending the call.

 Jenson turned on his laptop to begin tracking down Dr. Donald Wesson online. When he ran a search of his name, he was surprised to find more than one Dr. Donald Wesson. After reading about each of them, he almost fell out of his chair when he found the Dr. Wesson he sought. He is a physicist who specializes in quantum theory, and he is located at the University of Michigan – two hours away from Jenson’s apartment.

Chapter 4

Chapter 4

 
 Jenson couldn’t believe his luck. If Dr. Wesson was still performing his dream studies, Jenson might actually be able to participate, given his locale. He desperately needed to convince Dr. Wesson to meet with him. He was too obsessed with this subject now to just let it fall by the wayside, and he had to find a way to contact him.

 Finding contact information for Dr. Wesson was easier said than done. Jenson was unfamiliar with which avenues to follow for finding contact information for someone. It took him almost an hour to finally dig up an email address, but when he did, it took him even longer to compose an intelligent letter that would be taken seriously. He didn’t want to sound like a raving lunatic, even if that was how he felt.

Dear Dr. Wesson,

 My name is Jenson Thorne. I recently had the pleasure of reading your article entitled “Dreamscapes as Parallel Universes” in the November 2010 edition of the Journal of Quantum Physics. I came across the article as I was doing research to better understand a peculiar event that occurred in my life this past week. I had a strange dream one night before a long road trip, in which I met a woman I had never seen before in real life. The next day, when I stopped at a gas station I had never been to, I met the woman from my dream. Strangely, she revealed to me that I looked familiar and then went on to tell me about a dream she’d had of me the night before. It was the same dream I’d had. The strangest thing about the instance was that her name was the same name with which she provided me in the dream. I can only conclude that somehow we met in the same dream at the same time. Your article and studies greatly intrigue me, and I wonder about the possibility of speaking with you about my incident and perhaps becoming a part of your study on dreams and alternate dimensions. I look forward to hearing from you and I appreciate your time. Thank you.

 Jenson signed off and provided his email address, phone number, and mailing address. After clicking the “send” button, he felt his stomach tie into knots. How long would it be before he heard back from Dr. Wesson? Would Dr. Wesson take him seriously, or just delete his email and move on? He was determined to find out what Dr. Wesson knew, so he wasn’t going to allow himself to be ignored. If need be, he’d become a pest until Dr. Wesson had to acknowledge him. For now, though, he played the waiting game.

 When Maggie came home that evening, she didn’t ask Jenson about his day or try to follow up with him regarding his research and Dr. Wesson. She simply announced that he was to get showered and dressed immediately as she had made plans with one of her friends to meet her and her husband for dinner, then she disappeared into the bedroom to change her clothes. He followed her into the bedroom.

 “Seriously?” Jenson asked in disdain. “I can’t stand Heather, and her husband is even worse. I don’t even remember his name.”

 “Dick.”

 “What?” Jenson replied abashedly.

 “His name is Dick.”

 Jenson laughed at his misunderstanding, then said, “Fitting. But why do I have to go? I’m pretty sure they can’t stand me either.”

 “You’re going,” she said firmly as she rummaged through his clothes in the closet. “It’s weird to go out with a couple and not have your own date. Then you just feel like a third wheel.”

 Jenson sighed heavily and grabbed the clothes Maggie had picked out for him. As he turned to leave the room, he mumbled, “You didn’t even ask about my day.” She said nothing.

 In the car, Jenson told Maggie about the letter he sent to Dr. Wesson. If she wasn’t going to ask about it, he was going to make her listen anyway.

 “I tried to make it short so he might actually read the whole thing, but I hope I put in enough details to get him interested,” Jenson said. “I just hope he responds, one way or another.”

 “What if he doesn’t?”

 “Then I’ll keep trying. Dreams as an alternate reality is a hugely amazing idea, and if I can help in any way to prove it is real, I need to.”

 “So his paper was pretty interesting?” Maggie inquired.

 “Incredibly so!” He enthusiastically described the contents of the article to her.

 “That’s pretty weird. But how did he know that his test subjects weren’t just going home, looking up the numbers or equations, memorizing them, and then going back in and reciting them at the next experiment? Mathematical equations are easily accessible online.”

 “He covers that issue in the paper. All participants were given a different value or equation to look up each time they were monitored – one they claimed to have no knowledge of beforehand – but what’s more interesting is that they were only able to accurately describe what they were asked to learn when they’d had a dream that produced the unusual brain patterns. And they weren’t notified of when they’d had such a dream until the entire experiment was over. Also, the people who never showed signs of unusual brain patterns weren’t able to provide the correct answers. Statistically, it was more significant than just mere chance or coincidence.”

 “Still, though. It just seems a little too easy to falsify,” Maggie said. “I just don’t want you to get too caught up in something just because you want to believe it to be true.”

 Jenson tried to control his irritation. “Well, I need some direction to go on this, and right now, Dr. Wesson is the only legitimate lead I’ve got.”

 “Legitimate might be a strong word for now,” Maggie replied as she checked her hair in the visor mirror. “The restaurant is right up here. Please try to be nice tonight.”

 “I’m always nice,” Jenson stated begrudgingly. He was too annoyed to notice the irony.

 Jenson tried to keep a pleasant smile on his face as he and Maggie were seated in the restaurant. Heather and Dick were already there, waiting for them. Jenson instantly remembered why he disliked the couple when Dick’s first comment to him involved a jibe about being fashionably late. Jenson looked at his phone and saw that he and Maggie were actually five minutes early.

 “Well, better to be fashionably late than pathetically early.” He followed up with a falsely good-natured chuckle. Maggie shot him a look. It was going to be a long night.

 As he sat and listened to the usual dry, boring conversation, he tried to mask his displeasure with a fake smile. Dick turned to him as Maggie and Heather gossiped about one of their other “friends,” and said, “So what have you been up to? You’ve had a smile on your face all night, so it must be something good.”

 “Oh, I’ve been working on my paintings for my upcoming art show, as usual.”

 “I’ve never understood that artsy thing. I mean, it must be difficult to sell a painting in this day and age with high resolution photography. Do you find that to be the case?” Dick said condescendingly.

 “Not at all. You’d be surprised at what someone will pay to own a piece of what another person created by hand. I find it’s more of a higher class market that my work appeals to.” Smile.

 “I suppose. After all, look at the crap Picasso put out and his work is worth millions of dollars.” Smirk.

 “Indeed.”

 After a long silence, Dick asked, “So do you have any other hobbies, aside from painting?”

 Jenson fought the urge to argue that his painting wasn’t a hobby, it was his livelihood, and instead said, “Well, I’ve been doing some research into parallel universes lately. Are you familiar with the theories of parallel universes?”

 “Oh, I don’t believe in all of that nonsense. God created the Earth and the universe, and I don’t believe that we as mere humans are capable of understanding His divine processes, or should even try. We have the Bible to tell us all we need to know.”

 “If we never tried to understand the world and universe around us, we wouldn’t have the medicines that save our lives, the electricity that powers your big-screen television and lights your home, or the carbon fiber on your expensive Porsche. We would still think the world is flat and burn women for witchcraft. Don’t you find it a bit ironic that the people who fight so strongly against science are doing so while living comfortably with the products of its progress? It’s like raging against the machine while using the machine. Or like drinking a cup of coffee every morning and saying, ‘Wow, I sure hate coffee.’ Science is a necessary and inevitable aspect of human existence. Why would God give us such wonderfully efficient brains and limitless curiosity if we weren’t supposed to use it? It is what makes us human and not just animals,” Jenson argued.

 “And often it is that same dangerous thirst for truth that makes us act more like animals than humans,” Dick replied matter-of-factly.

 “I find it to be quite the opposite, actually. It seems to me that many of the atrocities against our fellow man throughout history have been done in the name of religion and the rejection of truth.”

 Maggie interrupted, “Wow, it sounds like you guys are having quite an involved conversation there, but I must interject for a minute. Dick, Heather just told me that you are taking her to Italy for your anniversary this year. Tell me about your itinerary! I would love to see Italy.”

 Jenson tried to cool his boiling blood as the other three at the table talked about Venice and Rome. He was by no means an academic scholar, but it burned him to his bones when others were so hypocritical as to scoff at science yet reap the benefits that science offers. If you don’t believe in the science it took to create the smart phone, then maybe you shouldn’t be allowed to use smart phones, he thought. He wasn’t an atheist, but he felt that a belief in God and science were not exclusive of each other. How could someone be so close-minded?

 He avoided conversation with Dick the rest of the evening, and for Maggie’s sake, he kept all responses civil and simple. By the time they got into the car, however, Maggie was fuming anyway.

 “You embarrassed me horribly tonight! I told you to be nice!” she scolded.

 “So I’m just supposed to let Dick just treat me like a chump and say nothing? I wasn’t being any more rude to him than he was to me. It’s not like I punched him in the face, and believe me, it crossed my mind,” Jenson defended.

 “I’m sure I’ll be getting a call from Heather tomorrow about what happened tonight. I’ll be surprised if they ever want to have dinner with us again.”

 “Mission accomplished,” Jenson chuckled.

 “This isn’t funny. God, I can’t take you anywhere.”

 “And I didn’t ask you to. Actually, I specifically remember asking you to not take me,” he reminded her.

 “So you did this on purpose, to get back at me for making you accompany me?” she asked accusingly.

 “No, I honestly didn’t. I’m sorry you are mad, but I’m not sorry for defending myself and my views. I wish you would do more of that so I didn’t feel like it was always you and your friends against me.”

 “This is the problem, Jenson. I shouldn’t have to defend you. You should just be nice and try to get along with my friends.”

 “It’s hard to get along with someone who belittles me and thinks that I’m beneath them. And that describes every one of your friends.”

 “That’s not true. They just don’t understand you yet because you never give them a chance to. If you let them get to know you like I do, they would really like you,” Maggie said.

 “I doubt it. The moment they find out I’m not a successful lawyer or businessman, they completely disregard me and treat me like a lowlife. I’ve just stopped trying. After three years, dear, you should understand that I’m never going to fit in with your crowd. I’ve just accepted it as an inevitability.”

 “I just wish you would try harder.”

 Jenson gave up. He knew there was no point in continuing the argument, as it was going nowhere. At this point, Maggie was just trying to make sure she had the last word, so he let her. He spent the rest of the ride home in silence, stewing.

 When he and Maggie returned home, he went straight to his laptop and checked his email. There was no response from Dr. Wesson yet. He’d expected as much, but still felt disappointed. While he was online, he decided to see what he could find out about lucid dreaming, as Dr. Wesson had mentioned in his paper that it was a technique his study subjects used in their dreams to remember to gather the information that Dr. Wesson had requested.

 Jenson found several informative websites and bookmarked them all in his browser. He then began reading through them. He found that learning to become lucid in dreams was a far more involved process than he had imagined. It required a dedicated schedule of checking to make sure you were actually awake by looking for cues throughout the day, such as checking your watch two or three times in a row to see if the time changed too quickly, or reading something several times to see if the text changed. The process for purposely trying to have a lucid dream, from what he read, was to do it when you’ve just awakened from a dream and remembered it clearly. You were then supposed to recall the dream as vividly as you could, then try to fall asleep again with the intention of looking for signs that you are dreaming and trying to imagine what you want to happen in the dream once you enter into it again.

 As Jenson read this, he wondered how well these techniques could really work for a dream that caused an actual out-of-body experience to another dimension. From the information he was reading, the lucid dreaming was supposed to keep you conscious of the fact that you were dreaming and allow you to do anything you wished. But if you were actually in another dimension, would the dream cues actually work? The dreams that supposedly transported an individual to another realm were described by Dr. Wesson as being very realistic. The dream Jenson had had seemed incredibly real when he was in it, but when he awoke, he knew it had been very different from the world in which he lived. He doubted, however, that the watch technique or the re-reading text technique would have worked in his dream, or any other mind-transporting dream. That would likely only work in an actual dream. So how did Dr. Wesson train his study participants to become lucid dreamers in another world? He desperately wanted to know.

 After gathering all the information he could stand to read, Jenson leaned back in his computer chair and clasped his hands over his forehead. He tried to relive his dream, attempting to remember anything about the dream that would indicate that it was different from any other dream. One thing came to mind: in his dream, he’d had a choice as to whether or not he went into the room after Kristine killed the demon. He remembered clearly that he actually weighed the options in his head, and had made a conscious decision to go in because he wanted to make sure that nothing terrible had happened. He could have run. He had been in control of himself. In most of his dreams, everything flowed as if he were watching it in a movie, with no conscious decision-making. The script had already been written and he was just acting out what was supposed to happen next.


 As he thought more about his dreams, it occurred to him that his dream of the beautiful Andrea had been of a similar caliber. He’d consciously tried to find a face he recognized when Andrea had pointed out that her ex boyfriend was in the bar. He’d consciously decided to take her back to the apartment instead of making her stay at the bar. He’d had choices, and hadn’t blindly done whatever was scripted for him. Did that mean that Andrea was real? Was she a real person that just happened to be in the same dream as he, like Kristine? The thought had crossed his mind after he had the dream, but now he truly believed it. And it excited him almost as much as it scared him.

 He jumped when Maggie walked into the living room.

 “Whoa, jumpy aren’t we? Did I catch you doing something bad?” she teased.

 “No, no. I was just lost in my thoughts and I didn’t hear you coming.”

 “What were you thinking about so hard?”

 “The only thing I’ve been able to think about lately: my dreams, and what they’ve really meant all my life.”

 “You need to find something else to focus your attention on for a while. This whole thing is consuming you.”

 “I’m still getting my work done, though. Did you see how much I got done on my painting today?” he asked.

 “I did, but ordinarily you would be painting again tonight, not sitting in front of the computer, staring off into space. I’m just concerned.”

 “If I hadn’t had to go out and get insulted by Dick all evening then I might’ve had time to do both,” he said, smiling smugly.

 “Do we really need to go there again, Jenson?” Maggie asked curtly.

 “Nope, we sure don’t. Why would you bring it up?” he teased.

 “You’re not as cute as you think you are.”

 “I’m only as cute as you think I am.” He wondered if she would understand that he was actually referring to her controlling personality.

 “Damn straight.”

 That night, Jenson contemplated whether or not to attempt lucid dreaming. If he was serious about getting involved with Dr. Wesson’s research, then it was something he should probably begin learning. As he closed his eyes, he focused on the fact that he was going to sleep, that he would be dreaming soon, and tried to remain conscious of it. An indeterminate amount of time later, he realized he was half asleep and thinking about dinosaurs. He tried to regain control of his thoughts and began the process again as he tried to fall asleep.

 When he woke up in the morning, alarm beeping, he knew he had failed. He remembered the dream he’d been having, though, so he did what he had read he was supposed to do. He got out of bed, leaving the alarm for Maggie to deal with, and went to the kitchen, still in his skivvies. He grabbed a pen and notepad and began writing down the dream as best as he could remember.
 
 I was not an actual participant in this dream, and it played out as though I was watching it as a movie, yet it was as though I was still there. A silent, floating observer with no body. It started out in a room that resembled a classroom, and a woman was giving birth, surrounded by people assisting her. Suddenly there was a huge burst of light, and everyone in the room died except for one man, who happened to be a cop. Then there was an entire family that appeared, seeming to have come from the light, and they looked to have poor hygiene, were overweight, and dressed in ragged clothing. There was a woman, her husband, and several children. I got the feeling that they were evil, and they had actually been what the woman on the floor had given birth to. They saw that one man had survived the explosion of light, and they set out to kill him, as for some reason they wanted no survivors. They wanted no one to know of their existence. The cop escaped and suddenly his partner was with him. They then began chasing after the family and the entire family disappeared into a blast of light again. The cops ran around through a school that I recognized as my old elementary school, then they went through some unfamiliar, run-down buildings. Somehow they came to the realization that this family was able to travel through space in a manner like teleporting. The cops then investigated several strange incidents in which houses had been raided with no apparent point of entry, and all that was taken was food. The cops discovered that the evil family members were using their space jumping skills to steal mass quantities of food, which they ate like gluttons. The rest of the dream was all about the cops and the family trying to kill each other.

 When Jenson was finished, he read through what he had written. It sounded incredibly crazy, and he was quite certain that his dream hadn’t been of the mind-travelling kind. At least, he hoped it wasn’t. If he had been able to become lucid during this dream, what could he have done? He wasn’t even really there, and had no body to control. Would he have been able to influence any of the events that occurred in the dream in any way? It was just a strange dream, even for him.

 He went back to the bedroom while Maggie was in the shower and tried to go back to sleep. He ran through the dream over and over again in his head, trying to bring about the same dream as suggested by the websites on lucid dreaming. Unfortunately, he just wasn’t tired enough to fall asleep again.
 

When Maggie came back to the bedroom to get dressed, she said, “You’re going back to bed? Don’t you think you should get some work done since I apparently kept you from it yesterday?”

 Jenson sighed and climbed out of bed. He didn’t tell Maggie that he was trying to have a lucid dream, as that would only exacerbate her obvious foul mood. Instead, he said, “Yes, dear. I’ll get right on that.”

 “Don’t ‘yes, dear’ me. I know you’re being sarcastic.”

 “I’d never dream of it.”

 After Maggie was gone, Jenson showered and dressed. He checked his email only to be disappointed again. He didn’t feel like painting at the moment, so he sat in front of the television and searched the channels for something interesting. He ended up watching a program that discussed the theory of ancient astronauts, which theorized that aliens had visited earth several times throughout ancient history and had influenced the evolution of mankind and culture. He wondered what Dick would have to say about it, and made a mental note to bring it up next time he had the pleasure of spending time with him. Jenson imagined it would make for an eventful evening. How could Maggie even suggest that he didn’t try to get along with her friends?

 He finally pulled himself from the couch and checked his email again. When he still found no reply from Dr. Wesson, he felt frustrated. He knew it had been less than twenty-four hours since he emailed the man, but he was anxious to hear something. Annoyed, he went to his painting table to work and clear his mind.

***

 Over the next week, Jenson was disappointed each time he checked his email, which was often. He continued to record his dreams, but he still had no luck in bringing about a lucid dream. None of the dreams he had seemed to be like the demon-hunting dream or the Andrea dream, either. He began to lose a little of his passion for his dream research, and he considered giving up on the entire endeavor as he felt that he was going nowhere with it.

 One night, however, about three weeks after his initial obsession began, his passion was reignited. He was walking down the sidewalk of what he knew to be Main Street in the dark, alone. None of the street lights were lit. The cars parked along the curb were covered in dust and debris, as though they hadn’t been moved for some time, but he found it to be nothing out of the ordinary. He felt a tangible sense of anxiety and fear, because he knew there was danger about. People were infected in this area, and he shouldn’t be here, but he pushed on because he was looking for someone important to him. He couldn’t remember who it was he sought, but he felt that he would know when he saw her. It was definitely a woman.

 Suddenly, from his left, he heard quick footsteps of someone running. He ducked into a nearby shop in which the door had been left ajar. It was incredibly dark inside. He waited next to the door until he heard the footsteps run by and fade into the distance, then peeked out. He saw no one on the street, so he continued on his way. When he came to a tall brick building on the corner of Main Street and Ash Street, he saw her. It was a beautiful brunette, but she wore dirty, ragged clothing. She was standing next to the building and gesturing wildly to him to hurry to her, but she said nothing. He ran to her, and she grabbed his hand and pulled him through the doorway into the building. She quietly shut the door behind her. Jenson followed her down a short flight of stairs, stepping over garbage and paper waste, until she brought him into a small room, dimly lit with candles.

 “Did you get the antibiotics?” she asked him in a hoarse whisper.

 He searched the pockets of his worn corduroy jacket and found a small bottle of gray and white capsules.

 “Oh thank God.” She took them and rushed to the corner of the room where a young girl of about fourteen was lying on an old, dirty mattress covered in blankets. As she gave the feeble-looking girl one of the capsules, she said to him, “We need to get out of here soon, Jamie. This place is riddled with the infection.”

 “Natalie,” the girl said weakly after swallowing the pill, “I can’t ask you to stay here with me. You and Jamie should just go. I’ll catch up when I can.”

 “We’re not leaving you,” said Natalie, the beautiful brunette. She looked at Jenson with concern in her big brown eyes.

 “She needs water,” Natalie said to him. He saw a bucket on the floor that appeared to be filled with water and grabbed it, bringing it to her. She grabbed an old coffee mug from the floor next to the mattress and dipped it into the water for the girl. The girl sat up and drank the water down in a few big gulps, as though she hadn’t had anything to drink in days. Then the girl lay down and closed her eyes.

 Natalie stood up and walked to Jenson. She wrapped her arms around him and hugged him tightly. He felt her body begin to shake with silent sobs as she buried her face in his old jacket.

 He embraced her and kissed the top of her head, inhaling the scent of her hair. Suddenly, he felt a strange sensation, like that of Déjà vu. And he remembered.

 “Andrea?” he said as he looked down at her.

 “What? Andrea?” she said as she looked up at him, her face full of tears and confusion.

 It was her. He remembered. He remembered everything.

Chapter 5

Chapter 5


 The woman he had known to be Andrea stared at him, a look of horror beginning to contort her features. “No, not you. This can’t be,” she said in dismay as she backed away from him.
 

He was perplexed by her behavior. “Yes, Andrea, it’s me! I met you in another dream, a few weeks ago. We were living in an apartment together with a few other guys. You remember?” He was certain she was remembering.

 “Confusion, hallucinations, strange behavior…oh, God, you’re infected! No, this can’t be,” she began to sob.

 The girl in the corner bolted up. “Natalie, you have to do it! Do it now! Kill him before he infects us!”

 Jenson was horrified. “No, I’m not infected! I’m fine! Let me explain!”

 He took a step back when he saw Andrea, or Natalie, unsheathe a large knife that was strapped to her leg. He hadn’t even noticed she had it before now. She advanced toward him.

 “I love you, Jamie. I’m sorry,” she said as she came at him suddenly.

 He turned to run out the door, just as he felt a searing pain in his back.

 Jenson’s eyes shot open as he gasped in a lungful of air. He was in his bed in the apartment. He looked over and saw Maggie was just beginning to sit up.

 “What the hell was that, Jenson?” she asked, annoyed.

 “It happened again. I had another dream,” he said as he tried to catch his breath. His heart was pounding in his chest.

 “Another dream? You mean like the Kristine dream?” she said groggily as she settled back into bed.

 “Yes. I know it for sure, because…” he hesitated. He didn’t want to tell her about Andrea. Or was it Natalie? What was he supposed to call her now?

 “Because what?”

 “I just know. It was different. I remembered everything about this life, and the dreams, and I was able to control myself completely and had total awareness of everything.” He climbed out of bed.

 “Where are you going?” Maggie asked.

 “I have to write it down. I need to record this.”

 “Can’t you do it in the morning?” she called after him as he left the room. He didn’t bother to answer.

 In the kitchen, he retrieved the same notepad in which he’d been recording his other dreams. He sat at the counter and wrote out every last detail he could remember. When he was done, he set the pen on the notepad and stared at the pages before him, wondering what he could learn from his latest dream. He had met Andrea again, but she had a different name, a different life. She had called him by a different name - Jamie. But he had been Jenson in the first dream in which he’d seen her, hadn’t he? He then had a startling thought. If he were truly visiting other dimensions, were those dimensions still existent when he woke up? If so, what happened to the Jenson or Jamie in the dream dimensions when he awoke? Did they just disappear? Or were those dimensions created by his mind entirely? Was that even possible? He couldn’t wrap his head around it. Who and what were the Jensons and Andreas and Kristines of the dream dimensions?

 Jenson went to his laptop and composed another email to Dr. Wesson. He was now more determined than ever to find answers.

 
Dear Dr. Wesson,

My name is Jenson Thorne, and I emailed you several weeks ago about a strange dream I’d had involving a woman whom I later found out to be a real person I had never met before. I have read your article entitled “Dreamscapes as Parallel Universes” in the November 2010 edition of the Journal of Quantum Physics, and found it to be most intriguing, as I stated before. I am emailing you again as I have not received a reply, and I am growing desperate for answers. I would also like to tell you that I’ve had another dream that I believe to be out of the ordinary. I met a woman in this dream that I’d met in a previous dream, and in the midst of the dream, I remembered everything about my current life, my previous dreams, and the woman. She had a different name, though, as did I, and it raised a lot of questions that I was hoping you might be able to answer. What and who are the people I see in these dreams? Am I still me? And if I am, what happens to the “me” in the dream “world” when I wake up? Do these dimensions still exist after I awaken? I would greatly appreciate a response, as I feel I would have a lot to offer to your field of study. I look forward to hearing from you soon. Thank you for your time.

 He signed off, again leaving all of his contact information. As he returned to bed, he wondered if Dr. Wesson would ever respond. He needed to talk to him, but how did he get him to return his emails? Perhaps emails wouldn’t be enough, but what would it take? Would he have to drive to the University of Michigan and find his office? If that was what needed to be done, he would do it.

 In the morning, Jenson slept in while Maggie showered and got ready for the day. It was Saturday, but she preferred to wake up to the alarm every day of the week, even when she didn’t have to work. When she came into the bedroom, she sat down on the bed and woke Jenson.

 “Honey, I need to talk to you.”

 Jenson sat up and rubbed his tired eyes. “What’s up?”

 “I’m a little worried about your renewed obsession with this dream world thing. You were just starting to forget about it and get some work done, but after last night, I’m afraid you’re going to fall back into a rut. Dr. Wesson never emailed you back, so can’t you just let it go? This is a dead end for you, I can guarantee it. I let you indulge in your curiosity for a while, but it’s time to move on,” Maggie said.

 “You don’t understand, Maggie,” Jenson replied. “I can’t just stop and forget about this. These dreams are going to keep happening to me, and now that I can recognize them while they’re happening, I can’t stop trying to figure out what they are and what they mean. It’s like an itch I have to scratch.”

 “Some itches shouldn’t be scratched, Jenson. What do you hope to learn, to accomplish with pursuing this? You can’t make money with it. It isn’t going to help pay our bills, so you need to stop putting your work aside to focus on it. Your art show is less than two months away, and you still need to complete almost twenty paintings.”

 “I know that, and I will get my work done. But haven’t you ever had something you felt passionate about, something that was bigger than yourself, bigger than your job? How amazing would it be if I helped to discover a truly ground-breaking theory in the world of physics? Aren’t you curious to know if there really are multiple dimensions out there, with endless possibilities?”

 “It would be interesting to know, but I fail to see how it would be beneficial to you and me.”

 “Not everything has a dollar value, Maggie. Not everything has to result in a paycheck. You’ve never done something just for the sake of knowledge, of understanding?” Jenson was surprised at how incredibly superficial Maggie was being. How could she not see the importance of it all?

 “When you get obsessed with something, it consumes you. This is a bad time for you to get immersed in something so absurd.”

 “A bad time, hey? So when would it be a good time for me to get immersed in something absurd?” Jenson retorted.

 “Never, ideally, but two months before an art show is especially bad timing. Now, I hate to do this, but I’m revoking your laptop privileges for today. I want you to paint today. Promise me.”

 Jenson scoffed. “What am I, twelve?”

 “I think we both know the answer to that,” Maggie rejoined.

 Once Jenson sat down at his painting table, the day flew by. He only put down his brush to eat and to use the bathroom, but even in those short breaks, he found his mind returning to last night’s dream. He had decided to keep calling the woman from his dreams Andrea, as it was the name that first came to mind when he pictured her face. Was the world he visited last night a real place? It was a terrible, depressing place. He remembered the cars, the shops along Main Street, the street lamps, and concluded that if it were a real place, then it must have been similar to many other American small towns before the infection. What was the “infection,” exactly? Andrea had tried to kill him when she thought he was infected, so it must be something exceedingly horrible.

He thought about the beginning of his dream. He had somehow known that he needed to be wary when he was on the street, and had some knowledge that an “infection” existed. How had he known that? And how had he known he was looking for someone, and that he would recognize her when he saw her, but not know what her name was, where he was, or anything else about his situation? He was puzzled. If that dream dimension had been created solely by his mind, wouldn’t he have known more about what was going on? But if it wasn’t created by him, then how did he come to be part of it? The Jamie he had been in the dream seemed to already have an established identity and life before Jenson entered the picture. So who was Jamie? Did Jamie look like Jenson? He hadn’t actually seen his reflection or really tried to look at himself, so he didn’t know. He could’ve been in an entirely different body than the one he knew. And what about the searing pain he’d felt before he awakened? Did Natalie actually stab Jamie? If there was a real Jamie, was he dead now? There was so much he still couldn’t figure out.

 In the evening, he quickly checked his email while Maggie was in the bathroom. He wasn’t surprised to see no new messages in his inbox. He closed the laptop and returned to painting, hoping to distract himself from his disappointment.

 To keep Maggie happy, Jenson painted every day, morning to night, for the next week. He was able to complete ten paintings in that time. Unfortunately, that was the only thing he was able to accomplish that week. He’d had no interesting dreams, and Dr. Wesson still ignored him. His frustration with the matter had hit a peak, and he was ready to sit down and have a serious conversation with Maggie. He had done what she’d asked, and now he needed something from her.

 “How was your day?” he asked her at dinner as they sat across from each other at the small café-style table in the kitchen.

 “Not so great. My boss had a major stick up her ass today, and everybody paid for it. She actually made a comment to me that my perfume was too fruity and I was never to wear it again.” When Jenson gave her an odd look, she said, “Seriously. Too fruity. She’s nuts.”

 “That’s an unusual complaint. But on a brighter note, I’ve finished ten paintings this week,” he said proudly.

 “Great! Halfway there! See what you can do when you focus on your work?”

 “Yeah. I figure I can have everything ready by the end of next week, which would leave me a month and a half of downtime before my show.”

 Maggie stopped eating and looked at him. “I can guess where you are going with this.”

 “Well, I’m doing what you wanted me to do. I was hoping I could get you to do something for me now, as a reward,” he said hopefully.

 She seemed hesitant. “Before I agree to it, what do you want me to do?”

 “In your line of work, you’ve gotten really good at finding a way to get a hold of people when you need to. I was wondering if I could get you to track down Dr. Wesson’s phone number for me.” He smiled at her as sweetly as he could.

  Maggie took a bite of her pasta and stared at Jenson while she chewed. He waited patiently, knowing she was drawing out her answer purposely. Finally, she swallowed and said, “Fine. But I want you to promise me that you will finish all of your work before you call him. I want every painting completed.” Her demands were set.

 “I can do that. Thank you, honey.”

 “Just don’t make me regret doing this for you.”

 Jenson worked tirelessly through the next week to complete his paintings. Each day, when Maggie returned home from work, he asked her if she had Dr. Wesson’s number. Her reply was always the same: “Are you done with your paintings?” When he said no, she said no. When Thursday evening came around, however, he had a different answer.

 Jenson was waiting in the kitchen for her when she came through the door.

 “Did you get his number yet?”

 Maggie frowned and asked, “Did you finish your work yet?”

 “Yes. I’ve finished every last painting. Now please tell me you have good news for me.”

 “Really? All of them?” she asked doubtfully.

 “Yes! If I were going to lie to you, don’t you think I’d have done it already?”

 “Alright. I’ve got his number for you.” She opened her briefcase and pulled out a yellow sticky note with a phone number and “Dr. Donald Wesson, University of Michigan” scrawled upon it.

 “Thank you, honey!” he exclaimed as he snatched the paper from her and grabbed his cell phone from the counter.

 “Are you seriously going to call him right now? Aren’t we going to eat dinner?” Maggie asked.

 “I’ve been waiting for this moment for over a month now. Dinner can wait.”

 Jenson carefully dialed the number, checking twice to make sure he had every number entered correctly before pressing “send.”

 He put the phone to his ear and smiled at Maggie as he listened to the ringing on the other end. Maggie rolled her eyes at him and started getting things prepared in the kitchen for dinner. He didn’t let her annoyance frustrate him this time. He was too excited. However, with every unanswered ring, he felt his heart drop a little. After eight rings, his call was sent to voicemail.

 “Doctor Donald Wesson, leave a message.” The voice was deep and curt.

 When Jenson heard the “beep” that indicated he should begin speaking, he suddenly didn’t know what to say. He sputtered for a moment before he found his words. “Hi, this is Jenson Thorne. I’ve emailed you several times, Dr. Wesson, about some dreams I’ve had, and I was hoping to have a chance to speak to you about your studies. I’m interested in being in your experiments. Please call me back,” he pleaded. He left his phone number and ended the call.

 He sat for a minute, feeling let down. Maggie, however, had no intention of letting him wallow in his disappointment and ordered him to get up and help her with dinner.

 “I probably sounded really stupid in that message. I wonder if I should call back and leave another message,” Jenson fretted.

 “So you can sound stupid twice? No, leave it alone. If he’s interested, he’ll call you back. He’s probably home eating dinner at this time of night anyway.”

 Jenson said no more on the subject, knowing Maggie was tired of hearing about it. He listened to her complain about work and her boss all evening, though he had a hard time concentrating on the content of her monologue. He could hear her voice, heard her speaking words to him, but if she were to ask him to repeat what she’d just said, he could not. Luckily, she didn’t seem to care if he was part of the conversation. She just wanted someone to talk at, and she talked at him until she went to bed. He wondered if she even noticed that he had said barely a word the entire time, and concluded that she likely did not.

 As he sat on the couch by himself, staring at the television, he wondered what his future would bring. What would become of his relationship with Maggie? At this point, he felt like he was more of a pet to her than a boyfriend. Her needs always came first, in every aspect of their relationship. Her career, her friends, her wants and desires, all took precedence over him. He had become an afterthought in her life. He had become so used to it that he had forgotten what it felt like to be important to someone, to be the main focus, and not just a side note. He had gotten a taste of what that felt like in his first dream with Andrea. He had felt needed. For the first time in a long time, he had felt like someone actually wanted him around instead of just tolerating his presence. And it felt wonderful. Would he ever feel like that again with Maggie? Had he ever felt that way with Maggie? The longer he thought about it, the more he wished he wasn’t thinking about it.

 He was surprised out of his depression when his phone suddenly rang. He furrowed his brow as he looked at the screen. The clock said 11:18 PM, and the number was unfamiliar. He considered letting it go to voicemail, as he usually didn’t answer such calls. At the last minute, however, he decided to take it on the off chance it was Dr. Wesson.

 “You called me earlier?” the man on the other end responded brusquely when Jenson answered.

 Taken off guard, Jenson asked, “Is this Dr. Wesson?”

 “Last time I checked.”

 He didn’t know what to say next. The conversation was already incredibly uncomfortable and awkward, and the ensuing silence on the other line only made it worse.

 “Um, yes, I called you earlier this evening. I just wasn’t expecting you to call me back tonight.”

 “Call me tomorrow then. I’ll be around.”

 “Oh, no it’s fine –” Jenson said, but it was too late. Dr. Wesson had already hung up. He looked at his phone to make sure the call had ended, and when he saw that it had, he looked around in bewilderment. What the hell had just happened?

 He looked at the number Dr. Wesson had called from, wondering why it didn’t identify it as a known contact on his phone. When he had called Dr. Wesson earlier, he had saved the number to his phone. He discovered the number Dr. Wesson had called from was a different number than the one he had called. A cell phone perhaps? He tried to select the number to save it as a contact, and when he did so, he accidentally called it. When he realized what was happening, he hurriedly stopped the call. He hoped to high heaven that the call hadn’t actually rung on Dr. Wesson’s end. He was off to a blazing start with this whole endeavor, and he knew Dr. Wesson must be exceedingly impressed with him already.

 Jenson put his phone on the coffee table in front of him to prevent anymore mishaps. He sat back and rested his head on the back of the couch, staring at the ceiling. Despite his embarrassment, he felt excited and was pleased that Dr. Wesson had called him back. He was going to be a difficult man to work with, Jenson deduced, but he had a feeling that the things he would learn would be well worth it. He wanted to rouse Maggie from her sleep to tell her he’d finally spoken to Dr. Wesson, and that he was finally moving forward with this adventure, but he thought better of it. She wouldn’t care. She’d be annoyed that he was bothering her with his nonsense. He desperately wished he had someone to share in his excitement.

 Lying in bed later that night, Jenson found he was unable to sleep. In his mind, he played out several scenarios depicting the possibilities of his impending conversation with Dr. Wesson. He tried to figure out the best way to start the conversation, and wondered how much information Dr. Wesson would disclose to him over the phone regarding his research. From Jenson’s brief experience with the man, he concluded that he wasn’t exactly a chatterbox, and would probably leave most of the talking to Jenson. He knew he should have some notes prepared before he called Dr. Wesson, just to help keep him focused and prevent himself from jabbering like a moron. He needed to persuade Dr. Wesson to meet with him and include him in his studies, and that wasn’t going to happen if he thought that Jenson was a nitwit. His mind worked at prioritizing the main focal points he wanted to address with Dr. Wesson, but he fell asleep long before it was finished.

 In the morning, Jenson awoke half an hour before Maggie’s alarm was set to go off. He slipped out of bed without waking her and went to the kitchen. He sat down with his breakfast and a notepad and wrote down his latest dream. He was sure it was not a mind travelling dream, but there was one part in it that he found very strange.
 
 I was an active participant in this dream. It was a zombie apocalypse, and I was on the run with a small group of people, none of whom I knew except my mother. We were all on a city bus, which apparently was still running its route, and we were getting ready to head out of town to seek a more rural safe haven. Before the bus left, however, a small mechanical toy horse approached the bus, and it was repeating my name. I knew in the dream that this was a “message horse,” and I went out and grabbed it. I brought it back onto the bus and pressed a button to listen to the message. It warned me that if I did a certain thing, which I can’t remember what, then someone would die. We set out then, and we found ourselves on a tree-lined country road. We came to a haunted house (the Halloween attraction, not a real one) and checked it out. It appeared to be safe, so we made it our shelter. Soon, however, a group of 40 or more people showed up and wanted in. My group argued about whether to let them in, but then a “message horse” appeared on the doorstep and told us we needed to let the group in. As they all piled into the house, which was a normal house inside, by the way, I was worried about how loud they were. I was afraid they were going to attract zombies with all the noise. I was sitting with my group, discussing the newcomers, and I made a minor contribution to the conversation. The strange thing was, when I spoke, it was like it was the first time I was actually AWARE of myself in the dream. I felt strange, like I had just realized my own existence when I heard my own voice speak. And I realized it was the first time I had actually spoken in the dream. I had just been watching or surmising everything else. It was then that I started to notice how loud the newcomers were getting, and I ran around the house yelling for everyone to shut up. When they did, I could still hear a man talking and singing from somewhere in the house. I followed the noise, and eventually found an old man sitting on a toilet in a closet. He wouldn’t stop talking, so I started slapping him, over and over, until he finally shut up. Then we were all drinking and having a party, like a celebration of the end of the world, and I farted and everyone started cheering for me.

 Jenson laughed to himself as he wrote the last sentence. He would never understand where his brain came up with such ridiculousness. He had yet to meet someone who was willing to admit that they regularly had dreams as vividly detailed and ludicrous as his, but he was hoping that would soon change. Perhaps it was the fact that his mind was able to create such bizarre fantasy worlds and scenarios that made him capable of performing the mind travel that Dr. Wesson studied.

 While he had the notepad handy, Jenson decided to jot down some bullet points he wanted to make sure he discussed with Dr. Wesson. He wanted to know what kind of studies Dr. Wesson was currently performing, whether he had learned anything new since his 2010 paper, and if he were willing to take Jenson on as a study subject. He also wanted to make sure he told Dr. Wesson about his three strange dreams in which he suspected he may have mind traveled, and about his lucidity at the end of the third dream.

 He heard Maggie’s alarm going off in the bedroom, and he suddenly felt nervous. He had been excited to tell someone about Dr. Wesson calling him last night, but now that Maggie was available to speak to, he was worried she was going to find a way to make him feel ashamed for his excitement. It was a skill she had mastered easily. He waited until he heard the shower running before he went into the bathroom to talk to her.

 “You were up early today,” Maggie said when she heard him enter.

 “I woke up at 5:30 and couldn’t go back to sleep. Dr. Wesson called me back last night.”

 “Really? Wow, I wouldn’t have thought he’d call back…so late.”

 Jenson knew she meant that she didn’t think he’d call back at all. “Yeah, he seems like a strange guy. It was the most awkward and short conversation I’ve had in a while. I’m supposed to call him back today, and I’m kind of nervous about it. What if he doesn’t want to involve me in his study?”

 “Well, then I guess it wasn’t meant to be. What exactly would being ‘involved’ in the study entail? Would that mean you’d be driving back and forth to U of M constantly?”

 “I don’t know yet, but I’d like to at least go there to meet him. Even if he doesn’t want me to be part of his study, I’d like to sit down and talk with him about his research.”

 Maggie didn’t respond immediately. “Well, whatever makes you happy. Just as long as it doesn’t get in the way of your work or cost us too much in gas money. I’ve been hearing rumors that corporate is talking about cutting back hours at work, remember? We need to be smart with our money until I know for sure that my job is still secure.”

 “Driving to U of M isn’t going to break the bank. Don’t worry, it’s not like I’m going to be sinking thousands of dollars into this. I just need some answers. And I need you to be supportive of me.” Jenson said.

 “I am supportive, but I want to make sure you’re going to be smart about this. I don’t want you getting sucked into something that isn’t going to…”

 “Make us money?” Jenson finished her sentence for her.

 “That’s not what I was going to say. I was going to say I didn’t want you getting sucked into something that isn’t going to help your career. If people find out that you’re a part of some crazy psychic mind traveling study, that’s not going to help your image.”

 Jenson had to take a deep breath to keep from losing his temper. “It’s not crazy. It’s a legitimate scientific study. And who cares what people think? Why does anyone have to know what I do in my private time anyway?”

 “Ok, then. As long as it is restricted to your private time. Just don’t let it distract you from your career goals, that’s all I’m saying.”

 “Not everything in life has to revolve around a career for financial gain, Maggie. Sometimes you have to do things for yourself, for the sake of curiosity and personal growth. Sometimes you need an adventure to add a little excitement to life. I’m sorry if I’m not as career-driven as you are.”

 “Don’t get mad at me for being career-driven. For a woman like me, a career is the most important thing I can do for myself. I grew up this way, and my experience in life has taught me that a career will never wake up in the morning and decide it doesn’t love me anymore, so it should always be top priority.”

 Jenson was taken aback. “So your career is more important to you than I am?”

 “Not more important, just important in a different way.”

 “Well, I still love you, and always will. And while a career might not decide it doesn’t love you anymore, your boss can certainly decide she doesn’t want you anymore. Nothing in life is certain.” With that, Jenson left the room.

 He went back to the bedroom to lie on the bed. He was fuming. He had always feared that Maggie’s career was more important to her than he was, but he’d never expected her to say it. She’d tried to candy-coat it when he called her on it, but he knew what she really meant. If her company wanted to send her to Japan or Europe or Peru, she would go in a heartbeat without giving one thought to whether he would go with her or not. And if he didn’t go, she still would. She’d leave him behind with nary a second thought, like a pet that was no longer convenient to care for. She didn’t love him.

 Maggie came into the room a while later, all primped and prettied. “Jenson, you misunderstood me. I love you, and you are very important to me. I think all that I’ve done for us should be proof enough of that.”

 “You mean pay our bills? Yes, I’m aware that I don’t make enough money to support us and that leaves the burden to you.”

 “Quit being so cross. I know you are trying to make a name for yourself as an artist, and I am completely supportive of that. Honestly, if I didn’t love you, would I be so supportive? Wouldn’t I just tell you to go find another job and paint in your spare time? I want the same thing you do: for you to be successful as an artist. If that means that I make the money for us until that happens, so be it. I am ok with that. What is it exactly that you want from me? What is it that you want me to say right now? All I’m trying to do is keep you focused on your goals – on our goals.” Maggie glanced at the clock as she waited for Jenson to reply.

 “I just want you to let me do something that I think is important without making me feel like I am wasting everyone’s time. I need you to trust that I’m doing what is best for me, and that it won’t adversely affect us or our wallet. I need you to let me make a decision for myself instead of trying to control me.”

 “Ok. I trust you. I’m not trying to control you, and I’m sorry that’s how you feel. Let’s take the day to cool off, and we can talk about it more when I get home. ” Maggie kissed Jenson and left the room. He heard the front door shut shortly thereafter.

 He didn’t feel better. He’d had similar arguments with Maggie many times before, but things never changed. They never talked about it more when she got home, and it was swept under the rug until the next argument. He just wanted to feel like he was in control of his own life, able to do the things he wanted to do, without her perpetual scrutiny. Whenever he tried to tell her that, though, he always ended up feeling like he was being whiny and needy, the exact opposite of what he was trying to accomplish.

 Jenson decided it was time to end his pity party, and he showered and got ready for the day. He tried to put the unhappy morning behind him and focus on his next step: calling Dr. Wesson. He sat down at the kitchen table, notepad next to him, and looked at his phone. After contemplating which number he should try first, the office number or the cell phone number, he decided to dial the office number. No answer. He hung up without leaving a message and called the cell phone number Dr. Wesson had called from the previous night.

 The phone rang once before Jenson heard, “Yeah?”

 “Hi, this is Jenson Thorne. I spoke with you briefly last night, and I wanted to talk to you about your research.”

 “Oh yeah. So what did you want to know?”

 “Well, I sent you a few emails about some dreams I’d had, and I’d read your paper from the Journal of Quantum Physics, and I was hoping you could shed some light on why I had such strange experiences.”

 “I don’t open emails from people I don’t know. After that paper was published, I got flooded with emails from all sorts of lunatics and people calling me a lunatic, so I just stopped reading them.”

 Jenson waited, but there was only silence. “Oh, ok, um, can I tell you about the dreams, then?”

 “I don’t know, can you? Are you physically able?” Dr. Wesson asked sarcastically. “I believe the word you were looking for was ‘may,’ not ‘can.’”

 “Yeah…so…may I tell you about the dreams?” Jenson asked, trying not to let his irritation show in his voice.

 “Sure, why not?”

 Jenson told Dr. Wesson about the dreams, about meeting Kristine at the gas station, about Andrea, and about becoming lucid at the end of the second Andrea dream.

 “Yeah, that sounds about right.” Dr. Wesson said. “It fits with what I’ve seen. So what do you want to know?”
 Jenson didn’t know where to begin. After a brief pause, he said, “Everything.”

 “Don’t we all?”

 “I want to know what you know. I want to be in your studies. I want to find out everything I can about what happens to me when I think I’m sleeping. And I want to know who Andrea is.”

 Dr. Wesson said nothing for a long time. Jenson began to think he’d hung up on him again.

 “Come see me. Today. We have a lot to talk about.”