1st chapter of a short story about a guy with amnesia who discovers he can lucid dream.
The first couple of hours after I woke up were a blur. It was disorienting enough, waking up in the hospital, and when you couple that with doctors poking and prodding every inch of you and asking difficult questions like “What do you remember last?” you begin to wonder if you were better off sleeping.
Turns out I was.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. My name is Brian Burns. As for what happened to me, and why I was in the hospital to begin with, I didn’t have a clue. The last thing I remembered was getting into my car to meet up with my friends before Jamie went off on vacation. How that could have possibly led to me with a bullet hole in my chest was beyond me.
After I woke up and the doctors were done with their examination, my family was allowed in, and we all had a tearful reunion (why we were sad, I didn’t know), that was quickly interrupted by another doctor bursting into the room.
“Mr. and Mrs. Burns?” He asked, consulting his clipboard.
“Yes?” My mom slowly got up from my bedside, wringing her hands nervously. “What is it?”
“Nothing serious,” The doctor replied hastily (a little too hastily, if you ask me. Besides, I’d say getting shot is pretty serious). “If you’d step out in the hall with me for a moment…” he ushered my parents outside and shut the door.
“What do you think that’s about?” Tyler, my older brother, asked me.
I grunted in response. “Nothing good. Heck, nothing good has happened to me all day.”
“Well, you woke up,” Tyler responded. “I’d say that’s pretty good. Besides, you’re practically a hero now!”
“What?” I asked, frowning.
“After you practically brought down that human trafficking ring by yourself!” My brother smiled at me and ruffled my hair. “I always knew you had it in you.”
“What?” I asked again. “What human trafficking ring?”
Now it was his turn to frown. “What do you mean, ‘what human trafficking ring?’ The one that abducted Jamie’s sister! It’s how you got shot!”
A memory, like a strike of lightning, flashed through my brain, sending tendrils of pain through my head. An image of a dark, unsettling house, silhouetted against the night sky forced its way into my head and was gone just as quick as it had arrived.
“Argh!” I gasped, clutching my head.
“What?” My brother asked, instantly alert. “What is it?”
“I— I don’t know,” I admitted, rubbing my head. The pain had felt like a split second migraine. “I saw… this house… it was really weird.”
“Huh,” Tyler frowned, concerned. “I don’t think that’s normal.”
“What’s not normal?” The doctor had opened the door, letting my parents back inside, before shutting it behind him. My mom flashed me a sympathetic smile.
“Brian just clutched his head,” Tyler supplied.
“It felt like a really bad headache,” I said. “But it came and went in, like, a second.”
“Hmmm,” The doctor made a note in his clipboard. “I see. Well, we’ll check that out when we do the MRI scan.”
“The MRI scan?” I asked. “Why would I need that? I got shot in the chest, not the head.”
“Well, when you fell, you hit your head against an old radiator in the house the EMTs found you in,” the doctor explained. “We need to see how severe the damage to your brain is.”
“How do you know my brain’s damaged?” I questioned.
“Brian, how’d you get shot?”
“Uh… I don’t know…?” I scratched under the bandages on my head. “Why?”
“What’s the date?” The doctor asked me.
“I don’t… know. How long have I been out?”
“Uh… September 16th?” I responded.
The doctor showed me his phone. “It’s the 24th, Brian.”
“What!” I exclaimed, sitting up. “Ow,” I grimaced. The sudden movement hurt my chest. “But… how is that possible? I was only out two days, right?”
“Yes,” The doctor confirmed. “It seems, however, that when you hit your head, you gained a form of amnesia. You don’t remember anything about the events leading up to you getting shot.”
“How… Will I ever remember?”
“Possibly. Possibly not. Getting shot is traumatic, and the brain has a tendency to block traumatic memories. That, coupled with the blow to your head… well, I wouldn’t hold your breath, kid.” The doctor shrugged. “You said earlier that the last thing you remember was…” he consulted his clipboard. “‘Going to meet your friends for lunch.’ Yeah, that fits with the timeline.”
“The timeline for what?” I asked.
“For when everything started. That’s when Jamie learned his sister had been abducted, along with some other girls while they were on a field trip. That’s what started everything.”
“What…?” Vaguely I recalled Tyler mentioning Jamie’s sister being kidnapped before that strange memory hit me. “Are they alright?”
“Yeah, thanks to you,” the doctor said. “You and your friends saved them. You’re a hero now, kid.” He smirked. “The press won’t be happy when they hear you won’t be able to give them a statement…”
“Wait— I don’t understand,” My head was reeling from all the information. Jamie’s sister abducted? Me, a hero? Amnesia?! And to top it all off, there was a strange itch at the back of my mind, a quiet, nagging doubt that was slowly turning into dread… “What exactly happened? How did I get shot?”
The doctor sighed, took off his glasses and polished them on his shirt, then inspected them to make sure they were clear. “Well,” he began, putting his glasses back on, “the EMTs found you slumped against a radiator in an old abandoned house, a hole in your chest and a dent in your head. The only reason you weren’t dead was because of a bulletproof vest you had on that your brother later confirmed to be his.”
“We’re gonna have a talk about taking my stuff without permission later,” Tyler put in, looking pointedly at me, but he was smiling wryly. I didn’t particularly notice, though. Everything was feeling… far off…
I felt disjointed from reality, my dread deepening. The doctor kept talking, but his words made no sense to me. The room spun; my vision swam; I felt as if I was falling as my dread turned to inexplicable, irrational terror.
I was vaguely aware of falling backwards into my bed. Everything was blurry. My body wouldn’t respond to my commands. The air felt heavy, suffocating me. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t think. Terror ruled me.
Slowly, emerging from the depths of my mind, unfurling like a dark flower, the house appeared.
The light in the upstairs window, illuminating a single silhouette. The van in driveway. The sinister, unloved house had sat unused, simmering for decades until it turned into a dull, throbbing evil, pulsing through me, paralyzing my body and mind.
People clustered around. Faces. Faces I recognized, shouting my name…
I fought back, pushing the terror down, fighting to break free of its hold. My arm twitched. My dad was standing over me, grabbing me by the shoulders and shaking.
I gasped, inhaling air greedily, breathing heavily, the terror retreating back to the abyssal depths. “What…” My chest throbbed angrily. “was…” I had a massive headache now. “…that?”
“Oh, honey!” My mom engulfed me, giving me an awkward hug, which only made my chest hurt more.
“Ow,” I said, hugging her back. “I’m fine, mom.”
“Oh, no you’re not,” she said sharply. “Being shot doesn’t cause…” she searched for the right words but came up empty. “whatever that was!”
“Yes, Mr. Burns,” the doctor frowned. “Enlighten us. What did happen? One minute you were fine, the next, you collapsed back into your bed, your pulse spiking, staring slack jawed at the ceiling!”
“I… I think I saw the house,” I told him. “The house where they found me. I felt paralyzed with fear. I could barely breathe.”
“Hmm,” The doctor frowned. “That sounds like a severe case of PTSD, if you ask me. I was going to recommend seeing a psychologist because of the trauma, but now… I’m going to have to make that mandatory.”
“We understand,” My dad nodded. “How long will his recovery take?”
The doctor hesitated. “Well, I’m not a shrink, so I couldn’t give you a definitive answer… but from past patients, it’s not going to be easy.”
Wonderful, I think sarcastically.
The doctor jotted a few more notes on his clipboard before saying, “Well, I think that’s all for now. You guys can visit him whenever you like, but I think it’s best if you don’t pry at his missing memories. He’s under a lot of stress right now.”
“When will he be fit to leave the hospital?” My dad asked.
“I’d estimate a week of recovery here, but even after he leaves he’ll have to take it easy for at least a month. If he’s too active, his wound could reopen,” the doctor turned to leave. “Don’t worry too much. In a month or two, he’ll feel as good as new.” He left, the door clicking shut softly behind him.
“How do you feel, Brian?” My mom asked, turning to me and squeezing my hand.
“I’m fine, mom,” I assured her. “At least, as fine as I can be. I feel fine.”
“You just take it easy, okay?” She instructed.
“Mom, I’m literally confined to a hospital bed with IVs in my arms. I don’t think I’m going anywhere soon,” I grinned.
She smiled. “You rest up. Your father has to get to work.”
“We’ll check in on you every day,” my dad promised. “Don’t worry. You’ll be up and running in no time.” He sounded like he was trying to convince himself more than me.
“I know,” I responded. “Don’t worry about me too much. The dangerous part is over now, right?”
My father gave me a weary smile as he led my mom out. My brother lingered at the threshold for a moment.
“Hey, what happened to Jamie’s sister?” I asked before he left. “Did you guys find her and the other girls?”
“Thanks to you,” Tyler grinned. “You found the trafficker’s hideout. The agency was able to use GPS in the phones we found to determine where they stashed the girls.”
“Hey, that’s great!” I said. “See? Everything’s fine now. Other than my head, of course.” I gave a wry laugh.
“Well,” Tyler hesitated. “Not exactly. We broke up their operations. We recovered the girls. But we never found who organized the whole thing. Somehow, the ringleader got away, and if we don’t find him, he could just restart with a new base and new crew.”
“But you’ve got some leads, right?” I asked.
Tyler grimaced. “Well, we’re doing everything we can, but nothing is too promising. There’s only so much the FBI can do.”
“Oh, well,” I frowned. “I’m sure you’ll get him.”
“Yeah…” My brother trailed off, stepping out of my room and shutting the door behind him.
I sighed, flopping back onto my bed. Everything was so… different. Stuff had happened. Important stuff, and I couldn’t even remember it! And now it seemed like the doctor wanted to make it an off-limits topic because of my ‘PTSD.’ How was I supposed to find out what happened when own head turned against me?
And just like that, I had an idea. If the doc wasn’t gonna help me, maybe I should go straight to the only other ones who had lived it… I reached for my phone and started dialing.
“Brian!” Jamie’s excited voice brought me out of my daydream. “You’re sitting up! You alive!”
“Of course I’m alive!” I laughed as Tom, Jamie, and their parents file into the small hospital room. “What, you think someone impersonated me when I called you guys?”
“I just couldn’t believe it!” Jamie exclaimed. “I mean, you’ve been out cold for two days after saving me and Tom!”
“Wait, what?” I asked, confused. “I thought I saved your sister, not you guys.”
Tom frowned. “You don’t remember?”
“No,” I shook my head. “Apparently, when I was shot, I hit my head, too. I can’t remember any of our adventure.”
Tom’s father narrowed his eyes. “Like, amnesia?”
I nodded. “That’s what the doctor said. Also, apparently I’ve got PTSD now.” I rolled my eyes. “They want me to see a shrink.”
“Ooh, have fun with that,” Jamie smirked.
“Yeah, I’m really looking forward it,” I said sarcastically.
“You have to be careful with those psychologists,” Tom’s father advised. “You can’t trust ‘em. They always try to trap you with your words and sort through your entire life.”
“Dad, that’s their job,” Tom replied.
“You’ve seen a shrink before?” I asked.
“Once, right after my ex-wife died,” He replied. “It wasn’t my idea. A friend recommended his psychologist to me, knowing how close we still were when she died. Worst advice I ever received. I went for two sessions before deciding I’d had enough of her prying into my personal life.”
“Come on, Desmond, not all psychologists are that bad,” Jamie’s dad spoke up. “One of my friend’s regularly sees a psychologist. Says it helps him a lot.”
Tom’s father grunted in response. “All I’m saying is I don’t need someone else inside my head.”
“Anyways,” Jamie’s mother said pointedly, cutting off any further discussion, “Brian, how are you feeling?”
“You mean besides the hole in my chest?” I grinned. “I’m fine. The doc said I’d be out in a week.”
“That’s great news!” Jamie’s dad said. “And after everything that’s happened, I just want to personally thank you for saving my children.”
“Dad,” Jamie said, exasperated.
“Jamie, don’t forget, he saved you, too,” His mother chided. “And Brian, we are very grateful for what all of you did, even though it was reckless and stupid and dangerous and I’d have never allowed it if I knew what you kids were doing.”
“Thanks, Mr. and Mrs. Everett,” I said.
“Oh, and just a heads up, the media might try to drop in on you,” Jamie’s dad told me. “They’ve already been by our house for a statement.”
“And mine,” Tom’s father said sourly. “They’re like vultures. Worse than psychologists, they are.”
A nurse stepped into their room, frowning at the assembled group. “Alright, folks, it’s time for you to go. Brian’s had a rough day, and he’s already enough visitors today.”
“Aww,” Jamie protested, but he was herded out with the others.
“We’ll come back in a couple days,” Tom called back to him as he left. “Tell us if you remember anything!”
I waved as the group left before sinking back into my bed. How had I managed to get so far off topic? I invited them over to get answers, but now I seemed to have even more questions than before.
Well, nothing I could do about that now. I picked up my phone and began scrolling through social media, catching up on what I missed.
I woke up in the middle of the night with a start. Must be because I’m sleeping in an unfamiliar environment, I thought to myself, settling back in (as comfortably as I could, given my current predicament). My eyes scanned the room. It was eerily dark and silent.
None of the machines were humming.
I looked over, suddenly noticing that the heart monitor and all the other machines they had me hooked up to were missing, along with everything else in the room other than my bed. What the heck?
My IVs were gone, too. In fact, there wasn’t even a puncture mark where they had been.
This was getting a little too creepy for me. Cautiously, I got up from my bed and crossed to the door. Opening it, I scanned the halls of the hospital. It was deserted.
“Hello?” I called softly. No response. I noticed none of the lights were on, and the corridors vanished into yawning darkness a few yards from where I stood.
I frowned and retreated back into my room, sitting down on my bed. None of this made sense. Where was the staff? Surely the hospital must have someone on standby, in case a patient suddenly took a turn for the worst.
And the lights! What had happened to the electricity, and the IVs and everything else in his room?
None of this made any sense.
Footsteps sounded in the halls. Those weren’t normal sounding footsteps, but rather heavy, echoing treads heading my direction.
I vaguely became aware of a beeping noise as my pulse quickened. Suddenly the door was flung inwards, wrenched violently off its hinges. Monstrous, clawed hands grasped at the doorframe. A large, disproportionate humanoid in an immaculately pressed suit pulled itself (himself?) into my room, its too-long, bony appendages sticking out in unnatural positions.
Most disturbing of all, however, was its face.
Or, rather, its lack of one.
Where eyes, a nose, and a mouth would normally have been found instead was smooth, unblemished skin, pale as moonlight.
“Brian…” it hissed at me. Long, thin, claw tipped fingers extended towards me. “You must never learn what happened in the Dark House!”
The vision of the sinister House flashed before my eyes. I screamed as the appalling monstrosity lunged.
And then I woke, drenched in a cold sweat, gasping for breath, the heart monitor beeping furiously in time with my pulse.