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The sun beamed through the window on a beautiful Thursday morning. It was around 8:00 in the morning, and Amelia, my girlfriend, was probably leaving very soon for her job. I shuffled to the kitchen, my head hanging low and my feet dragging, in a half-awake like state to fix my coffee. Alas, it was still brewing. I sighed in disappointment and my heart sank. I guess that everything has to fall into place perfectly for me. Out of the corner of my eye, a woman had come into view.
“Hi, honey. How did you sleep? You were pretty busy on your psychology project,” Amelia asked.
I had been studying and researching my condition of uneasiness and irregular behavior. It had started around four years ago, when I woke up in the morning and everything felt different. I couldn’t remember anything before that morning. I was getting nowhere fast, and my doctor had no explanation either.
“Pretty well, despite all the work and my project. I hope you have a great day at work, sweetie. I love you!” I replied. Amelia was walking out the door.
“Love you too! Don’t forget your coffee mixture!” Amelia called.
My coffee mixture was a mix of milk, cream, sugar, and a special ingredient that Amelia made for me since four years ago to help with my condition. However, I’ve never really been sure if it is working or not. I haven't been sure of much ever since. I poured my coffee and walked back to my room. The curtains waltzed like dancers in the night and my closet door was open. I grabbed a gray suit and a red tie off the hangers they once laid on and changed. Once my teeth were brushed and short brown hair combed, I took my navy blue messenger bag and strolled out the door.
My job as a software programmer was pretty hard, but it gave a fun challenge. I worked at Biotech Corporation, a company that helped Microsoft with the minor issues, like bugs and glitches. The uneasiness started to rise that very morning. But by late afternoon, it started to feel like nausea. I rushed to the bathroom at work and groaned into the sink. My boss, Barry, ran in with concern.
“You don’t look too good, Joseph. You should probably take the rest of the day off. I can handle everything from here,” Barry told me.
“Thank you so much. I should probably go, boss," I replied, darting out the door and speeding home.
By the time I got home, I felt like a stomach flu was arising. The morning’s breakfast and lunch was sitting in my throat, waiting to pounce out of my mouth. The bed pulled me towards it like a magnet, and soon I was violently vomiting into the trash can next to my bed. This continued for 30 minutes until my body gave into the unconscious realm.
Then, the uneasiness stopped. In my sleep I could feel the sense of peace returning. My soul was nourished. And then my eyes started to open.
I awoke to a blank room with gray walls and dim lighting. I was wearing red sweatpants and a white T-shirt. A computer beeped and clicked next to me. It was actually a heart monitor, like something happened to me. I looked through my window and noticed the sky was dark and the moon was half full. I checked my watch and saw it was 9:00 AM. I assumed I passed out for the day and my watch was 12 hours off. I waited for a minute, then rose from my squeaky bed and walked to the door.
The door was locked. I couldn’t understand why, but I guess that meant whoever came in here wasn’t supposed to leave. There was a small window in the northeast corner, and it was unlocked. I pried at it with my fingers, the window rusted and old, until it popped open and I flew back onto the bed. Luckily the bed caught my fall, and I rose again. Am I in a prison? I thought. This place was certainly set up to look like it. I grabbed the windowsill and scaled over the wall. My bare feet immediately felt the cold, hard concrete surrounding the building. Red vans with white crosses were to the left of me, and to the right of me a stone gate covered in barbed wire.
The red and white, the vans, and the crosses everywhere led me to believe I was in a hospital. What kind of hospital locks the patient doors and looks like a prison? Right now I just wanted to know where I was. I assumed I was in a hospital because of my severe nausea, but I felt perfect. Like the symptoms had vanished. I didn’t understand why the crosses were white and not red, but at the same time it felt like it was supposed to be that way, like it was right.
I started to walk down the sidewalk, but then crouched and hid against the wall to conceal myself. Slowly I walked, and the sounds I heard were mortifying. Screams of pure agony and heart monitors were going at a rapid-fire speed, like they were left to die. But then I heard the doctors and nurses, quickly chattering. A feeling of despair to save the patient filled them. I shuddered and kept moving.
I turned the corner, barely peeking. I had reached the front of the hospital. The stone gate had ended and all that was left was the barbed wire. I couldn’t make out any signs or what anyone was doing. Then, I noticed a small hole in the fence, big enough for me to fit in. Still hiding at the corner, I looked to see anyone passing by. The area was clear. I dashed to the hole, ducking under the tree nearby. No one had noticed me, too busy focusing on the incoming wounded. Slowly I sunk to my belly and crawled through the hole, the rugged barbed wire from being cut open scraped my back, leaving holes in my shirt and minor cuts in my body. I had escaped from the hospital, but now I was stuck in a world where no one knew me.
To avoid sight from anyone, I stayed to the edges of the wall. Next to the gate was a dumpster full of clothes to donate to charity. I was in need of some charity, since I couldn’t walk around with clothes from the hospital. I changed into a pair of black and red sneakers, one blue sock and one white sock, a pair of torn jeans, and a dark green t shirt. As ridiculous as I looked, I didn’t look like a deranged patient.
Now I could walk around the town without suspicion. The only thing is I’ve been to my city hospital. But this place…. I had never seen it before.
I walked for a mile or so until I got to what looked like a main intersection. The buildings of the city were flashing in the night, and the fast food places were swarming with people. People were having a nice dinner with burgers and fries. The one thing off was the traffic light. People were constantly running red lights and stopping at the green light. I stood at the corner for a while, taking it all in.
“Hello sir, I don’t mean to bother you, but do you know how to get to 32nd and 11th Street? I have to visit my aunt.” A man had walked up to me, in need of some help.
“I’m sorry sir, but I have no idea where I am. I woke by the hospital in these clothes and have never seen any place like this before. Is Biotech Corporation nearby? I’m supposed to be there tomorrow morning,” I replied.
The man looked horribly confused. “I’ve heard of the place before, but you probably need some rest. I can take you to my home and let you stay here for the rest of the day.”
“Thank you, sir.”
I arrived at a modern-looking apartment, with a navy blue carpet and beige sofas. The large windows spread out, covering a wide area of the city.
“The guest room is upstairs to the left, and if you need anything to snack on help yourself to the fridge. I must be leaving for work now,” The man said. He seemed in a hurry, like he was late for the night shift.
“Thanks so much. Goodbye!” I replied. At this point, I could assume no one else was living with him and I was alone. Something about this city wasn’t right. I couldn’t pinpoint it, but I also couldn’t help but feel a sense of concern. This feeling was not my regular condition. That had faded away. This was different, just confusion and curiosity blending together. I needed some sleep anyway for the morning. I headed upstairs and entered the guest bedroom.
Inside the room was a twin-sized bed, a desk for studying, a small closet, and a television. I had nothing to set down on the desk but the apple I grabbed from the fridge. On the small sticker it said “Red Delicious” but the apple was a Granny-Smith Apple, which is green. I thought nothing of it as a simple mistake, and chomped the apple up.
After eating the apple, I decided to go to sleep. It had been a very long night. I wondered how I was going to explain myself at work, but Barry probably already knew about my unconsciousness. I looked at the shining stars out the window, pondering the town I woke up in. And mostly, the missing puzzle pieces.
The sun woke me up that morning, but I could barely notice it. The curtains by the window had shut overnight to make the room incredibly dark. Maybe that was a built-in function and the owner of the house was a person who didn’t really like the sun.
As I opened the fridge for some milk to go with my Cinnamon Toast Crunch, the man had opened the door, tired from his overnight job.
“Hey Joseph. Um, I left my car on and my GPS set for your office… So if you want head there before it gets too late you can. If not, just turn it off. I have to go to bed…See you,” The man told me. I never caught his name, though.
“Excuse me sir, I never caught your name.” I asked.
“Mark. Mark Belcomb. Bye.”
Gee, he was in a rush to fall asleep. I decided to start my day bright and early and go to work, despite my homeless-like clothing.
I stepped outside and got into a white Hyundai on the driveway.
The GPS was set for Biotech Corporation, and the address was the same. I followed the directions, looking at how many cars were absent from last night’s rush hour. I arrived at the office, and not many cars were there.
I rode the elevator to the 23rd floor, the floor I had worked on for 4 years, maybe more. The elevator doors opened to show nothing.
The place was empty.
There were a couple janitors, but other than that, I couldn’t see anyone. It was probably way too early for anyone to work. I walked in past the doors and felt a blast of chilly air. My cubicle, which was on the far right, usually had pictures of Amelia and me and was filled with paperwork. The cubicle didn’t even have my name on it.
That too, had been cleaned out. Like I had been gone for a long time, or even fired. I looked over at Barry’s office, which was on the very far left. There was a silhouette behind the blurred glass, so I ran to it. Hopefully Barry could explain everything. I opened the door, wondering if I was interrupting anything important.
“Hey, Barry. Sorry I was gone yesterday. Hopefully you can explain why my cubicle is cleaned out.” I said, nervous for the response.
“Joseph. It’s been a while since I saw your face. What brings you to my office, at this time of night?”
“A while? Sir, I was just gone only for two days. Also, the sun is out, so clearly it is morning.” I stuttered, confused.
“Not in the real world, Joseph. You hold a position at this company, Biotech Corporation, or at least you did until four years ago. You had a seizure at your house and fell into a coma. I found you there and rushed you to the hospital and that was the last we saw of you. Apparently you just woke up to reality. Also, the sun out means it’s nighttime. Everyone is sleeping, not working. What world have you been living in?”
“I’ve been living in a world where the sun wakes me up. I work for you, not Microsoft. Where my girlfriend makes me coffee and the world is perfect: not like this parallel universe. I’m going back to the hospital to see what’s really wrong with me.”
I stormed out of the office, rode the elevator down to the exit, and sped out of there. I set the GPS for the nearest hospital, and it showed me a picture. It was the red and white hospital I’ve been at for four years. I still had some questions I needed answered.
When I showed up at the hospital, I knew there would be some explaining to do, as to why I had escaped and how. I opened up the front doors and walked to a receptionist area.
“Hello Miss. My name is Joseph Fincher, and I need a report of my medical conditions from four years ago.” I asked. “Coming right up, sir. Wait. Aren’t you the man who fell into a coma four years back?” The woman replied.
“Yes. Is it even legal to get a copy of my medical records?”
“Absolutely. A copy of the records is sent to the family every week for until the patient is released. But…you were never released.”
“Allow me to explain. I thought I was in a prison because you locked the door, so I broke free and escaped. I’m sorry if that caused any inconveniences.”
“Um, not really. We only locked the door because we thought you were dead.” The printer beside her stopped running and she handed me a stack of papers. “Thanks for coming back. I sure do hope you figure out what happened.”
“Thank you Miss. Goodbye.”
I took Mark’s car back to his house, which was programmed into the GPS. It was 2:00 in the afternoon, which was apparently the middle of the night for everyone else. I sat down on the beige couch and started to read the records.
Patient Name: Joseph Fincher
Condition: Comatoniosis (Dreams of a parallel universe whilst in a coma)
Nurse: Amelia Coult
NOTES: I’ve started a new case, the one of Joseph. He was rushed in by his boss, Barry Messo, who found him on his living room floor. Looks like a case of that coma-dream stuff. I’ll give him a mixture of sugar, cream, milk, and striveasnin, which is a drug to help wake him up.
The notes went on like this, until it stopped at two years ago. I was baffled. Amelia, my girlfriend, was only a dream set in a parallel universe where the sun rises to declare morning. Where coffee mixtures are filled with drugs to help end my coma. Where my life is a reverse reality. This is the last note that the nurse wrote.
Nurse: Amelia Coult
There’s nothing more I can do for this poor man. He doesn’t seem to be alive, and the mixture isn’t doing anything. I’m locking the door and throwing away the key. The time is 3:04 in the afternoon. I declare Joseph Fincher…dead.