“Some thirty years ago, when your mother and I met…,” Dad says, sitting stoic. He pauses and stares at me, then continues. “I was on a strange case. I won’t get into the details, but basically, there was some kind of toxin affecting people who fit a certain demographic. We got help from an unlikely source and found a way to develop an antidote. A little over 100 people died from this event. Your mother was one of the few saved by the antidote. But, in reviving her, we also didn’t count on specific side effects.” Dad sighs and scratches his clean cut chin. A look in Detective Cannen’s eyes makes me feel like he knows what Dad’s talking about. While it wouldn’t completely surprise me, Cannen looks like he’s closer to my age than Dad’s. If he does remember the event Dad’s referencing, he was probably very young when it happened.
“So, how does this affect Mom and potentially Jacob?” I ask, still not entirely tracking. Dad looks at Cannen, then back at me. A knot forms in my stomach. “Dad, how does this tie in?”
“This toxin was from a specific creature’s internal secretion that made people sleep. For one reason or another, the abductor had strategically selected women in the tri-state area, but their focus was Manhattan,” Dad responds, staring up and recalling the events as he relays them. “Your mother was a target. Somewhere between work and their train ride home, Kathy and your mother’s food or drink was spiked with the aforementioned secretion. While Kathy, being the fringe nut she’s always been, was suffering from the effects, she called Philip and said all she could before she passed out. We had already created a profile of the women that were attacked: athletic, Caucasian or western European descent, blonde or red hair, no shorter than 5-5, no taller then 5-8, lived alone, no pets. At first the targets seemed random, but when we narrowed it down, they all commuted to Manhattan for work and all worked in the same fields: legal, financial, insurance or government.” Dad sips from his custom-made metal water bottle and takes a deep breath. The bottle thuds on the old wooden table when he sets it down. “We retraced Kathy’s steps and eventually found the culprits. A small network of wiccans who were putting the women to sleep and then murdering them in ritualistic ways to call forth their god. What we didn’t know, is that each victim had failed to make meaningful contact except for your mother. As it turns out, something happened in your mother’s incapacitated state, and ever since then, she’s been able to remote travel through the realm of dreams or “dream walk” as she calls it. A few days ago, she was able to walk into Jacob’s dream and speak with him. She was confirming certain details before visiting him again. That’s when she didn’t wake up.”
Frigid air slices through me. I shudder at the thought of losing both Mom and Jacob. At first, I get upset that I didn’t know about mom’s ability, but then think about the Wordsworth and Fandellia. God only knows what else is out there that I have no clue of and probably don’t want to know. Dad gives me a look like he can see my thoughts. “The world is a large place, Mona,” he says. “There’s a certain innocence to being ignorant of its vast mysteries and goings on. Unfortunately, you may lose quite a bit of that luxury. As much as your mother and I wanted to protect you from this, I think you are capable of finding your mother, or , at the very least, you’re easy for her to find. First, we need to put you in state where you will sleep until she makes contact.”
I keep my thoughts to myself as I remember all the times that Mom pulled information out of me. When I was in college she would always somehow know when I was having nightmares or not sleeping well. Now it makes sense. “Okay, Dad, this is a lot of sudden information. I’m glad I can help, but I can’t exactly sleep knowing what happened to Kathy and that some Wordsworth is probably hunting me. I don’t think you and Cannen are going to stay safe, or keep me safe if I’m passed out. I can’t do this.”
“Just like you couldn’t choose with Fandellia, I imagine?” Dad asks, cutting the tension I didn’t know existed. “That’s why you’re here isn’t it?” he asks Detective Cannen. “She chooses or you put a bullet in her before she puts more people in danger, right?”
That can’t be right. Can it? My eyes snap at Cannen, focusing on his face. A tear rolls down my cheek as anger makes my lips quiver. Cannen wouldn’t do something like that. He saved me and almost saved Jacob. He was helping me. He brought me something to eat. Cannen has been here with me this whole time. How could he do it knowing that he might end up having to kill me? “Is that true?” I ask. “Cannen?”
Cannen slants his eyes and sighs. He stares at me with an apologetic expression and scribbles on his notepad. I raise my hand before he can show me what he’s saying. “Save it,” I respond, feeling betrayed. I glare at Cannen and cross my arms. “So, how do you expect to do this, Dad?”
“First off, Simona, the detective is just doing his job. Your life is not more important than the officers who were called over to help you and Kathy. Your neighbors’ lives aren’t less important than yours and neither are the lives of all the random people you might exchange casual words with. It pains me to know this man only hovers around my daughter to ensure she does not negatively affect the world around her, but it is his job. Detective Cannen means nothing personal by it. I’ve spent long enough in the FBI and CIA to know that sometimes, you need to do things that don’t sit well for the sake of the big picture,” Dad says, reaching through a duffel bag he brought in. “Truth be told, I’d do the same thing if you weren’t my child, Mona. It’s no ones fault. The circumstances dictate your threat level and your choices don’t exactly align with the best path,” he says, grunting as he finally finds what he’s looking form. Dad puts a small box on the table and opens it to reveal a vial with an odd-colored liquid. “I don’t know what it is, but your mom uses this. This is about 2 ounces. Your mom sips 5 ounces everything she plans on finding someone, so I think half of that should be enough to not overwhelm you.”
“Why do I need to drink this, Dad?” I ask, examining the mysterious concoction. “Can’t you just do it and look for Mom yourself?”
Dad shakes his head. “Because of my roles, I have had some very invasive training and government-funded protection added to my soul and mind. I cannot open my dream realm to the public, nor can someone just enter into my dream Phaneron. I am disconnect from the Collken.” Silence sweeps over the room. I avoid looking at Cannen, but I’m sure he has the same question as me, judging by how furiously I can hear him scribbling in his notepad. He shows his message to Dad. “I am not sure, but you can ask Amber once we save her,” he responds to whatever Cannen asked. Dad reaches for a paper cup and pours some of the mixture into it. “Alright. We don’t have time to waste, Simona. Your life is apparently on the line too. Drink this, find your mom and let’s get going to find Jacob.” He hands me the cup.
I sigh and take a sip. After a few seconds, I feel sluggish and groggy. My vision blurs, then fades. Dad talks, but I can’t make out what he’s saying outside of an odd word or two. I struggle to keep my head up. I crawl into one of the beds in the hotel room and pass out. When I open my eyes, I’m in the same hotel room. I can see Dad and Detective Cannen. They look like ghosts, or like faded copies of people. I walk through the wall and find myself on the walkway in front of the hotel room. It looks like normal. Cars are driving, people are walking around and I can smell food wafting in the air near the hotel. The only difference being that the people look like soft-colored, transparent versions of themselves. “Mom?” I ask, shouting around the parking lot. I wander around yelling until I see a woman who isn’t transparent. I sprint toward her, calling for my mother, and freeze when she turns to me. Her face is missing, but I can feel her eyes looking at me, or for me.
“That was strange,” the faceless woman says to a man sitting beside her and continuing their conversation. Feeling uneasy, I scramble away and run back toward the hotel. I walk up to the room and hand lands on my shoulder.
“Simona,” a voice says.
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