Dream Walker Novels
Forty years into the future, a young man walked down a deserted street in an abandoned neighborhood. He was a tall thin young man with dark brown hair and steel blue eyes. His grey button up shirt was open at the neck and he wore black slacks. On his feet he wore a pair of old hiking boots and on his shoulders he had a large back pack.
The houses on the street where he walked were run down and seemed to sag in on themselves as if overwhelmed with grief and neglect. He looked from right to left, wondering if any would be worth investigating. His focus was food. He hoped to find canned food or water left by the previous inhabitants that he could scavenge. As he walked, he came upon a small yellow house and wondered what kind of people used to live there.
Stopping in front of it, he raised his hand up to shield his eyes from the late afternoon sun as he considered the house. The yard of the house was completely overgrown with tall grass and weeds, but the structure was still standing. The windows weren’t even broken in although the covered porch had a noticeable sag to the right side. The yellow paint was badly worn and peeling; however, the rest of the house looked fairly intact. It appeared promising.
He didn’t look to see if anyone was watching because he knew he was alone. In fact, the thought of checking to see if anyone was going to witness his latest trespass almost made him laugh. There was no one left to notice or care.
He confidently walked up the front walk and to the front door. “Honey, I’m home!” he declared in a sarcastically cheerful loud voice as he opened the door and stepped across the threshold. As he expected, he was met with only silence.
The inside of the house was dim and looked like no one had lived in it for a hundred years although realistically, it had probably only been thirty or forty. Everything was covered in a fine thick layer of dust. Aside from that, the place looked as if the previous owners had just stepped out to run errands. There was an old couch in the front room, and a few overstuffed chairs. He ignored these and followed the hallway straight through to the back of the home looking for the kitchen. The sun shining through the dusty windows gave him enough light to navigate by.
The kitchen was like so many other kitchens he had walked through in the past months. At one time this was probably a place of happiness and joy. It could have been a place of laughter and gathering. Maybe it was a place of family and friends. Now, there was only thick dust and filtered sunlight. Beneath the dust he could see a nice wooden table with four chairs around it. The last inhabitants had left dishes in the sink, now long since forgotten.
He went first to the pantry. That is where he usually found the cans. Sure enough, there were stacked cans of vegetables, soups, and even some meats. Excellent, he thought. There is enough food here to last a month! Assuming it didn’t kill him or make him sick. Strangely, he couldn’t remember ever getting sick from eating food from cans that should have been thrown away a long time ago.
“It’s all about the calories,” he announced to the empty kitchen, taking the pack from off his shoulder and beginning to fill it with cans. As he cleaned out the pantry, he began humming to himself a tune that he was making up. When he was done, he turned from the pantry and glanced at the old abandoned refrigerator. Something caught his eye. It was a faded picture being held in place by a magnet of a young woman. She looked to be close to his own age. She was smiling and sitting on the front steps of the yellow house. The yard was neatly manicured, and she was holding a mason jar in a toast to the photographer.
He stared at the picture. What must it have been like to live back then? Before the Dark Death struck and life changed forever. Although the picture was faded, he could see that the girl had long brown hair and pretty green eyes. To him, she was beautiful, the most beautiful girl in the world. Of course, as far as he was aware, there were no beautiful girls left. There were no girls left, period. He hadn’t seen another living human in over two years. Well, unless you counted the muties, but, he didn’t think they were human anymore.
“Why hello there, Miss,” he politely said to the faded photograph. “Sorry to be stealing from your pantry like this, but you see, a man’s got to eat you know. I’d offer to work for the food, but, wow, not sure where to start here. You really should look into replacing your maid. She seems to be missing a few spots.”
The girl’s bright eyes smiled back at him as if to say, it’s ok. We always try and help those in need. Help yourself to whatever you can find here. We don’t have use for it anymore.
“Why, that is very kind of you,” he replied to the photo. “Now that you mention it, I have been walking for several days and could sure use a break. Is there a place I could bed down for a nap?”
The smiling eyes seemed to stare right through him to the hallway behind him. There is plenty of space here. Just make yourself at home.
“Don’t mind if I do,” he laughed. “You know, you are the nicest girl I’ve met in...Oh…what seems like forever.”
The young man turned around and sauntered down the hallway. The rooms to the right were on the dark side of the house, so he skipped past them and walked to the first door on the left. He opened it and entered what could only be the girl’s bedroom. Beneath the dust, he could see more pictures of the smiling young lady. There was one of her standing with an older couple that looked like they must have been her great grandparents. In another she was making a weird face with a few other girls her age. He glanced over the rest of the pictures and then looked around the room. The walls were faded pink.
He looked at the bed and felt a sudden sense of guilt. It was one thing to steal food from the dead, but this girl seemed a bit too real to him. Sleeping in her bed seemed inappropriate somehow. He turned to look at one of the pictures of the young lady. In this picture she wore a bright red dress and looked like she was standing in front of a church somewhere.
“Now Miss, I don’t know that I feel right about sleeping here. It’s your room and all and I appreciate your kindness, but it wouldn’t be right of me to sleep in your bed. After all, what would the neighbors say?” he said jokingly, knowing they were all dead. “Maybe I will just look at some of the other rooms if you don’t mind.”
The photo seemed to laugh at him for his old fashioned behavior. I’m long gone my friend, but suit yourself, he imagined she would say if she were there. He withdrew from the room and explored the rest of the house.
The only other door on the sunny side of the house led to a bathroom. Not surprisingly the toilet was dry and showed a dirt ring around the bowl. The shower curtain had long since deteriorated and hung in shreds. He looked in the mirror, and was surprised at how much older he looked. Hard to believe he was twenty one. His steel blue eyes stared back at him. Reaching his hand up to his chin, he felt the whiskers of his unshaven face that tried in vain to hide the thinness he knew lay beneath. He usually tried to shave since his beard always itched. Dang, he was letting himself go. Have to shave sometime soon, he thought as he yawned. Got to get some sleep though. Sleep first. Shave later.
Out again in the hallway, there was only one other bedroom. It was on the dark side of the house. Looking in the doorway, it was hard to see much in the dim room as the windows were covered with a dark curtain. What he could see of the bed looked old and uncomfortable. There were cobwebs in the corners and a strange musty old smell everywhere. The whole room was creepy looking. It seemed like it didn’t belong with the rest of the home. He turned around and decided against going in any further. With nowhere else to go, he found himself back in the young lady’s room. He noticed for the first time that on the wall above the bed was stenciled in purple letters: Stacy’s Sanctuary.
“Well Miss Stacy, I guess I will take you up on your offer after all,” he said with a sad smile. “It doesn’t seem right, but I’m beat.” He lowered his heavily laden pack of canned goods to the floor, and carefully sat down on the edge of the bed. Miraculously, the bed was in decent condition. He pulled his boots off and looked at the girl in the picture one more time. It would have been nice to have lived back then, he told himself. He wished he could have met her before the world died.
With that thought in mind, he laid down on top of the blankets and closed his eyes. It felt both natural and foreign to lay in a bed. The softness of the mattress seemed to welcome him and his eyes closed almost immediately.
The chimes from the wall clock caused Stacy to glance up and check the time. She quietly swore to herself. How could it already be so late? The draft for her English class essay wasn’t even close to being written and yet her mind kept wandering.
She slowly got up from the kitchen table and went to the fridge. Her bright green eyes smiled back at her from the picture she had taken that first day last summer when she had moved into the yellow house. Mrs. Whitting had insisted on taking it. The old woman, whose room was across from her own, was quite the odd bird. She was ok, for a landlord, pretty much letting her come and go as she pleased as long as she was quiet, but man, that lady was one strange character.
Mrs. Whitting often mumbled to herself about the end of the world. Stacy had heard her say “Not long now. Sure as gas follows beans. It’s a comin’.” so many times, she could almost imitate it perfectly.
The old woman had a worn tattered bible that she studied from constantly. Stacy was pretty sure she was only focused on the pages at the end of the book. What was even stranger was that for a religious woman, she had some funny beliefs. Stacy had caught a glance into her bedroom one day and had seen all kinds of crystals and stones hanging from strings around her bed. She even thought she might have seen a real crystal ball on the dresser. Along with the crystals, she sometimes heard chanting and smelled incense coming from the room across the hall. How the woman reconciled her firm studies in the bible with whatever craziness was going on in there was beyond Stacy’s ability to comprehend.
After pouring herself a glass of lemonade, she sat back down and stared at her laptop. “Ugh” she said to herself. “I can’t work on this anymore tonight. I need a break.” She glanced over at her diary. She had faithfully written in her diary almost every week until just recently. It was a habit she had started many years ago when she was young. Then with the heavy workload she was taking this semester, she found she just couldn’t keep up. Weeks had flown by without her even thinking about writing in it.
That afternoon, she had felt guilty about neglecting it, so she had taken her diary and placed it with her other school books. Now it lay on the table silently calling to her. She longed to write in it, but what would she say? Nothing exciting ever happened to her. All she could write would be: “went to class, did more homework, took more tests, went to work. Repeat.”
She yawned and felt her eyes start to droop. Ok, ok, she thought. I give up. Time to call it a night.
She gathered up her books and things, and tiptoed to her room. She turned off the lights as she went and soon found herself silently moving in the familiar dark. Once inside her bedroom with the door closed behind her, she flipped on the lights. The pink walls and cheerful pictures all beamed back at her, as if to welcome her home. She didn’t have anywhere else that she called home, so she had made this room her sanctuary. Mrs. Whitting had even let her do some stenciling on the walls and she had written “Stacy’s Sanctuary” above her bed. This cozy room with borrowed furniture had become her refuge from the crazy world of work and studies.
Quickly, she got ready for bed and before she knew it she fell heavily into the comfort of her quilt and pillows. The softness of the mattress seemed to welcome her and her eyes closed almost immediately. Soon she was fast asleep.
She was in a field or a meadow. The sky was clear blue without a single cloud. The yellowed grass was long, almost as high as her waist. She moved through it cautiously. She felt like someone was watching her. It was an ominous feeling that made her keep turning her head from right to left. There was a sense of urgency and danger. She needed to get out from under the cloudless sky and the open field where she was so exposed and find a place to hide.
The wind blew and seemed to moan as the grass waved her on towards the edge of a forest. She could feel the fear rising in her stomach. Before she knew it, she began to run towards the trees where she felt she would be safe. As she approached the trees she was surprised to see a tall young man with brown hair, a scraggly beard and steel blue eyes emerge from behind the trunk of a large oak tree. She stopped running and called out “Who’s there?”
The young man stared at her in disbelief.
“Is your name Stacy?” he asked her.
She could feel the sense of dread and danger like a wave at her back urging her forward and into the shelter of the trees, but the sudden appearance of the man had startled her. “Who are you?” she asked.
“My name is LuckSon,” he replied introducing himself. As he started to extend his hand she was suddenly jolted awake by the sound of her alarm.
It was 6:00am. Time to get up and get moving or she would be late to her first morning class.
It was past midnight when Larry reached the fourth floor of the researcher’s building and again saw the light on in Dr. Steven’s office. For the past several months, he had noticed that Dr. Stevens had spent many nights working late. Twice he had stumbled upon him lying face down on the floor. Each time he had asked him if he should call an ambulance or a medical doctor. Each time the researcher had refused.
“There is something wrong with that guy.” Larry mumbled to himself. “If he is face down again tonight, I swear I am calling 911.”
He went up to the closed door and knocked. “Hey, Doc. You ok in there?”
“I’m fine. Don’t open the door. I’ve got some lab work and experiments that are sensitive going on in here,” came the hasty reply.
Lab work in his office? Was that allowed?” Larry wondered to himself. He knew that there were some very strict rules around where lab work could be done. He wasn’t even allowed to go on the floor with the clean rooms and the most dangerous diseases. Knowing Dr. Stevens was doing something in his office made him start to wonder just what was going on in there.
“You sure?” he asked tentatively.
“I’m all good here. Don’t worry about the trash tonight. I will see you later,” came the researcher’s reply.
Larry shook his head and moved on to the next room. Well, at least he wasn’t passed out on the floor. Whatever he is working on, he sure is dedicated. He began going down the hallway to each of the various offices emptying the trash and doing some light cleaning.
He was almost at the end of the hallway when he heard a crash. It sounded like it came from Dr. Steven’s office. “Dr. Stevens?” he called out as he turned around and headed as fast as he could back to the researcher’s office.
Larry was an older man, so all he could do was slowly jog down the hallway. Pulling out his master key, he unlocked the door and quickly opened it. Inside he saw Dr. Stevens in a lab coat, wearing safety goggles and protective gloves. He was once again passed out on the ground. There were petri dishes and samples scattered across the floor. What was this guy doing? He went straight to the doctor, and rolled him over. His eyes were rolled back into the back of his head. He wasn’t asleep. He had passed out completely.
Suddenly Larry felt very exposed. He thought about the crazy diseases they had in this place. What if Dr. Stevens had been messing around with something and had gotten it out of the lab area? Could he be exposed even now to some super germ?
Dr. Stevens blinked, and slowly his eyes rolled back and began to focus.
“Doc, are you ok?” Larry asked in concern.
“Huh? What? Where am I?”
“You’re in your office. Man, are you ok? I really think you need to go see a doctor.”
“Oh, why yes, Larry. Thank you for your concern.” The researcher’s eyes seemed to come back into focus as he tried to regain his composure. “I really am fine. Just slipped is all.”
“Are you sure?” Larry began collecting the petri dishes and vials from the office floor. One was marked “nasopharyngitis”. Another was labeled “rhinopharyngitis”.
“Oh nothing. Really.” Dr. Stevens seemed to be gathering his thoughts.
Larry stared at the samples in his hand. He didn’t know what the labels meant, but finding samples outside the labs made him nervous.
Dr. Stevens noticed the look on Larry’s face. Laughing out loud he tried to put the older man’s mind at ease. “Oh Larry, are you worried about those samples you are holding? Well, you have nothing to fear. Nasopharyngitis is a medical term we use to classify a simple category one virus. You probably know it better by its more familiar title: the common cold.”
“The common cold?” Larry asked feeling a little sheepish.
“Yes. The common cold. Here, let me show you.” Dr. Stevens struggled up to his desk, and pulled out a medical almanac. He was still recovering from his fall, but as he thumbed through the large book, he seemed to regain his composure. Arriving at the definition, he pointed it out to the old janitor. “It’s ok, Larry. Really. I wouldn’t take any controlled viruses out of the lab. And these are all inert anyways. You could eat those petri dishes and not get sick. No I really am fine. I just slipped.”
Larry was beginning to feel foolish for his earlier fears and concerns. “Ok. You really should see someone about this whole passing out thing.”
“I’m fine. Really. Don’t worry about me. Just working too late again is all. Now if you will excuse me, I have work to do. I think I am getting close to something really amazing.”
With that, Dr. Stevens stood and started walking towards him. With a sigh of acceptance Larry turned and walked out of the office and back down the hallway towards his cart. Something strange was going on. He didn’t know what, but he knew it wasn’t any of his business. After all, he was just the janitor.