THE AWAKENING - First Scene



Chapter One

Dr. Albert Snowden was focusing on the most important part of his day, his nap. He gazed out the window in his living room with his hands clasped behind his back. The brightness of the melting snow outside made him squint his eyes. Winter was finally ending in Northwest Columbus, Ohio. He enjoyed wintertime since fewer people came by the house and there were more opportunities to nap undisturbed.

He had been having trouble sleeping lately and felt more fatigued sometimes after waking up. He turned away from the window and shuffled toward his favorite recliner in the living room, hoping that maybe a change in sleeping venue might help. He wore clothes from the previous night, when he had fallen asleep grading papers at his desk in his study. The deep wrinkles in his brown twill slacks reflected having slept in his chair, and his white striped shirt, with his brown bow tie and cotton vest, had a spattering of recent stains hinting at a late-night dinner. He stood around five feet eleven inches, and the tufts of brown and gray hair on his balding head connected with his well-trimmed beard. A smile crept across his face at the thought of napping for the rest of the afternoon. He plopped down onto the recliner, glancing around while wiggling his toes and gripping the recliner arms. The chair was like an old friend just waiting to comfort him. He was ready for his nap.

He reclined in the chair just as Emily, his niece from his deceased older brother, Dan, arrived. He raised his eyebrows as he watched her bounce into the room from upstairs. The smell of scented shampoo permeated the air. She was wrapped in a bathrobe and running her hands through her damp hair. She reminded him so much of her mother, Sarah, standing around five feet nine inches with dirty-blond hair and a face deep in thought. Despite that, she definitely had her father’s disposition and personality traits. It sometimes felt as if he were talking with his brother.

“Uncle Albert, I’m going to the store here shortly to pick up a few things. Need anything, like coffee?” asked Emily.

“I’m fine. Well, actually,” said Dr. Snowden, stroking his chin, “we are running low on coffee. Can you pick that up? Make sure to get ground coffee, not that instant crap. You don’t need to get creamer again either. You know I only drink my coffee straight black.” He noticed Emily giving him a critical look. She must have been unhappy with something he had done.

“You stayed up late grading papers again, didn’t you? You know that could’ve waited till today. That’s why you want to nap all the time. It’s screwing up your sleep cycle,” said Emily.

He nodded his head at her. “Yeah, I know. I don’t think going to bed at a regular time would help that anyways. Regardless, papers are graded, and I can now enjoy studying a nap. I’ll be fine. You worry too much. Have a safe trip.”

Emily shook her head and sighed. She turned and bounded up the stairs.

He appreciated her concern for his well-being, but it was overbearing at times. It was her way of keeping him close after Dan died. He had a strong relationship with her parents. Sarah was Dan’s childhood sweetheart and grew up with Dan and Dr. Snowden in a small town outside Columbus. When Dan and Sarah moved to Florida, Dr. Snowden moved as well and took a job near them. Sarah died giving birth to Emily, and Dr. Snowden became a big part of Emily’s life as she grew up. He had lived there until Emily’s graduation from high school. He then took a teaching job in Columbus.

Dan died on February 4, 2011, from cancer in Emily’s second semester of her sophomore year in college, leaving Dr. Snowden the only relative left in their small circle. Emily came up from Florida to stay with him the summer after Dan died and decided to stay and finish her degree while living with him. He was helping her financially, and her second semester of her senior year was well underway. He enjoyed having her around, as she made the house feel more alive. She also reminded him of what was gone. He surveyed the living room and realized he was in the clear. He would finally get a nap in without any more distractions. He reclined the chair and closed his eyes.

Two knocks rang out from the front door. His eyes popped open. He had not expected anyone today that he could remember. He hoped it wasn’t those Jehovah’s Witnesses Dr. Bryson sent last week. While he enjoyed a good prank, three times in a month was a bit much. He rose from the recliner with an audible sigh and lumbered over to the front door, pausing to peep out the peephole.

A Caucasian man in his midthirties stood outside, with dirty-blond hair, a chiseled chin, and piercing blue eyes that seemed to penetrate the peephole. The man had on a dark-blue and silver pinstripe suit and polished black shoes. His hair was short with a small wave jutting out the front and to the side. The sides were shaved, giving an overall clean-cut profile.

Dr. Snowden wrinkled his brow and narrowed his eyes. This was definitely not a Jehovah’s Witness. He had put up a No Solicitors sign last year and made sure it was displayed prominently. There was no way this man could have missed it. He either ignored it or was there for another reason. Either way, Dr. Snowden was going to find out. He cracked the door open a bit to get a better view.

“Dr. Snowden?” said the man in the doorway.

“Yes, can I help you?”

The man bowed with his left arm across his stomach. “My name is Evaran, and I am here to save you.”

Dr. Snowden’s smirked. Great, another religious nut, just what he needed. He had tangled with people pushing various philosophies on him all his life. He had developed a mental checklist of tactics to refute many of their claims. He avoided confrontations if possible, knowing that once a person made up their mind, they rarely changed their view. However, when cornered, he did not back down either. “How’d you know my name? Did Dr. Bryson send you?”

“I do not know a Dr. Bryson.”

“Well, how’d you know my name then?”

Evaran pointed to a package sitting on a chair on the front porch. “You have a package from the college with your name on it.”

Dr. Snowden stepped back a bit and opened the door all the way to see the package. It was several feet wide by several feet tall. He did not remember hearing a package dropped off last night. “Hmm, that’s odd. Okay, well, thanks for stopping by. It’s been great. Take care.”

“Wait!” said Evaran, extending his left hand, palm up, toward Dr. Snowden. A vertical ten-inch screen appeared, hovering above a ring on his middle finger. On the screen was a decrementing timer, and it showed around ten minutes.

Dr. Snowden crossed his arms and raised his eyebrows as he scrutinized the display. He was not aware of any type of technology capable of producing a free-floating screen, especially from a ring. Typically, he would have already shut the door, but the screen from Evaran’s ring intrigued him. He pointed at the display. “Okay, tell me what that is, and I’ll listen to what you have to say. Deal?”

Evaran nodded and half grinned. “Curiosity. That trait befits you. It is a deal then. At a high level, the screen is a holographic projection emitted by my ring. The ring also emits ultrasonic radiation for tactile feedback. The ring itself, however, is really just a relay for a much more powerful system. Does that satisfy my part of the deal?”

Dr. Snowden pushed his glasses up. He had never heard of technology combined like that before or seen anything so advanced. He was not even sure he fully understood it. He could not deny what was in front of him, though. “Yeah, I guess, although I’d like to touch it.”

Evaran extended his hand farther toward Dr. Snowden.

Dr. Snowden poked at the display and felt resistance, like touching a rubber sheet. His eyes widened and his lips parted as he pulled his head back. The applications a technology like this could power did not escape him. He closed his mouth after realizing it was still open. He pulled his hand back and looked at Evaran. “That’s … pretty amazing.”

“I am glad you think so. Are you ready to hear what I have to say now?”

“Sure, why not,” said Dr. Snowden, dipping his head slightly and gesturing with his right hand for Evaran to continue. He had many questions he wanted to ask, but he figured maybe after he heard what Evaran had to say, he could ask them.

Evaran pulled his hand back. “I am here to save you from the current predicament you are in. The world around you is an illusion, and I need to prepare you for an awakening.” He pointed to the timer with his right hand. “In around eight minutes, this world will disappear, along with you in it. When it does, I will be there to guide you through your awakening.”

Everything about this encounter seemed unusual to Dr. Snowden, from the high-tech screen he was seeing to the impeccable suit Evaran wore, which was not normal for a door-to-door solicitor. “That’s an extraordinary claim. Do you have extraordinary proof to confirm this claim?”

Evaran lowered his hand to his side, making the screen go away. He nodded. “Ahh, the scientist in you speaks. I like that. I do have some evidence that you may find interesting. Let me ask you, have you had dreams of being in a room that you knew was a medical room of some type but did not recognize as any medical room you have seen before?”

Dr. Snowden’s heartbeat ramped up, and his mouth fell open. He had only told Emily about the dreams, dreams she was having as well. How could someone he never met know about them? “Yeah … I’ve had a reoccurring dream about a medical room.”

“Did the room have six beds, six stalls, a large screen with unusual symbols on it, and an unusual-looking freestanding console in the corner of the room?”

Dr. Snowden crossed his arms and leaned forward a bit. He licked his lips as he pondered what he just heard. Evaran’s description of the room was too exact to blow off as pure chance. “How’d you know about that?”

Evaran furrowed his eyebrows and pursed his lips while placing both hands together in front of him, touching at the fingertips. “This world is a virtual simulation, a program that tries to approximate the real world. You are a virtual representation of yourself, an avatar. Your physical body is still in the real world, actually in the room I just described to you. You have been here for about three weeks. Occasionally, your body needed to be moved for research and maintenance. I am guessing that was most likely done with you in a sedated state. Your dreams would then be glimpses of the real world.”

Dr. Snowden scrunched up his face. He understood what Evaran was saying, but he was not buying it. “You would have to be an outside observer to know this, like standing next to our bodies then.”

Before Evaran could respond, the sound of Emily descending the stairs made her the point of focus. She had on a light shirt, jeans, and comfortable shoes. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail. She put her left arm around Dr. Snowden and smiled at Evaran. “Wow, nice suit! Who’s this?”

Dr. Snowden perched his left hand on his chin and raised his eyebrows. He gestured with his right hand toward Evaran, indicating for Evaran to introduce himself.

Evaran raised his head and then tilted it toward Emily. “Ahh, yes. I am Evaran, and who might you be?”

“I’m Emily, Uncle Albert’s niece. Am I interrupting something?” asked Emily, glancing at Dr. Snowden.

Dr. Snowden smirked. “No, not at all. He was explaining to me that we have a few more minutes before this world, which is a virtual simulation, disappears and we awaken in the real world.”

Emily giggled. “I see.”

He knew she would find it comical in the way he presented it, but he was beginning to believe Evaran’s claim might have some merit.

Evaran extended his left hand again, showing the screen from his ring to both of them. “It is down to four minutes now.”

“That’s awesome! How’re you doing that?” asked Emily.

“Holographic projection he says. He also seems to know about our dreams,” said Dr. Snowden.

Emily’s eyes sunk as she grimaced. She took a step back with her hands clasped together tightly in front of her. “How does he know that?”

Dr. Snowden glanced at Emily, then back at Evaran. “A good question. You say this is not the real world but a virtual simulation, and your only evidence so far is the mention of dreams. That could’ve been a lucky guess, although a very good one. What other evidence do you have?”

Evaran nodded. “Well, I was hoping it would not come to this. I am standing between the beds you both are on in the medical room I described. To prove it, I will gently squeeze both of your shoulders. Tell me if you feel anything.”

Dr. Snowden’s heart pounded, and his eyes widened as he watched Evaran. Evaran froze in an unnatural manner, as if the pause button had been pressed on a remote control.

After a few moments of silence, Dr. Snowden retracted with surprise from Emily as she jumped. He had felt the light squeeze too, which couldn’t be possible. There was no object or force nearby that could have caused it. What the heck was going on? Evaran’s evidence seemed to keep mounting, while his skepticism was diminishing.

Evaran moved again and smiled at them. “Did you both feel that?”

Dr. Snowden’s left shoulder tingled as he rubbed it and processed the squeezing sensation. “How … how’s that possible?”

Emily whipped her head back and forth between Dr. Snowden and Evaran. “This is freaking me out!”

Dr. Snowden rubbed his chin with his trembling fingers and furrowed his eyebrows as he analyzed the situation. The two points of evidence were undeniable. The scientist in him would not let him dismiss it. “Why didn’t we feel anything when we were moved then?”

“Your physical sensations were neutralized. The virtual simulation is winding down, meaning your mind is now processing external physical sensations, as you just felt,” said Evaran.

Dr. Snowden snorted. “Well, I guess if this virtual simulation ends, that’ll be the final proof.”

Evaran pointed to the timer again. “You will have your proof then when the virtual simulation deallocation begins in two minutes. When the time comes, close your eyes and focus on clearing your mind. The sound of the deallocation will be all around. No physical harm will occur. Remember that. When it is over, both of you will be in the real world, in that medical room from your dreams. All I can do at this point is be your guide.”

Dr. Snowden and Emily poked their heads outside, surveying the environment. Dr. Snowden expected there to be something to lend credence to what Evaran was saying. Not seeing anything, he cocked his head at Evaran. “Assuming this is all true, are we the only ones in this virtual simulation?”

Evaran’s lips drew taut as he stared at the ground. “There are two others. I was not able to visit them due to time constraints. I had to make a decision, and I chose you and Emily. I got to visit both of you at one time, and you both appear to be fairly levelheaded. When they awaken, their experience will be vastly different from yours.”

Dr. Snowden tilted his head. He wondered who the other two were, assuming this wasn’t some elaborate hoax.

“So what now?” asked Emily.

Evaran cleared his throat and looked back up at them. “We wait. I accessed quite a bit from the logs. When you are both awake, I will try to explain everything.”

“Wait, were our names in those logs?” asked Dr. Snowden.

“Yes, they were.”

“So you knew who we were all along then!”

Evaran smiled. “You are correct. However, I felt it would be better to get your attention first before exploring that aspect. The holographic projection worked as I predicted it would. I knew you would be curious based on your profile. However, it is time. Prepare yourselves.”

Evaran looked off to the sky in the west. Dr. Snowden and Emily followed Evaran’s gaze. A loud boom shattered the silence, and the house shuddered as if an earthquake had hit it.

A jolt of adrenaline shot through Dr. Snowden. His breathing went ragged as he saw square chunks of the environment turning transparent, then fading to complete darkness. This must be the deallocation Evaran had mentioned. Why was it coming from the west? The sound the deallocation generated was similar to radio static. He rubbed the goosebumps on his arm and stepped out the front door in bewilderment. “You’ve gotta be kidding me!”

Emily stepped out of the doorway and gripped Dr. Snowden’s right arm. Her eyes widened as her mouth dropped. “Whoa!”

The deallocation crept faster toward them. Cars, houses, and streets disappeared before their eyes. Dr. Snowden shielded with his left arm instinctively as he saw the wind toss the neighbor’s lawn fixtures around.

“The deallocation is almost complete. Come stand by me. We will do this together,” said Evaran.

Dr. Snowden moved to Evaran’s left side and hunched over, with Emily in tow.

Evaran put his arm around Dr. Snowden. Emily maintained her death grip on Dr. Snowden’s arm.

“This isn’t real! This is preposterous!” said Dr. Snowden over the deafening noise.

“Dr. Snowden … focus!”

Dr. Snowden and Emily shut their eyes and focused on blanking their minds. The deallocation was almost on them. Dr. Snowden peeped out and braced for impact. Although he could feel no pain, he felt himself beginning to slip away.


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