APAGear II Archives Volume 3, Number 3 April, 2001


Tomorrow's Dreams, Today

Buji Kern

Arran woke up with a start, lying in a puddle of sweat. The dreams. He was having the dreams again.

Snapped necks. Crosshairs lined up on someone's eye.

People trying kill him. Him trying to kill people. Images, like a slideshow of vivid memories. Only they weren't memories. He had never done anything remotely dangerous in his life.

But it all seemed so real.

He struggled out of bed and to the fridge, hoping to smother his dull headache with alcohol. He sat on the pleasantly cool tiled floor and sipped his liquor. I guess it'll be another hard day at work, he mused.

Arran wearily polished the bar, continuing long after the solid block of Okavangan hardwood was as shiny as it could possibly get. He had to start getting some sleep, or he'd get fired for not presenting the kind of 'hip' attitude that draws customers to Port Oasis' hottest new restaurant and bar.

He continued with his menial tasks until the bar opened, and customers began to filter in. He poured drinks, nodded his head at the customers' meaningless small talk, and tried to think about his dreams. But he just couldn't make sense of them, and he pushed it out his mind and tried to focus on work.

It was near closing when he noticed her. She was small, but with well-developed muscles. Her features suggested that she was from somewhere in Mekong, or had parents from the Dominion. She made direct eye contact with Arran and ordered a beer- an extraordinarily good beer, he noted with approval. The woman proceeded to drink it, very slowly, in silence.

Before long, she was the last customer at the bar. Arran idly polished a glass while hoping that she would leave, so he could close early. At the same time part of him didn't want her to go, because she was strangely fascinating to him. He saw beautiful women every night, but something about her seemed vaguely familiar. Maybe she had been to the restaurant before and he had forgotten.

"Bartender, do you sleep well?" She asked, fixing him with a stare that Arran found highly disconcerting. He almost dropped the glass he had been obsessively cleaning.

"Excuse me, do I know you?" Arran said. What was this? Maybe she was psychotic. It sounded like the kinds of things serial killers say to their victims before they kill them, at least in the movies. Still, he didn't feel like he was in any danger.

"Maybe," she said quietly. "Is there somewhere we could talk... privately?" she asked, still fixing him to the wall with her stare.

This all felt extremely strange to Arran. "Look," he said, "I need to close and go home. You'll have to go somewhere else." He felt very uncomfortable telling her what to do, for reasons he couldn't explain to himself.

She looked exasperated. "Fine, I'll leave. But before I go, I need to show you something." Arran stood there, confused, while she retrieved something from her jacket pocket. It was a photograph. She turned it around so he could see the picture, and then Arran's knees almost buckled. It showed a middle-aged man, with no real distinguishing features except a slightly puffy, overweight face.

Arran had seen him many times before, in his dreams. He couldn't name who he was, and was sure he had never seen him before in his waking life. But he vividly recalled dreaming of seeing the man's face through a riflescope, before ever so softly pulling the trigger. Arran began to sweat.

"So, want to talk to me now?" the woman said. "My name is Joon Rhee. By now I'm relatively confident that you are in fact Arran Stefis. I know some things about your past that I think you'd like to know."

"I need a drink," Arran managed weakly.

To be continued...

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APAGear II Archives Volume 3, Number 3 April, 2001