“Have you ever seen a stranger in your dreams? Someone you’ve never met...a figment of your imagination? It’s someone you think you’ve seen; maybe as an extra in your favorite movie or a random person that passed you on the street. Well, I do. It’s the same recurring dream. I’m on a crowded train, when suddenly, the lights go out. The pitch black emptiness is accompanied by the slow whirring of the air conditioner. Finally, the lights come back on, but the train is empty. I’m all alone. As the train reaches the next stop, the doors open to a frigid breeze. As the conductor says his signature line, “Stand clear of the closing doors”, a figure rushes in. It’s a street performer. They turn their back to me, but I’m watching intently. The whirring on the air conditioner intensifies, and I can feel goosebumps rise on your skin. Anyway, the performer begins to sing a tune I’ve never heard in a language I can’t identify. Although the train is virtually empty, they perform as if it was the stage of the Apollo. They get off at the next stop, and only then do I see their face. It’s a different face every night, and they all leave with a different comment about the same thing: my perfume. Some hate it, and others can’t get enough. When they leave, I wake up immediately without the groggy morning feeling.” I say gripping onto the leather sofa of the HR office.
Mr. Schenck studies my distressed face and deeply sighs. “Dr. Brown, I’m not following the relationship between these dreams and your outburst at the morgue yesterday. You’ve been a morgue doctor-”.
“Forensic pathologist” I cut in.
“Okay, you’ve been a forensic pathologist for the past nine years. Has there been any new developments in your life that could be a source of this stress?” he continues.
“The faces. I only see them twice. Once in my dream, and then the next day at the morgue. I study them. I figure out their time of death, how they died, their stomach contents, I bond with them.”
“This is a very stressful job, Doctor” he says, sighing again.
“I don’t think you’re understanding me. They die while I sleep, while I dream of them. I’m being haunted” I exclaim, falling back into the couch like a restless child.
“Julie-” he starts, but I correct him quickly, “Dr.Brown, please.”. He lets out his final sigh. “Dr.Brown, can you tell me what triggered your outburst yesterday?”
“I saw her in my dream, like the rest. I tried to avoid the connection between my dream and profession for so long, but this woman was different. In my dream, she told me that she wasn’t a fan of my citrus perfume, but used a vanilla pumpkin scent. As I examined her on the table, no amount of overpowering chemical smells could mask the strong scent of her perfume, a vanilla pumpkin scent. It matched my dream. It was more than just a coincidence.
“And, last night? You said you had the worst dream yet?”
“I was the stranger.”