Author's note: This action-adventure novel was written to explore the far reaches of moral ambiguity and power of corruption.
You May Say That I'm a Dreamer“I loved you, you know,” she told me, struggling to find her voice. She clasped my hand in hers, leaned in and gently kissed me on the lips. Her red hair spilled just over her shoulders, and for a moment I simply held her. She was Fiona Callahan, my ex-wife, and none of this was really happening.
Thanks to the toxins in the dart I was hit with, I was experiencing some bizarre form of lucid dreaming. It felt somewhere between dreaming and hallucinating, but whatever bizarre scenes I found myself reenacting, I had no control over my actions. Were these my memories? Why were they returning now?
The scene changes and I am running down a city block; somehow I realize I am late for a final exam. A young girl, whom I immediately recognize as a younger Fiona, giggles and waves as I stop to catch my breath. I wave to her, and she begins to stroll casually toward me.
I close my eyes and try to recapture the absolute bliss this memory must have held for me, but I can’t. There’s something not quite right about the entire situation, something feels off.
“Don’t worry, Agent Lange,” I hear Niko’s voice echoing through my head. “We’re going to get you to the hospital; you’re going to be fine.”
I see myself as a child, no more than five years old. I am playing in a tree house alone; my older brother is nowhere to be seen. I look happy, not bothered in the slightest that I have no one for company. Time passes, and I see myself at thirteen, sitting alone on a swing beside the tree house. It’s certainly starting to bother me that I have no companions, and Paul is still suspiciously absent.
Suddenly, Fiona and I are riding a Ferris wheel; fireworks light up the night sky above our heads. I have an arm around her shoulder, and I am excitedly telling her about my plans for the future. Her stunning green eyes watch me intently, as if she is planning her next move.
“John,” she calls in a voice just louder than a whisper.
“Yes?” I ask earnestly.
“Shut up,” she says as we share our first kiss. At this moment everything around me melts. The fireworks, the Ferris wheel, even Fiona melts away into darkness. I stand alone against my own shadow, and I’m dimly aware that I’m falling rapidly, but it doesn’t seem to be of any concern.
“I know you did,” I hear my own voice echo through my head. “I’m sorry things have to end this way.”
Silently, I crash into an imaginary ocean, sending ripples in every direction. I continue to sink into the dark waters, not moving a muscle, until I hit some sort of ocean floor. I open my mouth to scream, and I can feel a bizarre sensation, not quite drowning, but not quite breathing.
The water evaporates around me just as quickly as it arrived. Now it is midnight, and I am on a beach with Fiona. I’m on one knee, offering her an engagement ring. I realize this was the happiest most of my life, and I cling to it. Things would only go downhill from here.
Fiona is speechless, and I see the glint of tears of joy in her emerald eyes. The light from the moon reflects across the water and illuminates her fiery hair. She is breathtaking. I slide the ring on to her finger and she embraces me. When we touch, the scene shatters around me like broken glass, slipping into a new memory.
A soft beep can be heard, reminiscent of an old fashioned answering machine. Fiona’s voice crackles into the speaker, she sounds concerned. I see myself sitting half passed out in a chair, at a time that could have only been a few years ago.
“…You’re self destructive, John, and I’m sorry, but I’ve done everything I can to save you,” Fiona pauses to catch her breath; I can hear that she is only seconds away from bursting into tears. “I can’t let you ruin both of our lives like this; I want to know that you can at least try to change.”
The scene changes again. It is my twenty-first birthday party, and once again, Fiona is here. A blonde girl is seated beside her, and I recall that her name is Emily. A man has his back turned to us, and I recognize it as my brother Paul. He turns and smiles, passing me a drink.
“Happy birthday, Johnny,” he laughed. His voice felt so familiar, as it should, but it was almost as if I had heard it recently.
The memories continue at odd intervals, but I never feel truly a part of them. It’s as if I’m simultaneously acting on screen and watching my own performance. These are the genuine memories of John Lange, but I am not the John Lange of these memories. I am a new John, and I have been ever since I woke up in Project NOVA’s hospital wing.
“Perhaps you shouldn’t, John Lange,” Nolan Thomas’ mechanical voice booms through my head, recalling our encounter in the hospital wing.
It’s a bizarre occurrence, to feel disassociated with memories that are very clearly yours. While what little insight I was receiving to my own life was enlightening, it did little to quell the mysterious circumstances leading up to the accident.
“John, can you hear me? Damn you, Cassidy!” Morty’s voice sounds distant, and I barely perceive that he’s actually speaking to me, and not a memory.
I feel years of my life pass before my very eyes, and now I am sitting at a kitchen table. I have a mug of coffee and a rolled up newspaper on the table, but I am disinterested in both. I look disheveled, washed up and I’ve positively hit rock bottom. Fiona has her suitcases at the door, and with tears in her eyes she leaves my life.
“Run to her!” I call out to myself in vain. “Stop her; don’t let her leave you like this!” It’s no use, and the John of my memories continues to stare pitifully at the paper. I cry out in anguish, attempting to smash everything around me in frustration, but just as before, I can do nothing.
“Rovin will have a field day with this one,” I hear Cassidy’s sophisticated voice this time.
The door slams shut, and for a few moments, the earth is still. I watched myself with a twisted, morbid curiosity; what does a man do when he has lost everything?
I watch as the memory of John Lange’s eyes light up, and begin rapidly filling in the newspaper’s crossword puzzle, as if it were a matter of life or death. I realize that I wasn’t actually solving the crossword, instead I was solving some sort of mental puzzle, one that Fiona’s exit must have triggered. When I finish with the newspaper, I toss it aside and stare blankly at it. Only two scrawled words are legible – “Project NOVA”.