I don’t belong here.
I am standing in the lobby of some austere corporate edifice, and there is a pretty girl next to me; she loves me, but my attention is drawn to the woman walking into the lobby; Laura Green, a champion of obsolete technology. Today, she will broadcast a radio show with antiquated equipment, and play vinyl records on an old turntable. She is broadcasting from the park outside this building, where the corporate herds eat hasty lunches and strain to hear their cell phones.
I go to help Laura, my unknown lady friend annoyed and jealous; this amuses me, because I know that no one is jealous of me. As I help Laura set up the antiquated equipment, we hear it, borne on a wind that was not there a second ago. A siren, low and urgent, at whose keen we all turn our heads, even the cell-phone drones. A girl screams, a second before we see the cloud; small, white, and, in any other context, harmless. I know this is what I have dreaded all my life, yet I have no idea what it is.
The cloud hovers, oblivious to our fear. As the siren winds down, I hear a voice, as if in my head, confirming my dread: There is no cure, evacuate immediately, there is no cure. Laura and the girl are gone, and cell phones are crashing to the ground; I am alone, and the cloud is growing. I look back at the building, and people are boiling out; executives, secretaries, tourists in mismatched clothes. They are all running away, over rails, climbing stairs that I hadn’t known were there. I start running for the stairs, jumping benches on the way, when I stumble to the ground. Ahead of me, the girl is still screaming, and I know what is behind me…
I awake on the plane with a start, my head whipping back and forth as it takes a few seconds to realize I was dreaming. My breath returns, and I am surprised to be alive. My disorientation alarms the woman next to me; she is elderly, and smells of licorice. She asks if I’m well. I murmur something vague, and get up to use the restroom. In the restroom, I splash water on my face, and as I reach for a paper towel, I notice the wall panel is out of place behind the toilet. I reach down, out of curiosity, and the panel falls away at my touch. Behind the wall is a space just large enough for a man to crawl into, and it extends downward. I crawl into the space and follow it downwards. I only go about 12 feet or so when the space opens up and I land on a half-filled luggage rack. I am in the baggage compartment, and I can see ahead a canvas partition, in which a long slit has been cut.
I walk over to the partition, and peek through the slit. I see a man crouched behind some boxes, he has his head turned away from me, but he will turn it this way soon. I back away from the slit and look for something to hide behind. Before I can go a step he is through the slit and pulls a gun on me. I laugh at him, because I know he will not harm me. I trust him, and although I have never met him before, I know him for a close friend. I smile and ask why he has the gun, since we know he will not shoot. He points the gun to my belly, and his eyes lock onto mine. He has no pupils, and I can sense eternity in the blackness of his eyes as he fires the gun. I never feel the bullet, and the world closes in on itself, shrinking to a pinprick of white light, like when you would turn off an old television set. I know I am dreaming, and that now I am dead, because I know that if you die in your dream…