Chapter Twenty-Three

Chris got home from his lunch with Kimberly at 2:30. He was dead tired, dragging his feet as he walked, struggling to keep his eyes open, not that that was anything too far from the usual, but it was eight hours past his normal time to attempt rest, and he was feeling it. He wasn’t looking forward to sleep. He knew Kimberly would be there, the Kimberly that was worried. The Kimberly that knew. The Kimberly that was scared.

Chris stood at the foot of his bed, looking at it for a moment, stalling, listening to the rain ping against his bedroom window, reflecting on what he had told Kimberly at lunch, and what he was yet to tell her. He thought about calling her to make sure she had gotten home okay. He wanted to ask her out to dinner. He wanted to arrange to get together again tomorrow. He wanted to watch over her, to protect her. He knew he had to restrain himself so he didn’t appear obsessed or desperate or just a pest. But he was obsessed. And the more he knew about Kimberly, the more desperate he was feeling with the idea that he had to prevent her upcoming tragedy.

He decided to try to contact Carly before trying to get some sleep. He needed to take his mind off Kimberly and the task that lay before him. He was also curious as to what had happened to Carly earlier when they had been IM’ing. She had signed off abruptly without saying good-bye. And he wanted to make sure Monday would work for her to meet with him and Kimberly at ‘X’.

Chris sat down at his small computer desk and signed online. Carly was not there. As much as he wanted to, he was too tired to hang out and see if she signed on before Jerry was due home shortly after five. He would have to wait until tomorrow after his routes to talk to her. He closed out his Internet service and dragged himself back into the bedroom.

Too tired to bother changing out of his clothes and into the old tee-shirt he liked to sleep in, too tired to pull back the blanket and covers on his bed, he laid down on his bed and was asleep before his eyes had even fully shut.

* * * * *

Chris stood before the hole in the ground and waited for the coffin to open revealing Kimberly. He wondered if this version of Kimberly would remember the lunch date they had had earlier that day. He didn’t think she would. Sherry had known who he was without introduction when they had first met atop the ominous hill. Chris figured the impact he had had on Sherry’s life was the reason, the sub-subconscious needing an explanation for her body’s condition, Chris’ existence being a major part of that explanation. Yet the dreamland Sherry had not remembered his visits to the hospital when he had tried to see if she was okay. The two levels of consciousness, although in essence the same person, apparently worked independently of each other, information being shared only on a need to know basis.

The coffin opened and Kimberly’s blue eyes fixed their gaze on Chris. Chris was once again struck by the beauty and passion he saw in those eyes. Were they less shiny then they had been when he last saw them here in the dream? Or was it hard to tell since he had seen the live version up close so recently? He wasn’t sure.

Today she wore a summer sundress, dark green and flower print, no shoes. Her raven black hair was loose and windblown. Chris’ heart ached with the thought of any harm coming to this vision lying in front of him.

"I’d say I’m happy to see you again," Kimberly said, "but that’d be a lie. So am I fading yet?"

"I don’t think so," he told her. Then, although he already knew the answer, he asked anyway, "Do you remember us having lunch today?"

"We had lunch? Together?" she asked.

"Yes, Applebee’s. We both had the ribs," he said.

"Why do I not remember this and you do?" she asked.

"It has something to do with my accident," he said. "I can think of no other reason."

"So will we be seeing each other again?" she asked.

"Yes," Chris told her. "I am going to try to help you through this. We’re gonna beat this thing," he said, unconsciously tossing a glance at the Priest across the hole as he said the last part.

"I hope so," she said sadly, but Chris wasn’t sure she believed him. She may have already, sub-subconsciously conceded to what Chris had told her the most probable outcome would be, her death.

"So where are we today?" he asked her, trying to change the subject. There wasn’t much good he could do for her here anymore. The task of saving her was in the real world. Here he could only console her and try to keep her from getting depressed.

"We’re in a park, by a lake, walking a path around it. It’s too bad you don’t see it. It is very beautiful. It’s a gorgeous day out." Her eyes narrowed, and she asked, "You’ve never told me what you see. Where are we in your dream?"

Chris looked up at the Priest and his smaller hooded followers at his sides. He hadn’t wanted to tell her what he saw, but he couldn’t lie to her either.

"We’re in a graveyard," he said solemnly, "This is where all my dreams have been since they started after the accident."

"Can you see my tombstone? Is that it?" she asked, trying not to sound scared. "Is that how you know I am going to die?"

"No," Chris said quickly. "Actually you are lying in a coffin. There is a Priest here and a group of mourners, all wearing black robes with hoods. But you are not going to die, Kimberly. I won’t let you die. I promise you."

Suddenly Chris heard a soft, deep, throaty chuckle. He shot a look up at the Priest whose gaze appeared to remain on Kimberly. The sound had seemed to come more from within his own head than from across the hole, but Chris couldn’t help but think it had been the Priest laughing at Chris’ promise to Kimberly.

Putting aside his fears, feeding off his determination to keep his promise to Kimberly, Chris finally gathered his courage and resolved to face the Priest. His voice trembled a bit as he asked the question that had been dogging him for half a year now, "Who the hell are you, anyway?!"

The Priest did not look up right away. He looked as if he hadn’t even heard Chris’ question, or hadn’t known it was directed his way. But then something new happened. Chris noticed the coffin lid was slowly closing. It had opened every day upon his arrival on the scene, but he had always awakened before it had closed. He watched Kimberly disappear under the lid and wondered if he hadn’t just made a mistake.

Once the lid had fully shut, Chris looked back at the Priest. The Priest raised his shadowed head towards Chris. Chris had time to wish he hadn’t snapped at the Priest before he heard the same gravelly voice as the chuckle, still seeming to come from inside his own head, but now thundering loudly enough to rattle his bones.

"I am the one whom you deny!"

Chris bolted awake with a start, sitting straight up in his bed, his entire body trembling, sweat seeping from his every pore despite the goose bumps covering his flesh. He stood on wobbly legs, the Priest’s voice still echoing in his head, the words still lost in their meaning, and headed towards his sanctuary in the shower. He wasn’t sure if for better or for worse, but he realized that for the first time since his dream had begun, something other than the face in the coffin had just changed.

* * * * *

Chapter Tweny-Four


Front Desk

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As Fate Would Have It

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen
Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen
Chapter Eighteen
Chapter Nineteen
Chapter Twenty
Chapter Twenty-One
Chapter Twenty-Two
Chapter Twenty-Three
Chapter Tweny-Four
Chapter Twenty-Five
Chapter Twenty-Six
Chapter Twenty-Seven
Chapter Twenty-Eight
Chapter Twenty-Nine
Chapter Thirty
Chapter Thirty-One
Chapter Thirty-Two
Chapter Thirty-Three
Chapter Thirty-Four
Chapter Thirty-Five
Chapter Thirty-Six
Chapter Thirty-Seven