Baby Steps

10 minutes read


He sat staring around the examination hall at all the busy pencils, heads stuck into the papers laid before them. He flicked through his paper, every box filled, every question answered. Bored, he sat waiting to be set free from the halls.
“Physics tells me that gravity binds me here, but really it is an obligation, isn’t it.”
He muttered to himself as a woman stood at the front of the hall waving her hand.
“An obligation that, unlike gravity, has just been lifted.”
He moved from the hall and out the back to a run down to a two-door car which was waiting for him. Along with the car came a sweet smile with red hair.
“I somehow knew you would be out as soon as that first bell sounded.”

“Oh, look at me. I am Coraline, I am a psych major, and I know every move everyone is going to make ever. He said sarcastically.”

“Well, in that case, I am Jackson, and I have the need to add little quirky tidbits to the end of my sentences to show people I am unique.”

“She said mockingly.”

Both Coraline and Jackson exchanged glares before bursting out into laughter. They gave each other a warm hug and kiss before getting into the run-down vehicle. As the key turned, the machine spluttered back to life, taking a few moments before settling its cough.

“Ah, purrs like a beauty.” Jackson said, laughing.

“Can we please not be sarcastic for one moment? Now I know she is rough, but she gets us around. For instance, she gets us from your physics exam to this mumbo jumbo science experiment that you want us to do. So, appreciate the dying vehicle who will give her life to see us reach our destination.”

The two drove off down the road; Jackson stared out the window at the university buildings as they passed by. He knew the drive would be a short while as their destination was on the other side of campus, and the university had an extremely low-speed limit.

“You could drive a little faster, you know?”

“Speed says thirty; I drive thirty. I don’t know about you, but I cannot afford a ticket.”

Jackson pouted as he looked back out of his window; this time, a strange man stood staring at the vehicle driving by. The freakishly tall man seemed to be emanating a creepy vibe that Jackson could not handle long, turning away from him before he fell from sight.

“Damn, there are some creeps that hang around campus; I just saw this tall weirdo. He was standing alone and just stared down the car; something about the guy makes me feel uneasy.”

“Just be glad it isn’t night time; then he would have been ten times more disturbing.” Coraline said, laughing at how nervous Jackson was. “Just some tall guy; you really are antisocial if that creeps you out.”

“Ha…ha, you are so funny. Just keep driving your shit box.”

Coraline laughed as she swerved over the road, trying to scare Jackson. A few swerves later, she could see it was having no effect, so she straightened out in time to turn to their destination.

“Hey Jack, does it concern you that the project we are doing is in a building that is being destroyed in a few weeks?”

“Na, we are too much hassle if we die. If we die in an unsafe building, they will not only be investigated but fined and their reputation ruined.”

“True, but I would like to hope that THAT is not the driving need to keep us safe.”

“I mean ideally, but it is the one that makes the most sense.”

A silence stretched out as Jackson and Coraline climbed from the vehicle and headed towards the dilapidated building before them.

“I would love to get into that head of yours; you have such macabre answers to things.”

“To me, they seem normal; maybe you are just too optimistic. Although in saying that, I am very optimistic that this test will be successful because I want the ability to see dreams.”

“Yea, but what are the chances this is actually legit?”

“Low as hell, but even a sliver of a chance fills me with excitement.”

The door screamed as Jackson pushed it open, gesturing for Coraline to go before him. They walked down the musky hall towards a dim light spilling from an open door. As they got closer, they could hear hushed voices, Coraline’s hand grasping at Jackson’s as they entered the room. Before them was a small group of people all huddled, discussing the experiment.

The examiner turned to the couple as they walked in, speaking to them in a hushed tone.

“Please take a seat; we are talking quietly to help relax the body for the experiment.”

They both took a seat and sat next to the other two participants of the test.

“I was hoping for a few more, but this should still be enough to spark interest. What you read on the handout is true; we are developing a machine that can not only see into your dreams but record them. Right now, it will only be able to see your perspective, but we are hoping to gain full freedom around the mind of the individual.”

Everyone was interested in the concept but still highly skeptical.

“Is there any chance of brain damage with this experiment?” Asked one of the other subjects.

“No, we are using electrically charged crystals that will be a safe two feet from you; we believe that these crystals will be able to resonate with your mind as you sleep, allowing us to see your dream.”

The instructor finished his sentence just as the silent participant left the room, laughing to themselves. “This is a fucking joke; I came for science, not a hippie convention.”

“Well, if everyone else is happy, I would like to show you our machine.”

The instructor led the way as the three of them followed him through to the next room. What lay in the center of the room was far less than any of them expected.

“Shouldn’t this involve a lot of big machines? Or even just more than a laptop with a funny adaptor.”

“You see those crystals that are lying around the table? They are commonly known to help retain the memory of dreams; this adaptor, as you put it, sends out low waves of electricity that should help the crystals resonate with your dream state. Then much like an echo, they will return any piece of information back from where it came.”

A short while passed as no one was sure how to proceed; awkward glances were exchanged by everyone until the door opened from behind them. Silent and swift, the man walked over to the laptop and started typing.

Jackson pulled Coraline closer. “That is the tall guy I saw; I told you he was creepy.”

“Also, not deaf. We are in a hard floor room; things tend to echo no matter how quiet you are.”

The room was filled with an awkward feeling, surrounding and capturing everyone.

“Well, with those pleasantries out of the way, who would like to go first? Today we are not doing the experiment; we are simply getting you all to lay down one at a time so that we can lock onto your brainwave.”

One by one, the three of them lay down on the table; after a time, a sound would chime from the adapter attached to the laptop. A few seconds would pass, and another would sound; they would then be asked to hop off the table for the next person. Both Coraline and the stranger took close to a minute to sync with the machine, but for some reason Jackson took nearly ten.

“Hey, was there an issue with me? Why did your machine take so long to find me?”

The tall man from behind the laptop sighed loudly. “Not even an apology for before, real nice. Look, it is a new science. We do not understand everything yet, but we are sure no matter what happens now, we will be able to see your dreams. Now you can all leave; remember that the test is this Saturday night.”

Before any more words could be exchanged, everyone was ushered out of the building. Outside, Coraline stood shivering as Jackson pulled out a notebook.

“What are you writing? Can’t it wait till we are home?”

Jackson looked up, confused, before closing his book. “I am not the one with the keys, now am I?”

Coraline felt her pockets for the familiar pointy bulge of the keys. She gave a slightly embarrassed look before heading towards her car. They were quick on the drive home, both thinking of the warm bed they had waiting for them to relax in.

“So, not that I am scared or anything, but don’t you think that maybe we should have people with us, just in case this is a scam and they steal our stuff?”

Jackson gave off a little chuckle. “We will be fine; they are both students. Or had you forgotten this is a part of the science students’ test week? Granted, the tall guy is weird, but nothing more. We will be fine.”

The two-arrived home safe and warm. They both neglected everything in the car to get inside quicker; there, they jumped straight into their bed, hoping to get to a comfortable level of warmth.

“Shit, we need to get a warmer house next time we move; this is damn ridiculous. “

“Hey Coraline, do you think that your bed might be warmer if you had more than just one shitty cover?”

“At least I own a bed; you own like nothing.” Coraline noticed that Jackson was staring off into the corner of the room.

“You ok, Jack?”

Jack slowly turned his head to hers, keeping his eyes fixed at the corner of the room, only bringing them round to meet hers at the last possible second. “Hmm, yea. It is just the day my dad disappeared was because he was testing dream stuff out. What if we suffer the same fate?”

“Well, if I was not scared before, I am now; look, you told me it would be fine, and I tend to trust you. So, let’s chuck some crap on the TV and fall asleep in my cold bed.”

Jackson smiled as he pulled out the TV remote and got comfortable. They snuggled up, watching some terrible show on the TV. What seemed like two minutes of the show quickly turned to ads.

“Do you think my dad would have been ok with us taking this experiment?”

“I think he would call you a pussy for backing down at this point, except he would use words only a dictionary would understand to say it.”

“Hm, yea, you are right. It is hard how he just left one day; I know it is not my fault, but it is hard to convince myself otherwise. I just don’t think he would stuff up so bad that he died; he must have cracked something and figured he did not need his family anymore.”

“I don’t think I am qualified enough to help you just yet.” Coraline said, smiling at Jackson.

“Maybe we will see him during the experiment; maybe we will find him on the other side.”

“Baby steps, Jack, let’s wait till Saturday.”