Wake, p.8
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       Wake, p.8

         Part #1 of Wake series by Lisa McMann
 
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  Janie thinks she looks dreadful.

  Naked.

  As Cabel climbs in bed with her.

  And Janie can’t pull herself away.

  She feels herself become ill, but she cannot move.

  She can’t pound on the window to wake him.

  She’s frozen. Paralyzed.

  And she thought school was torture.

  It’s absolutely the worst dream she’s ever been stuck in. By far. She passes out. Unconscious. Drained. Right before the scene changes. And ends.

  6:31 a.m.

  She opens her eyes.

  On her belly, facedown, in the stones and branches.

  She can hardly move.

  But she must.

  The sun is coming up.

  7:11 a.m.

  Janie limps home. Ignores the barking dogs.

  7:34 a.m.

  Janie crawls in the door, closes it, and falls on the carpet next to Carrie, who is still lying on the couch. She sleeps.

  8:03 a.m.

  Oh, God. She’s in the forest. Again, again, again. So tired.

  When they see the boy, bobbing in the water, Stu appears next to Carrie.

  The grin.

  The struggling.

  The plea. Help him.

  And Janie can’t help him.

  She can never help him.

  Stu reaches over the water, but he cannot help either. Stu makes love to Carrie as she is crying for the boy, Carson.

  The boy is bloody, lost, gone with the shark.

  As always.

  Janie cries. For Carson, for Carrie. But mostly for herself. She feels like she’s about a hundred years old.

  9:16 a.m.

  Carrie nudges Janie.

  “I gotta go,” she says.

  Janie grunts. Her body aches.

  Carrie closes the door softly, and Janie sleeps.

  The carpet scratches her face.

  11:03 a.m.

  There is a soft knock, and a lets-himself-in noise of the door. Janie thinks she’s dreaming.

  He checks to make sure she is alive, on the floor. Then he sits on the couch and waits.

  Janie’s mother walks by.

  And walks by again, the other way, carrying a tinfoil-covered tray and a glass bottle.

  12:20 p.m.

  She rolls.

  Groans.

  Curls up in a ball on her side, clutching her belly.

  “Oh, God,” she moans, eyes closed. Her head aches. Her muscles scream every time she moves. She is weak and empty. Light-headed. Exhausted.

  And he is there, picking her up. Taking her to her bed. Covering her with blankets.

  He closes the door.

  Sits on the floor, next to her.

  12:54 p.m.

  He goes to the kitchen. Makes her a cold chicken sandwich. Pours milk. Pours orange juice. Puts it on a plate. Takes it to her room.

  Waits.

  1:02 p.m.

  Until he gets scared because she’s sleeping so much. And he wakes her up.

  Janie groans and slowly sits up.

  She drinks the juice and milk.

  Eats the sandwich.

  Doesn’t look at Cabel.

  Or speak to him.

  1:27 p.m.

  “Why do you keep coming here,” she says dully. Her voice is rough.

  He measures his words. “Because I care about you.”

  She chuckles morosely. “Right.”

  He looks at her helplessly. “Janie, I’m—”

  She gives him a sharp look. “You’re what? Dealing drugs? Fucking Shay Wilder? Tell me something I don’t know.”

  He puts his head in his hands and groans. “Don’t believe everything you hear.”

  She snorts. “You’re denying it?”

  “I am not fucking Shay Wilder.” He shudders.

  “Oh, really. Only in your dreams, then.” She turns to the wall.

  He stares at the back of her head.

  For a painful amount of time.

  “You didn’t,” he finally says.

  She doesn’t respond.

  He stands up. “Jesus, Janie.” He spits the words.

  Stands there, accusing.

  “Maybe you should leave now,” Janie says.

  He moves to the door, opens it, and turns back to look at her. “Dreams are not memories, Janie. They’re hopes and fears. Indications of other life stresses. I thought you of all people would know the difference.” He walks out.

  November 21, 2005

  Janie and Cabel don’t speak.

  Janie goes about school and her job mechanically, feeling emptier than she’s ever felt before in all her life. The one person who knows about the dreams, the one person she really started to care about, feels like her worst enemy. Janie spends a lot of time thinking about being an old maid forever, like Miss Stubin. Preparing herself for a very lonely life.

  Working at the nursing home.

  Commuting to college.

  Living with her mother.

  Forever.

  At school, the number of sleeping students increases with the waning of daylight hours and the onset of colder weather.

  As Thanksgiving approaches, in one especially rough study hall that follows too light a lunch, a science geek girl named Stacey O’Grady takes a rare nap. She’s driving an out-of-control car with a rapist in the backseat for almost the entire class period. Fifteen minutes into it, Janie is already fully paralyzed.

  Luckily, Carrie is not there to notice when Janie falls off her chair and shakes on the carpet, back in the corner of the library.

  Luckily, Cabel notices.

  He picks her up, sets her back on the chair.

  Rubs her fingers a bit until they move.

  Pulls a king-size Snickers bar from his backpack and sets it next to her hand before he leaves for government class.

  Distracts the teacher when she slips in late.

  Doesn’t look at her.

  Janie swallows her pride along with the candy bar. Writes something in her spiral notebook in a shaky hand. Rips the paper off the spiral.

  Crumbles it into a ball.

  Hits him in the back of the head with it.

  He picks it up and opens it. Reads it.

  Smiles, and puts it in his backpack.

  On Ethel’s windshield after school is a section of newspaper—the classifieds. Janie looks around suspiciously, wondering if it’s some sort of joke. Seeing no one, she pulls it out from under the wiper and gets in the car. She gives it a cursory glance, first one side, and then the other. And then she finds it. Highlighted in yellow.

  Having trouble sleeping? Nightmares? Sleep disorders?

  Questions answered. Problems solved.

  It’s a volunteer sleep study. Sponsored by the University of Michigan. For scientific research.

  And it’s free.

  When she gets home, she calls immediately and signs up for Thanksgiving weekend, at the North Fieldridge Sleep Clinic location near school.

  November 25, 2005

  It’s the day after Thanksgiving. Janie worked Thanksgiving Day and today, for double pay. She has tomorrow off, anticipating trouble at the sleep study tonight. Wondering if this is going to be a repeat of the bus ride to Stratford. Wondering if this is going to turn into another big mess.

  10:59 p.m.

  She grabs an overnight bag from the backseat of her car and walks into the sleep clinic. She removes her coat and registers under a fake name at the desk. Through the tinted glass window, she can see a row of beds with machines all around. There are people already in some of the beds.

  This is a very, very bad idea, she thinks.

  The door to the sleep room opens, and a woman in a white lab coat stands there, looking at a chart. Janie stumbles. Puts her hands to her face. Grimaces. She reaches blindly for a chair before her body goes numb.

  11:01 p.m.

  She is on a street in a busy city. It’s raining. She stands under an awning, not sure who she’s looking
for. Not yet. She doesn’t feel compelled to follow anyone passing by. Eventually, her stomach lurches. She sighs and rolls her eyes, and looks up.

  Here he comes, she thinks.

  Through the awning.

  It’s Mr. Abernethy, the principal of her high school.

  11:02 p.m.

  Her vision defrosts. The lab-coated woman has moved into the room and is staring at her.

  Janie stares back, just to freak her out. She looks around the room at the others who sit there, waiting for their names to be called. They all look at the floor as her gaze passes from one to the next. She knows what they’re thinking. There’s no way they want to be in that room with me, the freak.

  Janie sets her jaw.

  She’s tired of crying.

  Refuses to make any further scenes.

  When the feeling returns to her fingers and feet, she stands up, grabs her coat and overnight bag, and stumbles to the door.

  Her voice is hoarse when she turns to speak to the receptionist. “Sorry. I’m not doing this.” She goes outside into the parking lot. The air is crisp, and she sucks it into her lungs.

  The woman in the lab coat chases out the door after her. “Miss?”

  Janie keeps walking. Tosses her bag back into the car.

  Over her shoulder, she yells, “I said, I’m not doing this.”

  She climbs behind the wheel. Leaves the lab-coated woman standing there as she drives away. “There has to be another way, Ethel,” she says. “You understand me, don’t you sweetheart.”

  Ethel purrs mournfully.

  11:23 p.m.

  Janie pulls into her driveway after the incident in the sleep study waiting room. Wonders if she should have given it a try. But there is no way on earth she wants to know what her principal, Mr. Abernethy, dreams about.

  Ew.

  Ew, ew, ew.

  This is not the right way to fix it, she decides. But what is the right way? Because it’s time.

  Time to stop crying, time to get her act together and do something. Time to move beyond the pity party.

  Before she loses her mind.

  Because there’s no way on earth she’s going to make it through college unless she grows some serious ovaries and turns this train wreck around.

  She goes into the house and digs through her papers on her bedside table. She finds it—Miss Stubin’s note. Reads it again.

  Dear Janie,

  Thank you for my dreams.

  From one catcher to another,

  Martha Stubin

  P.S. You have more power than you think.

  11:36 p.m.

  What does it mean?

  11:39 p.m.

  She still doesn’t know.

  11:58 p.m.

  Nope.

  November 26, 2005, 9:59 a.m.

  Janie waits at the door of the public library. When it opens for business, she meanders through the nonfiction section. Self-help. Dreams.

  She pulls all six books from the shelf, finds a back corner table, and reads.

  When a group of sleepy-looking students comes in and sets up at a nearby table, she moves to a different section of the library.

  And she waits patiently for the computer in the corner to open up. Spends an hour there. She can’t believe what she finds with Google’s help.

  Of course, there’s no information on people like her. But it’s a start.

  5:01 p.m.

  With four of the six books in tow, Janie drives home. She is fascinated. She makes dinner with a book in her hand. She reads until midnight. And then she takes a deep breath and talks to herself as she gets ready for bed.

  “I have a problem,” she says quietly, trying not to feel like a dork. “I have a problem, and I need to solve it. I would like to have a dream about how to solve this problem.”

  She concentrates. Climbs into bed, closes her eyes, and continues in a calm voice. “I would like to dream about what I can do to block out other people’s dreams. I want—” she falters. “I mean, I would like to help people, and I also . . . would like . . . to live a normal life. So their dreams don’t fuck up my life forever.”

  Janie breathes deeply. She stops speaking, and instead focuses her mind on her problem. Until she remembers. “And I would like to remember the dream when I wake up,” she adds out loud.

  Over and over, she repeats the words in her head.

  She peeks at the clock quickly and chides herself for messing with the mojo.

  12:33 a.m.

  She focuses again. Breathes deeply. Lets the thoughts float around and meld together in her mind.

  Slowly, she feels the thoughts filling the room. She breathes them in. They caress her skin. She lets her mind be free, allows her muscles to relax.

  And she lets the sleep in.

  Nothing happens at first.

  Which is good, she discovers.

  Lucidity comes late.

  2:45 a.m.

  Janie finds herself in the middle of a dark lake. She treads water for what seems like hours. She grows weary. Panics. Sees Cabel on the shore with a rope. She waves frantically to him, but he doesn’t see her. She can’t hold on. The water fills her mouth and ears.

  She submerges.

  There are many people under the surface of the water—men, women, children, babies. She looks at them with panic, her lungs bursting. They stare at her, eyes bulging in death.

  She looks around frantically. The pressure in her lungs is overpowering. Everything dims, and goes black. She feels her eyeballs bulging, and hears the haunting inner laughter of the floating bodies around her.

  Janie gasps and sits up. It’s 3:10 a.m.

  She breathes hard. Writes down the dream in a spiral notebook.

  Tries not to feel bad that she failed. She expects this.

  It’s not over, she tells herself, lying back down.

  Let me dream it again, she thinks, calmly. And this time, I won’t drown. I will breathe under water, because this is my dream and I can do what I want with it. I will swim like a fish. Because I know how to swim. And . . . and I have gills. Yes, that’s it. I have gills.

  She repeats this to herself as she lies down.

  3:47 a.m.

  She doesn’t have gills.

  She rolls over and groans, frustrated, into her pillow. Repeats the mantra.

  4:55 a.m.

  It begins again.

  When Janie slips under water, exhausted, her lungs burning, she looks around at the others who are floating under the surface.

  She begins to panic.

  The bulging eyes.

  And then.

  Miss Stubin blinks at her from under the water. She smiles encouragingly. She is not one of the dead.

  Floating next to Miss Stubin is another Janie, who nods and smiles. “It’s your dream,” she says.

  The drowning Janie looks from Miss Stubin to Janie. Her vision dims.

  She grows frantic.

  “Concentrate,” Janie says. “Change it.”

  Drowning Janie closes her eyes. Falls farther under the water. She kicks her feet as she loses consciousness, struggling to move, to get back above the water.

  “Concentrate!” Janie says again. “Do it!”

  Gills pop from the drowning Janie’s neck.

  She opens her eyes.

  Breathes. Long, cleansing breaths, underwater. It tickles. She laughs in bubbles, incredulous.

  She looks up, and Miss Stubin and Janie are smiling. Clapping, slow motion and soundless, in the water. They swim over to her.

  The formerly drowning Janie grins. “I did it,” she says. Bubbles come out of her mouth, and the words appear individually above her head when each bubble pops, like a cartoon.

  “You did it,” Janie says, nodding, her hair swishing like silk.

  “Let’s swim now,” Miss Stubin says. “Someone’s waiting for you on the shore.”

  Janie and Miss Stubin swim partway with the formerly drowning Janie, and then they stop and wave her on.


  She nears the shore, and when she surfaces and can stand, the gills disappear. She walks out of the water, streaming wet in her pajamas—boxer shorts and a T-shirt.

  Cabel is there. He’s wearing boxer shorts too. His muscles ripple in the sunlight. His body is tan. It glistens.

  It looks like they are on a deserted, tropical island.

  He doesn’t move.

  He doesn’t have a rope anymore.

  He’s sitting in the sand.

  She waits for him to do something, but he doesn’t move.

  “Remember, it’s your dream,” she hears. It’s her other Janie speaking, the one who is aware that she is dreaming.

  Janie hesitates and approaches Cabel. “Hey, Cabel.”

  He looks up. “I care about you,” he says. His eyes are brown and turning muddy.

  Janie wants to believe him. And so she does.

  “What about Shay?” she asks.

  “Dreams aren’t memories,” he says. “Please talk to me.”

  6:29 a.m.

  Janie smiles in her sleep. She watches over herself in the dream, and plunges back into it, taking it in different directions, starting over at various spots to make it fun, or sexy, or beautiful, or silly.

  November 27, 2005, 8:05 a.m.

  The alarm clock rings. Janie keeps her eyes closed and reaches to turn it off. She lies in bed, going over the dream in detail, remembering it. Memorizing it.

  When she has it solidly in her mind, she sits up and writes it in her journal.

  She can’t stop smiling.

  It’s a small step. But it gives Janie hope.

  She studies the books all day, until it’s time for work.

  9:58 p.m.

  It’s quiet at the nursing home. The residents are all tucked in their beds, doors closed. Janie fills out charts at the front desk. She is alone.

  The call panel is dark, until a white light flashes from the room Miss Stubin once occupied. A new resident is there now. His name is Johnny McVicker.

  Janie sets down her pen and goes into the room to see what he needs.

 
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LISA MCMANN SERIES:

  • Wake
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