Chapter Twenty Five
Steven felt his stomach lurch as the plane, which had been gaining tremendous speed down the runaway, took off into the air. A smile flickered to life on his face, while that momentary thrill of weightless sent adrenaline coursing through his veins.
While flying in the dreams had been exhilarating, it couldn't compare to the simple take off of a passenger airplane.
Staring outside the window, his breath fogging the portal, he watched the city of Winnipeg be reduced to a grey smear on a green and white series of fields. Roads crisscrossed the landscape, before even those were too small to see.
When the seat-buckle sign was turned off, he undid his, put in headphones and watched the screen ahead of him. One of his favorite sitcoms was on, How I Met Your Mother, and he the show distract him for a good half hour.
While the desire to sleep was strong, he kept himself from giving in.
The last thing he wanted was to see Julia.
Thinking back on that unexpected, amazing kiss with Cerise, sweat built on his skin. Julia would know that something was wrong, that he was hiding a secret from her.
It would only take one look from her deep, turquoise eyes to shatter the illusion that all was as it should be.
Guilt brewed inside him, upsetting his stomach.
Turning off the television, he got up and took out his carry-on bag. Inside was the Tempest by Shakespeare, which he was supposed to have read days ago. As he stood in the aisle, unlocking the cabinet where he stored his bags, he saw someone coming towards him.
A man shuffled down the aisle, donning a tight, ripped sweater. "Steven…" He said in a deadpan tone, moving ever closer. "Steven…" Blinking, he saw that it was just another hallucination.
The gunman was gone.
Shaking his head, feeling more nauseous then ever, he went back into his seat. Resting his bag on the empty seat next to his, he took out his book. Instead of flipping to where he'd dog-eared the book last, he searched for the section about dreaming.
After a few minutes, he found the meaningful, powerful paragraph: "Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises, sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not. Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments will hum about mine ears; and sometimes voices, that if I then had waked after long sleep, will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming, the clouds methought would open, and show riches ready to drop upon me; that, when I waked, I cried to dream again."
To dream again.
'I want to dream again,' Steven had said that once, but was it true? There was a tremor in his heart, as it split right in half. One side vowed to dream again, the other knew that it would only ruin him.
Cerise or Julia?
Reality or dreams?
Steven had been sure that he could have both, now he was beginning to see that it was one or the other. He couldn't live in a world of dreams, while keeping another foot firmly planted in reality. He either had to wake up or completely fall asleep.
He had to make a choice.
Staring at the old, stained and wrinkled text, Steven found that no answers were readily available. Putting the old book back in his suitcase, he delegated his attention to staring outside the window. Before him, wispy, grey clouds took away the potential to have a stunning view of the Canadian countryside.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Julia sitting beside him. Reaching for his hand, he stayed frozen in his seat. She grabbed his fingers playfully, a warm smile on her lips. "You're coming to Alberta, Steven! I always knew you would."
Steven yanked his hand away, clutching it to his chest. "I kissed another girl, Julia. I betrayed you. I lied to you-I don't think I can love you forever." Sighing, he saw no facial change in her expression.
An older couple across the aisle stared pensively at Steven. One of them whispered to the other.
The hallucination of Julia began to fade, before disappearing completely.
Steven shut his eyes, letting out a tortured breath.
His dreams really were taking over his reality.
And he could do nothing to stop them.
Carrying one bag strapped around his shoulder, another in his hand, Steven strolled out of Edmonton International Airport. The automatic doors slid out of his way, as he walked over to a cab parked on the road, near the entrance.
Thanks to the time difference, it was only four o'clock in the afternoon when Steven got inside the taxi and asked to be taken to the Greyhound station. For the next forty minutes he sat in the backseat, texting a few friends and Cerise.
Their small, yellow cab was stuck in the grid-lock of rush-hour traffic. Vehicles all around were honking loudly, swerving into different lanes and trying to make headway down the jam-packed roads.
A light sprinkle of rain fell from dark clouds, which were beginning to break apart, letting in bright rays of sunshine.
A rainbow formed in the distance before disappearing when the rain tapered off.
Steven glanced out his window, taking in the beauty and industry of the bustling city of Edmonton. The taxi driver, a stout Frenchmen with a loud voice, proudly informed him they were passing by West Edmonton Mall. Staring at the world's largest mall, Steven wasn't terribly impressed.
Mall of America had seemed larger, at least from the outside.
Steven had commented on its size, feigning interest before he returned his attention back on his cell phone.
Jasper asked him why he wasn't in school, Steven told him that he was simply not feeling well and staying at home. His friend asked if it was because of what happened at the mall, Steven confirmed that it was.
Which wasn't really a lie, but Steven wasn't about to trust his friend with the truth.
Sliding his phone back in his pocket, he felt it vibrate and begrudgingly took it out once more. This time, the text was from Cerise. A smile cut into his face as he read the loving, sweet words she'd sent to him.
They tugged at his heart, deepening his inner conflict.
He was about to respond, but decided that right now was probably not the best time. In only a few hours he would finally see Julia and he wanted that moment to be perfect. Texting Cerise and keeping from her how he really felt would only make him feel worse.
The rest of the journey was entirely non-eventful.
Steven paid the cab-driver when he was dropped off at the Greyhound bus station. Inside, he paid for his ticket, and then waited in the terminal, staring out the window.
As he waited, the hallucinations would often come up without warning.
He could see the glowing ball of light, expanding and diminishing as it floated in the air, eerily keeping its distance. Mixed in with others waiting for their buses, he would occasionally see Julia or the gunman, walking around the station as if they belonged there.
His name would also be called out in whispery or loud tones, causing him to stir and jump. Was this what a Schizophrenic had to live with on a daily basis?
One particular hallucination frightened him enough that he couldn't help but react physically. As he sat on a hard, plastic chair, glancing frequently at the clock, he noticed Julia coming towards him.
"Steven! Dream with me, please! Steven!" She called out his name drifting closer and closer. When she was a good couple meters away, the hooded figure entered the scene, his gun in hand. Aiming it at Julia, he spat out curses and shot her twice.
The bullets tore through her body, leaving bloody, gaping wounds in her abdomen.
"Julia!" Steven got to his feet, reaching out for his lover as she fell to her knees.
Then there was nothing there, but empty air and a few passengers staring at Steven with a mixture of amusement and concern. The woman at the ticket booth asked if he was alright, and he said something about 'Tourette's Syndrome' before hurrying out of the terminal.
Outside, the cool air was a welcome relief from the stuffy, dark indoor atmosphere.
"Oh Julia, what am I going to do?" He stared up at the darkening sky, closed his eyes and waited for his bus.
And for answers he wasn't sure would ever come.