When You Wake

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

Following the death of a mutual friend, Hannah joins her high school pals for a therapeutic camping trip to the mountains. After waking from a strange, collective dream, the group finds themselves lost in a world that is familiar, but not their own.

The jeep pulled up to my parent’s house in the early hours of dawn.

“Is that them?” My mom asked.

I was in the process of stuffing the last of my clothes into my backpack and slipping into my hiking boots. She stood peering out the window in a fuzzy violet robe with a coffee in hand. I peeked around her.

“Yeah. I should be back tomorrow,” I said, forcing the zipper on my bag. Once it closed on the final yank, I slung it over my shoulder.

She nodded. “Okay. Don’t forget about your flight on wednesday.”

I hugged her. “I won’t. Don’t worry. My plants aren’t going to water themselves.”

I cracked a smile, but she didn’t seem to process the humor in my tone. Maybe it was too early for sarcasm. At least, that’s what I tell myself. She handed me a warm Thermos and kissed my head. “See you tomorrow, boo.”

I made for the door, throwing over my shoulder, “See ya.”

“And tell Madison I say hi!” She added.

I gave her a thumbs up. “Will do!”

“Oh. And tell them I’m sorry about Gabe.” That made me pause. My heart clenched and I had to push down the ball of emotion that rose in my throat.

Instead of responding, I waved goodbye then shut the door. I breathed in the chilly fall air. Freedom.

The Jeep flashed its lights and I waved. “Alright, I’m coming.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“To Gabe!” We cheered drunkenly. Our glasses clashed and sloshed together before we all tipped our heads back in unison. The surrounding blackness of night felt comforting. Reassuring, even.

Jake coughed and Josh slapped him on the back. “Too much, babe?”

Jake finally cleared his throat and then glanced nervously in his cup. “What the fuck is that? Tastes like jet fuel.”

Martin and Madison high-five next to me. I laughed, handing them my solo cup for another serving. “That,” Martin started, the fire dancing across his playful expression, “is a little something we call Depression.”

“Gabe invented it,” Madison clarified. “Seems like we’re getting closer to his recipe, so I call it a win.”

A heavy quiet settled over our group. Only the crackle of the campfire and our own memories filled the air. Alex suddenly stood and dug around in the cooler, withdrawing a beer.

“I miss him,” Alex said suddenly, returning staring into the fire.

“We all do,” Josh said, trying to sound comforting, but also a little condescending. It’s no secret to us they’ve grown apartm. Became totally different people. It has been 5 years since high school. We’ve all become different people.

Martin swooped in. “I can’t believe he actually did it. I’ve been so worried about him. I thought it was just another episode--”

I put a hand on his shoulder. “It’s not your fault.” He looked at me, his chocolate eyes dripping with pain and regret. “He loved you.”

“He loved all of us,” Madison added, laying her head on my shoulder.

“I just don’t know why he did it,” Josh whispered.

Another beat of silence, then a screech echoed out from the woods, down in the valley. Alex spun around, staring into the darkness. “What was that?”

Jake pulled a mason jar from his bag and began rolling a joint. “Probably a fox,” he said casually, lining some bud on the paper.

“You’re sure?” Alex asked incredulously.

“Yeah,” Martin responded. “They sound like a screaming woman. Spooky, right?”

“Very,” Jake responded, before licking the seal. He handed it to Josh, who lit it up first and started the embers. He took a huge inhale and passed it over to Madison. She ripped on it.

“By the way,” She said, still holding her breath. “I brought something.”

“Like what?” I asked. “Because I don’t think I can take anymore debauchery,” I said, taking the joint from her and inhaling. I passed it to Martin.

She exhaled the smoke and went to our outcropping of tents. She returned with a box in her hand. Josh practically choked when he saw it. “Dude, no fucking way.”

Madison held it up for all to see. A black and box adorned with swirling letters. A Ouija Board.

Martin chuckled. “Why’d you bring that?” He took a hit of the joint and passed it back to Jake.

She smiled sheepishly. “I found it in Gabe’s room,” she whispered. “His mom let me in to get a vinyl I let him borrow.  It was in his closet.” We all exchanged incredulous looks. “C’mon, Gabe would think this is funny. I took it to remember him.” Madison’s eyes twisted with sadness as she looked into the glossy cover.

“Those things are dangerous. You shouldn’t fuck around with stuff like that,” Alex said cautiously, failing to sound like the alpha male he thought he was.

I rolled my eyes. “Are you really scared? You just have to respect it and you’ll be fine. They’re not dangerous if you know how to use it.”

“Shut up, Hannah,” Alex shot back at me.

Jake and Josh laughed at Alex. “Whoa, take it easy, big guy. She’s just trying to make you feel better,” Josh defended me. He took a drag from the joint and held it for Jake as he took a hit.

“So we gonna open it up, or what?” Martin asked, ever the mediator.

By the light of the fire, Madison cracked open the box and dumped the contents on a blanket. Jake put out the joint on a rock and left the remainder on top of his mason jar. Josh helped Madison unfold the cheap board and lay it smooth.

“Okay, everyone. Fingers on the Planchette. Just barely touching. Try not to push or move.” Madison put her fingers on it first, then I joined her. Jake and Josh exchanged a look and leaned over the board. Martin added his, squeezing into the circle next to me. We looked up at Alex.

“You coming?” Madison asked.

He looked conflicted. He sighed, set his beer in the cupholder on his chair, and joined us.

We waited, staring at the letters. The cacophony of the valley at night filled the silence. The chirp of crickets. The low rustle of the wind through dead leaves.

Nothing changed. The planchette didn’t move. We all looked at each other. “Is there anyone here with us?” Josh asked into the wind.

A moment passed. Then another. Nothing happened.

Madison sat back and shrugged. “Eh, it was worth a shot.”

We all dispersed back to our seats. Alex went straight back to his beer and finished it in one go. “Okay, I think I’m done for the night. Everyone ready to pack up and go in the morning, okay?”

“Roger,” Martin saluted him sarcastically. Alex shot him a dirty look and then retreated to the Jeep.

“Jesus,” Josh sighed. “Does he seem douchey-er to anyone else?”

“We’re all taking it pretty hard, Josh,” I said. “Just cut him some slack.”

Josh scooped the remainder of the joint and lit it. “Whatever.”

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Madison and I claimed a tent to ourselves, while Alex slept in the Jeep. We offered a space to Martin, but he was sprawled out next to the doused fire, drunk off his ass. Jake and Josh were, no doubt, getting frisky in their own tent a little ways away from us.

“I’m glad you came out. Sucks it had to be for something like this,” Madison said, slipping into her sleeping bag.

I sighed, pushing my hand through my hair. “Yeah. It was good to see you though. And the guys. We don’t really do stuff like this anymore.”

“Not as much as the old days,” Madison agreed.

A bit of shuffling and we were both satisfied with our sleeping spots. “Sweet dreams,” She chimed from the other side of the tent.

I chuckled quietly. “You too.”

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Darkness surrounded me. It felt damp; all-encompassing. My heart was racing, but I couldn’t see anything.

“When you wake,” a crackly voice whispered. “You’ll be somewhere new.”

I couldn’t tell where it was coming from. There was no way to tell direction or even orientation. I didn’t know what was up or down. I tried to look at my feet, but I was a smoky mass. Not even a person. I searched my plain of view. Nothing took shape. I could make out 5 smoky masses in front of me. They lacked detail or solidity. 

“You’ll be in my realm,” the voice continued.

A flash of greenlight filled my vision and I had the sensation of falling.

“Hannah!”

I opened my eyes. Madison was sitting over me, worry sketched on her face.

I rubbed at my eyes. “Sorry. Bad dream.”

She stared at me a moment. “Did you hear it too?”

My shiver crawled up my spine. “What?”

“The voice. It said we were going somewhere new.”

Anxiety washed over me, drowning out my thoughts. “You dreamt it too?”

She nodded, eyes wide and face pale.

Both of our heads snapped in the direction of the zipper door as it ripped open. My heart stopped.

We both breathed a sigh of relief as Martin poked his head in. “Hey, I think we’re headed out soon.” He looked between us then raised an eyebrow. “You guys look like shit. Too much to drink?”

Madison threw a pillow at his head and this familiar banter thawed my stress a bit.

“Okay! OKAY!” Martin said, slipping out of the tent. “Just be ready to go in ten!”

We rolled our sleeping bags and disassembled the tent, doing our best to shove it in the impossibly tiny storage bag. “Need help?” Alex asked, approaching us from the Jeep.

“We’re good, thanks,” Madison shot back icily. I pretended like I didn’t hear her sass and focused on rolling the tent smaller.

Alex raised his shoulder and retreated silently. I turned to Madison. “Is there a reason you’re being so cold with him?”

She glanced at his retreating silhouette in the golden morning sun. “I’ll tell you later,” She said, nodding her head in the direction of Jake and Josh as they packed a bowl. I nodded in understanding.

“Alright, time to go. I need my coffee,” Martin said, loading the last of the camping chairs into Josh and Jake’s hatchback.

“Meeting at Dutch Bros?” Jake asked before blowing out their ashed bowl.

“Definitely,” Martin responded.

We climbed into the cars and we were on our way. The gravel road felt bumpier than I remembered, but it could be the hangover that was starting to cloud my mind. The golden rays shot through the sky in thick, shimmering shafts, dotting the valley with pools of light. It was awe-inspiring.

My heart ached knowing I’d have to leave this beautiful place in just a few short days.

It wasn’t long until we were due to reach the coffee shop. Once we reached the base of the mountain, there was a small town with all the usual charm and quirk that offered granola hippies and gruff hunters alike a place to stock up. On many a camping trip, we stopped by the small cafe in town as it was the nearest place to our usual campsite to get food and coffee before taking the long drive home.

We descended the mountain into the forests of the valley, but we stayed on the gravel road. We should’ve hit concrete by now. “Where are you going?” I asked Alex.

He glanced at me in the rearview, his eyes full of confusion. “I think I’m lost. The town should be here.”

Martin peeked out his window, looking for any landmarks. “Did we go down the wrong side?”

“No Way,” Madison countered, also peering out her window. “We always head west to go down. You can see the sun, can’t you?”

“No reason to get catty. I was just asking,” Martin shot back.

Madison guffawed. “Excuse me?”

“What’s that?” I said, pointing to a looming fog in the distance. It was dense and darker than the usual morning mist.

Everyone whipped their heads around to look. Martin pressed his face to the window. “Looks like smoke,” He whispered.

Madison and I exchanged a glance.

Then out of nowhere, the car shut off. “What the fuck?” Alex interjected, checking the ignition. Nothing. Not even a sputter. I looked behind us to Josh and Jake. Their headlights were off, their expressions confused.

I popped open my door and Madison followed suit. “You guys lose power?” I shouted.

“Yeah. You?”

Madison and I nodded. This was so weird.

Alex stepped out now and slammed his door. “Let’s just push the cars off the road and we’ll walk the rest of the way. Can’t be more than a mile.”

We glanced up and down the road. It was deserted save from the 5 of us. Strange for an early morning on the mountain. At this time, you could get traffic going both ways. People starting their hike or ending their camping trip. Not a soul was on the road.

“We should leave the cars here and just go. There’s enough room to get around them,” Martin said, opening the back and grabbing his backpack. I reached in and grabbed my own. Madison did too. Jake and Josh shrugged at each other and dug into their own trunk.

Alex watched us all in disbelief. “We can’t just leave them!”

“We’ll be back in an hour,” I said, tightening up my hiking boots. “They’ll be fine.”

Defeated, he grabbed his bag and shut the door. “Fine.”

We continued down the road on foot. Thankfully the morning was cool and the sunlight didn’t quite reach us. It was a nice enough time to walk, given the circumstances.

“Yo,” Jake said to the group, interrupting my train of thought. “I had the weirdest dream last night.”

“Me too!” Said Martin. I tried to focus on my steps, but my heart rate spiked. Madison elbowed me, but I didn’t look at her.

“‘You’ll be somewhere new,’” Alex whispered behind us. We all paused. Had we all had the same dream?

“What the fuck,” Josh said, looking at each of us.

The conversation dipped into silence as we trudged toward the center of town. The road remained the same, mysterious gravel path. It seemed to stretch on into forever. After walking for about 20 minutes, we made it.

In theory, anyways.

The entrance to town was quiet. Empty. Soulless. The once brilliant sunlight didn’t touch this part of the valley. The antiquated wood buildings were cloaked in shadow. Not a car or person in sight.

We stood at the mouth of Main Street, leaving town.

“Where is everyone?” Martin asked to the air.

Alex was angrily marching forward, yanking open business doors and shouting into the air. “HELLO!” He screeched.

Madison stepped a little closer to me and I to her. Something wasn’t right here.

A clap of thunder rattled the buildings, causing all of us to cover our ears. I glanced at the sky, but it was the same cloudless blue. Another thundering rumble shook through the street. Each of us glanced around frantically, looking for the source.

That’s when I spotted it. The low black cloud with a smoky appearance began to spread across the town at the other end of the street. Despite its vague shape, it felt like it was running directly at us.

The wind kicked up, blowing a gust of dust and a rancid smell toward us. “We need to get to the cars!” Alex shouted, running towards us, then past us. Josh and Jake followed after him. Martin tailed after them.

Madison was still staring at the cloud, rushing closer. She was rooted to the spot. “C’mon!” I yelled, grabbing her hand and dragging her behind me. The guys were already far ahead of us. She finally snapped out of it and followed after me.

I was losing sight of Josh, Jake, Alex, and Martin, so I pounded the pavement harder, urging my legs to go faster. It was no use. The cloud was biting at our ankles. A tree fell in front of us, crashing to the ground. Then another. And another. We were trapped.

Madison looked at me with pure terror in her eyes.

“This way!” I screeched, seeing an opening in the trees to our left. The cloud was rushing in on all sides and it was our only option. We were sprinting across dry and crunchy underbrush. Something caught onto my clothes but I yanked myself from its grasp. Madison stumbled in front of me but I managed to pull her up. The trees opened into a clearing and at the center was an old cabin, covered in moss and decrepitness.

We paused for a moment and glanced behind us. The smoke was completely around us. Our only option lay in front of us. We cracked up the steps.

“I can’t open it!” I yelled, yanking on the door.

“Lemme try!” Madison shoved me out of the way and kicked at the handle. A splintering sound and then the door whipped open. We dove in and slammed the door behind us, trying to catch our breath.

The light leaking in from under the door and through the windows disappeared. We were plunged in darkness. I helped Madison up off the ground where she had slumped.

“I think we’re okay,” I said.

She nodded, still trying to catch her breath. “Yeah, I think so.”

Footsteps sounded behind us. A light filled the room. We whipped around and my blood went cold.

“Madison? Hannah?” He asked.

Madison took a step towards him, then hugged him, sobbing uncontrollably. “Gabe!”

I launched into a hug too. We stood there, crying and hugging and crying some more.

Gabe was thinner than I remembered. His hair, long and ragged. The beginnings of a beard poking out of his chin. He looked at us, eyes joyful, but his voice was bittersweet. “I’m so happy to see you. What… How did you…?”

Madison and I looked to eachother. He must’ve seen the confusion on our faces. “Oh. It whispered to you too?”

We nodded in unison. He sighed, settling down at the small table in the center of the room. “We have to get out of here.”


Submitted: December 07, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Monday. All rights reserved.

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