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I bolt upright in bed, choking back the scream in my throat. The sheets are crumpled around me and slightly damp with my sweat. Reaching over to grab the bottle of water on my nightstand, I notice it's 5:30 in the morning. My alarm won't go off for another hour, but I know it's useless trying to go back to sleep. I drink down the bottle and light a cigarette. I've been having this dream for two weeks now, and my sleep is suffering because of it. At least I didn't wake Dad up this time. I didn't tell him what the dream was about when I did wake him up with my screams; he just looked at me with his tired eyes and told me everything was all right. I guess he just assumed I was starting to have nightmares about Mom or Sarah again. I wish it were that simple. I learned to deal with those a year ago, and they went away. Hopefully I'll learn how to deal with these dreams too, but I can't talk to anyone about what's happening to me or the dreams I'm having now. What scares me the most is the waking dreams. That's the best way I can describe them to myself without sounding like I'm insane. I've never done any drugs, but this would probably be considered a "bad trip". I mean, people can't read minds, they just can't.
I wish I knew what was happening to me. It started two years ago, at my mother's funeral. I bent over to give her one last hug and a kiss, and for some reason her scent struck me. It wasn't embalming fluid, her fancy soap, or the hospital she had been in for four months, but the way she always smelled to me; like sunshine and the streets after a short rain in July. She smelled of happiness and love. It was weird, but made me feel like much better, and I didn't think much of it. Then six months after that, I was in the kitchen when my sister Sarah came home again from college. She had a huge smile on her face and gave me a bear hug when she saw me. The air whooshed out of me, and when I drew in a breath with my head in her hair, a great feeling of defeat and despair washed over me. I broke my grip and would have fell down if she hadn't been holding me up. I gasped for another breath and the feeling just faded away as quickly as it had come. Sarah asked what was wrong, and when I couldn't explain it, she just shook her head and started telling me how much she loved school, how she had made the dean's list again, and how much she missed me and Dad. It's funny I didn't notice how many times she told me she loved me that day until it was to late...
After her funeral, I started getting strange vibes from scents from time to time. It was just emotions and feelings and it was only once a month or less at first, but with increasing frequency. I started smoking six months ago and that's helped kill my sense of smell a bit, but apparently that's not helping any more. It's gotten worse over the last three months, with actual thoughts pouring over, especially when I'm forced the be close to other people. It's never been as bad as the last one in the dream nor have I ever seen things, but I have felt rather uncomfortable with many of the thoughts I have heard. I can't control when or where it happens or what I hear, and the people I read don't seem to notice the accidental invasion of privacy. As soon as I exhale, the link is gone, but the memory remains.
The cigarette, burned down to the filter, scorches my hand, pulling me out of my self-pity and introspection. I stub it out in the ashtray angrily and try to decide what to do for the next two hours. Well, since it's early Friday morning, I can grab a shower and head over to The Grind, a local coffee shop, for a cup of coffee and relax a bit, then go pick up Fredo for school. I snatch my robe and head to the bathroom to take care of business.
I step out of the shower, put on my boxers, and notice my reflection in the mirror. At 6' even, my 185 pounds fits my frame nicely, and is topped off with blond, shoulder length hair. Dad used to tell me all the time how much I look like Mom, and I agree. Whenever I miss her, I just look in the mirror and smile, and see her looking back. I brush my teeth, and realize I actually need to shave today. I shaved only Monday, but I guess I'm finally growing up.
I see it's 6:15 when I get back to my room. I need to start getting dressed if I want to leave before dad gets up at 6:30. Late fall in Georgia calls for a sweater and jeans, so I get dressed accordingly, make sure I have my wallet and keys, throw on my jacket, and sling my backpack over my shoulder. As I head to the garage, I see Dad is in the kitchen already, making a cup of tea before he starts getting ready for work. He owns a chain of about 30 office supply stores throughout the southern United States, with the home office here in Athens. I give him a quick hug, steal a piece of his toast, tell him where I'm going, and head out the door; a whirlwind of smiles and thanks, touching down briefly, and then gone, out into the world.