Disclaimer: I don't own the rights to Total Recall, at least, not in this reality.
Chapter 1: The Dream Undone
A wisp of Scheherazade perfume brought Douglas Quaid back to reality. His eyelid fluttered open. He was lying in a hospital bed in the middle of an English garden. Birdsong twittered. In a nearby chair sat the most beautiful woman in the world.
She dropped the book she'd been reading. "Doug? Doug!" She flung herself across the short gap between them, taking his hand with those icy hands of hers, bathing his face in frenzied kisses. "You've come back to me! You've come back! They said you couldn't, but I never lost faith. Never!"
"Lori, I don't understand. You're dead."
"What? Dead? Me? No, I'm fine. Doug, you've been trapped in a nightmare. Everything's fine. Everything's fine. You've come back." She picked up the patient wand on the bedstead and rang for the nurse.
"Harry? How's Harry? Is Harry okay?"
"Harry? Harry who? Harry from work? Why, he's fine."
"I killed him too. He was trying to kill me, but I killed him first. And I killed you." He remembered the ugly bullet entry wound in the center of her forehead.
"You haven't killed anyone, darling. You've been right here."
An unseen door in the middle of a hedge opened, and a nurse gaped. "Doctor!" she shouted down the hallway she was standing in. "Doctor, Douglas Quaid is awake!"
"You're in a hospital, darling. They brought you here from Recall. You remember Recall?"
"Oh yes. There were going to send me on a trip to Mars. And I really went!"
"No, Doug. You had a schizoid embolism. They treated you at their facilities there, but when they couldn't bring you back, you were transferred here for long-term care."
Quaid blinked trying to make sense of it all. "This is impossible."
A doctor hurried into the room. "It most literally is."
Quaid recognized the tall, bald, chubby man. "And I killed him. I shot him in the side of the head."
"I remember that too," said Dr. Edgemar. I was implanted to try and talk you out of you delusion, and you shot me."
"Are you okay?"
"I was a psychological implant. You couldn't hurt me."
"Then why were you sweating?"
"You were sweating. You were scared. Why were you scared if there was nothing to be scared about?"
"You shot me because my psycho-avatar was sweating? Well, if that doesn't take the cake!" The doctor chuckled, which faded when he thought of something. "Mr. Quaid, there is something you need to know. I was your last chance of escaping that delusion. When you killed me, you rejected any chance at reality and plunged yourself ever deeper into your paranoia. Well, according to medical science, there was no longer any hope for a recovery. According to everything we know about this kind of thing, you cannot be conscious now; you cannot be lucid; you cannot be talking to us. What we are seeing here today is impossible."
"It's a miracle," sighed Lori.
The doctor nodded. "Yes, perhaps that's a better word."
Quaid was slowly shaking his head. "So there's no blue skies on Mars? No end to the revolution? No Melina?"
Lori's eyes hardened. "Melina? Who's Melina?"
"'Nobody'? Her again? The girl from your dreams?"
"Why are you angry? She was part of my nightmare. I left her behind. I did the impossible to come back to you."
Those words had the desired effect. The fury in his wife's eyes faded, and she melted her body against his.
But no Melina? She couldn't have been imaginary. He'd dreamed of her long before he ever went to Recall. She had to be real.
The hospital wanted to keep him 24 hours for observation. This made Lori happy because she could now go grocery shopping for his favorite foods, clean the apartment and get ready for his "homecoming."
Quaid didn't want any damn homecoming. He just wanted to go home, have a sausage pizza, some cold beer and, if he was lucky, watch a game of fireball on the holo. But apparently, he was the only one who didn't get a vote in this matter.
Once he was alone, Quaid switched the room from English garden over to Austrian Alps. This had been his favorite setting ever since the day he'd realized it was patterned on terrain just a few clicks away from his childhood home.
In the late afternoon, Quaid switched the room again, this time to tropical beach. He watched the sun go down amidst a dazzling chloroscopic maelstrom of oranges, pinks, reds, and yellows. Then the stars came out, so brilliant and close, he'd have sworn he could reach out and touch them.
His eyes sought out one in particular. A red one, burning brightly, silently beckoning him. In his memory, he could hear his own voice saying over and over again, "Get your ass to Mars. Get your ass to Mars. Get your ass to Mars."