Disclaimer: None of this is mine, it belongs to Warner Bros and other creative outlets and people, I don't intend to profit from this in any way. I am just trying to curb my own writer's block.
This story IS finished, but I'm waiting to see if there is any interest before I post more. It gets more interesting, I'd say. Title comes from the White Lies song, which kind of inspired the whole thing.
*Madame Durant and Sadie are mine, I guess. Chapter title courtesy of Talking Heads. Look it up, please.
Monday, October 4, 2011: Paris, France: Paris Descartes University: Arthur
"… Nous allons discuter de rêve lucide de plus dans notre prochaine classe," Madame Durant told the class. She stood with her back to them, writing fluidly on the blackboard at the front of the class. Half of the class was staring directly at her as she spoke, while the other half was scribbling down the page numbers in notebooks and planners.
Arthur understood the difference between the two groups. The half writing down the page numbers without a pause were most likely native French speakers; the other half were foreigners, exchange students on a semester or year abroad. They'd been in school for only a couple months, and many were still transitioning to classes where French was spoken the entire time.
Though Arthur had sat in their seats eleven years earlier, he couldn't exactly sympathize with the Americans' scrunched eyebrows and twitching lips. He'd been one of the students scribbling down the numbers with only one ear paying attention to the rest of the teacher's words.
"Nous sommes fait pour aujourd'hui," Madame Durant finished, turning back to face the class. Like seemingly every other French woman, Madame Durant was alarmingly thin. She was rather tall though, hovering around Arthur's height, with thick black hair and slightly narrow blue eyes hidden behind chunky glasses. In that sense, she was a bit of a cliché, but Arthur adored her anyway. She'd been one of his teachers during his own semester abroad at the Paris Descartes University in 1999, when he was eighteen.
And he was there again, but not as a student.
When Arthur decided he wanted to try and work a "real job" (as in, one that happened in reality) his first trip had been to see Miles, Cobb's father-in-law who doubled as a sort of envoy between the dream world and the real one. Miles had been shocked at Arthur's request, but recovered quite quickly; he was extremely pleased to hear that Arthur was getting out.
"You're young enough to make a new life," was one of the few remarks he'd told Arthur after finding out. He'd then proceeded to give Arthur the names of several prominent psychologists, professors and dream researchers around the world who would undoubtedly be interested in the first-hand knowledge Arthur had that practically made him unique. Not many extractors returned from the dreams with enough of a mind to share their experiences.
Upon seeing the name "Geneviève Durant, psychology, Paris Descartes University," on the list, Arthur knew where he wanted to start. And Madame Durant knew she wanted to hire him the moment she saw him.
That left Arthur on a Monday afternoon in Paris, packing up his notebooks and laptop after listening to her lecture. As a dream researcher, he rarely came to her lectures. But when she'd told him she planned to begin lucid dreaming that day, he'd made sure to clear his schedule to make it.
Even though he could easily have told virtually the same lecture in his sleep (pun intended), Arthur never tired of the thrill of seeing the expressions on the psychology undergrads' faces when they learned of the ins and outs of lucid dreaming for the first time.
Long coat on and bag slung over his shoulder, he approached Madame Durant as she organized her desk. She glanced up and smiled warmly.
"Avez-vous appris quelque chose de nouveau?" She asked, smirking a little.
Arthur couldn't help but smile in response. "Peut-être." He paused and added, "Vous avez fait des recherches un peu plus depuis que j'ai d'abord entendu cette conference, Geneviève."
She laughed loudly, nodding her head. "Je l'espère. Serez-vous ici le prochain cours, Arthur?"
"Ouais, bien sûr," Arthur said, aware that some of the foreign students were hovering still, hoping to get in a clarification from Madame Durant before she left. "Je ne voudrais pas manquer pour le monde."
Madame Durant smiled and patted Arthur gently on the arm. Even though he was technically working for her, Arthur knew Madame Durant couldn't help but view him as the ambitious and hard-working third-year he'd been when they first met.
"Je voudrais vous rappeler de ne pas tomber en arrière sur votre travail, mais pour une raison que je ne pense pas que ce qui est nécessaire," Madame Durant said swiftly. Arthur could imagine the undergrads' expressions. If they'd been following the conversation before, they were surely lost now. Madame Durant might've held back a little during lectures, but she never bothered to slow and articulate her speech outside. Thankfully, Arthur was very much fluent.
"Vous avez raison," he replied. "Merci. Bon après-midi, Geneviève."
"Au revoir, Arthur."
The moment Arthur had turned to walk away, he saw Madame Durant being surrounded by anxious undergrads clamoring for assistance. He stuck his hands in his pockets as he climbed the steps of the lecture hall, emerging into a hallway and then out into the warm autumn sunshine.
He was a fan of Paris year-round, but something about Paris in the fall was especially enticing. Maybe it was because it'd finally reached the perfect temperature; not stifling, but not chilly either. Or maybe it was because everything seemed so calm, that mood before the perfect storm that was the rocky French winter. Whatever it was, he enjoyed it immensely.
It was that explanation he'd given Miles, when Miles expressed surprise that Arthur had chosen Paris.
"You could go anywhere, you know," he'd commented. "Milan has a fast-growing dream research program. London is very good as well. And naturally, Osaka is eons ahead of everywhere else. Any university or private research group would be overjoyed to have you."
"Nothing compares to Paris," Arthur had responded. Miles didn't question him again, but Arthur was aware that the reason had nothing to do with respecting Arthur's decision. It definitely had more to do with the fact that Miles had seen the expression on a certain architecture graduate student's face a week after Arthur approached him.
Miles had only alluded to this revelation once, after Arthur called to say he'd secured a position with Madame Durant.
"Nothing compares to Paris, indeed."
Arthur had blushed, grateful he'd chosen to call Miles rather than drop by his office in person.
Arthur continued a brisk walk toward the train station, planning to catch a train that would take him back to his flat. It was just after four o'clock, and he was eager to get home.
"Excuse me! Excuse me, Arthur!"
Arthur was still unaccustomed to random strangers knowing his name, even though he'd been witnessing the occasion for a year. He slowed down his pace and turned around, recognizing a girl, one of the foreign undergrads from Madame Durant's last class. He paused and waited for her to approach him.
"Sorry," she said automatically at Arthur's raised eyebrows. "I just, uh… Madame Durant had to leave and I didn't quite catch the last bit of her lecture…"
"You paid enough attention to our conversation afterwards to know my name though," Arthur commented. She blushed, and Arthur couldn't help but feel a little sorry for her. "What's your name?"
"Sadie," she said, tucking a strand of platinum blond hair behind her ear. Like Madame Durant, she was tall, though in Sadie's case, this could be attributed to her sky-high heels. He observed she was dressed nicely, in a dark blue dress, though he was far more formal in his standard three-piece suit. "Sadie Porter."
"Okay. What's your question, Sadie?"
"Well, Madame mentioned something… 'mouvements oculaires rapides'?"
Arthur nodded once in confirmation. "Rapid eye movement."
Sadie's own eyes widened. "Oh! Rapid eye movement? Oh." She pulled a pen from her bag and scribbled a note on the corner of a blank page. Arthur watched silently, something he did better than anyone else he'd ever met. "So, during REM sleep while having a lucid dream-"
"Our eyes can communicate," Arthur interrupted, anticipating the question. "As corresponding to what we're 'looking at' in the lucid dream. It's enough that skilled lucid dreamers can convey information to researchers while still dreaming."
Sadie whistled softly. "Wow. That's incredible."
"Have you done it?" She asked.
A memory, of lying on a cot while a man in full military attire leaned over him, came unbidden to Arthur's mind. He barely let this on though, only flexing the fingers of his left hand gingerly. "Yes."
"What was it like?"
… He was sitting up, and the general was gesturing to a scan of his eye movements and asking him dozens of questions… "Surreal."
"Do you think you'll do an experiment with that here, at the university?"
Arthur was hardly an impolite man, but he was ready to go home. He adjusted the strap of his bag, glancing away from Sadie's face in the hopes of conveying that feeling. "Maybe. I'm focusing on Hypnagogic hallucination right now."
"Please, if you need any volunteers, let me know. I'd love to be part of it." Before Arthur could come up with a professional response, Sadie interjected with, "Would you like to get coffee?"
He set his mouth in a thin line, realization washing over him. No wonder she'd picked up on his name during his conversation with Geneviève; she must've followed it word for word. "You understood everything Geneviève said about lucid dreaming and REM sleep, didn't you?"
She grinned. "I've studied French for seven years, psychology for three."
"But I do think you're fascinating, and not just because you're researching dreaming under one of the world's best psychology professors," Sadie said. "Madame Durant has mentioned you over two dozen times, but you've only been to class four times."
"You kept count?"
She had the decency to blush. "Unconsciously. She told us you know more about dreaming than anyone she's ever met, including all of her colleagues around the world and even herself."
She said that about me? Arthur was flattered, but knew Madame Durant's praise could be dangerous. If that kind of information got out… Arthur still wasn't a welcome figure in certain parts of the world.
"That was kind of her," he said thickly.
"I just want to know how one gets to that point," Sadie continued. "You're not much older than me, and you're plenty of years younger than Madame. How is it possible you know so much about dreams? You must be ridiculously intelligent, not to mention one hell of a fast learner."
Arthur sighed softly. "You're leaning towards sycophancy, Sadie. That doesn't get very far with me."
"Then what does?"
The way she said it told Arthur all he needed to know. Besides, he'd been ready to exit the conversation several minutes back. All too aware of how close she'd wormed herself to stand in front of him, he took a step back.
"I'm not interested, Sadie."
"It's just coffee, Arthur."
His expression remained casually neutral. "Of course it is. But I've got a lovely girlfriend who already knows all of my secrets."
You could practically see how she deflated at his last sentence. But he didn't feel sorry for her anymore.
He nodded. "I will let you know about the research. There's nothing else quite like it."
"It's just… pure creation."
Sadie gave him a last smile. "I guess that'll be good enough." He didn't need to understand Gestalt closure to hear the "for now" at the end of her sentence.
"Au revoir, Sadie."
Arthur turned and walked away quickly, not caring if Sadie was following or staring longingly after him.
Translations (I think most of the discussion is fairly understandable, but here you go. I haven't taken French in several years. I did my best.)
Mme Durant: "We will discuss lucid dreaming in our next class… We're done for today."
MD: "Did you learn something new?"
Arthur: "Maybe. You've researched a bit more since I first heard this lecture."
MD: "I hope so. Will you be here for the next class, Arthur?"
A: "Yeah, sure. I wouldn't miss it for the world."
MD: "I would remind you not to fall behind your work, but for some reason, I do not think that this is necessary."
A: "You're right. Thank you. Good afternoon, Genevieve."
MD: "Goodbye, Arthur."