Telling Dreams from Reality
"Sometimes it's hard to tell dreams from reality. When you are in the dream state, what is truth slips between your fingers like flour through a sieve. While you think things are real, there will be inconsistencies leading you to doubt the events occurring and their authenticity. It seems real, but is it? There is no way to know." Helen hesitates, and presses a finger to her lips, thinking.
Across from her, Will nods. "Until you wake up."
"Exactly," she agrees. "See, now you're getting it."
"So this device. That's how it works?" Glancing at her, he then starts walking slowly around the table that holds the new contraption Henry had brought in.
"Not quite. See, the device makes it so you cannot determine the difference between reality and a dreamland. You could very well be lost to us if you let yourself fall too far under the influence. If you believe any of it is real, you may not want to let go and return to us."
"Right. Sounds dangerous."
"Oh, it is. This is not an adventure for the weak. Are you prepared to risk yourself and everything you know?"
Will studies her a moment, contemplating her question. There is so much lying beneath the surface of it. Is he happy with his life? Is he happy working at the Sanctuary? Or does he think about a different life, with different people and different locations? Does he dream of normality? Does he want out of this life and into another completely different one?
He shakes his head a little, and drags his hands through his hair. He can feel it stick up on end but does nothing to flatten it. And then he nods. "Yes. I… mean, I don't know. But… this has to be done. And I'm willing to give it a go."
Helen looks at him with something resembling approval. "Excellent."
"O-kay." Will puts a finger to the screen of the device, wondering if he made the right choice. "Switch the screen on, stick on the headphones, lie back and go."
"Yes. It's very much like a virtual reality. But Will. As I said, when you get inside, there will be no indicators to tell you what is real. To you, the world you will go to is very real. As real as this world, in fact. And you may not want to leave."
He nods. "And if the machine shuts off before I get back, I'm done for, yes?"
"Correct." Helen smiles grimly. "And I won't be able to save you."
"Let's do this," he says, and sits down.
Seven hours later:
The cobblestone streets are drenched and those who are still out run frantically for their destination or for a nearby café to wait out the rest of the rain. Some have umbrellas, but even they seem to be in a rush to get where they're going.
Will joins the few running into an old building that has seen better days. There, he finds Katherine, all red hair and green eyes and curved lips. She looks amazing, even with her hair damp and trailing down her cheeks. Her white dress is nearly soaked through. "Hi," he says.
"Hey, you." She leans over and kisses him. "How was work?"
"The Sanctuary is great. And I got a promotion. Magnus is off on a trip in a week and I'll be in charge til she returns."
"That's great, honey."
"Isn't it?" he agrees. He sets his bag down and takes the seat next to her. Something in him sparks and for a moment he frowns.
"What is it, Will?"
"Uh, nothing. I think. Just a bad case of déjà vu."
"Will! Will!" Helen shakes his arms, trying to wake him up. "Come back to me, Will."
"So, there's something I've been meaning to ask you. And I think now is the perfect time." Will smiles and when she looks at him expectantly, he gets off his chair and kneels on the ground beside her.
Her face flushes and her smile widens. "Will?"
"Will you marry me?" He asks. He holds out a box he'd slipped from his pocket and reveals a stunning ring, embedded with a gigantic emerald. "To match your eyes," he murmurs.
She keeps looking at him, but now her expression is ecstatic. He has never seen her so happy. "Yes," she says. "Yes, I'll marry you."
"He's gone," Henry says, checking the equipment. "Whatever went on in there, it must've been good."
"No. No, no, no! He can't be!" Helen grips Will's arm tight enough that her knuckles turn white. He makes no sign that he can feel it.
Henry, pale, stands back. "Will's gone. He's in a coma. There's nothing we can do."
Simply holding his hand is no longer enough. Helen embraces Will. "Come back to me," she mumbles, before she allows herself to break. "Will."
Will lives a happy life until his wife dies. Somewhere along the line, he becomes a bitter man, with no purpose to his life anymore and no one to stick around for. A gun finds its way into his possession. They don't find his body for a week.
Helen rushes into the room set up for Will the moment she hears his monitor flat line. There is blood everywhere, just as if someone put a bullet through his throat. As hopeless as it looks, she feels for a pulse. Nothing.
Henry and Kate come running up behind her. Without looking around, she tells them, "Pack up the virtual reality device. Destroy it."