The room was cramped, smelled like cinnamon, and was lit only by a few table lamps.
"How are you doing today, Rory? How are you feeling?" The woman before him, his therapist, was smiling, warm lady. She was calm and always waited patiently while Rory carefully thought out his answer to this question. Once a week, right at the beginning of their session, she would ask him this exact question. The answer never came easily. Rory was never sure how he was feeling. Ever since the dreams began, he had been one big mess of emotions.
Rory nodded a little at the woman before him and gave a noncommittal shrug. "Been better," He finally admitted confidently. "But I have been worse."
"The dreams, then?"
The dreams... right. They were the main reason Rory had elected to sign up for therapy sessions in the first place. His life had been normal beforehand, he imagined. Not that he could remember anything anymore. One night, he dreamed of an eccentric man in a bow tie and a beautiful woman with long bright red hair. They had both ushered him over, calling his name as they stepped inside a blue police call box.
It was a dream- that's all it was- so Rory gave no mind to the fact that not only did stepping inside the call box with multiple strangers seem rational, but that with a loud, rhythmic whirring sound, the box actually began to vanish right before his very eyes.
It wasn't until he woke up that he realized the full extent of both the strangeness and the unexplained familiarity. Waking up brought with him a sense of guilt and a knot in the pit of his stomach. They're not real people, He told himself. Just a dream. A strange dream.
However, upon the evaporation of the feelings the dream brought, he was keenly aware of his real life being much too foggy and feeling much too far away. As the days wore on, the box, the man in the bow tie, and the redhead became stars in his dreams. As this happened, he actually began to forget things: people, faces, memories. All of it began to blur, and suddenly his dream felt like the only reality in his life.
Rory knew, by that point, it was time to seek help. Which brought him here, in the cinnamon-scented office, right across from the patiently waiting woman he called his therapist.
"Ah, erm..." He fumbled over his words for a moment. "Yes, the dreams. I'm still having them, if that's what you're asking."
"I am," She nodded. "Have they changed at all? Or still the same?"
Rory shifted uncomfortably. "They still feel more real than this life here, half the time. And... they're changing. The last one was..." He trailed off, closed his eyes to better recall the scene. "It was in a graveyard. I don't remember all of it. You know how dreams are. But there were these stone angels, and..." He opened his eyes again with a little laugh. The sound was lighthearted but had a slight unsettled edge to it. "I don't know. But that was two days ago, and the feeling in it has stuck with me. I can't shake it. It just feels -felt- so..."
He shrugged again. He hated using that word over and over to describe a dream- a dream that was the epitome of the exact opposite of real. "It gets worse, actually." Rory reached back to scratch the back of his head. "I saw the redhead at the grocery store yesterday."
He avoided looking at his therapist, but heard her gentle sigh nonetheless.
"Rory, you know that's not true."
"Maybe it is though. It was her- it looked exactly like her. How could it not be her?"
She leaned forward, voice still soft but a little more firm than it was before. "Because, Rory: She's a woman you've seen in your dreams. Dreams don't come true. Not like that, at least."
"But it looked just like her," He repeated. "And the way she stared at me, it was just-"
"You probably just have seen her around before," She cut him off, not wanting him to backslide by entertaining such ridiculous notions. "Maybe that's why you dreamed of her in the first place. It's just your mind projecting faces you've seen already onto the characters your mind has made up."
There was a long period of silence while Rory just stared at his hands resting in his lap. He nodded again, took a deep breath, and looked back up at the woman staring at him. "You're probably right," he said with a half smile. "She probably doesn't look anything like the redhead anyway."
But still, in the back of his mind, Rory couldn't shake the feeling he got when his eyes met hers, the familiarity of that blazing hair.
And he just couldn't shake the feeling that the way she stared at him was the way he stared at her.