“Michael! MICHAEL!” He could feel the warm grip of someone shaking him awake, but Michael didn't necessarily want to get up.
“Oh for the love of...,” Michael heard, just before he was slapped across the face and was forced awake.
“Wha-...what...” He stammered. Then: “What the FUCK! You just SLAPPED me?!” The blur in front of him sat back and Michael rubbed his eyes and tried to focus. The person was wearing pajamas and had bags under their eyes, as if they hadn't gotten much sleep. But more-so, they seemed very relieved that Michael was now awake.
“For a second, I thought you'd never wake up, Mike. You were scaring the hell out of all of us.”
It took Michael a few awkward moments to realize that he was home and his roommates were about. Yes, this was Hunter; Kate and Jack must be in the living room. He co-owned a 4 bedroom condo, and they shared the rent. Okay, I'm okay, Michael thought to himself. He leaned back against the warmth of his bed, and asked “What do you mean, scared you?” The second the words left his lips the image of the roiling hand, half burned to death, jumped into his mind and he knew he had had a terrible nightmare.
“Well, for one thing, you were sweating something fierce, man. I mean, GLOBS of water were pouring off your forehead. And, two, you were kicking and screaming, and whenever we tried to hold you down or wake you, it only got worse. You actually SPAT in Kate's face, that's why they gave up.” He looked solemn, and continued. “You going to be okay?” His eyes watered with concern.
Michael wasn't sure whether he wanted to apologize for something he had no control over, but figured it'd be good to get up and have a glass of water anyway if what Hunter had said was true. He sat up in bed and rubbed himself awake with his hands, the image of the creature lost from his memory. His back was soaked, Michael only just realized, and he had definitely been heavily sweating. What's more, his mouth was excessively dry and he was hungry enough to eat just about anything.
“Wow, Hunter. I feel like shit!” he laughed, and Hunter smiled before standing up and helping him get to his feet.
Michael and Hunter shuffled down the eerily quiet hallway. He could hear who must have been Kate and Jack in the living room whispering excitedly to one another, and the sounds of his slippers sliding across the staticly charged carpet. Michael braced himself, but wasn't ready for what he saw as they rounded the corner of the hallway. Kate was leaning onto Jack, who looked up angrily at Michael and looked to Hunter as if to question why he'd brought Michael out of his room. Hunter silently shrugged and let go of Michael, who was shocked that he'd brought Kate of all people to tears. She was whimpering on Jack's shoulder. Kate, the girl who'd probably get in your face for not doing your dishes or leaving the lights on all night. She was a strong woman and it struck Michael that he must have done something terrible to get her in this state.
“Hey Jack...Kate, you okay?” He tried to sound as sincere as possible, but was too tired to really make much of an effort. Kate looked up and sniffled, her eyes red with dehydration and her face lined by streams of tears. She didn't say anything, but instead wiped her sleeve and stood up.
“Woah, c'mon honey, I wouldn't-” Jack started, but Kate interrupted him. “Shut-up! Michael, god dammit...” she choked back a crying fit “you bastard!” She closed the few steps from the couch to Michael quickly, and slapped him across the same cheek. What was up with people slapping him tonight?! He stifled the thought and instead took a deep breath and straightened his back.
“I'm sorry, Kate. I didn't...I didn't mean to scare you or anyone. I was just having a terrible dream. Okay? I was sleeping. Okay?”
Kate looked at him with tired eyes, sat back on her left foot, threw out her hip, and let her surprise show. She must have thought he'd done it purposefully, Michael decided. That's why it shocked her; she wasn't used to people literally spitting in her face when she'd only been trying to help.
“Un-fucking-believable. You seriously expect me to think you spat in my face while you were sleeping? Do you think I'm stupid? Or are you just that crazy, Mike?”
“Maybe I am crazy. It's never happened before. I'm really sorry.” Hunter, always the quiet observer, stepped in to split the two apart. By now Kate was nearly nose to nose with Michael and seething with anger. With him awake, she had found it.
“Kate, he was asleep. I had to hit him pretty hard to wake him up. He was sweating bad too; it wasn't just a normal nightmare. Was it, Michael?” Hunter said as he turned.
“I don't think so, but I've already forgot it. It just...disappeared the second I sat up in bed. It was weird. You'd think something so powerful would keep you awake ya know?” Michael looked worried.
Kate finally seemed to believe what Michael was saying, and dropped her attitude. She mumbled something about going to bed before she walked back to her and Jack's room. Jack finally stood up. What a smart man, Michael thought, to not say a damn thing and just let his girl vent. No wonder they got along so well. Would be the only way to make things work with Kate. Jack touched his Michael's shoulder reassuringly as he walked back to bed, and soon only Hunter and Michael were left in the room.
“WELL. You made quite a show tonight didn't you?” Hunter smiled, but it was obvious he was more tired than anyone and must have been up all night trying to wake Michael. “You still want that glass of water?” It was rhetorical, Michael knew, as Hunter turned and walked to the kitchen.
“To be honest, I'm more hungry than anything Hunter. Think i'll just order something.”
“HA! Nobody delivers at this time of night. Don't be silly!” He replied.
Michael was taken aback. What time WAS it? He turned and looked at the clock: 4:30 AM.
“Jesus. It's 4:30?” He asked.
Hunter only laughed.
Why are you laughing? Why would you laugh at my surprise, Hunter? Wouldn't you just explain? Or is that too much?
Hunter pulled out two glasses and poured water into each. He brought one to Michael and let him take a deep, long draw of the water before he said it.
“You should see Brown again.”
It was an honest suggestion, but Michael was still taken aback. He hadn't seen or heard from the Professor of Psychology in quite some time, not since college in fact. But then Michael remembered something.
“You know what's odd? I actually daydreamed I was back in class listening to his lecture the other day. And he said the oddest thing. In fact I don't even know if he ever said it to begin with.” Michael, being as honest as possible, still caused Hunter to tilt his head in interest.
“What, exactly? Or do you not remember?” He asked.
Michael looked Hunter in the eyes, and a fear struck him. Something that stuck out, something so unusual he had to say it.
“That's just the thing. I do remember it. I remember it as clear as day, every single word...this is weird man.” Michael was a little shaken from it all; things were happening, being set in motion somewhere, somehow, and he couldn't fathom where it was all headed. Hunter ignored Michael's fears and pressed for the answer. He asked Michael what Brown had said.
And Michael told him everything. Every possible detail he could remember, from the man Jonathan Bridges to the hubcap, from the odd feeling he'd had coming home to the complete hypnosis his vision of Brown had been. Not exactly certain any of it had meaning, Hunter kept calming him down. By the time they'd decide to not call Brown, it was 8 AM, and Michael had to get food. Hunter collapsed on the couch, exhausted, and slept in until late in the day.