Kyle Lanson was a twenty-seven year old speaker at the town planetarium. He was the youngest presenter, which made the other speakers jealous. The field trips and classes would almost always be scheduled with him presenting. Though it was flattering, it was also rather exhausting.
Lanson's marriage with his wife, Jamie, was quite strained too. Jamie was too much of a free-spirited person, and Lanson had taken that away from her. If he stayed at the planetarium to write something up, she would accuse him of having an affair.
So, one day in late July, Lanson decided to take a walk. It was after his final lesson for the day. He strode down one of the most famous and historic roads in his town: Fragment Avenue. Down this street were many abandoned buildings, all constructed even before the U.S. Capitol.
He stopped at the buildings that intrigued him, such as an old study. Through the dusty window, he could see an astrolabe and an armillary sphere on a chipped desk, and an old Egyptian sundial plastered to the wall. Of course, being very interested in the sky and stars, Lanson pushed on the door.
To his utmost surprise, he was able to push it open. Slowly, and in awe, he walked into the study. He had never seen a brass astrolabe that up-close before. He picked it up and admired it, studying every inch of the instrument. There was a gust of wind from outside, and the door closed. Lanson ignored it.
He was too interested in the artifacts in this room. Lanson grasped the armillary sphere, peering into the center. In a trance, he crossed to the sundial and ran his fingers over it. But just then, a sound interrupted him. It had been quiet except for his footsteps, and this new noise startled him.
He turned to search for the source of the new sound, but he found nothing. Lanson concluded that the sound was that of dripping water, falling every few seconds. Still searching the room for any sign of a water leak, Lanson jumped when the faint light went out. He didn't even see the light when he walked in.
He gripped the wall for support, sliding alongside it until he found an opening. Surprisingly, he only went down the wall a few yards before he almost fell into the opening. He lifted his foot and stepped down in front of him. They were stairs. Finding a banister, Lanson used only instinct to climb his way up.
When he reached the last step, he looked up. He was outside. "How long have I been in there?" Lanson asked himself. When he had left work, the sun was still partially in the sky. Now, however, it was set. The sky was inky black, with speckles of stars appearing.
He also hadn't realized how cold it was. Wrapping his jacket ever tighter around himself, Lanson strode to the edge of the building and covered his ears. The sound of the water had followed him. Even with his hands clamped over his ears, he could still hear the water just as loudly.
Realizing that if he stayed up on the roof for too long he'd end up freezing to death, Lanson grabbed the railing next to the stairs again and stumbled downwards. Apparently, he didn't need the banister anymore. The light was back on, and he finally saw the small light bulb from which it was protrduing.
Still cold from being outside, he crossed the room to the door, eager to finally leave. 'It's closed?' he thought. He could've sworn the door was open last he'd seen it. He really hoped that it wasn't locked from the inside.
Kyle Lanson, with the noise of water still echoing in his mind, snatched the armillary sphere off the desk and aimed. He hurled it at the opaque glass in the door. He screamed when the sphere just "bounced" off of the glass. The armillary sphere fell on the wooden floor, resulting in a sound that had to be heard for miles.
Then his phone rang. He eagerly fished it out of his pocket and, for the first time, was grateful to see who it was. He swiped to answer and pressed the phone to his ear. "Jamie!" he shouted before she could say anything. "I'm stuck in a building on Fragment Avenue, I need you to-"
"Why the hell are you on Fragment Avenue?" Lanson swore under his breath. Of course Jamie'd want to ask a million questions. The rumors people spread these days. "I'm at an old astronomical study," he answered calmly. "Cross street is Capulet Canyon."
"Capulet Canyon?" echoed Jamie, sounding amused. "I know where you are. Why are you there?" "Please, just come. The door won't open." "All the buildings have stairs to the roof. Just jump." She snorted with laughter.
"This isn't funny! I really don't know how to get out!" Jamie sighed on the other end of the phone. Kyle Lanson tapped his foot impatiently on the wooden floor, waiting for her answer. "Fine. Give me ten minutes."
As he waited for Jamie, Lanson groaned when his cell rang again. He lifted it to see the screen, but it was black. He unlocked his phone, but no one was calling him. He knew it was his phone: he had a very distinct ringtone. Covering his ears again to get the noises out, he knew the problem.
"Are you kidding me?!" he yelled into the building. Just like the water, the ring of his phone was just another sound that his brain was playing for him. He could hear it in his head, in his surroundings, and everything else. No matter where he went in the study, the sounds followed him.
He was so irritated that he didn't bring his headphones to blast music... Lanson almost exploded from excitement. He went to his music app and turned the volume all the way up. He turned on his favorite song and prayed that the noises would go away.
He closed his eyes to relax. He didn't hear the sounds anymore. Before he knew it, all sounds vanished and he fell asleep!
Lanson opened his eyes to a large, grassy field. He knew it was a dream. He knew exactly where this was. Sure enough, he spotted a young couple running through the flowers. A much younger Kyle stopped his companion and bent down to pick a few tulips. The girl next to him laughed.
That girl next to Kyle was not his wife, Jamie. It was his final date with Amanda Greene. Her flaming red curls bounced wildly when she laughed. Kyle handed her the flowers and she smelled them. Her face lit up and she pulled Kyle along. They were racing the clouds.
Lanson watched as his nineteen-year-old self froze. Another human figure was sitting with her back to a tree. She was drifting her fingers over the flowers surrounding her while reading a book. Lanson never asked her what she was reading, and he was positive she wouldn't remember if he asked Jamie now.
Jamie was wearing a dress that matched the nature around her. Her light blonde hair was in waves and was pulled into a rubber band. The falling hair was hanging over her shoulder. Younger Kyle straightened his back and turned to Amanda. Lanson's eyes squinted in confusion.
This was not it at all. Kyle was supposed to fall head over heels in love with Jamie at first sight, not turn his back on her and resume his date with Amanda! Kyle's hand slipped into Mandy's, and they walked away peacefully. Jamie looked up and watched them leave. She smiled and continued to read.
The dream changed. Lanson was now standing in a chapel, the same chapel where he and Jamie had gotten married five years earlier. He sat in a pew, and watched the ceremony happen instead of being in it. He stood with everyone else as the bride came in, though no one could see him.
He smiled when he saw his wife, but then he felt his heart drop into the pit of his stomach. That wasn't Jamie. The bride laughed, and it sure wasn't Jamie's laugh. When she turned to look at the audience watching her marriage, Lanson stiffened. He was getting married to Amanda!
Before Lanson could protest, the scene changed again. He was welcoming Amanda's child into the world.... Waving the same child off on the first day of school.... Celebrating with that same child after they graduated college.... Dancing with Mandy when they're gray and old...
Lanson snapped his eyes open in the study. His heart racing, he looked to the right and saw Jamie pounding on the door. He stood up, not even realizing what was missing, and motioned to the locked doorknob. Jamie nodded, pulled out a crowbar, and mouthed for him to back up.
The glass smashed. Lanson put one leg through and pulled himself out. He dragged his other leg behind him. He walked the few feet towards his wife, ready to embrace her with all that he had--
The glass smashed. Lanson put one leg through and pulled himself out. He dragged his other leg behind him. He walked the few feet towards his wife, ready to embrace her with all that he had-- WHAM!
His head hit something hard. Lanson opened his eyes again, and felt his head. "Sorry, Jamie-" he said, thinking he'd ran into her. But he only saw the door. It was still intact. And locked. It had looked so real! Jamie wasn't there! Did she even call him? Or was he just dreaming that too?
He reached into his jacket pocket to call her, but he felt nothing but cloth. Lanson ran his fingers into every pocket that he had in his clothes. No phone! It was gone! He searched the floor, but the light didn't come that far. There was no point in searching for it. And the sounds of water and his ringtone were back.
"SHUT UP!" Lanson screamed into the emptiness. Then the study vanished again. He was lying on his back now, staring up at thousands of stars. Right away, he recognized Orion, as most people do. Almost as quickly, he saw Taurus and the Pleiades, also known as the Seven Sisters.
Everything that had happened in the study were now behind him. He bolted upwards when he heard a new voice, though. "Now, right here, you'll see a bright red star. His name is Betelgeuse-" "Who are you?" Lanson exclaimed.
"Shh!" was his response by many people near him. Lanson realized he was in his planetarium. But he was the student now, not the speaker. The real presenter was quite close to him, and he peered in close. It was one of his current students.
"Rebecca?" Rebecca Brooks was sixteen years old and the most intelligent student Lanson had ever met. She started the lessons at seven years of age, and had grown very interested in astronomy.
"Yes, Kyle?" answered Rebecca, using his first name instead of 'Professor.' She had excellent manners when it came to addressing people older than her. He wondered what happened.
"What are you doing here?" he asked, earning a laugh from the crowd. Rebecca raised a brow, still appearing to be patient. "Now, Kyle, let's leave questions for after the presentation. Please just relax, it will be over soon."
Lanson wanted to scoff. 'Relax? How can I relax?' He closed his eyes, shutting out voices, and he opened them again to be in an entirely different place. He was at the church again, but everyone was wearing black.
There was a photograph near the altar, and Lanson walked down the aisle and saw that it depicted Rebecca Brooks. Her parents were crying in the front, and Lanson walked over to them. "Mr. and Mrs. Brooks, what happened-?"
The scene changed. He was at another funeral, this time, for his own. He turned away from the casket, and jumped at the audience.
The scene changed. He was at another funeral, this time, for his own. He turned away from the casket, and jumped at the audience. Because there was no audience. Only Jamie sat in the second pew from the front, crying heavily into a handkerchief.
Lanson wondered why even his own parents didn't attend his funeral, but realized that they were probably dead at this point--
Kyle Lanson woke from another series of nightmares. He brought his knees close to his chest. He slammed his head backwards against the wall, but no pain reached his skull. He tried to create gashes in his head, but there was no blood running down it.
He wasn't even sure what was reality anymore.
A dark shadow then materialized across the room. Lanson felt too weak to try to say anything. He blinked, and the shadow was two feet closer. Then another two feet. And another. Until the figure was a foot in front of Lanson. The astronomer gazed up into the place where the shadow's eyes should've been.
"Finally ready to take me?" he screamed into Death's face. The shadow shook its head. Lanson sighed and rested his head back. The shadow did nothing.
Now another noise began, and Lanson opened bloodshot eyes. It was the sound of a rocking chair creaking back and forth. Lanson knew that there was not a single chair like that in this room. His brain was just trying to play tricks on him! This study wasn't magical! Magic does not exist!
He gripped his hair and pulled, shouting incomprehensible words. His stomach grumbled, and Lanson realized it must have been hours since he ate last. Then he shook his head vigorously. Shoving the idea of food aside, he just had to find a way to get out of this building!
Then the idea "Jamie" had given him started to swallow all of the dumber ideas he had. Perhaps the only way to get out was to jump, reality or not. Because he had been so afraid, maybe the ground wasn't actually as far as he thought. He glanced nervously at the stairs.
He climbed his way up, ignoring the voices telling him to back down and hope for someone to come by in the morning. Whenever that was. Feeling the wind blow against him, Lanson stared at the ground below his feet.
Dripping water.... phone ringing... creaking chair... Lanson was definitely going crazy. He had to get out of here. Even if it did cost him his life.
Lanson closed his eyes....
"I love you, Jamie."
... And jumped.
Nothing. Kyle Lanson didn't feel a single thing. He wasn't falling, wasn't hurt, wasn't hitting ground. Lanson couldn't see anything either, even when he opened his eyes. It was dark, darker than the sky he loved to study. Lanson couldn't even feel his heart pounding as his nervousness grew.
He tried to plant his feet down, but it was like he was floating in space. No gravity. But he couldn't possibly be in space. Where were the stars? The comets? The Asteroid Belt?
Suddenly, he realized that he was probably imagining this. And everything else that happened. What if this was all just one big dream? What if he had gone straight home after work instead of taking a walk on Fragment Avenue? Was Fragment Avenue even a street in his town? He couldn't remember.
It was almost like his brain was no longer his. Was he really just at home with Jamie? Was Jamie even his wife? Was she even real? He came to the conclusion that he had no clue what was reality or not. Everything had seemed so real, even his own life.
Was he a planetarium speaker? An author? A factory worker? The President? An engineer?
Did a man named Kyle Lanson exist in the first place?
~~ Naomi ~~