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She awoke and immediately realized two
things: the first was that a digital alarm clock was beeping very close
to her ears, and the second was that she didn't have a digital alarm
Micki lifted her head from the pillow
and looked around for the source of the noise. She found it sitting innocently
on an endtable and silenced it with a swipe of her hand. Shaking the fog
from her mind, her first thought was that Johnny was playing some kind
of practical joke like the ones he had pulled back when he started working
at Curious Goods. If he's pulling another one, I swear I'll kill him,
she thought as she swung her legs over the side of the bed. But as the
fog lifted from her mind and her eyes adjusted to the dim light, all thoughts
of practical jokes faded with one look at her surroundings.
Pre-dawn light filtered through curtains
behind her, but there was enough to see that she wasn't anywhere familiar
to her. The room was small and painted light blue or maybe gray, and had
only a twin-size bed, endtable, and a small dresser for furnishings. Standing
up, she discovered two doorways in a corner to her left; one led to a tiny
bathroom and the other opened onto a small living room with only a couch
and coffee table for furnishings, with a kitchenette shoved into a corner
like an afterthought. She also noticed a suitcase and a smaller bag near
the door. As she explored her unfamiliar surroundings, Micki switched on
every light and ran her hands over various surfaces, trying to understand
what was going on.
On an impulse, Micki had decided to
treat Johnny and Jack to a night on the town. They had closed the store
early and taken in a movie before heading to a nice bar and grill that
Johnny had frequented back when he worked on cars for a living. As it turned
out, they had all gotten quite drunk (which was certainly not normal),
but they'd had a good time. After taking a taxi home with Jack she had
gone right to sleep... in her own bed. And then she woke up here.
Getting a little drunk certainly
doesn't explain all this, she thought. Turning on the living room light,
she saw a set of casual clothes laid out on the couch. She looked down
at the oversized T-shirt she had evidently worn to bed (Do I even own
one of these?) and decided that, whatever was going on, she should
at least be presentable. As she finished dressing her eyes caught sight
of a telephone on the arm of the couch, and she quickly sat down and dialed
the number for the store. Even if Jack was still sleeping, the basement
phone would be loud enough to wake him up. She pressed the last number,
"We're sorry. The number you
have dialed is not in service. Please hang up and dial agian. We're sorry..."
The recorded message repeated as Micki sank onto the couch, the receiver
slipping from her hand. "What the hell is going on here?" she
whispered to the empty room. She sat there, gently rocking back and forth,
not even noticing that time was passing.
The knock that came from the door startled
her out of confusion for a moment, just long enough for a cry of surprise
to work its way into her throat. She barely managed to choke it back before
saying, "Y - yes?"
"Time to get going. Plane leaves
in ninety minutes, dear," came a strangely familiar voice from the
Plane? I'm not going anywhere until
somebody tells me what's going on, she thought as she crossed over
to the door. "Just a minute," she said as she looked through
"Hurry up, will ya? Traffic is
gonna be horrible if we hang around here much longer." The man turned
his face to the door and, just for a moment, Micki wondered if she were
dead and visiting the spirits of those she had loved in life. He was older
(of course he was older; the last time they had met he was ten years old),
and he had put a little weight on his slender frame as well. But his hair
was the same wavy dark mass she had known so long ago, and his eyes still
held that playful look despite a few lines around them. "Ryan?"
An instant later Micki tore the door
open and rushed into the hall, taking him in a bear hug as tears flooded
from her eyes. "OhmyGodRyanIneverthoughtI'dseeyouagainthankGodyou'reback-"
she babbled, gripping him tighter as her tears were tinged with laughter.
"Wha...?" Hands tightened
around her forearms as the man tried to pull away from her embrace. "Lou,
are you okay?"
"Ryan, it's me, Micki. Don't
A look of concern passed over his face
for a moment; then he pushed past her into the apartment. "Yeah, I
remember that if we don't get moving soon traffic is gonna be a bitch."
"It's John, Lou. My name is John,
remember? We used to work together." He sat down on the couch and
absently flipped through a magazine on the coffee table.
"No... your name is Ryan Dallion.
We're cousins, we used to run an antique store together-"
"Oh, God. Lou, don't do this. Not
now." He stood up and gripped her shoulders. "Have you been taking
"Prozac, or Zoloft, or whatever
antidepressant-of-the-month they've got you on now." He picked up
the smaller bag by the door and rifled through it, finally pulling out
a small prescription bottle. "Lidocil. I've never even heard of this
one, Lou. How long have you been on it?"
"I'm not on any pills, and my name
is not Lou. Ryan, why don't you remember me?"
"Stop calling me that. Your name
is Louise Robey, and mine is John LeMay. We're actors. Micki and Ryan are
just roles that we play." He gently sat her down on the couch, trying
to read her expression.
"No, that's not true. I know who
I am!" Micki shook her head, as if she could simply will away the
events around her.
"Lou, we've got to call your doctor.
You're not... you're not thinking straight."
"I'm fine, Ryan. I just...
I just..." And then the tears of confusion came out, the tears of
fear that had been building since her waking in this strange place. She
felt his arms close around her, and in them she felt the safety she had
yearned for these past few years. And she found it in the embrace of a
man she both trusted with her life and had just met.
Shhh... it's okay, Lou. You'll be okay.
I'm here now."
After what seemed like hours Micki realized
that she had stopped crying. She gently lifted her head from the man's
shoulder, unsure of wherther he was Ryan or John or someone else entirely.
As their eyes met, she found that his were filled with concern. "Are
you feeling better?" he asked.
"A little, I guess."
"That's good." He flashed
one of the lopsided grins she had found so charming about Ryan. "I
was afraid you weren't going to come out of it this time."
"Come out of it? Ryan - John -
what's going on?"
The smile fled his face. "You...
you really think you're Micki. You didn't come out of it at all."
"Come out of what? Dammit,
if you know something, anything - "
He put a calming hand on her shoulder.
"Don't get yourself all worked up again. It won't do any good; it
only makes these spells last longer. Lou - I mean, Micki - lately you've
been having some kind of fugue spells every now and then. When they happen,
you... think that you're really Micki, and that everything we do on the
show is real." He looked away before continuing. "From what Frank
tells me, these spells started about a year ago. You got into therapy right
away and, up until two weeks ago, they were manageable. But then you started
going under for longer and longer periods and it got harder and harder
to bring you out. In the letters you wrote to me you said that it happened
mostly while you were on the set. Then Frank called me last week and said
that you'd had some kind of minor breakdown on the street. He asked me
to come up here and try to help you through this, like maybe a familiar
face could be good for you... along with a vacation. I guess I got here
a little too late, huh?"
"Show? What show? And who's Frank?"
"Frank Mancuso. He's the executive
producer. You know, one of the Hollywood guys whose name you always see
at the end of a TV show. He's also your boss. And the show is called Friday
the 13th: The Series."
"It feels more like The Twilight
"Yeah, I'll bet. Anyway, Frank
said that I should take you on a trip somewhere, so you could take some
time to recharge. I know I certainly needed it when I decided to leave."
"Yeah, I quit the show a year ago,
right after the second season. I think the pressure was getting to me;
I had nightmares, hand tremors, even hallucinations. I thought I might
go crazy if I stayed there. Now it seems like I was more correct than I
had ever hoped." He looked back at her. "Do you remember anything
about the show?"
"Not about working on any television
series. I'm not an actress."
John picked up her bag again and pulled
out her wallet. "I don't suppose you remember where the number for
your therapist is?" Micki shook her head helplessly. "That's
okay. It's gotta be one of these..." He picked up the phone and began
dialing. "Hope you don't mind that we missed out flight."
Caught up in her own thoughts, she didn't
reply. After a few short calls John turned back to her. "Your therapist
- Dr. Miller - is out of town until next week. I think that you should
talk to someone, though."
"I'm talking to you."
"I mean professional help, like
"It didn't seem to help much, did
it?" Micki stood up and paced nervously around the room.
"Want a cigarette? Might help you
"What? No, I don't smoke."
John shook his head and chuckled in
spite of himself. "Then you certainly aren't the Lou I remember. She'd
have gone through half a pack by now."
"I'm not her, am I? I'm a figment
of her imagination. An illusion. I'm not real at all." She looked
over at John, an idea forming in her mind. "Take me to where the show
"You're supposed to be on vacation,
remember? And I'm sure as hell not gonna take you there while you're still
in a fugue state."
"Don't you see? If I can see the
sets, see that what I think is real is just TV fakery, it might snap Lou
out of it." And then I won't exist... but if I'm not real, then
what does it matter? she thought with a touch of bitterness.
John sat in silence for a moment, then
grabbed her jacket and handed it to her. "Okay. I'm out of ideas."
As they got in his rental car, Micki
spoke up. "Where are we? I mean, what city are we in?"
"Toronto. Actually, most of the
show is filmed just outside of Toronto. That's where Goody's is."
"Gooderham & Sons. They own
the building we have most of the sets in, including the store."
"Oh." She looked out the window
at the mass of traffic around them and thought about how much it reminded
her of traffic in Chicago. Of course, her Chicago was really Toronto; they
might have actually filmed scened on this freeway, she realized.
"Just nervous. I don't know how
I'm going to react. I mean, what if I don't come out of it this time?"
"Let's just try it first before
we think about that. One thing at a time, okay?"
They drove the rest of the way in silence.
Passing through an open gate manned by a single security guard, Micki recognized
her surroundings immediately as the neighborhood where Curious Goods was
located. John pulled in to a normally-empty lot that was now filled with
cars and three small camper-type trailers, and he pulled to a stop by one
near the middle of the lot. "First stop on the Reality Express: Lou's
"I hardly think that humor is appropriate
in this situation."
"Sorry. That's just my way of coping."
"Yeah, you and Ryan both."
John unlocked the door with her keys and gestured for her to enter. As
they went inside the first thing Micki noticed was how cramped the space
was. It was obvious that the trailer had been occupied for quite some time;
pillows of various colors and styles adorned many surfaces, a large glass
ashtray dominated the tiny table, a framed gold record was hung on one
wall. Micki leaned in to examine it closer. "Louise and the Creeps?
I was a singer?" she asked incredulously.
"For a while. A couple of your
songs got some airplay but the group didn't last long. You've done some
"I remember... my modelling days,
I mean. Not Lou's."
A moment of silence passed between them.
"Listen, I'm gonna go and talk to Jon and Miles about letting you
on the set. They're the supervising producers, and I think they might want
to know what's going on. I'll be back in twenty minutes, tops. Okay?"
"Sure." Micki watched as he
trotted across the lot and into one of the buildings, then sat down at
the table and picked up a butt from the unemptied ashtray: Winston 100's
were evidently her cigarette of choice. Stupid habit, she thought.
But then, I don't smoke. The trailer was filled with knickknacks
and reminders of the person she was in another life. An album of Lou's
modelling career caught her eye, and she examined it for a while, wondering
if her own career could have been so successful.
An idea crept into her mind: If I
were her - and in a way, I am - I would have kept a journal. Focusing
on this thought, Micki began going through every cabinet and drawer in
the small trailer, but turned up no sign of her alter ego's diary.
A knock came from the door, followed
by John's voice: "You still in there?"
"Yeah, come on in." The door
swung open revealing John... and two guests. If it had been any other day,
micki would have immediately recognized them as Jack Marshak and Johnny
Ventura; todyy she wouldn't even try to guess at their names. By the looks
on their faces she could thell that they were concerned about something,
most likely about her.
John closed the door and leaned on a
counter after they had all entered; there was no place to sit now. "Micki,
I'd like you to meet Chris Wiggins - " he pointed to Jack " -
and Steve Monarque. I'm assuming you know who they play."
"Of course. I just wish you guys
really were who you look like."
Chris spoke first. "John told us
what happened this morning. I knew you were having problems, but I had
no idea it was this serious."
"How are you doing?" Steve
"Kind of scared... mostly confused.
I'm glad you're here, though."
"We'll do whatever we can to help,"
Chris said. "John told us you want to look at the set, that it might
jar you out of this fugue."
"Is it all right?" she asked,
turning to John.
"Yeah, everyone's getting an early
lunch today. We'll have a couple of hours without anybody around. We better
stay here until they clear out. Jon and Miles don't want to broadcast the
fact that your problems are so severe. That's how nasty rumors get started,
and those can wreck your career in a hurry. It's easier if we don't have
to answer any questions."
"Speaking of questions, I
have one: does anybody know if I kept a journal?" she asked.
The three men exchanged looks. "Not
that I know of," Chris volunteered. "I take it you've been looking
"And having no luck.. Of course,
it could be back at the apartment."
"Why do you want to find it?"
"I think it might show some kind
of pattern, like what brings these fugues on, and it might have some clues
as to how to bring me out of it."
"It makes sense," John said
as he opened her tiny refrigerator. "Do you mind if I - ?"
"Go ahead. I'm kind of hungry myself,"
"Jeez. Lettuce, sprouts, cauliflower...
what the hell is this, okra? Nothing but rabbit food," he uttered
disgustedly. He soon returned with a bag of baby carrots that he offered
"We eat the same things. I guess
we're both trying to watch out weight."
"Isn't that the case with every
young woman?" Steve asked, and received grunts of agreement from everyone
else. Their conversation turned to the eating habits of their characters,
and it wasn't too surprising that the habits were very similar. Chris even
told them why he never had coffee on the show; an old ulcer had finally
healed and he didn't want to aggravate it. He wouldn't even pretend to
"Jack never told us why he won't
drink coffee. He just says he can't," Micki replied to this.
"I think it's clear, guys."
John had been watching out one the small windows as the crew deserted the
set. "Let's get going."
Micki was awestruck as they approached
the building. It looked exactly like Curious Goods, which, she supposed,
it was meant to. The sign was almost new, brown and white (not the ugly
white lettering on green they had used for two years), and the green paint
was chipped and peeling on every windowframe. There was even a deeply worn
track in the concrete right in front of the door.
As John opened the door, Micki almost
felt like she had returned to the palce she had called home for nearly
three years now... except for the fact that a huge camera dominated the
middle of the store. They ascended the steps up to the main floor of the
store but the men stayed a discreet distance behind her, allowing her to
get her bearings before they went any further. As far as she could tell,
everything was the same. The bucktoothed marionette still hung over one
of the the glass display cases, the little oriental bell that many customers
had looked at but nobody wanted to but was still sitting inocently right
underneath it... everything was the same.
Steve spoke first. "Where do we
"In my room, I suppose." Micki
climbed the stairs quickly and turned the corner, barely hearing John telling
her to stop. She took, one, two, three steps up the next flight before
realizing that the steps ended at a plywood barrier two steps in front
of her. "Where's my room?" she asked as John came up behind her.
"It's a set for a TV show, remember?
It would be a real pain lugging all the camera gear upstairs every time
we had to shoot a scene in the kitchen or your bedroom." He led the
way back downstairs and then to the back door, going through and headong
off to the right. There was a plywood wall with a door set into it several
steps away. He opened it, led them in, and suddenly Micki found herself
standing in the kitchen, between the refrigerator and the bathroom door.
"We come in through the closet?"
"It's the only door we never use
on the show," Steve said. "We only just got the bathroom built
"Where do the stairs go?"
Micki peered into the darkened stairwell, half expecting to be able to
walk down into the store.
"Oh, down to the cellar. This building
is huge, used to be some kind of factory warehouse, I think. There are
about six stairways leading down there," Chris said. "All of
the sets are on the main floor. The Vault is the next one over."
Micki opened the french doors that led
to her room and opened her endtable drawer, which was where she kept her
own journal back at the store. She was rewarded with an empty drawer.
"Is any of this helping?"
John said as he opened her dresser drawers - all empty.
"It all looks the same, but I know
it's not real. But I'm not remembering anything yet." Frustrated,
Micki walked over to the balcony doors and opened them to let in some fresh
air, and found that the only thing she could let in was a view of a large
closed metal door, instead of the normal view of the alley and the next
building over. Think, Micki. If you wanted to keep something private
at the store, where would you put it?
"What?" John and Chris said
in unison, and Micki realized that she had spoken aloud.
"Hidden compartments. The ones
Uncle Lewis hid his files and the manifest in."
"They're back on the main set,"
"It makes sense. We haven't used
any of those compartments in two years or more. They'd make a great hiding
place," Chris said.
Micki led the way back to the first-floor
set and headed towards the couch. Looking up at the ceiling vent, she caught
sight of a small book sitting just to the side of the vent. "Gotcha,"
she muttered, twisting the railing support that would open the vent grille.
Chris stepped up and reached into the
grille. "This thing never worked right. The design guys tried for
days, but the strings they rigged always got snagged and snapped."
His fingers found a small latch and the grille popped open. Chris reached
in and picked up the book. "I presume this is yours."
Micki took the book and sat at the desk,
opening to the first page. Immediately she became aware of three pairs
of eyes looking over her shoulders. "This is private, you know."
"Sorry. Just trying to help,"
Micki turned her attention back to the
book. There were only a few pages' worth of entries, but she immediately
recognized the elegant cursive writing as her own. As she read, understanding
flowered in her mind in a way she had never experienced before. She read
the words in silence, then closed the book when she finished and looked
at the three men.
"Well?" asked John, who had
been pacing nervously.
"I think I know what's going on,
and I think we can fix it. I know I'm real, and I think she knew that as
well... she just didn't know how to deal with it. This journal is a record
she's been keeping since she started having fugue spells. She wrote down
everything she could remember about the experiences she had. It all started
right after you left the show, John... she began having dreams about life
through my eyes. The dreams, even the pleasant ones, were startlingly real.
You see, the dreams, and later the fugue spells, were when her mind somehow
copied my own. No wonder she thought she was going crazy."
"Yeah... keep going, L - Micki,"
"I think that what happened last
night was that we both went to sleep. She had another dream... but this
time, whatever guard I had was down. I went out drinking with Jack and
Johnny last night and I think the intoxication allowed her to cross over
completely... and I crossed over here, into her body. We sor of exchanged
roles, I guess."
"I'm sure she'll be reassured that
she's not crazy," said Chris. "The question is, can we
switch you back again?"
"I hope not by getting you drunk.
You don't reat well to hangovers," John said, and they all shared
a brief laugh.
"Hey, what about hypnosis?"
Steve said. "That might bring on this fugue spell, but from the other
way. It might bring Lou into you instead of you into her."
"It might work, if we had somebody
who knew how to do it," Chris brought up.
"Wait, wait a minute. Just switching
us back won't end this. It stopped for John when he left the show, but
if we do this and Lou keeps on acting on the show it won't stop. I'll keep
"So what can we do? Leave you here
to learn all her lines?" John said.
"No.. but you can quit the series.
Listen to me: what's to keep the same thing from happening to you, Chris,
or to you, Steve? There's some kind of connection between our worlds, or
planes, or whatever you want to call them. I think it's because of the
powers we deal with at the store, and if your show keeps going... one day,
this might happen and may not be reversible. I don't even know if it's
"She's right," said Chris,
and they all looked at him. "For quite some time I've been having
dreams about living life through Jack's eyes. But the dreams have never
been too intense, and I learned about lucid dreaming when I was a young
man. That's where you control your dreams and interact with them. I've
managed to keep things under control... but I've been having them more
"Why didn't you tell anybody?"
"I didn't think it was too important.
They weren't interfering with my life or work, and Louise never told any
of us she was having dreams as well, so I didn't make the connection."
He looked at his companions. "I think she's right. If we keep going
on, we might very well end up in a more serious situation than we can imagine."
"Then it's settled. I enjoy a steady
paycheck just like the next guy, but I don't think it's worth these kinds
of problems. As soon as Jon and Miles get back, we need to tell them. Besides,
out contracts are up for renewal. We can just refuse to sign. They can't
really recast the entire show, can they?" Steve said.
"Not likely. I mean, look at the
outcry when I left and Steve came in. If they tried that again, they'd
lose all of their viewers," John said.
"Now all we need to do is switch
Lou and myself back."
John walked up beside her and removed
something from his pocket. "I've always wanted to try this,"
he said. The item he held in his hand was a silver pocket watch on a chain.
"This might help. Lou gave this to me when I decided to leave,
kind of a going-away present." He opened it and showed her the inscription:
To the best of friends, all my hopes. L.A.R. "I figure
"Karmic, even," finished Chris.
Micki leaned back in the chair as John
began to swing the watch back and forth slowly in front of her eyes. His
voice was calm and even when he spoke. "Look only at the watch. Do
not look at anything else. The room is fading away, and there is nothing
but the watch and the sound of my voice."
His voice started becoming fuzzy as
Micki's eyes closed involuntarily. "Think back to the place you call
home... those people you call friends... how much you care for them...
think of Jack... Johnny... Ryan... the way you used to talk with them,
or how much time you spent fixing up the store...think of how much you
want to be with them again -"
Then the blackness took her, and she
heard no more.
"Micki!" she heard someone
shout dimly. "C'mon, wake up! Jack! Get up here!"
She slowly became aware that she was
on her back, lying on something hard and flat. Her strength was gone, though,
and none of her muscles would respond. A short eternity passed before she
heard footsteps thundering toward her. "Oh my God, what happened?"
cane a voice that sounded very much like Chris' ... or Jack's.
"We were clearing the table and
she just collapsed. I don't know what happened!"
There was silence for a few moments;
then an acrid odor crept into her nostrils and assaulted her sense of smell.
Instinctivele she recoiled, her eyes snapping open and a shudder running
through her body. As the two figures came into focus her memory rushed
back to her, and she grabbed Johnny's sleeve, looking around wildly at
the familiar surroundings - at least, what she hoped were familiar surroundings.
"Micki, it's all right," came
Jack's soothing voice as both men helped her up into a chair. "What
Micki's gaze fell on a certain object.
"Open the closet."
"Just do it. Please."
A mystified look passed between Jack
and Johnny, but then the younger man walked over and swung the door open.
As he stepped away, Micki could see the familiar jumble of boxes that had
resided in the tiny space for years instead of the doorway between setpieces.
"Micki, what happened?" Jack asked, more insistent this time.
"I think that you'd better both
sit down. This might take a while."
Both men sat silently as she explained
the events of that morning, about how she and an actress who played her
character in some other reality has switched roles for a time. "...
and then I heard Johnny calling my name. You both know the rest."
"My God," was all Jack managed
to say; Johnny, to his credit, said nothing. "It seemed like you were
acting odd today, but Johnny and I thought that it was because you were
feeling ill from last night. Another world, where everything we do is only
a show on television... it's almost impossible to conceive. And you're
sure that it won't happen again?"
"Positive. Everyone agreed not
to renew their contracts with the show's producers," Micki replied,
sipping at a cup of hot tea.
"Do you think that we'll stop if
they stop making the TV show?" Johnny asked.
"Oh, I don't think there's any
need to worry about it. What they wrote was only a reflection of our reality,
after all. They might have influenced us to an extent, but our existence
is certainly capable of standing on its own." Jack pondered the contents
of his own cup for a moment before he continued. "Still, one has to
wonder about how things might have gone if their reality had not influenced
ours in the first place. Would Ryan have been killed instead of transformed?
Would Lewis have broken his deal in the first place? Would I ever have
had the pleasure of knowing any of you?"
"We'll probably never know. All
I can say is that if they helped save Ryan's life - any of our lives
- I'm glad they exist. They were all very nice, the few people that I met."
An involuntary yawn escaped from Micki's mouth. "Oh, my. Where did
that come from?"
"You've had a long day. Why don't
you take a nap; Johnny and I can watch over things," Jack said.
"Thanks, you guys. It's good to
be back home." Micki shuffled into her room and shut the doors, but
instead of climbing right into her bed she opened the balcony doors and
stood there for a minute or so, taking in the view of the alley and buildings
she knew so well. It really is good to be home, she mused.
I'm glad you let me come back, Lou. I hope you've found some peace.
Leaving the doors open she curled up
on her bed and fell into a richly-deserved slumber... one without dreams.
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This page was created on May 6, 1998.
Last modified on February 10, 2005.