The alarm rang loud in Harrison's ear. He rolled over, not even bothering to turn it off, and ignored its insistent call. Two minutes later he had had enough.
"Alright, alright," he mumbled to thin air. "I'm getting up already." But the room was empty. The room was always empty. Harrison got up, turned off the still shouting clock and pulled on his clothes. Boring, plain clothes for his boring, plain job. His tedious job. No, rephrase that. His tedious life. Nothing interesting ever happened. Ever. Nothing ever happened, full stop. He looked around the room. Still empty. She was gone.
Harrison sighed deeply and went to make himself a cup of coffee. Caffeine, that was what he needed. Instant coffee. He wrinkled his nose. It would have to do. He breathed in. That was better... What did he mean by 'she was gone'? He must have been dreaming. He shook his head, as if doing that would make everything clear, put down his coffee mug making a mental note to wash it later, picked up his briefcase and keys, and left the apartment. It was raining.
Soaking wet, and already feeling down, Harrison signed in.
"So you are…?" the blonde at the desk asked, looking puzzled.
"Harrison. Harrison Carruthers."
"Harrison Carruthers… now why is that familiar?" the blonde asked, searching through a pile of name tags in front of her. "There's not someone famous with the same name is there?"
"It couldn't be that you sign me in every god-damned day of the week, do you think?" Harrison muttered under his breath sarcastically. He took the badge that she held out to him, forcing a fake smile as he did so.
"Have a nice day!" said the blonde cheerfully.
"You've got to be kidding," he replied, and walked through the double doors. "Hello torture," he whispered.
Days in the office were always the same. Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork. Oh, and had he mentioned the paperwork? Nothing ever… who was that? Who? There was no one there. But he could have sworn that… no, it was nothing more than an overactive imagination, after that dream he'd had last night. That terrible, terrible dream. That terrible, recurring dream. He didn't even want to remember it. Even the dreaded paperwork was a better choice than relieving the awful things his brain had conjured up last night.
"No more horror movies for you, Harry," he told himself as he set about his mundane tasks.
But he never watched horror movies. The last horror movie he had watched must have been… sixth sense… ooh, at least three years ago. And his dream had been nothing like sixth sense. Apart from that… Torchwood didn't really count as horror, did it? Or Doctor Who? Sci-fi, not horror. Not particularly scary, anyways. He had seen the bathroom scene out of psycho, but the dream had been, again, nothing like it. No murder, no scary silhouette of a man at the bathroom door, no screeching violins. And yet, it had been terrifying. And it was still haunting him, even after three hours of work. It was time for a lunch break.
Sandwiches in the rain.
"Oh, you can't eat them in the office, you'll get crumbs everywhere!" He was sick of it. Sick of it all.
"You've dropped your name badge." Harrison spun round. The girl smiled at him and held out the badge. He took it and looked down to reattach it to his shirt.
"Thanks," he said, looking up, but the girl was gone. There was something funny about this… it had only been a couple of seconds ago, but Harrison had absolutely no recollection of what she looked like. He had a funny feeling of déjà vu. He looked down at his soggy, rain soaked sandwich and suddenly felt rather queasy. He tossed it into the nearest litter bin and walked dejectedly back to the building.
"What's wrong with you? You look like something the cat dragged through a hedge backwards!" The blonde on the desk looked at him in the way you might a small child who has covered him/herself in nappy cream, or something else just as naughty. Harrison didn't bother to correct her mixed similes and attempted to walk past the desk.
"Stop!" the blonde called out nervously. "Can I see your name badge please?" Harrison flashed the badge in her direction.
"You saw me walk out not five minutes ago," he said resignedly.
"Oh," said the blonde. "Did I?"
This is life, thought Harrison as he sat at his desk facing a seemingly never ending pile of paperwork and a window streaked with rain. Worse, this is my life. He picked up is pen, then sighed and dropped it back onto the desk. There was a knock at the door.
"Come in," Harrison called, and the door was pushed open.
What was that expression? Someone just walked over my grave? Yes. Harrison felt as if someone had just walked over his grave. He shivered involuntarily, but not from cold; there was something wrong with the heating system and his office was always several degrees above a bearable temperature. Harrison tugged nervously at his collar.
"May I help you?" he asked the beautiful girl now standing opposite him. His mouth fell open.
"Oh, I'm sorry. Was I interrupting something?" she asked sweetly.
"No… no you weren't," Harrison answered perfectly honestly.
"Oh, that's good." Harrison was feeling déjà vu again. It was an unsettling feeling. "I was just wondering…" Really strong déjà vu. "If you would be free this evening. I have a few things I would like to discuss." The dream! Harrison stood up suddenly.
"Who are you? He asked, his eyes glittering. "I dreamt about you! I always dream about you. And you were the person who gave me back my badge!" The girl looked at him. She didn't seem fazed by the fact that an almost complete stranger had confessed to dreaming about her.
"Maybe I am…" she said with the hint of a smile touching the corners of her lips. "As I said, I have some things I would like to discuss. Tonight at seven? At that nice Italian place."
"Casa Antonios?" Harrison asked, slightly dazed.
"That's the one." And with that she was gone.
That was weird, Harrison thought to himself. That was very weird. He picked up a sheet of paper but the words scrambled in front of his eyes. Very, very weird. He rubbed his eyes and looked at the paper. He still couldn't focus. His head was pounding, as if someone was beating a drumstick against it, playing some sort of thrash metal tune by the feel of it. He pressed his palm against his temple and groaned. Then he stood up and walked over to the light switch, holding his head in his hands, a pained expression on his face. He flicked the switch off. The only light in the room was coming from the computer screen. He looked out of the window. It was already dark and he hadn't noticed. A quick glance at the clock told him he still had two hours to go until half six and freedom. He sat back down at the desk and pulled the plug on the pc. The irritating glow disappeared. That will only give me an hour before that meal thing, he thought. Well, tough. I'm going home to get changed and take some painkillers. I'll just have to be late, and she'll just have to wait.
A girl. Why did that make him feel so odd? A girl. Just a girl. He'd met plenty of girls. Well, met… Never been asked to dinner by one, even if the dinner was only to discuss 'some things' as she'd put it. He'd not even gone to the pictures with one as a teenager. Thirty seven and never been on a date. God, his life was boring. But he had still met girls, talked to women. He wasn't a shy teenager anymore. He was a full grown man. He didn't have to be scared of her. Her... who was she? He realised that he didn't even know her name. He knew nothing about her whatsoever. He had never seen her before in his life, and then suddenly she was everywhere. In his dreams, in his office. His office. And then she had invited him out to dinner.
I was something, he thought, as he left the office to walk home. He only lived five minutes away. I was something, once, he thought.
"I was something!" he proclaimed loudly. A youngish looking guy in a baseball cap looked at him nervously.
"Sure you were, mate," he said, before crossing the road and hurrying away in the opposite direction. Harrison stopped walking. He was something. He had been something. A long time ago. What was this? Déjà vu? Nah, he was getting hung up on déjà vu what with dreaming about that woman. This sudden revelation was nothing more than an overactive imagination, and he must have seen her before, anyways...
"Are you alright?" Harrison blinked.
"Never been better," he mumbled. His eyes focussed. A worried looking woman with mousy brown hair was looking at him with concern.
"You just seem a little spaced out, love, that's all," she said, smiling.
"Oh, right," Harrison mumbled. "Well, thanks." He attempted a smile in return, but it must have come out more as a grimace, judging from the look on the woman's face.
"Well, if you're sure you're ok," she said, backing off with a look of pity on her face. Harrison just nodded.
Harrison curled up on his bed in his flat and switched on the TV. He channel hopped, holding a mug of instant coffee close to his chest. He sniffed. Just his luck, to have caught a cold. No way was he going out to dinner feeling like this. I don't even know the girl, he reasoned. I am under no obligation to meet her; I don't even know her name. But she was pretty. He knew she was pretty, yet he couldn't picture her in his mind. He tried to imagine her face, but it blurred and he couldn't focus on her features. Give up, he told himself. Forget about her. He found a channel he wanted to watch and tried to ignore the little nagging voice at the back of his mind telling him he should be somewhere else.
Twenty minutes later, and Top Gear was starting to get on his nerves. It was a tedious program, and he had never been that interested in cars anyway. He flicked the channel and caught the tail end of a really old episode of Friends. He supposed that it was meant to be funny, but it didn't make him laugh. He turned the TV off and sighed. I probably should have gone out to dinner, he conceded. It would have been better than this, anyhow. He pulled himself to his feet and went to make himself yet another cup of coffee. He felt down and dejected. He desperately needed the caffeine.
He stopped himself with his hand on the mug. He shouldn't. What would be better for him would be an early night and a sleep. Regretfully he poured the drink down the sink.
And to bed. And to sleep. And to end this weird day.
The perfect way to end a weird day: with a weird dream.
There was light all around him. Bright, white light. Harrison was almost blinded by the glare. He spun in a full circle, trying to find something that wasn't just endless space. Only then he realised he was wearing a pure white robe. He was almost camouflaged. He called out, not in English, but in a strange language he didn't know he knew. Indeed, he didn't understand what he was saying. He reached out a hand into the endless light, and she emerged, stretching out to him in return. The girl who featured in all of his dreams. The girl who he had met today. She was saying something; crying out to him, screaming furiously. He didn't understand her, he couldn't hear her. He tried to tell her this, but his mouth wouldn't form words in English. The words came out in the same tongue he had spoken earlier. He growled in frustration; a primitive, animal sound. The girl tried even harder to communicate but she began to fade from view, and the bright light grew dimmer and dimmer until, finally, it was gone, and all that remained was darkness, and an absence of light. It was as if someone had flicked off a switch in his brain.