I am real, Theodore.
Your world is in great danger.
Less than twenty-four hours ago he arrived. The Pervasive Man. He is here.
How do I stop him?
Find him before he finds you.
Theodore was nothing then. He was nowhere except with this speaker. When he spoke, it felt as if his voice was coming from everywhere. This time, he was not scared. He was safe.
Who are you?
And Theodore felt himself falling, falling, not down because down did not exist in the dream, but towards consciousness. Somehow he didn't want to leave. But for now, he was in the will of the speaker, and the speaker was pushing him out.
He awoke in a sort of convulsion, the kind of convulsion that one does when they are falling in a dream. He was not sweating as usual, but as he looked around he realized that he was not where he was before. He was not collapsed on his carpeted living room floor, no, he was laying on a cot inside of an ambulance. Sirens looped in the air. Next to him, sitting rather than laying, was a bearded EMT, seeming rather unconcerned, and Rose, whose face was red and lightly streaked with tears. She was still in her work clothes.
Rose noticed first. "He's awake," she said trying to be calm, although her voice quivered.
Theodore tried to sit up, but the bearded man put his hand lightly on his shoulder. Theodore laid back down. "How are you feeling?" the EMT asked calmly.
"I feel fine."
"Lightheaded? Blurred vision?"
"No. I feel normal," Theodore said, and it was the truth. The sirens continued on, looping over and over. It was odd, waking up here, and he wondered what all had happened while he was trapped in the dream, completely in comatose. He was sure that whoever was speaking to him was the one that caused him to faint… and even now in consciousness, he felt the urgency for the world that was instilled in him. It had seemed like he was there, having a real conversation with the speaker. He remembered speaking as if he knew more than he does now. Like he had any idea of who (or what) The Pervasive Man was. The truth was, now that Theodore was back into reality, he was just as lost as before.
He pulled his thoughts back to reality, although now, he was seriously questioning just how much of his life was reality.
"How long was I out for?" Theodore asked.
The bearded man looked at his watch, and thought. "About twenty-two minutes now."
"Are you sure you're feeling alright?" Rose asked.
Theodore nodded and the ambulance sped on.
They arrived home early into the next day, around two in the morning. Theodore went straight to his room and collapsed immediately into his bed. Rose's worries kept her awake longer.
The doctor questioned him first, then did a series of tests. Theodore's blood was taken, the doctor seemed to rub the pulse underneath Theodore's jaw and asked if it caused any lightheadedness, and another test in which Theodore was monitored as he sat up and laid down several times. After all of this, the doctor left, leaving Theodore and Rose together in the hospital room for a long time. Almost an hour and a half.
He thought about telling her everything as they sat, but he didn't. The room was almost completely white, other than a few meaningless pictures of abstract shapes on the wall. The air tasted like paper. It was filled with silence and worry.
The doctor came back with no results. He suggested Theodore go home and rest, and didn't schedule another appointment. He had been debating whether or not to give the boy an EKG. The boy was showing no symptoms of heart or brain problems; it was as if he never even fainted. Yet, still… the patient had been unconscious for almost twenty minutes. This was no common fainting episode, there was something more here, the doctor knew. He'd never seen it before.
Eventually he decided that he was getting nowhere. It was late, and there was nothing to do for the patient. He told them it was probably neurocardiogenic, which was a lie, and sent them home to rest.
And rest Theodore did.
He knew he would dream again, and he was scared, but exhaustion won over fear hours ago. He let himself fall into bed, and within five minutes he was asleep.
Theodore didn't dream that night.
In fact, it was the most peaceful sleep he'd had in days. No cold sweats, no fear for the future. Just sleep. He was only awoken once, and immediately fell back into his deep sleep.
It was around four o'clock in the morning. The slight creaking of the bedroom door disturbed no one. Sylvester Durand had never been here in Theodore's home, not in his previous life or his new one, but the layout was not an issue. He knew where Theodore slept. The knowledge had come to him when his new life began.
Sylvester looked down at the boy. He was one of his former students. A sense of excitement rushed over him, mixed with a sudden intense bloodlust. He thought about reaching down to the boys neck and taking his life from him now, oh, how it would please him. But the being inside him held him back. Not yet, it told him. Soon. Soon this boy will flattened under us with the rest of this world. And so Sylvester just stared, and the being inside him blocked the incoming dreams from Hannibal, and he was happy. Happier than he'd ever been. He grinned madly in the bedroom, staring down at the boy like a predator who had just cornered his prey.
Suddenly the boy's eyes were open. They looked back at each other, nothing but confusion in Theodore's eyes. A voice arose from Sylvester's throat, although it was not his own.
"Sleep," the voice said.
And then Theodore was asleep again, and Sylvester Durand disappeared, although he was never too far away.
They met at the park again, as they did most days. The scenery never seemed to change, only the sky above. Today, it was no longer a perfect wispy blue. The air had cooled and the sky was darker; the sun was hidden behind some gloomy and distant clouds.
They sat together under the gazebo, staring into the trees but at nothing in particular. Theodore had told her to meet him here, and here she was. She seemed worried.
He explained what had happened, leaving out what he experienced while he was unconscious. He didn't tell her that he was up so late because he was scared of the dreams he thought would come. They came anyway.
"I looked it up," Theodore told Caitlyn. "Neurocardiogenic syncope, just to see if I showed any of the symptoms… I didn't." He thought for awhile, and Caitlyn waited for him to continue. When he looked back on it later, he didn't know why it was so hard to say. "I think I do know what caused it, though."
"What?" Caitlyn asked.
He gave another long pause, but he already decided it was time to tell her. He needed to tell someone, if only to ease his own mind. He felt insane keeping it to himself. This was too outlandish to keep to himself.
"I had another dream," Theodore said. "Two of them."
"Another dream… Like with the cult?"
"No," Theodore said. "I mean… Yes, I think they are related, but there was no cult in these. They were like… warnings."
"Warnings?" She was fully engaged now in what he was saying. Her brow was furrowed and she stared at him with a confused look.
Theodore let out a heavy and frustrated sigh. "I don't know. I don't know what's going on. I didn't dream at all last night. Only when I fainted."
"These dreams," Caitlyn said. "What happens in them?"
And Theodore told her. He told her about the ruined city and the skyscrapers and the empty traffic jam and the dead man that seemed to stare straight into heaven itself. He told her about what he was hearing at the ends of the dreams, just at the edge of consciousness. He is coming. It gave him chills just telling her about it. His throat felt clogged. He wondered why he was so emotional over these dreams.
He moved on to when he fainted.
"It was like a conversation," Theodore said. "I don't know who I was talking to, but it felt like… like he was above us. Above humanity, I mean."
Theodore thought for a moment. "I don't know. Maybe. But it felt like I was raised to his level. Like I knew more about the world then."
"It was just a dream," Caitlyn said. "You're talking like it really happened. Dreams are just brain activity, Theo."
He shook his head. "No. It wasn't like that. I don't think these dreams are internal. I'm thinking that someone - or something - is trying to warn me."
"About what? The apocalypse? The end is nigh, the rapture is coming-"
"I don't know, Caitlyn. I don't know. But there aren't just dreams, I feel that. I don't know what else to make of the ruined city, the conversation I had. Do you remember the first dream? I am real, it was a chant. Like they were pounding it into my brain. Maybe… Maybe I'm supposed to be doing something about this."
Caitlyn let out a heavy sigh. She didn't know what to think. This couldn't be it, could it? There had to be some other explanation, even if they couldn't see it now. "I don't know either," she said.
In a world population of almost seven billion, even hundreds of thousands of deaths go unnoticed. No considerable dent in the population. That day was no different; the roughly three hundred thousand dead didn't make any real spike in any census chart, but things in the world were changing.
Hannibal stirred, watching over all, largely powerless, while Sylvester Durand plotted the fate of this new world.