Authors: Magus Tor,Carrie Lynn Weniger
Drew opened his eyes again, he was no longer in the darkness, but in the soft
light of the morning sun shining through his bedroom window. He sat up and
It all seems so real,
he thought to himself as he tried
to shake the dream from his mind. He had to get ready for work quickly so he
could make it to The Bean with enough time to sit and have his coffee. He
desperately wanted Max to be there. He had to be sure she was okay and that she
understood why he shot her.
Getting out of bed, Drew tapped the
button on his alarm clock to turn it off. He then showered in record time,
dressed and was out the door, almost running to the coffee shop. As he walked
in, Adam looked his way and said, “Man! You just missed Max. She asked about
you and stuck around, but had to get to school.”
“Damn. Thanks, Adam. I’ll have the
usual.” Drew waited for his coffee and then sat on the couch.
Well, at least
she was here and was looking for me. Should have gotten her number, dummy, then
you could’ve called her
. Drew could’ve kicked himself.
After watching people walk by, all
looking like he felt, he dragged himself to the door and aimed himself towards
the “L” platform. There he was greeted by a swath of other people, all with the
same unexcited look on their faces. Work was never exciting, and usually the
days all seemed to drag. Drew was convinced that this day would be no
When he got to his desk, there was a
pink slip of paper on his desk. It was a message that the service had taken
overnight. Oddly, there was no name or number, just the time the call came in
and the message, “Missed you once, got you once. I’ll try again later.”
Drew couldn’t figure out who would leave such a strange message.
Obviously it was someone he had talked to recently, but who? He’d talked to so
many people. That is his job, after all, talking to people. Putting the message
aside, he went about his day.
As Drew’s day at work wound down to a
close, he found himself thinking about Max. He decided that he would stop in at
the coffee house on his way home and pick up a couple of croissants, hoping he
would bump into her. Drew cleaned up his desk, unplugged his headset and tucked
it into his drawer and headed for the “L”.
Usually Drew passed his time watching
the people taking the train ride with him, but today he found himself in a
haze, constantly thinking about the dream and Max. When his stop was announced
he bolted out of his seat and headed for the platform. It never fails, when
someone is in a hurry, that’s when everyone else seems to move in slow motion.
Drew grew frustrated with the others on the staircase, taking their time
reaching the street below.
Once able to maneuver past the last of
the people in front of him, Drew headed for The Bean. When he entered, he
quickly scanned the faces and realized that Max wasn’t there. Drew saw Adam
waving him over and stepped past the people in line and made his way to the
opposite end of the counter.
“Max was looking for you again,” Adam
started. “She left this for you.” Adam handed Drew a folded napkin.
Before looking at it, Drew asked Adam
for two croissants. Unfolding the napkin, Drew read the quick note she had
written: Drew, Sorry we keep missing each other. Give me a call. Talk to you
soon, M. Her phone number followed the note, and smiley face followed the
At least she isn’t mad at me!
Drew thought to himself.
“Here’s your croissants, no charge,”
Adam said and handed Drew a white paper bag.
“Thanks, man. See ya tomorrow.” With
that, Drew headed home.
Once inside, Drew decided to make
himself a couple of turkey sandwiches on the pastries he had just picked up.
After changing, he sat on the couch, phone in one hand and a diet soda in the
other. He dialed Max’s number, put the phone on speaker and set it on the
“Hello?” Max answered on the first ring.
Drew could hear in her voice that she was anxiously awaiting his call.
“Hey, Max. You alright?”
“Yeah, I’m feeling much better now.” It
was almost as if she was worried about something.
“I am really sorry, Max.” Drew didn’t
know what else to say.
“Drew, it’s part of the game. I didn’t
know it was you. I was so glad I didn’t hit you. It wasn’t your fault.”
“But,” Drew started, but Max quickly
“Shhh. You had no way of knowing. It’s
over, let’s just forget about it. I am just fine.”
“Somehow it’s just not that easy for me.
I never wanted to hurt you.”
“Really, I’m fine. It’s okay.”
“Okay.” Drew wasn’t sure he could just
forget shooting and killing her like that, but he said okay anyway.
Changing the subject, Max asked, “So,
how was your day?”
“Long and boring, yours?”
“My days are never boring being a
kindergarten teacher,” Max chuckled as she answered.
“I would imagine not.” Drew had a hard
time with small talk. He was feeling a bit uncomfortable.
“Drew, I just wanted to make sure you
were okay and wanted to let you know there were no hard feelings.”
“Thank you. I feel horrible, but now
that I know everything is alright, I do feel a little better.”
“I have some work to do right now, but
hopefully we’ll run into each other in the game. If you come to the library to
look for me, check behind the information counter. I’ll leave something for
you,” Max said softly but with purpose.
“Okay, will do. Have a nice evening.”
“You, too, Drew. Bye.”
“Bye,” Drew replied and they both hung
up. Feeling a bit relieved, Drew sat back on the couch, let out a sigh of
relief and then set his sights on the two turkey sandwiches in front of him.
After watching the news and eating his
dinner, Drew decided to go up on the roof. He had heard some noises up there
and had a feeling that the cat from the apartment next door was back. When he
reached the top of the steps, Drew turned on the long string of lights and sure
enough, that cat was lounging on his chair. Shooing the cat, he walked over to
the edge of the roof and looked towards the lake. The sun was setting behind
him and it cast a soft glow across the water. He could see a couple of
sailboats in the distance.
Enjoying the view, Drew dragged over one
of the chairs and flipped off the lights. He sat down and set his feet on the
foot tall ledge that lined all four sides of the roof. As he sat there, he
could see boats coming and going from the harbor. It was a relaxing sight. As
the sun set deeper, the sky gradually turned dark. The lights of the boats on
the lake started to twinkle like the stars in the sky above. Drew found himself
wondering why he didn’t come up here more often.
Maybe it’s because up until
now the weather had been frigidly cold!
Drew shuddered at the thought of
the cold winter air.
After sitting for what felt like maybe
half an hour, Drew looked at his watch and found that he had been up there for
almost two hours. He took one last look at the lake as he stood up, and then
turned to go back down the stairs. He went back inside and decided to do some
sit-ups and pushups before bed. After his exercising, he grabbed a quick shower
and then turned everything off. The air coming through his open bedroom window
was much cooler than the last couple of nights, so he closed and locked the
window and made his way over to his bed.
Checking the alarm clock, he decided to
not get up so early tomorrow and reset it for a later time. He sat on the edge
of the bed and found himself almost dreading going to sleep. The dream seemed
cool at the beginning, but this game he was a part of was getting more real
than he cared for. Nevertheless, he lay back on his pillow, pulled up the sheet
and closed his eyes.
When Drew opened his eyes, he wasn’t
surprised to find himself back in the game. He was, however, surprised to find
himself sitting in the street with his back against the tire of an abandoned
car. He knew he had to act quickly or he would be shot before he could even get
to his feet. Crawling around to the back of the car, he slowly stood, looking
around to get his bearings. He didn’t recognize any of the buildings that he
Using his training, Drew deduced that,
since there was faint light in one direction and the temperature was cooler
than it should be around sunset, the sun was beginning to rise. With that
information, he was able to point himself toward the light and move east.
Hoping that the city in the dream was Chicago, he was under the impression that
he would make it to the lake. After walking and crouching and dodging bullets,
he realized that moving east wouldn’t bring him to the lake. He shuddered at
the thought that he was no longer in Chicago. At least there he knew where a
few things were, but here he had no idea and that made him uneasy.
He could see a large swath of trees a
few blocks from him. Crouching as low as he could, he continued forward
alongside more abandoned cars. Once he made it to the trees, he found a group
of shrubs and hid himself. Once hidden, he thought for a few moments, trying to
come up with a plan. After convincing himself that he should keep moving, Drew
made his way back to the street. Just as he was about to cross, he heard
something he had just been introduced to the other night. Drew heard the
distinct sound of the “robot” as he fired his enormous machine gun. Drew threw
himself under a car and watched at street level as the robot made its way onto
the street, facing Drew.
The car above him lifted up and the
robot stood over him, silent and still. Then it spoke, “Your choice is simple.
You can work with me and live, or you can die.”
Drew really didn’t know what to make of
the situation, so he slowly moved to a seated position, carefully reaching for
his gun. He said nothing.
“Choose. Do you want to live or die?”
The robot had a voice that Drew was sure he had heard before.
Figuring that choosing life would buy
him a little bit of time, Drew answered, “I want to live.”
“Wise. Follow me, we have work to do.”
“Where are we going?” Drew made sure not
to sound scared.
“The others will fill you in when we get
there.” The robot remained silent as they moved through the streets.
As they worked their way through the
city, Drew recognized the staircase to the library.
This is my chance,
Drew thought and quietly ducked between two cars. Luckily, the robot walked
with a purpose and it was some time before he realized that Drew was gone.
He remembered what Max had told him, and
crouched behind the information desk. There, on a shelf under the counter, sat
the usual supplies; paper, stapler, tape and pens. It was then that Drew realized
the top sheet of paper had writing on it. “Open the drawer and take what is
inside. Use it sparingly. M.”
Opening the drawer right above the
paper, Drew picked up the only item inside. It was a small bottle of some cheap
cologne. He dabbed on a small amount and realized why.
Max is one smart
Drew knew that by putting on the sickly sweet smelling liquid, Max
would instantly know when he was nearby. He made his way to the children’s area
and slowly approached the cardboard house.
Max stood slowly, and whispered Drew’s
name to let him know it was safe to come to her. He took a couple of steps and
felt something hit his head. The sound reached Drew’s ears a fraction of a
second later. The next thing Drew heard was Max scream. He could hear gunfire
as he faded out.
gasped for air as he sat up in bed. As he struggled to catch his breath, he
could hear the alarm clock buzzing. Swinging his feet over the side of the
bead, he reached over and turned off the alarm. It took a few minutes for him
to steady his breathing. He recalled hearing Max scream and that is pretty much
it. He reached over on his nightstand and grabbed his cell phone. The light was
flashing telling him he had a message. “I am okay. Going to work. Talk later.”
It came from Max’s phone.
Good. At least I know she is fine.
After Drew got his paper from the porch,
he decided to brew his own coffee and read the paper at home instead of going
to The Bean. On the front page was the headline: Sudden Influx in Brain
Hemorrhage Deaths Over Last Six Months. Curious about the story, Drew continued
reading. In all, there were 35 deaths linked to brain hemorrhages. The article
explained that there were no apparent reasons for the influx and that the
hospitals were working closely with the CDC to figure out what was causing
Drew started to flip through the paper
to find the second half of the story. While reading the article, he came to a
picture of a man that had died. The newspaper and police were trying to
identify the man. The person in the photo was T.
For the first time since Drew began
working at the alarm company, he called in sick. He then sent a text to Max
asking her to call as soon as she got a chance. Within minutes, a text came
back from her asking what was wrong. “Come right to my place after work. It’s
important,” was the text he sent back. “Okay. See you around 4:00.” Drew made
some phone calls to a couple people back in the agency, hoping to find out who
T was so that he could be identified. With only a letter, he wasn’t able to
find much out, but he told them where to find the picture and hopefully they
will have some luck.
Drew turned on the news and made himself
more coffee. As he sat in front of the TV, he flipped from one news station to
the next, finding that everyone was talking about the deaths. It seemed that
Chicago wasn’t the only city involved; San Francisco, Dallas, Manhattan and
Miami were also reporting multiple deaths.
Why are we just hearing about
Drew almost asked the question out loud.
Time seemed to drag as Drew waited for
Max. Everything he tried to do to pass time couldn’t get him to stop thinking
about T. Granted, he didn’t know him long, and T was quite mysterious, but
still, he did know him and had just seen him two nights before in the game.
Finally the doorbell rang and Drew went down to let Max in. Once back in the
apartment, Drew told Max about T.
“What? How?” Max was stunned.
“He had a brain hemorrhage. It is
happening in waves all over the country and they don’t know what is causing
“Apparently he was found this morning.
He was sitting in his car and the door was still open.”
“I can’t believe this. He was so excited
last night. I found him in the game, and he said he only had one more kill to make.
He didn’t want to leave me alone in the game, but I told him to go ahead and
win because I had you to be with me. He got me back to the library and walked
back towards the zoo.” Max had tears streaming down her cheeks. Slumped in the
chair, she looked like she had lost her best friend. Feeling a bit awkward,
Drew moved closer and wrapped his arms around her shoulders and let her cry.
After a while, Drew and Max decided to
order in and took their Chinese food up to the roof. There they could enjoy the
night air and figure out what happened to their friend; or at least who their
“I don’t really know that much about
him,” Max said softly.
“He definitely was a man of mystery. I
only knew his name and that he lived nearby,” Drew responded to her quiet
“What do we do?” Max’s question sounded
Drew decided that the time was right to
tell Max about himself. He explained being a part of the CIA for years and why
he quit and moved to Chicago. He also told her that he put a few calls in to
see if his contacts could find anything out about who T actually was.
“I knew there was more to you than what
you were letting on!”
Drew replied, “Yeah, customer service
rep is a pretty boring job. It’s safe, though, and that’s what I was looking
“Well, I’m glad you told me. I actually
feel safer knowing that you have some serious skills! CIA, wow.”
They continued to talk about Drew’s
life, but found themselves back on the topic of the game, T and the deaths.
Drew could tell that Max was more than just a little nervous about the prospect
of dying and he didn’t want her to feel like she was in this alone.
“Would you like to stay here tonight? I
don’t want you to be alone. The guest room doesn’t have a bed yet, but you are
more than welcome to use mine. I can take the couch,” Drew said with a very
“I don’t want to impose. I’ll be okay.”
“I’m sorry, I should have been clearer,
I insist. Really, you shouldn’t be scared and alone.”
“Okay, then. Oh, I don’t have anything
here with me.”
“That’s okay, you can wear something of
mine to sleep in and we can go to your place in the morning so you can change.”
Drew really didn’t want to let her go. “I think we should call in to work
tomorrow. There are some things we need to figure out.”
“If you think that’s best. Thanks Drew.
I appreciate you letting me stay here.”
Drew walked over to Max and pulled her
close. They held the embrace for a long time and then Max looked up into his
eyes. They shared a kiss and then Drew pulled back and apologized. Max told him
to shut up and they kissed again. After holding Max for a little longer, Drew
said, “Let’s go inside. I feel like we are being watched. Maybe we could watch
“That sounds nice,” Max replied.
Both feeling comfortable cuddled
together on the couch watching an old movie, neither tried to make a move. Just
being close to each other seemed to be what they needed at the time. When the
movie was over, drew grabbed a t-shirt and a pair of shorts for Max and showed
her where the bathroom was.
Drew flipped the news on and watched for
a few minutes while Max changed. When she entered the room, Drew couldn’t help
but smile. She looked like a little girl wearing her father’s shirt. Cute was
the best word he could come up with to describe her. Drew turned off the TV and
brought her to his room. He pulled back the sheet on the bed and asked her if
she would like a blanket.
“No, this will be great.” She walked
towards the bed and looked at the nightstand. “Oh, my gosh! I have the same
alarm clock! I won it the first time I went to The Bean!”
“That’s where I got mine! I won it the
first day I stopped in on my way to work. What a small world!” Drew said,
watching Max climb into the bed. He never realized just how tall the bed was
until he saw her efforts to get up there. “Sleep well, Max,” Drew said and then
kissed her on the forehead.
“Thank you. Sweet dreams,” Max replied
back. Max took a few steps towards the hallway and Max quickly spoke, “Drew?”
“Would you stay in here tonight? Can you
just lay with me?” Max sounded like a little kid after a nightmare.
“Sure. Do you mind if I set the alarm so
we can get up and see if the news has any more information on T?”
Drew set the clock and climbed into the
bed. Not wanting to make Max uncomfortable, Drew decided it was best to lie on
top of the sheet. Max reached over and held his hand. It wasn’t long before
both were sleeping.
When Drew roused from sleep he reached
over to find Max’s hand. That’s when he realized that he was back in the game.
He looked around and seemed to be in some sort of office. He could hear massive
amounts of gunfire outside, so he crawled to the window and peered out from
between two slats in the blinds. From this vantage point Drew could see almost the
whole block. There was a crowd of people emerging from a parking garage and the
robot was in the middle of the street. Even with all of the people firing on
the robot, he didn’t go down. The robot made a sound that resembled a laugh and
then lifted two giant machine guns and started firing on the crowd. People went
down, one after another, until no one was left standing; nobody except the
While scanning the street through the
blinds, Drew realized that he must be on an upper floor of the library. He
crawled to a door that led him out onto a terrace. Standing up he realized that
he was looking down at the main floor of the library. He could see the
information center and moved to the stairs to go down. Once on the first floor,
Drew went to the drawer again and applied the cologne. He then went to the
cardboard playhouse and waited for Max.
After what seemed like an eternity, he
realized that Max wasn’t coming.
Was she in that group of people? Was she
okay? Where is Max?
Drew had all questions and no answers. Deciding it was
best to avoid the robot for now, he waited to leave the building through the
back. He worked his way up the alley, but when he was just about to emerge on
the next street he heard something behind him. Turning, Drew instinctively drew
his .40 from the waistband of his jeans and pointed in the direction of the
noise. The shadow of a man slowly moved out from a dumpster and Drew fired. The
man went down.
Drew turned back around and left the
alley. He was able to make it to the zoo without incident, but once inside the
gates, he was hit.