MY BREATH COMES in gasps and I might have been running forever. My legs are rubbery with exhaustion and the fire in my lungs with every breath I take hurts so bad I don’t think I can go on. I have to go on. I try to turn my head and look back. My head won’t turn. Is it gaining? What is it? I have to get away. That’s all I know. It will kill me if I don’t. I duck down an alley.
Where did these houses come from? I’ve been running in an open field. I smelled alfalfa before. I sniff deeply. The smell has changed. It makes me cough violently. Grease and garbage odor creep bitingly up my nose.
I feel my pursuer gaining ground. Vibration from the footfalls gets closer. Footfalls? A person running? Can it be a person? Why can't I look behind me? Does my fear cause this? Something holds me in thrall. Something keeps me from looking back. I must be in a dream. Yes, a dream! I’ll wake up shortly and I’ll be in my bed, snuggled under the covers. I must be oversleeping, that’s it. I dream when I oversleep.
A sharp pain rips down my back. A knife…no…a talon! Wake up, Rick, wake up! This can’t be happening. I feel blood ooze down my back from up near my shoulders. Something evil is tearing at my back. I wouldn’t feel that in a dream. Would I? How real can a dream be? Again I try to turn my head but I can’t. In real life I can turn my head, can’t I? I reach a hand up to feel it. A wire cage holds my head tightly. It keeps me looking straight ahead. Where did it come from?
Am I a prisoner somewhere? Did I escape? Is that why my head won’t turn? I reach around behind me and still running flat out, I swipe my hand at my injured back. Bringing my hand before my eyes I look at it. Blood! It’s real. Blood! Mine. Why? What did I do? Did I trespass someplace I shouldn’t have been? The buildings around me…wait…it’s a field. Again? I don’t understand. Please, I need to understand!
Something hits the back of the wire cage. It grabs and jerks my head backwards. A smell like an open sewer wafts over my flying body. Whoever's chasing me doesn’t use mouthwash. It spurs me on. Faster, I must go faster. I have to get away, to get to safety. But where?
Up ahead, a farmhouse. Yes, I will be safe there. The thing behind me can’t follow. How do I know? I don’t know how I know, but I know. I angle toward it. I gain a couple of steps and I know I’ll be safe if I can just…
Naked? How can I be naked? I wear pajamas to bed. Modesty becomes me. Why, my wife…I have a wife? The stark revelation comes to me. My wife. The experiments. I volunteered for them. I remember now. They were conducting psychic alteration experiments on people, and I’d agreed to be part of the experiment. Important work.
My wife volunteered, too. She didn’t believe. I bet she does now. Up ahead, closer, the farmhouse. My own wife chasing me. Yes. I have to get away from her. The drug they used they called JH-21. I don’t realize until now that the letters stand for Jekyl-Hyde. They have made a Mr. Hyde out of her; they’ve made her a monster.
The antidote, she needs it to become normal again. I finally have the answer. If I lead her into the farmhouse compound ahead, the doctors will grab and stop her. They would hold her while they injected her with the antidote. She’d be okay again. My dream could end and not a moment too soon.
Another ripping sound. More pain, more terrible pain! More blood! My back now in tatters, my steps falter. I have to make it beyond the gate. There, I’m through. She’s still close behind. Where are the doctors?
Oh my god! All three are lying by the porch face down. They’re dead, ripped apart, their backs tatters like mine, blood everywhere. No chance. I stop. If I don’t wake up soon, I’ll be dead, too. If I don’t…
The thought flees with more pain, horrible, horrible pain. A black spot begins in the center of my vision and swells. It encompasses everything. It’s no dream…no dream…no dream...