What if you woke up and realized that your whole life is a lie? What if you had memories that didn’t belong to you, but somehow you remember them as if they were yours? Jessica Harris is a normal, middle-age woman who lives in an ordinary neighborhood in the ordinary town of Lake Charles, Louisiana. After suffering from major amnesia following a horrific night terror, her doctor tells her the frequent dreams she has are a result of her high stress levels from work. But Jessica knows something isn’t right, and as mysterious pieces begin to fall together, she fights to prove her sanity.
A high-pitched ringing noise. Fire exploding everywhere. Glass shattering into millions of pieces and flying through the air. My head bangs against the sides of the car.
The Volkswagen flips on its back, rolls, tumbles, and screeches to a stop. Screams of terror echo in the distance, and suddenly everything is quiet. Everything hurts. Black dots cloud my vision.
I wait. Trying to wrap my head around what just happened. I am still strapped in my seat, unable to move. My head pounds, and as I touch a gloved hand to my forehead, I’m surprised to see it covered in blood.
I try to bend my knees to crawl out of the driver’s seat, but they won’t move. I stare at them as though my mind can somehow make them work, but they remain stubbornly stuck to the seat, disobeying me.
As I look around for a way out of the burning vehicle, I remember my pocket knife in my purse. The tool that my father made me start carrying when I turned eighteen, would possibly be saving my life today. I extend my right arm to blindly search for my leather bag that had been in the passenger seat, but I can’t find it. Assuming it must have fallen to the floorboard or back of the car, I begin to shout at the top of my lungs for someone to come rescue me.
I don’t know if I even make a sound. My lungs ache and my breath is smoky. I try to scream once more, forcing the sound out as best as I can. But nothing comes out.
Panicking, I try fidgeting with my seatbelt again, but it still won’t unlock. My window is completely shattered and I hope that I can somehow climb through the small opening. The smoke from the explosion creeps up inside me and I cough hard. I focus on escaping, just to get out before I burn alive.
I can feel the fire starting to singe my hair, it’s heat trickling down my neck. It’s too late. I won’t be able to escape the flames. I’m trapped.
The fire begins to swallow my body, its torturous burn eating away at my clothes, my skin, my flesh. I try to think of something else, like my childhood home and the smell of freshly baked avocado bread. Unable to concentrate, I close my eyes, allowing the slow, sharp pain of the flames to gnaw at my body.
There is a noise outside, like someone stepping on the shattered glass. The sound of crunching crystal grows closer until I see black boots inches in front of me. Just as I’m trying to extend my arm in a cry for help, my whole body goes numb and everything fades to black.
“Jessica? Can you hear me?”
The sound of a man’s voice wakes me up, and I realize I’m not dead, but lying in a bed. The room is cold and damp, like the life had been vacuumed away from this place. I turn my head toward the voice and see a man standing over me. He wears a long white coat with a device around his neck. With a pen in his hand, he scribbles notes on a board.
My heart racing, I notice my bed is wet with sweat. I pat myself down to make sure I really hadn’t burned like I had seen in my dream. Was it even a dream? It seemed all too real. I felt the pain of the burns, I could feel the fire. I could smell my flesh melting. This had been the fourth time this week that I had had a dream like this.
“Jessica,” the voice says again, and I refocus on the man in front of me. He sets the pen and board down and places an icy hand on my forehead. His expression looks concerned.
“Yes, I can hear you,” I say, barely recognizing my own voice.
“Good. I’m Doctor Corinth. It’s nice to see you awake.” His voice is deep and his face is perfectly shaved. His chestnut hair and mocha skin makes him the most beautiful man I have ever seen. At least, I think he is. He smells like mulberry and lemons, so refreshing that I forget for a moment about the horrifying vision I had seen earlier.
“Hello,” I mumble, as he steps back and writes something down on the board.
“We’ve kept you in an induced sleep for a couple of days to monitor your dream state. Can you sit up?” He asks, removing the stethoscope from around his neck.
I wince as I use my core muscles to help me sit upright. My head suddenly feels as heavy as a bowling ball. I try to steady myself.
“I’m going to listen to your breathing, okay?” Doctor Corinth says, and places the cold metal end of a stethoscope on my back and asks me to inhale and then exhale.
“Your vitals are normal, but we will keep an eye on your heart rate. You most likely experienced a night terror, which is exceedingly rare in adults. Your husband mentioned that you don’t sleep at night and when you do you have horrific dreams. How do you feel right now?”
“I feel sore and exhausted,” I say, falling back against the pillow.
“That’s normal in a person who has recently experienced a night terror,” Doctor Corinth says, continuing to scribble on his board. “You are free to go home and rest, but I am prescribing some medicine to help you sleep and to help with the pain. You’ll be back to normal in no time.”
Normal? I try to think about what I know to be normal, the facts that I have relied on to be truth. My name is Jessica Harris. I am thirty-one years old. I am married to Will Harris and have a six-year-old daughter named Lilliana Marie. I live in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Everything else is fuzzy. I don’t know what my house looks like, I don’t even remember my wedding day or the birth of my daughter. What is wrong with me?
“I’ll let Will know that you are ready to go home. Here’s my card if you need anything,” Doctor Corinth hands me a small card with his name and phone number on it, and exits the room. I stare at the closing door.
My brain spins with questions. I can’t separate dream from reality. I even feel like I’m in a vision right now, wondering when I will wake up. As I try to filter through my thoughts, I realize thinking makes my head pound more. I close my eyes and pull a blanket over my head, trying to shut out the world.
I feel a hand on my thigh. “Jess, it’s me.”
I recognize the voice and pull the blanket down. I look at a man who sits on the bed beside my leg. I sort through my thoughts and tell myself that this man is Will Harris, my husband.
“Hi,” I say weakly, forcing myself to form a smile. He leans in closer and brushes his lips across mine. He smells like pine cones, which reminds me of a yellow house with green shutters in the middle of a forest. My home. His calm green eyes tell me that I know him, that I can trust him, and that I am safe with him.
“Someone has been waiting to see you,” he says, just as I feel the bed bounce and look for the source. There’s a little girl with bright blond hair who sits at the foot of the bed. I can see her wide blue eyes from where I am, her face painted with curiosity and fear.
“Mommy, are you okay now?” A sweet, high-pitched sound escapes from her lips. I stare at her in amazement of how beautiful she is. I feel hot tears streaming down my face in realization that this child is mine. My Lilliana Marie. How could I have forgotten her milky complexion and those perfect gaps in between her teeth when she smiles.
“Hi sweetie,” I say, my voice catching up and my heart slowing down. I extend my arms and she comes to curl up inside my embrace. “I’m much better, thank you.”
I can smell the conditioner on her hair, it’s of lavender and chamomile, and I immediately remember all the hours of combing through it, of braiding the tiny hairs and tying it with ribbons.
I feel Will’s kiss on my head. “Are you girls ready to go home now?”
“Yeah!” Lilly exclaims, escaping from my arms and jumping from the bed onto the floor.
I steady myself against the bed railing, my child’s quick burst of excitement surprising my body. I have a sudden longing for the comforting soft sheets and feather pillows of my bed, the warmth of a hot shower, and the smell of freshly ground coffee. I long for knowing where I belong and a place to escape my horrifying dreams. I long for my safety and sanctuary. I long for my home.
This piece is still in progress. Have some ideas or suggestions? Let me know in the comments below or send me an email.