Dr. Gestalt paced back and forth nervously in the isolation room of Arkham Asylum, unsure about what to do next. He fiddled with a pen, a nervous habit he picked up while an intern, as he stared down at his wards, no ideas how to help them at all. Four prone patients lay in the sealed room, and even with his vast knowledge (dual doctorates from Miskatonic University and 12 years studying under famed scientist Dr. Herbert West), he had no clue what was happening with them. A week ago, they were promising patients at the mental ward. Two were self- committed and doing much better than when they arrived, one was thriving under new medication and the fourth had a major breakthrough regarding her feelings for her mother. And then this. One by one they slipped into a catatonic state, going deeper and deeper until they lapsed into this coma of sorts.
He had studied this issue for years and even he had no idea what was going on. Their motor functions were nose diving hard but the brain activity was soaring. He had never seen anything like it. Usually, the mind decreases when the body does too, not go off the charts. Yet, they were unable to wake them regardless of treatment. For the moment he was stumped.
But then he had received a call from a fellow colleague a few hours ago, a Dr. Ng from Vietnam. He said he has seen this type of phenomena before and could help. He would be there within the hour, a factor that Dr. Gestalt was happy for because he had no idea what to do next.
True to his word, Dr. Ng showed up soon after, carrying a large suitcase of sorts. “Dr. Gestalt I presume. I am Dr. Ng,” he said as he put down the case and extended his hand. Dr. Ng was tall, much taller than you would expect an Asian man to be, with jet black hair, tan skin and spidery, long, almost unnatural, fingers. “I came as soon as I heard about what was happening. I believe I can help.”
“I’ve tried everything from adrenalin shots to shock therapy. Their mental activity is off the scale but their bodies appear to be shutting down at the same time. I have no idea what is causing it,” Dr. Gestalt said.
“Do not worry, my friend,” Dr. Ng said as he opened his case, assembling a device inside. “I have seen this before in my home country and I am sure I can help.”
“What is that thing you’re building? I have never seen anything like it.”
“It is a device of my own design. I call it an Occulus. It will let me see what these comatose patients are seeing.”
“Are you telling me that device can screen their dreams? Poppycock.”
“It works I assure you. All too well I am afraid. It will allow us to see what they are seeing and once we have that knowledge, we will have a much better idea how to awaken them,” Ng said as he placed a small mirror on the top of the machine, locking it into place.
“Yes, we. I need two neural minds to operate it safely. A single mind can get lost inside and reach the same fate of the patient if we are not careful. With two, that is near impossible.”
“Near impossible you say? That doesn’t sound exactly 100% foolproof.”
“Nothing is completely safe, Doctor. You of all people know that. But worry not, we will be fine. I have never lost anyone yet.”
Dr. Gestalt swallowed his fear and asked “What do we have to do?”
“Place this on your head,” Ng said passing him a metal helmet attached with wires, electrodes and flashing lights. He did so, feeling ever so foolish in the process. If he’s messing with me, he thought.
“You won’t be able to interact with anyone inside, not even me. They won’t be able to see or hear you either. All you can do is watch, like a movie. Got it?”
Gestalt nodded he did. Like Memorex he thought. “How do we get out again?”
“Once the dream ends, we will be exited out as it starts over again. Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt.”
“So their dreams are on repeat?” Gestalt asked.
“If it is anything like past experiences then yes. Their dream will repeat over and over, revving up their mental state as their body declines. It is the actions in those dreams which will tell us how to awaken them.”
Ng placed a similar helmet on his head and asked “Ready?
Gestalt gave him a weak thumbs up, closed his eyes and waited for whatever to happen to happen.
Ng flipped the switch and the world disappeared.
He was nothing and everything all of a sudden, an incorporeal body overlooking an unreal world. He was seeing a dark road, lit by lampposts and a full moon and little else. There appeared to be no life anywhere
It was an empty road with nothing but snow as far as the eye could see which was not very far considering the conditions. But then he saw the headlights coming and was suddenly in the car and around it and under it, everywhere at once, noticing even the smallest detail. Even he had to admit this was really cool. There was a huge snowstorm battering the car around but he couldn’t feel the cold at all, nor smell the interior of the car, just listening and watching. It was very surreal.
As he got used to his ghostlike body, he settled down to watch what would happen next, an invisible watcher in another man’s dream.
CHAPTER ONE:THE DETOUR
Joe struggled to see through the blinding snow, wipers pumping frantically with little help, now miles from the interstate, and no idea where exactly he was. He and his wife were fine on the highway, heading east, toward the Cape, when they got detoured off due to high snow. Now they were driving around aimlessly, looking for a place to stay and wait out the storm. They were supposed to meet their boss later that day, but the weather was going to postpone that. They hoped he would be reasonable about missing the meeting, blizzard and all, but while he was a good boss to work for, he was also not known for being patient or understanding.
“Any idea where we are?” Joe asked his eyes straining to see the road and any obstacles that may come their way. A semi had almost T boned them at one intersection and he still felt butterflies in his stomach from it.
“Nope” his wife, Jane answered. “Not a clue.”
“Stupid snow is making the road signs impossible to read.”
Jane and Joe had been married for ten years and their love never wavered once. They worked together, which could have been hell for some, but they loved every minute of it. They actually hated spending any time apart.
“There’s a sign ahead. Can you read it?”
Even thought it was three o’clock in the afternoon, the storm had darkened the skies considerably. As a result, when they crawled past the sign, as speed was not an option in these weather conditions, it was illegible except for a single number that said “1 mile.”
“I got nothing,” Joe said.
“There’s a town ahead, one mile it said.”
“Thank God. Could you read what town?”
“Swell,” Joe signed.
They continued on at a snail’s pace before finally emerging from the woods into a small town square. It was a typical New England town on the coast with colonial houses, quaint shops and not a lot of people.
At the moment, considering there was a blizzard going on, there was no one out and about. No cars driving about, no people out in the snow, just eerie silence. As they drove on, Jane looked out at the area and saw storefronts, some long abandoned, several churches and a playground with some very old looking equipment in it.
As they drove through the sleepy village, Jane noticed a statue in the town square. It was hard to see through the swirling snow but the veil passed for just a moment and she got a solid look at it. It showed a man, twelve feet tall, standing with his hand outstretched, as if grabbing for the stars, a book in his other. At his feet, appeared to be dozens of fish. It was very odd looking and as she struggled to get a better look, the darkness closed back in on it and it was lost again.
On they continued until they reached a glowing neon sign on the edge of town that read Traveler’s Motel. Best of all, the vacancy sign was on.
“Doesn’t look like much,” Joe said as they pulled in. “What do the reviews say?”
Jane was scrolling through her phone, quickly reading what past customer’s had to say on Yelp. “Not much. No mention of bed bugs, so that’s a plus. Stay is cheap. There is a pool,” she said sarcastically.
“Awesome. Let me get my swim trunks out.”
“Seems alright, I guess,” she sighed. Jane really wanted to be at the meeting, afraid of the consequences of missing it, but the weather was impassable at this point.
“It is four walls and a roof and that is all we really need,” Joe said as he got out of the car, heading to the office. Jane followed.
The inside was warm and inviting, far better than the biting wind and whipping snow outside. The interior looked as if it hadn’t been updated since the 70’s with lots of kitschy colors, wood paneling and linoleum. There was a small breakfast area, which would probably be coffee and bagels in the morning, racks of pamphlets of local attractions and a front desk, currently with no one behind it.
Joe went over to the bell and rung it. A moment later, a young girl, attractive and blond, came from the back, big smile on her face. “Sorry I didn’t hear you come in. Welcome to the Traveler’s Motel. Weather brought you here I would guess?” Her Boston accent came through strong.
“Yup,” Joe answered. “I assume you have rooms available.”
“Almost all of them right now. Winter on the Cape isn’t exactly a huge tourist pull. It’s 60 a night and I need a credit cahd as well.”
Joe handed her his card as she put it into the computer and his eyes wandered about the room. The room she came from was still partially open and he could see a painting hanging on the wall. It was dark and colorless except for splashes of red that appeared to be coming from a disemboweled person strung up as dark shadows watched nearby. He found it quite disturbing.
“Here’s your cahd back and your keycahd. I put you in room 237. It’s on the second floor near the back. If you need anything feel free to call. Oh, and here’s the password for the WiFi but be wahned that because of the storm, it may be kind of spotty.”
“When’s check out?” He asked.
“Noon usually but to be honest no one is coming tomorrow I am sure so as long as you’re out by three that’s fine.”
“We’ll be leaving early anyway, if the storm abates by then.”
“Enjoy your stay. My name is Debbie and call me if you need anything.”
“Will do,” Joe said as they headed back into the storm.
As soon as they left, her smile disappeared and she picked up the phone.
“We have visitors. Thought you might be interested. Room 237.”
Debbie hung up the phone and her smile returned, much more sly and deranged than before.
Joe and Jane entered the room with the small bag they had which contained a change of clothes for each, toiletries and some snacks. The room was drab and average, but true to the reviews, it was also clean and bed bug free, something they checked for themselves just to be safe.