Author : Holly Jennings

“January 18th, 2311. Patient is Makayla Jenson. Session one.” Dr. Rhan sets the recorder down on the table between us and clears her throat. “John tells me you’re having trouble with your dreams?”

I glance down at John’s ring on my finger. I try to wear it as much as I can when I’m not working.

I like when I’m working.

“Yes.” I nod. “They’ve taken over my sleep.”

“I’d say so. The whole crew has heard you screaming to wake.”

She squints over her glasses at me. The blue-speckled frames cut through the center of her eyes as if she’s half blind to the world. Everything else about her is so plain that she blends into the ship’s stark grey walls behind her. I let my vision blur. She disappears. Only the frames remain behind like the grin of a Cheshire cat.

Screaming to wake, I repeat to myself and chuckle inwardly. Screaming to go back.

“What do you dream about?” she asks.

Sunlight. Warmth on my face. Dry air percolating in my lungs. I never thought a desert could be so refreshing, especially when I rouse to John’s touch, icy as the galaxy around us.

I could have chosen a bigger ship. No, had to take John’s vessel so we’d be together all the time.

All the time. No escape. No way out.

After some piddle-paddle about the latest research on nightmares and how common it is for space dwellers to dream of being elsewhere, the doctor says our time is done and I’m to come back tomorrow. When I turn to leave, she deposits a little white pill in my hand.

“Put it under your tongue before bed,” she says.

More like down the sink.

I nod to satisfy her and leave the room.

I return to my quarters. The far wall is a sheet of clear aluminum silicate, like a floor-to-ceiling window. It catches glimpses of my reflection as I move about the room though none of my dark features show: my raven hair, brown eyes or tanned skin. Just a shadow of myself.

I walk up to the window, press my forehead against it, and look out the cold, empty vastness that doesn’t seem nearly as deep as the one inside. Against the backdrop of a foreign world and its lifeless moons, I can still see the faintest image of a girl I once knew trapped in the tiny space between the ship and the universe.

There’s no smile on her face.

I wave at my reflection with the tips of my fingers. The phantom image waves back from within her prison.

Something tiny nudges my palm and I looked down at my other hand. My fingers uncurl and I study the sedative resting in the cavity of my palm. I put the pill where it belongs. It spirals around the sink until it disappears into darkness of the drain. Then I crawl into bed to escape into my dreams, the one place where I’m free.

The one place where John can’t find me.

I look back at the window. The ghost girl appears again and the heaviness in her face tells me she’s tired too. I watch her drift to sleep. Though still trapped within the glass, I notice something’s different just before she closes her eyes.

She’s smiling.

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