Author: Bryan Pastor

Jack jerked awake, his yelp a cross between night terrors and that recurring dream where you are anticipating that best part coming but, well you know the dream.
“What?” his wife asked ripped from her own slumber. “Was it that dream again? Was she in?” she asked a bit testily.
“No.” Jack replied, “It’s this damn mini-brain.” He scratched at the thumb-sized node implanted flush with the skin behind his left ear. “I think it shocked me again.”
Sarah rolled over. In the dark, she could clearly see the faint dots glowing on the ends of the pins by his ear. Their doctor suggested that he get it to help with sleep and his anxiety.
“What’s the third one?” she asked, reaching out toward its ear.
“Nothing.” He responded.
“Wait, you didn’t actually buy something from the dread-headed little street urchin?”
She poked his shoulder when he did not reply.
“Did you?” she asked again, in that tone.
“Yes.” He replied.
“Jesus, and you wonder why that thing shocks you. You should take it out.” She suggested.
“In the morning. I want to learn some skills”
Sarah rolled over and dozed back off. Jack’s own return to sleep took a bit longer. He had not gotten the knack of initiating the countdown sequence and found it difficult to get the sheep to appear. When he finally slid back under she was still there. The Swedish exchange student, her blonde curls and sleek wirerimmed glasses the epitome of late ninety’s style.
She caught his eye from across the room. Two big jocks were talking to her, but she was ignoring their advances. She winked at Jack and turned, exiting into the kitchen. Jack followed, shoving his way between the meatheads. Darting through the doorway he found himself in a city, none he had ever been to and at the same time a mix of every metropolis he was aware of; the noise, smell, gaudy neon assaulting his senses. It took a minute to find her, lost amongst the urban chaos. She entered a building, the lettering on the marque at a weird angle he could not read. He raced after her.
It was an arcade. He slowed just a step to take in the nostalgia. He was sure none of these games existed anymore. When he finally found her, she was standing in front of a cabinet emblazoned with StarCrash 3000. 2UP blinked. She turned to him, flashing her gorgeous smile. They launched into a frenetic maze, protecting each other from waves of minions bent on their destruction. When at last they killed the end boss they found the guns were in their hands, barrels glowing red from the final onslaught. They were on the shores of a distant land, the lap of waves and sway of palm trees suggesting somewhere exotic.
“We did it.” She exclaimed throwing her arms around his neck, “And a kiss for my hero.” Jack leaned in. Her lips were electric, then too electric, jolting him. He sensed there was more to her, something he could not see behind her eyes, something bigger than her. His world began to dissolve as the kiss lingered on, his self, his existence siphoning off, replaced by whatever was inside her. His last conscious thoughts were of his wife at the altar, she had been so lovely that day. Then it all faded to a single grayscale pixel.
When she woke, Sarah found her husband gone. Lost to a rapidly changing world that she was finding difficult to recognize.