Air Express

by Terry © 1997

Part 4: In Your Wilderness Dreams

Psychology/Anthropology/Sociology Building
The next week.

Terry wakes up slowly in the darkened room. He rolls over and sits up, feeling the pull of the wires attached to sensors on his skin.

"Another failure," he says to no one in particular.

"I'm afraid so, Terry. Two nights of monitoring and no hunting dreams." a voice says from speakers near the ceiling. Terry peels off the sensors and walks to the door.

"Well, it's been 3 nights since my last dream, and I have never gone more than 4 nights without a dream, so we should have success tonight." Terry says, as he opens the door and meets the bat woman in the hall. "So, did you get anything interesting from my dreams last night, for your experiments?"

"Not too much; just pretty normal, mundane stuff. I didn't go too deep, since it wasn't what we are looking for. But, if you don't mind me asking, who is Ravage? She seemed to have been pretty clear in your dreams last night." Doctor Bissonette asks as they start walking through the maze of halls that made up the Psychology building.

"She's just a character of a story I write in my spare time. I was trying to work past some writer's block yesterday, without much success, so I guess she was pretty clear in my mind when I went to bed last night." Terry says cautiously, wondering how much the Doctor knew of Ravage from his dreams. As usual, he had no clear memory of what his dreams were, but by the Doctor's comments, he must've been dreaming of that story.

"Oh, OK. Anyways, I guess I'll see you tonight, and please try to be on time. I think you're the first patient I've had who manages to turn up late for a 1 AM bedtime!"

"I'll try doc. Bye." Terry says, jumping off of the steps and disappearing as he teleports back to the residences. The Doctor turns, yawns and returns to the sleep labs. She shifts to norm and hangs upside down from a perch in the corners and drifts off to sleep.

Terry runs through the empty halls of the psychology building, slamming through fire doors. He skids to a stop just outside the sleep labs and steps slowly inside, just as his watch beeps 1 AM.

"Well, well, you made it on time." Doctor Bissonette says, looking up from her computer.

"Sorry, I was tied up in the Mac Labs, otherwise I'd've been here sooner." Terry says, gasping slightly. He looks over Bissonette's shoulder and sees someone else in the room. "What are you doing here?"

"Who, me? I was in the area for a conference today and tomorrow morning, and thought I'd drop in and see how the studies were doing. Pauline says that tonight will probably be the big night, and asked me to stick around." Doctor Brandon says.

"Oh well, the more the merrier." Terry says, tossing his book bag on a chair and entering the sleeping room. He prepares for bed, including attaching the electrodes to his body.

"What time should we set the alarm at?" Dr. Bissonette asks him through the speakers.

"Make it 9. I've got a class at 10" Terry says, climbing into the bed.

"Fine, good night Terry." the Doctor says, dimming the lights in the room. "Coffee's brewing in the next room, do you want to go get a cup?" she asks Doctor Brandon.

"What about him?" he asks, pointing to the dark room.

"I find my subjects seem to fall asleep faster if no one is watching. Don't worry, I'll know if anything happens." Pauline says, leading Chris out of the room. As they are walking, Pauline extends her mind and lightly touches Terry's to see how close to the dream stage he is. She is surprised to discover he is nearly there; the previous nights had taken much longer.

"Something tells me we won't have long to wait." She comments as Chris pours a cup of coffee.

"So, based on what we've told you, what do you expect this will be like?" Doctor Brandon asks as they sit in the chairs in the lounge.

"Well, from what he's described, it's a normal hunting dream. I've noticed that many people have had similar dreams since the Change." Pauline says, sipping her cup of coffee. She can feel her mental link grow stronger as Terry falls deeper asleep; she can detect a few fuzzy images forming in his sleeping mind. "Normally, I've seen them in people with weak instincts, the dreams serve as the release the instincts need that they can't get while a person is aw- What the hell?!?"

She stops as she suddenly feel the link cut off. Down the hall monitors start beeping frantically. The two doctors run out of the room and back into the lab. "He's Flatlined! The sensors aren't picking up a single thing! But how did it happen so fast?" she cries out, seeing the screens showing no data coming in.

"Simple, because he isn't there anymore!" Doctor Brandon says, pointing in the bed room. The lights had brightened automatically when the first alarms started, showing an empty bed covered in numerous electrodes, but no Terry.

I hope you're getting all this, Doc, Terry thinks to himself as he watches his instincts dream.

As usual, he is deep in the forest, this time a jungle. A few stray rays of sunlight filter through the leaves overhead, providing just enough light to see by. Terry finds himself gripping a tree branch overlooking a small stream. Below him, he can hear the low rumble of bullfrogs. Moving slowly along the branch, he is soon in a position to see one of them. Judging the wind carefully, he jumps off of the branch and drops down on the unsuspecting frog.

The frog barely has time to let out a startled croak before he is grabbed in Terry's forelegs. His wings spread open fully and he starts gliding over to the other side of the stream, his tail just missing the surface of the water and some of the larger rocks.

He lands on the other side of the stream and quickly dives underneath the undergrowth. Out of sight of any other animals, he starts digging in on the frog.

Fast hunt tonight, Terry thinks to himself, trying not to think of the frog he is eating. His instincts may force him to dream of these hunts and kills, but that didn't mean that Terry enjoyed them.

"OK, now what could have happened?" Doctor Bissonette asks, mainly to herself as she tries to figure out what had happened. "Terry is a teleporter; maybe he teleported out of here. Problem with that theory is that Terry is an airborne teleporter, he can't teleport if he's lying still, on a bed. But if he didn't teleport, then what happened? Could someone have kidnaped him? No, too farfetched, and no evidence of it."

"Well, why don't you check the cameras, see what they recorded?" Doctor Brandon asks, pointing to the camera in the corner of the room.

"The cameras? The cameras! Of course!" Pauline rushes out of the lab and runs to the main control room. Chris catches up to her as she is busy rewinding a tape.

"I'm not normally like this, Chris, but I've never had a patient disappear on me before, so this has me very confused and concerned. Actually, come to think of it, I did. It was a chameleon morph who turned invisible while he slept. That wouldn't have been too bad, except he was also a sleepwalker... Ah, here it is." She stops the tape and starts playing it at normal speed.

The camera, in night mode to pick up the objects in the dark room, clearly showed Terry asleep on his stomach, his wings slightly spread and numerous wires running off of his body and into a box on a table beside the bed. Then there is suddenly a quick flash, and a small lizard, with wings and tail nearly as large as its body is lying on the bed. Electrodes suddenly not touching a body fall limply onto the bed as the alarms trigger the lights. Just as the lights reach normal brightness, the lizard is suddenly gone. Pauline stops the tape there.

"That was a norm-shift flash. But Terry said he doesn't norm shift..." She says, stunned.

"Maybe he does, but he doesn't realize it. I do know that teleport was his normal way of porting, only he did it from the ground... Of Course! Do you realize what this means?" Chris looks at Pauline and sees a blank look looking back at him. "Terry's dreams weren't really dreams; they were really happening! That would explain the inconsistencies we discovered in his dreams. They weren't his instincts dreaming; they were his instincts taking over!"

"Well that's all fine and dandy, but in case you haven't noticed, we've still got a student missing. The dean is not going to like this..." Pauline moaned, collapsing in a chair.

"Don't worry, he'll be back by 9," Chris says, trying to comfort her.

"And how can you be so sure of that?"

"Because one thing we discovered with his 'dreams' was that he never slept in on nights he had them. In fact, he usually woke up earlier!"

"Let's hope you're right," Pauline says, unconvinced.

"I'm sure I am. Now lets go back to the lab and wait for him to come back. Oh, and could you get me a copy of that tape when you get a chance? I'd kill for a real life pic of the Coelurasauravus jaekeli."

"If he comes back. If he doesn't, I'm sure the police will be taking those tapes instead."

They return to the main sleep lab and sit down, staring at the empty bed in silence.

After finishing off the frog, Terry looks around his location. His view is blocked in all directions by the thick undergrowth near the stream. It was fine for a dining room, but now it is woefully inadequate. Wings held tightly against his body, he slowly crawls to the edge of the underbrush.

Sniffing the air carefully and looking in all directions, he discovers nothing dangerous is nearby. A suitable tree is only a few feet away. With another quick glance in all directions, he darts out of underbrush and scampers up the tree trunk.

He finds a small hole in the trunk and crawls inside. Curling his tail around himself, he falls asleep.

Doctor Bissonette rigs the alarms to signal her if there is any change inside the bedroom. Doctor Brandon is snoozing in a chair that is barely supporting his weight. Shifting to norm form, Pauline carefully slips a small, lightweight pager around her neck and flies out of the psychology building.

She flies around the street light on the Ring Road, just outside the psych building, gobbling up the insects that were attracted by it. She feels like she should be inside doing something, but she couldn't figure out what, if anything, could be done. So, to work off her nervous energy, she had decided to grab a quick snack outside.

The alarms go off in the laboratory, waking Doctor Brandon with a start. He sits up suddenly and sees the norm-shift flash as the small animal in the bed shifts back to morph form. Before he can react, the over-strained chair gives up the fight and collapses, sending the large dino-morph down on the floor with a crash that shakes most of the building.

The figure on the bed begins stirring as the bed shakes underneath him.

"What's going on?" Doctor Bissonette asks after shifting back to morph in mid-flap. The specially design clasp on the neck pager releases as her neck expands, dropping the pager down on the floor.

"Terry has returned, and your chair here broke," Chris says, slowly standing up.

"Well, that chair barely held pre-change humans! It's a wonder that it lasted as long as it did with you on it. We'd better go see Terry," Pauline says, already opening the door to the bed room.

"Terry... Terry, wake up." she says, shaking him slightly.

He groans and rolls over as far from her has he can. "What time is it?" he says, his voice muffled by a pillow.

"6 AM, but we've got something to tell you."

"I told you, not to wake me until 9," Terry says grumpily, still not moving to get up.

Pauline does nothing else. She had lightly touched Terry's mind and could tell he is awake and getting more awake by the second. After a few minutes wait, Terry turns his head and stares at the doctor.

"OK, okay, okay, you've got me up, now. What did you want to tell me?"

"It might be better if we showed it to you. Could you follow me please?"

"Fine whatever," Terry says, climbing out of the bed. "Hey! Why'd you take the electrodes off?"

"I didn't. You did, kind've. You'll see shortly."

Terry follows the doctors out of the room. "Why do I have the feeling this is gonna be one of those days..." he grumbles to himself. Terry and Doctor Bissonette enter the video room. Doctor Brandon stays in the doorway so the other two wouldn't be crowded.

"This is what we recorded last night. It happened just as you were entering the dream stage." Doctor Bissonette explains, starting the first video. Terry watches speechless as the person in the bed norm shifts to a small winged lizard and disappears. "And this is the video from just a few minutes ago," she continues, starting up a second video. This on showed the brightly lit bed room and an empty bed. The winged lizard reappears out of thin air, it's tail curled around it's body. With a flash, it shifts back to morph form. The camera and bed seem to wobble slightly, and the figure on the bed begins to stir before she stops the playback.

The room is silent as Terry slowly digests what he just saw on the screen. "No, that can't be me. I can't norm shift, and I sure as hell can't teleport from the ground like that. You must've gotten the wires crossed with the cameras in another lab or something."

"That's you Terry. The camera's don't lie. It's as plain as those wings on your back, you can norm-shift, and apparently teleport from the ground in norm form." Doctor Brandon says.

"But if that's me, then where did I go?"

"My guess would be where ever it is you think you are hunting. You were just entering the dream stage when you norm shifted and teleported out of here. Your conscious mind probably treats what is going on as a dream, leaving your instincts to do whatever they want to,"Pauline explains.

"Then if those weren't dreams, but they were really happening... Oh yuck!" Terry, looking a little greener than normal, runs out of the room, hand over mouth. Chris barely gets out of his way in time.

He returns a few minutes later, still a different shade of green than normal, but otherwise fine. "My dreams... they are real," he says quietly as he collapses in a chair. "You know, that really wasn't a nice thing to do to someone who just woke up," he tells them.

"Well, at least we all know what is going on with his 'dreams'. Now we need to decide what to do with this knowledge," Doctor Brandon says.

"That's easy enough. We need figure out a way to stop it! I do not want to normshift. In my dreams, it was fine, but not in real life." Terry says emphatically.

"But why? Didn't you tell me all of your family norm-shifts? As well as most of your friends?" Doctor Brandon asks.

"So? Just because everyone else jumps off of a cliff doesn't mean I'm going to."

"Terry, calm down a minute and start thinking. You've told us that it's your instincts that control your teleporting. Your instincts also seem to use these dream hunts as an escape, a release. If you cut off this escape valve, your instincts might start reacting. Maybe cutting off your teleporting at first,"

"I could live with that."

"Maybe worst, like completely taking over," Doctor Bissonette continues, ignoring Terry's interruption. "The psychology newsletters are filled with reports of people losing control to their instincts. Some regain it later, others never do. You've told us that your animal instincts seem very strong Terry, are you sure you'd be able to withstand them if they decided to stop being passive?"

"Fine, work out whatever experiments and tests you want to do and let me know. I might be willing to participate," Terry says grumpily.

"Well, I think the first thing we should do is figure out where he is teleporting to." Doctor Brandon says.

"We should also try and see if he can norm shift while he's conscious-- Terry? Where are you going?" Pauline asks, seeing Terry get up and walk out of the room.

"Back to my room. Since I'm up, I might as well go get cleaned up and go to the 8:30 class instead of the 10:00 one." {And hopefully avoid most my friends in the process,} he adds under his breath. Not listening to the doctors anymore, he grabs his book bag from the labs and leaves the building. Instead of flying or teleporting back to the Student Village, he walks the distance, trying to sort out his thoughts.

He prepares for his class automatically, and walks back to campus in a daze, barely making it to the class on time. He copies the notes down without really hearing what the professor is saying. Finally, at the end of the class, he slips out with the crowd leaving, barely avoiding his friends who are waiting to enter the classroom.

Leaving the Math and Computer Building, he is surprised to see the doctors waiting for him.

"Terry! Wait a sec! Could we please speak with you?" Doctor Brandon calls out. He stops and waits for them to catch up with him.

Doctor Bissonette stifles a yawn before speaking. "Terry, we can understand why you might be surprised by what we discovered, but your reaction has us, to be frank, completely baffled. What is your problem with norm shifting?"

Terry sighs and leads them over to the patio of the SLC. He sits on the edge of one of the planters and starts explaining. "Doctor Brandon, I've told you what happened to me on the day of the Change. Well, one of the things I didn't really explain to you is some of the feelings I had that day. You see, the thing that sticks out the most in my mind, is the complete transformation my boss, Mark, had. Not discovering I was a flying lizard, not discovering I could fly or teleport, not even seeing norm shifting in person. It was seeing that weasel that used to be my boss and especially seeing the complete lack of humanity in it. It was an animal Andy held in his hands, indistinguishable from any other in the woods in the area. All I could think about was did that happen to my family? And what was I going to do if it had?"

"Thankfully, I quickly discovered that my dad, at least, was fine. But then I saw norm shifting, and I found myself thinking 'what if this time he goes all the way? What if he can't make it back this time?' It is a feeling I still haven't shaken."

"You do realize that, of all the powers, norm shifting is one of the safest? Even if someone gets stuck in norm form, an inducer can usually pull them out." Doctor Bissonette says.

"Of course I realize that, up here at least." Terry points to his head. "But in here," he points to his chest, "Norm shifting still scares the shit out of me. Now you tell me that I've unintentionally been norm shifting since the first night? Well, how do you expect me to react?!?" Terry shifts slightly on the cool concrete and spreads his wings a little to get more of the warm July sun. "Look, I've got a lot I need to work out in my mind. If you two don't mind, I'd like to stop doing the interviews and experiments until I figure out what I'm thinking."

The two doctors exchange glances and nod their heads. "That's fine, Terry. I think we both understand what you mean. You've got our numbers; give us a call when you're willing to start again." Doctor Bissonette says. She takes Terry's hand and shakes it. "After all, sleep induced powers are a bit of a hobby of mine," she finishes, with a small laugh that turns into a yawn. "It's been a long time since I've stayed up this late into the day. I'd better get to bed before I fall asleep here," she says to no one in particular before shifting to norm and flying towards the psychology building.

Doctor Brandon looks at the departing bat before speaking. "Look, forget about experiments or test or whatever, if you want someone to talk to, give me a call," he says taking Terry's hand.

"I'll think of it, Chris," Terry says.

The dino-morph nods his head before releasing Terry's hand. He also starts walking towards the psych building. Terry watches him for a few moments before getting up and walking back to his room. He feels a little better now that he had actually told someone his concerns, but his norm fear still weighed heavy on him. He slowly walks back to his room, and drops onto his bed, mind and emotions both whirling out of control.

  To WoC Archives