If there is one thing I am sure of in this moment, it is this: there is a door somewhere nearby, and soon, Sunni will ask me to open it.
Tonight we are not in Rogers Hall at Sparkstone University. That is usually where the dreams take place. Tonight, Sunni and I stroll through a labyrinth of bookshelves in an impossibly large room. Above us is a glass ceiling that glows supernaturally green, as if we are in the City of Oz.
Sunni walks behind me, and I steal a glance at her. In the back of my mind, a small voice whispers that she is not really Sunni. Sunni is dead, and her body has been dissected to further the Collective’s technological research, to advance its evil agenda, whatever it may be. Yet tonight, she is a phoenix stepping from fiery ashes, reborn. The light filtering in from the ceiling, although green, bathes Sunni’s blonde curls in orange and red hues and creates colourful shadows on her white T-shirt and pants.
She thumbs the rows of books on the wooden shelves as we pass. “So many worlds.”
Her Texan twang echoes through the large library, and pink and green ribbons flow from her lips and intertwine like a double helix. They are physical manifestations of my synesthesia, because that is possible here.
We’re still at Sparkstone, aren’t we. I don’t have to open my mouth to talk here. Telepathy is much easier, much faster. I understand why our friend Wil prefers it. I wish I had that power in real life.
“Yes, still at Sparkstone. Deep underground, though,” Sunni tells me. I don’t know why Sunni doesn’t speak with her mind. She probably could if she wanted to, but I prefer her acting as she was when she was alive.
She lets her hand fall lazily to her side. As it falls, I notice for the first time that the shelves have words carved into them. Squinting, I focus my razor-sharp vision until the words become clear: Saturday, September 13. Saturday, September 13. It repeats everywhere.
“That’s the day this place gets torn down,” Sunni says. “They don’t need it no more.”
They meaning the Collective, the alien organization that runs Sparkstone University and god knows what else on Earth.
Why don’t they need it?
“Oh, they’re getting ready for phase four or five, I reckon.”
And what does that mean?
Instead of answering, Sunni wraps her hand around my wrist and pulls us to a standstill. The aisle of shelving we’re walking down seems to stretch like an elastic band. I’m in the middle of the Vertigo effect you see in movies—things look as if they’re moving away, even though they’re not. Wings flutter somewhere in the distance. No, not wings. It’s the sound of a thousand pages flipping all at once.
“Duck,” Sunni whispers.
I do, but she doesn’t let go. Dozens of bookshelves are ripped from the floor, but I do not feel the breeze as they fly over our heads and crash somewhere behind us. A tornado of books rises before us and dissipates just as quickly to make room for a new resident: a giant pale-blue eye.
As the eye flickers in an invisible socket, scanning what’s left of the library at supernatural speed, it creates gusts of wind that almost knock me off my feet. Sunni remains steadfast, unmoving in the face of this faceless eye, returning its unblinking stare without fear.
What is that? I ask her.
“Campbell,” she replies simply.
The word lights up my brain. Joseph G. Campbell is whom I’m searching for, whom Sunni was searching for, before the Collective killed her. He has something to do with its agenda—whether he works for the Collective or against it, I’m not sure. His powers seem to be far-reaching, and he himself seems always just out of reach.
As I stare into the abnormally large eye of the one who could help or harm me, Sunni places a firm hand on my lower back and pushes me closer. “Go through.”
I frown, and in this place, my face is heavy—possibly because I am actually frowning in the real world. What? Why? How?
“Go through, Ingrid.”
It’s an eye. How do I go—?
The question is answered when streams of white light slice through the large black pupil—a vertical cut, then two horizontal cuts at ninety-degree angles—creating a door.
Sunni’s voice grows louder, more ethereal. “Open the door, Ingrid.”
I turn to face her, but Sunni is gone. She has morphed into our greatest enemy: Jadore. The humanoid reptilian seductress stands before me, staring at me with reflective black eyes, her dark dress rippling around her legs. Her teeth are sharp points, and blood drips from her mouth, as if she’s just fed on someone. Sunni, probably, as Jadore was the one who ended Sunni’s life in the real world.
The small voice in the back of my mind whispers that this isn’t real, that Jadore would never show her true face anywhere at Sparkstone in the light of day. But the voice also whispers that I am safe in my bed on the third floor of Rita House, and while this is true, I know that I will never be safe again.
The wind whistles and blows stronger as Jadore tackles me to the floor. She rakes her sharp nails across the top of my head and tries to dig through my hair, through my skull. She wants my brain. I resist but she’s so strong. I’m not like my new friends—I can’t control the power I have, not yet. It’s too soon.
Powerful searing light blasts over us. The door in the pupil. It’s opening wider. But I can’t get near it, not with Jadore on top of me. She has cracked my skull and is reaching inside my head. Obscuring my view.
Now I’m watching from outside myself. I’m someone else, but I’m still tethered to my body with an invisible rope. Jadore feeds on me enthusiastically. My gaze strays to Campbell’s eye. In the threshold of the pupil door, there is a silhouette of a man. Although the form is familiar, it is presented as an empty space that my brain can’t yet fill.
Joseph G. Campbell: a shadow in the realm of the forever sun.
. . . wind through the thicket . . .
. . . breathe in the darkness . . .
. . . become its master. . .
. . . Ingrid, open the door.
My legs are so twisted in the blankets and I’m in such need to get out of bed that I fall to the floor in a confused, sweaty heap. I can’t remember where I am. Or what’s real.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Carpet. It smells new. That’s because it is new. This room is old, but everything in it, including me, is new. And I finally remember: I’m at Sparkstone University. In my new dorm room in Rita House. Sunni’s old room. Stripped of everything that was Sunni by the aliens in disguise, it was remade and redecorated for me, as it was the first room to become available in the girls’ residences.
I lie on the floor until my breathing becomes more normal. This is the third time this week I’ve had a dream like that, where I’m with Sunni again, and there’s a door before me, and Jadore shows up and kills me. It sounds silly when I explain it to myself when I’m awake, and the feeling of immediate danger has faded. But I know better than to ignore the dream. It’s a warning.
My cell phone sits on my nightstand, beside my alarm clock. I retrieve the phone with a sleepy grip and confirm the date. September eighth. Monday morning. The dream was specific in a way it hasn’t been before, giving me a date. Saturday, September thirteenth. I wonder what it means.
Untangling my limbs, I sit up and lean against the bed. My matted long red hair hangs free around my shoulders. The whispers at the end of the dream were so real. Audio hallucinations are sometimes common after intense dreams—I’d read that somewhere somewhat credible. I know the voice. I’d only known Sunniva Harris for a day, but her face and her sound are ingrained in my memory.
Somehow, she’s speaking to me in my dreams. She’s trying to send me a message.
I hug my pillow to my chest and stare at the framed photo on my nightstand. It’s of me, Mum, and Dad, taken last summer on a vacation in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Some nice tourist took it for us. We’re in front of a tree at the Alexander Graham Bell Museum, and behind us, a sailboat leaves a rippling trail. My mom is squinting because the sun is in her eyes, but my dad is grinning, and I’ve got my arms around them both. Craig and Margaret Stanley. I wish I were with them now.
I press the cool glass of the frame against my sweaty forehead. I don’t want to be here. I didn’t ask to be in this place, with these extraterrestrial problems. I want Sunni to be alive again. I want to see my parents, and have them tell me that it’s okay.
But more than anything else, I want to go home.