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  • Writer's pictureAmr Abbas

Awake/Asleep: Part 3 Act III

Read Part 3 Act II here.

Skip to Part 1 here.

The Rabbit


“It aint real, mate!”

When the voice came, I stumbled over the twigs and I fell. As I fell, things proved to be different from what they seemed. In an instant, I was getting shot; one, two, three, the lead fired from the barrel of the revolver and I felt the pain that struck me, but it was not the same pain that I had anticipated. There was something vastly different about what was happening there.

“No, no, don’t give up jus’ yet! Ye’ll get there.”

The voice was maddening. I hadn’t a clue whence it came, but it came with the fall, the shooting, the groaning and the exasperating pain that fled through my body, and the terrifying anxiety I had felt as I fell. Although uncanny, things seemed to unfold; the layers were unravelling and the madness consumed me for a moment. No longer were the bullets flying in my direction, well, of course, they were, but I was not there; at least not in essence. You see, it was similar to the telling of an out-of-the-body experience. I was somehow overviewing the shooting of myself, and even though I looked different than what I recall how I looked like, I was on the receiving end of the shooting that did not end my miserable and crazed life. At the same time, I was falling into a vast abyss that was dark, and I was watching my body as it fell in the same fashion that I watched the shooting.

“Nothin’ is real!”

Reality warped around unimaginably. I fell down somewhere, I remember that much, but that’s as much as I could actually distinguish. There were many things that seemed unreal. I was a detective, I guess, looking into a strange missing person’s case, but that seemed quite unreasonable and unrealistic. There was nothing sensible about what was happening here.

There I was, all of a sudden, standing by some sort of a generator. It made no sense. There was a man, somewhere in his mid-forties perhaps. He looked worn, torn and beaten, yet he had a glowing smile. He glanced at me and for a moment, it was clear to me that I was not awake, it started making sense. “Do ye remember?”

Scratch that. It still made no sense.

“Where am I?” I asked hurriedly.

“I dunno! What’s the last thing ye remember?” he asked again, his hands were working on wires at an unnatural speed. How he moved was almost uncanny, but then, his voice came from behind me. He was holding some sort of a screen, but it could not have been anything modern. It was too thick to be modern, the glass looked deformed, and the buttons on each side were thick and red like the ones you’d see in a poor 80s science fiction movie. “Whatever ye remember!” he answered, adjusting the pencil, or what looked like a pencil behind his ear.

“How…” I wanted to ask how he teleported behind me, but then it became more or less clear what was happening.

A hand reached to my shoulder and a strong grip held it as the man looked at me above the round spectacles, “Quick!” he said. Behind him, he was, or his look-alike was still fiddling with the wires, behind me, he was there with the screen-machine that was flickering with green and pink lights.

‘What the hell is going on?’ I wanted to ask, but instead, the words that came out were different. “I was working this case… Someone…something was hunting me. It was chasing me. I don’t know how I ended up here, but…where am I?”

“Ye’re down the rabbit’s hole,” a third version of him muttered, chuckled, but I couldn’t even tell which one. It was like, there were hundreds of the same person. And there, I dropped, everything blacked out and for a few good moments there was nothing.

I heard the voices speaking, but I couldn’t figure out what they were talking about.

It was just a bad day.

“So, the one I get after all this time is a fainter?”

“What’dya expect?”

“Leave the boy alone, he’s gone through so much already!”

“He’s gonna die…we’re all gonna die.”

“Shh! Let him rest.”

And then, when my eyes opened again, I saw the man on a wooden chair. There were others, but as soon as my vision focused, they scattered and I could see only three. Two walked out of the room and the last one, the one with the crazed smile, handed me a glass of a nearly transparent liquid. “Drink. Drink. Good for the head,” he said, pointing at his temple and smiling, nodding, smiling and nodding rapidly.

I took the glass. I realised just how thirsty I was at that moment, and I took a sip. At first, it was water, just plain, soft, just what I needed. But then it turned quite odd, to say the least. It tasted like discomfort if discomfort ever had a taste. It gurgled in my mouth, tickled my tongue unpleasantly, and I tried to spit it out, but it clung to the roof of my mouth. I had to swallow it. Then I looked at the man in disgust. “What is that?”

“Ah, fermented mushrooms, mushrooms, great for the head when you’re seeing too clearly,” he said, repeating and smiling, pointing at his head again. His features were clear to me. He had a balding head, skin that was tanned, or just too dirty, and his eyes had crow’s feet at the corners. His smile, despite how maddening it was, was genuine, and his voice was nasal and harsh, but it bore no ill intentions.

“Fermented what?” I asked, shocked, but then as I stood, I saw the floor dancing and the ceiling swaying, the walls were crackling and almost chuckling. I was too dizzy to focus, but I asked again, “Where am I?”

“I don’t know! I know it’s the only place where we can hide from him. Her. Him. It. Whatever it is!”

“What is it?”

The man smiled. He stood up, and suddenly, the crazed look on his face vanished, and instead, it looked like he was serious for the first time in his life. “I don’t know…” he said, paused and when he looked at me, I saw pain in his eyes, “It is ancient, a manifestation of thought, a personification of terror. I have my theories, but let’s hear your story first.”

“My name is…” I paused for a long time. Then, when I looked up at the man again, I realised that my name almost faded from my memory. “My name is Toumas,” I said, quickly, trying to engrave the name in my memory. I held my temple with my hand, and the pounding was unnatural. “My name is Toumas Fredriksson,” I said, then looked at the man. I let go of my head and extended my hand to shake his.

He shook my hand eagerly and bowed down, “It is such a pleasure to meet you, Toumas. I haven’t seen another person in years, perhaps longer than that.”

“What about all the others?”

“Others?” he asked.

I should have known.

“The ones that were here with you? Brothers?”

“Ah no no, those are mes. Other…mes. They and I are one and the same.”

“What?”

“Yes, yes, you see, in sleep, it took me a while to figure it out, but I think they are figments of my personality or the personality that I once had,” he said, started pacing around, clicking his tongue in his mouth. “See, in here, things are different.”

“What do you mean ‘I once had’?” I asked, narrowing my eyes. In the corner of my eye, there was… a rabbit of all things. He was just pacing around, but every time I looked at that corner where I thought I’d seen the rabbit, he would be gone.

“Ah, you haven’t figured it out yet, yes, yes, you haven’t been here for long, yes,” the man murmured, clicking his tongue and shaking his head. Then another version of him came with a roll of parchment. He knelt down on the small bed next to me and he unrolled the parchment. It was some sort of a map.

“We’re somewhere here.” He pointed at the circle with the branches coming out of it, but it was just a circle with branches, there wasn’t anything else on the map. I didn’t even know how I figured out that it was a map. There was no sign to even indicate north.

“When we are here, we’re safe from him, but whenever we step outside, he can find us, he can find everything, everywhere, but here.”

“One second,” I uttered, raising my arm, but then I shook my arm to shoo away the rabbit that wasn’t even there. “What are you saying? Who are you? Why are you here?”

“Ah, questions! Questions!” the man exclaimed, then he went back to the chair and sat in front of me, his eyes almost looking into mine, except it seemed like they couldn’t focus on anything. “I am saying that we are in a dream, somehow. Who I am is up for grabs. You see, I lost that.”

“You lost that?” I exclaimed.

I should have known. It was a damned bad day.

“Yes, yes, let me explain,” he exhaled as he spoke, pausing for a moment, a long moment that I thought he just faded from existence all of a sudden, but then he looked at me, “Did that explain anything?”

“You didn’t say…anything,” I responded, narrowing my eyes. All the time now, the rabbit was just in my peripheral vision, it had reddened eyes, wore a suit and was something straight out of a children’s book.

“I didn’t?” he asked, then he looked at the other version of him. “Oh, I must have told it elsewhere,” he didn’t elaborate but, then he exclaimed, “The basic functions of the memory, you see, I believe that when I got here, I was a whole person, or the subconscious of a whole person, or the whole subconscious of a person, or the whole subconscious of a whole person. But somewhere along the line, I lost my identity somewhere. I don’t know what my name is, but I remember a lot of things, not particularly from my life, but from books, novels, films, songs, you see, I am not whole.”

“Are you saying that I’m the subconscious of Toumas?” I murmured the question worriedly.

“Yes, yes,” the other version kneeling by the bed spoke, as the one sitting in front of me stood, and walked around. He walked towards the rabbit and shooed it away.

“Am I…dreaming?” I asked, looking at the first version that was by the rabbit.

“Yes, no,” the man said. “I haven’t figured that one out yet,” he said and then turned to the other side of the room where the rabbit ran off, too. “I think that you as a subconscious are awake, but Toumas, the physical person, is asleep somewhere. It’s anybody’s guess whether he would be able to wake up without the subconscious or not. You see, I’ve been trying to figure out whether it’s the full subconscious or just a print.”

“Just a print?” I asked, nodding at the rabbit.

“You know what a print is, right? You are from my time?” he answered my question with another of his own, twitching his head.

“I was born in 1982…” I answered, looking at him. “You mean a copy, right?”

“1982!” he exclaimed, exasperated, and held his face. “1982! And how old are you? You can’t be less than 12.”

“12? I’m 36!” I answered, almost insulted, although the rabbit was jumping around and shattering my train of thought.

“That means…oh my! Is it 2018? I remember the 1970s, but…wow!” he said, unfocused again.

“Yes!” I stated.

“I’ve been here for…more than 40 years!” he screamed and at that moment another version of him walked into the room. He was the one in glasses, the one that entered, and he embraced the other version.

I stood up and walked towards the man, or men, whatever they were, and I patted his shoulder. “I am sorry,” I said, understanding for a fleeting moment that he must have suffered and struggled for far too long.

But when the Rabbit actually took a watch out of its waistcoat-pocket, and looked at it, and then hurried on, I found the world spinning yet again.

I should have known…” The voice came from somewhere above; a face, a familiar face, with bright eyes looked at me, at us, from above.


To be continued…


Awake/Asleep was written by Amr Abbas.

Cover picture by Amr Abbas.

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