Feverish Dream

Chapter 1

Daniel Tale stepped out of his apartment, needing to go on a walk to contemplate everything which had happened that day. It felt surreal to him. So much had changed in a day. A single day. It was hard to fathom. So hard to fathom, in fact, that he’d constantly had a confused and frustrated look on his face since the last, big change- a change which had occurred only a few minutes before.

 

Daniel trotted down the stairs and pushed through the door of his apartment building, knocking his left shoulder on the door as he opened it, only proving to himself that he was possibly too distracted to have an entirely safe journey.

 

After jumping down the four, concrete steps which led to the front door, Daniel pushed through the gate and turned to the right, heading for a park which he liked to jog around in the mornings. He found it calming as it was large and barren enough to allow for him to completely shield himself from the world while jogging on the path which led through a small forest. He’d very rarely see anyone there, something which made it seem like the perfect place to go to contemplate his unfortunate day of events.

 

Daniel tried to push the memories away alongside everything which came with them: fear, sadness, doubt, worry, anxiety, uncertainty and, most of all, confusion. He didn’t want to deal with anything, not even a single, depressing thought or reminder, until he’d be walking on the trail which he so desperately wanted to be travelling down.

 

After travelling for a minute or two and crossing a busy road, having had to wait for a few moments for the abundance of vehicles to dissipate and allow him to continue his journey, Daniel took a turn to the right, beginning to walk on the slightly-damp, dirt path which greeted everyone who walked into the park. The path was almost sticky as it had been drizzling rain not long before, something which seemed extremely appropriate when considering how Daniel was feeling.

 

The forest wasn’t very far away, maybe only a few hundred metres, but Daniel felt as if the journey would take hours just to get close to it. He couldn’t hold everything back for much longer. It was beginning to seep through his mental barriers as they fought to keep the restraints as strong as possible, slowly tiring with every second, occasionally letting the restraints slip away for a moment, allowing a painful jab of thought to attack Daniel’s mind until the barrier could regain its grip on the restraints and hold the memories, thoughts and feelings back. They needed to be a safe distance away from his mind. Just for a little longer. Then they could spew out and overwhelm him as much as they craved. Daniel accepted that he was going to be pained for a while, but he knew that he couldn’t let everything build up. He’d done it once before in high school, holding back copious amounts of stress, anxiety and worry, only fuelling an unhealthy fire which he didn’t realise was blazing until it was almost too late.

 

It was nearing. The opening to the maze of trees was getting close enough that Daniel could almost smell the calming stench of damp bark. Just for a little longer. Just for a tiny bit longer, then he’d let it out. There were only fifty or so metres between him and the first tree. Maybe it was time to let the restraints go…

 

Laura. The pain which she’d caused him. It was almost too much to feel it again, to feel the stabbing agony of knowing that, for months, maybe even an entire year, she hadn’t loved him. She’d admitted it. She’d blatantly admitted it alongside the confession that she’d been seeing other men for months. Men. Months. Multiple people, maybe for as long as half of a year. How had she decided not to let slip what was going on? How had she managed to trick him for so long, to feed him exactly what he wanted only to rip it away so suddenly that he was left dazed and stunned with no idea as to what to do next? She’d been his girlfriend since their first year of university. She’d been his girlfriend for six years. Six years, with the last one probably having been spent with a myriad of other men alongside him. How? How? It seemed ridiculous. It seemed like some sort of film plot, but Daniel knew that he wasn’t in a film. He knew that he wasn’t in some type of story. He was suffering. Actually suffering. How much had he done for her over the years? Over the first three, probably about as much as anyone would expect from a partner. But for the last three? Daniel knew that he’d gone above and beyond all expectations. He’d slacked off of his Biochemistry work in university just because she’d wanted to spend more time with him. Doing so had resulted in him failing the subject, it resulted in him being stuck, a giant roadblock in the way of the road which led to his dream career. His dream career. He’d thrown the chance away just for her. And how did she repay him? By sleeping with a flurry of other men a year later.

 

What hurt Daniel the most about it was that she’d been happy that morning. He’d left for work- he’d left for that stupid job which he didn’t even like- and she’d kissed him, she’d wished him to have a good day- which was ironic given that she’d probably been planning to ruin his year at that point- and she’d told him that she had a surprise for him when he’d get home. When Daniel had heard that, he’d thought that they’d have a homemade dinner date, that they’d have a movie night, that she’d invited some of his friends around so they could all have fun together, hang out as they only had a proper chance to every few months. What had the surprise been? “Um, Daniel. Just so you know, I stopped loving you a long time ago, I’ve been cheating on you for a few months, and I’m moving out. Bye! Have fun being alone and upset!” Of course, that hadn’t been how Laura had broken the news to him. She’d done so probably as gently as she possibly could have, but Daniel didn’t remember it as gentle. He remembered it as if she’d held a giant butcher’s knife and had brandished it proudly, had pointed it at him and had broken the news in the harshest way possible while making him fear for his life. It genuinely felt as if she’d ended his life. Well, that alongside the other two things which had happened.

 

Daniel stopped walking, his arms stretched out, leaning against the tree. He hadn’t realised it, but he’d already travelled a third of the way down the route. He’d been thinking for a while, trying to accept what had happened. He’d been struggling. A lot. He felt as if he was going to throw up. He was almost retching while pushing against the tree as if doing so would keep the gagging at bay. He felt ill. Tremendously ill. He almost felt as if he’d eaten a bad meal but, of course, the only thing which he’d eaten which had been bad had been a forkful of uncertainty and sorrow.

 

After taking a moment to compose himself, Daniel stood up straight, let out a long sigh, then turned to keep walking. He was in his favourite part of the walk. There was a river flowing nearby, just through the trees on the left and, because the area was usually so vacant, Daniel could hear the water flowing, a constant trickle as the river flowed towards somewhere where he hadn’t explored yet. It amplified the tranquillity of the area, allowing for him to calm down a little. Laura had left him. She hadn’t loved him for a while. She’d cheated on him. Daniel knew that he just had to accept it. He wanted her back, of course. He still loved her even though what she’d confessed had been heart-wrenching for him. He still loved her, nonetheless, but knew that there wasn’t any point in chasing after her. He knew that running after her, trying to find her and making her give him another chance to make up for the one which he hadn’t realised had been his last was pointless. He’d just end up hurting himself more in the future if she decided to take him back. It would be healthier for him to just let go.

 

Daniel stopped walking again, halting his tracks, his eyes closed. He tried to imagine the good things which would come to his life without Laura being in it. He’d spend less money every month as he’d only be feeding himself and he wouldn’t have to pay for fancy nights out in restaurants which were almost too expensive for him to afford in the first place. He wouldn’t have to worry about balancing a work life and a normal life. He could tip his focus more towards his work for a while and get much more stable. Well, that was required anyway. Given that he’d also been fired from his job, he didn’t have a choice but to focus as hard as possible on finding another stable occupation.

 

That was another which had happened that day. After Daniel had watched Laura leave the apartment with two suitcases and a promise to collect the rest of her things the next day, Daniel had sat on the side of his bed, staring at the floor, trying to process everything. He’d had the urge to just go on the walk then, but he couldn’t find the strength which he needed to do so. He simply sat on the side of the bed, trying not to think about how that bed was now solely his and not shared with Laura anymore. He tried so desperately for so long to distract himself or convince himself that he was okay and that everything would work out in the end.

 

While Daniel had been trying to get over the fact that Laura had just left him, trying to force himself to hate her given what she’d done, thinking that it would make it easier to get over the girl which he still, for some reason, craved, his phone had begun ringing. After picking it up, Daniel had been barraged by his boss, being shouted at as his boss had found a clump of marijuana in Daniel’s desk. Even though Daniel had insisted that it wasn’t his, even though he’d explained that the only time he’d ever smoked weed had been once in university and that he only smoked cigarettes, his boss didn’t want to hear anything about it.

 

Given that Daniel’s heart had been broken only a few dozen minutes before, Daniel found it increasingly difficult to dispute his boss’ claims. He processed that, according to his boss, his co-workers had all been proved to have been clear of being connected to the drug, confusing him even more, but Daniel just couldn’t bring himself to keep up his defence. He was fired over the phone, told to pick his stuff up from the office the next day otherwise it would all be binned, but Daniel didn’t couldn’t even think about going to that office building again. One of his co-workers had clearly hidden the drug in his desk, then had managed to get Daniel fired as a result. He didn’t want to go back to the building and have to see everyone look at him, probably believing that he was the owner of the drug, and he definitely didn’t want to go back and have to wonder about who really owned the drug.

 

Daniel stopped walking, frustrated. He closed his eyes and tried to calm himself down with a few deep breaths. If he could find out which one of the people whom he used to be acquainted with had blamed him… No. Daniel didn’t want to punch them. Well, actually, he did, but he didn’t want to have to deal with any charges for assault alongside everything else. He’d already had a tough-enough day. Being dumped, being fired, being told that his family cat of eighteen years had been run over...

 

Normally, Daniel wouldn’t have cried at the news. He would have been upset, but he wouldn’t have cried. The cat was old, anyway. It was due to die of old age within a few months, probably, but he hadn’t had the time to properly accept that it was going to happen. Normally, Daniel would have realised that the end of the pet’s life was approaching, and he would have spent time going over it, allowing for him to be much less affected when the time would arrive. But, given that the cat had been hit by a car and killed so suddenly when, obviously, no-one had expected the event to happen, Daniel had felt stunned to hear the news when his mother had phoned to tell him that evening. It had been strange. It had been the last straw which had made him decide to leave his apartment and go for a walk.

 

Daniel continued to walk in silence until he looked up and realised that he was about to walk right out of the park. He’d zoned out in a weird way, his legs still taking him in the right direction even though his brain hadn’t been focused on the journey. The journey was already over and he had to return home.

 

Daniel walked out of the park and began heading back in the direction of his apartment. At least it wasn’t far. It wouldn’t take him very long to get home. Then, once he’d get there, he’d probably just go straight to bed. He hadn’t eaten since lunch, but he wasn’t hungry. Having so much happen to him in such a small space of time had taken a toll on his appetite. He probably wouldn’t feel hungry until breakfast the next day, or maybe even later.

 

Daniel passed underneath a streetlamp as he pondered what he was going to do the next day. He’d been dumped and he’d been fired. It wasn’t as if he could stay at home with Laura and get advice from her. It wasn’t as if he could just go into work and distract himself by working twice as hard as usual. All distractions had been taken from him. He hadn’t even told his mother yet despite the fact that she’d phoned him, having been overwhelmed by the piling-up of terrible events and having been scared that she’d end up babying him through the ordeal. If anything, too, he also just wanted to be alone. He’d needed some fresh air, and he’d managed to get some by taking a walk through the park. Now, he just needed sleep. Maybe that was what he’d do the next day: sleep.

 

A few shouts came from close by. Daniel expected that they were people on their way for a night out with some friends but, upon glancing down the street where the shouts had originated from, Daniel realised that it was a fight, practically in the middle of the road.

 

For a moment, Daniel debated what to do. Could he call the police? No, it probably wasn’t serious enough to render the police necessary. Would it be a good idea to intervene? Well, there was always the chance that one of them was armed with a weapon of some sort. Daniel didn’t want to end his misery-filled day with a trip to the hospital because he’d been stabbed in the stomach by a probably drunk idiot.

 

Daniel shook his head lightly and began crossing the road. They were a fair-few paces away from him. He wouldn’t be roped into the ordeal. There wasn’t any reason why he would-

 

Thud. Crash!

 

Daniel spun around after having just reached the other side of the road. The two people who’d been fighting were on their sides on the road, unmoving, alongside a totalled motorbike and the rider.

 

Daniel rushed over and almost gagged at the sight. The two people who’d been fighting were unconscious, one with a broken arm, the other with a broken leg. That wasn’t what bothered Daniel the most, however. What got to him was the fact that the motorbike rider hadn’t been wearing a helmet- or it hadn’t been tightened properly and had flown off upon the collision- and, as a result, the rider had slammed his head into the tarmac, having cracked his skull open, copious amounts of blood oozing from the wound. Daniel thought that the man even looked slightly familiar for some reason. He had short, brown hair and light, brown eyes which were wide with the shock of having flown off his bike and into the ground, though, even though his eyes were open, he was unconscious. Maybe dead. He was fairly tall, but not too far off the average height. He didn’t look like any of Daniel’s friends, so he didn’t know why he looked familiar. Maybe he’d seen the man on TV, or something.

 

Daniel pulled his phone out and immediately phoned for an ambulance, explaining what had happened, detailing what was wrong with the three people. Then, once he’d hung up, Daniel walked away, heading for his apartment. He didn’t want to have to wait around for the ambulances to arrive and then explain what had happened. He might have been a witness, at least to the extent where he knew what had been going on before the motorbike and the rider had arrived, but he didn’t want to be one. After the day he’d had, he didn’t want to end up having to stay around a possibly dead body.

 

After putting his phone back into his pocket, Daniel turned and continued walking home, trying to push the image of the rider’s head out of his mind. Though, one thing which kept coming back to him, the thing which he couldn’t escape no matter how hard he’d try, was that he knew that the man had died. He hadn’t checked the rider’s pulse, but with his head cracked open, with the amount of blood which had been gushing out of the wound, there wasn’t any way that the man could have survived. If he had survived, Daniel would have simply assumed that he was a wizard and that he’d healed himself.

 

Daniel, while walking to his apartment, struggled to believe everything which had happened that day. Laura had left him. He’d been fired for, essentially, no reason. His long-term family pet had died. He might have witnessed a man die. How had all of that happened in a single day? Had just one of those things occurred, Daniel would have been upset, to say the least. Had two of those things happened, he would have probably considered it a fairly terrible day. But three? Four? Daniel could say without a doubt that it had been the worst day of his life. He even guessed that it was probably going to be the worst day of his entire life. So many terrible things had happened. What next? Had the awful luck run out? Would he enter his apartment to find that it was on fire? Would someone burgle him in the night? Would he be murdered? Would he receive a phone call from the police explaining that he was under suspicion for rigging the accident which had occurred? Would he be called into the hospital to visit someone he loved dearly? Daniel wasn’t sure. He was almost petrified to find out. The last thing which he needed was for something else to happen. For anything bad to happen to him for the remainder of the day. What he needed was to somehow fix it all, to go back in time and stop it all from happening in the first place. Well, he’d let Laura go. She hadn’t loved him for ages, anyway, so what was the point? But, aside from Laura, he’d make sure to find out who’d been hiding their weed in his desk, he’d make sure to call his parents and tell them to keep the cat inside, he’d made sure to warn the two people who had been fighting in the street that a motorbike was on its way. He’d do anything to change that day. But that wouldn’t happen. Daniel knew that the existence of time travel was unlikely, Daniel knew that there wasn’t the possibility of changing everything, but he definitely wanted to fix it all.

 

Daniel turned and walked through the gate, closing it behind him simply by slamming it behind him. He moved up the path, walked up the steps, opened the front door, then headed to the stairs. He almost feared walking back into the apartment. What if Laura had decided to pick up her stuff early? He didn’t know if he’d be able to cope with seeing her again in the same day. But, regardless of how Daniel felt, he was going to have to see her the next day. He didn’t have a choice when it came to that and, honestly, Daniel believed that it would be better to just have her collect her stuff and leave forever. The longer he’d have to gaze at her belongings, the madder he’d end up.

 

In went the key. Daniel unlocked the door, walked into the apartment, then saw that it was exactly the same as he’d left it.

 

“Okay,” he muttered to himself. “No-one’s waiting to kill me.”

 

Daniel resisted the habit of calling out to Laura to tell her that he’d gotten back, something which he used to find himself doing even if he knew that she was at work or with friends or shopping. For the first time in two years, Daniel didn’t call out upon entering the apartment. It felt strange. Daniel didn’t like it.

 

The apartment was open-plan, basically the entirety of it combined into one room except for two bedrooms and the bathroom. Daniel had never cared for that detail but, now, he’d look anywhere and see reminders of everything which had disappeared from his life. The first, most obvious thing, was a picture of himself and Laura from a party which they’d attended in university. Another was the CV which Daniel kept on top of his desk in the far corner, having intended to use it to apply for a dozen other jobs as he’d never liked the one which he’d been fired from, though he ended up just sticking with it. Office work had never been the type of thing which Daniel had seen himself doing. He’d been studying to be a scientist in university, though he’d failed Biochemistry because Laura had wanted him to spend more time with her and he’d had to drop a lot of time which he should have spent revising to appease her. While in university, he’d worked as a waiter in a busy, local restaurant, and had enjoyed the experience thoroughly. It paid well, too. He’d ended up being fired from that job, too, however, as he’d ended up slacking off of work to catch up with the studying which he hadn’t been doing. He’d lost the job and he’d lost his Biochemistry PhD.

 

Daniel kicked the wall, then yelped in pain. He hadn’t broken a toe, but he’d managed to kick through the plasterboard which separated the entrance of the apartment and the bathroom, and doing so hadn’t been painless as his foot had been jabbed by a sharp dagger-like shard of plasterboard.

 

After kicking his shoes off, Daniel stormed to his bedroom. He needed sleep. He just needed sleep. That was all which he needed and all which he craved. Maybe he very slightly believed that the day had been a nightmare and that he’d simply wake up and everything would be fixed. Maybe he just hoped that his resentment and fear and anger would be gone by the morning. Whatever the incentive was, Daniel wanted to sleep.

 

He pulled his clothes off, trying to calm himself down, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to sleep while worked-up. Then, once he was left in only his underwear, he slid underneath the covers, ignoring how cold the bed was.

 

Daniel’s mind travelled back to the thought from earlier about changing everything which had gone wrong that day. He knew that it was pointless to think about and probably slightly unhealthy, but he began to ponder about what he’d change in regard to his entire life. If he could travel back in time, what would he change?

 

When thinking about it, Daniel could only think of a handful of things, some of them fairly obvious. For starters, he wouldn’t substitute revision time for girlfriend time. That would get him his PhD and allow him to keep his old job. He’d also, if the event would still occur, make sure to warn the two people who’d been in the street, tell them to get out of the way. What else?

 

Daniel remained silent, his eyes closed, thinking until he heard he the sounds of two ambulances passing in front of his apartment, making him wince as the sound reminded his mind of the sight of the motorbike rider bleeding to death. He hoped that the man had survived against all odds but, of course, Daniel didn’t doubt that his bad luck had caused the man to perish, making him feel slightly guilty even though it wasn’t his fault. Though, maybe if he’d decided to intervene with the fight…

 

Daniel let out and annoyed noise and flipped onto his stomach, pressing his face into the pillow, trying to think about anything else which would distract him from the day’s events and from the bad events of his life. He didn’t want to continue thinking about what he’d change. It was probably unhealthy to do so. It would probably make him hate himself for choosing to do or not to do different things. The best thing which he could do was to force himself to sleep. Maybe he could focus on trying to force himself to sleep, then he’d magically fall unconscious? Maybe he could count sheep? Maybe he could simply think about nothing and hopefully shut his brain up? Maybe he could focus on relaxing each muscle of his body? Maybe he could imagine the feeling of being tired and somehow make the feeling a reality?

 

Daniel tried to myriad of different techniques, trying to get himself to fall unconscious. He was there for at least an hour, trying to force himself to fall asleep, until he flipped onto his back, let out a deep sigh, and just hoped that sleep would eventually overtake him. Maybe it was that he was trying too hard. Maybe it just had to be natural.

 

Whatever the cause, Daniel eventually fell asleep.

Feverish Dream