Daniel’s eyes fluttered open slowly as he processed that the alarm was beeping. He stuck his left arm out, looking for the alarm to turn it off, but his hand only contacted the duvet of his bed. He must have rolled over.
Daniel sidled towards the left side of the bed and allowed his eyes to adjust as he felt around for the alarm clock. No, that wasn’t right. The sound was coming from his right, not his left. Why? He had his alarm clock on the left side of his bed.
The blurriness of Daniel’s eyesight dissipated, making him begin to take in the room around him. His eyes first locked on the only poster in the room which hung on the wall opposite his bed, just next to the door. Then, his eyes drifted to the messy desk just underneath that, messy papers scattered on the surface. From there, he glanced at the TV; the painfully small screen which he’d had to resort to using. He wasn’t in his bedroom. Where was he?
Daniel sat up quickly and stared around himself. The slightly rickety bedside table on the right side of his bed- with the alarm clock on top- which he could never even out because the floor was unreasonably uneven in that specific place. The chest of drawers which just barely matched the colour of the rest of the furniture, slightly more tinted orange than the rest of the oak-coloured wood. He felt the mattress underneath himself, realising that it was the same one which had been left when he’d moved in. He was in his university dormitory.
After jumping out of bed, throwing the duvet back so violently that it fell off the other side of the double bed, Daniel silenced the alarm and then started to rush around the room, looking at every detail. The slight rip in the plain, light grey wallpaper behind the TV stand. The three-foot-tall mirror hanging on the wall which joined the corner to the doorframe, still in the dangerous position of possibly being smashed if someone were to open the door too violently. The single, long shelf which resided three feet above the head of the bed. It was true. He was in his university dorm room.
Daniel didn’t know what to think. How was he back? Had he time travelled? He wasn’t dreaming because he could remember all of the details about his life and he was reacting to the situation. What was going on?
Daniel took a few paces backwards and towards the door, confused, trying to figure it all out, when a thought hit him. A lucid dream. He’d heard about them before: a dream in which the dreamer is aware that they’re seeing a fictitious scenario, but where they don’t wake up as a result. He was dreaming. He was dreaming about the memory of his university life.
After turning to the left, intending to walk out of the room and see if his roommates were there, Daniel caught sight of himself in the mirror. He was the same as he’d been in his last year of university. He had his messy, black hair, a little frizzy as a result of being in his bed. His face was clean-shaven as opposed to the barely-grown beard which he had when in the real world. His hazel-coloured eyes stood out in comparison to the rest of his face as his hair was much longer than Daniel had grown used to, long enough to slightly obscure his eyesight when it was plastered to his forehead, crazily unkempt enough to almost make him look like a mad-scientist, complimenting the shade of his iris’ very well.
Daniel almost smiled slightly. It felt strange to see a younger version of himself. It was almost as if he was reliving memories but with the ability to alter them… Could he alter them? Was there anything stopping him from going through a day in university while doing anything which he wanted? Could he run to Laura’s dormitory, rush inside and punch her in the face without any consequences? Well, even if he could, Daniel wasn’t going to. He wasn’t a violent person. He wanted to have some revenge on Laura for destroying him, but that wasn’t the right way to go about it. Anyway, what was to say that he wouldn’t step out of his room and be greeted with somewhere completely different? Well, if he was having a lucid dream, he’d be able to make anything he wanted to happen actually happen. He’d be able to walk through that door and force a wall to fall over with his mind. He could materialise a dinosaur into the living room and see what would happen. But, then again, did he even have the mental ability to do such a thing? Daniel guessed that he was only having a lucid dream about his last year in university because that was the year which he regretted the most in his life. The dream was built upon the foundation of memories. Would be really be able to drastically alter the dream without overloading his brain enough to force himself to wake up? Daniel didn’t know and, when he considered the chances, he didn’t want to risk it. He was back in university. Actually back in university. He could hang out with his friends, maybe get revenge on Laura for what she’d done to him, live his dream. He could fix the biggest of his regrets from the year and just see where his subconscious would take him. If it would happen to be a really long dream, he could graduate and finally have the satisfaction of being able to say that he’d survived university and graduated. He’d maybe be able to live his dream for a while if it would last for long enough. And, in all fairness, who was saying that it wouldn’t last as long as he wanted? Daniel could technically live an entire lifetime in his head in the span of a single night. He could live his dream.
On the spot, Daniel made a decision. He decided that he was going to go through one day, then he’d see where that would lead. Maybe it would get really weird and he’d want to wake up. Maybe he’d end up getting really stressed by being back in university and would force himself to get out of the situation. But, at the very least, Daniel knew one thing: nothing which could happen could possibly be any worse than the day which he’d lived through.
Daniel took a step back from the mirror and gave an affirmative nod to himself, clarifying with himself that he was going to see what would happen if he’d change big things. He expected that the results would be interesting, at the very least.
After searching the floor of the room for the first clothes which he could find, Daniel pulled on a dark blue t-shirt and some black shorts, then bright green socks and his black, unbranded trainers. He took a moment to gaze at himself in the mirror, feeling very slightly narcissistic for doing so, but unable to believe that he was looking at a younger version of himself. It just seemed too unbelievable and insane. Daniel knew that the weirder part would be seeing everyone whom he’d grown to know again. Everyone from his roommates to his teachers. Daniel knew that he’d be in for a strange day.
Daniel grabbed his phone from his bedside table and dropped it into his pocket, then paused for a second to wonder if there was anything else which he needed, eventually deciding that he had everything.
Pulling the door open, being careful as to not hit the mirror, Daniel left his bedroom and walked into the living area of his and his roommate’s dormitory. Two of the three other people were there, the other two boys, sat on one of the two couches. They were playing a video game which Daniel didn’t recognise, one which he probably had never even heard of. It looked obscure as the graphics were slightly wonky even though it was on a fairly recent console, making him wonder if it were poorly made and if his friends were only playing it to make fun of it.
Bryan glanced over his shoulder, probably having heard Daniel approaching. “Morning,” he grumbled, sounding slightly unenthusiastic.
“Morning,” Daniel replied, questioning the downbeat tone. “You okay?”
“Slept horribly,” Bryan stated, having turned his attention back to the TV. Then, once his game character died, he swore under his breath and brushed some of his shoulder-length blonde hair out of his face, probably internally blaming that to be the reason why his character had died.
“As usual,” Derek stated, chuckling under his breath. He didn’t even look at Daniel or Bryan before he continued. “It’s probably because you don’t do enough in the day.”
“I’m not lazy!” Bryan countered, defensive. He’d turned to look at Derek, his blue eyes piercing into the side of Derek’s clean-shaven face. “I just don’t sleep well. Insomnia, you know?”
Derek nodded absentmindedly. “I still don’t believe that you have insomnia.”
“Dude, we’ve known each other for three years,” Bryan stated, looking sick of the conversation. The same few sentences would be traded between the two of them every few weeks, something which Daniel wasn’t even certain that they’d realised. “Why don’t you believe me?”
Derek rolled his dark brown eyes and returned his full focus to the game, only glancing up when he heard a door open, seeing Claire walking in, fiddling with her long, ginger hair, brushing the left side of her hair behind her left ear, revealing the small, black heart which she’d had tattooed on the left side of her neck the year before as a defiant stance against an ex-boyfriend.
“Are you two arguing again?” She let out, sounding both amused and slightly frustrated. She placed her hands on her hips and stared at the two of them from the side, her eyebrows raised as if she were a teacher who’d caught a student on their phone in the middle of a class, her green eyes staring at them, emanating the sarcastic tone which she almost constantly had.
“Of course,” Daniel said, leaning over with his arms resting on the top of the back of the couch as he looked between Bryan and Derek, expecting the two of them to have some sort of witty response to Claire.
“He doesn’t believe that I have insomnia!” Bryan exclaimed, turning to look at Claire with an expression which perfectly encapsulated how much he couldn’t believe it.
“Well, maybe you wouldn’t have insomnia if you weren’t going at it with Jacob every night,” Claire shot back, giving her trademark smirk as she knew that the sentence was enough to shut Bryan up.
Bryan’s face flushed red, lighting up like the wick of a candle which had just been touched by a flame. “How do you know?” He spluttered, ignoring the amused looks on Daniel and Derek’s faces, Derek’s expression excessively smug as he’d just been proved right.
“Our rooms are right next to each other,” Claire reminded him. “I can hear you two in the middle of the night.”
“Hey, how come we never see him in the mornings?” Daniel questioned, surprised that he hadn’t once seen Jacob in the morning. He highly doubted that Jacob had the willpower to sneak to Bryan’s room, then sneak back to his own every single night or, at least, the majority of nights.
“He doesn’t like his roommates to know what he’s been up to,” Bryan explained. “They’re quite childish when it comes to stuff like that because he was caught sneaking back into his room in our first year and said that he’d been out practicing archery,” Bryan explained, laughing quietly to himself. “Whenever he gets back late, they always tease him about it.”
Derek let out a kind of snorting noise at that, probably making a mental note to use the fact to annoy Bryan, while Daniel and Claire remained silent, processing the information, very slightly amused by it.
It felt strange to be back in university. Daniel was stood around with three of his closest friends, probably three of the closest friends which he’d ever had in his life. He’d just slotted right back into everything as if he’d only been gone for a week on a small holiday. Everything was exactly as he remembered, everything from the constant teasing between Bryan and Derek to the way which Claire stood and looked at them, almost looking slightly disappointed. It felt to Daniel as if he’d returned home.
Daniel walked to the bathroom, used the toilet, washed his hands, brushed his teeth, then walked back out just in time for Derek to remember something.
“Oh, Laura called by before, by the way,” Derek said, turning around to look at Daniel. “She said- Christ! You look a mess. Didn’t you comb your hair?”
“Yeah, thanks for that,” Daniel muttered, grinning a little, knowing that Derek didn’t mean the remark. “What did she say?”
“What? Oh, yeah- she said that she wants to see you once you’re done with your classes,” Derek finished, turning back around to face the TV and continue playing his game.
“Oh, right,” Daniel said. “Thanks.”
Hearing that Laura wanted to see him just made Daniel feel a very slight tinge of nausea, something which Claire noticed, promptly asking him if he was alright.
“I’m fine,” Daniel clarified.
“Really?” Claire asked, sounding critical. “You’ve gone paler.”
Both Derek and Bryan turned around to look at Daniel, the two of them confused, Bryan much more concerned than Derek.
“Oh, yeah! You have,” Derek let out. He squinted his eyes slightly as if trying to see if the shift in Daniel’s skin tone had come as a result of a trick of his eyes.
“I’m fine,” Daniel repeated, chuckling lightly, slightly nervous as he hadn’t expected them to notice his feelings. “Just need some water.”
Daniel walked to the kitchen sink, grabbed a glass from the draining board, then filled the glass with ice-cold water and drank deeply, finishing the tumbler within moments.
“Anyway, I’d better get to Physics,” Daniel said, placing the glass in the sink, struggling with the freezing feeling in his throat as he walked to his room, grabbed his backpack, then rushed to the front door and left, leaving Claire, Bryan and Derek to continue with whatever they were doing.
As Daniel stepped out of the dormitory, he felt a wave of nostalgia upon seeing the hallway. He could remember, mainly out of muscle memory as he’d had to make the trip in the dark, that Laura’s dormitory was only a few doors away, five doors to the right of his and across the hall. He even remembered, upon beginning to walk down the hallway and towards the connection which linked the dormitory building to the main campus, that he and Derek had once tested a drone which Claire had created for an engineering assignment and could remember the death-stare which they’d received once she’d found out that they’d nearly lost control of the device and had almost let it tumble down the seven flights of stairs which led from their floor to the ground floor. Daniel could remember just how unimpressed she’d been, but how she’d thanked them later as a few of the scuffs which the device had sustained had revealed to her that one of the propellers was loose to begin with.
Daniel rushed to the stairs after having pulled his phone from his pocket to check the time and, once he realised that he had three minutes to get across the campus and to his class, he simply began sprinting down the hall, leaping down the stairs, nearly twisting his ankle at one point. Daniel silently cursed the fact that he used to get up as late as possible.
It ended up taking Daniel two minutes to sprint across the campus, jumping out of the way of other students and the occasional teacher, the majority of them realising why he was in such a rush, a few of them finding it funny as he rushed by. By the time that Daniel burst into the science building and rushed into his class, he was covered with sweat and both amused and frustrated with himself. Almost everyone else were there already except for a few who were just about to arrive, prompting everyone to look up at him and respond in various ways once they realised what had happened.
“You’d better get to bed earlier, Mister Tale,” his professor joked, gesturing towards Daniel’s seat with a sideways nod.
Daniel sat down, let out a deep breath as he tried to steady his breathing, then pulled everything which he needed from his bag.
The day went smoothly. Luckily, it was a Wednesday, and, for Daniel, that meant that he only had two lessons: Physics in the morning at half-eight and Biochemistry at eleven, giving him the perfect day to ease back into it.
While leaving Biochemistry, having just walked out of the classroom, heading back to his dormitory to drop his bag off before going to visit Laura to see what she wanted, Daniel realised two things. One: he hadn’t remembered at any point throughout the two lessons that he was lucid dreaming. He’d treated the two lessons as he had in real life, paying as close attention as possible, answering as many questions as possible, clarifying everything which he was doing to ensure that he was doing it correctly, and so on. Daniel barely processed that the lessons weren’t real, he just slipped back into them so easily. The topics had been ones which he’d practically mastered. His very hasty revision of Biochemistry which he’d done at the end of the last semester of university had allowed him to go over the very basics of the topic and learn it inside out. When it came to Physics, the topic had simply clocked almost straight away. Daniel wondered if the reason why he’d re-experienced those lessons in particular was because he knew the topics and he knew the right answers, but the second thing which he’d realised was that, after straining to remember, those very topics had been presented on that exact date. Daniel had even checked the date to make sure and, as far as he could remember, both of those lessons had been held on that very day when he’d originally gotten through the year, making him wonder if every other lesson which he’d get through if he would choose to stick around would be accurate even if he couldn’t remember the topic very well, or even if he didn’t understand it in the first place. It was a concept which confused and intrigued him at the same time.
Daniel rushed back up to his dormitory’s floor, then back to his dormitory. He pushed the door open and saw that Claire was on the couch, watching a show. She barely acknowledged that he’d walked in.
“Have you seen Laura yet?” She asked, sounding uninterested in what Daniel’s answer could have been regardless of the fact that she hadn’t even heard his reply yet.
“Not yet,” Daniel told her. “I’m just dropping my bag off, then I’ll head over there.”
Daniel walked into his room, swung his backpack from his shoulder, resting it in front of his cluttered desk, before he turned around and walked back out of the dormitory.
Daniel took a right, walked five doors down, then turned to face Laura’s door. He felt as if he needed to psych himself up. He was about to see Laura. She’d probably hug him and kiss him, then explain what she wanted to talk about.
Maybe she’s going to break-up with me again, Daniel thought, slightly worried. He hadn’t gotten over Laura. Of course he hadn’t. He still loved her, he sort of wanted to still be in a relationship with her, but felt conflicted as he knew that she’d cheated on him. Well, in the future, at least. No, in his reality. In the reality. But he was back in university. She hadn’t been cheating on him then, had she? She hadn’t admitted to doing so, so Daniel hoped not. They were only three years into their six-year relationship. Well…
Daniel rubbed the bridge of his nose, then stretched his fingers out to push against his closed eyes. Trying to make sense of everything was making his head hurt a little. All which he needed to acknowledge was that, as far as he knew, Laura was still innocent. She hadn’t done anything to wrong him, so he couldn’t reasonably be mad at her. Well, he could be mad at her, but not mad at the version of her which he’d be seeing in a few moments.
Daniel let out a frustrated sigh, took a moment to try to calm himself down, then knocked on the door.
Laura pulled it open, smiled, grabbed his arm and pulled him into the room, closing the door quickly before she leaned in and gave him a quick kiss.
“Hey, you,” she said, flashing the sweet smile which Daniel had loved- still loved- so dearly. “Want to go out somewhere later?”
Daniel widened his eyes slightly, questioning. “Is that what you called me around for?” He asked, confused. “To ask me on a date?”
Laura giggled a little. “No,” she said, walking towards the couch which was almost in the middle of the open-plan area. “I wanted to talk to you about something.”
“Something...?” Daniel questioned, urging her to elaborate. “What’s the ‘something?’”
Laura flopped onto the couch, looking at him while he still stood close to the door, not really wanting to walk into the dormitory and be reminded that the girl in front of him had broken his heart three years later.
“I just want to spend a little more time with you, that’s all,” she said, tilting her head like a puppy, the little thing which she usually did in hopes of making Daniel find her adorable and agree to what she wanted.
“We already spend a lot of time together,” Daniel protested, trying to sound reasonable but, in reality, knowing exactly what he needed to do: get away. Spending more time with Laura had been his downfall. It had been the direct reason as to why he’d ended up failing Biochemistry and not getting his PhD, and trying to fix that had caused him to lose a job which he’d actually quite enjoyed. Agreeing, even though it felt like the right thing to do, was the last thing which Daniel knew to do.
“I know,” Laura let out, elongating the last word slightly. “I just… I feel like we could spend more time together,” she said, widening her eyes slightly, the other thing which she tended to do when asking Daniel for something. “Please?”
Daniel let out a breath, trying to make it seem as if he were thinking about a response. He looked up, staring at the ceiling, noticing that there was a long crack which stretched from the wall to his right to just above the door. “Sorry, baby, but I’m a little behind on work.”
“Oh,” Laura let out, looking down at the ground, looking disappointed. “How far behind?”
“Well, I don’t really understand half of what we’re doing in Virology right now, and Immunology is definitely getting tougher,” Daniel elaborated, making everything up as he went along. In reality, he perfectly understood what was going on in Virology at the time. What was supposed to have been happening in Immunology was one of the subjects which he found the easiest out of the entirety of the rest of the year, too. Daniel just wanted a strong enough reason to be able to convince Laura that he was too busy to ruin his education.
“Oh, I see,” Laura muttered, sounding upset. She looked up at Daniel and forced a smile. “It’s okay, don’t worry.”
Laura rolled her eyes a little. “I can tell you are,” she said, standing up, moving towards Daniel. She wrapped her arms around him and rested her head on the inside of his shoulder. “I know that you’re feeling guilty that you can’t spend more time with me.”
“Honestly, I’m not.”
Laura looked up at him, a cute smile on her face. “Okay, whatever you say,” she said. She gave him a quick kiss, then pulled away. “You’d better get back to work then.”
“Yeah,” Daniel let out, slightly bitter at the fact that she kept kissing him. He almost felt as if she knew that something was wrong and that she was torturing him. Would the event really have played out that way had he said “no” in real life? Would she really have been so…
Daniel stepped out of Laura’s dormitory and moved back to his own, entering and immediately heading to his room. He flopped onto his bed and let out a long sigh. Visiting Laura had reminded him of something: he’d used to have been afraid of saying “no” to the people closest to him. Had anyone asked him for something or to do something, he would have only been able to decline had the request been something totally unreasonable, hence why he’d given in and had dropped precious revision time to spend more time with Laura. Seeing how Laura had tried to sway him by giving him those looks and by acting all upset felt unreasonable when, in reality, Daniel was almost certain that she hadn’t been fazed. Otherwise, what would she have expected? They were in their last year of university. Of course they were going to be busy! How could she expect him to just push everything to one side for her? She couldn’t have possibly expected him to agree and waste valuable time with her, right?
Daniel rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling. He was going to stay in university. He’d made up his mind. He was going to stay, and he was going to change things. He was going to live the life which he really wanted. He was going to make sure that he’d get all of the grades which he needed. He was going to quit his job when it was time to quit instead of being fired. He was going to force himself to be much more honest and do what he wanted instead of what everyone else wanted from him. He was going to change himself for the better. Daniel made the promise to do so to himself.