[Study 16487-D, referred to from this point as Project Oberon. Day 1, 0800h] Six subjects arrived on schedule. Subjects seven through ten have made no communication subsequent to the initial orientation — decision: the study will proceed with a total of six subjects. Following discussion, the majority (8-4) has agreed that six is sufficient to gain the data the study aims to collect over the course of the next two weeks. Testing for conditions and to eliminate incompatible subjects will commence at 0900h.
[Project Oberon, Day 2 , 1400h] Testing has been completed and subjects have been tagged as follows:
315: female, 24, 5’6, 145lbs, no known health concerns, stress tests normal, blood tests clear
526: male, 22, 5’8, 237lbs, previous history of asthma but no current symptoms — decision: no concerns, stress tests normal, blood tests clear
536: male, 25, 6’3, 205lbs, no known health concerns, stress tests normal, blood tests clear
325: female, 27, 5’8, 125lbs, no known health concerns, stress tests normal, blood tests showed slight anemia — decision: clear
335: female, 24, 5’3, 130lbs, hospitalization for pneumonia 4x in last twenty years — decision: no concerns, stress tests normal, blood tests clear
345: female, 23, 5’7, 105lbs, no known health concerns, stress tests showed increased blood pressure and heart rate — decision: no immediate concern; will monitor status and remove subject if required, blood tests clear
[1500h] Subjects have read and signed all documentation. Informed consent has been granted. All have agreed to the conditions and have given full permission to the study heads to perform the following:
- Induce a coma using an injection of propofol
- Alter the condition of their physical surroundings to monitor any effect said changes have on their physical/physiological status with an aim to determine whether dreams can be manipulated by external conditions
Subjects have also sworn to maintain confidentiality at the end of the two weeks, per the confidentiality agreement, or risk legal repercussions.
For the part of the researchers, our responsibilities are:
- To ensure the safety and well-being of our subjects at all times
- To end the study at any sign of serious effects on the well-being of our subjects
- To remain within the ethical mandate of our study and only apply the changes of condition necessary for obtaining the data required
[Project Oberon, Day 3, 0900h] Subjects have been assigned beds 13 through 19. Subjects have again been briefed on what the study will entail and what they might expect once the propofol takes effect.
[1100h] Propofol has been administered. Subjects’ conditions are stable, and testing can begin.
I open my eyes at the shout of crows somewhere overhead. A breeze drifts over my skin. I expect to shiver, but don’t feel the cold.
It takes me a minute — maybe longer than it should — to realize I don’t know where I am, and another few moments to realize that if I want to figure it out, I need to sit up and look.
My body feels strange. Kind of light and distant, like I’m not really here, so I move slowly. I start by digging my fingers into the ground beneath me and am confused when they sink into the surface. Dirt? I rub my fingertips together to confirm it.
So I’m outside. That’s a start.
I run my hand over the ground and recognize the familiar sensation of grass on my palm, tickly and light. It still feels strange, but gradually I think I’m coming into myself.
Carefully, I sit up and have to blink into the darkness surrounding me. The bright moon highlights the tops of the trees ten feet ahead and the water twenty feet to my left. I seem to be standing on the edge of a beach, where the grass gives way to a fine sand. Reflections of the light on the water cast rippling shadows across the beach and over my hands when I hold them out in front of me. I’m still not certain of where I am. Or even who I am.
My name is Regan, that much I remember, but if someone asked for my birthday or the names of my parents, I don’t know if I could tell them. It’s there. I feel the information in the back of my mind like a distant memory, but when I reach out for it, it vanishes. But maybe that’s okay. For now, I’m all right with just being Regan.
I look down at myself and my confusion increases. These aren’t my clothes. The Regan I know myself to be would never wear these clunky army boots or cargo pants. The black T-shirt is familiar enough, but it hugs my body in a way I wouldn’t be comfortable with if I were walking down the street.
A niggling sense of explanation tickles the back of my mind, but disappears before I can latch on to it.
For now, I let it go and turn my attention to the rest of my surroundings. The water appears to be a clear, calm lake, without even the ripples of fish making their lazy way under the surface. It’s eerie. Lifeless. A shiver runs down my spine, and I’m relieved to feel a natural response from my body. This sense that I’m wrapped in gauze refuses to go away.
I turn to look at the woods. Despite the cries of the crows, the trees are as still as the water, untouched by the breeze or anything living within.
I don’t like it here. My stomach clenches as I take another pass and realize there’s nowhere to go. A boat sits at the end of the dock stretching over that still, seemingly empty water, and I spot a cabin at the end of the path, its windows dark and unwelcoming. But there’s no car, no signs, nowhere that tells me how to get home.
I rub my arms, expecting goosebumps, but there are none.
At the height of the silence, I jump at the sound of a high-pitched squeak behind me. I whirl back towards the woods and for a moment there’s nothing. It’s only when the bushes to my left rattle that I make out what’s there.
The taste of blood fills my mouth as my heartbeat races, and I raise my fists, though I don’t know what that’s supposed to achieve.
In front of me, creeping out of the bushes, is what looks like the result of a bear romancing a rat. The size of a cub, its fur is matted and thick, its pointed nose twitching as it scents the air. Red eyes glare at me, and in them is nothing but malice and hunger. I back away, but it follows. My lungs can’t seem to suck in enough air, and I wish beyond anything that I was somewhere else. That someone would appear and help me. But I’m lost and I’m alone.
The rat starts to run, but I’m already on the edge of the water. I back my left foot into the lake, and although I can feel the water lapping against my ankle, there’s no cold, no wetness.
The beach is empty of weapons. Not even a branch I can grab to fend this monster off. It’s grinning at me now, its sharp teeth catching the glow of the moon. A sharp hiss emanates from its throat.
I raise my hands and squeeze my eyes shut. I imagine the rat flying away from me, into the trees.
There’s a loud shriek and the sound of branches being broken.
I open my eyes and stare across the empty beach. The rat is gone, and in the distance I hear it scurrying away through the woods.
What just happened? I stare down at my hands, but they’re just my hands.
The truth hits me like the weight of that rat against the trees. The dream study. This world, this night, that rat, me, none of it is real.
Was this what was supposed to happen? I’d been told that I would be put into a medically induced coma, and that the doctors would attempt to manipulate my dreams. But although I feel strange, my consciousness is far more aware than it is in even my most lucid dreams.
I stare at my hands again. Had I really made that rat fly into the forest?
My lips curl into a smile as I walk up the beach. Cool.
But if this is my home for the next two weeks, I might as well get comfortable.
Once again, I turn my attention to the world around me and start off to explore.
Continue to Chapter 2