“When he steps through that loop and takes my head in his hands tapping the side of his own head and disappearing. The numbers he whispers are always the same, never different and then the dream had only become more intense because of the medical treatments.”
“I remember waking up and hearing you screaming, and you telling me about it, I even remember the days you spent investigating those numbers. The sounds of your hollow screams were somehow too much for me to bear Jay. But really, I felt almost physically drawn to them. I’ve read about parents genetically being bound to the sounds of their babies screams. I often wondered if for some reason what was going on in your head was so important to me also that I was pulled to you no matter what. Silly I know.” She paused and he laughed a little nervously.
Abby was always able to soothe him. Her cool hands on his sweaty face, her gentle voice, her presence. Their rooms were next to each other, while his parents room was upstairs, so it was her who had come to him; her who had brought him water and sat with him. Beautiful, sweet Abby.
He grinned from the onslaught of memories, coming back to focus on her.
“You had to know from when you first walked into that door all those years ago that I had a crush on you. Older, pretty,” he trailed off, catching himself before he said what he was thinking: tragic.
She looked at the floor, but he knew she was hiding a smile. “I just saw you for who you were,” she said. “A kind boy about to turn into a young man. Someone who knew that the world was cruel, and did not know why. And you were not so bad looking, yourself, either.”
He was a little taken aback by her directness of that moment as she had never mentioned it before. This brought back the fears about her bottled up emotion being simultaneously fuelled and yet held at bay by the childhood trauma.
She shrugged. “Anyway, when did the dream tower mods start?” Abby seemed to sense he was getting twitchy and steered the conversation back to where he would be more comfortable.
He let out a long breath. “Well, I put the final touches to them that first year you were a freshman and I was at home pining away for you. Part of the ‘Big Plan’.” he said, playfully pushing her shoulder. She of course knew he had been building his tower since a kid but now she was ribbing him about the sections he had added since they first fell in love. He had admitted some time ago he had created areas he could visit where he could play back and if he wanted to alter their sex scenes.
“Yeah, the Big Plan,” she said, blushing. “I mean, there’s nothing wrong with us being together, we’re not related, we’re adults, it’s consensual, and it probably happens a lot more than anyone is willing to talk about.”
The big plan involved Abby going to university and not mentioning a brother, she had kept her own last name anyway. He was to arrive at the university the next year and they would make a show of meeting by chance and eventually fall in love. Their escape, a way to be together in public, trying to fool the people who would judge them if they knew they were brother and sister by law, if not genetically. How long they could hide their secret once there they neither knew nor cared.
The topic made him a bit embarrassed. Ending their relationship had never been something either of them was willing to consider. Even the plan to try and see other people while she was away for her first year at college had been a disaster. He was not interested in anyone else and nor was she. He could not remember exactly when their sexual relationship had started, but over time they had gone from Abby sitting by his bed rubbing his back, to her cuddling him in bed, to them kissing and fondling, and then eventually to sex. All different kinds of sex. She had lit a flame in him, and it made him look forward to the nightmares, and her visits, until finally they both admitted their true feelings towards each other. After that it was a dangerous game, waiting until the middle of the night or when his parents were away.
They both knew that whenever they went out in public or said too much to their new friends about their childhoods that they risked exposure on social media for their parents and Manchester friends to see.
“Someday,” she said wistfully.
He knew she meant that someday they would have to tell his parents, he nodded. “Someday.”
She poked his belly. “Back to reality and the sexy dream tower lover boy, if there is such a thing as reality in your head.”
It astonished Jay that she always believed all this crazy dream stuff so naturally, he hoped because he was always so honest with her, except not telling her of the dream intrusion, and that burned in him like acid. “Well,” he said. “Because I was in so much heartbreak, all by myself, and whenever you came home to visit they were fussing over you like you’d gone to the Moon instead of just to university I needed something to focus on—”
“Oh, shut it,” Abby said, interrupting but smiling and tucking her hair behind her ear. The gesture made her look younger. She paused for so long that he wondered if she had slipped into one of her daydreams. “I guess maybe we were meant to be together,” she said finally.
“It is your dream patterns, and only yours, that I can see with absolute clarity and certainty,” he said. “When I am floating in the influx layer tapping into the millions of subconscious flows, I know they are your dreams when I feel them, it’s like a fingerprint. I think I always knew if I wanted too, I could enter your dreams. You know I did it one day by accident, I found myself inside.” his heart raced off and he started to sweat profusely. There he has said it, the start at least of his confession. That was as far as he was prepared to go today. “It was some days after we ever kissed properly for the first time.”
She touched his face. “You are as welcome in my dreams as you are in my waking life; you know that. What did you see anyway, anything fun?” He was about to answer but Chameleon saved the day.
“Excuse me Jay, but I have more pings on the firewalls, over one hundred this time and they are more sophisticated, also the aggression levels of your junk mail increased significantly, although nothing I can’t handle for now.”
He glanced towards his lab door. “OK, acknowledged.”
Abby gave him her invading questioning look.
“We’ve woken something or someone up Abby, probably with the genome work.” He looked at her trying to sound calm but she saw through it.
“Fuck Jay.. What now?”
“Don’t know,” he said sitting up abruptly. “Gotta talk to Max and Dupie, but we may have to close things down for a while. We can decide later today.”
The night he met Max Welborne Abby had invited Jay to another fresher event so they could spend some time together, they had not gone public on their relationship at the time so were constantly making up reasons to meet. Abby was with some of her girlfriends talking so he had gone to the bar to get a beer and he had bumped into a guy who had introduced himself very seriously as Max, Max Welborne, Gene Science, referring to his major. They had sat for a drink and hit it off instantly, and so for the rest of the event via drunken shouting and sticky tables they had poured their life stories out to each other, while bad student bands played loudly in the background. They finished the evening joking about Nobel Prizes and high-paid jobs at ISEC once they left college.
“You needed a man in your life,” she said with a smile as he recounted it.
“I have never told Max the real story about us, about you,” he said. “But Max was the only one who I could talk to about my head stuff, other than you. He really wants to help me, and together, we can unlock the secrets of my crazy brain.” He tapped his temple.
“Yes,” she said, smiling a beam so bright it could have replaced a solar balloon.
“Listen, about the dream thing, I feel terrible it’s the one thing I’ve never been able to tell you as I was so worried you would leave.”
He was about to say something more but he realized she was slipping off her top, and his reply stifled in his mouth as her naked torso came into view. She moved toward him, pushing him against the wall, as he sent a command to release the grip of his shirt. Soon they were both naked pushed up against the wall.
“The neighbors,” he whispered, but it took some time and finagling to land her on the mattress, its built-in intelligence compensating for both their weights.
“I missed you, so let me show you for real what I’ve been dreaming about,” was her reply.
They spent the morning in bed. Something in her seemed to be making up for lost time, as they both came several times before she allowed him to drop into sleep. After they had been together he always slept so deeply that he never dreamed, and that was a very rare and welcome event for Jay.