"Welcome!" Eddie shouted out from a stage. Rachel, David, Daphne, and Jason sat in the front row of seats. "It's time for the third dream game!"
They all just sat there.
"A little more enthusiasm," Eddie said. "Please!"
"When is this going to be over?" Daphne demanded.
"Soon, I hope," Eddie said. "I'm very sick of your attitude.
Rachel suddenly noticed Daphne was very pretty when she was angry. Oh and she just happened to be angry all the time. Had David noticed her beauty? Who was Rachel trying to kid. Of course he would have noticed.
"I'm planning to go to a psychologist," Daphne said quietly to the three other dreamers. "She's going to help me get rid of these dreams." She pointed to Rachel. "You will be reduced to nothing. Sorry, Kid." Rachel wondered why Daphne pointed it at her. As if Daphne heard her question, she answered. "Well, you go first. I figured it out. Jason symbolizes my fear of aging, losing my memory etc. Then you and David are kind of opposite ends of my personality. David is my narcissistic, yet talented side. And you represent my low self-esteem. You're a very sad, pathetic part of myself."
Rachel tried to give Daphne an evil look...something that would wound her.
Daphne grinned. "So you of course should be the first to disappear."
"Quiet!" Eddie demanded. "That's enough."
Rachel considered thanking him, but remembered the ordeal she and David had been through last night.
"I want to go home. I have work to do," Jason said. He held up three fingers. "Deadline is in three days. I haven't even made an outline yet."
"Huh?" Daphne said. "What in the hell are you talking about?"
Eddie looked down at Jason. "Those days are over, Jason. It's all in the past. You're old now. Retired. You haven't written anything in years. You can't even hold a pen. Your hand shakes too much."
Jason looked incredibly sad. Rachel felt so sorry for him.
"If you win the games, you'll get to be young again." Eddie said. "You'll be able to run. And write. You'll be healthy."
"Healthy," Jason murmured.
"But if you lose, you'll get sicker and sicker. Weaker and weaker."
"Sick," Jason murmured.
This was all too cruel.
"We'll win," David said to Jason. "Don't worry."
Okay. Yes. Let's all pass around the false hope. Rachel had this sudden horrible feeling she'd be the one to make them all lose. Then David would hate her forever.
"Soon this will be over," Daphne said. "Over, over over."
"Okay!" Eddie stomped his foot to get their attention. "You guys have ten points. Therefore you need 27 more points in order to get out of the nightmare zone."
Oh crap. It really didn't sound good at all. At least Rachel didn't think so. David didn't look as worried as she felt. Well, of course not. He had the whole false-hope thing going on.
"What game are we going to play?" David asked.
Eddie smiled. "Finally! Someone asks!"
They all waited.
"It's called the laundry chute game." He snapped his fingers and four laundry chutes appeared. "In one of these chutes is a wonderful surprise waiting for you."
"What is it?" Daphne asked.
"If I tell you, then it won't be a surprise." He winked. "But the surprise isn't the important thing. What is important is that if you go down that chute, you'll get twenty points."
"That will raise our score to 30," David told the group.
"Okay thanks, Rainman," Daphne said.
David stuck his tongue out at her. She stuck her tongue out back at him.
Rachel had an inner cringe, worried again about the whole sexual tension thing.
"In the second chute," Eddie continued, "Is a little less better than the first surprise. That chute is worth 5 points."
"Five?" Rachel said.
"Yes, five," Eddie said. "I'm glad you can hear."
Rachel blushed. She felt that David was looking at her. Or maybe she was just imagining it. Either way, she avoided looking back at him.
"A bad thing is in the third chute." He laughed. "A very bad thing."
"What kind of bad thing?" Daphne asked. "Do we have to kiss you or something?"
Eddie ignored her. "And worse than the bad thing: You lose 2 points." He glared at Daphne. "Oh and that's minus one point."
"For what?" David demanded.
"Rudeness," Eddie said. "Now you have 9 points."
"If she apologizes, can we get the point back?" David asked.
"I’m not apologizing," Daphne said.
"I hate you," David said to her.
There was a thin line between love and hate. Rachel tried not to think about that.
"I'm not done," Eddie said.
They waited for him to continue. "In the fourth chute is a horrible horrible horrible thing."
"We get the point," Daphne said.
Rachel cringed, waiting for Eddie to take away another point. They were going to be in big trouble if Eddie made it a habit to deduct points for Daphne's rudeness. They'd be in the negatives in no time.
"There will be 7 points deducted for that chute."
Rachel prayed silently, to whoever was out there, that she'd pick the right chute. The good thing was Rachel wasn't even scared about encountering the big bad scary thing. Nor was she worried about being an eternal virgin. What scared her was Billy reliving his accident over and over. She didn't want that to happen to him because she truly cared about David. She was putting his feelings over her own. Was that not true love? And very noble.
Then again, maybe it was also about her worrying David would end up blaming her and hating her guts.
"Now," Eddie said, interrupting her thoughts. "I'm going to do a neat little trick." He clapped his hands and suddenly David, Daphne, and Jason vanished.
Rachel was alone.
Then she glanced down at her hands and realized she too had vanished.
They were all invisible.
It was an incredibly weird feeling.
"This way you won't be able to see which chute the others go down. I'm the only one who can see you. Stop picking your nose, Rachel." Eddie laughed. "Just kidding."
Okay. Why did he have to choose her to pick on? Why not Daphne? She deserved it more.
And why did David have to laugh at his stupid joke?
Rachel slid down a chute hoping, praying, and wishing.
She found herself among rattlesnakes, black widow spiders, rats, scorpions, tarantulas, alligators, vomit, feces, and strands of very stretchy mucus. And to make matters worse, Daphne had chosen the same chute.
"This is just a dream!" Daphne screamed. Terrified. Rachel watched as a tarantula crawled up Daphne's leg. "Make it stop! Help me!" She started to cry. "Please God. Let me wake up."
Rachel wasn't God, but she thought maybe she should help. She ran to Daphne and hit the tarantula with her hand, proud at herself for being so brave.
But all good deeds go unpunished.
When Rachel hit the tarantula, it didn't fall off Daphne's leg. Instead if multiplied. Now she had five big spiders crawling up her leg.
"Look what you did!" Daphne screamed at her. "I hate you."
Rachel tried to remind herself she was only a part of Daphne's imagination. Well, at least that's what Daphne believed. So she shouldn't let herself get too offended.
"This is all your fault," Daphne said.
Rachel opened her mouth to protest and a large wasp flew into her mouth. She screamed as the wasp fell down her throat.
It stung her.
She had never felt so much pain.
She no longer cared about anything....not even David. She only wanted one thing.
She wanted to die.
But she didn't die.
Instead, while the wasp stung her, fire ants crawled up her toes. Bit her.
Daphne suddenly looked less afraid. She looked fascinated....slightly excited. Maybe relieved.
"You know, Rachel." Daphne said. "I think you're going to die."
Rachel really wanted this to be true.
"My mind's way of getting rid of you."
Rachel screamed as another wasp flew toward her.