by Jonathan Wood
Jake had been here before. He had held Susan's hand just like this, right here. More than deja vu--certainty. They crossed the marble floor to examine the cherubim statue, each foot falling in the anticipated place. He knew what Susan was going to say.
“I think we should see other people.”
Wait. That wasn't right.
He turned to look at her, but she was gone.
Jake had been here before. He and Susan had shared margaritas on this roof deck before. He was talking about minimalism, about what shit it was, and then he realized--they weren't seeing each other any more. But she was holding his hand...
A man was looking at them. Jake couldn't make out his face. Shadowed. He walked up to them, took Susan's hand.
“I think you should see other people,” he said.
Jake had been here before. But Susan had been right there, right next to him, suggesting a gondola ride. Her absence was palpable, as if a bubble had just popped.
He pressed a hand to his temples. A migraine was building. He looked up and, there, looking at him: a man--face shadowed. He was unfamiliar here but Jake recognized him. He pushed into the crowds but the man was gone.
Jake stood in his apartment. Here, familiarity made sense. Except there had been photos of Susan, hadn't there? He went to her closet. Her clothes were gone. In the kitchen half the fridge was empty. Half its contents erased.
A sound from the living room. He got there in time to see a man's familiar figure slipping out of the door. He is not quick enough in his pursuit.
Jake stood in a shopping mall. He did not recognize this place. Why would he be in a shopping mall? Why would he have roses in his hand? He had no memory of buying them.
The migraine was intense now, rising like a tidal wave. Blackness rising behind his eyes.
Jake came round on the psi-surgeon's couch. There was a sharp pain behind his brows.
“The headache should fade in ten minutes or so,” the surgeon said, removing steel apparatus. “It's perfectly normal.” He sat back from Jake, out of the light, his face lost in shadow.
And despite the pain, Jake smiled. A success. Susan, the relationship, everything, it was already fading. Already it was just a dream.