I was asleep on my sofa. Didn’t have to work that day. I was on vacation. And I was having a perfect nap. I liked to take naps when I was tired. I liked them in the middle of the afternoon. I liked naps. They were fun.
I woke up when an alarm went off. Swatted the top of the clock radio at the end of the sofa. The alarm kept going off. And it was all wrong sounding for the clock radio anyway. It wasn’t music. It was this beeping sound. “Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!” I sat up, and looked around. But there was nothing in the room. The TV was on. I’d fallen asleep while a movie was playing. The movie had ended. And the player had gone into screen saver mode, playing the discs menu over, and over again.
“Hon? What’s that beeping?” I looked toward the kitchen. She wasn’t there. The kitchen wasn’t there either. I closed my eyes. Shook my head. And opened them again. The sofa was gone. The clock too. I was on a bed. In a stark, white room. Damn, but it hurt to open my eyes, and look around. I mumbled, “Turn off those friggin’ lights,” and tried to put my hand over my eyes. It wouldn’t move. Hell. Nothing moved.
I heard a voice. “He’s awake, doctor!” I tried to look around again. There was a door to the room I was in. It opened. “Ah, Mr. Taylor. You finally woke up,” this guy in a white medical robe said. He seemed genuinely relieved.
“Who are you?” I tried to mumble. It came out sounding more like, “moohareww.”
The voice answered, “Let me call your wife. She will be so excited to see you.” A few minutes later, this tall, middle-aged blond woman came in. She saw me, practically leaped across the room, landing beside me, and draping herself across me, kissing my cheek, hugging me. “Thank God, you’re alive!”
The first voice spoke again, “Do you remember anything that happened? Do you remember the fires? And the explosions?”
The woman hugged me some more. “You’re alive. That’s all that matters.”
Over the next two days, I faded in and out a lot. Mostly sleeping. Sometimes waking up screaming. The Doctor kept telling the woman (I learned she was my wife) that I would be OK with time. That I was remembering things in my dreams as I slept.
That third night I woke up. And I saw, painted on the wall of the room, the plant. The power plant. It was big. It was night. And the plant had these stupid purple, red, and blue lights that lite them up from the outside. So they would look imposing, and impressive, I suppose. “I worked there, didn’t I?”
I realized she was awake. “Hmm?” she’d looked at me, questioningly.
“At the power plant. I worked there.”
“Yes, dear. You did.”
“I went to work.” I remembered walking into the first of the two power generator buildings. I remembered going to my locker in the break room, and putting my lunch away. I remembered getting my helmet out, putting it on. I remembered walking out the door of the room. The door shut. And two parallel streaks of sparks flew from the door, down the hallway, in opposite directions. I remember thinking, “Oh, shit.” And then I watched the world explode with color.
“You remember, don’t you.” The woman’s name was Elaina. She was my wife. We’d been married for 25 years.
“Yes.” She was holding me. “I remember,” I whispered. I kissed her. Softly. “And I remember what you said the first night I was here, in the hospital.”
Elaina smiled. She started crying. Happy tears. “I remember you said we could survive this. I could survive this. I had to survive this. You needed me.”
She kissed me then. Softly.
I whispered once again, “I had to survive. I need you too.”