March 23, 2017

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The Aurora Project

Their steps match precisely, each one stepping in time to the music that only they can hear. They hold themselves close to each other, wrapped in each other’s loving embrace, Reva tucked into Jacob’s arms and Jacob tucked into hers. A smile crosses Reva’s face. She can’t remember the last time she felt this happy, a happiness no words can describe. Just the two of them–Reva, Jacob, and the music.

As Reva looks deep into Jacob’s eyes, something changes on his face. A darkness crosses it, his eyes filling with horror and intense pain. A gasp escapes his mouth. Reva feels the warmth spilling over her hands, the coolness grasped between her hands, before she looks down and sees, in absolute horror, a knife in her hands, its cool blade jabbing into Jacob’s stomach, his blood running over it. Without her consent, her hands twist the knife deeper before quickly sliding it out. She drops the knife clattering to the ground, but she hears no sound, her focus solely on her husband as his life slowly fades from him before her very eyes.

“No!”

Reva snaps awake, her eyes taking in the darkness surrounding her in her bedroom, her breathing heavy in her chest as she pushes herself to a sitting position. She leans her head against the wall, feels the tears burn their way down her cheeks. A knock at the door and her son, Philip, peers in. “Mom, are you okay?” he calls, his voice small in the dark room.

“Yeah,” Reva pants, gesturing for him to join her. The eleven-year-old quietly enters the room, closing the door behind him, and crawls onto his mother’s bed, his head on her shoulder.

“Did you dream about dad again?”

 

“Reva, you can’t keep doing this!” her mother regales her as she sits meekly on her couch, her eyes hardly lifting from the random spot on her carpet that Philip probably left by accident. “Philip is just a boy. He needs his mom to be fully present, not lost in her head.” Susana Kumar sits by her daughter, letting her hand rest on Reva’s face, cradling it. “I know you’re hurting, sweetie, but so is he. You can’t let your pain outweigh your duty as a mother.”

Reva nods, sinking into her mother’s touch. “I know, mom. I’m sorry I forgot him at school again. I’ve not been sleeping well…”

“Philip told me about the nightmares.” Reva sits up straight and stares at her mother. Philip had no right to tell his grandmother such personal details she told him in confidence. Susana immediately understands Reva’s expression. “Sweetie, it was important that he told me. You need to see someone about this. This isn’t healthy! You’re breaking, honey, and you’re taking your son down with you. It’s okay to need help every once in awhile. We all do at some point in time.”

Reva pushes herself to her feet and leaves.

 

“Alright, Reva, this is how Melvin works,” Fowler, the scientist in charge, says.

“Melvin is what we call the machine,” Belrose, a youthful young man with a mischievous streak, explains, jotting his thumb at the machine by Reva’s bedside. A compact machine, it stands no more than three or four feet tall, and that’s with the aid of a table underneath. An unassuming piece of machinery it is indeed, simple and ordinary.

Fowler shoots Belrose an indignant look, as Moss giggles behind them both. “This is how Melvin works,” Fowler begins again, pointing to the machine as she speaks. “We attach you to the machine here.” She holds up the familiar pieces of the machine, something you see on every medical drama and in every hospital. “Once we turn the machine on, it runs you back through…” Fowler pauses, searching for the right words in the hopes of being as sensitive as possible.

“Through the night.”

“Through the event.”

“Through the thing!”

Belrose and Moss shoot possible words back and forth at each other, the banter coming as easily as breathing to them. They make quite the pair.

Fowler glares at them both again, but they simply laugh about it behind her back when she turns back to Reva. “The machine runs you back through the events of whatever happened slowly, allowing you to process everything. It helps you to accept what happened as reality.”

Reva nods, following every word. ‘It helps you to accept what happened as reality.’ The prospect seems ridiculous to her. Why does she need a machine to help her accept what she already lives every day? She knows that her husband died that night. She knows that she witnessed it, witnessed every, single, agonizing moment. She knows that she now has to live her days alone, with Philip. She knows that…

Belrose and Moss grip her tightly, pulling her hands gently away from the railing on her hospital bed. “Whoa, there, girly,” Belrose says, suddenly having metamorphosed from his normal silly schoolboy attitude into a serious, compassionate, comforting young man with great bedside manners. “Ease up, Reva. It’s okay. You won’t feel a thing.”

“Well,” Moss begins, the word dragging out far too long. Fowler cuts her off with another look.

“You won’t feel any physical pain,” Fowler explains Moss’ reaction. “You will feel everything you felt from that night, but you will be able to help yourself cope this way.”

“How do we know it works?”

“We’ve had success with other patients.”

“My mom said that you haven’t perfected it.” Fowler, Belrose, and Moss exchange looks, and Reva doesn’t need to hear their answer to know the truth. “How many other patients is other patients?” she asks, a wince in her voice as she prepares herself for the answer she knows she won’t like.

A moment passes before Fowler says, her voice almost inaudible, “Two.”

“You’ll make three, though!” Belrose adds, too cheerfully.

Reva takes a moment to let everything sink in before she replies, “You better damn well make sure I make three.”

 

All the alarms and buzzers and beepers start sounding at the same time. Fowler rushes in, her two protegees not far behind her. Quickly, they get to work, attempting to stabilize Reva. Lights flash. Reva convulses on her bed. Outside, Susana Kumar shelters her grandson from having to watch or listen to anything going on inside.

 

“I’ve missed you, Reeves.”

Her hand shaking, Reva reaches out and touches his arm. Her eyes lift to his face, shaking and watering. “Jacob,” she breathes, letting out a sob along with the final syllable.

“Yeah, it’s me, Reeves. I’ve missed you.”

Reva’s eyes dart from his face to her hands and back. She can’t believe this is really him. He feels so real, so physical, exactly like the man she’s known and loved, but she knows it isn’t really him. It can’t be. She isn’t exactly conscious right now, so of course he isn’t real.

But the feeling that overwhelms her, the feeling of tiredness and desperation, the feeling of pain and comfort, most certainly is real.

“Reva, are you here to stay?”

 

Reva’s body stops convulsing as all the alarms flatten and the lights cease to flash.

Fowler steps back, forcing Belrose and Moss to do the same. “She’s given up,” Fowler says, her voice soft. “There’s nothing we can do. Belrose, please prepare to tell her family the news.” Belrose nods and leaves the room, more somber than perhaps he has ever been in his life.

 

Philip’s face flashes before Reva’s eye. His smile. His eyes. His laughter rings in her ears, his childish, happy laughter, a sound she hasn’t heard in weeks. Not since before… But it is now the only thing keeping her alive.

“Leave me alone!” Reva shouts, arms flailing, pushing at the dark creature holding her back. The shape had appeared and consumed Jacob and had now come to consume her as well. She can’t feel it, but she knows its teeth have clamped down on her leg, so she kicks with her free one. She barely makes it free, having incapacitated it with her kicking.

She runs. She runs for her life. She runs for Philip.

 

“You’re not gone, mom, I know you’re not,” she hears as air comes gasping into her lungs.

 

***
Prompt: Write a treatment for a film.

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