A cure for sleep has been found, by taking a cheap pill people no longer need to sleep. You opted to continue sleeping, A year after the release of the pill people who use it are starting to behave strangely. 

Bang! Bang! Bang!

The loud banging startled me out of a deep sleep. Groggily, I got up out of bed and stumbled to the front door. I peered through the peephole and saw my best friend, Dean, standing there. He was spinning his keys around his index finger as he stared at the door. I groaned at the sight of him. Dean and I have been best friends since elementary school. We watched each other’s backs. Over the years, we’d become more like brothers, but right now, I didn’t want to see him. I had only gotten a few hours of sleep and I could feel exhaustion pulling at me. Ever since they introduced Active8-the no sleep pill, a year ago, people have lost respect for dreamers. That’s what they call us, the people that refuse to give up sleep. They couldn’t understand why we would waste our time on sleep when we didn’t have to. Call me old-fashioned, but there’s nothing better than letting your body rest naturally. Plus, I liked to sleep.

Looking over at the clock on the wall, it read 3:00 am. I rubbed my eyes as a yawn made its way out of me. I unlocked the deadbolt and chain on the door, but only opened the door a crack and told Dean to fuck off. Knowing me like he did, my smart-ass friend expected that. He shoulder checked his way through the doorway, knocking me aside.

“Asshole! You damn near knocked me over!” I slammed the door and turned to look at him. Dean was a big guy. He outweighed me by a good 50 pounds. Ever since starting Active8 he has been spending a lot of extra time at the gym. I didn’t begrudge him for it. Unless he used it against me, like now. “What do you want, and why couldn’t you wait a few more hours?”

Dean rolled his eyes and shook his head. “C’mon Stephan. Why the fuck are you still sleeping? You don’t need it anymore.”

His brows furrowed as he looked down at his keys and promptly shoved them in his pocket. His movements were jerky and a little uncoordinated. He seemed amped up, more than usual, as he started pacing. His hands were pulling on his hair, and it seemed like he couldn’t sit still.

“Dean? When was the last time you ate?” I asked as my brows pulled together. I’d noticed that he’d get into these weird episodes if he didn’t eat. It first started after he’d been taking those pills for a while. It was almost like it suppressed his appetite, making the pills more effective. If there was no fuel in the body to counteract the pills, people would get like this. There were stories of people who used them to lose massive amounts of weight and ended up in the hospital, almost dead or dying. No one took these stories seriously, and no one talked about it. The news reported no negative effects the pills had on people. Which only cemented my decision to not take them.

He stopped and looked at me, his eyes slightly out of focus. “I don’t know, man. I don’t remember.” He said as he started pacing again. “I left Annette tonight.”

That explained a few things. “C’mon buddy, I’ll make you a sandwich and you can tell me what happened.”

He nodded as he followed me into the kitchen. I hated that fucking chick. It was only a matter of time before she broke up with him. It was always the same thing. They’d break up, and she’d go out with some other guy until he dumped her, and she’d come back to Dean. He always took her back. It was a vicious cycle that he seemed doomed to repeat.

“So, what happened?” I asked as I started assembling his sandwich. “Why did she break up with you?”

“Nah, man. I left her. I’m done with her and her crazy ass.”

His declaration surprised me so much that the plate in my hands clanked against the counter when I dropped it. Luckily, he was too juiced up to notice. I was shell-shocked by what he said. My only response was, “really?” I probably should’ve kept my mouth shut and let him ramble.

“Hey, fuck you, man! Is it so hard to believe that I was the one that broke it off?”

I looked at him from the corner of my eye as I finished his sandwich. He stared at me expectantly with his arms folded across his chest. I turned around fully to look at him. My brows raised, but I didn’t say a word.

He blew out a frustrated breath and dropped his arms to his sides. “Yeah, okay. I get it. I always take her back, so why now? What would make me break it off for good?”

I nodded and shoved the sandwich his way, and we both sat down. He didn’t say anything at first, but he dug into his sandwich like a man starved. I got up to get him a soda and sat down at the kitchen table as he finished up. “I can’t explain what happened to her, but she hasn’t been herself lately.”

That’s all he said. I raised my brows as I waited for him to continue, but he didn’t say anything else. “What do you mean, she hasn’t been herself?”

“Man, it’s weird. She started getting all domestic and shit. Normally, I’d be down with that, but it ain’t right the way she be acting. She stopped going out and stays home all the time. She cleans and cooks and does everything, which seems fine except it seems like she’s lost her personality. She stopped swearing, she started dressing all uptight and shit and she’s always smiling. It’s creeping me out. I’m used to her mood swings and her vulgar mouth and the short ass-shorts she loves to wear. It was like she was a shell. On the outside, it still looked like her, but whoever she was on the inside was gone. Even so, I would’ve forgiven all that. For a minute it was nice, but then she tried to kill me. She served me dinner last night and when I went to sit down, she came at me with a knife. The scary part was that damn smile on her face. It was calm, and it never changed. Something is wrong with her! I got out of there as fast as I could, but I didn’t know where else to go. I’ve been driving around for hours.”

As his story marinated in my brain, I started thinking. “Hey, when did she start taking those Active8 pills?”

Dean scratched his head as he looked up at the ceiling. “I think it was about a month before I did.”

“How long has she been acting like this?” Her behavior before she tried to stab him seemed suspicious. I added it to my thought bank of weird things that Active8 does to people.  

“It started about two weeks ago. It was little at first. Small things that most would miss, but I know her and I knew it was different. I thought maybe she was just trying to be better at this whole relationship thing, but it just kept getting weirder. Now I don’t know who that chick is but, she’s not my girl.”

“Was she taking a normal dosage of the pills?” I asked, piecing together a theory.

“Ah fuck man, don’t tell me you’re going to blame her crazy behavior on a fucking pill.” He slammed his hands on the table as his eyes went wild. “No way, man!”

“Says the man who couldn’t sit still, because he forgot to eat, because of the same fucking pill! How the fuck do you forget to eat? Just answer the damn question, Dean!”

“Fine!” He said as he rolled his eyes. “She was taking more than normal, probably about twice as much as she should. I told her it was too much, but she told me to mind my own damn business.”

My eyes widened, and my mouth hung open. “What about you? How much have you taken?”

“Eh, less than the normal dosage. I switch it on and off. Every few weeks, I’ll stop taking it and let my body crash. I’ll sleep through an entire weekend, but it always makes me feel so much better. It was the one thing we always argued about. She hated the fact that I didn’t take them all the time. She would bitch when I would miss a weekend because I slept.” He said as he shrugged his shoulders.

I let out the breath I was holding as relief filled me. He wasn’t taking as much as I thought. Thank God! I told him he could stay at my place in the spare bedroom.

“While you’re here, maybe you should stop taking the pills and crash.” He nodded and gave me a quiet thanks.

I didn’t mind him staying here. Maybe I could convince him to stop taking the pills altogether. What bothered me most was if he admitted he felt so much better after sleeping, why did he continue to take them? I had to ask.

“Why bruh? Why do you take the pills if you admit you feel better after sleep?”

He stood up from the table with his plate in his hands. His shoulders dropped, and he slowly shook his head. “The world is changing. People expect more now than ever before. If you don’t have to sleep, then you have more time to work, hangout, whatever. To choose not to take the pills is to be left behind, my friend. It’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.” He patted me on the back and dropped his plate in the sink before he made his way to the spare room. “Thanks again, Stephan. I really appreciate your help.”

Once he was in the spare room, I could hear him rustling around, but my thoughts started crowding my head. Was I right? Could the pills be causing people to lose their shit? I knew the answer to that was yes, but why? Annette may have been a bitch, but she cared for Dean in her own fucked up way. Why suddenly would she try to kill him? I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. At that moment, exhaustion hit me. I knew I needed to get back to sleep. My brain would function better after a few more hours of sleep.


The alarm blared. I rubbed my eyes as I picked up my phone to turn the alarm off. It was 7:00 am. Begrudgingly, I got out of bed and made my way to the bathroom. Dean’s snores echoed through my apartment. It was so damn loud that it surprised me he didn’t wake me with all that noise. I shook my head again, not understanding this whole pill thing. It wasn’t natural and couldn’t be good for your body. I dismissed my thoughts on the pill and got ready for work.

My job didn’t have typical hours, and with him snoring like that, I was suddenly glad I had somewhere to be this Saturday morning. I pulled up to my job about 30 minutes later in Ft. Lauderdale. I was a dispatcher/transportation coordinator, and we made deliveries late at night and on the weekends. It was my turn to be on the weekend rotation. At first, everything seemed normal. As the hours passed by, I started noticing some strange behavior from some of my coworkers. They all seemed hyped up like Dean was when he showed up at my place. The others were a little more agitated than normal. I broke up three fights just this morning among our drivers over stupid, petty bullshit.

I knew there weren’t many others like me that didn’t take the pills. If I had any question about who they were, I found out quickly that afternoon. We were in the break room talking shit by the coffee pots when the TV automatically changed to a different channel. There was a strange sound that caught my attention. On the screen was a static image with concentric circles inter-laid between squares. The colors were vibrant and contrasted with each other, which made it pretty to look at, but that was about it.

When I looked away from the tv, I noticed everyone else in the room in a trance. The image on the screen seemed to have immobilized them. I walked in front of a few of them and waved my hands in their faces, yet no one moved. I even went as far as poking some of them, and nothing happened. It was eerie. Then that weird sound came again, and the channel changed back to where it was and everyone resumed movement and conversation as if nothing happened.

What the fuck? I looked over to the only other person in the room that didn’t take the pills. Luna looked just as dumbfounded as I did. She made her way over to me.

“What the hell just happened?” Luna asked with wide eyes as she watched everyone pick up where they left off like nothing happened. Even I was at a loss and shrugged my shoulders.

“I’m not sure. Hang on, let me talk to one of them.”

I wanted to test someone from the group that was frozen. I walked up to Tom, one of my co-workers from the receiving area.

“Hey Tom.” He turned around from the coffeepot and smiled in my direction.

“What’s up Stephan? How have the drivers been treating you?”

“Eh, you know how it is. Some days are better than others.” We both nodded. “Hey that screen with the squares and circles was weird, huh? Especially the way it just froze like that? And what was up with that sound?”

His brows furrowed. “What are you talking about?”

“The TV was frozen with that weird picture just a few minutes ago.”

He shook his head no. “Stephan, the tv never froze.” His lips pressed into a firm line as he furrowed his brow again. “Maybe you needed to take an actual break outside of the office.” He patted me on the shoulder and walked away.

I could tell by his demeanor and body language that he really believed what he was saying and was legitimately concerned about me. He didn’t know that just a few minutes ago; he was like a zombie. I turned to look at Luna when Tom walked away, and we both shared a troubled look.

“I’m telling you right now, it’s those Active8 pills!” Luna said, as her eyes went wide. “Last night, I saw my neighbors beat the shit outta each other. Normally, they are the sweetest people. The kind that will bring a casserole dish to new neighbors. The only thing that’s changed is those damn pills!”

I nodded at her story and thought about Dean. It lined up with what happened with Annette and the violent behavior that kept increasing among the Active8 pill users. Was it one of the nasty side effects that no one knew about? My mind strayed back to Dean, and I wondered if he was okay?

“You’re right. I heard a similar story last night. People have been acting strange, and it only seems to affect the people on those pills. I’ve gotta go check on a friend. Stay safe!” I said as I left the break room.

Thankfully, my workday was over. I clocked out and went straight home. My worries about Dean increased as I drove. I wasn’t sure how he would act considering that he didn’t take the pills in the same dosage as everyone else. Maybe because he stopped taking them every few weeks, it didn’t build up in his system as badly. I was hoping he wouldn’t be prone to the same violence and strange behavior that everyone else seemed to display. When I got home 45 minutes later, the apartment was deadly quiet. I walked as quietly as I could to the spare bedroom. When I entered the hallway, I could hear soft snores. Thank God, he was still sleeping. There was hope for him.

When I made it back out into the kitchen, I ordered a pizza and plopped down in the chair to think. I had a bad feeling about this. Something was coming, and it was going to be bad. I thought back to the screen today that caused everyone to go still. Someone intentionally did that. Which meant they knew they could cause people to go zombie. The question that kept bugging me was could these same people be manipulated into doing things without their knowledge? Would they have any recollection of doing so? A soft knock on the door interrupted my thoughts. I figured it was just the pizza guy, so I didn’t hesitate to open the door.

Upon opening the door, a small delicate fist came flying towards my face. I have quick reflexes from all my years of boxing. Those reflexes came in handy when Annette tried to punch me. She missed by a hair and her fist flew right into the door frame. She didn’t even flinch as the skin broke open, and she started bleeding.

“I know he’s here!” She screamed. “I saw his car. Give him back! He needs to be home! Why have you taken him from me?” Her eyes were wide, clothing disheveled, and she was panting. I’d never seen her look so out of sorts.  

“I didn’t take him from you! He left after you tried to kill him!”

She was pushing against me, trying to get into my apartment, and it took a moment for my words to register with her. When what I said finally sank in, she dropped her grip on the door and I saw her whole body deflate.

“What do you mean? I would never kill my Dean.” She said as she cocked her head to the side like a dog would. Then she cocked her head in the opposite direction, blinking rapidly, like she was processing something. It was very robot-like. When she stopped, a cruel smile appeared as she reached behind her.

“It was you!” She lunged for me with a knife. Her hand was still bleeding from the earlier punch that hit the frame of my door, and her wild-eyed stare startled me. “You always thought you were better than us! Never taking the pills and sleeping your life away!” I dodged her swing, but she still got a deep slice down the side of my arm. “You stupid dreamer! You are ruining everything!”

My dodge put her slightly off balance and I had a moment where I knew I had to do something, or she’d be back on me again with that knife. I really didn’t want to punch a woman. Before I could act, someone else did it for me. It seemed like out of nowhere Luna showed up and pulled Annette’s hair back so hard she fell on her ass and then promptly punched her in the face. It was fucking fantastic! If circumstances were different, it would’ve given me a stiffy. Using this to my advantage, I stepped on the arm with the knife in it and yanked it out of her hand.

Annette started screaming again with that same damn smile on her face. She was spewing hatred at me, but instead of looking angry, she still harbored that cruel smile. I contemplated calling the cops, but before I could do anything else, Luna punched her in the face again and knocked her out. Relief hit me hard. It was stupid to open the door without looking. Especially with everything going on now. I was mentally kicking my ass for such stupidity.

I looked over at Luna, who was breathing hard as she stared down at Annette. “Thank you, Luna,” I said as assessed her. She looked ragged as hell. Her jeans were dirty and smeared with blood and grass stains. Her t-shirt had large rips and was torn in odd places. Even her hair that was always up in a tidy ponytail was half hanging off her head and strands were falling all over her face.

“I’m grateful for your help, but what are you doing here, and how did you know where I lived?”

Luna was a pretty girl and always turned heads in the office. I liked her well enough, but I didn’t know her. We worked in different parts of the building. Her in the front and me out back in the warehouse. We didn’t interact much.

She finally tore her eyes away from Annette, satisfied that she wasn’t going to move again, and looked over at me. “I got attacked when I got home. I barely got out alive. Remember the neighbors I told you about? Well, they attacked me and started spewing some crap about how it was their job to eliminate the dreamers that were holding up the progress.” She shook her head, lost in the memory. “Once I got out of there, the only other person I knew that didn’t take the pills was you.”

Luna slumped against the wall, looking tired. “So, I went back into the office and broke into my boss’ desk and found your employee file so I could get your address. I had a feeling you might run into trouble, too.” She said as she looked back at Annette. “Girlfriend?” she said as she pointed her thumb at Annette.

“Nah, my best friend’s ex-girlfriend. She came here looking for him. He’s passed out inside.” I said as I looked over at Annette. She looked pretty banged up. We couldn’t just leave her here, and I sure as fuck wasn’t bringing her inside. “Let’s take her to her car and put her inside. That way, when she wakes up, she’s away from the apartment. Then we can call the cops.” Luna nodded her head in agreement.

Gingerly, I reached into Annette’s pocket and found her keys. I handed them to Luna and picked up Annette and threw her over my shoulder in a fireman’s carry. Luna opened her car for me, and I put Annette inside. Luna reminded me to crack the window so she wouldn’t suffocate. I looked at Luna dubiously; I didn’t understand her. She literally just beat the shit out of her because the woman tried to kill me, and now she didn’t want her to suffocate. I didn’t say anything because I wanted to get out of there before she woke up again. I cracked the window, and we both walked swiftly back to my apartment.

When we got back, there was a young man holding two pizza boxes standing in front of my door. He turned to look at us as we approached and gasped. I looked down at myself and realized I had a good bit of blood that was all over the side of my shirt and down my pants from when she got my arm. Luna didn’t look much better. I pulled out my wallet to pay the guy as he stood there staring at us with his mouth hanging open. “Bar fight,” I said in explanation as I shrugged my shoulders. “How much do I owe you?”

“$25.57, you should be more careful who you pick fights with, mister.”

I laughed out loud. If only. “Thanks kid, it’s good advice,” I said as I gave him $30 and walked inside. Luna followed close on my heels. After I closed the door behind her, she visibly relaxed. She took a quick look around and plopped down on one of my kitchen chairs. Her body slumping down into the chair as she rested her elbows on the table and put her head in her hands. She looked as tired as I felt. I set the pizza box on the counter and offered her some. She looked up at me and nodded. I grabbed a couple of sodas and sat down at the table across from her. We ate in silence, both of us lost in our own thoughts.

“It’s not her fault. I couldn’t condone her suffocating when it’s not her fault for acting like that,” Luna said after she finished her two slices. “You saw how they acted today in the break room. It’s not their fault that the pills are making them act crazy.” She said as she stared at me and crossed her arms over her chest.

My brows rose on my forehead. “So, because they are being controlled by these pills, we should just let them kill us?”

She shook her head back and forth, dropping her arms back to her side as she looked down at her drink. “You defend yourself in any way you need, but if you could avoid killing them, I would. Just incapacitate them. If they stop taking the pills and become themselves again, I know as well as you do, they are not all bad people.”

I knew she was right. I thought about Dean and how he was a good guy, but if he started acting like that, I wouldn’t want someone to kill him. It still kind of aggravated me, though.

“You have a point, but if I’m left with no choice, it is what it is. I won’t let them kill me for it, either.”

“Understood.” She whispered and looked away, swallowing audibly. In that same quiet voice, she spoke. “Look, I know we don’t really know each other, but would you mind if I crashed here tonight?”

The irritation that I felt before faded away as I watched her. She wouldn’t look me in the face, and it bothered me. I put on what I hoped was a reassuring smile. “Of course you can. You saved my ass out there. Take my room. I’ll sleep on the couch and get you some things you can sleep in. You must be dying to wash off the blood and dirt.” I said as I stood. She nodded and thanked me.

I grabbed myself a pair of basketball shorts and I laid out a pair of brand-new sweatpants and one of my t-shirts for her and left her for the night. As I laid down on the couch, I knew we still had to go to work tomorrow. I was wondering what we were going to face when we got there. My thoughts tumbled in my head, imagining a hundred different scenarios of how things could go wrong. Sleep did not come easily.

The next morning Luna woke me up at 6 am looking like my clothing swallowed her up. She held the sweatpants so that they wouldn’t fall off her slender frame and the tee shirt was hanging off her shoulder. For the first time since we met, I felt like I could really see her. She gave me a shy sleepy smile as she stepped towards me. My breath stalled as I took in her raw beauty. Silky, straight brown hair framed her heart-shaped face. Luna’s skin, true to her namesake, was pale and smooth as porcelain. Her light brown eyes stared back at me, oblivious to my internal reaction to her. I was stunned into silence as she spoke about going to Walmart to pick up some work clothes. I couldn’t remember the last time I was truly taken with a woman before, but Luna seemed to capture my attention effortlessly.

By the time I finished cataloguing all the things that made her beautiful, I realized Luna was still talking and I wasn’t paying attention. She was explaining why she didn’t feel comfortable going back home yet. I could certainly understand that. I offered to go with her after work today. That way we could back each other up if something went wrong, and she gratefully accepted. She trembled slightly as we spoke about her home, her eyes shutting as she gripped her pants so tight her knuckles turned white. I didn’t get the complete story, but it must’ve been bad. For a moment, I worried about her safety until I remembered she was a tough cookie. She survived the attack from her neighbors and helped incapacitate Annette. It would be foolish for anyone to assume she was weak because she was small. We exchanged numbers just in case we ran into trouble, and she headed out.

Since I was already awake, I made the best of my early start and cooked breakfast. Dean was still sleeping, and I was unsure when he was going to wake up. I made a hearty breakfast and left a plate behind for him. I had a gut feeling that I was going to need my strength today. Sundays were usually a jam-packed day. We always felt overwhelmed on Sundays because of the tight staffing.

I pulled into the parking lot and waited for Luna. We agreed to meet in the lot and walk in together, just in case something strange was going on. It didn’t take long before she pulled into the spot next to me. When she got out, she looked more like the pulled-together professional woman that I was used to seeing around the office. She stood up straight and tall as she looked me in the eye and nodded before we headed for the door. Maybe her clothing was her armor against the world. It suited her. I couldn’t look away when her shirt popped opened and revealed a small peek at her cleavage or the way her slacks hugged her perky ass. She was sexy, and she owned it. But what put Luna above the other women was that she wasn’t stuck up about it. Luna was humble and genuine in her feelings. You could tell she really cared for people. Just look at how she stuck up for Annette last night. I was an idiot for not noticing her sooner. I blame my ex for that. We broke up around the time the stupid pills came out. She wanted to take them, and I did not. We fought for months before she claimed it was a deal breaker. A two-year relationship broken over the Active8 pills. Whatever, it was probably best that it ended that way, but I wanted nothing to do with dating for a while.

We walked in together and everything seemed normal. We parted ways and agreed to meet up at lunch. As I walked around, I noticed people were amped up again, like yesterday. When I was in the break room grabbing a cup of coffee, there were two women fighting over the last cup of hazelnut coffee. The verbal argument escalated to a physical fight and if it wasn’t for me and Tom, they would’ve killed each other. This I know for a fact because the other woman grabbed a knife and lunged at the woman I was holding. I spun her out of the trajectory of the knife at just the right moment to avoid getting her or myself stabbed. I gaped at the other woman while Tom dragged her out of the breakroom. Once the other woman was out of sight, the woman I was holding went limp and I let her go. She padded to the coffeepot and grabbed that coveted cup of hazelnut coffee before leaving the room. It was like she didn’t realize that she almost got stabbed.

I shook my head at the absurdity of it all. People were getting more and more aggressive. If something didn’t change soon, they would kill each other over stupid shit. When I got back to my office, I stayed there. I didn’t want to have to break up another fight if I didn’t have to. I texted Luna around lunchtime and told her I’d meet her in the lunchroom in ten minutes. Aside from the fight I broke up earlier, the day had gone on like normal. I hoped that maybe I’d be able to make it through another day.

I was joking with one of my co-workers when I walked into the break room. Luna was already there with a few of her friends. She had a mischievous smile on her face as she winked at me. My eyes widened as I stared at her. It was the first time she’d shown any interest in me outside of the shitshow we’ve had to deal with. Her friends all turned and stared curiously at me. Shy smiles and giggling started. That’s when I knew I had been the topic of conversation. I wondered briefly what exactly they were talking about? Was it good or bad? I was becoming very fond of Luna, and I hoped it was good.

I was walking over to her when the tv abruptly changed the channel. The same sound and static screen appeared on the tv. I knew when I saw it that this was it. Whatever was going to happen was going to happen now. Luna seemed to think the same thing as we gravitated towards each other while we waited to see what happened next. I grabbed her hand and pulled her next to me, and we waited by the door. If this went badly, I wanted to be close to the exit. I was standing slightly in front of her, and she was leaning into me. She gripped my hand as if she was afraid I would let go. I could feel the tremors coming off her body as we stood and waited. Everyone in the room stopped and turned to the tv as if on command. They were silent as they watched, just like yesterday. The difference was that today there was a message. In a robotic, emotionless voice, the message we heard chilled us to our core. 

“We have examined where we are strong and where we are not. We have given you the tools to become a better, stronger version of yourself. Now is the time for us to come together and succeed where we have failed in the past. There are those that would stand in our way. No longer can we tolerate their impediment in our future. You must destroy them. The dreamers can no longer be allowed to hold up our progress. This is your directive. Take action.”

The signal shut off, and everyone in the room turned as one to look at us. The shit had officially hit the fan. I pulled Luna’s hand, and we ran out of there. At first, we made good progress. They seemed slow to follow, and I was foolishly thinking we could get out of there without getting hurt. I saw why no one followed us when we got to the front entrance. The two biggest guys working there were standing guard at the door. They were waiting for us. I took stock of our situation, looking for other exits or strategies to make it through this. We started backing up when we heard people approaching behind us.

“Stephan!” Luna gasped in alarm. I looked behind us and saw a line of people approaching. This was a no-win situation. We were going to have to fight our way out and try to not die in the process. Luna and I instinctively stood back-to-back. I took the front, and she took the rear. Before we could say anything to each other, they were on us. One after another, they moved in to take us down. I was worried about Luna, but she seemed to hold her own. While I took a few hits, I knocked a few out. I kept them at bay and was pleased with my success. That was till I heard Luna give a grunt, then a whimper. I turned to see her go down hard at the hands of one of the bigger guys. That five seconds of distraction was all that they needed. They took me down quickly, and I could feel the kicks and punches coming down on me one after another. It was like they all wanted a piece of me, and everyone had to get their punches or kicks in. Time was running out. It wouldn’t be long before the pain would overwhelm me. I could feel myself losing the war to stay conscience. I must’ve been hallucinating because I could swear I saw Dean’s car drive through the front of the building. He jumped out of the car and started shooting people. Next thing I knew, he was kneeling in front of me.

“C’mon sleeping beauty, I can’t carry you and your girl. Get your ass up now!”

Like a slap to the face, I pulled myself out of the encroaching darkness and stood up. I followed him out to his car and climbed in. He put Luna in the back, and we sped out of there. I felt the blackness at the edges of my mind, wanting to take me down into its depths. I turned around to check on Luna. She looked like hell. Her face was bruised and swollen, and she was cradling her midsection, but she was breathing. Once I was sure that she was, in fact, alive, I gave in to the darkness and passed out.

When I woke up, I was in an unfamiliar room, and I couldn’t remember how I got there. As I tried to sit up, the pain overwhelmed me. I sucked in a startled breath as my head pounded. I looked down and realized they set my arm in a cast. Then it hit me at once and I looked around frantically for Dean and Luna. In a panic, I tried sitting up again, only to fall out of the bed. I was so dizzy that I couldn’t stand. Dean came running into the room to help me.

“Thank God you’re finally awake! Careful, bud, you took quite a beating.” He said as he helped me get back into the bed. “Don’t worry. Your girl Luna, I figured out her name when they took her wallet, is in the next room. She hasn’t woken up yet. She’s got a concussion, two broken ribs and a broken nose, but she’s okay. I know you’ll probably want to see her, but they haven’t let anyone in yet. Everything they do to you or her, I’ve been tracking.” He pulls out a little notebook out of his back pocket and points to it. “Honestly, I don’t know how you guys survived. If only I had arrived sooner. I’m so sorry.”

I scoffed. “If not for you, Luna and I would be gone. I’m just fucking glad you showed up when you did. They had us surrounded and I’m pretty sure they would’ve kept going until we were dead. I owe you my life, so don’t apologize.”

He hung his head as he sat in the chair at the foot of my bed. Dean, for all his quarks, was a true and loyal friend. I knew he was wallowing in his supposed failure. This would not be something he could forgive himself for so easily, even though he did nothing wrong. I’d have to figure out a way to make him understand.

“Where are we anyway?” I asked as I looked around again.

“We are in a secret dreamer base.” He said the word dreamer with finger quotes and rolled his eyes. “I heard them on the radio. It’s how I knew to come get you.”

“Wait, what? What are you talking about? Can you back up and start from the beginning?” My brows furrowed as I tried to understand what he was telling me. The pounding in my head started again, and I winced from the intense pain.

“Oh right, of course, you wouldn’t know this. I woke up around ten this morning and felt like a million bucks. I ate the plate of food you left me. Thank you very much, by the way. Then I showered and started cleaning up. At 12:00, there was this strange sound that came from my phone. When I went to pick it up, it had a picture on it with weird squares and circles and bright colors. I could feel a strange pull to it, but I could resist. When I heard the message that came with it, I freaked out. I got into my car and headed for your job, knowing you were going to be in trouble.”

“When I turned on the car, the radio was already on, and someone had hijacked the feed to the radio station. They were telling all of us that were still in control of our own minds to head to the Everglades. They said that once we were on our way, we would see clues about how to get to this base.” He scratched his head as he looked up at the ceiling as he finished recalling his journey.

“I thought it was crazy, but after seeing you and your girl and everything that went down, I knew I had to try. When you passed out, I got worried. I knew you needed medical attention and so did Luna. I headed in that general direction. The first sign I saw for the Everglades had a clue on it with longitude and latitude. Thank God for Google maps because otherwise we would’ve been screwed. So after I got to the location, I got the address to another location. Once I got to that location, there was a phone number. Two hours later, we arrived here on the outskirts of Everglades National Park in Homestead. This place is enormous, and you wouldn’t believe how many people are here.” He said as his eyes opened wide, and he shook his head.

I gaped at him as he told me everything that had happened. Shit just got real. “Why here?” I asked as I got lost in my own thoughts. It was in the middle of nothing but swamp and I imagine cell service probably wasn’t the best, which was probably a good thing.

“I don’t know. Something about being removed from civilization and surrounded by nature and animals offers us a bit of added protection.”

“Now what?” I asked as I fell back against my pillows. I couldn’t even imagine what the hell was going on out there right now.

“Now we fight back. They’ve got some theories here on just how to do that.” He said as he smiled. “You should fit right in!” He laughed, and I had to smile. For all my theories, I’d been right all along. Now it was time to get to work.

Published by jlsanchezauthor

J.L. Sanchez is a big lover of romance, paranormal romance and sci-fi genres. She has been a voracious reader since she was a child when she first fell in love with books. She’s a wife to her high school sweetheart and a supermom of four who spends her days trying to make her minions into decent little humans. She worked for over fifteen years in the office world until she had her first child. She lives in sunny South Florida and has a love/hate relationship with the unpredictable weather there, though it never fails to inspire her.

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