Book of Dreams 2nd Edition – Preview #1 [Eternal Quest]

Book of Dream, Second Edition

Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction Short Stories

Victor D. López

Copyright 1976-2012 by Victor D. López

 

No portion of this copyrighted book may be copied, posted, transmitted or otherwise used in any form without the express written consent of the author.

About the Author

Victor D. López is an Associate Professor of Legal Studies in Business at Hofstra University’s Frank G. Zarb School of Business. He holds a Juris Doctor degree from St. John’s University School of Law and is a member of the New York State Bar, New York State Bar Association, The Academy of Legal Studies in Business (ALSB) and the North East Academy of Legal Studies in Business (NEALSB). He has been an academic for more than 25 years and, prior to joining the Hofstra University faculty, served as a tenured Professor of Business, as Dean of Business and Business Information Technologies, and as Academic Dean in urban, suburban and rural public and private academic institutions.

Professor López is the author of several textbooks and trade books and has written poetry and fiction throughout most of his life, some of which has been publishes in anthologies and literary magazines.

Other Books by the Author

  • Of Pain and Ecstasy: Collected Poems (Printed through Kindle Book Publishing and CreateSpace, Summer 2011)
  • Intellectual Property Law: A Practical Guide to Copyrights, Patents, Trademarks and Trade Secrets (Printed through Kindle Book Publishing and CreateSpace, Summer 2011)
  • Business Law: An Introduction 2e, Textbook Media, 2011. (text, test bank, and instructor’s manual) Available at http://www.textbookmedia.com
  • Business Law and the Legal Environment of Business 2e, Textbook Media 2010. (text, test bank, and instructor’s manual) Available at http://www.textbookmedia.com
  • Free and Low Cost Software for the PC, McFarland & Company 2000.
  • Legal Environment of Business, Prentice Hall 1997. (text, test bank and instructor’s resource manual)
  • Case and Resource Material for the Legal Environment of Business, Prentice Hall 1997.
  • Business Law: An Introduction, Richard D. Irwin/Mirror Press 1993. (text, test bank and instructor’s resource manual)
  • Free and User Supported Software for the IBM PC: A Resource Guide for Libraries and Individuals, McFarland & Company 1990. (coauthored with Kenneth J. Ansley)

For Claude, Cathy, Andy and Christina Morell, with love and gratitude for a lifetime of friendship

Eternal Quest

The scent of a freshly cut lawn lingered softly in the air, floating upward with the light haze formed by the morning dew warmed by a rising sun. The sound of a riding mower gently buzzed in the distance as the grounds keeper, an elderly black man dressed in clean, well-worn coveralls, and sporting a frayed, too-large straw hat, slowly wound his way around the expertly and lovingly maintained grounds. Occasionally, he stopped the old mower to uproot an intruding weed that caught his eye. As the man stopped momentarily to retrieve a small fallen apple tree branch, a tiny wren sang tentatively a short distance away. The grounds keeper looked up, wiping his glistening brow with a large, soft cotton handkerchief, smiled, and whistled a short melody in the bird’s direction; it was answered almost immediately by a long, undulating song. The man again replied in kind while continuing his work, and gained an even louder retort from the bird, which might be answering the call or simply trying to attract a mate.  After a short while of point and counter point between the two, the man resumed his work as several new voices joined in from various places in the grounds, their songs and calls resulting in a chorus of somewhat dissonant sounds, as other birds joined the impromptu chorus undaunted by the mower’s discordant hum.

In the center of the grounds stood a large, square building, its walls a composite of reddish brown brick and weathered, gray flat stones rising to the height of three stories, with its small, dark-tinted windows and sharp edges striking an incongruous, dissonant note amidst the otherwise pastoral setting. Inside the structure, in a small, private corner room on the uppermost floor, sat an obviously tired yet alert woman in her early thirties. Next to her, in a bed with raised, gleaming steel railings that seemed too large for its current occupant, lay a man who appeared to be several years her senior. The walls were clean, brightly white and spotless, although the paint was somewhat faded in a few places, and hairline cracks and small areas of chipped paint were discernible upon close inspection, particularly on the ceiling. The floor, though freshly polished, showed numerous old scars over its black and white checkerboard pattern tiles in places over which heavy equipment had been moved for many years. A hint of ammonia and alcohol hung in the air, along with more diffuse and less familiar scents which, while not of themselves unpleasant, were somewhat disquieting in their lingering, unnatural presence.

The woman was lean, neither beautiful nor plain, with soft, light-brown hair which fell haphazardly about her shoulders in contrast to her spotless, if somewhat wrinkled, tan silk suit. She sat erect, despite being in obvious need of rest, both feet on the ground, palms resting on her knees. Her hazel eyes, bright and alert if somewhat reddened from lack of sleep, were fixed unblinking upon the man in bed whose eyes were open but unseeing, as he lay connected to a respirator, with wires slithering outwards from his chest, arms, legs and forehead. A number of clear plastic tubes carried fluids to and from his body.

The woman looked up, startled, as the door to the room abruptly opened; she had been too deep in thought to hear a set of approaching footsteps hastily clattering over the marble floor. A man, perhaps two or three years her junior, stood in the doorway. He was dressed in faded blue jeans and sported a pale-blue, sleeveless cotton shirt.  He was rather handsome, if a bit portly, with a slightly receding blondish hair and large, clear brown eyes.

“Phil,” she exclaimed upon seeing the man walk in while rising to meet him. She greeted him with a warm embrace. “I’m so very glad you’re here. I was afraid you wouldn’t get my message.”

“I came as soon as I heard. What happened, Chrissie? You said Tom was in a coma. What are they  . . .”

“Nobody knows yet, Phil,” she interrupted, gently pulling away from her friend and slowly turning towards the man in bed. Phil followed her glance, taking in the frail figure for the first time. He winced visibly, and barely heard Christine’s voice over the raw wave of emotions that washed over him.

“At first the doctors thought it was a drug overdose. They asked me all kinds of questions about what medication he might be taking.  They seemed not to believe that he didn’t even drink or smoke‑‑that ingesting any chemicals that might affect his mental processes would be unthinkable to him. The toxicology results verified that fairly quickly, though.”

“Of course not,” Phil interjected impatiently, turning his attention back to Christine. “What else did they find?”

“Not much, really,” she continued, taking a deep breath and exhaling slowly. “All of his bodily functions are fine. Despite his physical appearance and obvious dehydration, they can’t find anything wrong with him.  His vital signs are normal, and his mental activity as evidenced by the EEGs they’ve run seems, if anything, abnormally high.”

“Wait a minute,” Phil again interrupted, “How can he be in a coma and have high levels of brain activity? And why the hell is he in this state of near starvation? God, he looks like he hasn’t eaten in weeks.” Phil’s voice rose in keeping with his growing frustration and anger. “What kind of hick quacks are examining him? How can they . . .”

“Calm down, Phil,” Chrissie interrupted in a soothing, gently admonishing tone, fighting her own weariness while struggling to remain in control of her emotions. “He’s in good hands here, and they’ve already called in two specialists‑‑neurosurgeons, I think‑‑from New York City. They should be here later on tonight. Since last night, they’ve run all sorts of tests on him to try to determine what’s wrong. So far they’ve come up empty, but we’ve got to be patient; they’re doing everything they can for him with very little to go on. ”

“But they must have some idea of what might be wrong with him, at least,” he pressed, still angry, but a bit calmer.

“No they don’t. They simply have never seen a case like this. He will not respond to stimuli, and his body will not even carry out its autonomic functions unassisted; he will not breathe without the respirator, his pupils will not dilate, and even his kidneys have shut down, yet his brain appears to be hyperactive‑‑and they can find no physiological reason for his condition.”

“How did they find him,” Phil asked. “And why wasn’t he dead if he needs a respirator and a dialysis machine to live?”

“I found him, Phil,” she replied, looking back at the figure in bed, then continuing with some difficulty in a strained voice. “It’s strange, really. I hadn’t seen him in years, not since . . .”

“I know, Chrissie,” Phil interrupted, the harshness and anger gone as quickly as they had arisen, displaced by a growing tenderness. He gently placed his hands on the woman’s shoulders, and helped her sit down on a chair by Tom’s bed, pulling a chair for himself from several feet away while continuing to speak in a softer tone. “Next to you, I’m the closest friend Tom had, and I hadn’t seen him in at least five years. He was too busy with his work to socialize. Nothing personal, of course‑‑he just had no time for friendship or other distractions,” he trailed off, a touch of bitterness returning to his voice. Then, softly brushing a tuft of hair from Christine’s eyes, he added, “I’m just surprised you stuck around so long.”

Chrissie’s eyes narrowed for an instant, but she held Phil’s gaze and quickly replied in even, restrained tones, “He was the gentlest, kindest friend that you or I have ever had. There was nothing in this world he would not do for us, or for any of his many friends. Have you forgotten the time of your motorcycle accident, how he stayed by your side for ten days while you were near death? They wouldn’t let your father stay, but he alternately pleaded with and threatened first the head nurse, then the doctors and finally the hospital administrator until they let him stay. He slept by your side, strung out over two wooden chairs until they discharged you, and watched over you every minute he could stay awake like an overzealous bodyguard. And that was by no means the first time he’d proven his friendship to you.”

“I know, I know” Phil replied, mollified and somewhat embarrassed. “I guess I just resent his having cast us aside. It’s not easy being told that you’re a distraction. I’m sorry, Chrissie. Please go on. How did you find him?”

“I was driving home from work when I got an urge to see him. I can’t explain it; you know I’m not impulsive. I simply knew that he needed me. It’s as if he had called out to me, drawn me to him. I had thought of him often, but had never felt that way before. I was several miles from his house, down by I88, but I got there very quickly. When I arrived, he wouldn’t answer the door. I knew he had to be in; you know he was a virtual shut-in—he even had his groceries delivered and his dirty laundry picked up by a service. But more importantly, I felt that he was there. When he did not answer the doorbell, I did not ring again. I found his spare key in its usual hidey-hole by the front door and let myself in.  I called out to him again, but there was no answer. I could see his study light was on and made my way to the study quickly. He was slumped over his desk, his face on an open book. I touched him; he was warm, but I could not see him breathe, and could not feel his pulse. I dragged him to the floor, laid him on his back and began administering CPR. I couldn’t yell for help, since his nearest neighbor lives about a quarter mile away, but I managed to call for help on my cell phone and continued CPR until an ambulance arrived about 25 minutes later. I rode here with him and called you, leaving you voicemail messages at home, work, and on your cell.”

“Did you see anything while you were there that might explain his condition?”

“No, but I didn’t have much of a chance to look around under the circumstances.  But that’s an idea, though. Maybe one of us should go back; we might come up with something that could be of help to his doctors.”

“I’ll go and bring back anything that might offer a clue on his condition.”

With that he rose and waited for his friend to fish out Tom’s key from her purse. After taking the key, he gently half stroked, half petted the back of her head, trying to reassure her that all would be well.  He then turned to Tom, grabbed the railing of the bed, and tried to mouth something, but no words would come.  The cold, gleaming steel against his sweaty palms sent a shiver through him. Fighting back his emotions again, he turned towards the door and rushed out.

As he exited the hospital, the scent of cut grass and flowers flowed through him, as did the warmth of the sun on his face, letting him realize for the first time that he had been very cold within.  The gentle breeze, the sounds of birds, the puffs of white clouds lazily floating high in the sky, the sculptured hedges and carefully tended flower beds with their symphony of color and delightful perfume all helped to soothe his frayed nerves and lift his spirits.  He took a moment to take it all in and, for an instant, was transported back to his college days. He could almost hear Professor Greenberg reading from Blake’s Songs of Innocence. Behind him, he knew, were the Songs of Experience‑‑the decay, death, and disappointment of real life, of unfulfilled dreams that are the inevitable legacy of childhood’s end. But if he did not turn around, he could almost deny the unkinder side of nature he was leaving behind, and dwell, if only for a moment, in the calming warmth of his surroundings which evoked a happier, more innocent time. The verdant boughs of heartwarming memories had long ago turned to brown, but he was both surprised and pleased to learn that they were not beyond sprouting tender shoots if he cared to turn his attention there—if he was willing to look beyond the pain and turn his mind to happier times.

As he neared his car, walking down a winding path, he continued reminiscing about the simpler, happier time of his college days, where, in a campus not unlike these pastoral grounds, Tom, Chrissie and he had spent the best years of their lives. Seeing Chrissie again had begun in him a faint welling of emotions he thought he had left behind, or at least learned to keep submerged by years of practice taught by necessity. But she was still the same woman he had loved in silence, never voicing his feelings, knowing that her heart was not and could not be his. Yet he had shared countless dreams and memories far more intimate than the sexual relationship they would never have, and that he could not even fantasize about without engendering strong feelings of guilt and betrayal towards his best friend.  Despite the still remembered pain of his secret, unrequited love, and despite his best friend’s withdrawing into an inner world that left no place for him, those years had left him with memories he would not have traded for anything in this or any other world.

Phil reached his car, entered it, mechanically turned it on and began to drive away, his mind still floating in mist of tenebrous recollections.  A half hour later, as he approached Tom’s house, Phil felt as if he were awaking from a troubled dream; he became aware of his driving, or the wind rushing through his hair and the soft guttural sounds of his uncharacteristically under-revved Porsche. He shook his head, trying to dispel the fragments of his haunting recollections. Looking at his speedometer, he noticed he was traveling at only 35 miles per hour in a 55 zone–a bit unusual for someone who’d had his license twice suspended for having accumulated an excessive number of speeding tickets.

“Damn, I must be getting old,” he snickered out loud as he turned into Tom’s driveway. He stopped abruptly and gazed around him in disbelief at the want of care evidenced by what had once been painstakingly well tended grounds. Gone were the white rosebushes that had flanked the driveway, and the cherry, apple and peach trees in the orchard to the right were all bereft of foliage, sporting instead dozens of large, ash colored gypsy moth cocoons bulging with the gorged bearers of doom for all nearby vegetation. The lawn had long ago gone to seed, and tall grasses grew from what had been impeccable flower beds. Everything was overrun by weeds, some nearly five-feet tall with dandelions and a wide range of other weeds giving the front lawn a spectral appearance despite the bright sunshine. Sap oozed like honeyed, amber blood from trees whose fallen dead limbs littered the small orchard, some of which had fallen on the driveway and impeded his passage.  Gypsy moths were not the only unwelcome guests; Carpenter ants had found a haven here, leaving behind a cankerous wound and gaping hole in a large oak at the end of the driveway, by the front door.  Nor had the house been spared; a shutter hung at nearly a 45 degree angle framing a large picture window with an extensive crack running along it diagonally from left to right; this had, at least, been temporarily repaired with several layers of three-inch wide transparent tape. The work of termites could also be observed around the windows and the door frame.

[*****END OF PREVIEW # 1*****]

This short story is one of eight short stories in Book of Dreams 2nd Edition and has also been reprinted as a stand-alone short sot for the Kindle reader. You can view additional information about each by clicking on the book covers below. For additional information about other titles currently available through Amazon, you can visit my author’s page by clicking here. Thank you for visiting this page and for your interest in my short fiction.

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