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Alive…

He had walked these corridors a million times but ever since he got back to work after the accident it felt different. Possibly because he had been gone for so many months that felt like years. He was glad to be back but the past weeks had been exhausting because he had to get caught up to everything that had happened during his absence. The progress the team had made, there were some new faces while familiar ones were gone. It had taken him a while to get used to it, to get a certain routine back.
He turned a corner and ran into Glenn.
“Hey. Guess what.”, Glenn said and walked with him.
“I don’t know, did you see Elvis?”, Jonathan had no idea where Glenn was going with this.
“Not today but it’s cheesecake day in the cafeteria.”
“Oh, that’s great we need to get some for lunch.”, Jonathan say gleefully.
“You mean after lunch.”
“No, I mean for lunch. It’s cheesecake, Glenn.” He gave Glenn a very serious look.
“Right. Oh by the way, happy birthday, I almost forgot.”
Glenn gave Jonathan a friendly pat on the back.
“Happy what now?”
“Birthday. Today is the 13th. Dude, did you forget your own birthday again?”
Jonathan checked his phone for the date. Glenn was right on both counts. It was his birthday and he forgot which happened to him on a regular basis. He smiled to himself.
“Well, I guess I did. Anyway, thank you.” he said and laughed.
“Do you and Jennifer have any plans for today?”, Glenn asked.
“Maybe she has planned something, I don’t know. We’ll see.”
“This is your first birthday since you’re out of the hospital, I hope something special is waiting for you, my friend.”
“Huh. Yeah, that’s right. I didn’t realize…. You know, I’m happy to be able to celebrate another birthday.”

When Jonathan left work later that afternoon he was hit by the ice cold February air. The parking lot was pretty dark apart from some street lights and he walked to his car as fast as he could to get out of the freezing cold. He couldn’t wait to get home to his wife.
He turned on the heat and was about to start the car when he hesitated.
Something had been on his mind all day since Glenn had mentioned it but he couldn’t tell exactly why it had hit him so hard. He was right, it was his first birthday after he got out of the hospital after the accident.
He didn’t remember his last birthday but Jennifer told him about it.
It must have been so hard for her, he thought. She said she was always by his side, every day he was in that induced coma fighting for his life. She didn’t know whether he would survive his birthday back then but she never gave up hope. Just thinking about this was painful for him. She was so worried but Jonathan never wanted anyone to worry about him, never wanted anyone to suffer just because of him. He knew it wasn’t his fault but…it had still happened.
He pictured her crying at the hospital bed. No, she didn’t deserve all the pain she went through.
He tried to force himself to stop thinking about that but it was too late he was already overwhelmed by the emotions. Tears came to his eyes and he just sat there for several minutes, his mind racing with thoughts.
Then his phone buzzed.
Jonathan took a deep breath and reached for his left pocket to take it out.
It was a text message from Jennifer.

You should come home before your brother eats all the birthday cake 🙂

This made him smile, he loved her so much, more than words could ever say.
He decided that was really time to go home, plus there was the prospect of cake. Cake was never wrong.
And if Thomas touched his birthday cake he would disown him…

A bottled mystery…

A cool wind was blowing from the ocean as Jennifer sat on the beach reading a murder mystery. Normally she didn’t like those but Sarah had recommended it to her and she thought she’d give it a try. She liked it and she had no clue who the murder was, at least not yet.
It was a nice and quiet late Saturday afternoon in April, the sun was shining but the sky was getting clouded. She loved the sound of the waves crashing and the smell of the sea.
Jonathan was lying next to her on the blanket. He had been reading, too, but he seemed to have fallen asleep.
She watched him for a few minutes. After everything that had happened it was no wonder he was tired. She decided to let him sleep as long as he didn’t start snoring.
As she turned her head to look at the waves she saw some kind of weird reflection in the sand close to the water.
Whatever it was it wasn’t there before so could it have been washed ashore by the waves? She got curious and decided to investigate. It was probably nothing exciting… but what if it was?
The object was easy to reach, she just had to avoid some light waves.
It was an old bottle. But it wasn’t empty, something was visible through the glass.
Jennifer took the bottle back to where they had put the blanket and sat back down which did not go unnoticed by Jonathan who woke up the same second.
“What is that?”, he asked with a tired voice and sat up.
Jennifer smiled at him. “It looks like a message in the bottle. I found it right over there.” She pointed to where she picked it up.
The roll of paper looked very old and faded, she hoped whatever was written on it was still readable.
“Can you open it?”
“I think so. What do you think it is? A treasure map? Maybe a love letter from a man who was lost at sea to the woman he loved?”
“Or to the man he loved.”, Jonathan added. “Hey, you never know.”
“Let’s find out.”
Jennifer removed the cork and tried to get the roll of paper out through the bottle neck, very carefully as not to damage the paper.
She slowly unrolled the paper and noticed it that was 3 sheets of handwritten text. The writing was very small, it looked like whoever write this wanted to fit in as much as possible yet it was still readable.
“Look, there is a date. January 24th, 1843. This is pretty cool.” She started to skim over the text to see what it was all about. It didn’t make a lot of sense to her, they wrote about darkness and light, the past and the future. It almost sounded like a science fiction novel.
When she got to the second page she read something that wasn’t possible.
“Honey, you should take a look at this.”
“What is it?”, he asked as he looked at the sheet of paper in her hand. She pointed to the last line on the page where two names were written in capital letters. Jennifer Ryan and Jonathan MacLean…

Shadows…

“See you tomorrow, Doctor.”, Katya said as she left the lab. She was one of the lab assistants in Jonathan’s and Glenn’s team.
“Yeah… have a nice evening..”, Jonathan replied a little absentmindedly. He was sitting at one of the tables in the lab going through the results from today and taking some notes. They were making good progress and they were definitely on the right way. What they did could be groundbreaking but they still had so many problems to solve so they might need a lot of time and hard work.
Jonathan took a look at the clock on the wall. Already a quarter to 7, it was time to go home, Jennifer was probably waiting for him and he had done enough work for today.
He gathered his notes, pens and phone, stood up from the table and took a look around to check if everything was okay, if everything was switched off that was supposed to be switched off. Nobody else was there, just him, some blinking lights and shadows cast on the walls and floor. It was dark outside and it would be another cold winter night.
He walked towards the door to the lounge room/conference room where they had a little team breakfast every Friday morning, spent breaks, had discussions. He had a great team with very smart and talented people and everybody seemed to enjoy working with each other. You don’t find that too often.
Nobody was in this room or in the fully equipped kitchen adjacent to the lounge room. Jonathan turned off the kitchen light then the lounge room light as he left through the door.
Suddenly he saw a shadow move in the corner of his eye and he turned his head. But there was nothing. Then it happened again in another corner. He turned his head again. Nothing.
He felt chills going down his spine.
Maybe it was just his eyes playing tricks on him, it had been a long day and he was tired, yet he couldn’t shake the feeling that somebody, or something, was watching him.
But it couldn’t be. The feeling didn’t disappear until he left the lab and locked the door behind him…

Peanut butter…

He jumped off the yellow tree into a puddle of peanut butter and ran. Something scared him and he could just feel it go after him. Something dangerous and dark. At least he tried to run. He could feel his legs move but he couldn’t get away, he was stuck. Was it the peanut butter?
He looked down to check but he saw 4 cats licking his shoes. So it couldn’t be the peanut butter. But he couldn’t feel the danger anymore so he must have escaped it somehow.
He slowly walked towards the little shed behind the tall hedges. He was hungry and he just knew that there would be Doritos. Almost starving he reached the row of hedges that protected the shed with the life saving food but he wasn’t able to pass them, there were so many hedges and when he took a closer look he realized that it was a labyrinth. There had to be a way out but the entrance was gone, hedges everywhere. How do you escape a labyrinth? One that changes all the time. There was a trace of colorful dust on the ground and he decided to follow it never looking up. If he couldn’t make it through this maze he would probably die. The dust was the answer. It was bright and sparkly and changed colors. What could it be? Star dust? What was it doing here? He ran into a wall and hurt his head. A white cats was licking up the dust. “No, don’t do it. I need this.”, he shouted. The cat ignored him.
What was he supposed to do now? The hedges were massive brick walls now and it started raining. What was he supposed to do? Staying here was too dangerous so he continued his search for the shed. The shed would save him. A few meters ahead stood another tree. A giant and dark tree without leaves and this tree seemed to be responsible for the maze. Owls were sitting in the tree, one on each branch. They didn’t move, just observed, stared at him and saw his fears. What were they planning? Whatever it was, it couldn’t be good so it was time to get out of there. Again he tried to run but couldn’t. Running never worked, just because he stepped in the peanut butter earlier. He turned his back on the mysterious tree and saw the shed but it wasn’t the shed. There was no shed, it was bait. No life saving Doritos, no shelter. Just a hole in the ground. It started raining again but it wasn’t water, it was the glowing, glittering dust. It was everywhere. He looked up to see where it came from but there was nothing, no clouds, just the ceiling of the world.
“Jonathan.” a voice behind him called out to him. It was a familiar voice, a comforting voice.
He turned around. There was nobody.
“Jonathan.” Once again a voice behind him. He turned around again and saw a man. A man he knew so well. “Gary?”
Gary stood there in a beautiful field of flowers, dressed in white. Smiling his smile.
Jonathan walked towards him, happy to see him again. He couldn’t believe he was here. What was he doing here? They hugged each other tightly and then they kissed.
They were suddenly disrupted by the sound of an explosion, so loud it was deafening. Jonathan opened his eyes but Gary was gone, the flowers were gone. A swarm of terrifying dragons flew overhead. But they weren’t important right now, he had to get to class, he was late already. Not again. If he failed this class he would be expelled, what would his parents think? He was lucky, the school bus arrived and he jumped in, he would be on time, everything was going to be fine.
And then the alarm clock went off…

Guinea pigs…

She deserved this lunch break so much. It had been a busy morning with patients flooding the practice, a moody assistant and a printer that just quit working. Jennifer needed this break and she wanted to be left alone in her office for an hour, alone with her coffee and her Game of Thrones book. But just as she sat back to start reading someone knocked on the door. Of course.
She rolled her eyes. “Come in.”
The door opened and Sarah, her friend and co-owner of the practice, entered the room with a smile. “Hi.”, she said joyfully. “I have to tell you about last night.”
Jennifer remembered. Sarah had a blind date the night before and she had been so nervous all week. “Ahh, yes. Please tell me how it went.”
Sarah took a seat on the chair on the other side of Jennifer’s desk. “It was so weird.”, she began. “He was half an hour late and when he finally arrived at the bar he didn’t even say hello, no greeting at all. He just sat down and took a drink from my glass and yelled to the barkeeper to get him another drink. Then he wouldn’t stop talking about his guinea pigs. Then he asked me if I had enough money to pay his bill. Well, let’s just say I’ll stay away from blind dates in the future.” She laughed.
“I’m sure you will find the right guy. Or maybe he’ll find you.”, Jennifer reassured her. Her friend was a lovely woman with many great qualities but she was quite picky when it came to men.
Sarah sighed and picked up a small plushed teddy bear from Jennifer’s desk. He had a little heart on his belly. “Maybe someone who gives me cute teddy bears like this.”
“Maybe. Or maybe someone who will give you a huge unicorn.” Jennifer loved this little bear and smiled. “Jonathan gave this to me as a Valentine’s Day gift when we were 15 years old. It was cute, he was so awkward. It has always meant a lot to me that’s why I still have it.”
“You’re very lucky.”, Sarah told her. But Jennifer knew…

The missing lock…

The sky was clouded and a cool wind was blowing as Jennifer walked down the streets in her neighborhood. She just had to get out and take a walk after 2 days of writing. Her novel was coming along great but everyone needed a break now and then. She enjoyed the fresh salty air. She passed some houses, looked the front yards and porches. Some were very neat with trimmed lawns and flowers, nicely decorated, others were overgrown but charming. She saw bushes and trees and a huge flower pot that looked like it was a repurposed drum from a washing machine. Some people were really creative.
Jennifer turned left after the next house and walked along a narrow path between rows of maple trees. It lead her to the beach and she decided to take the beach route back home.
The sound of the waves and the seagulls was soothing, she was not in a hurry so she took it all in and walked slowly on the sand.
After a few minutes something in the sand caught her eye, something small and shiny. She reached down to check it out, it took her a few seconds to get it out of the sand completely. She inspected it and it looked like an old and rusty, and now sandy, bead chain necklace with a small key attached to it. Could it have been washed up on the shore? She cleaned it from the sand to take it back home. There was something about it that she found fascinating. Who did it belong to and what would the key open? As a writer it inspired her.
She would ask her husband about it, maybe he had an idea, maybe he recognized the kind of key. She remembered that he told her he wanted to try a new waffle recipe that he got from his father. The prospect of fresh waffles made her walk faster…

Unicorns of the sea…

The lab was quiet and Anne went over some calculations that Jonathan gave her. He and Glenn were sitting at a table and discussing the latest results of their experiments. They had reached another point in their project where they needed a few days to figure out some problems.
She approached their table with the papers in her hands, ready to talk about them. Both guess seemed to be discussing something very important so she didn’t want to disturb them and just sat down and listened.
“I don’t know, man. That’s not how I remember it.”, Jonathan said.
“I swear. I’m 100% sure. They’re bouncing.”
“Why should they bounce, it doesn’t make any sense anyway.”
Glenn cleared his throat.
Jonathan rolled his eyes. “Just don’t…-” But it was too late.
Glenn started singing loudly. “Gummiii Beeears, bouncing here and there and everywhere…”
“Alright! They’re bouncing. Whatever. I’ve always preferred the Care Bears anyway.”
Anne had to laugh. “You two are idiots.” Jonathan and Glenn liked to bring some fun into the lab which everyone appreciated.
Glenn looked at her and smiled. “We know.”
“And everybody knows that Winnie the Pooh was the best.”, Anne added.
“So what’s up?”, Jonathan asked her.
“Well, your calculations. I have a few questions about them like what the hell is that?” Anne was puzzled by what she had read. She was pretty smart herself but Jonathan was a genius and sometimes his equations and ideas were way above her pay grade. She knew him very well so she knew that he was always willing to explain every detail when someone asked. This time she had absolutely no idea what she was even looking at.
“We can go through everything later this afternoon.” Jonathan suggested.
“Alright, but bring some candy. It will probably take a while.”
A phone rang. It was Glenn’s. “Excuse me, that’s my wife. Gotta take it if I want to live.” He stood up and took a few steps back to talk to his wife in private. Anne watched him. He looked a little confused by what he was hearing.
“My wife wants me to buy her a coffee table book with pictures of narwhals.” He announced when he returned to the table. “God knows why.”
“Narwhals are the unicorns of the sea.”, Jonathan explained.
Anne knew Glenn’s wife, she could be pretty random sometimes. She took painting lessons just to know how to paint durians. A few weeks ago Glenn had complained about the masses of durian pantings in their house. Anne liked her…

A summer afternoon discovery…

Jonathan walked along the street in his hometown. He was on his way to the post office to pick up a package. It was a hot summer day and he already missed the air conditioning of his car. Not a lot of people were outside, most of them avoided leaving the cool indoors.
Summer was not Jonathan’s favorite season.
He passed some shops and restaurants that had always been there so he didn’t pay them much attention until suddenly something caught his eye.
He slowed down to take a look and he was confused. Until just a couple of days ago there used to be a barber shop but it wasn’t there anymore. Instead the sign now said “Fred’s antique books”. Jonathan go curious. He loved books and sometimes browsed books for hours so this looked very interesting. From what he could see through the window the store was full of books, old and new. He didn’t really have the time but he still wanted to check it out.
When he entered the store the first thing he noticed was the cook air. What a relief.
The store itself was rather dark and the smell of old books was in the air. He liked that.
He looked around and saw 3 other customers and a tall, skinny man with gray hair and glasses at the check out desk. Everything looked like it had been there for years but that wasn’t possible. Jonathan had a strange feeling, something wasn’t right.
He continued to look around and walked between the bookshelves. The titles of some of the books were pretty obscure. “How the frogs conquered the moon”, “The secret life of willow trees”. He had never heard of the titles or the authors before but that didn’t really have to mean anything. Nobody knew every title.
He reached the back wall of the store and saw an old astronomy book. He took it in his hands. It wasn’t antique, but few decades old. Some of the information would be outdated but it was interesting nonetheless. The dust jacket looked worn out and someone had made some notes inside the book. At first it didn’t look like much but Jonathan noticed that the notes didn’t make any sense and had nothing to do with astronomy.
“Hello.” The dark voice startled him and he looked up to see the man from the check out. Maybe he was the owner, Fred.
“Uhm, hello.”, Jonathan replied but he didn’t really know what to say. The man looked him right into the eyes which made him a little uncomfortable. The man’s eye were dark and he looked old but he couldn’t really tell how old he could be. His glasses looked almost antique. He was wearing a white shirt with short sleeves and dark green tie. On the back of his left hand was a small tattoo, Jonathan couldn’t quite make out what it was. It looked like some kind of animal.
Fred reach for the book in Jonathan’s hand and took it. It was the tattoo of an elephant, he could see it now.
“I’ve been waiting for you, Jonathan.”…

Meant to be…

“Tell me something about you that I don’t know.”, Jonathan asked.
He and Jennifer had just had a nice dinner at home and were cuddling up on the couch in the living room. It was dark and windy outside with snow clouds looming over town. Orion, one of their cats, an orange tabby, was sleeping on the other end of the couch.
“I think you already know everything about me. Well… let’s see…”
Jonathan had wrapped his arm around her and waited while she was thinking of something. He was tired, it had been a long day so he really appreciated the time he could spend with the woman he loved more than anything.
“Okay, this is probably gonna be a little embarrassing.”, she said after a few minutes.
“Don’t worry about it.”
“So when I was a teenager I used to write Star Trek fan fiction. I didn’t want my parents or my friends to know so I did it in secret.”
“That’s not embarrassing. Which Star Trek was it?”
“All of them. I wrote crossovers and time-travel, I used all the characters.”, she chuckled, “my favorite story was a long story about Tom Paris traveling through time, visiting all the Captains, saving the universe.”
“That sounds fun. I love stories like that. And man, Tom Paris, I had such a crush on him, he was hot.” Jonathan remembered how he watched Star Trek to escape reality a little. It was such a different world where everything was going to be okay in the end, it was comforting. Then he remembered something else.
“You know… I actually used to read Star Trek fan fiction.”, he admitted.
Jennifer was surprised. “Really? Why did we never talk about it?”
“I don’t know, I guess it just never came up? Oh, I even had a favorite author…what was the name? WarpCoreBreach47 or something. Their stories were really good, I wonder where they are now.”
Jennifer turned to look at him. “You’re kidding, oh my gosh, that was me.”
“No way!”
They laughed. They had knows each other since they were teenagers and that is something they never knew about each other. It was like they were just meant to be together…

Home…

Jennifer loved coming home. She loved the house and everything about it. It was warm and spacious and truly felt like home.
They had moved in a little less than 2 years ago after big make over. When they bought the house it was not in a very good condition but they fell in love with it, with the neighborhood, with that small town and the ocean. They basically had a beach in their backyard and how could they say no to that?
Before that they had lived in a small apartment in Portland, close to their work. It had a small bathroom, a bedroom, a kitchen and living area and that was it. It was not enough space for them. Not after so many years. It was their first apartment after they first came to Portland as students. But their lives had changed since then, they started working and settling down. Both of them loved to read so they had so many books that they didn’t know where to put them anymore. They had just needed more space not only for themselves but also for their cats. And sometimes they needed time for themselves. The loved each other but there were times when each of them needed some time and space. Especially Jonathan who was an introvert and a thinker and loved some quiet time.
Jennifer couldn’t say why they hadn’t moved out sooner but it was probably because they had been so busy and sometimes too comfortable to change something. But once they had decided to get a bigger place they were determined to find the perfect home which of course was not easy. They had tried everything, looked at apartments and houses and none of them made them feel at home. One of Jennifer’s patients was a real estate agent and had tried to help them find something, they had tried the internet and just drove around looking for houses for sale. They talked about lowering their expectations, about compromises, about their budget, even considered building a house. But still they hadn’t been able to find what they wanted.
Then one afternoon Jennifer, Jonathan and Anne drove up the coast to a little town called Winchester to try a new restaurant that someone had recommended and they got lost. Their GPS showed them the wrong way so they ended up in this quiet, beautiful neighborhood right by the ocean and then they saw it. It was an older house and it looked uninhabited and a little damaged and there was an old weathered sign that said “For sale”.
And that was it, they contacted the agent, made an appointment to see the house and it was perfect. It did need a lot of renovations, new wallpapers, now floors, new paint. But that wasn’t a problem.
And once they had moved in it was theirs, it was home…