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* * * * *
He was looking at himself, in the dream, but it was not in a mirror. He
was standing inside a polished room and the other Nick Danson lay on a
bed wrapped in sleep. Nick blinked at the still duplicate of himself on
the bed and turned away to look at the room he was in. It wasn't large.
It appeared to be some kind of bedroom, and it was well lighted although
there were no lights to be seen; the walls seemed to glow, and
everything was of a bright metal. The mirror caught his eye and he saw
himself in the same blue and yellow uniform that he'd worn before. The
Danson who lay asleep on the bed was dressed in blue dress pants and a
white shirt. The tie had been loosened at his throat and his clothing
was wrinkled badly.
Suddenly the other Danson opened his eyes and looked at Nick. For a
moment he appeared to be startled at seeing him, then he smiled. The
smile erupted in a chuckle that became a laugh. The other Danson's face
grew large and full, roaring out laughter at Nick until the whole scene
changed from one of odd curiosity to one of absolute horror, the kind of
weird horror that can come only from peals of loud, echoing laughter
rolling through the caverns of the mind.
* * * * *
Nick awoke gasping, his fingers knotted in the sheets of the bed and a
cold sweat beading out upon his face. His heart hammered in his chest
like a drum, threatening to leap to his throat at any moment. He looked
around anxiously for Beth, but the silence of the room reminded him that
she had gone back to the city and her job. Dawn was breaking and the dim
light filtered through the unwashed windows. There was little point in
trying to sleep now. Might as well get his clothes on and try to start
unraveling a long thread of odd events.
He pulled on his clothes slowly and slid his feet into his shoes,
wondering where to begin the climb back to himself. It would be bad
enough for an amnesia victim to regain all his memory if given an
unlimited length of time - this way, with people closing in on all
sides, the whole damned thing seemed impossible.
He hooked the last button on his shirt, stuffed it into his pants, and
headed for the kitchen. He warmed up last night's coffee and it tasted
like warm sulfuric acid, but it brought him around to full
consciousness, even if his stomach did object to it.
When he had finished the coffee, he found the library in the den and
began reading a few of the titles; often, he remembered, a lot could be
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