The year was 2081, and the world was fast asleep. All across the blood-strewn trenches and muddy campsites, the serenity of rhythmic breathing and the whistling of the wind through the crevices of the barrack windows molded together into an eerily familiar but ghastly symphony.
Inside barrack number 27, John Frosting’s eyes spun from side to side behind his eyelids, threatening to escape the edges of his eye sockets with every collision. Suddenly, his aching muscles tensed up and released with an exhale of desperation from months of crouching low in a trench.
He was inside a room, no, not just any room, it was his old dormitory from high school. Vintage drones he spent his whole childhood collecting with his grandfather hung from the ceiling in a colony of mismatched metal and aeroplastic. The creme colored walls were punctuated by those notorious bulky in wall plugs. He remembered the initial horror of having to actually plug in a charger for his tablet because his school was too thrifty to spend money on desks with rechargeable surfaces.
In the corner of the small room leaned John’s most prized possession: an actual hand playable electric guitar. He didn’t know the exact age of the guitar, but seeing how it still contained traces of wood, it must have been made sometime around the 30s. He walked over, his shoes silent on the musty rug. Guitars were rare before the recruitment, and pretty much rendered nonexistent by subsequent bombings. John meant to learn how to play some songs on the guitar before he graduated, but between mountains of school work and the onset of the war, there just wasn’t time for the outdated instrument. With a sense of nostalgia, he reached out to pluck the dusty strings, only to find that upon touch, his fingers dissipated into a cloud of shadowy particles that slipped right through the thin metal. He stared at his fingers in disbelief, watching the remnants of his hand shatter and reform at each blink of his eyes.
“Johnny, you came, ” a soft voice whispered.
John whirled around and his heart flipped to the base of his throat. He recognized the springy red curls that framed her petite face and those melted caramel eyes that radiated with innocence and comfort.
“Sady,” he breathed.
“Sady, what are you doing here? Where’s your husband?” John searched for the familiar thick uniform clad arm that has always wrapped around the delicate waist of the willowy girl.
Somewhere in the distance, a shrill alarm pierced the still air.
“It’s so good to see you. ” Sady’s smile illuminated the rapidly darkening room.
“What’s going on, Sady?” Something was wrong. This wasn’t R.E.M anymore.
John’s body shuddered, and from the corners of his eyes, he saw that both his legs had disintegrated into a mound of dust and particles.
“I’ve missed you Johnny.”
That’s when the shells dropped.
“Frosting, wake up, you’re on morning surveillance duty.” Mike shook a disorientated John awake from his deep slumber.
“Oh shit,” John muttered. The barrack door banged loudly in the harsh morning wind, letting in the stench of the campsite with each impact.
“How did you manage to sleep through the alarm? I didn’t think that it was a remotely possible feat.” Mike asked curiously as John tried unsuccessfully to button up his uniform.
“I have no idea,”
Mike leaned in close.
“Listen, I need you to get me another R.E.M pill for tonight.”
“But you took one yesterday night. It wouldn’t be safe to take another one so soon.”
“Listen here Johnny boy, I pay you, You get me the pills. This is how it is going to work.”
John shrugged and rolled his eyes. If Mike wanted to get sleep paralysis, John wasn’t going to stop him.
“Great, thanks bro,” Mike clapped John on the back, “you ever been to one of those little performance halls in the R.E.M red district. I tell you, it’s pretty bloody amazing what they do there.”
As he jogged into the cold morning, John thought about his odd encounter with Sady last night. It was a side of R.E.M that he has never seen or set foot upon before. But it probably wasn’t anything major, maybe he took a defect pill by accident. The world has never had the reason to doubt Radway’s invention, and since half his income depends on it, John wasn’t about to start now.