Georgia snapped her eyes open. A single bead of sweat traced her forehead. Only a dream, she assured herself, her heart beating a million times a minute. Only a dream.
It was a dream she'd been having for the last month, now. Always, the same thing. She would awake in a featureless gray room, sitting in a horribly uncomfortable iron chair. There were no windows, no light fixtures, and yet she could still see perfectly, as if the room was magically lit up by an invisible sun. Every time, Georgia would immediately get out of the chair. Every time, she would look for a way out. Every time, the room was devoid of any openings.
She would get frustrated, bang on the walls, eventually start yelling for help. All she ever heard were the echoes of her own voice.
Eventually, she would give up, realize that she was never leaving the room. She would collapse to the floor, lean against a perfectly polished wall, and put her face into her hands.
And at that moment, only at that moment, would she begin to hear footsteps.
It was the sound of stilettos tapping against steel, like raindrops against a tin roof. She would hear them starting slow, then speeding up, faster and faster, as if the person wearing the heels was becoming impatient and stomping on the floor, as if they were saying, Look at me. Look at me. Look at me.
And Georgia, slightly annoyed by the tapping at this point, would look up. And she would see the woman.
She had skin like hot chocolate, and sprinkled across it were strange white freckles. Her hair was black as midnight, and it would flap in a wind only she could feel. Her dress was white and spotless, and it fluttered in tune with her ebony locks. On her feet she wore heels three inches tall, glittering with diamonds. Her skin, her curves, her face... it was all perfect. She was ageless. Timeless.
Georgia could only stare.
The woman would just look at her with her dark eyes, like black coffee. And suddenly her crimson lips would curve into a chilling smile, and two razor-sharp words would glide out of her mouth into the throbbing air:
And Georgia would wake up, sweat on her brow. She didn't know why she woke at that particular moment. She wasn't scared of the woman. At least, she didn't think she was. It wasn't like she intentionally ripped herself out of the dreams, either. It just happened, as if her subconscious had a mind of its own.
The corners of Georgia's lips curved upwards slightly. Of course my subconscious mind has a mind of its own, she thought, chuckling a bit internally. If it didn't, I would know exactly what it was thinking. And I don't. So of course it thinks on its own! Of course!
She didn't know if she was making any sense. It didn't matter.
She had read an article on something like the subject. Apparently, the left brain controls all the ways that we communicate. If we consciously think it, and then say it or do it, that's our left brain talking. But in some people, after a failed surgery, their right brain started to be able to control the actions of the body. And sometimes the right brain acted like a completely different person. It might control the hand of someone to punch their wife, or to strangle themselves. The right brain has a different personality, even different ambitions in life. Perhaps, the article proposed, humans have a completely different person locked up in their brains, unable to speak or do anything. Perhaps every human mind has a prisoner.
The article went something like that, anyway. Georgia wasn't sure. She had read the article about a month ago. Her memory barely seemed to last two weeks.
Georgia yawned. She turned over in her bed to face the clock on her nightstand. It was 2:00 am. Ugh.
Rolling over, Georgia shut her eyes, forgetting for the moment about weird dreams and science articles. Slowly, her consciousness faded out of focus.
And suddenly, Georgia was sitting on the uncomfortable iron chair in the gray, featureless room.
She looked around. Not again, she thought, standing up and brushing off her butt. I just had this dream, like, thirty seconds ago! Right?
Slowly, she walked over to one of the walls. Her fingertips grazed the metallic surface. Even just by barely touching it, she could feel how cold it was. As if beyond the door was a tundra, and the cold was seeping through the walls.
Georgia drew her hand away. Her fingers still felt slightly frosty.
She walked backwards, away from the walls, towards the iron chair. The walls felt like they were closing in on her. The air felt like it was getting colder and colder every second. She backed up even more, almost stumbling over the chair. She caught herself just in time on an armrest.
The walls were closing in. She could feel it. "Help!" she cried out. The word echoed in the space, mocking her.
No... no... Georgia looked up. No familiar blue sky was there. Only cold, gray metal.
"Please!" Georgia screamed. No one answered. She squeezed her eyes tight, trying to wrench herself out of her dream, out of her sleeping mind. Nothing. Her breaths came in short gasps. The air felt like it was getting thicker, becoming compressed. The ceiling was caving in, the walls were closing in--
And suddenly, Georgia felt a flash of understanding.
I'm never getting out of here. Never.
It was like the word echoed throughout the room.
Georgia closed her eyes to the onslaught of gray. She would die here. She would never leave. So be it.
So be it.
Quietly, out of the gray walls and the silence, there came a tap, like a drop of rain against a tin roof.
Then it came again.
Faster and faster, until it was as if an entire rainstorm was splattering onto that roof.
Georgia hesitantly opened her eyes. The walls were no longer caving in. Everything was still.
And in front of her stood the woman, black eyes glittering.
Georgia took an unsteady step forwards towards her. She didn't know exactly why. There was this magnetic presence about the woman, and she couldn't help but be drawn towards her.
For a while, they just stood there. Two women, one touched by fantasy, one trapped in a dream.
Finally, Georgia ventured to speak.
"Who... are you?" she whispered.
The woman's red lips formed a smile.
"I think you know who I am, Georgia."
And somehow, in another shocking moment of clarity, Georgia did.
"This is where I must stay forever." The woman gestured around herself. "Or how I like to think of it." She stared Georgia directly in the eyes. "Now you understand too, eh?"
Georgia nodded, slowly.
"So, you're real, then?" she asked.
The woman nodded. "In your head, just like in everyone else's."
Georgia shook her head. "I never..." She faltered, at a loss for words. "I never knew."
"But now you do." The woman took a few steps forward, her stilettos echoing. "At least that now."
Georgia put a hand to her forehead. That she had this woman, this other entity...
"Please know," she said to the woman, "I don't mean to keep you trapped. Really, I don't. If I could, I would set you free. All of you."
The woman's smiled again, but this time it was laced with melancholy. "Yes, well." She fiddled with her white dress. "There is nothing you or I can do about it. Except know, I suppose." She looked around at the walls of the room, of the cage.
Georgia didn't know what to say. What to do. Was there anything to do?
"Could I please wake up?" she asked timidly. "Or exit this dream, please?"
The woman looked down. She sighed. "Go, yes." A hint of bitterness, almost completely hidden, snaked through her voice. "Although I will probably bring you back here again, you know."
"O-okay." Georgia bowed her head as well. Her surroundings began to fade, little by little.
Suddenly, Georgia jerked her head up. "Wait," she called out. In front of her, the room shivered back into focus.
The woman looked up Georgia with dark eyes. "Yes?"
"Please, m'am..." Georgia looked her directly in her eyes. "What is your name?"
The woman's eyes softened slightly. Her lips curved into the barest hint of a smile.
"I was never given a name, Georgia," she said softly. "But I always liked the name Juliette."
The dream around Georgia faded to black.
Georgia woke up the next morning with the sun, which peeked through her bedroom curtains. Georgia sat up and stretched, popping her elbow. Good morning world, she thought, emitting another yawn. Happy Saturday.
All at once, the dream came flooding back. Georgia sat up, still, letting the details wash over her.
I suppose I should call her Juliette, then.
She slid out of her sheets, rubbing the right side of her head. For some reason, it hurt just slightly, as if it had been used more than usual. Slipping on a pair of slippers, Georgia smiled. It made sense why it hurt, she supposed.
Still smiling, she walked out of her room and into her kitchen.
Her mother's name had been Juliette.