Ryan had seen this before. He couldn’t recollect where he had seen this, but it all somehow seemed familiar
to him. Everything seemed so familiar but also intangible
Ryan didn’t really know where any of the events from the past few hours came from. He vaguely remembered finding himself in a metal cell, not knowing where he was or why he was imprisoned. It was a small cell—everything around him was metal—and there was an armed guard standing outside the locked door.
He did somehow find the courage to ask the guard what was going on; the guard simply turned around, laughed maliciously, and mysteriously faded away as the door unlocked itself. Ryan just didn’t try to figure it out this time, and he walked out of his cell and into the hallway.
The hallway didn’t seem to lead in any particular direction; it just meandered randomly as it passed what seemed like thousands of rooms. The hallway was made of metal like the prison, only it was bronze in appearance while the prison was silver. Ryan walked around rather nonchalantly; it did not occur to him to move quickly or stealthily, or that perhaps he was being watched.
Ryan was not being watched. In fact, the entire building or complex or spaceship or whatever kind of structure that was holding him captive was completely empty at the moment. But the utter stillness of it all bothered Ryan a great deal more than an armed pursuit would have. Or so he thought until an alarm started going off and the cliché red lights began to flash around.
When he heard the sound of quickly moving footsteps, his only impulse was to run. He didn’t even know if he was going to right way, but he ran for his dear life for what seemed like an eternity. But the footsteps did not recede; rather they grew ever closer and louder. And then they came from ahead of him, too. He still had not seen his pursuers, but he knew they were coming closer and all the more menacing. The only way to go now was into an open room on his left. He darted through the doorway and closed the hatch, probably just in time. The guards (he imagined they looked like Storm Troopers) were now right outside the door, and they were shooting at the locking panel with their guns.
Ryan had to act fast. He looked around him. It was a small room, nowhere to hide or escape. There was just one large, digital screen in front of him. He couldn’t decipher the message on the screen at first—his mind was so jumbled from the sudden chaos in which he had found himself. When he finally did read it, he did not understand the situation any more than he had before.
PRESS ANY KEY TO CONTINUE. PRESS ANY OTHER KEY TO EXIT.
This is where Ryan experienced the déjà vu—where we began. Ryan did not particularly like déjà vu; it only distracted him from what was important, like the violent armed soldiers who would break into the room any second and do God-could-only-imagine-what to him and the esoteric message on the screen. Press any key to continue. Press any other key to exit.
Ryan didn’t know what to do. It didn’t make any sense. There was no keyboard, nor were there any keys. Even if there had been keys, he would not have known what to do with them. And, if given the option of choosing one of the two directions, he would not have known which to take. He obviously wanted to have somewhere to run when the troopers broke in. But he wanted more than anything to be out of there, away from this Star Wars gone mad, safe at home, on Earth even. Ryan was beginning to really panic, and the guards were starting to break through the door. Someone yelled something in a language Ryan didn’t understand, and more gunshots went off. He just turned blankly and questioningly to the screen for guidance. Press any key to continue. Press any other key to exit.
Moments later, when he woke up in his bed, Ryan did not remember the dream. He did not realize that he had experienced that same nightmare every night for the past three months. He did not know why he was thinking of himself as Ryan either—his name was Paul, and he didn’t know anybody named Ryan. And he had no way of knowing that he would experience that dream again that night, and the next. . .