The blackness engulfed Catherine's thoughts. Stretching out in front of her like a map, the unknown surveyed her anxieties, her strength, and her understanding.
Though her eyes are closed she can't think of why; her heart is battering, mind's empty. It's as if a spike of adrenaline has been cleared into her carotid. She spans into the utter darkness, breathing rate starting to steady.
Her eyes open like two searchlight beams, the new temporal inserts providing sufficient light to brighten whatever she looks at. It's like being shown the woods one tree at a time in some crazy memory game, but it's better than blackness.
Her feelings were accelerating inside her head. She wants them to hinder her so she can breathe but they won't. Her breaths come in gasps and she realizes as she will blackout any second from now, her heart is pounding inside her chest. The room swirls and she was attempting to make everything quiet to something her brain and body can withstand.
A nudge to her ribs makes her yank awake to see Mr. Nasir's smiling face. Wait...
Mr. Nasir? her boss? why is he here? She looked away confused, looking around when she noticed that she wasn't in their hotel suite nor the Dark Forest.
"Mr. Nasir! why are you here? Where am I?"
He smiled, not from amusement but out of the pleasure of a fear removed. Then he became serious again. "Relax, don't move just yet, you are in Mr. Walton's suite here in the DRI, but anyway we'll explain later but there was bad news, though."
"What? "She asked anxiously and sat down suddenly in her bed.
"Where are they?"
"Sean and Nathan" she added.
"Sean was okay, he wakes up a while ago and went for a quick shower. But the terrible news was Nathan. "He hesitated.
"He was in a coma ever since, you three agreed on that stupid plan of sleeping in that hotel together, but Nathan didn't wake until now so my team had transferred the three of you here," Nasir explained this rubbing his hands together seating in the stool beside the bed.
"How long was I asleep?"
"Not that long! It's morning now, you three fell asleep last night at seven in the evening."
The knock came quietly as the door open, Sean fresh from the shower and was grinning at her, looking at her with an emotion unknown to himself.
"Good, you're awake." He said grinning.
Catherine's eyes pursued the devil himself, surprise was written on her face. Sean was half-naked, every muscle on his torso flowing from the light into the dark. He was a living work of art, his soft skin so tempting to touch; every move giving away his strength. His eyes were locked onto her, naughty wild thoughts running in her mind. She reddens as she looks away.
"Can you at least put some shirt on? "She said suddenly while Sean smiles put his shirt above his head.
"I don't think I appreciate just how awful it is to see you here, showered and all; and me this." Pointing to herself and having a near Jet lag feeling. She would interpret it as like coming off the night shift. The exhaustion was all the same but at least it held an edge of uncertainty for a new day in a new place. The travel to the Land of Nod had bitten her hard and her hunger was bestowing her headache plus that abs and those V-line were making her uneasy even more
"Should I leave you guys? It seems to me like you too have an unfinished business to heed to." Nasir said watching them merrily. Catherine was the manifestation of awkwardness--she doesn't care, and barely knows, and would probably think were funny if she did. And together only a blind person won't notice the heat radiating between the two. Words unspoken.
"No, stay!" Both abruptly replied.
"I need you to explain to her what you've advised me earlier," Sean added anxiously while giving her a bowl of porridge for her to eat from the side table.
"Thanks!" She said, eating her sustenance heartily.
"Well, for starters. When I acquired an alert that the three of you were on the way to the Land Of Nod."
"Wait a minute, you knew this is all along?" She stopped him.
"Yes! Let me finished okay?!"
"Nathan had provided me an alert message before he took off to the hotel and I assembled my team to followed his instructions!"
"You knew Nathan? What instructions? Can somebody explain what is going on!" She said annoyed and perplexed.
"Yes! I knew him and he was my assistant.
"I'm your Assistant."
"Yes you are Catherine, in Lavasoft you
are my PA, but here Nathan was my assistant." He watched as his word brings no sign of contempt to Catherine's face. Shocking how different this woman from any other woman in his life. Sean was a fortunate man indeed.
"He told me to transport all of you here in the DRI facilities before waking you up and put you to our brain-scanning device; to monitor and study your dreams, in fact, all of your dreams!" Nasir said, and then favored Sean with a hugely exaggerated wink.
"What device? I didn't give any permission to any of those," she answered in a near panic voice but there was no sign of resentment rather than awe.
"You guys are giving me a headache."
"Then stopped interrupting, and let me finished!"
Catherine thought were beyond bitterness, how they played her, how she was a puppet after all. Her furious eyes are her pain untold, and she wishes she could show it, she does. But, she has to let them in so that she can trust them, but fear was her enemy, she doesn't know whom to trust. And her trust is shattered, lies were told.
"Sean, please tell me everything, we don't have sufficient time, we need to go back to rescue Nathan," Catherine asked thoughtfully staring into his eyes.
Nasir was amused, and his eyes sparkled behind the spectacles, he had known it for years. And yet what surprises him was that Sean hadn't told her. He needs to tell her now, He could see her compassion was wearing thin, she needs justifications in this instance. They owe her that.
"Okay," he paused, and suddenly his face was unreadable. Sean realized he had been lost in thought. He put an arm around her shoulder and squeezed briefly.
"See, I'm not just the owner of Lavasoft and hotels in London, I'm also a founder of DRI Institute, I funded it back in 2012." He added.
"Nasir was the team head and he works for me since the beginning, as well as Nathan and even Ada."
"What the heck are you talking about, Ada Nasir's Assistant Manager? She raised a question, surprised about the idea of Ada knowing about her issues.
"Wait, What is DRI institute?"
He then confided her everything.
Most people who own a substantial business could live very comfortably for the rest of their lives. Why do we conserve our fortunes, and try to expand them? Is it greed, or power? No! For him, that was not what it was. Sean strives for knowledge and he always had. When he began his search for answers he financed DRI. (The Dream Research Institute).
"It's the only transpersonal training center in the United Kingdom and one of the few self-sufficient charitable trusts in the world supporting research into dreams from the spiritual perspective," he explained.
The DRI was part of the Centre for Counselling and Psychotherapy Education Trust (CCPE), located in Central London. It explores the connection of dreams and wellbeing from the spiritual perspective, requiring public events and an unusual archive, as well as teaching videos and educational courses but that was just for public appearance.
He funded it for one sole purpose to help those who are curious about the nature of reality, consciousness, and dreams. He wants to know the reason for his dream; nevertheless his dreams about the Cold Mountain, his curiosity has been the only reason he funded it as he always has the same dream and he wanted to know if his dreams have a purpose? Had his dreams influenced his lives, his health, and his wellbeing? Do they lead him to spiritual awakening? and not until previously there were some subtle ways that scientists have found to study his dreams.
His team of scientists in DRI has been studying the actions of sleepwalkers or putting recording devices in people's rooms and catching the utterances that they make during sleep talking and analyzing the language of that.
Neuroimaging studies of rats with electrodes have been important. Some of the first research on memory consolidation and dreams comes from rat studies.
Building off that, other scientists ran an experiment where they released rats into a maze. The rats would run around randomly assigned with no goal for any area. If the scientists gave them favorable stimulation while the rats were replaying a certain part of the maze during sleep, when the rat wakes up they tend to gravitate more toward that place.
And recently there was a Japanese study a few years ago where a group was certainly able to create a very realistic dream reading device. They scanned people's brains while they were awake and thinking about certain objects and characters - like a man, a woman, a computer, food - and then were able to look at those patterns and match them loosely to what they were thinking about when they were asleep.
That associated pretty well with the subject's dream reports.
There are also several researchers focusing on rational dreaming. Scientists are looking at how we can induce lucid dreams more reliably, as well as clinical applications of lucid dreaming.
When he's done, they gaped at one another for a moment, then they both looked away. There was silence.
It took a second or two for the new information to sink it.
"Our spontaneous meeting in the street the other day wasn't spontaneous at all, I've been meaning to meet you but being an asshole myself I'd made it that way and for that, I apologize," Sean added.
"So what? I'm supposed to acknowledge it now? That everything has schemed. And I'm just the lab rat? She raised a question, eyes glossing with unshed tears.
"No! No! please don't believe it that way."
"DRI has been monitoring your internet search about this so-called phenomenon and so far when you started your quest for an explanation, the team has been surveying you ever since."
"You what? I was bugged?" She shouted. Disappointed. She bit her lip, this was one crazy-ass day she guessed.
"Yes, everything has been monitored, sorry Catherine," he said thoughtfully.
"But you should know whether you've won or lost this quest, you can trust me, I'm always here for you. I've known you for a long time now that.. ah..hmm never mind." This surprises him. He blew an invisible smoke into the air, too intimidated to even stare at her eyes, which were full of unanswered questions.
"I'm sorry okay, I won't lie to you ever again." He added sadly. He has just uttered the most stupid possible definition of telling her about his feelings.
She looked at him a moment longer. Although she gave in to him, she was a strong woman. She had led her life alone since she was a teenager a little distrust won't bother her. Or not.
Everything and everyone shows her that everything will be okay, but she was anxious. It appears as an electrical assault in her brain that, quite honestly, was painful. It's different from a headache and it feels the same as severe grief, perhaps as a sort of frozen panic with nowhere to go.
There was no warmth in her voice, as if her heartbeat so steadily, even though she took a different view from Sean's own.
And so before she knew it everything was clear again, it was understanding all around instead of the bickering between them as she was so accustomed to. She's tired of fighting alone, if Sean and his team were willing to help her then she doesn't have any choice but to accept it.
"That's it? You want me to trust you? Trust goes both ways, Sean. No more lies understood?" She yearned for the truth. One more lie and she was done for good.
"Yes." He realized he had been lost in thought. "Right now, we need to go back for Nathan's sake."
"Wait! before that... Ada was a Nodder too?"
"Yes, she was in fact, I reckon she was the Lamia Aegeus Adah in Cold Mountain." Sean's face split a grin.
"Yes! My theory was, that creature rose from her hibernation when the two of you had met in the Cold Mountain and Ada's consciousness were enticed after that, she was now permitted to pass the bridge through the both of you, by recognizing both the bridge in fact" Nasir clarified after listening to their conversation.
"And I worry that probably those Nodders who couldn't pass before, they can now!" He added and straightened up a bit and tilted his head back so that the hair fell away to either side, like a curtain opening up to uncover a pale face. The stubble on the cheeks made him look even gaunter than he was, and made his eyes look even more exhausted.