Alex was always told that his fear of pool filters were irrational, and yet, the last thing he remembered was slowly sinking further into deep blue chlorine-shocked water. He couldn’t recall if he had been wearing trunks or not. Not that it mattered anymore. The sinking feeling quickly gave way to falling. Then, violent pulling.
His body was cold when he awoke. He gasped and vomited water on the floor. He pushed up to all fours and then laid his forehead back on the ground. Dry. Weird, he thought. He opened his eyes and looked about: whiteness. No walls, no horizon, just white.
Am I dead?
Clicking heels behind Alex startled him. “No.”
Alex turned and stood. “No what?” He said, looking down to notice himself fully clothed in a dry suit.
“You’re not dead.” The approaching stranger said. There was something unsettling about him. He looked like Alex’s father. Alex had only seen the old pictures that his mom tucked away in her photobooks. She’d taken them when they were a family; before she escaped his regular drunken wraths.
“Who are you?” The stranger said, finishing Alex’s sentence. “A good question Alex, but I’m sure you know the answer.”
“I’m sorry. I’m sure that I’ve never met you before.” Alex said. “You must have me mistaken.”
The stranger chuckled. “Mistaken? No. How could I? This is your mind. This blank whiteness is your canvas. One that I’ve seen many times– and, frankly Alex, it’s getting bit boring. So how about you spruce it up a bit.”
Creases formed on Alex’s forehead. He cocked his head to the side.
“Remember your Great Aunt Mae’s beachhouse? We haven’t been there in a while.”
As the stranger spoke, the whiteness slowly faded into the livingroom of Aunt Mae’s vacation house. Right down to the salty air and the dog hair on the furniture. Alex stopped to inspect the couch before sitting down. The stranger had already taken a seat opposite.
“Amazing how vivid memories can be.” The stranger said, studying a photo of his Aunt’s dogs. He looked up from the frame to Alex. “You look confused my friend. Unburden yourself and ask.”
“Who are you?”
“Oh, Alex,” the stranger shook his head. “You’ve already asked me that.” He paused. “But if you must, I guess you could refer to me as Danny.”
Danny smiled and put the picture back on the end table. He looked relaxed. Too relaxed for Alex, who was still trying to comprehend not only where he was, but how he was.
Alex looked at his hands. “How did I, we, get here?”
“At Aunt Mae’s?”
“No. Sorry. You said, this is… my mind. How are we having this conversation in my mind? I thought I was dead. I was drowning and then I was here.” Alex said, his gesticulations frantic.
“Oh no Alex,” Danny leaned forward. “First off, you’re not dead. That bit with the pool. You dream that every night. And, every night you drown. It’s quite tragic to watch actually. You flail a lot and nobody ever comes to your rescue.” Danny looked up and inspected the ceiling. “This,” he said unfurling his arms, “is your mind, as to the conversation part– you conjure me into existence every night to talk.”
“Every night.” Danny said, nodding.
Alex pushed himself out of his chair and began to pace around the room. He stared at his feet, concentrating on each step, the feel of it. The weight of each leg. Then he stopped and turned towards Danny. “So. If this is my mind. And if, as you say, I willed you into existence, then you have to tell me everything I want to know. Right?.”
“Not exactly, my friend. I like to think I’m my own man. You did will me into existence, but not consciously. I’m part of your subconscious. I don’t have to tell you anything, I operate however I want and you have to come along for the ride. I’m your fears, your anxieties, your kinks, and your instincts. I might be more you than you,” Danny said, jabbing a finger at Alex. “You try and think over me, but it never works. Though I commend the effort.”
Alex watched as the man calling himself Danny further transformed into a version of himself; heavier, hunched over, deadened eyes, and a receding hairline.
Danny laughed. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost, Alex.”
Alex paused and sat down. “I have: You. I know who I am, and you’re not it. I’m–.”
Danny interrupted with an evil cackle and transformed back into the father-like form once again. “Just keep telling yourself that, Alex. It’s time for you to wake up. I’ll see you tomorrow night.” Danny said, winking.
It was still dark when he awoke drenched in sweat. He ran fingers through his hair and vaguely remembered a drowning sensation.