“Insomnia has been my companion since I woke up. You see I woke up somewhere just like here. But, it wasn’t here, not really. There are a number of times I’ve woken up in other places. None the same. None as bad as there,” Collin said staring at his clenched hands.
Father Kris interrupts, “Collin, is it? We usually start with ‘Hi, my name is – and I’m an addict.”
Collin starts again, “Hi everyone, my name is Collin and I’m an addict. Like I was saying I’ve woken up in all sorts of places. Worlds with no sun, but a bright blue moon, and really warm ground, I liked that one. The people there were nice. They didn’t try to kill me at least.”
The ring of eight other men and women looked perplexed.
“Though, one of them did bite me. But I later learned not to shake their gill hand. They don’t like that. Nope, not one bit. Where is that place? Have any of you been there?”
Everyone glances around the group. Simon piped up, “Nope. What the hell were you taking?”
Fighting through his fatigue, “Ummm, I think we called it speed? Do you have that here?” asked Collin. He continued before anyone could answer, “But it wasn’t the high that sent me there. When I passed out after a three-day bender, I woke up in that horrifying place.” He shudders, “Scared, so fucking scared, I looked out at what I can only describe as hell. There was the rancid smell of sulfur, valleys of fire, rivers of lava, but it was cold. So cold I could see my breath and feel my bones rattle. There were screeching huge three-eyed demonic looking creatures that soared in the sky. When they look at you, you kind of feel your soul, your life, you really, whatever it is it slips away. They were like shape-shifters that take the form of loved ones when they land. You’re mesmerized. I felt like they were eating my soul in front of me, I was dying, in a way, I had never even thought of, let alone imagined before. Out of all of the places I have been this was by far the worst. I always wake up somewhere else feeling half-dead, cold, and alone.”
A mouse could be heard in the far corner of the room chomping on a cracker.
Collin continued, “Now, I try to return home. Every time I wake up, I’m somewhere else. It has been ten years since I’ve seen my family.” He released a protracted yawn, “But when I find a place that reminds me of home I go to an NA meeting. Or is this called DAA? Drug Adicts Anonymous? Whatever. They’re always here. Every place I wake up. Except there. But I always come because Penelope always came. And I’ll know I’m home when I see her.”
Looking around the circle of men Collin sighs, “But, I guess I’m still not home.” His hands bury his face. He sobs.
Father Kris walks over to console him. With a hand on Collin’s shoulder as he squats in front of him, “I thought you looked familiar. Every week Penelope comes in asking if we have seen you. Well, a much younger looking you in the picture. But it is you. There is still a kindness in your eyes. She was here yesterday. I’ll call her. She’ll be overjoyed you’re here.”
Lifting his head locking eyes with the clergyman, “Wait what?!” blurts Collin. “She was here?”
“I am here,” the circle says as one. Father Kris’s third eye opened and closed. Penelope’s radiant beauty reached into Collin’s soul