John Meiners, Jr.
Creek water flows; the sound fills the bank echoing off huge trees. The fast flowing stream is losing the race as the buck looks back at the cougar who is also losing, and he speeds up adding insult to injury. Suddenly he sees wolves, four maybe five ahead watching them and slows to a gallop allowing the cougar to catch up. The wolves look on bewildered, and before they have time to act, the cougar chases three of them while one attacks the buck and is gored and flung into the creek. Then in a cloud of blood, he struggles to free himself from the water's flow.
"Jesse!... Jesse!" Samantha calls to him. Samantha shakes him as he pants, out of breath. "Jesse! Jesse!" Finally Jesse wakes. "You were dreaming, again. Are you okay?"
Jesse sits up. "Yeah."
Samantha asks, "Can I get you something?"
Jesse answers, "No, No. I'm fine. Really."
"All right, well, let's go to sleep. We'll be in Community tomorrow. Don't worry. We'll find out what's going on."
Early the next morning Samantha and Jesse left New Orleans, drove past Mandeville and Covington, and finally stopped at an out of the way diner in a small town not big enough to even have a name. The diner's walls were covered with animals. Every open space was covered with deer mounts, stuffed racoons, even a stuffed mountain lion. They order drinks and look at a menu.
Samantha asks, "What are you going to eat, Jesse Gunn?" When he doesn't answer, she looks up from her menu and sees him staring at one of the deer mounts. His face seems soaked in sadness; his eyes mirror melancholy for the lost life hanging on the walls surrounding them. "Jesse,... Jesse?..."
Jesse, eyes not averting from the eyes of the deer says, "Sad."
Is Jesse talking to the deer, himself, or her? Samantha isn't sure. When the waitress returns to take their order, Samantha apologizes and tells her Jesse whose gaze remains on the deer, isn't feeling well. Samantha hands her twenty dollars for her time, and they leave. Back in the car, Jesse comes out of a daze and seems like himself again.
"Are you sure you're okay?" She seems to ask that a lot lately.
"I'm fine. Really."
Samantha takes a deep breath and with all the optimistic self-talk she can muster, tells herself everything will be fine while speeding toward their 2:30 appointment with Doctor Rush.
After his doctor's appointment lasting only long enough for vital signs and a blood test, they are happy to be welcomed back to the lodge by their friend, Monroe, owner of Deer Run Lodge and mayor of Community. Samantha and Jesse explain to Monroe about Jesse's strange dreams and the recent incident at the diner.
"Obviously the doctor is searching for foreign substances or drugs in Jesse's blood," said Samantha. "They could be causing Jesse's strange dreams as well as the recent incident at the diner."
Jesse asks Monroe, "What do you think the doctor is looking for?"
"I got ideas... don't know if they're good ones. Could be a number of things. Here in Community we have some special things specific to Community. Let me tell you some of what goes on around here. It'll surprise you. We have methods in Community devised for our protection. As you know alien are shape shifters and change into deer. We don't need people, leaving telling stories based on things they might see. Some of these protections involve drugs and the powers of suggestion. They're rarely used and only in extreme cases. For example, hunting was more prevalent ten years ago. Most of the time we knew where the hunter was and kept our distance along with the other deer, but there were times when deer were killed. When we heard this happened, those who were "deer" at the time running in the woods, changed so the deer hunter who was at first thrilled at his kill found himself staring and being stared at by maybe ten to twenty naked men and women."
Jesse surprised, suddenly remembers, "Wait a minute. After I was shot last week with the tranquilizer, before I passed out I did see Elise naked."
Samantha laughs and says, "Of course you did. Elise is a shape shifter who changed back to human form. That's what they do."
Samantha laughs and smiles, "I was going to tell you later."
Samantha interested in Monroe's story asks, "What happened to that hunter?"
"At his dinner, the hunter got a dose of memory blocker and suggestions. He left town with stories of having no luck with the deer. In his mind, Community had no deer and of course the many naked people were never seen. Fred Stewart, the latest hunter who shot you with the tranquilizer, will have this treatment and go back to wherever he came from telling everyone that, 'There are no aliens who shape shift into deer in Community. It's just a hoax.'"
"He tried to kidnap a deer he knew to be an alien. He's lucky to be able to walk away," added Samantha.
Jesse says, "He is. Has he given any further information... Do we know who sent him?"
"So far. Mr. Stewart has been reluctant to say anything." Monroe's phone beeps with an incoming text. Visibly shaken he reports, "Mr. Stewart won't be giving any information or walking away. He's dead. I have to go. I'd like you to stay here for now." Monroe's thoughts are racing, and he worries Stewart's death could be an inside job. Is there a drug in Jesse's blood which could be incriminating? If there is, Monroe, at the risk of overreacting, wants no one to know Jesse is here. They may try to make him disappear. "I'd like you to stay put tonight at the lodge. Order take out. Eat in your room. I'll fill you in later," says Monroe as he rushes out of the room.
Samantha and Jesse feel as though they are teenagers who've just been grounded. They analyze what just happened for a few moments.
Samantha realizes, "Monroe thinks you're in danger."
"Sounds like it. They don't know about my dreams. Has to be something in the tranquillizer drug that might show up in my blood."
"Let's go to our room, relax, watch T.V. and order pizza."
They go to their room for the day... and night. After a movie, as the aroma of pizza fills the room, they turn in.
In total darkness, a man leans over the bed with a syringe in his hand. Suddenly his wrist is grabbed and slammed into the night stand. The syringe falls to the floor. The man runs, and the chase is on as he jumps from the bed, follows the man down the stairs and through the lobby. Outside they run through the parking lot into the field toward the tree line. Shirts and shoes fly away discarded. Cast away to not inhibit the change. Into the tree line their speed increases, and the crescent moon fails to penetrate the canopy leaving only a faint path illuminated enough to follow. Limbs snap, leaves fly from bushes. He stumbles, falls, rolls and is up on his feet in full stride. Suddenly the chase ends as does the path on a high bank of the river. They clash. The sound of antlers echoes as they crash over and over. Suddenly one falls, flips down the steep bank and into the water. He makes his way back onto the path and approaches the wood's edge. He thinks he's awake, is almost sure he is, and thinks, 'I've had another dream.' But he is not in bed nor is Samantha by his side, and he walks out into the open field naked. He looks around at the many lights and people standing at the edge of the parking lot. Samantha runs to him and flings her arms around him. Monroe follows and wraps his shirt around Jesse.
The next day Monroe, Samantha, and a rather beat up Jesse sit in the conference room talking about what all has happened. Jesse has cuts and abrasions on his legs and some on his shoulders and arms, much as you might expect if you ran through the woods at night naked. According to Dr. Rush's blood test results, the tranquilizer Jesse was given contained a very large dose of the drug Doesonear. Samantha reads, 'Doesonear in very small dosages is given to Aliens usually when they are fourteen, fifteen, even sixteen. It relaxes, eases tension and facilitates the Shape Shifting or change process as they reach adolescence. However in large doses, and especially if given to a nonalien or partial alien, the reaction is unknown. Doesonear is nontoxic, but the large dose given to Jesse apparently caused his dreams. However, as the drug dissipates so should the dreams. It is also believed a large dosage of Doesonear caused him, in the dreams, to have a longing to change or shape shift.' Samantha pauses in thought and says, "I just thought of something else. If the Doesonear causes a longing to shape shift, it's easy to see why you felt like you did in the diner looking at the deer mounts."
Monroe adds, "Yes, you're right. That feeling you had... that sadness is overwhelming to us. You were caught off guard."
Samantha happily says, "You're going to be fine, Jesse Gunn."
"I don't know, it was fun running through the woods naked."
Monroe laughs... "You know, not to rain on the parade, but I'm afraid if Doesonear was found in the tranquillizer gun, we have someone here, up to no good. I think we may find someone didn't want Fred Stewart to talk. I trust you'll help us find out who this is." Monroe receives a phone call. "Hello, Officer Jones... Really? When?... No, he's fine... Yes, I know him... Thanks. We'll talk later."
Monroe turns off the phone, and addresses them, "A man was found dead in the river very close to the path you ran..." Suddenly Monroe with a sense of urgency dials his assistant, "Candy, I want you to go to Room 221,.. Yes, Jesse and Samantha's room... Look on the floor, under the bed for a syringe. Don't touch it. Pick it up with a napkin. No,... no don't touch it. Call me back. Hurry, Let me know. Don't touch it. It's dangerous." He turns to Jesse and Samantha, "If the syringe is found and the fingerprints on that syringe match with the man found dead, the dream you had may be more real than you thought.”