“Hellooo? Earth to Aaliyah!” I jump, turning my attention back to my younger sister, Mia, who’s eating breakfast next to me. Mia is two years younger than me, but we’ve always been close. We actually shared a room for five years, too. My mom told us once that, when she was a baby and I was like, two or three when she would cry at night, I would crawl out of bed and comfort her.
“Hm?” I mutter, shoving a piece of bacon in my mouth. Mia laughs.
“Were you daydreaming just now?” Mia asks, eyeing me curiously. “You totally just went somewhere.”
“I’m not daydreaming, I just… had the weirdest dream last night,” I say slowly, running a hand through my hair. “I can’t stop thinking about it.”
“Ooh, what were you and Caleb doing this time?” Mia teases, and I grimace. Caleb is a… friend. We’ve known each other since the 6th grade, but we’ve only been friends since last year. Caleb hated me because I was too nice and so happy, and I didn’t like him because he was an asshole. If we weren’t lab partners for physics last year, I don’t think we ever would’ve hashed things out. Our physics teacher, Dr. Fields, was so sick of our arguing that she kicked us out of class until we “came to an understanding”. It took a while, but we did. He even offered to tutor me in physics, considering I was struggling a lot. It was mostly for his own gain, but it really helped us become friends… and it helped my grades, obviously.
“This is not a thing, okay?” I counter, and Mia raises an eyebrow. “I can’t help that my brain keeps manifesting Caleb… every night for the last month.”
“Oh, yeah, you totally don’t like him,” Mia says sarcastically, and I smile begrudgingly. Caleb and I are just friends. We might’ve made out a couple times after I broke up with my ex-boyfriend, Adam, but to be fair, the first time we did, we were drunk. I wanted to forget Adam, and Caleb was right there. And hot. I nipped it in the bud after the second time, because I felt bad and didn’t want to use Caleb as a rebound. We were finally becoming friends, and I didn’t want sex to ruin that.
“I don’t!” I insist, and Mia bites her bottom lip to keep from laughing. “For all we know, it could be the Eyra conjuring up all these dreams.” Back in October, the company The Resting Panda based in China released a device that helps people sleep, like melatonin. It also monitors sleep patterns and heart rates, wards off nightmares, and analyzes dreams. It’s crazy how one tiny little white disc on the back of our necks can do so much. Seems unreal.
“Maybe… you know, it is kind of weird that he’s been in every single one of your dreams in the past month…” Mia mutters thoughtfully. “Maybe it’s a new feature?”
“Yeah, or a glitch.” I counter. I usually stay up on the news from The Resting Panda, and there was nothing about the Eyra manipulating my dreams, so I doubt this is supposed to be happening.
“You know who could probably help you out with that? Caleb.” Mia says teasingly, and I roll my eyes. She’s right. Caleb’s not only a godsend when it comes to math and science, but he’s also good with computers. Like, hacking into the school’s database good. He literally changes people’s grades for money, among other slightly illegal things. He doesn’t even really need the money, but he hates his dad and his money, so it’s the principle of the thing. “I’m sure he’d be more than willing to help you.”
“You’re a headache, you know that?” I say, and Mia laughs.
“I love you, too.” Mia smiles, just as her phone buzzes. She glances down at it. “Ooh, my ride’s here.” Mia leans over and kisses her cheek, before hopping down from her seat. She grabs her Michael Kors purse and a handful of bacon. I smile, shaking my head.
“Have fun, chica!” I call as Mia rushes out the front door. I think she’s going shopping with her friends, Kelsey and Tony. They’ve been friends since grade school.
“Woah, okay, bye, Mia.” My best friend, Michaela, almost runs into Mia, and I laugh.
“Hey, Micky,” I say excitedly, and she closes the front door as she comes in. Michaela and I have been best friends since the 2nd grade. We weren’t fast friends, but I was the only one that really appreciated her big brain instead of finding it annoying, so she took me under her wing. I was struggling a lot after my dad’s death and the move, so Michaela’s friendship really helped me.
“Hey, babes. You look cute.” Michaela comments, joining me at the island. I’m wearing this black, floral sheer top with a simple black bra underneath, jeans, and black booties. It’s a look, for sure. “Who are you trying to impress?”
“Only you, babes,” I promise, and Michaela laughs.
“You’re full of shit.” Michaela retorts, and I smile, rolling my eyes. “How’d you sleep? Is Caleb still haunting your dreams?”
“I wouldn’t say haunting…” I mutter, combing my fingers through my hair. I have been sleeping really well, lately… oh my god, what does that mean?
“Okay, tell me about it,” Michaela says, sitting down next to me. “I’m not even going to lie, but I’ve been looking forward to this all morning. Your dreams are always so wild.”
“Oh, I’m so happy that my dreams are entertaining you,” I say, and Michaela smiles.
“Come on, babes, tell me everything.” Michaela insists.
“Okay, okay. Jeez.” I mutter, and Michaela smiles triumphantly. “So, we were pirates, and…” I launch into my dream from last night. Caleb was the captain of the ship, and I was a girl he saved from a rival crew. It felt like something out of a romance novel… not that I read those. Anyways, he, along with the rest of his misfit crew, took me under his wing and showed me the ropes of his ship, while simultaneously fighting his attraction for me. It was a little cliché, but I always thought pirates were hot. Plus, I got to fire the cannons at the ship that abducted me. It was so cool… and hot. Something about cannons and leather and cool ass jewelry really do it for me.
“And then it ended in us having sex, like it always does.” I finish, and Michaela lets out a breath.
“I think your brain is trying to tell you something, babes.” Michaela weighs in. “You want to fuck Caleb.”
“What? No…” I lie, blinking rapidly. “If I did, I would’ve just done it already… right?”
“No, because you value your relationships with people way too much to ruin them with sex. Unless you were 110% sure about it.” Michaela says, and I sigh. “Your… friendship with Caleb is fairly new, and you’re afraid of fucking that up.”
“Of course I am. It’s like… I’m still trying to figure him out. I’m not sure who he wants me to be half the time.” I admit.
“You don’t need to be anyone but yourself, Aaliyah.” Michaela insists. “After Caleb was done being a jealous, stupid little prick, he actually saw you. He saw the beautiful, sweet, free-spirited girl that everyone else saw, and he liked that. He still likes you, Ali, and I’m sure he’s overthinking every little thing he does around you, too.”
“Okay, if that’s true… what should I do?”
“You should call him,” Michaela suggests. “Your Eyra might be acting up, right? Ask him to check it out as an excuse.”
“But… I actually do need him to check it out.” I say slowly. Mia did suggest it.
“Exactly,” Michaela says, giving me a little wink, before standing up.
“Wait, where are you going?” I ask. “I thought we were going to the Grind and then binge-watching Scandal.”
“No, you’re going to call Caleb, and I’m going to go home and… I don’t know, paint my nails.” Michaela says.
“But it’s barely noon, and it’s a Saturday! Caleb’s not even going to be awake yet.” I argue.
“Then, wake him up!” Michaela insists, striding towards the door. “Bye, babes!”
“But -!” I start, but Michaela is already out the door. Well… great.
I glance around. I mean… nobody’s home. Not that it’d matter, because we’re not doing anything except looking into my Era. It’s totally innocent and not a big deal – okay, who am I kidding? Clearly, I know what I want… I just don’t know if he wants me, too.
I decide to call Caleb and, as I predicted, he was barely awake and groggy, but he said he’d be here in 30 minutes. That was surprising. I thought that it’d take him hours just to get out of bed.
The doorbell rings, and I rush down from the stairs to answer the door. I literally spent the last 30 minutes cleaning my room. Wishful thinking.
“Hey!” I smile despite myself, and Caleb smiles softly.
“Hey, Ali.” Wow, he does look disheveled. Michaela would say more than usual. His hair is a mess, and his jacket is on weird. Is his shirt on backward? It’s almost like he rushed over here… no. Caleb doesn’t rush for anything. He probably just wasn’t paying attention or didn’t care.
I step aside to let him in, and I close the door behind him.
“Alright, where’s your laptop?” Caleb asks. Okay, straight to business. That’s so Caleb. No small talk and no bullshit.
“Oh, it’s in my room,” I say, gesturing up the stairs. “I can go get it, or you can just come up to my room. That might be easier?”
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen your room,” Caleb says. “You’re okay with me being in there?” Oh, that’s right. When we study here, we stay in the living room. My stepdad, Carlos, doesn’t really like Caleb. Carlos is a history teacher at our school, and he’s heard all the rumors about Caleb and his… kind of illegal activities, so he’s not exactly thrilled that I’m friends with him. I try not to push it by having him in my bedroom. He’s already in the house, after all.
“Yeah, of course,” I promise, and I start to walk up the stairs. “Come on. You won’t be surprised at all.” Caleb chuckles, before following me up to my room. I open the door, and I think I hear Caleb gasp a little.
“Woah,” Caleb mutters, and I look back at him.
“I can’t tell if that’s good or bad,” I admit, raising my eyebrows at him, but he’s still looking around my room. On the soft pink accent wall just behind my bed, I have all these photos of my friends and family hanging up by clips. I hung up these fairy lights all over my room, looping them around three times. They’re so pretty.
“It’s good,” Caleb assures me, glancing at me, and I smile. “What’s all that?” I follow his eye to the shelf in the opposite corner next to the map.
“Oh, those are a bunch of little trinkets that my dad brought back from his trips,” I answer, leading him over to them. My dad was an international aid worker, so we didn’t see him as much as we would’ve liked, but he always made sure to send letters, and he’d always bring us something back from every city he visited. He died when I was seven. “Like, see this pink toy monkey? He got that from Cuba… I don’t remember which city. I actually don’t remember where most of these came from. I always have to check the tags.” Caleb chuckles, glancing over at me.
“This is really cool, Ali,” Caleb says, and I smile. “I don’t think you ever mentioned it.”
“I like to keep some things about my dad to myself,” I admit cheekily, before going over to my desk. My laptop is already on. “You said you needed this?”
“Uh, yeah.” Caleb shakes his head before joining me at my desk.
“You can sit in the cool chair.” I offer, and Caleb chuckles, sitting down.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pink rolling chair before.” Caleb teases, and I laugh.
“Yeah, well, first time for everything,” I say, before setting my stool next to the chair. I sit. “So? How does this work?”
“Face away from me,” Caleb instructs, and I do as he says. I pull my hair up out of the way so Caleb can see my neck, and he pushes the button on the Eyra.
“That’ll never not be weird,” I mutter, and I hear Caleb chuckle.
“Now, I am… connecting with your eyra through Bluetooth.” Caleb walks me through. “Which you’d be able to do yourself if you had kept the instruction manual.”
“Hey, I thought it’d be like, automatic or whatever. Like a self-driving car or something.” I defend myself, and Caleb laughs.
“How did you think you’d be able to see your sleeping patterns, then?” Caleb asks. “You thought it’d just tell you?”
“If I was sleeping horribly, yes,” I admit, and Caleb laughs again. “And who reads the instruction manual, anyways?”
“Lots of people. Including me, which is turning out good for you.” Caleb retorts. A new icon pops up on my home screen entitled “Eyra”, and Caleb clicks on it. Yeah… never did any of this…
“Welcome to Eyra, Aaliyah Diana King. What would you like to explore?”
“Woah, the app just spoke to me…” I mutter, and Caleb smiles at me, before focusing back on the screen. There are so many icons to click on, and there’s even a picture of me in the top left-hand corner, which I’m guessing takes me to my profile. I forgot I took a picture at the headquarters… I look cute, thank God.
“You said it was your dreams giving you problems, right?” Caleb asks. “Maybe we should start there.” I hesitate, watching as he guides the mouse over the dreams’ icon. He looks over at me for confirmation.
“Uh, yeah. Okay.” I say, trying to be totally nonchalant. Is Eyra reading my brain, right now? How can I tell it to not snitch on me?
Caleb clicks on it, and a huge red exclamation mark appears on the screen. Oh my god… did that actually work?
“Huh,” Caleb mutters, narrowing his eyes slightly. “This has never happened before.”
“Maybe it really is glitching…” I say slowly. “Do you think I’ll have to go down to headquarters?”
“I don’t know…” Caleb mutters, glancing over the screen. “Oh, I’ll just click more information.” More information? Uh…
He clicks it.
Your account has been flagged by The Resting Panda headquarters in Chicago for beta testing. We are currently using current users of Eyra to test two potentially new features: the ability to join other people’s dreams (with consent for all parties), as well a feature that allows the device to analyze your dreams and nightmares to gather what the user would like to see more of.
You and another user, Caleb Matthew Scott, have both been flagged, and now your dreams are connected until our trial run is over. For this reason, your dream transcripts, as well as your sleep patterns and heart rates, will be merged for the time being. Sorry for the inconvenience.
We’re silent for a moment as we take it all in. There is an explanation for the dreams… I don’t know if that makes me feel better.
“So… you’re the reason that my dreams have been insane, lately…” Caleb mutters, and I look over at him.
“And you’re the reason that my clothes have been skintight.” I retort, and Caleb laughs despite himself, burying his face in his hands. I laugh too. This situation is just so… bizarre. It doesn’t feel like real life, but it is. “So, wait, you had the dream about the pirates last night, too?”
“Yeah, and I saved you from that other ship… I felt so cool swinging from that rope like that.” Caleb admits, and I laugh.
“It did look cool.” I agree, and Caleb smiles. “It was hot.”
“Really?” Caleb asks, turning in the chair to face me. “I didn’t know you were into the whole leather, badass thing.”
“I’m into a lot of things,” I say, playing with my hair. “I’m not the type of person to have a type of… thing.” Caleb’s eyes roam down my body, before looking back up at me.
“I don’t get it,” Caleb admits. “I didn’t think you wanted me… after last year, I mean.”
“It was bad timing,” I explain, standing up from the stool. “I needed to work through my shit before I got into something else.” Caleb hesitates, before grabbing my hand, pulling me closer.
“What about now?” Caleb asks, and I straddle his body, letting myself sink into him.
“Do you think… the dreams we shared… were telling us that we want each other?” I ask, looking him in the eyes. Our faces are mere inches apart as we look at each other.
“I think… they mean whatever we want them to mean,” Caleb answers, his eyes darting back and forth from my eyes and lips. I cave, closing the gap between us and kissing him. Caleb moans softly, his other hand gripping my hip. I smile briefly, running a hand through his hair as I try to get him even closer to me. I can feel butterflies in my stomach, and I feel so… giddy. It feels like our first kiss, and, in a way, it is.