Sam’s eyes snapped open, looking around wildly. He knew instantly where he was, without a doubt this was one of those nightmare pods. He thrashed against the glass tube ineffectively, the space too tight and the liquid too impeding to gain any bit of momentum to do damage to it. He was trapped.
He couldn’t see anything beyond the tank wall, the lights in the base and top illuminating the inside of the tube too bright and the surroundings to dark to see out. He braced his feet against the back and leaned himself forward, cupping his hands against the glass to try to see out.
“Help!” he yelled. The thick liquid poured into his mouth as soon as his lips parted, filling his lungs despite his desperate coughs to get rid of it. He could feel it sitting heavy in his lungs, but somehow he was still able to breathe, it wasn’t drowning him. He risked taking another inhale to scream for help again.
When no one appeared he laid his forehead against the glass, closing his eyes and fighting back the tears threatening to well up. The tubes were aptly named.
Just as the first tear finally broke free, he heard pounding footsteps running down the hall and Mike, Hannah, and Amanda barreled into the room.
“Guys! Fucking finally, help me?” he yelled, bashing against the walls of the tube.
“Did you see where he wound up?”
“No, one of the alien fucks got him, I don’t know where he is!”
“Guys, I’m right here, get me out of this thing!”
“We can’t stop, we need to get out of here.” Mike’s voice was cold, pushing Hannah towards the other door.
“You’re right, we need to go.”
“No, don’t leave me! Please!” He thrashed against the wall again, landing solid hits but no sound came of it. None of his friends even glanced at him as they ran out of the room, leaving him alone in his tube. “Please! Don’t leave- don’t leave me behind!”
They were already gone, but he kept screaming until his voice was raw. “Please don’t leave me behind!”
The lights surrounding him turned off, the thrum of the ship ceased and he was left in silence, darkness, absolute solitude where even his screams became soundless. He couldn’t even find the glass anymore if he tried to move his arms. He was so completely deprived of sensation he wasn’t even sure if his arms were actually moving when he commanded them. Please don’t leave me behind.
“Please don’t leave me behind!”
Hannah snapped out of her study focus as she heard the strangled cry from the bed. She pulled off her headphones, and looked at Sam. He lay on her bed, having been sleeping peacefully for the past hour, but now he was twitching, his hands twisting into the blanket as his head turned into the pillow. He kept repeating the same mantra, quietly begging someone to not leave him alone.
“Sam?” she asked softly, resting her hand on his chest. He continued to writhe on the bed, muttering in his sleep when she noticed tears running down his cheeks. “Sam! Sam, wake up!”
He didn’t respond until she yelled his name loudly and shoved hard on his chest, his eyes flying open with a gasp. He had a wild look in his eyes, his chest heaving as he looked around the room before settling on Hannah. Tears streamed down his face as it scrunched up in anguish and he flopped face first into the pillow, clutching it tightly in his arms.
“What the fuck was that all about dude? You were screaming and shit,” she remarked none too gently. He didn’t answer her, his shoulders shaking as he stayed hiding in the pillow. Oh, that was a bit harsh, she admonished herself.
She gently put her hand on his shoulder, pulling him back so she could see his face. He was nearly hyperventilating and he looked at her with a panicked expression.
“I can’t- I can’t b-breathe,” he stuttered.
Hannah instantly moved into action, pulling the pillow from his arms and plopping it at the top of the bed again, laying down with her own head on it before grabbing Sam by his head, gently guiding him down to her chest so his ear was over her heart. She exaggerated her breathing, pulling a deep breath in and holding it, and exhaling. After a few breaths she could feel him trying to copy her, his breaths short and stuttering at first, but over the next few minutes he managed to get in the same rhythm as her and she could feel him slowly relax, becoming a dead weight against her legs and torso. He wriggled his hands under her back and hugged her tightly, desperately.
The curiosity was nagging at Hannah’s mind, but she didn’t want to make Sam panic again by asking what his nightmare was about so they lay there silently for a while.
Sam broke the silence with a big sigh. “Thank you, Hannah,” he said simply.
“No problem,” she said, running her hand through his hair. He sighed contentedly at the touch, leaning into it. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“No, I really don’t. Just stay here with me.”
“Ok, I’m not going anywhere.”
Silence descended again as they lay on the bed, Hannah running her hands through Sam’s hair. She could feel him getting antsy though, usually he melted in her touch, but whatever the nightmare had been about was clearly still weighing on his mind as his feet hanging off the edge of the bed started bouncing with restless energy.
“Hmm? Why?” Sam asked confused as he pushed himself up anyways.
“You have too much energy right now and if you’re not willing to talk then we are going to do something else to get your mind off of it.”
Hannah slid off the bed and reached for the boombox sitting on the corner of her desk, popping the front open and switching out tapes before pressing play and leaping back onto the bed, grabbing Sam’s hands and pulling him to his feet to stand next to her. A light bouncy pop song filled the room, something Sam was more used to hearing bumping from Amanda’s car radio instead of the usual metal that Hannah usually listened to.
“What are we doing?” Sam asked with a smile.
“What does it look like, dummy? We’re dancing!” Hannah laughed, holding onto his hands and directing him to flail around with her. They bounced on the bed, the headboard hitting the wall with every jump, but neither of them cared as they got caught up in the silly improvised dance. It took no time at all before Sam was smiling ear to ear, giggling in delight.
As the song faded out Hannah tackled Sam and they hit the pillows hard, landing as a pile of limbs and heavy breathing, both from laughter and the unexpected dance workout.
This time Hannah found herself lying on Sam’s chest. She wrapped her arms around him and squeezed him tight.
“Sam Beans, I promise to never leave you, ok? You hear me?”
She heard his heart skip a beat before his arms tightened around her even more.
“Thank you, Hannah Lee.”