Touch

The loud bang woke Alex from a very sound sleep.

What was that? he thought to himself.

His eyes were wide and his vision blurry as he attempted to adjust to the darkness that filled his bedroom. Soon the dim moonlight that filtered in through a crack in his curtains was enough to allow Alex to make out the shadowy outlines of a chair, his desk, the dresser, and the bedside table and lamp that were mere inches from where he lay.

Nothing in his room seemed out of place. Then what could have made that noise?

Alex reached over to his right, fumbling for the phone that he left charging on the table overnight. It’s a move he’d made hundreds of times in the middle of the night. Finish a REM cycle, happen to wake up, check the phone to see what time it is. But, for some reason, this time his fingers just could not seem to find his phone.

It frustrated him to have to look over at the nightstand to see exactly where the phone was. In his head, he already began kicking himself, just in case he accidentally left it in the living room before he had gone to bed. No, as he looked over, there it was: sitting sitting on his bedside table, tethered to the wall for that all important recharge.

With the smartphone firmly in his sights, he reached again. Somehow, he continued to miss it. “What is happening?!” yelled Alex in growing annoyance. Then he began to simply think that the lack of light in the room was playing tricks on his depth perception.

This time, he reached for the lamp to turn it on. As he grabbed for the switch, he felt nothing but air and failed to catch himself as he leaned too far and fell out of the bed.

Everything had been odd since Alex had suddenly woken up. The fact that he felt no pain when he hit the floor made everything a little stranger. He didn’t just feel no pain. He felt nothing.

Alex realized, while he was definitely touching the floor of his bedroom, he couldn’t feel the carpet. He also couldn’t tell if the room was warm or cool. The fan above his bed should have been stirring the air, but he felt no breeze.

“Okay, Alex,” he said, “get a grip. This is all a dream. This is some crazy nightmare fueled by that burrito you had for dinner.”

He sat up and looked down at his hands. He could see that his hands were there, but he could also see through them. Alex waved a hand in front of his face and was shocked to see that it was translucent. In fact, so was the rest of him.

Reaching a hand up, he attempted to grab the side of the bed in order to pull himself to a standing position. He had forgotten that he could not actually touch the bed.

Then why didn’t I just fall through the bed as soon as I lost corporeal form? he thought, attempting to apply logic to his bizarre state.

Alex decided to adopt a “mind over matter” mentality, pushing himself off the floor and onto his feet. It was then that he was able to look down at his bed where he had been sleeping for most of the night.

Empty. Oddly enough, that was something of a relief to Alex. No body meant that he hadn’t died and become a ghost.

He wanted to see the extent of this lack of physical form that he was experiencing. So he ran at the wall. Sure enough, he passed right through it and out into his front yard. That’s a handy new trick. He looked up and down the street and saw that his neighborhood seemed deserted, as it should be at this time of night.

Alex was tempted to stroll into a neighbor’s house, if only to see if this was happening to anyone else. In the end, he decided against this course of action. Partly, of course, because it would be wrong to use his newfound abilities to just wander into someone else’s private home. Also, though, because he had no clue if he would be visible to someone else. Even though he didn’t seem to have physical form, that didn’t necessarily mean he was invisible.

Not knowing what else to do, Alex began to wander. He headed toward the small commercial area that was only a few blocks from his neighborhood. There, he knew, was a 24-hour convenience store. He was sure there would have to be someone there. If nothing else, he could find out if he could be seen or heard.

Getting used to the idea of being unable to touch anything, he didn’t even bother reaching for the door handle once he reached the store. He just passed right through the glass. There was no one standing at the cash register.

“You, too, huh?” A woman’s voice spoke up just behind where Alex was standing.

He tried not to appear too startled when he turned to see a translucent girl in her early 20s. She was wearing pajamas and her shoulder length blonde hair looked about like she had just rolled out of bed. Taking a quick look down at himself and seeing his own sleep attire he thought, Who hasn’t?

Alex found his voice. “Yeah, I thought I was just having the weirdest dream. But it’s all too real.”

“I know the feeling.”

“Hey, did you hear a loud bang and then wake up like this?” asked Alex.

“Sure did,” said the woman, “but I have no clue what it was.”

“Me neither. I figure it has to be linked to whatever’s causing all this, though.”

“I’m Maggie,” she said. Out of habit, she reached out to shake Alex’s hand. When she realized what she was doing, she sheepishly pulled it away.

“I’m Alex,” he laughed a little at her gesture. “But wait, we can’t touch anything physical, but I wonder if we can touch each other. Try it,” Alex said, “Grab my hand.”

They were able to grip one another’s hand like it was the most natural thing in the world. Maggie’s face lit up with a smile. Her smile was contagious and Alex couldn’t help but smile back at her.

He looked behind the store’s counter and saw a clock on the wall that read 5:15. “If that clock is right, the sun will be up soon,” Alex observed. “Got any ideas who we should go to about losing our bodies?”

“Ghostbusters?” Maggie said.

“That’s probably the best answer you could give,” said Alex, laughing again.

Hand in hand, they walked through the doors of the convenience store and moved further into town. Together, they hoped that they would find more people afflicted with their same condition. Together, they hoped that could figure out exactly what happened to them. Together, they were determined to find a way to return to normal.

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