I awoke to something tickling my nose. When I scratched it, I snagged a daddy long legs spider crawling on my face. I instantly swatted it away and jerked up to a sitting position. The vertigo was next and the snow white clouds swirled in the crystal blue Carolina sky as if they were in a giant mixer. I still had the neural bracelet on (See The Neural Bracelet for more on that). Actually, I couldn't get it off – it seemed like it was crazy-glued to my wrist. My head had that empty feeling like an echo chamber.
The hollowness was suddenly filled with a voice that seemed to be nowhere, but everywhere.
"Just think about what you want to say," the voice said.
"Huh? Who is this? Where are you?" I thought.
"Jake Stone. Just think of something!"
I wondered if I were dead. They have mental telepathy in heaven, right?
"You're not dead. Now get up and walk to the front of your house. I want to see if buildings interfere with the transmissions."
"You heard that!"
"All you have to do is think of something and your thought gets transmitted to me."
"What are you talking about?"
"The bracelet is a communications device connected to your nervous system and directly connected to your brain."
"I did die or this is a some crazy dream."
"It's not a dream. Now go to the front of your house. Just do it."
As I walked, I could feel the grass swat my sneakers so I made a mental note to cut the grass over the weekend.
"You're going to cut your grass over the weekend. You just decided you would," Jake said.
"This is getting really scary. How do I get the damn thing off?"
"Tap it twice and it will release."
As I approached the driveway that ran along the side of the house, I caught something in the corner of my eye. It was black and veered out into full view – a para-military type dressed in black and holding an Uzi with a long barrel. With my brain already on red alert, I instantly darted back into the woods behind my house. I could hear things swishing past me and then a basketball-sized hole blew out of an old oak tree in front of me. Pieces of hot bark hit me in the face.
"Run! Run! We've got you covered!" Jake echoed in my head.
"Bull!" I thought.
This was my land and I knew every nook and cranny of the 1.4-acre lot. I headed for a hollow, fallen oak tree large enough to crawl into, but then I thought, it would be the first place he would look.
"Head for the highway! The tree is a coffin," Jake said.
I ran to a thicker part of the woods that would lead to the highway and give me additional cover. The only problem was the thorn bushes were slicing my hands and arms as I plowed through the underbrush. I looked back and he was closer. I ran faster and looked back again, but when I turned I saw a tree coming at me. I slammed into the trunk; the pain was excruciating. I felt myself falling and then there was nothing. I opened my eyes and everything was blurry. I was laying in a small gulley on a bed of rotting black leaves. The pain in my head intensified when I saw him standing over me.
"Jerk! What are you running from?" The voice was faintly familiar.
He pealed off the black ski mask and went for the Uzi. I'm dead, I thought. This is it. My whole life flashed in front of me like a never ending slide show.
"Oh my…you idiot!" I shouted. "What are you doing dressed like that?"
"I wanted to show you my cool Halloween costume I got at the thrift shop." It was my friend and neighbor, Dennis, who often plays practical jokes on any unsuspecting victim. "I got this new paint ball gun, too." He brandished it like it was a trophy.
"You were shooting me with that?" I said. I touched my face and my fingers turned red from the paint ball that hit the tree earlier.
"I wanted to test it."
"You're such an idiot!" I shook my head and looked down at my wrist. The neural bracelet was gone.
"Hey. Help me look for a silver watchband I think I lost. I just had it. It must be around here somewhere."
We looked all around the area and even back-tracked where I had been, but never found the bracelet.