Timothy Green, a 25 year old recent college graduate, slept alone in his studio apartment on Third Street. When it came to career, school, and life, Timmy—as his friends called him—was a little bit slower than everyone else. He graduated high school one year late, because he got sick with mono (yes, the “kissing disease”) and missed too many classes his junior year, so he had to repeat that grade. Funny thing was, the only girl he kissed was a stranger at a party several months earlier, and he felt fine the entire time after. He had to have caught it some other way. Although he was never sure how.
In college, he could never quite make up his mind what he wanted to do with his life. He tried computer engineering; that wasn’t for him. He switched into psychology; he didn’t want a career doing research. Business management was boring. Finally he settled on anthropology. Not that he saw a viable career path in that, but it did interest him. He loved learning about humans and culture. Art, history, religion, technology, the development of civilization of the ages. It was all in there. But due to hopping around from one major to the next, he didn’t graduate until he was 25, just a few months ago.
And now he had the “real world” to deal with.
Finding a job with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology wasn’t exactly the easiest thing to do. He sent out resumes everywhere. No one seemed to call him back. He was beginning to think he’d have to pick up a job working retail or customer service or something for a while – just temporarily, he told himself – to pay the bills until he could find “real” work.
But before giving up entirely, he had one last attempt. His best friend from college, Mick Matthews, was also having trouble finding gainful employment. Mick had a slightly more useful degree. Etnobiology. The study of plants. But apparently that wasn’t inspiring many employers to call him back either. So Mick and Timmy had an appointment at a special new employment agency tomorrow.
This new agency had just opened for business last month. But they boasted a 100% placement guarantee. Their TV ad said they didn’t care if you had a degree or not, they didn’t care if you had experience or not, all they needed was an open mind and a willingness to try new things – and they, this new agency promised – not only that, but would help you find your true life calling.
Timmy didn’t really care about finding his “calling.” He didn’t believe in that stuff. That was just nonsense motivational speakers and church pastors talked about to sell you their self-help books. The truth was, Timmy believed, that everything in life was random and nobody had any “special” purpose. You lived, you ate, you fucked, and you died. That was it. You could try to find some higher purpose while you’re here, but it’s all in your head, he believed. There was no Supreme Being looking over and directing everybody’s lives. There’s over 7 billion people on the planet. Did God really have that kind of time?
No. Timmy just wanted a decent paying job that he kind of enjoyed overall. Hopefully this new employment agency could match him up with something good.
So he set his alarm to get up in time the next morning. Laid his head down, snuggled up with his favorite body pillow, and slowly drifted to sleep.
And sometime, around 3:00 AM, he had a very strange dream.
He saw himself running through the woods.
He ran along a main path.
Smaller dirt paths branched off in different directions. Some seemed to lead into open fields. Others to a stream or lake. Some disappeared into dark, mysterious, and uncertain woods. He had no idea where he was, but he had to keep running.
Something was chasing him.
Not a bear or a monster or anything like that.
Time. He was running out of time.
He had to get out of these woods. Now. Before it was too late.
He had to escape with his life while he still could.
His heart beat even faster.
He looked down at his hands. Something was wrong.
Terribly, horribly wrong.
Timmy suddenly awoke, abruptly sitting up in his bed, trying to catch his breath. What was that about? His body was shaking. He looked down at his hands. Everything seemed okay. But why was he still shaking?
He looked out his second-story window. The orange glow of a nearby street light leaked into his room, like it always did. He could hear the faint rush of cars rolling down the nearby freeway. But otherwise, all was dark and quiet. Everything was peaceful.
Everything seemed normal.
He took slow, deep breaths. Calmed himself down. It was just a dream. Everything was fine. Everything was normal. He was safe.
And yet, he couldn’t shake this nagging feeling – something was not normal, and soon, he’d never feel the same again.
Timmy lowered himself back down, readjusted his covers, and tried to go back to sleep.
The image of running through the woods, trying to escape some unseen enemy, still rattled his soul. It was just a stupid dream. He did take a few psych classes, after all. This was probably just his subconscious mind expressing his fears about finding the right job before he ran out of time. All the paths in the woods had to be his different “life paths” or career options, or something. And he felt lost right now, trying to find his purpose and place in this world. Where he belonged. What he was good at.
Yeah. That had to be it.
What was he really good at? He was sure the employment agency would give him some skill tests. Maybe then he’d know. Because right now, he had a lot of interests in a lot of different things, but wouldn’t dare call himself an expert or master at anything.
He eventually managed to fall back asleep. But that small nagging voice in the back of his mind wouldn’t shut up. He had a feeling that, after tomorrow, everything would seem different.
And although he didn’t believe in some all-knowing deity giving every human on Earth some special calling or life purpose – for some reason, in his soul and in his gut, along with this weird nagging feeling, he felt like he’d just been chosen for something.
Deep in sleep, he dreamed of being lost in those woods again.
Running out of time.
And then suddenly, he heard a feminine giggle coming from the trees. He turned around and saw her – a beautiful woman, naked, calling to him. He didn’t recognize her. He’d never seen this girl before. But somehow, she seemed strangely familiar…