This story is by Linda L. Moore and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
It happened again. Andrea stood in the vast dunes, wind blowing her long hair across her face which irritated her. It took her out of her gloating. The Project finished and now she had little time before the next assignment. What she wanted for herself was space – space to not have to think about anything, space to daydream for herself.
The Boundless Project began as a trial experiment where ethereal beings could assume earthly shapes and help individuals realize their fantasies – not sexual fantasies – no fantasies of grand expanse like an African Safari. But rarely did Andrea choose that assignment. She preferred helping people live in their daydreams. But each time she did, she’d wake up on the dunes at sunset – that was the only way she knew the project succeeded. If it failed, she’d wake up on her couch, feeling as sick as the worst human hangover imaginable.
There was the time a pretty Puerto Rican woman, Clarita, wanted to meet Jesus. Andrea didn’t make any promises, but told Clarita that she’d get her close. If anyone was observing from outside their private conversations they would see two women talking. But that’s not what was happening, Andrea was inside Clarita’s mind, directing and guiding her thoughts. Each thought a stepping stone on a river of expectations leading Clarita to her own conclusion that she actually met Christ and had a chat with the Holy One.
Heck, Andrea thought, if it makes people happy then I’m doing the right thing. Andrea looked like any other woman you might see walking on the sidewalk in a quaint country town. Flowy skirt, long hair – mousy brown, her eyes were the color of citrine and sparkled as such.
Not many were part of the Boundless Project – and so Andrea was busy all the time inside people’s heads, listening and helping them get what they wanted or close.
For Irvine, she couldn’t get him close. He wanted to kill himself. For all her non-human-ness, Andrea couldn’t see letting the guy die. She just wouldn’t do it. Of course it would bring him to something beyond himself and beyond all imagining and fulfill a fantasy. But she was pretty sure he wanted to really die in the physical form. And her job wasn’t to take people beyond the physical form. Her job, what she was entrusted to do was give them their fantasy in their heads. But Irvine was different, and he kind of scared her – she didn’t have to fear for her life – she feared for the consequences of failure. That hangover was a human episode which she didn’t like experiencing. Being human terrified her.
Irvine’s fantasy involved hiking waterfalls and jumping into pools of water – but for some reason after the fantasy was fulfilled he actually went and did it – someplace in North Carolina – and he died. Andrea got a reprimand from the project and suffeed an unforgettable human hangover. She was told she couldn’t make the fantasies so real, she had to soften them.
A Boundless Project fantasy allows for anything to happen. If someone wants the freedom to jump off a waterfall, like Irvine, and then start flying like a bird, Andrea could make that happen as if they had really done it. And it wouldn’t feel as safe as a “virtual reality” experience that so many people wanted. She could actually hear their thoughts as she passed them on the street. She’d find a way to talk with them and then she’d give them their fantasy. In seconds or minutes it would be over and they’d go on their way, maybe wondering why they were sitting with her.
For her effort, she would end up safely on the dunes time and time again.
Sitting at a bench at the town square, Michael sat next to her, greeting her nonchalantly. She sensed Michael’s fantasy. Michael wanted to fall in love. Andrea wasn’t supposed to have the DNA that allowed her to establish relationships. Michael was a former Boundless Project projector. What Andrea didn’t know was that he was playing her. He wanted to fall in love with Andrea. It’s not about how she looked or even her personality – which Boundless projector’s kept hidden, it was that he didn’t like the way she interpreted his fantasy. So he thought that he would have a little fun “playing” her. Andrea was seasoned. She knew what he was up to and she went along with it.
The falling in love part was easy – it didn’t take long for Andrea to allow her mind to soften to his thoughts and in his mind they were romantic and loving. It wasn’t a sexual fantasy, but there was love making. Andrea needed to get out of the fantasy because she heard another one as a boy came running past them. To anyone walking by it looked like two strangers staring at the courthouse. But she was ending the love affair in his mind, or at least pausing it for a while. She really wanted to help Tristan get a puppy and that fantasy would be fun. Helping a young boy with an endless dream of a spaniel puppy when his mother forbade pets. She could make Tristan’s fantasy return again and again. She had that trait – something only a few projectors had. This one would be fun for her, a boy and his dog. In the fantasy, Tristan’s mother Sherri, also loved the dog. They took Skippy everywhere – for car rides, to the beach, he even slept with Tristan.
But after one of her misstep fantasy projections, Andrea mixed up Michael and Tristan. Michael had Skippy and was in love with Skippy and Tristan fell in love with Andrea. Tristan, in his youth, didn’t know what was going on his mind – he had visions of a pretty girl in flowing dresses and long hair that always got in her face because she never pulled it up. They played together and laughed all the time. She liked catching toads and getting muddy with him in the woods. He wanted to kiss her. Andrea couldn’t let that happen because in her head was also Michael and Skippy and she was mixing them up. It was as if she was short-circuiting.
As soon as Andrea created a fantasy she could leave it – she could let it blossom on its own. But if she created two at nearly the same time, one could enter into the other one because Andrea acted as a portal. The limitless mind could take a fantasy anywhere and over and over and over again. When Andrea designed fantasies she often allowed the feelings and inspirations from them to linger in the mind of the unknowing individual. But when a projector tipped onto the fine line of being a portal – that’s when troubles happened. And she was getting into it big time.
She had to fix this and she knew it. But as a being in Tristan’s fantasy that got mixed into Michael’s she had to re-wrap the package, or she’d end up on her couch in a hangover with body aches, chills, fever, and vomiting – all things she didn’t like about the repercussions of getting the fantasies wrong or mixed up. No one ever said the Boundless Project would be easy – but humans wanted something to believe in besides the isolated lives they lived.
Tristan and Andrea, and Michael and Skippy, would have to follow different paths. That was the only way she could see out of it. She sat at the bench on the town square and just as she knew at 10 am Michael sat there, too. He looked at her and smiled, not realizing he was no longer in control of the fantasy. Andrea discovered his mind wandered to Skippy, she put herself in the fantasy as the woman on the bench and Michael forgot about Skippy and daydreamed of falling in love once again.
Andrea left him in his fantasy, something she rarely did, and walked across the street to the ice cream shop where she found Tristan and Sherri. Tristan’s chin dripping vanilla ice cream, Sherri staring at him, and, Andrea observed, her mind was blank. Instantly she put Skippy into Sherri’s mind, filling it with abiding love of mother and child giddy with anticipation of getting a puppy, a life fulfilled. Being careful to not portal Tristan’s previous fantasy of Andrea, she practiced something she had recently learned – voicing. She made a sound like a barking dog, and Tristan and his mother were instantly shaken from their limitless mind thoughts.
- “Should we get a puppy?” Sherri said to Tristan.