Just as he was about to drown, he emerged from the water's surface. No - his clothes were soaked, but there was no water around him. He wasn't drowning, either.
Vincent sat up in bed. He was clinging onto the sheets for dear life. His breathing was chaotic, his heart pounding furiously to the point where it hurt his ears.
"Hey. Are you okay?" came a puzzled voice from above.
Katherine, wearing her glasses, was looking down on him with her arms folded. She didn't appear flustered. Her hair and clothing showed no signs of dishevelment. She looked perfect enough to be put on display in a shop window.
"What's going on? I remember you coming here..." He was perplexed. A succession of scenes bounced around in his head. "To this room... and then she suddenly..."
The blonde Catherine perched ostentatiously beside Vincent. Katherine set her off. Catherine took a kitchen knife, stood up and attacked Katherine. One collapsed, the other straddling her, and then...
"That's right, where... where's Catherine!?" He pictured her bloodied form, immediately grabbing onto the hand of his girlfriend before him.
"No, I don't mean you!"
"Catherine! Hey! Catherine!"
He stood, thrusting aside the sheets, and brushed past Katherine's shoulder. He looked around the kitchen, but Catherine was nowhere to be seen. The floor was dry, too. He could see no evidence of a fight.
"What the hell? What's going on...?"
He turned around, grabbing Katherine by the shoulders. "Why isn't she here!?" he asked, shaking her back and forth.
There was no response. Her widened eyes returned to their usual size. If anything they were more narrowed than usual, filled with more ice than ever.
"Hmph. So that's what it was."
"Where... Where is she!?"
"How should I know? I guess she's not around today."
"Not around? But how could... Then, before..."
Hadn't they had a tussle? Hadn't she been stabbed in the stomach and fallen to the floor?
"Anyway, there's something I want to talk to you about."
"Talk? About what?"
Did she know something about the stabbing and vanishing of Catherine?
"You're cheating on me, aren't you? Will you admit it?"
"I admit it, but... But more importantly...!"
"What are you talking about? You're making no sense." Her shoulders drooped and she sighed. "I'm so disappointed."
Disappointed? This wasn't exactly the time for disappointment. The girl had bled heavily, then stopped moving. At this rate, Katherine was going to end up being a murderer. So why was she behaving this way?
"Wait a sec..." How was she so composed? "You don't remember what happened earlier?"
"Are you still half-asleep? What do you mean 'earlier'?"
"What do I... But, you..."
"You weren't picking up the phone, so I came to your house. You were writhing around in bed."
"Huh? I was writhing..."
"Yeah, unfortunately. That's why I woke you up."
So had the girl never been there to begin with?
"For real? Then... Does that mean that what happened earlier was a dream...? A dream...?"
So he'd had another nightmare. That meant that she was still alive. Wherever she was, she was alive.
"Oh... Thank God..."
This was the first time he'd been glad to have had a nightmare. His legs went weak, and he slid to the floor. A steady noise began above his head. Looking up, he saw Katherine tapping the sleeve of her suit with her fingertips.
Irritation and displeasure intermingled in the expression she wore. This was the expression that always made Vincent feel uneasy and want to flee. Now, however, it calmed him. This was proof that normality endured.
"I'm glad that you're okay, too..."
He cast his gaze downwards. Her stomach caught his eye, and then he remembered. In an instant, his joy turned to a sinking feeling.
"Oh, yeah. It was 'you two', wasn't it..."
Her voice was stiff and guarded, something that was unusual for Katherine. Her expression looked so distant.
"Um. I wasn't pregnant. It looks like I made a mistake."
"Yeah. So I want to break up with you."
He repeated her words. Things were supposed to have changed. Catherine was alive. Katherine was okay, too. She wasn't pregnant, and now she wanted to break up with Vincent. But it should have been the other way around. Vincent was the one who had approached Catherine about breaking up. It was too complicated. He was so confused. What was real, and what was a dream...?
"The one you're cheating with is called Catherine, right? She has the same name as me," said Katherine. "It's really poor taste of you to go to all the trouble of picking out someone like that."
"Hold on a second. I don't get it... I already broke things off with her. I had the kid to think of, too... I was going to apologise to you properly..."
"Did you really think I hadn't noticed that you were cheating on me?"
"Uh... Did I? I'm not sure."
He'd taken a call from the girl right in front of her. He'd chased her out when she came to visit. He really had been acting weirdly lately. So she had noticed, then.
"To be honest, I actually feel better knowing that I'm not pregnant."
Without the pregnancy, he wouldn't have to make his mind up about marrying her. He wouldn't have to break up with the girl, either. It was too late now, though. He'd already done it.
"What should I do...?"
"Don't do anything," Katherine replied angrily, apparently thinking he had been talking to her. "I don't want to see you again, and I don't want you to contact me, either."
She turned her back to Vincent. Without looking back, she walked - across the dry, un-bloodied floor of the real world - to the door.
She vanished from view. He heard the door open, then close. The entire room shook slightly.
It was painfully silent. He couldn't hear the sounds of traffic or car horns, so it must have been late. He remained in that position for a while, simply staring into space.
Vincent crawled over to the table and picked up his phone. He was full of regrets. He thought he was a piece of shit. For some reason, however, he needed to hear her voice. He wanted to tell her everything. He wanted her to console him. He wanted to sob and beg for mercy.
He brought up his received calls history and swooned. Had the nightmare begun again? Her number alone was gone.