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The Missing Link by Erica Pensini - HTML preview

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Chapter 1

The heat of this torrid summer is drenching the old bricks and stones which have seen the joy and the struggles of the best generations of students, the cream of our nation. Young people like me, privileged and clever and envied. Now that the graduation ceremony has ended and even the last proud parents and their kids are gone, the place is oddly immobile and silent. It feels like a calming spot, one where I could sit in quiet loneliness with an engrossing novel. Very soon I will not see this place - and this whole city as a matter of fact - for a fair amount of time. There’s a big environmental project going on in Spain and I will be part of an international team based out in Barcelona for one year at least. Chances are that the project will last much longer, but for now the details are still blurry and I am not concerned with planning so much ahead anyways. For now what I want is simply to step out of the academia and buy myself some buffer time before getting organized for real life, whatever real life is. This city has started to fit too tight on my skin, and I am relieved at the idea of taking off to a different continent, to a city that inspires me based on pictures pulled off the internet and on some travel guides.

Tonight I should be happy. I just earned a degree from a top-notch university with top marks. I have a job already, it’s temporary but that’s no matter, so many of my class mates would pay to be in my place now.

But I am not happy. I am not sad in a proper sense either though. It’s a sort of emptiness I feel within me all the time, in the background, and that – paradoxically – haunts me most intensely in those moments when I should feel most accomplished. I start wandering in the empty hallways, making my way to the cafeteria where I have been so many times. I want to know if I can recollect the emotions I’ve lived here, remember the moments, and it is so very odd that I feel absolutely nothing, as if this was my first time seeing this place. I move on, inspecting the classrooms, and for each one I visit a hollow echo reverberates within me. At last I give up, but right when I’ve decided to get out of here my eye gets captured by a flier. It is black and white and very plain, but I read, in capital letters, EXPERIMENTAL DREAM STUDY. I get closer to the board on which it is affixed, and this is what it says:


Volunteers wanted for an experimental psychology and medical study in which dreams are analyzed, reproduced and used to trigger buried memories.

Duration of the study: 1 month minimum

Call the number below if interested!

I have a month and a half ahead of me before flying out to Barcelona. Why not call? I have enough time. Why call is perhaps a better question though. I am curious, that’s all there is to it, or maybe there are more profound reasons that I choose not to investigate.

There’s probably nobody to pick up the phone, it’s late, but I pull out my cell and call anyways. The phone rings free for a while, and I am relieved, because I have already changed my mind and I don’t really want to be part of the study anymore. I am about to hang up when a voice talks to me from the other end.

“Why don’t you drop by tomorrow morning at 8 am, does this work?”, asks the girl who introduced herself as Stephanie, and so I’m stuck.

I jump on the streetcar with fragmented images buzzing in my mind as inconsistent flies, thoughts of what tomorrow’s dream session will be like, of Barcelona, of the last day of school and of other things forgotten as fast as they are remembered, things that are now buried memories.