She runs hard and fast, putting herself through the paces each time her feet hit the ground in a rhythmic progression. Her lungs burn as she inhales the sharp, dry air around her. She doesn't know where she is or where she's supposed to be running to, but something in her gut is telling her that she needs to keep going for as long as she can. That she'll know what she's looking for when she sees it, when she finally lands where she needs to be. She plants her right foot down as she takes her next step and feels an odd texture underneath her feet. The ground has been surprisingly uniform thus far, unexpectedly so with given that she was on abandoned property, so she slows down and takes a few steps back to see what she has stepped on. She finds a medium-sized leather satchel on the ground and picks it up, examining the object closely. Upon opening the satchel, she sees a few handheld tools of various kinds and in various conditions. Surely this will come in handy. She stuffs it into her pack and makes sure her belongings are secure before taking off again. She doesn't have much time.
She arrives at the safe house. There's equipment all over the converted garage: tools, blueprints, spare parts. Some vehicles are in working order, others aren't and needed a little more tender loving care. Despite all of the stuff and clutter, the garage is devoid of people, so she bypasses the space and ventures into the living quarters instead. It is eerily quiet, unsurprisingly so. The whole point, after all, is to keep a low profile. The great irony of safe houses is that people often only use them in times of great distress, where safety is the number one priority and yet no one actually feels safe at all.
She puts away the meager groceries that she's acquired. Balsamic vinegar, a lemon, shallots, daikon, an entire salmon filet, and banana leaves. She leaves the leather satchel in its place in the second compartment of her pack. It is for her and her alone. She has a hunch that it is what will set her apart from the others and give her an edge when the time comes, when they have to fight for survival in this dystopian existence.
Tea. She realizes that she has left that off of her list of supplies. This likely means a trip to the mall and she sighsd at the thought of having to the mall of all places. It is a large, rectangular structure; theoretically a person could walk the entire length of the center just by following one path, but that never actually happens. There were too many distractions: stores, mall pretzels, slushies, those bulk candy stores that only seemed to exist in malls but never on their own, kiosks selling the most random shit.
She's been there before. She uses the knowledge from her previous visits to guide herself through the space. She has seen this exact structure before; it looks the same every time she's seen it, as if it were a real, physical building that actually exists, when the reality is that it is an odd amalgamation of shopping malls that she has visited in various parts of her life. Her subconscious has created a shopping center just for her to visit in her oddly detailed and vivid dreamscapes despite that they are among one of her least favorite places to be. Nora thinks about this briefly as she stands on the escalator. She passes a board that displays a map of the building and realizes that the directory looks exactly the same the last time she had visited this space. It felt odd to see how much detail and consideration had gone into building this place that only exists in her subconscious.
She steps off of the escalator and makes a beeline for the tea shop. Her plans are derailed as she steps into a quirky store filled with children's toys. Ah, right. That baby shower that was being thrown at work for one of the other residents. She wanders the toy shop in search of something that might be appropriate for the giftee before settling on a coffee tumbler and a pair of fuzzy Cookie Monster slippers. She makes her purchase and suddenly she is standing on line to swipe her MetroCard so that she can get home. She doesn't think twice of this as she speed walks to the platform to catch the next downtown N train. This station looks identical in all of her dreams as well, though none of the MTA stations she has ever been to in her brief life as a New Yorker look like this in reality. It was another amalgamation, a simulacra that existed only for her purposes and that she could visit as often as she wanted.
She steps off the train and decides to take a walk through her neighborhood. There are facets of her actual neighborhood in the North End; some of the same familiar shops and bars line the streets, but the grid system that it follows is similar to that of her old neighborhood, Hamilton Heights. She scans the storefronts and noticed that they, too, are exactly where she expects them to be. She knows that if she walks three blocks further north, she'll find the performance space where a recent PTA meeting had been hosted. It had become volatile quickly, and she recalls formulating an exit plan before the other attendees left en masse. Two blocks east of where she is standing, she knows that she can find the tasty, cheap pho place of her college years, transported into a nicer space close to her Boston apartment. Despite the wandering that she wats to do to confirm that nothing else had changed, she feels a desperate need to get home, so she begins to walk.
It was a loud, sharp whisper in her ear. The voice sounded vaguely familiar and yet she couldn't place it. Nora had been asleep, in bed, warm and safe as she burrowed under the covers. It took her a few moments to rub the bleariness out of her eyes and realize that was just another dream. These complex, nonsensical dreams that drew from her earlier parts of her life seemed to be happening more and more lately, as if her mind was conducting its own world-building exercise while she slept. She had no idea if this was an unintended consequence of having Kara in her life once a week per month or if this was just some weird, unexpected crash course in lucid dreaming. She tried not to think on it too much for now and made a mental note to talk to Carter about it at their next session. Instead, she burrowed deeper into her bed and tried to fall asleep again.
Suddenly, her eyes flew open at the realization that she was Nora, just herself, that she was in her bed in her apartment in Boston. That she couldn't remember anything from the week before, which meant that Kara had upended things once again. She sat up and pulled her knees to her chest, hugging them to her tightly as she leaned forward to rest her forehead on her legs. Nora let out a deep sigh and wondered if she was actually starting to lose it. She took a few moments to collect herself and gather her thoughts before she started her day.