Short Fiction for Guests of the WordFeeder
Friday, December 25, 2009
“Pssst.” Nothing. “…Hey,” he said a little louder.
“Whuh!” Carole shot up in her bed. “Ah,” she couldn’t seem to breathe, fumbling franticly in the almost darkness for her glasses on the crowed night table, pushing her alarm clock onto the floor, rattling her metal lampshade while she nervously clicked the switch again and again.
“Looking for these?” The stranger standing a few feet to the side of her bed held up her glasses and cell phone. Given the circumstances, his voice and demeanor were remarkably casual. He seemed comfortable, at ease with himself as if this was something he’d done before. “I’ve turned off your power. The light won’t go on. There’s no point.”
Carole could see him, but not clearly. Her vision wasn’t all that good, and the only light in the room was from a lamppost on the other side of the street coming through narrow blinds she’d closed just enough to give her privacy. Her breathing was labored.
“If you don’t calm down, you’ll hyperventilate and pass out. ..You really don’t want to pass out with me here, do you?”
“Mm.” Carole shook her head as if shuttering from the cold, and then instinctively grabbed the quilt that had fallen to her waist and yanked it up over her chest and the t-shirt she was wearing.
“You’re not naked, Carole. There’s no reason to cover up.”
She took a quick breath, trying so hard not to be one of those people who couldn’t scream, let alone talk, when she’s scared. “What do you want?!” she blurted out, the pitch of her voice higher than usual and erratic. “What do you want? …How did you get in here?”
“Through your back door. You really need to get an alarm,” he said laughing quietly to himself. “…You know, you seem tired, Carole. Having trouble sleeping lately?”
“How do you know my name?” Without moving her head, hoping the stranger wouldn’t notice, she looked everywhere around the room, straining to see something that she could use as a weapon.
“What, you’re going to leap out of bed and attack me with, let’s see, your blow dryer?” He rolled his eyes and then pursed his lips, as if seriously considering her options. “Nah.”
No response. She squinted, but still couldn’t see him clearly.
“You’re, what, maybe five four, 120 pounds tops? Athletic,” he thought out loud, cocking his head as he stared at her bare arms and the form of her legs pushing up the quilt. “I, on the other hand, am just over six feet and weigh 195 pounds. …Oh, and did I mention…” He tossed her glasses and cell phone into the metal trash can in the far corner of the room, the sound of them hitting the can startling her even though she saw it coming.
How many times had she wondered to herself, watching TV or a movie, is something like this would ever happen to her, would she wait too long do whatever she could, would she hesitate until it was too late.
Reaching into his right pants pocket, he took out something out, there was a sharp “click” followed by a flash of light off what had to be a blade. “…I have a knife.”
“What do you want?”
“You already asked me that.”
“Is it money?”
The man just stood there. “Don’t you hate awkward moments? …No, I don’t need your money. …Now, you’re probably saying to yourself, if you weren’t too scared to think, ‘If not money, what does that leave?’ Money would be easy. Maybe he’s going to rape or kill me, or both. Maybe this is the beginning of the last few moments of my life. But you can’t think, can you?” The man took a step forward, the open knife down at this side. “…which is why I’m thinking for you.” And then another step, his arm with the knife bending up and forward, the point of its blade poking through the quilt, Carole’s leg flinching to get out of its way.
“Is that when you woke up, Jacob?” Dr. Winters assumed it was, but wanted to be sure.
“How many dreams has it been?”
“Six, including this one, since I started seeing you – and several before that.”
“Each one taking you closer, further along to what you assume is going to be a violent outcome?”
“What makes you so sure?”
“Because… Because that’s what I want. It’s getting to the point where I’m going to bed early, hoping for the next dream to find out what happens next. …And,” he sat forward to be able to get his hand in his pocket, “I’ve bought a knife.” He took it out, setting on the table in front of him.
“Like the one in your dreams?”
“Exactly like the one in my dreams. That’s why I bought it.”
Dr. Winters stared at his patient, rubbing the plastic shaft of the pen he’d been using to take notes. “Wait here.” Rising out of his chair, he went to the door of the inner office where he and Jacob had been talking. His hand on the knob, he turned back to his patient. “I have someone I’d like you to meet.”
The first person to come in was a woman, tall, gray hair, in her fifties. “This is Dr. Evelyn Bouchard…”
“Jacob nodded his head slightly, feeling anxious about what was happening.
“… Dr. Bouchard and I have separate practices, but talk often about each other’s cases. It helps sometimes…”
A fourth person had come in and was standing behind the two psychologists. A woman, Jacob thought, from her size and almost shoulder length hair.
“..to get another professional’s point of view.”
Jacob pushed off the leather of his chair, rising to his feet as the second woman came around from behind the two doctors. Lifting up her face slightly, she reached with the forefinger of her right hand to push her glasses up to the bridge of her nose.
“And I think,” Dr. Winters was only stating the obvious, “you recognize Carole. …Let’s everybody have a seat.”
Dr. Brouchard sat on the two cushion sofa next to Carole who was too nervous to sit back.
“It turns out, so I discovered a few days ago, that Carole… She is the girl in your dreams, isn’t she, Jacob?”
Jacob bobbed his head just enough, never taking his eyes off her.
“Carole’s been seeing Dr. Brouchard about a recurring dream, about a man who breaks into her house, each dream more real than the one before it, each one coming closer to violence. …Sound familiar?”
Rolling his eyes toward Dr. Winters, his silence was all they needed to hear.
“By the way, Jacob, in the notes I’ve asked you to make after each dream, her name is “Carole” alright, but with an “e.”
“You knew my name?” Carole hadn’t been told. “How did you know my name?” she asked him in that tone of voice between anger and fear.
“I don’t…” Jacob held out his hands, unable to finish.
“Unlike you, Jacob,” Dr. Brouchard took over, “Carole has been afraid to sleep, afraid she’ll dream. She’s had an alarm system installed, but the dreams haven’t stopped.”
“So what do we do now, Dr. Winters?” Jacob asked, his eyes moving from Carole’s folded hands in her lap, up her arms to her shoulders and neck. (Carole pulled at the edge of her skirt, wishing she had worn jeans.) “Why are we meeting? Will knowing we’re real make the dreams stop?”
“I don’t know,” Dr. Winters wasn’t kidding.
“This,” Dr. Brouchard interrupted, uncertainty apparent in her voice, “to be honest, is the first time we’ve handled anything like this. Many people have similar dreams. You two are apparently having the same dream, but from different perspectives.”
“They don’t seem,” Carole was hesitant to speak, “like dreams.”
“With your permission, Dr. Brouchard,” Dr. Winters wanted to answer, “most dreams are based on events the dreamer has experienced, a combination of situations and emotions creatively spun and extrapolated by the mind in the context of our hopes and fears. When dreams come true, it’s usually by chance or because… or because we make them happen. The problem here is that, so far as we can tell, the two of you have never met or run across each other, at least not consciously. Somehow, the two of you have started dreaming in synch. It’s rare, but there are well documented cases of it happening – of strangers sharing the same dreams, even more rare that, that those dreams would be progressive, that each of you would actually be adapting to your previous dream experience…” Carole and Jacob seemed lost. “You come home, you’re hungry, but there’s nothing good to eat. The next time you dream, you come home and there’s leftover Chinese in your refrigerator. The first time you found yourself in Carole’s room, there was no weapon. Two dreams later, you had that knife. Carole used to leave her cell phone in a recharging stand in her kitchen. Now she keeps it on her nightstand – first in your dreams and then in reality. Clearly, you’re adapting, letting your dreams influence your waking behavior, and your waking behavior influence subsequent dreams that are converging together toward what may be a common conclusion.” And he stopped.
“…The problem,” Dr. Brouchard continued, “is that the dreams the two of you are sharing – every few days, by the way, on the same nights according to your notes – appears to have violent content and, at the very least, has been upsetting to both of you.”
“That’s all very interesting,…” Of the two patients, Carole seemed to be under the most stress. “..but can you make them stop. Do none of you see that knife?” she pointed an unsteady finger at the coffee table in front of Jacob. “Why, why shouldn’t I be afraid?”
“Carole,” Dr. Winters answered, “it’s perfectly understandable that you are afraid. Dreams can be scary. These are nightmares at the very least, and you’re clearly sleep deprived which isn’t helping. …Look, if it’s okay with the two of you, we’re going to try having some of our sessions together. Our thinking is letting the two of you get to know each other will make the violent component of your common dreams seem less real…”
“…and because,” Dr. Brouchard finished the thought for her colleague, “there are things each of you needs to know about the other.”
“Like what,” Jacob demanded.
“For one thing,” Dr. Winters looked at Carole, “you need to know that Jacob owns the local franchise for the security company that installed your alarm system.”
Carole’s head turned sharply to face Jacob, her posture becoming stiff as she pushed back, distancing herself from Jacob by a few inches.
“And for another,” he said, looking back at Jacob, “you need to know that Carole has bought a gun and has been learning how to use it.”
Carole tightened her jaw.
Jacob, on the other hand, seemed almost excited by the challenge.
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