When Diedre awoke, she felt that something terrible was wrong, as if some nightmare had come to life. Aside from opening her eyes, she remained motionless, frozen, not even breathing for a moment. What was wrong? She listened. The room was empty of sound, of smells, of moving shadows. Wait. Someone was in the kitchen.
She rolled over to find that the other half of the bed was empty. Ted had gone. Usually he slept like a fallen oak tree, heavily with a touch of a snore. Solid. That was Ted, a solid unimaginative man who never had a flight of fancy in his life, who never saw fairy rings, or heard the howl of a banshee on a windy November night. Taurus by sign. Taurus by nature, an ox of a man, and Diedre loved him for being everything that she was not. But Ted, her Ted should have been sleeping beside her at 4:30 in the morning. Where had he gone?
Knowing that sleep wouldn’t return, Diedre slipped out of the bed and into her medicine bottle blue robe and slippers. First to check on their child, her daughter.
The second bedroom was a nursery. No adult would have chosen that paper for anyone but an infant. No child would have chosen that paper at all. Within the bower, there stood a crib, and within the crib lay a sleeping Elizabeth. Already that had been shortened to Beth by her grandparents, and to Biff by the princess herself.
Beth collection of stuffed animals waited for her in a bookcase. Whenever she left the house she always took one with her, no matter what the trip. Each animal had a name and a personality. She loved them all and shared her affections evenly. Even trips about the city were distributed evenly.
Straightening the cover Diedre smiled down on the face that should have belonged to an angel, a mischievous one. The dark hair naturally curled into ringlets. The features were even. In the repose of sleep a touch of a smile played with the lips. Carefully, not to wake her sleeping darling, Diedre bent over and kissed that face that meant more to her than life.
Diedre found Ted in the kitchen, his head in his hands, his elbows resting on the table. His broad back was too her, hiding his face. He was a large boned man, a heavy man. The size had come naturally for all his family had that build. Summers working for his father’s bricklaying business had built layers of muscle on his back and shoulders. Even today he appeared almost squat despite his height.
Those summer jobs had passed, but they had moulded the man, mentally as well as physically. He learned how a man must earn his living without education. Ted applied the same style to his learning that he applied to carrying a hod of bricks up a ladder. Care and persistence, but never speed.
A half-empty cup of coffee sat before him. Beside it lay a pack of cigarettes and an ashtray. As Diedre approached, he seemed in a trance, lost to the world, staring into space. When she placed a hand on his shoulder he neither moved, nor spoke.
“Is something wrong, darling?” Diedre asked gently.
When he turned to her, clasping her hand in his she could tell that something was terribly wrong. What was it? Then she realised that he looked frightened.
“Sorry,” he replied. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“You didn’t. What woke you up?”
“I had a dream.”
“Well come back to bed. Go back to sleep.”
“No. I don’t want to go back to sleep. I might have the same dream. I have to figure out what to do.”
She leaned to him, and he put his arms around her and nestled his head in her breasts. She ruffled his hair a bit. Was that a gray hair? She smiled. He would look distinguished in gray. “Come on, darling. Let’s go back to bed. We might not be able to sleep, but I’m sure we can think of something. It was only a dream.”
Wrong words. Ted stood up, letting go of her and pulling open the liquor cabinet. He took out a bottle of whiskey and a couple of glasses. Sloppily he poured a rough couple of ounces into each glass and set them on the table, the bottle too. He added ice to hers and water to his.
“I wish it was just an ordinary dream,” he half said to himself.
“What do you mean?”
“Did you ever dream something and then it happened?” he asked as he lit another cigarette.
Diedre shook her head.
“I have,” said Tom taking a gulp from his glass. ” Three times. I remember every one. These dreams have a different taste to them. The colours are brighter. The smells are stronger. Everything in them is more vivid.”
Diedre opened the fridge and took out some milk. Then she opened the cupboard and got some cookies. It wasn’t on her diet, but she wanted some comfort food.
He didn’t notice. “I remember the first time. I was only about eight. I dreamt about riding on the Flyer at the CNE. In my dream my mother and father came on the ride with me. On the ride my mother purse opened and her stuff fell out.
“I thought it was just a silly dream. There was a polio scare and my parents were talking about skipping the Ex that year. Besides I couldn’t see my mother riding on the Flyer.”
He stopped for a moment. “Three weeks later we went to the Ex. After the Better Living Centre and several other displays, we went to the Midway. My father teased my mother into joining us for a ride on the Flyer. On the last loop her purse sprung open and all her cosmetics fell out.”
Ted fell silent. Staring out the kitchen window into the blackness of the night.
“What about the other times?” Diedre asked. He was creeping her out.
“The second time I was seventeen. I dreamt I was in a car accident. A few weeks later the car I was in, coming back from a skiing trip, was side swiped. The third time I dreamt I met a girl at a party. You wore the same dress as in the dream and had your hair in the same style. That’s why I’ve always called you my dream girl.”
“You never told me about this,” Diedre said, after a moment. She held his hand as if to reassure him, but it was for herself. She wanted to hold onto him, her husband of six years. Touching him would make him go back to the man she had always thought he was.
“There wasn’t any need,” he replied. “I didn’t want you to think I was silly. You’ve always been so down to earth.”
That startled her. She, Diedre, the one who cried at the movies, who wouldn’t walk through a cemetery at night, who eyed crossed knives, black cats and ladders with suspicion had never been thought of as ‘down to earth’. Her parents and sisters always teased her for being feigh. But tonight Ted needed their roles reversed, so she would play the solid, sane, unimaginative one.
“What did you dream tonight?” she asked, but really didn’t want to know. If only he would tell her that this was a silly joke, would laugh and kiss her and take her back to bed. He didn’t.
“I’m in a large building. The walls are a light grey. They’re far away. It’s a big open space. I can tell that by the way the sound of footsteps echoes. The floor is smooth stone. It’s some sort of marble.
“I’m wearing a leather jacket. I’m in my jeans and running shoes, so it must be a weekend. I’ve got a plastic bag in one hand, and Beth’s coat in the other. You know the coat, her red one. I’m waiting for her. She’s gone to the washroom.”
He paused and licked his lips. He took a puff from the cigarette and then butted it out. Instead of continuing to talk, he reached for the pack and took out another cigarette. Diedre saw the sweat on his face although the room was cool. She waited.
“I pace back and forth. I’m worried. She’s been gone too long. I go to the door of the washroom and hesitate. I look around for some woman to go in there for me, but I don’t see any. I push open the door and call for Beth. She doesn’t answer.”
He stopped again. His eyes stared into that distant land of memory. For a moment Diedre thought he would stand and leave. She put her hand on his arm to stop him. “Go on,” she said calmly.
“I push open the door and call again, but there is no answer. I look in. I see Beth’s bear on the floor. I know there’s something wrong. I go in and look for her. I can’t see her. There’s a mess of papers in one corner. I look again. I can see her foot sticking out of the pile of papers. She’s wearing those purple socks she likes so much. I know that . . . and then I woke up.”
He finished his story, and then his drink and poured himself a second one, this time without water or ice. The horror of the tale made Diedre want to shiver, but she mustn’t. Tonight she must be the rational one. She took a breath, squeaked out a weak chuckle and began, “let’s just examine the whole dream, and see what we can find out. OK? Good. Now, do you know where you were?”
“No. It was some type of public place. It was too large to be anything else. It was a fancy place. The steps were carved out of stone. The handrail was brass. It could be a museum. It could be somewhere else.”
“Go through it again, Ted,” she said. Inside Diedre knew that this was just a nightmare, but she had to convince Ted of that. She would find a way to show him there was nothing to this.
Reluctantly, he repeated the story. The words were different. The image burned into his mind remained constant. The actions and the emotions repeated themselves with horrifying faithfulness.
“You saw one of Beth’s stuffed animals,” said Diedre.
“It was a bear, about a foot long. He was brown with a red T-shirt. The T-shirt has a pot of honey embroidered on it,” Ted said.
“Wait as second,” Diedre said. “Beth doesn’t have a bear like that. She has three bears, but none of them have a T-shirt. And we don’t have a T-shirt with a pot embroidered on it.”
Ted looked up. “We don’t? You’re right. But I saw it so clearly. I know what I saw.”
“You know what you dreamt, Darling. That’s all that it was. It was just a dream and nothing more. You’ve got a full day tomorrow and we have your parents coming over for dinner.”
Diffidently, he surrendered to her bullying. They returned to bed and the rest of his sleep was undisturbed. The next day was hectic and he barely got home for dinner. The guests had arrived before him. The roast was ready.
“How’s my son, the lawyer,” his father said as Ted came in the door. “Put it there, Son. Ahh. You haven’t lost the grip yet, although your hands are almost as soft as a woman’s. Who would have thought it, my son the lawyer.”
“Let him be Henry,” said his mother. “Ted made something of himself, and not with much help from you. You were always hammering at him about wasting his time on books. Come here son and give me a kiss.”
Dutifully, Ted obeyed. “How’s the business Dad?”
“Not bad. I’ve got a subcontract for some houses outside Barrie. If you need a little extra I’d could take you on for a few weeks. What do you say?”
“It is too busy at the office. It doesn’t pay as well as bricklaying, but I get to sit behind a desk all day.”
“Yes, and it makes you soft. Next thing I expect you’ll be getting your hands manicured. Look at me. I left school at fifteen and I’ve worked with my hands all my life and I’m worth more than any of those fancy pants lawyers you meet.”
“Henry, stop it. It’s not polite.”
“Dinner’s on,” sang out Diedre, from the kitchen.
“Oh, I almost forgot,” Ted’s mother said, as they sat to eat. “I got a little something for Beth. I just couldn’t resist it. It was so cute. Honey, it’s in my bag. Go over there and get it and show it to your mother.”
Diedre hadn’t really been listening. She was wrestling the roast onto the platter. Then she proudly carried it out to the dining room for Ted to carve. When she saw Beth, she couldn’t help herself. The platter fell from her nerveless fingers.
There, at the dining room table with her new companion, sat Beth. She couldn’t understand why her father looked so pale and her mother was frozen with terror. In her arms was her new Teddy bear, a light brown bear with a red T shirt. On the T-shirt was a pot of honey.
—THE END —-
About The Author
Born in Toronto, Edward has pursued a professional career during the day, while taking writing courses, joining writer’s groups, and writing at night. When not writing, he spends his time sailing and fencing, and working as a movie extra. Currently, Edward is sailing his sailboat off the Florida Coast. Perhaps in the Bahamas.
PUBLICATIONS (limited list)
Number 21 Rue le Sueur,Pseudopod (2010)
Shuttle watching for a sputnik child, The Broken City (Winter 2009)
Nothing but Vacuum, NewFoundSpecFic (Volume #2)
Naked in the Night, Midnight Echo (#3) (2009)
On the Lake where the Loons Cry, Damnation Books(Fall 2009)
Crash, Neo-Opsis(February 2009)
A Conscious Act, Aoife’s Kiss (March 2009)
Prince Victor, Flashing Swords (2008)
The Prize, Aoife’s Kiss, (March 2007)
The Whistler, ESC! Magazine(April 2006)
No place for a cripple, Wild Child Publishing(March 2006)(March Editor Choice Award, Fiction)
The SinEater, RIM (Summer 1999)