In Dreams

“All my life, I’ve been waking up,” she said.

The digital clock on Marshall’s dresser read 3:33. The numbers glowed red in the dim clutter of his room.

From the end of his bed, she looked softer than she did in the daytime.

“You’re sitting on my feet,” he told her, because it was simpler than anything else.

She made an indifferent noise and didn’t change position.

At school, she floated like a dandelion seed, elusive, far away from him. She was like pearls and sweater-sets, if girls still wore sweater-sets. She wasn’t a cheerleader, but she embodied everything that made cheerleaders unattainable.

“I’m tired of doing this,” he said to a spot somewhere across the room, away from her mysterious gaze.

“Are you really?” she said. “I’m just tired.”

The other day, he’d opened the newspaper and flipped to the back of the Local section to read her name on the honor roll. It was reassuring to see it there, inarguable, proving that she existed in the world. At night, the doubt and unease were all that seemed real, reduced to the shape of her silhouette

He turned his face into the pillow and closed his eyes. “I don’t know why you keep coming here. Go home. Go to sleep.”

“Teach me how,” she said, but he could tell she was smiling. “Teach me the secret and I’ll go away.”

The idea was relieving and painful. She scared him, but that was only casual, only surface. The fact was, if you were lonely enough, it didn’t matter if the company was real.

He rolled onto his back and stared up at the ceiling. “If there’s some great, amazing secret to sleeping, what makes you think I know it?”

“Because you’re the boy who puts his head down on his desk and ignores everything.” She laughed and the sound was lower than her speaking voice. He’d never heard her laugh in the daytime. “You’re the master of sedation—you’ve been doing it your whole life. Your trick is that you make the world disappear.”

“What about you?”

“My trick is, I’m the girl who never sleeps.”

And he had to admit that in the daylight, she was starting to look worn-out, dark smudges under her eyes like bruises. Still, when teachers called her name, she always answered. Clear and precise, clasping her hands on the desk. Old fashioned, not something other girls did.

On the back of her ankle—he’d seen it once when she knelt down, messing with her sock in the hall—on the back of her ankle were raw, oozing sores from where blisters had formed and then torn open. The surrounding skin was smooth and unmarked, fragile by contrast.

She ran. He knew that, but he’d never considered that maybe it took something out of you, that blisters would start and you’d have to keep running anyway. Her sock was sticking to the raw spots and she peeled it away carefully, without changing expression. The sight had made his throat hurt for no reason he could name.

At the foot of his bed, she sat up straighter, raising her chin like a princess. “All my life, I’ve been waking up. I could wake you up, too.”

She moved towards him in the dark and he flinched, clutching the blankets to his chest, turning his face to the side. “I’m not asleep.”

“How do you know?” she said.

24 thoughts on “In Dreams

  1. This is creepy and awesome. I wasn’t sure where it was going, and then it reached this place where it just WAS. (I’m tired, myself, so I’m connecting to the story and also unable to articulate what I like about it. Ha. Ha.)

    The blisters are shocking in an otherwise whimsical setting, and I love the parallel patterning. (Again with the lack of articulation…) “All my life, I’ve been waking up.” sounds like a fluffy cliche waiting to happen, and I love that you DON’T go there.

    And the creepy part – that’s a nice surprise that just… grows. I dub thee Mood Girl. (Not to be confused with Emo Girl, and I think we all know who that is.)

  2. okay, that is awesome. completely.
    even if i have no idea why or what it is. it’s just awesome.

  3. Emo Girl . . . my super power is sulking.

    This is evocative, Brenna. I’d have liked it longer . . . not novel, but a 2-4K version could only be a good thing!

  4. I’d have liked it longer

    Ha-hah! Little do you know . . . I’m at that antsy stage where I desperately, desperately want to work on Project Number 3, so I gave in and wrote a non-relevant scene from a non-POV character’s POV. Because I love him. So maybe this is even sort of like a teaser.

    However, the real thing–if I can actually call it that–is all in first-person and is way (way, way) over 4k.

  5. 😀 Even when my ideas start out sweet, they turn creepy–maybe one day that will just be like my “thing.”

  6. Thanks!

    This turned out to be sort of a non-related teaser for my First Love Story Ever. I realize there is nothing in the context to suggest that 😉

  7. I loved it. When I can’t write anything I read Dean Koontz. I’ve no formal writing training so tone, pace, and all the other writing thingies mean nothing to me, so I don’t know how to identify what’s good about this. It’s bloody good though. This reminds me of Dean Koontz. Now, if you think Mr Koontz is a bad writer I’ve just offended you, and coming from a guy who doesn’t know what first person is, but realises this is some other person style of writing, ouch.

    Is the girl real? Is the guy crazy? Maybe the girl has lived alone abandoned in an old house watching re-runs of the Mary Tyler Moore show and that’s why she appears old fashioned. Where does the money come from to pay for this maybe lifestyle? The girl loves him, she doesn’t know why, he doesn’t even know. It’s the ‘not something other girls did’ that interests him. The girl has endured a lot of pain and is attracted to the guy because he’s in pain. He’s lost, doesn’t fit in, hides behind fatigue. The girls done with that. She hasn’t been abused but there’s been violence around her–supernatural crazy stuff, but not like anything ever written about, she’s dangerous. Somebody’s not real. All the passion will be sensory, not physical. It’s all not real. The guy’s falling to his death and he’s creating a life from random images of the people he glimpses through the windows of the highrise on the way down.

    This is why I love this story. I want more. I’m thinking and can’t stop.

  8. Now, if you think Mr Koontz is a bad writer I’ve just offended you

    While I will admit that if asked to take sides in the bestseller-list battle between Dean Koontz and Stephen King, I’m a King girl all the way ;), I would never take offense at a comparison to a wildly popular, hugely successful author–that’s just silly!

    I’m glad you enjoyed it. I always like hearing your thoughts on our short pieces. And I think you’ve really hit on it with this:

    The girl has endured a lot of pain and is attracted to the guy because he’s in pain.

  9. I’m sure you’re channeling the sleeplessness right into your characters. Or is it the other way around? Sleep is overrated, anyhow.

  10. “I’m the girl who never sleeps.”

    🙂 This is interesting to read because I’m writing about a woman with a problem like that, but add on about fifteen years, right now. :>

  11. Insomnia is one of those things that I find absolutely fascinating–good to meet someone else with a similar bent 🙂

  12. Oh, ::breathes:: just incredible! I love the tone of this…that slight whisper of something…not quite real, not quite what it seems. The shadow of something creepy lurking behind the sweet words…

    And I especially loved her blisters. Running has long been my passion and my escape, and there have been times in my life where I felt like my blisters were the only things that made me real, the only things that kept me grounded.

    Such an evocative, compelling, eerily intriguing story… ::wants more::

  13. Thank you so much for your lovely comment! I’m actually really excited about this one because I have grand plans for it to be a novel and it’s very bolstering that people seem enthusiastic about it 🙂

    I agree with everything you said about running, 100%. I played soccer for 20 years, and even though there are so many components to the game, running is what I always think of first–fast and far at the same time, and hurt is completely irrelevant.

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