It’s three in the morning.
He gets up to pee, second time since bed. Hobbles to the hallway bathroom, then stops suddenly, swallowing a seeming lump in his throat. Silhouetted against the streetlights of his bay window, there’s a figure sitting on his couch. His stomach jumping as if in a fast elevator descent, he closets himself in the bathroom, shutting the door. He’s scared to even turn on the light switch, but there’s a small night light by his mirror. This must be one of those lucid dreams I keep hearing about. Shit, that scared me. He studies his reflection. It has an eerie cast in the drowsy glow. A sheepish expression after his sudden retreat from the remnants of a dream. Takes a leisurely pee, makes sure he’s well drained this time. Opens the door and looks foolishly up the hall.
She’s still there. He knows it’s a she from the long tresses and the manner of sitting. She reaches out an arm and motions him to come. She has no visible features except her eyes, showing dimly but tantalizingly, as if in the weakened beam of a dying flashlight.
A thrill of fear and excitement races down his spine, and he feels immobile. In a body cast with an ant colony. No good. Can’t hide. Go there. Come on, lift the lead weights. No, go back to bed Joe. Wake the wife. He’s half turned, groping for the wall, when he hears the hissing (from their cats?), and feels an almost physical pull to the couch by the picture window.
All is still darkness, backlit by the streetlights projecting a heavy fog, hints of tarnished glints suggested by the familiar: his dirty ashtray, a coffee cup and spoon left on the end table. And now, to complement those charnel-house eyes, there’s a spreading disembodied smile. Oh God, he thinks. My own Cheshire Cat. Not knowing and not remembering how, he is beside her on the cold couch. She does not look in his direction, but faces front. Stunned, and at the apex of his fear, he feels her clammy hands upon his cheeks, turning his head to hers. The eyes, dimly radiant, show nothing, like coins laid on a dead thing. The left is half closed, and twitches, shuttering the silverness. Some moans escape her, but in a singsong tone. His nerves are as taught as catgut strings, and she is playing him, playing him.
Able to speak at last, he mouths the first of one thousand questions….Who…How…Why?
SSHHHHHH……You called me. You did, you know. Still she grips him, as within a vise.
He faints, or sleeps.
That is where his wife finds him. On the couch, in the newborn position. She asks why.
Bad dream, bad dream, dear. That’s all.
She feels funny and strange, because of the way he looks, so shaken, and because he has never sleepwalked as long as she has known him.
The morning brings the workaday world back to him. Today’s gonna be a tough one at the office. My goddamn presentation, after three hours of sleep? Off he goes, finally out of that body cast. When it’s all done with, his friend Sasha whispers to him that the boss wants to see him. Funny, the way she puts her hands upon his head, then gives him that sly little wink.
Saturday morning blessedly arrives for Joe. He doesn’t get out of bed until eleven, and his wife awaits him with a kettle already boiled. “You’re so nice”, he says, as he drinks the hot cup of his namesake.
Marlene says to him, as she’s reading the morning paper, “Joe, wasn’t there a Sasha at your work?”
He grips the table and spills the coffee.
Wrong tense, Marlene. Please let it be someone else………….