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Maybe in Twenty Years

It’s quiet in the house. Alice, my wife, breaths calmly and deeply in the covers next to me. The house is quiet, finally, after a long day of chores and errands. I close my eyes and…

I open them again. I’m laying on my back and looking up at a gray and over cast sky. I’m wearing a shirt with a collar, I can feel it stiffly at my neck and below my ears. I also feel the cuffs of the shirt ending above the wrists as most long sleeve shirts tend to do. However, I have no shoes on, nor socks. Curious, I think, I have to write this sometime.

That’s when I realize that I’m looking up at the clouds not from the ground, but from a hole. I can see the rich-brown walls rising up like earthen skyscrapers. Rocks and roots jut out in that way that is chaotic yet controlled. I think, I must get up there and take a look around. As I try to rise up and climb, I find that I can’t. My legs and arms to obey my will, but they just won’t.

Trying and trying, I just can’t get an response from my limbs, when three figures step into the distant rectangle of cloudy sky. One is Kevin, my son, his arms hanging limply at his side, one of his hand-held’s in one fist. The other is my daughter, Clarisse, hugging her stuffed animal to her chest, in the way she will when her mother and I fight over something stupid--or when she’s had a nightmare. The last is my wife, Alice, hands clasped before her breast, and dressed in all black. In fact, they all are, dressed in black and in nice clothes. And they’re all looking down at me, the way you would look down at a grave…

As the truth dawns on me, the sun shines out from behind the cloud cover, and hiding them from me in brilliant glare. From the unseen heights above me, a small drop of water falls on my face. At first I think it’s started to rain, but when the drop slips into my mouth, I taste salt. A tear. Suddenly, I’m trying again to get my arms and legs to work again. To get up and hug my family, and tell them everything is alright.

I’m mentally screaming desperately for some movement when the sun disappears behind the clouds again. I can see my wife and children again. They are standing the same, except Alice now has something in her hands, a book it seems. The colors seem familiar, and I think that finding familiarity in a book, in a situation like this, is madness.

“I love you,” Alice is saying, “And I always will.” She reaches her hands out over the center of the grave, and lets go of the book.

It falls, tumbling end over end, with it’s pages flapping. Right before it hits my chest, light from a sun that is no longer there, reflects off the cover, and shines out my name. It bounces off my chest and out of sight beside me, and I think, no wonder it looked familiar, it’s mine! But it’s not the only one. Kevin and Clarisse also have books, and they toss them in too--Clarisse after kissing it. They’re copies of my own books also. After that they turn and walk out of sight, beyond the dirt cliffs that enclose me. Not seeing them I begin to struggle to get out again, because after their gone, comes the dirt. I’ll be buried alive. Yet it’s not dirt that comes over the edge of the grave. It’s more books. Hundreds of books, I have seen none of them, yet they’re still toting my name on their covers. They fall on me, cover me, crush me. I can’t breathe. I can feel my bones, ribs, legs and arms nearly breaking, and still the books crush me.

I get a small gasp of air, yet I can’t force it out, the books won’t let me. They’re crushing my scream as well. I close my eyes to focus…

And there’s a dizzy sensation, and I can feel the weight of the books slowly lessen. When I open my eyes it’s my dark room I see, not the pitch of under the books. I’m in a cold sweat, my chest and forehead feeling as if some one had poured ice water onto it. Alice is awake, propped on an elbow and staring at me.

“Nightmare?” she asks with complete understanding. I nod and tell her in great detail, as I have trained myself as a writer. She listens quietly, and when I finish she hugs me and puts her head on my chest. We lay like that in silence for what could have been most of the night or only a minute. Then she lifts her head and says:

“Maybe it wasn’t a nightmare. Maybe it’s just a good dream in disguise.” I look at her. “Think about it. It’s telling you that you will be a successful writer and have a family that will adore you till you die--God willing that won’t be any time soon.” Again, we lay in silence for an unknowable amount of time. Then I look down at her, nod thoughtfully, and tell her I love her.

She kisses me, and whispers “I love you, too.” Then she puts her head on my chest again and eventually falls asleep.

The house is quiet again, and some how feels more full than when I first closed my eyes. I love you, too. I close my eyes, and I don’t have that dream again.




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