Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Dream

The Dream
A short story

It all happened just last night, as I was lying in bed unaware in a deep and cozy slumber. As my sleep deepened, my mind took a turn and before I knew it I was in a place completely foreign to me. It was a dream unlike any other.

Something like a siren during the night had caused me to turn and awaken from sleep, but when I awoke I was not alone in my four poster bed, but instead standing outside in the cold night, on a campus of sorts. I was wearing the shorts and a tank top I’d gone to bed with and was chilled to the bones, despite knowing it had been a comfortable 75 degrees in the air conditioning at home. “Of course I’m dreaming” I think to myself. This can’t possibly be real.

I begin wandering the immaculately groomed lawns, in which large castle-like buildings are encompassed. It’s hard to see everything because of the darkness, but I can tell this is some sort of campus. “Is it a college?” I think to myself. “Why am I here, and how did I get here?”

All of a sudden as the cool breeze ripples past me, I realize that I’m not “me” anymore; I’m someone else…someone who feels they belong there. No longer a part of the life I’ve left behind, I start wondering why I’m outside dressed this way. There seems to be no one out at this hour, it must be about two or three in the morning.

I head towards a building that looks vaguely familiar and all of a sudden I’m run into by a tall, lean man with dark wavy hair wearing a sweat suit. He stops, grabbing onto my elbow, and looks deeply into my eyes. Something sparks as I look into his dark eyes and I can’t even speak. All the while he is pulling away from me, looking anxious like he’s scared or shaken. He says to me “I didn’t do it”…before he takes off running, sending me spinning around in the process.

“What in the world?” I think to myself, “What was all that about?” It’s then that I see the gun, lying on the ground a few feet away from my bare feet. Before I know it, I’m surrounded by cops and they are asking me question after question. “I don’t know” I say, over and over. “What has happened?”

Slowly, I hear the story. Someone has gone into the gym and shot a girl. Apparently the building I was heading towards is the gym. “Why would I be heading in the direction of a gym?” I think to myself. This is so strange. “Was that guy the shooter?” I am instantly scared but remember his words. Why would he tell me he’d not “done it”, if he was guilty? This is so much to take in.

A couple of policemen from the group led me over to their car and offer me a blanket from the trunk. As one asks if I saw a tall male go past me by the gym, and as I shake my head another asks which dorm I’m in. For the life of me I can’t remember and stand there with my mouth wide open. “Shock”, he says. “She must be in shock”. I guess that I am, for I don’t know why I’m there at all, much less where I live.

The cops say I can stay in the car and keep warm while they search for the “suspect”. I don’t feel safe by myself, even in the locked car. I keep remembering his eyes. They didn’t look guilty, they looked scared. But maybe he was scared of getting caught. Maybe?

Did I remember him holding the gun? Is he the one that dropped it? All I can think of is his eyes and the feel of his warm hand on my cold shoulder. There was some connection there, I can’t deny it.

It seems like hours have passed but it must’ve been only minutes. I decide I must help him. I feel so strongly about it, I jump out of the squad car, dropping the blanket to the ground. I feel strong and sure and urged to do something. I know he’s innocent but I’m not sure why.

Where would he be? I am trying to think of where I’d hide. The large building in the back – I’d hide in the grove of bushes that runs along the side. Quickly I run across the lawn, crossing over the sidewalks, amazed there’s no one around. Into the gap in the bushes I go, sidling myself between the cold, hard stone walls and the tall, manicured shrubbery.

I’m scared to call out or even whisper, but squeezing in between the shrubbery is much more difficult than I thought and I’m getting scratched up and have to move slower and slower. I keep stumbling on the stones next to the wall, and have to be oh so careful to not make noise. Just when I’m about to give up, I feel a warm hand reach out and hear his voice “Shhhh”, “What are you doing here?” he asks.

I whisper that I want to help him and ask him what happened. “I didn’t do it”, he repeats. “She was just lying there, bleeding”. I reach my cold hand out and take his hand in mine. “I believe you”, I whisper back, knowing in my heart it’s the truth. It seems like an eternity has passed before we speak again.

“Do I know you?” he asks. I shake my head. Suddenly, I see what must be a flashlight scanning the bushes near us and we both edge further and lower into the shrubbery. I don’t believe they can tell there is a gap between the shrubbery and the wall, but I hold my breath praying they don’t come closer. The glare from the flashlight moves on and both of us breathe a sigh of relief.

It’s so curious, this feeling I have. While policeman search all around us, all I want to do is take this total stranger in my arms and hold him, kiss him. I think he must see the longing in my eyes as he looks at me, there in the shadows of the moonlight. His hand tightens on mine and I suddenly know he feels the same. Why? Why would I feel this about a stranger who could be a murderer?

Time seems so still for so long I start to get stiff, my body finally feeling the cold and I feel myself shaking. “Go”, he tells me. “I’ll be fine”. I don’t want to leave him for the knowing that I’ll never see him again. I can’t speak though because I’m too cold and too tired to say the words. I edge closer to him, fearing exposure through the shrubbery, but needing to draw on his body heat.

“You’re frozen!” he exclaims in a rushed whisper. Immediately he pulls me to him and I can feel the warmth from his body taking over. “We must get you somewhere warm” he whispers to me. His breath warm in my ear, I cannot concentrate on anything but the feeling of his warm body next to mine. I don’t want to move, I just want to stay right in that position, forever.

“I think its ok now” he says and he leads me out of our hiding spot onto a narrow path between the two buildings. With the strong pull of his hand in mine, we walk up some steps and enter the building just up the path. The stairwell entry is quiet and seems to echo every step we take. Up the stairs we go and I feel my body heating up with the movement within the warm building. We finally stop at the third floor.

“This is my room” he whispers as he starts to open a door along the hall. “Don’t worry; my roommate is a heavy sleeper”. I see his roommate lying facing us and I’m so scared his eyes will open any minute. “It’s ok” he repeats and sits me on his bed. I am so tired I lie down, still watching him. He lifts my feet up into the covers and is surprised at how cold they are. He tries to warm them with his hands while I can only wish that he just climb into the bed with me.

Can he hear my thoughts I think, as just then, he pulls back the covers and climbs in. I can’t help myself and I reach my arms around him, pulling his slim, muscular torso in close to me. One of my legs wraps around his and I pull it, too, close to me, aching for his warmth. His hand comes up next to my face as he takes a stray strand of my hair and softly pushes it back. I stare into his eyes and I know. He’s the one. The one I’m meant for. But it’s all a dream, isn’t it? It can’t be real because I don’t know who I am or why I’m there.

It feels so real though, as my body warms quickly in his arms, in his bed, and I choose to believe it. I choose to stay, despite not knowing. I feel his lips brushing against mine and my mouth parts, wanting more of him. I cannot think anymore, I just want to feel. Feel the passion that is exploding within my heart and within my arms.

Abruptly, I hear a noise in the hall. We both stiffen. Muffled voices, moving closer cause me to shiver, no longer from cold, but with worry. The voices pass down the hall and I can’t be sure they are gone, but I pull up and away from the stranger that had held me. “I must go”, I say, “They can’t find me with you”. I knew if the police saw me with him, he would be implicated at once and I just can’t take that chance. “I know it wasn’t you”.

Where to go? I have an overwhelming urge to get to the Library. “I’ll find you again”, I say, knowing that it’s not true. Those precious minutes spent with this stranger will be the last. I place one last kiss on his lips and pull away. “Here, take this at least” he says and hands me his dark blue sweatshirt. I pull it on over my tank. “My name is Anne” I tell him and start to go. “Jeremy”, he whispers. “My name is Jeremy”. “Thank you”.

I leave quietly after Jeremy checks the hall and the stairwell for me. I am warm now and am hesitant to go back into the cold but for a reason unknown to me I feel compelled to get to the other side of the campus.

Opening the stairwell door slowly, I’m surprised at how light it’s getting outside. I am a little worried that I’ll attract attention in my shorts and hesitate once again. “I’ve got to save him”, I think and head towards the Library. I see police cars far off in the distance in the other lot, but see no one as I jog through the grass in my bare feet.

At long last reaching the Library, I pull at the door to no avail. “There must be another entrance” I think and start to head to the back of the building. “Where is everyone?” I can’t imagine that there are only six cops here and they’ve not evacuated the campus. I think to myself that they must want to search for the murderer before everyone’s up so there’s no chaos. “But why so little police for this big campus?” These thoughts are all flooding my mind as I search frantically for a way in.

Finding no unlocked doors, I start pulling at the windows on the north side of the building and move unsuccessfully around to the east side. Finally! An unlocked window! I shove it up a few inches and try to pull myself up, scraping my side and arm in the process. I squeeze through, seeming to hang for a minute on the ledge, but managing to pull my leg up high enough to grip the ledge corner and push the window up further. “I’m in!” I think to myself and I quickly close the window.

It is much darker in the Library, even with the long tall windows to let in the light. The ominous bookshelves are everywhere and I bump into small tables, set up between the rows. I feel the hair on the back of my neck prick up and know I’m not alone.

Something pulls me to the front of the building but I’m conscious to keep crouched low and stay quiet. I don’t hear anything but I know he’s there. The killer. I accidentally bump into a stool and it rolls over a couple inches. “He’ll now know I’m here, I’ve got to reach out for help”, is my last thought before I feel a shove from the back, which knocks me to the ground.

“What are you doing here?” the man growls and I don’t know how to answer. What could I possibly say that he’d believe? “I said, what are you doing here?!” My hands skim the floor to see if there’s anything I can use to throw at him, but there’s nothing. Click. “I asked you a question, and you’re going to answer it now!” I am so scared I start babbling. “I don’t know why I’m here, something led me here. I just knew that I must come to the Library. I knew you would be here” I say and I hear him take a step back. “Who told you?” he asks. “Who told you I was here? Do the cops know?” I take a deep breath and tell him that I didn’t see any cops but knew that I needed to come there to find him. “What now?” he asks and I just don’t know the answer. I hear him un-cock the gun and he reaches a hand down to pull me up.

“I didn’t mean to do it”, he says and then proceeds to tell me the story. Jim has worked as a night custodian cleaning the common buildings for over ten years. He keeps a locker in the maintenance building with his uniforms and a gun – because he’s scared of being mugged at night. He also carries a gun at all times. When he was working for the university several years ago, he was beat and left for dead by a mugger working the park next door. While he’s never gotten over that, he’s felt that if he’s prepared, it just won’t happen again.

“I never meant to shoot her”, he says, and I believe him. “I was cleaning in the men’s locker rooms and I heard a noise”. “I went to see what it was because sometimes the kids will sneak in to use the pool in the middle of the night”. “I didn’t see anyone so I decided it was nothing and went back to work”. Jim further explains that he kept hearing noises and finally decided it might be a break-in, because he didn’t see any lights on.

He had cocked his gun, ready to scare any would be mugger away, and rounded a corner going into the gymnastics arena. It’s then that the gun went off. “I must’ve been so nervous when I saw her, bent over near the bars”. “I guess she was tying her shoes”, he says, “but at the time all I saw was a dark figure with something in their hands, and I think the gun accidentally went off, even as I realized it was a female student. But by then, it was just too late”. Jim explains he then heard a noise and got scared and ran.

It must’ve been Jeremy I think, and it explains everything. He must’ve found her and called 911. But why would he run? Why wouldn’t he try to explain? Both men, scared, both making wrong decisions. I must help him; I think and tell him so. “You must call and turn yourself in. You must explain that it was an accident” I say. “No. They will put my in jail, and I’ll never go to jail” he cries, “I don’t want my life to be over, I haven’t done enough. I don’t want to end up there. They won’t believe me, I know it!”

I put my hand on Jim’s arm and pull him over to a table and we both sit. “You must tell them what happened; they will believe you” I say. “How do you know?” he asks and I tell him “I just know. As sure as I knew that you were here”. He nods and sets the gun down on the table. I pick it up, knowing to take it with me to protect him.

“I’ve got to go” I say, and leave him there to think on things. I walk to the back of the library and slip out the rear door. On the way I pass a dumpster and toss the gun in with a thud. “It’s ok” I think to myself. “No one will hear”. I jog back across the grounds and see the police car that I had sat in earlier. The door was still open; the blanket on the ground where I’d left it. “Hmmm”…I think, and I run across and climb in, pulling the blanket in with me. I close the door softly and lie down in the backseat. I drift into a heavy sleep, tired with the nights’ activities.

“Beep” “Beep” “Beep”, I lift my head up groggily and reach out to touch the alarm. “Oh, it was all a dream”, I think and turn back over for more sleep. I am sooo tired and can’t bear to get up. “It felt so real”, I repeat to myself over and over.

Sure I’d just had the most vivid dream of my life; I pull back the covers and swing my legs out onto the floor. Suddenly, I see them. Scratches are all over my legs and there’s a big bruise on my arm. My feet are grass-stained and there’s a dark blue sweatshirt lying on my floor. “It was real!”

So many questions flood my mind. As I run to the living room to turn on the local news channel to confirm my thoughts, the most penetrating thought of all crosses my mind – I must find Jeremy!

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