A flash fiction story by Brian Robinson.
My wife insisted I get a Dream Catcher, bless her, she just wants to help. That’s when the nightmare started.
I had been having some very bad dreams of late. They always involve running, trying to escape from something terrifying. God knows where these nightmares come from?
In my dreams I sometimes scream out in the middle of the night and this obviously wakes my wife. She never complains though.
At the time, I had no idea what a Dream Catcher was. She explained that it would trap the bad dreams as they floated in, and at the same time it would channel the good dreams down to the person in the bed. “Sounds too good to be true,” I said.
My wife goes in for that sort of crystal gazing, herbal, holistic, shamanic shit: I don’t. The Dream Catcher has to be made from natural materials she informed me. Shop-bought ones simply won’t work. Oh yes, and it must have feathers.
She then set about making my personal Dream Catcher. She made the circle from a thin rod of willow; the trap from strings of natural hemp; and she hung crystal beads from the bottom. I shudder to think where she got the feathers from? We’re all vegetarians? She thought it looked lovely though: I thought it looked like something Worzel Gummidge had knocked up after a hard night in the fields.
I always run in my dreams. I never try to hide. That’s fatal. And trust me, I can run. Provided a get a good head start, I can literally outrun almost any monster and keep it up for miles upon miles. This gives me a measure of comfort in my dreams. But if the way ahead is blocked, or if I run down a blind alley, that’s a totally different matter.
My wife looked up at the Dream Catcher hanging above my head and she smiled. As I settled down to sleep, I could tell she was pleased. I wasn’t about to burst that blessed bubble.
It was night. It’s always night. There was murder in the air. People were running towards me, shouting. I knew something bad had happened. I thought I heard someone shout out, “Acid attack!” Then, a man drenched in blood darted in front of me. Women ran screaming in all directions. As was my habit, I turned and ran too.
You will probably have guessed by now that there is always a long period of running in my dreams. I focus on getting into a good rhythm, then I prepare myself for what might lie ahead. The runs are always eventful. It feels like I’m a cross between a Super Mario character and a Parkour street runner. But I somehow manage to dodge all the bad stuff as it looms up in front of me.
Suddenly, everything changed. I found myself in a casino. It was noisy and busy as hell. That had never happened before. All of a sudden I felt safe. No one was running; no one was in fear. I saw a solitary man sitting at a nearby blackjack table. I went over and sat down beside him. He acknowledged my presence and said, “Hello.” He seemed friendly enough, not threatening in any way.
“Had any luck with the cards?” I asked.
“I control the cards: so I control my luck,” he said.
“That’s an interesting take on things,” I said. By the way, where is this?”
He smiled, “You’ve joined me in my dream. I dream myself to Las Vegas almost every day. It’s my way of escaping. Why don’t you stay a while, have a coffee. There’s no danger here.”
“I’m in someone else’s dream? Is that even possible?”
“Everything’s possible in a dream. But you don’t often come across real people. And I have to admit, dreams rarely connect with each other. But it does happen. You’re not the first person that’s turned up out of the blue. I suppose it depends how much you dream. And believe me, I dream a lot. Unfortunately, I don’t have much choice.”
“You don’t have a choice? What does that mean?”
“You’re not going to believe this, but I’m actually trapped in a coma. I’m stuck in a hospital bed somewhere, almost certainly in London. And I’m hooked up to a plethora of tubes that are keeping me alive. They look after me well though. They tend to me every day, and up till now, no one’s ever threatened to pull the plug.”
“Jesus! I’m struggling to get my head around this. So, I’m in a dream; our dreams have somehow connected; and your waking self is stuck in a hospital somewhere in London.”
“You’ve almost got it, except I don’t have a waking self.”
“Sooooo, perhaps I can help you. Surely all I have to do is find out where you are and then I can tell them you’ve come awake internally. I’d be more than happy to do that.”
“Promises! Promises! Don’t make promises you’re unlikely to keep. You’ll wake up in the morning; think this was all a dream; and that’ll be the end of it. You’re not the first person that’s offered to help.”
“No! I’m not like that. I will try and help. I promise.”
The man hesitated, not sure about the offer. Then said, “Okay, I’ll take you at your word. It shouldn’t be too hard to find out which hospital I’m in. I don’t remember anything about how I got here, but I’m assuming it was some sort of car accident. The last thing I remember was driving a car somewhere in London. So it’s a good bet that I’m in one of the London hospitals. Once you find out where I am, you’ll have to convince my wife about all this.
Let me think. you could tell her about the dream but she’d only think you crazy. You could say I mumbled something. If you can make her believe I’m awake internally, then I know for sure she’ll never let them switch my life-support off.”
“It would have to be something only known to my wife and myself, and you’ll have to be convincing. She’s not easily fooled is my wife. It would have to be something you could only have found out from me. You could pretend to be an old school friend visiting. You talked a lot about old times, and that was enough to trigger something in me. You can work all that sort of detail out for yourself.”
“Yes, but what should I tell her?”
“Right, this won’t fail to get her attention. Tell her I muttered something about ‘the money’. Say ‘you know where it is’. Tell her I said ‘it’s buried in Peter’s grave’”.
“That’s it. That’s enough. If you do this for me, you could just save my life. The way things are going, I think I could be fully awake in a few months and I’ll be out of here.”
If I said my wife was elated when I told her about my dream, I would be slightly understating things. She jumped up and down shouting,“It worked…it worked. I told you it would. The Dream Catcher caught your bad dream and then connected you with a good one. I’m so happy! We have to follow this through. You know that don’t you?”
“Well yes. I made a promise so we’ll have to. We’ll at least have to ring round a few hospitals. But if none of them have a patient named Roger Phillips, then I guess that’s the end of it.”
My wife did the research. I don’t think I could have held her back even if I tried. The next thing I knew, I was sitting in Hammersmith Hospital, next to the bed of Roger Phillips. “It’s him,” I said. “He’s exactly the same person I saw in my dream. We’ve found him! Sorry! You’ve found him!”
Hanging on to life
“Right, so, let’s hang around her and see if his wife turns up. The nurse said she comes here every evening so we shouldn’t have to wait long.”
Everything seemed set to go according to plan, but things didn’t quite work out the way we hoped. When we met Roger’s wife that evening, she became very suspicious of us, almost as if we has some sort of ulterior motive. And when we suggested that Roger had tried to tell us something, things got dramatically worse. When we mentioned the idea of money being buried somewhere she flipped her lid and we virtually got thrown out. “What do we do now?” I asked.
“We have to see this through. We can’t leave things as they are. That would be the worst thing.”
“Look, you saw the reaction we got. Roger’s wife isn’t having any of this. What else can we do?”
“I’ll tell you what. We can find the grave and find the money. If we can stick that under her nose, she’ll have to take us seriously.”
“You’re kidding right?”
“I’ve never been more serious in my life. Margravine Cemetery is the local graveyard. We’ll go there and look for Peter’s grave. If we don’t find it, that’ll be the end of the matter.”
I’d made a promise, so I agreed to go along with my wife. But to be honest, I didn’t think it would come to much.
After a thorough search of Margravine Cemetery, we did eventually come across a headstone with the simple inscription ‘Peter’s Grave’. We exchanged looks.
“The money must be buried here,” my wife said. How could I argue? The headstone was the perfect fit. “We’ll come back this evening and have a poke around. Don’t worry, we’re not going to dig Peter up. But I won’t be able to rest if we haven’t at least tried to find the money. We’ll both be having nightmares if we don’t do this!”
That evening, under the cover of darkness, we returned to the grave. After a small amount of prodding with a garden trowel, we did find something. “What is it?” My wife asked.
“Something wrapped in a plastic bag. Bingo! Here, take a look. Hang on. There’s something else… something hard…metallic…a gun. Christ!”
“Let me think,” my wife said. “I’m not so sure about this now. Something bad must have happened. I think we should leave this alone.”
“You don’t think we ought to tell the police?”
“Tell them what? That you had a dream and this is how we found out about this? They’re going to swallow that one? I don’t think so. No. We put what we’ve found back where it belongs and pretend this never happened. We’ve been suckered into this and we’ve done as much as we dare.”
That’s how we left it. That’s more or less how we had to leave it. And we never heard another thing until about three months later. On our way back from Tesco one afternoon, three unmarked police vehicles surrounded our car and we were both arrested. The next thing I knew, I was being interrogated in a police station.
“Sixteen months ago, a wealthy businessman was murdered in his own home. You came on our radar when you were reported as causing a nuisance at Hammersmith Hospital. You may not know this, but patients who are comatose are constantly monitored by video for movement and sound.
We heard the conversation you had with Mrs Phillips so we know exactly what was said. Naturally, we had to follow up on the suggestion of buried money. It wasn’t too hard to find the money and the gun. You gave us all the clues we needed. It wasn’t too hard to find you either. Your car number plate was clocked on the car park surveillance at the hospital.
The gun was the same one that was involved in the murder. We’ve found fingerprints and DNA on the plastic bags, and at this moment in time, we believe they belong to you. We’ll get the results of that very soon. We’re not sure how the Phillips fit into this? But we believe they may be innocent parties.
Have you anything to say for yourself?”
“Only that this is the worst nightmare I’ve ever had.”