A flash fiction story by Brian Robinson.
My wife insisted I get a Dream Catcher: 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 or why they happen? I guess I must have done something bad in a former life?
In my dreams I sometimes scream out in the middle of the night and this obviously wakes my wife. She never complains though, bless her. She just wants to help.
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. It 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.
She 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.
“Have you had any luck with the cards?” I asked.
“I control the cards: so I control my luck,” he said.
“I’m not sure where I am or why I’m here.”
He smiled, “That’s easy, 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 your 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; they tend to me every day; and up till now, no one’s saw fit 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 right, except I don’t have a waking self.”
“Sooooo, 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.”
“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 I must be in one of the London hospitals.
Once you find out where I am, you’ll have to convince my wife that you got some sort of reaction from me. You could say I mumbled something. If you can make her believe that, then I know for sure she’ll never let them switch my life-support off.”
“Mumbled what for example?”
“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.”