Salt in the Dark River

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Douglas knew he was dreaming.

He walked through a dark field at night. The grass was ankle-high, black as oil, and it stretched to the horizon in windless sway. The dirt beneath his bare feet was black, too, like potting soil but not as damp. There was no moon in the sky nor direction in his heart, he simply walked, lifeless dirt between his toes, as birds cawed unseen in the grass. If he strained to see them, he would catch moments of black feathers twitching between the blades, their eyes like voids filled up only with hurt.

Douglas stopped. A man lay on the ground ahead, his face buried in the dirt. His clothes were soaked and a puddle of what he hoped was water had formed around him.

“Are you okay,” Douglas asked without moving his lips, but the man didn't answer. Douglas moved closer and repeated the question. The man still didn't move, but this time he answered. His voice was the dry crunch of gravel underfoot.

“So thirsty.”

A loud knock woke Douglas. He spasmed in his chair and gave out a shout.

“Whoa!” Peter stood in the doorway. Douglas looked around his office and situated himself. He had dozed off behind his desk again. He shook his head and apologized.

“Noises have been setting me off lately.”

Peter gave him a condescending look. “You need to relax. Just a friendly tip- no one likes a guy who gets stressed easily. Especially Ed.” He peeked down the hallway to see if anyone else had witnessed the incident. Especially Ed.

Douglas rubbed his heavy eyes. “I think I need to get away for a bit. Hit the reset button.”

Peter stepped into the office and lowered his voice. “Are you crazy? You can't go on vacation right now. Not with everything going on.”

“I know.”

Peter paused to scratch his nose. Then he smiled.

“What? What is it?”

Peter nodded. “I know just the thing.”

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