Escalated Dreams

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Chapter 31

Though I am asleep I am aware of Jared, standing over me gazing down at my sleeping form. He drops down beside me, his gorgeous mouth softening into a slow smile, revealing a flash of white teeth as he reaches out to trace my check. “I'll see you soon, little one.” Then as I watch, his eyes go vacant and his face smoothes until it is void of all expression as he reaches out for me with arms that seem impossibly long… I wake, abrupt and gasping, blinking my eyes in the filtered light as the disturbing dream release me.

Relief rushes through me as I become aware of the familiar surroundings of my own room. I am hoping for normalcy when my eyes fall on the elaborate symbols marring my walls. Sara is still on her knees drawing. A three-foot high circle made of complicated glyphs stretch out around her as she works. She hears me getting out of bed and she tucks her pencil behind her back. I just nod to her as I trudge to the bathroom and shut myself in.

Anna and I are opening the store this morning. I turn my attention to getting ready and immerse myself in the mundane acts of showering, brushing my teeth and working with my hair.

The shop is always busy on the weekends. When we get to the store, I give myself over to the wonderful distraction of running it. The phones are ringing with readings to book and mail order requests. When I have a moment to sit down and check email, I find several dozen orders to process.

Mid afternoon, Cordelia and Heather are manning the counter. Anna is in the break room finishing her sandwich and I'm considering taking a break when Michael comes through the door. I give him a nod and continue ringing up my customer. I bag her purchase and wish her a happy afternoon. Then I turn to find Michael studying me with watchful eyes.

“How are you this morning?” he asks.

I shrug not wanting to linger on the confusing events of the night before. A small throb begins in my forehead as my thoughts touch on memories that make my stomach knot. The night has left me unable to separate fact from fiction, as each passing hour adds to the uncertainty of whether any of it actually happened the way I remember.

Anna comes out and gives Michael a friendly hug. They fall into a conversation and I become aware that I am strangely detached. I feel almost as if I'm watching from another room, but before I can give it anymore consideration my attention is diverted by a customer requesting a reading.

I take her to the counter and process the request. My mind is far away as I go through the motions of depositing the money in the till and writing out her slip. Then I walk her back to Rose Ellen's table. Rose Ellen greets her but I see the way she pauses to give me a curious glance as I turn and make my way back to the front.

Anna is sitting with her back to the counter. She looks beautiful as she sits there. Her long hair twisted into a braid that she holds by the end to brush under her jaw. Her dark eyes are fixed on Michael as he hunches over the counter reading the store's calendar. Today he's wearing a band t-shirt that's a size too small and a pair of skinny jean. His platinum hair is done up like an anime character's with the front twice as long as the back and neatly trimmed sideburns that reach well beyond his ears. I watch as he leans closer to Anna. He picks up one of the postcards on the counter and asks, “So what does Liminal Landscapes mean anyway?”

“It’s the magical moments in between the reality of this plane,” she replies with a quirk of her lips and a flick of her braid.

He shoots her a grin. “And that means?”

“The moments you fall between the cracks to explore new dimensions, new ideas…”

The smile slides away from his face. “Like we did last night?”

Last night, last night. The phrase whispers through me and settles in my bones. I blink. It did happen then. It did. I know it did…Or did I just dream it all, conjured from wishes and longings?

The phone rings and when Anna turns to answer it, I catch the way he runs his eyes over the curves of her body as she turns away. Even though he is only nineteen and Anna is at least twenty-two, it’s obvious that something is going on between them, though I'm not sure if either of them are aware of it yet. As I stand there watching, my thoughts go dark and jump on one another. Suddenly I have no patience for either of them. My chest grows tight and I am filled with the need to be far away. “I'm taking a break,” I call as I go through the door.

I find myself taking the route to the K as hot tears burn in my eyes. Flashes from the night before creep back into my thoughts. My steps slow as an image of the grasshopperman followed quickly by the scene of Devito turning into the strange toad-thing plays on the screen of my mind. Once again I hear the words coming from his monstrous mouth just before he shoots out his tongue to wound Sean. Then Jared is beside me as he morphs from friend to enemy…I stop as anxiety wraps me in tight embrace. But that couldn’t have really happened…Not like that…It’s all I can do to draw a deep breath and blink hard. But it did. You know it really did! a voice in my head whispers even as another begins, A hallucination because of the drug. Besides if you say anything, you know they’ll just lock you up for sure. …Right there on the walk, I make the decision not to mention any of it to Omar, not to Omar and not to Patrick or Ian either …It dawns on me that things are never going to be the same…

The light changes, waking me from my brooding. I come back to reality as I step off the curb and cross with the flood of pedestrians. Someone bumps me from behind and panic sets my heart to race. Someone is hunting me, someone who wants to steal me away… I spin to see a pair of middle-schoolers struggling with backpacks as large as their little bodies. When they pass, I follow with the rest of crowd but now my skin is prickling as paranoid thoughts take over my brain insisting that someone is watching.

I don't notice the huge, black crow until he gives a resonant Craaaak. Only then do I glance up to see him sitting on the telephone pole, head cocked to peer down at me. He is still in my line of sight when I push open the door and go inside.

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