Replacing the filter in the coffee pot, I stumbled to the sink and rinsed the pot out before filling it with water. I started it, and pulled a cup out from the cabinet. The cup was lined with rabbit fur, and in my shock, I dropped it on the floor. Instead of the familiar clattering sound and ceramic shards I was expecting, when the cup hit the floor it crawled away.
I shuddered and turned back to the coffee pot, wondering how I missed the fact that it was not a coffee pot at all, but I had put the filter, grounds, and water into a blender, and a grotesque slurry was waiting for me. I pulled the blender off the base and swirled the mixture around. Bits of tissue and coffee grounds clung to the sides as the darkening liquid swished inside. Trying to pour it down the sink, I wondered if it would have been too messy to just dump into the garbage can.
Just then, the doorbell rang, yanking me out of my contemplation. Walking towards the tinkling sound, everything around me started to blur out like I was in a tunnel. Dreading what was behind the door, I took my time answering. Everything felt like it was moving in slow motion. I opened the door to find a package wrapped in printed paper with a tag that read, “A Gift for You.”
Inside was an old fashioned iron with nails welded to the surface, rendering it useless. Confused, I put it back in the box. I backed up, but I was horrified to find that my front door was no longer a door, but a ladder leading into a gilded mirror. A man with the left half of his beard shaved off was standing next to me holding a rifle with the bell of a trumpet at the end of the barrel.
He motioned for me to climb the ladder, and I knew I had to obey. There was a chance that the gun, just like the iron, was useless, but that wasn’t a chance I was willing to take. I scaled the ladder and paused at the top, facing the mirror. I looked at my reflection, the confusion and revulsion evident on my face. Just then, the mirror rippled, and when I touched its surface, my hand sunk through the water, and the current pulled me in.
I landed in a dark room with no memory of having fell. In my hand was a candle, already lit. I looked around. I was in a mansion of odd architecture. Walking down what can only be described as a hallway, I saw abstract paintings hung on the wall with screws that had been hammered into place.
The one that caught my attention was of a cage containing a single sparrow, dead. In the background, stars twinkled and a second sparrow was vanishing into a mist. The image haunted me, even though I did not know what it meant.
I could not feel any kind of closure in the space so I looked up in search of a ceiling. I saw animals mounted high on the wall from the necks down, instead of head mountings. A paper fluttered down to me, rolled up and tied with a string. It read, “Sometimes the dreamers finally wake up.”
I looked down the hallway to see a candle identical to my own. The man with the gun was holding it and giving me a sinister smile. He curved his lips into a soft “o,” and I instinctively ran to him to shield his candle. Before I could reach him, he blew it out, and my candle went out at the exact same moment. I woke up in the darkness, hiccuping.
Sunlight was already gently glowing through the blinds. I rolled over to check the clock. 6:00am. There was still a half an hour before my alarm would go off, but after last night’s dream, I knew I couldn’t go back to sleep.
Trying not to wake Michael, I crawled out of bed and snuck out of our room, feeling like I was still stuck in that hazy borderland between dreaming and lucidity. Silently, I made my way down the hall, knowing which floorboards to avoid so as not to creak. My slippered feet glided easily down the stairs with practiced steps. A purple glow lit the room from the huge window overlooking our yard. At the bottom of the stairs was a table, with the kitchen stretching into the shrinking shadows to the right.
I stared at the coffee pot I had prepped the night before and shivered. Armed with my notebook, I sat down at the table to write, hoping that putting the dream on paper would get it out of my head. Although it hadn’t seemed to help yet. Pushing away the worry that the act of writing might be making things worse by committing the dreams to memory, I flipped through the notebook and landed on the first blank page. I could see the string from the binding peeking at me from in between the two sheets.
An hour later, Micheal came down the stairs. “Good morning, love. Did you wake up before the alarm again?” I looked up from the notebook and nodded in defeat to Michael. He was standing in the doorway, all ready for work with his grey slacks and crisp button up. He was tall and athletic-looking, even though he was not really that into sports at all. Michael couldn’t tell you which teams were playing at the Ralph tonight, or even who had won the superbowl two months ago. But a desire to stay true to his roots with hard, physical work kept him in great shape. His light brown hair was gelled back, and his green eyes that usually gleamed mischievously betrayed their concern.
I closed the notebook and rested my elbows on the table as he crossed the room to stand behind me and rub my shoulders. He had seen this notebook every morning, but still hadn’t asked about it. I didn’t know whether to be relieved or disappointed. I was not ready to tell him about the dream, but I knew he would be hurt by my keeping something this heavy from him. It seemed like he still hadn’t noticed our new daily routine. Or not the fact that it was rooted in my nightly torment. This latest dream was probably the most trippy one to date. I knew he hadn’t read any of them yet. We were always home together, or it was just me here. Since the dreams started, he hadn’t had a chance to be alone here without me. So, he was either just letting me have a little privacy or he couldn’t tell that something was bothering me. I was hoping it was the first.
“You look tired, Jess. Can I make you breakfast and send you back to bed?”
I shook my head. “I think I’m up for the day. Besides, I have a huge list of things to do. And you have to go to work. I’ll make you breakfast.”
I started to push my chair from the table to get up, but Michael kissed the top of my head and stopped me. “I may not be able to send you back to bed, but I am making breakfast. If you are up for all day, do you want a cup of coffee?”
“Maybe…” I said as I let out a huge breath and turned my chair around to face him.
“It’s nice of you to get it all ready, and then wait to have coffee until I’m up. I’m starting to like this new morning ritual.” He smiled at me, his eyes back to their normal shine. I watched warily as he pulled out one of the white mugs we had put on our registry. Before long, I had a fresh cup of coffee in my hands.
“Thank you.” I breathed in the scented steam rising from my cup.
“No problem.” He winked and turned back to the stove.
“No, really. You work so hard, and I’m just home all day. I really should be making you breakfast.”
“I know you put in more hours than I do, between keeping the house perfect—“
“It’s not perfect,” I laughed.
“It is. And building an editing career.” He turned to look at me, using his spatula to accentuate his words. “I know right now it’s tough for you to put so much time and energy into it and feel like you aren’t getting anywhere, but I can bet that one day you’ll be bringing in more than me. I might even retire early then.” He smiled and gave me a knowing nod. I sipped my coffee and thought about the huge piles of papers on my desk that I needed to sort through. Lots of freelance work that did not pay very well. Yet.