Flash Fiction: Another dream, another place

This story is derived from a real experience and telling my eldest daughter about the rather strange goings-on, she suggested the creepy reason. Thanks, Marthe for the inspiration 🙂

Two paintings for this one because I like them both. The first is by Théo Van Rysselberghe, the second by Marta Shmatava

Théo_Van_Rysselberghe_-_Portret_van_Marguerite_van_Mons

It began with my toothbrush. It always seemed to be damp when I used it in the morning. My irritation that somebody else had been using my toothbrush ended up provoking irritation in the rest of the family.

“What is wrong with you, Mother? Why would I use your poxy supermarket toothbrush when I have a custom made model from the chemist?”

Nobody, of course, had used my toothbrush. Why would they? It was ridiculous. It was ridiculous too that either of my daughters would have pinched my earrings, my laughably old-fashioned earrings that had belonged to my mother.

“What the fuck, Mother! Who wears baubles like that now? Except the Queen Mum, maybe, Gawd rest ’er soul!”

The diamond and amethyst earrings turned up again in the soap dish. I put them away in their box in a drawer of my bedside table.

At night I slept badly, fitfully. The moon was too bright, supper too heavy, too many worries seething in the backroom of my mind where they had been relegated. I woke often, dreamt odd, disjointed dreams. But then dreams are odd and disjointed. They’re hardly like reading the newspaper. I woke often, hit by the lingering smell of perfume. I began to wonder if one of the bottles on the bedside table had leaked, so I took them into the bathroom and cleaned them all. I left them on the side of the washbasin.

When I next woke, because of the moon, the supper or the worries, scent drifted strong and sweet about my face. It wasn’t until the next morning that I remembered there was no perfume by my bed anymore. Something made me check. The earrings had gone again. My toothbrush was damp.

Preparing for bed became a time of unease, the bathroom a place where nothing was certain any more. I hung onto Jim at night, my frantic grip making both of us uncomfortable. I curled into his back, my arms strapped across his chest, keeping the night table, the bathroom, the perfume, behind me, the door firmly closed. Despite Jim’s comforting presence, I still had the impression of movement when the house should have been still and began to wake systematically at regular intervals. Each time I was left with the feeling that I had just missed something, a fleeting touch lingered on my shoulder, or the bed sighed as though relieved of a pressure.

I would wake, weary, as if I had spent the night not asleep but walking, running, maybe. A jacket would be slung on a chair on the landing, a pair of my shoes in the bathroom, dropped and left askew where they fell. The shower head dripped warm.

One night, on waking with the moon in my face, I rolled over to face the door. Perfume, faint and sweet floated in the night air, and the door was open. Cat, I thought, I hoped. I held my breath, waiting for the scratching at the landing door as she let herself downstairs. Nothing. I sat up, feeling the faint fluttering of garments, fabric rustling, the soft pad of a step. The smell of perfume, my perfume grew stronger. Jim muttered half-awake.

“Get back into bed, Jennie. You’re letting the cold air in.”

The sheet moved, I clutched at it and it jerked from my grasp. I struggled as the sheets were pulled back and I felt the weight again on the bed. I slithered, slipped, fell into a thick, clinging blackness that oozed through the open door.

Now I can only stand in the doorway and look in, watch myself sleeping next to a man who is, who was my husband. I can get no closer than the doorway before I have to turn back to the life, the world, the dream maybe, where I am trapped, where Jim was killed in an accident before we were married, where I have no children, where the future is empty.

When the moon is too bright to sleep, I remember another world, and I am drawn to the doorway of the bedroom in this place I used to live, where the other me, the lonely, bereft, me sleeps with Jim, my Jim, and neither he nor my children notice the difference.

Sometimes, when the moon is too bright, the supper too heavy, or the worries too insistent for sleep, I come here and stand in the doorway. She has locked away the tokens but I know where they are. I know all my hiding places, after all. She has taken my life, my home, but she will not have my memories. I open the drawer. Locks are made to be opened by those who have the key. I take out my mother’s earrings and put them on. I spray my hair with my favourite perfume. She mutters and frowns in her sleep. Jim stirs. I smile and leave a red rose, fresh with summer dew, on his pillow.

January snow drifts softly against the window.

Marta_Shmatava_2010_Dream,_dream..._120x100

Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

13 thoughts on “Flash Fiction: Another dream, another place”

    1. Thanks Éilis. The toothbrush and the perfume are for real. And the tube of toothpaste that disappears and comes back again (I changed that to earrings because it reads better 🙂 ) The door opening behind my back really happened too, but I didn’t get sucked into a parallel word. I don’t think.

      1. I don’t think so either, which is a good thing. 🙂 It would be tragic really, and scary, to get pulled into someone else’s world. Though as i was typing that, it suddenly occurred to me that we all might experience this when we die, suddenly finding we’re in another world, the difference being that there’s no usurper self taking our place in this world when we finally leave it. Honestly, dealing with a parallel self would just make everything complicated and frustrating when it’s already difficult enough. I say other worlds are fine to travel to, as long as you either know your way back, or someone offers to get you back safely before you venture out in the first place… if at all possible.

      2. Complicated and tragic. Can you imagine death being just like another room where you could open the door and watch all the people you loved getting on with their lives after you’ve gone? Or worse, being hopelessly sad for the loss of you? Parallel worlds as you say are fine as long as there’s somebody to explain exactly what’s going on and make sure everybody gets back to their correct place.

  1. Wow, I loved this. Especially all the small details, the shower dripping warm…excellent writing. I’m going to feel even more creeped out next time something of mine goes missing!

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