First there is the suffocation dream, which comes in jump cuts, then whole sequences lit low with dark figures looming over me, hulking shadows. It’s as if I’m trying to sleep while Fritz Lang is in my bedroom shooting some expressionist nightmare. He doesn’t care about me or my wife. He barks instructions at Bruno, the titanic actor, “Go over zere, nearer zee bed,” he says.
Bruno stops near the bedside window, strikes a pose.
“No! Keep going where zee guy is shleeping. Yah, that’s right. Now hover, Bruno. Can you hover?”
The big lug leans over the bed and frightens my cat. The cat squeals like it’s being strangled, and that’s when I gasp for air and snap awake. The cat leaps off my face. Then I notice my upstairs hallway is flooded with light. I get up, walk to the end, and look out the window. I don’t know when or why, but the neighbors have installed prison security lighting over their driveway. Well, I’ve got news for them. If anybody’s breaking out of here, it’s me.
With sturdy resolve, I crawl back into bed, prepared to soar in my dreams, but my feet start to itch. Actually, my toes are on fire and my butt itches and my wife is telling me to quit snoring and she thinks the cat needs to go out, and could I please quit snoring, and then there’s my erection, which just won’t quit, no matter how many unsexy things I think up.
I’m counting Bing Crosby movies, recalling church sermons from my childhood, reviewing all the parts of our solar system, and trying to imagine what the world would sound like if we really could teach it to sing in perfect harmony. Oh the humanity. I’m tossing and turning and Bruno’s coming for me again and the startled cat’s clawing my face. I can’t breathe. I turn over, onto my side, and that’s when my delinquent dink pokes my wife. She cuffs me hard on the shoulder, I mean really hard, and says, “Oh Jesus, you, not tonight. Can’t you see I’m trying to sleep?”
“But honey,” I say. “I’m being chased by a monster.”
“How do you think I feel?” she says.
I’m thinking, “That’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me,” but before I can open my mouth, she’s pointing at the window on my side of the bed. Light from the moon spills over the sill and bounces onto the adjacent wall in overwrought shadows. I shudder. She’s turned pale.
“You left the shade up?”
We’ve been in the house for six months and I’m not sure I ever noticed a shade. “No. I don’t know. I don’t remember. Why?”
She’s out of the bed, at the window, yanking on the thing. “This—needs—to—be—,” then one more violent pull and, “There! All the way down, got it?” she says.
I smile at this eruption, “Okay.”
“I’m not kidding around here,” she says.
“What is it?”
“I don’t know, but as you’ve found out, it’s not funny. It’s a trick of the light, something other… I don’t know, but it can really get you going.”
She’s back under the covers. “You’ll be all right now,” she says.
Of course, I believed her, then I slipped into that giant tree falling in the forest dream again.
Wayne Cresser lives with his wife and dog on an island in Narragansett Bay. His fiction has been published in five print anthologies, the most recent, The Four Seasons (Kind of a Hurricane Press), online at Shark Reef Literary Magazine, Gravel, The Journal of Microliterature, and Review Americana, among others, and in such print journals as The Ocean State Review and SLAB.