Short story – Just a Dream

The best part was that I knew it was a dream, through and through. The car ride. The mountain. The mounds of sand. I was even able to remember details, strange for a dream. I was able to recall the strong smell of the diesel in the car, the heat shimmering from the sand. I was able to taste the bile in my mouth. I was able to feel the sweat breaking out on my forehead.

It started in a room. A room with whitewashed walls. Red files neatly stacked in a shelf near where we sat. It was ‘we’, I knew so much. At least in that room. The flat tube-light with its stark white light and faintly pink edges.

The car now. We are in the car. Who is ‘we’? I can sense that a woman with bobbed hair is driving the car. She is ‘Mother’. That is what I call her. Not mine, but ‘Mother’ nevertheless. The red Wagon R moves slowly between the arches created by the leafless branches of the birch trees. Down the path, the leafless path. It is threatening to pour with rain any moment. Mother talks, volubly, like never before. He answers her. I chip in occasionally, monosyllabically. My mind is elsewhere. I have to go, I know, even if it is just a dream. But where?

I am driving now. Alone. That old white Fiat we had, once upon a time. MCZ 4129. Forty-one twenty-nine. The car I learnt to drive in. I am driving and there is a mountain visible in the distance. If I cross the mountain, everything will be OK. But will I cross it? Will I? There is sand on all sides. I drive. Like a maniac, I drive through the sand. The oppressive heat gets to me. Bright sun. Hot. Hot.

A stone. My windshield has a beautiful crack on it. Like a spider web. Another one. The third is a sharp one, ripping the front tire. Car skids to a halt. I know I have to get out, yet I stay in. I am shaking. Like a peepal leaf, I am shaking. The next stone finds the window next to where I am sitting. I open the door, shaking. “It is just a dream” I tell myself. “Just a dream.” My words of reason do not stop me from trembling.

The man who I knew was waiting outside is still half buried in the sand. I take tottering steps towards him. His matted hair hangs in strands around his bloodshot eyes and he white hair on his bare body is mixed with the wet sand. How can he be like this in this place, I wonder. I know I am afraid. Fear makes my tongue go dry, my eyes pop out.

However, the most frightening thing about his appearance is the vague familiarity of his face. I cannot place him, yet I know that I know him. The hot afternoon sun rains upon this strange scene. As I walk towards him, he pushes himself out of the sand and looks at me. There is an ironic smile on his face. He shakes the sand out of his air. I can read the promise in his eyes, and it scares me out of my wits. “Just a dream,” I tell myself. “Just a dream.” I close my eyes to the brightness.

I wipe the bead of sweat from my brow. I open my eyes with a start. Darkness. Finally, thankfully, darkness. I’m shaking so much that I almost can’t feel the hand holding mine and the other hand stroking my head. “That was just a dream. Just a dream.” The voice is thankfully familiar, thankfully soothing. Holding on to a finger from the hands, just one, I blink back the sleepy tears and go to sleep.

In the morning, I wake up when the sun pierces through the chinks in the closed curtains. Another day. I fold the blanket, my blanket, and move into the bathroom. I reach out for the toothbrush in the rack overhead, brush my teeth and place the brush back it the empty stand. I open the curtains to allow light into my room, my room with the long bed, the solitary table, the chair that goes with it. I open the closet, filled with clothes, mine, to pick out something to wear for the day. I walk into the kitchen. I make a single mug of coffee, and get the day’s newspaper. Sitting alone in my balcony, reading the news, sipping the coffee, I tell myself, “Just a dream.”