Stories and other such blarney...
Dream A Dreadful Dream
Part 1 By R.C. Davis
Sean Blackwell made his way down a dark street in Arkham, Massachusetts, hands in pockets, and a troubled look on his face. He was heading home to his room on Saltonstall Street. He had taken it about a month before—after his mother had kicked him out of his childhood home. She had initially offered his old bedroom upon graduating, saying he could stay for as long as he needed. Then she reneged two days later. So much for family.
Having just graduated Miskatonic University with a PhD back in June, Halsey Labs in the French Hill district had snapped him right up. The application process lasted maybe all of fifteen minutes. They were desperate. His plans to relocate to Boston were put on hold.
Now he was fuming over his mother’s change of heart. He wanted to confront her and get her to say out loud, why she had kicked him out. He knew it was the whole ‘Dream Thing’. During breakfast those two mornings that he was there, her eye contact was fleeting, and she wouldn’t sit with him at the table. Her face was extra pale and he watched her hands shaking as she moved about the kitchen. So, he knew he had been talking in his sleep, or perhaps he was walking in his sleep again. It could have, very well, been his shouts waking her in the early morning hours. However, he’d been that way all his life and she knew it. There came the realization that perhaps because she had been free of him for nearly seven years, his return had shattered her now quiet life. She had erred terribly in her decision to invite him back, and he had played the fool for accepting.
She had firsthand knowledge of how his dreams altered the lives of other people. He only had to know somebody, or know of somebody, and his nightly reveries could change their destiny for the good—or the bad. He suspected she somehow felt complicit.
The worst part for him was, he knew he was dreaming while in the midst of it and couldn’t do a damn thing about it. Like a roller coaster, he was pretty much restricted to just riding it out.
Coming around the corner onto Garrison Street, he strolled up the block and past Gott’s mom & pop grocery store at the corner. He saw the same homeless man sitting on the other side of the battered, blue newspaper box that held a few remaining copies of the Arkham Advertiser. It was the man’s usual spot. Sean thought it would be hilarious to make up an address plate and tack it up on the wall behind him. But he knew, as funny as it was to him, it would not be received well. The world was losing its sense of humor.
The old bum called out, “Hey buddy, can ya spare a buck?” Sean ignored him and crossing the street, continued down two more blocks to the entrance of the boarding house. The place was temporary until he could save up and afford better. That meant at least a year of having to put up with living on the south side. Going up the stairs, he unlocked the door and stepped inside. He was too tired to fix supper, so after finishing a stale biscuit and a glass of warm milk, he undressed and fell into bed. Drifting away into slumber, he wondered whose life he was going to screw up tomorrow.
I stand in front of my grandfather’s house, my family gathered on the porch, everybody staring, nobody talking. My grandfather grins from his seat between Uncle Phil and Aunt Wilma. He no longer looks as dead as he did in his casket. My mother grins too, she is happy her father is alive again. I walk up the steps of the porch. My cousin Ralph, looking like he did as a teenager, slaps me on the arm with a multi colored pinwheel as I pass. Twisting up his face, he crosses his eyes. Moving into the living room, minus furniture, my brother’s ‘57 Ford Thunderbird sits in the middle of the floor, its body matching the wallpaper. I didn’t think Grandma liked crimson as a color though, so maybe it was the little yellow, cartoon cat faces scattered all over the towering walls, with the Grecian architrave that she likes. I walk through the kitchen door to step out into the street across from my boarding house. My imprisoned brother, Al, honks his horn from the driver’s seat behind me and yells, “Hey Sean, where yah goin’?” I look back, smile, and keep on walking. I go in through the sliding, overhead door of the old barn that now replaces the boardinghouse. Climbing the ladder into the hayloft, I grab my briefcase. The next thing I know, I am heading to work. A homeless man stands on the corner, just outside of a little grocery, begging. I reach into my pocket and pulling out a massive roll of cash, wrapped in rubber bands, I slap it in the old guy’s hands. “Going for broke,” he says, and hurries away. I watch him dash through a large archway labeled ‘RACETRACK’ that now sits up the block to my right. I am at the lab. But the door is locked and knocking real hard, a kid, wearing an over sized black coat, opens it and snatches the briefcase from my hand. He pushes me down and locks the door. Through the glass, I watch his head turn into that of a wolf’s, complete with fangs. I start to get up and…
Sean startled awake with a serious ache behind his eyes, and his stomach was rumbling loud enough to wake the dead. The brass alarm clock on the nightstand told him he had about two hours to make it to the lab. He showered, shaved, and donned his usual suit. Then grabbing an apple, he gnawed on it as he looked around for his briefcase. Not finding it, he figured it must still be at the lab. Upon leaving he found his door unlocked. He was positive he had locked it. Checking the spring loaded latch, he found it functional. Shrugging to himself, he closed the door and made sure it locked. Bouncing down the stairs, he found his house slippers at the bottom, caked with mud. He had sleepwalked.
A shudder racked his body as the proverbial goose walked over his grave. Kicking the slippers into a corner in the tiny foyer, he decided to retrieve them when he came home. Walking slowly with a look of unease upon his face, Sean made for Gott’s.
The homeless man wasn’t in his spot. Maybe Chief McClean had hauled him in? Tossing the apple core into the gutter, he went in with the Ding! of the little bell above the door announcing his presence. Forcing a smile, Sean went to the percolator at the end of the counter and filled a Styrofoam cup with coffee before hooking a cruller from a pink striped box.
“Hey, Bill,” he called back to the owner as he slapped a buck down next to the register. “Didn’t see the homeless guy outside this morning. You call the cops?”
“Heeey! Morning Sean,” Bill Gott said, coming out of the back room to stand and wipe wet hands on a grimy white apron. “No, I wouldn’t do that. But the old codger came in this morning after I unlocked and actually bought something. He was waving a roll of cash around, telling Liz how he’d struck it rich. He was saying something about his horse placing ‘across the board’ at the track. You know, I didn’t think a guy like that would have enough cash to even place a decent bet.”
Sean turned and looked out of the big display window at the ratty, brown blanket laying folded next to the paper box. He thought back on his dream, smiled to himself and mumbled, “Yeah, I would have thought the same… yesterday.”
Arriving at the lab, he stepped into the vestibule to be met by the guard seated in his chair in the corner. Closing and folding his newspaper, the old guy stuck it under an arm and reached behind his chair to pull out Sean’s briefcase.
“Had to wrestle this away from some kid this morning. He tried to walk out with it. I recognized it as yours. We had a bit of a tussle, but I got it, none the less. Think maybe you left it somewhere inside and he found it. What the hell he was doing in there… I don’t know. Weird looking kid too! Wearing a long black coat, two sizes too big and had long dirty, dish water blond hair. On top of that, he actually had fangs, kind of… like a wolf. Evil looking kid, if you were to ask me. Anyway, here you go, Mr. Blackwell.”
“Thanks Kenny, nothing important in there, anyway. But hey, the case itself is worth a few bucks! Thanks again,” Sean said, and grinning at the guard, he patted him on the shoulder and walked through the door into the reception area.
It was a typical reception area for 1965. Small compared to the rooms beyond where the work was done. A couple brown leather sofas and two club chairs faced each other as they sat, centered on a dark Persian rug. Pictures of Halsey Lab scientists and their achievements covered the gunstock hue of the paneled walls. A coffee maker sat in the corner with a rack for magazines. One door led into the labs, the other one, at the back, took you into a large utility area with a kitchen and restrooms for non-lab personnel. Ficus and Rubber Tree plants rested in the corners, reaching to the ceiling. Then there were a few of diminutive stature perched on small tables throughout the space; all of it cared for by the tender hand of Calista Ellery. She looked up from her desk at the back wall and smiled sweetly at Sean.
They had a thing, and it was starting to get serious. She had never been to his place, but she was coming over Saturday evening for a glass of wine and then the two of them out for dinner. She gave Sean hope that there was some kind of a future other than lab work. He wasn’t much on dating and had always suspected he was going to grow old, never to leave his bachelorhood. He looked at her in her dark blue shirt dress, fake pearls, and that warm, friend winning smile. Her dark eyes twinkled and he watched her chest expand like he had made her breathless with his arrival.
Pulling the telephone head set from her short, brown bouffant, she set it on the desk. Her coiffure fell back into place with not a hair out of place. That’s the way it was for Calista, everything just seemed to work out for her. Standing, she came around the desk and reaching out to him, she said, “May I take your coat, Sean?”
Hey, Calista. How are you? You look great. Hey, what’s that alluring scent? That wouldn’t be… Tigress by Fabergé, would it?”
Calista blushed. “Oh, Sean, you lab guys… I’d never guessed in a million years that you’d know it. Yes, it is. Picked it up yesterday. So… you like it?”
“How could I not? I suspect it has something to do with the chemistry of the ingredients mixing with yours that makes it the perfect scent. Yes?”
She blushed even deeper as he took off his coat and hat and handed them to her. “You know you don’t have to do this, I can hang my own coat.”
“No, no, I want to. It would be my pleasure.”
Taking it from him, her hand brushed his and their eyes met in a gaze of mutual admiration. An uncontrollable smile broke Sean’s lips. Calista smiled back and walked away to the coat rack next to her desk. He watched her go, all the while wondering why all of a sudden this was happening. He’d had a few dates in the past, but nothing ever panned out. Then he gets a job in the best place possible for Arkham, and along with it, comes this lovely woman, who for some reason, finds him irresistible. Before reaching to hang the coat, she glanced back over shoulder and caught his eyes moving up her form. She threw him a shy smile, and he dropped his face to floor and hurried toward the laboratory door.
“Nice to see you Sean,” she called after him. “Can we have lunch today? That would be so lovely.”
Just before pushing the door open to expose him to his lab partners, he stopped and grinned with relief.
“Oh! Certainly. That would be my pleasure. I’ll buy! Howz that sound?”
“It’s a date then! See you soon?”
“You will, without a doubt.”
The day went well, and lunch was even better. They settled on the small café on the corner of East and College Street. Nothing fancy, just BLTs and ice tea. The conversation never ceased and Sean wanted more. He learned a lot about her, and she, him. Well, everything but the ‘Dream Thing’ He didn’t want her to know about that just yet. He feared it would sway how she felt about him, and then he would lose it all. All the things that mattered, anyway.
On the way back to the lab, they strolled down the sidewalk, casually chatting. Upon arriving at Main Street, Calista took his hand and held it until they were within a block of the laboratory. Before letting go, she stopped and faced him. Something passed between them—just their eyes doing the talking. Then dropping his hand, they continued, with Calista saying, “So, you’re making progress on the Belmont Project? You know, if you’re successful, it will be a major breakthrough and…”
That’s the way it went until they parted at her desk. Calista had to stay late that evening for paperwork reasons, even though it was a Friday. She had also complained to Sean (just a tiny bit) about having to be in by eight o’clock the next morning and remain until noon. Conversing briefly at his departure, they confirmed their arrangement for Saturday evening and Sean left the laboratory practically skipping.
To Be Continued