Tami Parker Other Duties as Assigned

Finish the Story – Perhaps a Dream

F

New week? New prompt!

As always, beware the comments section if you plan on writing something, so as to avoid being influenced.

I look forward to seeing your responses!

Perhaps it was a dream, she thought. Perhaps if she pinched herself, she would wake up. But she didn’t want to wake up. She wanted to stay in this dream world where …

5 comments

  • Perhaps it was a dream, she thought. Perhaps if she pinched herself, she would wake up. But she didn't want to wake up. She wanted to stay in this dream world where she could fly and big brothers never left her behind so they could go to college.

    Even in the dream, she knew that was stupid. Taylor was leaving tomorrow, just like John and Quincy and Robbie before him.

    Then it would just be her, all alone.

    "Jenna, wake up or you'll be late for school!"

    She buried her face in her pillow and groaned. Well, alone except for Mom and Dad, but they didn't count. They didn't sneak scary movies in past bedtime and make illicit popcorn for midnight viewings. They didn't make a game out of collecting stray pieces of laundry and shooting them through the hoop above the hamper, keeping score along the way.

    "Come on, Jenna! I've got a lot to do today and you're not helping!"

    As if today was just another day and not the worst day ever.

    Mechanically, Jenna got ready for school and tromped downstairs. She paused halfway down, hearing Taylor laugh at something Mom had said.

    He was excited. He deserved to be excited.

    She pasted a smile on her face and joined them for breakfast. Told Taylor how happy she was, and how excited she would be to go visit his dorm on an upcoming weekend.

    It was all a lie, of course. They never even saw Robbie anymore, not unless it was a holiday. And Quincy had already proposed to his girlfriend, to the utter shock of everyone. Ever since they'd moved in together, she'd barely seen him, either.

    No, going off to college was just the first step in a long path that took them away from her. She'd been their princess, their little sister. They'd been inseparable.

    She smiled over cereal and gave Taylor a hug goodbye as she followed Mom out to the car to get dropped off at school.

    The car ride was quiet. She stared out the window and tried to imagine coming home to a house completely devoid of too-loud sneakers and messy bathrooms.

    "You okay, honey?"

    "I'm fine."

    "You sure?"

    "I'm fine, Mom."

    "Because if you want to talk about Taylor leaving, I'm here …."

    "I'm FINE."

    Her mom sighed, but let the matter drop. Jenna slammed the door on the way out, and didn't apologize for it.

    Math. English. History.

    What difference did it all make?

    Her friends tried to make her feel better, but she kept not-seeing Taylor all over the school. He wasn't playing basketball with the varsity team. He wasn't waiting at her locker after Math to make fun of the way Mr. Thompson pronounced "zero".

    Her mom picked her up at school and she hesitated before getting in the passenger seat. Normally, that's where Taylor would sit.

    He wasn't here anymore, though.

    (part 2 to follow, I had too many words for a single post …)

  • (Part 2)

    She got in and answered Mom's few questions with as monosyllabic an answer as she could muster.

    The sooner they got home, the sooner she could go back to sleep. At least there, her brothers never left her behind.

    She skipped dinner.

    Lying in bed, pulled the covers over her head and tried to force herself to go to sleep. Counted sheep. Counted backwards from a hundred. Counted glow-in-the-dark stars on her ceiling.

    Nothing worked. Even her dreams were abandoning her.

    A soft knock sounded at her bedroom door.

    Mom's voice, quiet. "Jenna?"

    A pause, then more strongly. "Hey. I know you're awake in there. I was having trouble sleeping, too. Seems so empty without all our boys, doesn't it?"

    A longer pause, followed by a cleared through. "Anyway, I saw that Hellraiser 3 was out on dvd, so I picked it up. Thought maybe you might want to watch it with me and fill in the blanks for the first two movies?"

    Jenna bit her lip.

    "Okay, well, if you change your mind, I'll be down in the den. I'll make some popcorn, just in case. And … um. I hope you come down. I miss them a lot, too, but you're still here and I'd like to spend more time with you."

    The soft sounds of Mom's footsteps walking away down the carpeted hallway faded and Jenna wiped her eyes on her comforter before throwing back the blankets and putting on her slippers.

    Maybe it didn't have to be the worst day ever.

  • This went a bit weird, off the rails, and darker than I wanted.

    But lo, here it be.

    ==============

    Perhaps it was a dream, she thought. Perhaps if she pinched herself, she would wake up. But she didn't want to wake up. She wanted to stay in this dream world where no one ever had to die.

    "Is it like this all the time?" She asked.

    "Yes," he responded. "Though you cannot see it yet, you may trust my word. Death doesn't exist here."

    "It must be nice," she said wistfully as a flicker of pain crossed her features. It hadn't been so long that Annie had passed away in the night. Sudden infant death syndrome, they called it. A nightmare she couldn't wake from is what she called it.

    "It can be yours," her guide said, his voice bland.

    "What do you mean?" She asked. "I know that this is a dream. It can't be anything but."

    "Not all things are all one way or the other," he said. "Some things are just…opportunities in disguise."

    She didn't dare hope…but maybe? Was it possible?

    "You mentioned earlier that you'd lost your daughter earlier, is that correct?" He asked.

    "Yes," she said. She spoke curt and sharp.

    "Perhaps this is the work of someone higher up who chose to rectify that mistake," he spoke slowly, picking his words with care like a barefoot man walking across a room of broken glass. "You expressed some powerful sentiments when your daughter passed."

    "I was emotional! I'd like to know of any other mother who would-"

    "Yes," he cut her off with a gentle wave. "We know. But you felt you knew better, that such things shouldn't exist in the world. And so, we've brought you to one where such things cannot happen. If it is your will, you can stay here."

    "Can I?" Her heart rose to her throat for a moment, before turning to ashes in her mouth. "But what's the point?"

    "We would return Annie to you, of course."

    "Can you?"

    "Of course."

    "Then yes! Yes, of course!"

    "As you will it, so shall it be."

    Then he vanished.

    She raced back to her home. An empty apartment was what she was used to…but this time, the crying of a baby. Standing in the doorway, tears sprang to her eyes when she saw the familiar sleeping form in the crib, a sight that had haunted her dreams for all the years since Annie's death.

    She moved into the room on shaking steps, reaching into the crib and cuddling the warm bundle in her arms.

    "Hey there," she whispered. "Hey, precious. I've missed you."

    Holding the baby to her chest, she began to cry.

    At first, it was bliss. Life had made a mistake and it had given her a do-over. More than that, an improvement. A world where her nightmare had no chance of coming to pass. A world where they wouldn't have to say goodbye ever again.

    A world where death had no reign.

    And so she felt for the first few days and weeks.

    But months passed. Then years. Then decades.

    Centuries later, she began to change her tune. The world began to fill up, the undying taking up all available space.

    Millennia after millennia passed and the world filled with the undying. Carpeting the ground, carpeting every available space. Every inch of the world filled with undying, ravenous people. Eternally starving. Driven insane by their endless torment.

    Holding her undying child in her arms, surrounded by layers of the ravenous undying, she realized that a world without death had never been a dream. Could never have been a dream.

    It was a nightmare.

  • Mine is a little bit shorter.

    Perhaps it was a dream, she thought. Perhaps if she pinched herself, she would wake up. But she didn't want to wake up. She wanted to stay in this dream world where she held her baby boy close to her body. A soft spring rain played a steady cadence on the roof as she stared into his deep blue eyes, and stroked his auburn hair, just like his father’s. Her husband sat next her on the bed, holding her as sunlight streamed in through the windows. Three hearts beating in time together. A Kodak moment that she never wanted to end

    “Honey,” her husband said.

    “Honey,” he repeated.

    She blinked twice, looked around her bedroom, and realized she had nodded off. Instead of the baby boy, she held in her hands the pregnancy test. Staring at it as she had the previous thirty two, she willed the second line to darken, but like all those before it, only a single bold magenta line showed.

    “Honey,” her husband said, “wake up. It’s time to get ready to go. Your baby sister wouldn’t want you to miss her baby shower.”

Tami Parker Other Duties as Assigned