a short story by Douglas King
The soft, female voice was clichély angelic.
Thomas heard the voice again in the darkness of his mind. He mentally reeled as the vestiges of warped dream images faded and the realization he had fallen asleep to the rhythmic rolling of the train car rushed to his consciousness. He cracked one eye open and saw, just what he was expecting: the gentle smile of Mac—short for Mackenzie—and he immediately wished she was his girlfriend, not just the person with whom he currently shared a first-class passenger car with on the way to Inverness in Scotland, or, simply an acquaintance he knew through a mutual friend.
“What were you dreaming?” Mac asked.
Thomas rubbed his dry eyes.
“You were mumbling in your sleep. You had to have been dreaming,” she said, smiling.
Thomas focused on her face and drank in the flawless fairy-like features as if he was a dehydrated man drinking from a desert oasis.
“So why did you wake me?” He responded, a bit more curtly than he wanted.
“Sorry, Mr. Grumpy Pants.” Mac folded her arms across her chest and sulked—staring out the window and biting her lower lip.
Thomas was immediately convicted. “No, I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m just not fully awake yet. Forgive me?”
He knew she would and she did. Mac was too generous, kind, good-hearted and all the other positive attributes, to pout or hold a grudge for longer than fifteen seconds. She had once nearly made it to twenty seconds, Thomas noted, but then who keeps track of someone that closely?
Mac turned back to him with a bright light in her eyes and equal wattage in her smile. “So, tell me, what did you dream?”
Thomas loved (did he dare use that word?) how everything was a happy adventure for Mac. He often thought she would have made a perfect Care Bear character—probably with a rainbow on her tummy. She was so childlike in her views on life. The complete opposite of how he felt most of the time. He wished he could share her rosy-perspective, but a life of hard-knocks and unrequited feelings had hardened Thomas and cast a pall over his attitude.
“Um, let me think.” Thomas rubbed his palms over his eyes in an attempt to shut out the real world and capture his dream before it slipped into the murkiness of memory. “Okay,” Thomas said and opened his eyes.
Mac was sitting with knees up to her chest, smiling, waiting to hear his tale.
“I was riding a beast of some sort—swaying back and forth. It must have been my subconscious compensating for the rocking of the train.”
“Don’t editorialize, Tom,” she interrupted. “Just tell me where you went.”
Thomas had to smile now. Mac was just too cute. She loved adventure in any form, whether real or imagined.
“So, I was on this beast. Big majestic creature with horns gilded with decorative gold sheathes encrusted with gems that sparkled in the sunlight!”
Thomas was good at telling a tale, and Mac was even better at listening. It didn’t matter if every word was an actual description of his dream, what mattered was the passion in which he told it and the worlds in which they could travel together through his words.
“I rode in a basket on top of its back, swaying to the motion of each step,” Thomas continued. “Next to me was a lovely woman. Her features were like those of a fine porcelain doll. Flawless. Beautiful.”
Thomas knew he was describing the young women sitting across from him, yet he hoped she was not also aware of the comparison.
“We were traveling to a distant land to seek adventure and see an old friend. It had been a long journey but not an arduous one and we were both enjoying each other’s company and the scenery.” Thomas paused to gauge Mac’s reaction to his story so far and, like most men, was completely unable to discern any idea of what she might be thinking. Why are women so obtuse? Thomas wondered.
“Go on,” Mac said, breaking Thomas’ brief rabbit-trail of thought.
“The two were falling in love…”
“You mean, you and the woman?”
“You started the dream by saying ‘I’. But you switched to third person,” Mac said.
“Did I? You know how dreams are? One minute it’s you in the dream, then you are detached, then you are someone else. Dreams are weird that way,” Thomas said. He debated about how much he should really share of his dream, which was obviously his brain dealing with the fact he was on a trip with a woman he had deep feelings for but could never—would never—express in reality.
“Anyway, he… I, took her hand in mine. It was the first time we had ever touched intimately, and I was afraid I might be rejected, but she squeezed my hand back and I knew. I just knew,” Thomas trailed off, lost in the vivid memory of that dream moment.
Mac sat quietly, enraptured by the simple tale and waiting for Thomas to continue.
“It was perfect. We didn’t say a thing to each other. We didn’t have to. You know how in dreams you just know what each other are thinking? It was like that.”
“Right. Next, we were no longer on the beast. You know…,” Thomas stopped himself before explaining dream logic, or illogic as the case may be, and he noticed that Mac had a slight frown from the new interruption.
“We were walking now. It was a skinny path through fields of grass greener than anything I had ever seen before. It was so lush and full of life. Blue skies, green grass, white pillow clouds drifting in the sky. It was like an Impressionist’s painting.”
Thomas looked out the window of the train as a similar scene passed before his very eyes as if he had returned to his dream. Or, was simply recounting what was happening to him.
“I was so happy. We were so happy. Even though the woman and I had never talked about being in a relationship, it was like we just knew it was right. Like we simply knew we were meant for each other,” Thomas continued.
He paused and looked into Mac’s eyes and wondered what she was thinking, if she knew he was talking about the two of them. She looked back at him with her innocent, friendly manner. If she knew what he was eluding too, there was no registration on her face. At least none that Thomas could discern.
“We walked on like that, then I think I did start to say something. That must be when I was mumbling,” Thomas said and caught Mac frown again at his new editorialization of this dream. He quickly continued so as not to frustrate and lose his audience of one.
“I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I think it was something like, ‘this is such a perfect day. I don’t want it to ever end.’”
“And what did the woman say? How did she respond?” Mac inquired.
Thomas thought. He couldn’t remember the woman ever speaking in his dream and he debated whether to lie and manipulate the story, or simply state the facts. Suddenly he felt flush and even a bit sick to his stomach, as if he now stood on the precipice of life, at least his love life, and the slightest move could send him crashing down into the abyss of loneliness below; a place he felt like he had spent most of his adult life.
In what felt like minutes, but in reality, was only seconds, Thomas, imagined a number of conceivable possibilities to how this dream, and the situation before him now, might playout. Like a chess player running through options, Thomas debated what the correct thing to say was, how honest to be, how vulnerable to be.
He decided to roll the dice, gambling that his story of two destined lovers might have found purchase in the heart of the woman he knew he loved.
“I don’t know. That’s the moment you woke me up. What do you think she said?” Thomas asked.
He waited. The two sitting in silence. Again, time seemed fluid and Thomas knew that the eternity he as living was only a brief moment for Mac. He waited, hoping her answer would wake him from the deep sleep his emotions had been lost in.
Mac looked at Thomas. Her eyes were like pools of the clearest water in the world, he thought. He waited, teetering on the edge of happiness or doom.
Finally, she said, “It would be grand if love happened so easily in real life.”
Thomas knew it wasn’t a direct response to his question but an answer true enough. “Yes, it would,” he replied. “It would be a dream come true.”
About the author:
Doug King is a talented artist, writer and film-maker living and working in Dallas, TX. He is currently Editor-in-Chief for Dallas Style and Design Magazine and continues to write freelance in addition to painting.
About the artist:
As an acrylic painter, [Francois Cuny] take pleasure it materializing … worlds of imagination onto canvas, hoping others will immerse themselves in whimsical/fun fantasy environments filled with optimism. To view more work by the artist, please visit www.paintingsbyfrancois.com. You may also follow the artist on Instagram @paintingsbyfrancois.
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