The first issue that needed to be addressed was the tension at work. I called David and asked him to come back in so that together, we could confront the other two.
“Wimp,” he said, rightfully so.
“Will you come?”
“I’ll be there in twenty minutes.”
Together we talked to Reena and Connor and set things straight. It was a difficult conversation for me, especially the part where I tried to convey to Reena just how ‘real’ the dream had seemed.
“It was different from the others, I agree,” I argued yet again. “But it doesn’t make it any less serious.”
“So now you not only see the past but you can also see the future?” Reena said, a little mockingly.
What was going on? Usually Reena was the first one on board with anything. “I don’t know, and that’s the point,” I said. “Do you want to take the chance and find out the hard way?”
She sighed. “I guess not.”
“Just be careful,” David said. “We don’t think you should go around with an albatross around your neck, but you should be a little careful. Don’t come here after the next couple of conferences; one of us will take you home. Is your life worth risking?”
“I guess not,” she repeated.
“It must be horrible to feel like you have a death sentence hanging over you, isn’t it?” David gently asked.
He reached out and patted her hand. “It’s almost as bad for us.”
She smiled, her lips quivering, and turned her hand over to squeeze his.
“It’s all good then?” I asked.
“OK then,” I said, a little relieved. “Let’s get some work done.”
When I got home that night, the files had been returned. They were stacked neatly on my desk, with a crisp white envelope bearing my name on top. I didn’t touch either the pile or the envelope, as if fearing it might contaminate me – but I couldn’t keep either out of my mind. I didn’t want to think about it anymore; I didn’t want it to be part of my life.
But it wasn’t meant to be. For the first time ever, I had a dream two nights in a row. Some might argue that my dream about Reena wasn’t a real one; but I wasn’t ready to dismiss it as such.
In any case, I had another dream that night. I had the so-called pleasure of witnessing a lovely domestic scene in a now abandoned home in an upper scale neighbourhood. It was horrible, even more so that the man looked like me and his daughter was about Shona’s age. He first killed his wife, then his children, then himself. Just great, was my first waking thought. I get to see this cozy scene for nothing.
This particular dream was a mix between what happened last night and what usually happened. I remember being woken up by someone and I remember somehow getting there, and yet I don’t remember anything about anything else. Interestingly enough, when I did wake up, I remembered a detail about the first such dream I had ever had.
“Delightful,” I grimaced at the gory detail I now wished I hadn’t remembered.
I sighed, and started walking home. It was going to be a long one – I was only wearing my home slippers and didn’t have my cell phone to call Talya (or a taxi) up.
The temperature decided to add to my misery by dipping a couple of degrees downward. I jogged for a little while to warm myself up, but the slippers weren’t made for running. I tried taking them off, but the ground was too cold and there was too much gravel for me to walk without hurting myself. I tried as best I could to keep my core temperature up. By the time I got home, the sun’s first rays were beginning to light the sky. I headed straight for the bathroom, stripped down and stepped into the water, which I had turned on, full blast and full heat. I was so tired that I sat in the bathtub, wrapping my arms around me and waiting to warm up.
I was still in the bathtub, shivering, steam rising around me, when Talya found me.
“If you want to go to a sauna, just say so,” she said in a teasing voice. “No need to finish up all the hot water.”
I tried to answer, but my teeth were chattering so hard I had to hold my jaw tightly shut to prevent myself from biting my tongue off.
She hesitated. Come and get me! I wanted to scream, but didn’t dare.
She peered around the curtain and gasped. “Oh my God, Sean…” She threw the curtain aside, only to shut it back when she saw the goosebumps all over my body. “Hold on a minute, Sean,” she said as she left the bathroom.
She came back a few minutes later, shut off the water and helped me out of the tub. She threw a long, thick bathroom on me (since when did we have one of those?) and another one over my head.
“Out,” she said, ushering me to our bedroom.
She had turned the covers down and set up two electric heat pads.
“I hope you won’t set a spark,” she said, half-jokingly, as she tucked me in.
“Where…” I couldn’t finish the question.
“I’m getting you some tea.”
I nodded and she left.
By the time she was back with a big cup of steaming tea, I had somewhat calmed down.
“Here you go,” she said, giving me the cup.
It was really hot, but I still wrapped my fingers around it. Well, for about ten seconds.
“OK, I’m warm,” I said, shifting my hands around.
Talya smiled, then did what she did best. She waited until I was ready to talk.
“I don’t want this anymore,” I softly said. “I don’t care how many criminals I can help put behind bars. I don’t want to be exposed to it anymore.”
“It’s understandable,” Talya said.
“Is it?” I snapped. “You wouldn’t have given up this fast. You aren’t weak and pathetic. I don’t even see the real thing and I break down like a baby.”
“You’re being a little hard on yourself,” she answered.
I glared at her until she smiled – what? A bit of empathy, maybe?
“OK, so I probably would have taken it a little better than you,” she admitted, “but that’s only because of my upbringing. It doesn’t make me any better than you.”
“It’s easy for you to say,” I grumbled.
“Do you remember that first dream you had?”
How could I forget? I had acquired this ability randomly. You would think it would have appeared while I was involved in a particularly gruesome investigation that unlocked a capacity I always had within me. Quite the contrary. Ironically enough, my ability first appeared while I was on vacation, during what had to be the most relaxing time in my life. My wife and I had been visiting her family in West Africa who live in a lovely villa by the beach. While she and hers spent their days doings… well, doing whatever, I spent mine on the beach with the husbands I had befriended. We swam, fished, read and slept, whatever took our fancy and whenever we felt like it. For the first time in years I took my watch off and the tan line I had thought permanent disappeared.
Then one day, while I was sleeping, I simply got up and walked off into the nearby jungle. Puzzled as to where I was going and why I wasn’t answering their calls, two of the husbands followed me – which is a good thing, because had they not I would have probably gotten lost. They followed me deep into the jungle and watched, a little unsettled, as I started sweating, moaning, crying and shaking; I even yelled at someone only I could see. I think I shaved a couple of years off their lives when I fainted, falling to the ground only to pop my eyes open a couple of seconds later and wonder at their paleness. While I don’t faint anymore, the rest of this initial episode has been my modus operanti for the last 6 months.
Back on the beach, after a reinvigorating glass of thick mango juice – that stuff is truly magical – I explained that while I was sleeping, a little boy came to me and poked me until I woke up – well, at least until I thought I handcuffed. He was speaking to me in a dialect I couldn’t understand, so he beckoned and I followed. This is a salient point of every dream; I never the question if I should follow the person who comes to me or not. It feels like an obligation I have no choice but to fulfill.
The little boy took me deep into the woods, where suddenly a man appeared through the trees dragging a woman who was screaming and trying to get away. It was at this point that I realized that something was a little unusual. Remember, I thought I was awake. The first odd thing was that the little boy disappeared; then everything around me lost colour and focus, but the man and woman seem to become sharper. There was also an odd smell that I have yet to find words to adequately describe, a smell that lies somewhere between soiled undergarments sealed in a plastic bag for too long mixed with too heady cologne sprinkled on top and a faint undertone of rot – a smell that accompanies every dream. This smell is sometimes the only thing that allows me to separate reality from my dreams, and however horrid has become something of a comfort, its presence indicates that I’m safe, and what I am about to see will not touch me – at least physically it won’t.
What the man did to the woman is too horrible to relate. Suffice to say that after he was done with her, it was a good thing he killed her, although chopping her body into pieces seemed a little redundant and was very disgusting.
“Do you remember what happened that night?” Talya said, bringing me back to the present.
“You had every right to be upset. But because it had happened there, in my hometown, somewhere I had seen terrible things happen, it triggered something irrational in me. I lost it.”
It had been pretty scary actually. Come to think, Talya’s seemingly extreme reaction had made the actual dream pale in comparison. I had spent so much time comforting her that I hadn’t really focused on what had happened and all its implications.
“If you weren’t strong, not only you wouldn’t have lasted six months of this particular type of hell, but you would have not been able to give me support after that first dream,” Talya said.
My smile was a little tight, but heart-felt. “You’re being nice to me. I like it.”
She smiled back. “I certainly hope so. It takes a lot of effort for me to be nice.”
That widened my smile. “I know. I’ve been married to you long enough.”
We snuggled for a couple of minutes, silent, just enjoying each other’s company.
“What are we going to do?” I said.
“You need a break. Why don’t you take some sleeping pills again for a little while? Let Jeffrey do his job and, if he realises he can use your information to solve cases, we can set up a better way for you to go through this.”
“A better way?” I said, a little sarcastic.
I felt her cheek moving against mine as she smiled. “There is always a better way.”