Everyone has secrets, some of which are less innocent than others. Usually, having a secret out is worse for the secret-bearer than for those hearing it. Most of the time, the initial buzz of controversy quietly fades out and life goes on, almost unchanged. But some secrets, if uncovered, can completely change lives – that of the secret-keeper, the one who discovers it and those who find out about it. Those who are trained to uncover these secrets are often dragged against their will into a world they never would have dreamed of visiting. Then there are those who are not trained and yet manage to uncover secrets, sometimes against their will.
Being an untrained discoverer of secrets makes it all the harder for me than, say, for Jeffrey, even more so that I enter into the most intimate and uninhibited form of thoughts: dreams. Jeffrey sees pictures and hears words; I see the crime itself, smell it, feel it. This curious ability I have will probably help law enforcement and would fascinate scientists were they to find out about it, but it has also turned my life into hell. I’m some kind of sleepwalking psychic detective, of which I’m certain no one has ever seen before, and hopefully they never will again. The thought of someone else going through the same things as I do is very disheartening indeed.
I still wish this ability allowed me to swoop down like an avenging angel and stop criminals during despicable acts, a hero saving the day and basking in the glow of the public’s adoration. Unfortunately, that is not the case since I see things that have already happened. Some could consider me a hero because of the potential lives I could save if I manage to help Jeffrey. Nice a thought as it might be, it barely makes up for the horrors I have seen.
What keeps me going is that even with this hanging over me, many people have it a lot worse than I do. At least no one I love was murdered; at least I have a job I love; at least I have a rock-solid marriage and my kids are absolutely amazing; at least I’m not starving; at least I don’t live in a war-ravaged country where every day is a struggle for survival – these are some of the things I keep telling myself, reciting them like a litany when the thought of suicide starts lingering a little too long in my head. But up to now I have been able to get over the worst of it, not succumb to that tempting option and try to gain as much satisfaction from my ability as I can. I often wished there was a way of somehow dampening the experience. Until then, I’ll make do.
There is one way that might help give me a break; Talya and I had considered it before but dismissed it; morbid curiosity had me wanting to have more of these dreams. But I needed a break, and, encouraged by Jeffrey, I decided to see a doctor and get a prescription for sleeping pills.
It was a wonderful two weeks. I slept like a baby and didn’t go gallivanting around. Combined with special family nights Talya, the kids and I did, it worked wonders for my mood, and everyone noticed.
“Sleeping pills,” Connor said approvingly. “You should have taken some sooner, not waited to be at the edge of the precipice.”
I smiled. “I know. I guess I wanted to see how far I could push myself.”
“Are you ever going to go back to dreaming?” Reena asked.
I nodded. “Once we have figured out how to make it safe for me.”
“Speaking of safety, what is the latest update from our favourite law enforcement agent?” Connor asked.
“Jeffrey has been looking into the files Talya and I made,” I said, ignoring the anxious knot that had formed in my stomach. “He told me that it took a little convincing to take this rather unconventional source of information seriously, but once they did, they managed to crack two cases.”
Connor beamed. “Excellent! And of course, there are no connections to you?”
“Of course not,” I said. “I wasn’t ever near any one of those victims or those criminals.”
What I refused to tell them was the conversation I had had with Jeffrey two nights ago about the rumours and innuendos that were swirling around the precinct.
“Unfortunately, if things go as they are, you might be brought in for questioning,” he had told me. “Don’t worry about it; they don’t have enough to actually charge you with anything, and your full cooperation will help you more than anything else can.”
That night, I had another dream despite the sleeping pill I made sure to take. A little boy – he was probably somewhere between 6 or 7 years old – woke me up and beckoned me to follow him. Downstairs, he reached for his coat, hanging on a wall hook I had never seen before; I opened the closet and reached for mine. He stuck his feet in his boots; I followed suit. We walked for what seemed like ages. This dream was particular in that it was happening in slow motion, giving it a surreal yet starker feeling. Ridiculous details stood out in sharp contrast to the backdrop; a pebble on the ground, a particular leaf on a tree, the raindrops glistening on the fence, each little detail became a fascinating study in colour, contrast and texture. I felt like I was in art class all over again.
We finally got to a church. I sighed; this wasn’t going to be good. The little boy threw me a glance that bordered on pity before pointing towards the door of the church.
Oh, the stench that greeted me – it was worse than it usually was. The two teenage boys who were tied up were dressed in odd clothes, struggling against the binds the man at the altar had tied them up with. The man at the altar was also dressed a little oddly. My brain was a little overwhelmed by the random sharp details, like the stain on the man’s pants, so I let it go.
The dream finished with the man killing off the two teenagers. It was utterly disgusting, all the more so that the blood ran even more vividly than usual. I shuddered as I woke up, and swallowed heavily against the rolling nausea.
I got home to Talya waiting for me in the living room.
“They started again,” she said, getting up to grab my coat.
I nodded, surrendering it as I kicked my shoes off. We sat on the couch, me holding Talya tightly against me.
“I wonder if the sleeping pills have stopped working, or if it’s the undue stress of Jeffrey’s call that triggered this particular dream,” she wondered out loud after I had finished telling her about my night.
“I think I’m going to take up Yoga again.” I had taken it up for about two months and while it hadn’t decreased the frequency of my dreams, it had increased the quality of my sleep.
“You should also start exercising again,” Talya said.
While a normal amount of exercise hadn’t had any effect on my dreams, over-exercising – two to three hours a day – had not only put me in excellent shape, but decreased the frequency of the dreams.
I sighed. “Guess so.”
“And also, we should take up your best morning after cure,” Talya said.
I could feel the smile on her face on my cheek and in her voice; I smiled in return. “I guess our credit cards could take it,” I said.
She laughed softly. “And I am always up for some therapy shopping.”
Yes, she was, and so was I. And not only was a good bout of shopping the best morning after cure, but it would help maintain my best-dressed status professor on campus.
“Shopping it is,” I said, ignoring the knot in my stomach.