The Reunion Part 6

Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash

Her mind was not one to let her sleep. If she looked, she knew what time the digital clock would read: 2:22.

It was the same most nights. Falling asleep was as easy as closing her eyes and taking a few deep breaths. Staying asleep was another matter.

It was the dreams. Or the dream, really. One reoccurring story, beginning the same way each time. The difference came in the form of who, rather than what made an appearance.

A decrepit town of dingy houses and ghostly faces watching her through broken glass. Entering one home, the same one, she’d walk down hallways with rooms off to each side, filled with people. Some were strangers. Some were still living, as far as she knew. And some had already passed into the next world.

The living kept to themselves, only turning in her direction if she stopped at the doorway to peer inside, just like life. On the outside looking in.

The strangers, while distant, might give her a sign, a word of some kind, a question she needed to ask herself. Sometimes the questions were deep, forcing serious debates within her. Other times, they seemed to mock her inability to figure things out, their question so simple she wanted to smack herself in the head.

It was the dead who soothed her. First by letting her know they were okay. A simple gesture or even a look was enough to convey, “it’s okay. I’m okay.” Like when a long time friend raised a teacup and gave her a knowing wink, or a beloved pet rolled a ball in her direction.

It was her father who’d revealed to her who Elizabeth really was.

The dream had begun like always. Driving the old truck from her grandfather’s ranch slowly through the same town, single rows of ramshackle homes and shuttered businesses on both sides of her, leaning under the weight of age and vines working their slow magic of retaking nature’s space. Pale faces and light eyes watching her from inside. She opens the door to the same house and steps into the entryway. The home of her childhood. Seventies light fixtures, linoleum flooring made to look like red bricks and lots of dark wood paneling. A formal space to her left has long, green shag carpet, empty except for a massive orange couch, so big it sits diagonally across the small room.

The kitchen has bright yellow tiled countertops, dark cabinets, and tropical plants everywhere. She pushes aside palm leaves and steps over vines to make her way to the hallway on the other side.

At the threshold, she can hear the voices in the rooms on either side of the hall that stretches into darkness at the other end.

There was a new face in the first room. A smile so big and bright, the room glowed. The woman waved at Karen, then motioned for her to continue. “Go on,” the woman told her. “Go find out.”

In the next room was her father. His face was buried in his hands as he sat in front of a table and a framed picture she could not see. She waited at the door, only wanting to see his face again, not caring about the picture.

Her father was crying. She wanted to go to him, to ask what would make him cry but her feet remained planted. She’d never entered the rooms before.

“Dad?” she whispered. In all the years she’d experienced this dream, her father had never appeared to her. “Why?” was all she asked.

He did not look at her when he raised his eyes. She saw the hole in his chest and black river mud on his hands. He reached out to the picture in front of him and turned it so she could see what held his attention.

Too many answers to questions she’d not yet asked.

Tonight’s dream had been similar. And while the two people from the dream who’d started this quest had not visited her again, enough clues and signs were revealed to keep her moving forward, even when she didn’t want to.

Karen grabbed her phone and clicked to the voice recorder, wanting to get the details of her dream down before they faded. She told it as she remembered it, doing her best not to embellish or analyze anything.

Listening to her recording, the message quickly became clear.

Truth, while a messy thing, was insistent. Impractical at times.

Goosebumps spread across her body as she listened to her voice, her own words now unfamiliar just moments after she’d spoken them.

She set the phone down, letting tonight's dream replay itself in her mind a few more minutes before flinging the covers back and getting out of bed. Standing, she shook herself, gently at first as she worked through her limbs and torso, shaking off years of emotional dust.

The soft glow of the nightlight in the bathroom provided a path for her to make her way to the toilet without having to flick on the overhead fixture. When she returned to the bedside, she switched on the lamp and picked up the bottle of water, drinking half of it before twisting the lid back on and returning it to the table.

This break in her sleep was a normal pattern. For the next thirty minutes or so she’d smoke a little weed, have a few sips of water and pee at least once more, then settle back into sleep until 4:44 when a full bladder and aching hip would pull her from the bed.

“Will it be worth it?” She asked the empty room. The answer was not a simple yes or no. First, it would depend on what ‘it’ was.

The second part would depend on who ‘it’ affected. Because, as Karen knew all too well, it only affects you, when it affects you.