Welcome again to another post for Flash Fiction Month. Today I have fellow Goodreads author Vanessa Deroo. Read the gripping short story below and then click the link below to read more of her writing. Enjoy!
Can you see me ?
Can you see me now ?
His little face smiling at me, his blue eyes shining. He looks like me, when I was a kid, when I used to climb everywhere, searching, exploring, experiencing. Pure joy.
The woman sitting next to him is beautiful, red-headed, and she has the most exquisite smile. She’s my wife.
Are we going now, Dad ? Are we going to the banquet ?
They both smile, and I am terrified.
This is usually the part when I wake up, trembling, panicking, because I know what it means and I have no way to stop it.
4:56. Sleep is over.
I am not married. I don’t have kids. I live in a small suburban town where everything is quiet. I am not really a party animal. I like the peace of my two-bedroom house. I read a lot, I watch TV. I go to work, I read the paper. My life is pretty normal.
And every night since January, I dream of a family who isn’t mine. A family who dies, no matter what I do.
It happens all the time : first, We’re in a big mansion, and a grandmother (my grandmother ? I don’t even know) announces she’s going to the banquet, and everyone nods. But I know something is wrong, I don’t know what exactly, but there’s something off about this mansion, this family and this old lady who looks at me with the deepest sadness in her eyes. We then enter the dining room, and the old lady lays in a coffin, her gray hair covering her face. That’s the banquet, for her. Cut to a sunny family day with a beautiful redhead who smiles at me all the time, and a tiny mini-me. The kid must be 6 or 7, and we’re all hiking and I see them walking, and all of a sudden the kid mentions the banquet, and I know I’m going to lose them all. The terror that fills my stomach is unbearable, and I wake up just as my wife and the kid climb to the banquet.
I thought it was because of a movie I watched before bed. But no. The first time it happened, I watched Sherlock on BBC, and even if there are a lot of riddles, it’s not that scary. The second night I watched a Disney movie. On the third night, I read a book.
My dream family was still here, still waiting to be killed.
I searched in every dream interpretation book, I spent hours in the library reading psychology stuff. I went online reading forums that freaked me out. But nothing about a banquet. Nothing.
I then tried to remember if I knew my dream wife, the redhead. Never saw her in real life. Not a colleague, not a friend from school. Not a friend’s wife. She seems to live only in that dream. Nothing about the old grandmother either.
The worst part is that I think about this dream all the time. I try to imagine what happens after I wake up. But I can’t. I freeze everytime I reach the part where the kid runs to the hill. What’s behind the hill is a mystery. One thing’s for sure, it brings death.
Every night, I try to sleep a little longer, but my subconscious is as scared as I am, and I wake up alone when some people I don’t even know are trapped.
And it drives me crazy.
Can you see me ?
Can you see me now ?
I feel the sun on my face, and she’s next to me and she smiles, Don’t wake up, I repeat to myself, don’t wake up, not now. She talks to me, and I can’t hear her, and the kid is playing right in front of us. Soon he will ask. He will ask about the banquet and he will disappear, and she will too, and I can’t let it happen, not this time.
I try to concentrate on my wife, her lips and what she says to me. No sound. She’s beautiful. Pale, delicate, she looks like an actress from an old movie in black and white. At times she reminds me of someone I might know, somewhere. Something about her is violently familiar, and then she’s a stranger again. But I have no time to decode what my brain is trying to say. She looks at me with a furious intensity. She still speaks silent words. She still smiles, but there’s a glimpse of panic in her eyes when she mouths « help us ».
Our kid protests when I grab him as he climbs the hill, his little body trying to lose my grip. He wants to play, but I can’t let him die. I can see my wife running down the hill and I follow her, and at this point, my instinct tells me it’s the right thing to do.
The beautiful redhead wife races, it seems like an endless run. I don’t know where we are. I don’t know what’s behind the hill. I don’t know where the grandmother is. I have flashes of something I have never seen before, like a big cocoon made of flesh and something else I can’t describe.
And then I realise it’s not a « flash ». The creature running in front of me is not beautiful and pale anymore. And she’s leading me right to the banquet. I feel it.
As we run, I can feel the kid becoming lighter in my arms. And lighter, and lighter, until there’s nothing to carry anymore. I feel the same panic in my bones, the same terror in my stomach. This time, there is no fear of losing a family. This time I am scared to lose myself.
I wake up in my cold room, the dark welcomes me like an old friend.
Tomorrow there will be no waking up.
Vanessa Deroo is a French-but-British-at-heart writer whose stories play with music,magic, ghosts, lost romances and Dark sides. She loves short stories, comics, YA and chocolate and is currently writing a novella. For more info, check vanessaderoo.com.