Five Seconds, Maybe Ten

I was not dreaming.

So, I’ve done movies and songs and poems and books and even dreams. But the scariest thing of all..?

This was years ago.

It was summer. My family had gone on an extended trip to visit grandparents on the West Coast and I was alone in the house for six weeks.

I spent most of my time rattling around the house. The cats followed me around, as though they were trying to find where I’d hidden the bodies.

I stayed up too late, reading and writing. I played the radio too loud to fill the silence. Other times, I’d go quiet and not see anyone or say anything for days.

Over time, I found out that I was well suited for it, the solitude. Too much so. I started to avoid going out for any reason. Even getting up for work was difficult. I was spending so much time in my own head that anything which intruded or pulled me out of it became an irritant, something to avoid.

In some ways, it was nice.

Mostly though, it was just sad and lonely.

One night, I had a dream. It was the most complete narrative I think I’ve ever had in a dream, literally telling a story all the way from beginning to end. It was a very personal dream — meaning, I was the main “character” and it all happened from my perspective. But it wasn’t me, I was someone else.

I was a soldier and I was wounded. Afterwards, the whole dream became my short story Summer Salt. If you’ve read the story, you know how it ends. The horror of that last moment jolted me awake.

I lay there in bed, still half-paralyzed by the lingering fear from my dream. I rolled over and reached out, taking my wife’s hand.

“I just had a terrible dream,” I said.

Five, perhaps, ten seconds passed.

She lay there, silently holding my hand.

I could feel her there next to me, awake and strangely watchful like she was holding her breath.

I was not dreaming. I was not asleep, I know. The shock of my dream had driven all sleep from me.

Five seconds, maybe ten before I remembered.

My family was on the other side of the country, I was alone in the house.

But someone was holding my hand.

Then I was up on the other side of the room and the light was on.

I was alone.

I spent the rest of the night on the porch, lost in my thoughts, until the sun finally rose.

As I said, it was a long time ago.

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