Thursday, November 3, 2011

What keeps a girl up all night

The dress barely fit into the fireplace. I had to stuff it - like so many layers of rich, white cream - into the tight, small space. It scraped against the bricks and as I lit it on fire, the flames licked up along the sides, crenallating and smoking up the space. It was a filthy thing, a very unsanitary way to do it, but I could not wait. I did not care how much of a mess it made. I didn't care what my mother said or if my brother smelled it when he got home from the university a few days later. I just wanted it be gone, once and for all.

As the dress burned, blackened and burned like a fire-bitten corpse, I could feel the locket around my neck filtering heat against my chest. It felt as if it, too, had been smelted by flame. As it grew warmer and warmer to the point of getting unbearably hot, I pulled it frantically from my frame and tossed it in with the flames. Even the veil was burning, burning away into ash and soot and wonderful cinders.

"I will not use contractions," he said. "I will use proper English and nod my head like an idiot."

For good measure I gave him a good smack. "What kind of bull crap is that, Aaron? We're getting married. It's a wedding. You're allowed to have a little bit of fun."

"We are getting married," he repeated, sounding like a robot as he rehearsed. "It is a wedding. And I do want to have fun."

"You don't have to sound like a weirdo to be formal. And besides, we're working on the two-month plan, not the two-year plan."

"What are you talking about?"

"Never you mind."

We sat in a dimly lit room. The only light came from tea lights which cluttered every open surface. The small, whitish yellow flames created an ambient glow around the table and cast strange shadows across our faces. I found myself wishing for a mirror so I could see my own creepy-looking reflection. Even if I did believe in ghosts, I would know enough that this lighting was part of the trick to it. There was something about the way the light brought them in. It brought in the ghosts, the shades, the shadows, the things that go bump in the night. It no longer mattered if they were real or not. They seemed real in that small space.

Tonight the words don’t want to come to me. My lips are sealed so tight that I can’t speak above a whisper. Can I write for you what I want to say? Sometimes it helps if I can think about it for a minute before I have to communicate what it is that I have to say. Maybe it would help if you have some snacks for me? The food here is crap. We talk about it like we’re on the inside. I could talk more if you gave me some food. The mashed potatoes they served us at dinner didn’t sit well in my stomach. I promise I will make it worth your while. You understand this writing thing, right? Here, I’ll get my notebook and you get me some cookies or something. The nurses usually have some chocolate chip cookies – those Chips Ahoy ones – hiding in their break room. I watch them in there sometimes. Not in a creepy way. I mean, I notice things, but I am not tempted.

Who is telling this story? The words will not come to me tonight. They flee from me as quickly as the light fades from the sky. The sunset is brilliant, lighting the clouds with a gorgeous pink and purple hue, but as soon as it fades it takes with it all my hope. With the darkness come my fears and the nightmares return. I do not even need to be sleeping anymore. They just come to me. I wish I even remembered what it was like to get a decent night’s worth of sleep. Instead, I wake, shaking in my own sweat, clutching my knees to my chest and sobbing. I don’t always remember exactly what it is that I have seen. All I know is that I want to stop these haunting dreams. I want to sleep. Please help me sleep, not just for one night but forever. I want to sleep and never ever wake up again. I think that is the only way I will ever be happy again.

I woke, feeling like I hadn’t slept a wink. I felt restless and uneasy. My phone rang moments after my feet hit the floor. It was Aaron, asking after me, after the dutiful fiancé.

“Good morning, sexy,” he crooned. “Some night, huh? So sad you could not stay until this morning. What did you say you had to do today again?”

I gasped. Suddenly, my sleep-sucking dream came back to me. I remembered the woman in the white dress, sobbing on my shoulder. She looked at me with saddest black eyes broken apart like flat plates. “Hmm?” I mumbled. I wasn’t exactly listening to Aaron anymore was I?

“Wasn’t that a great night?” he repeated.

“I do not know what you are talking about,” I mumbled. “I did not get a wink of sleep.”

“I know, right? You were wild!” He laughed, clearly enjoying himself. It must be some kind of joke, I reasoned. What the hell was he talking about? He started cat calling at me and it suddenly sunk through my thick skull. He thought we had had amazing sex the night before.

“Don’t know what you’re on, but I didn’t get any sleep last night. Glad you had a good time. You must have had a lot better dreams than I did.”

“Hah. Dreams! Call it what you want, I know your true side now,” he said. “You are a dirty, dirty little girl. And the best part about it is you’re mine!”

After I got off the phone, feeling quite embarrassed and not remembering what it was that might have happened the night before, I mulled over it in my mind. What was it that I had done or not done the night before? I certainly didn’t remember having a wonderful sheet-ripping night with my fiancé, as much fun as that would have been. Instead, all I had were vague memories of that dream. Who was that woman who kept haunting me in my dreams, wearing my great aunt Genevieve’s wedding dress. No, now she was even wearing my wedding dress. It was becoming suddenly intensely personal. A shiver quaked over my skin and into my bones. I wondered briefly if it would be possible to sleep walk and have sex in my sleep – but it didn’t seem likely. What craziness was afoot? Was it me or Aaron who had fallen off the deep end?

At the séance I am not sure what I was expecting. I wanted to get some sort of answers, even though I still didn’t believe in ghosts at that point. I was very quickly beginning to believe, though. The dreams had not left me. They came to me even in my waking hours. They leapt into my brain whenever I closed my eyes. They would not leave me alone, by any means. These visions would not let me forget that I was wearing a dead woman’s wedding dress for what was supposed to be the best day of my life – my own wedding to my beloved. It was a day meant to be of great joy and excitement but already it was tainted by a fear I couldn’t break free from.

Was I just getting a bad case of cold feet? It was normal for such things to happen. You could know someone your whole life and love them for most of it, and still that pang of doubt would come to you as soon as you started to even think about walking down the aisle to take your wedding vows. Everyone felt it, didn’t they? I hoped, deep down that it was nothing more than a horrible case of the jitters. My nervous brain was inventing things that simply were not there. There could be no other logical explanation.

But when I looked in the mirror, my reflection told another story. I was looking more and more like her every day. I was looking more and more like the beautiful woman in my gold locket, the woman with the luscious mane of thick, curly blonde hair. I had never seen my own hair so curly in my entire life. In fact, it used to be bone straight when I was a child. I was just getting paranoid, that was it. I was getting paranoid and worried sick about this wedding. Maybe what I needed was to pay for a professional massage. That would be nice. What was I doing here in this place, waiting for a stranger to call up ghosts from the other side? Didn’t that usually lead to even more problems in the stories that I read. These were the same kind of stories that could keep a girl like me up all night. The last thing I needed was yet another thing to keep me from sleeping. That was the last thing I needed.

(1566 words)


  1. THAT was strangely both hot and terrifying =)

  2. I hope your not having that much trouble sleeping...This is a very well written story. While the content is troubling it is very personal and made me feel concern and compassion for your main character. I may not say it often, you are a very good writer! While this may be a short story this could be a starting point for a novel. Why is she having such terrible nightmares? Does she go through with the wedding? I can see endless possibilities...


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