Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s theme: awakening from a bad dream or, even worse, a nightmare.
This week’s story is from Cathy MacKenzie. Check out her novel, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, available on Amazon and other retailers. www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/
Great-Aunt Jessie by Cathy MacKenzie
I felt—maybe sensed—hot breath against my cheek. I pretended to be asleep and tried my damnest to keep my breathing even and quell my fierce urge to jump out of bed. My arms lay across my chest, my right hand gripping my left wrist as if hanging on for dear life.
The whispers by my right ear were undecipherable. I remained even more still, playing possum as if dead in my coffin. Perhaps I was; I wasn’t certain, not at ten.
Slowly and deliberately, I opened my eyes. And when I did, I saw her: my great-aunt. Sitting at the foot of my bed as if she had every right to be in my room.
“Naughty Mikey,” she said, wagging her index finger at me.
An orangey-yellow glow radiated around her, highlighting the threatening finger that continued to move up and down as if robotized. Funny how I usually detected light burning against my closed eyelids. But not that night.
The curtains swayed against the open window, revealing the pitch blackness of night.
Mom’s thuds came down the hall from hers and Dad’s room, but I feared I’d be dead before she arrived.
Then, magically, the ceiling light illuminated my bedroom the same instant a voice cried out.
“What’s wrong, sweetie?” Mom plopped beside me, rubbing my clammy forehead. “It’s okay. It’s okay.”
The room swirled. “Mom…” I glanced about. No eerie glow. No Aunt Jessie.
“Mom, Aunt Jessie was here.”
She scanned the room. “No one’s here.”
Did she really expect to see someone?
“She was here, Mom. I saw her.” I pointed. “At the bottom of my bed.”
A wasted effort.
“Just a bad dream, Mikey. A nightmare. Go back to sleep.” She gently pushed my head to the pillow and tucked the sheet and blanket tight under my chin.
“Didn’t you see it?” I asked. “The light. Bright and yellow and orange.”
“Bad dream. Bad, bad dream.”
I clenched my sweaty hands beneath the linens. I was a big boy and couldn’t admit my fright.
Mom switched off the light, bringing darkness to the room. I waited for the glow to reappear and prayed Aunt Jessie stayed away. I could handle the light better than I could her.
Great-Aunt Jessie, a spinster, scared the bejesus out of me. Droopy eyelids covered half her eyeballs. Flabby jowls. Saggy breasts that no bra could ever contain—not that I knew much about bras. Her skin, wrinklier than my grandmothers’, was mottled with brown and white raised marks. Spindly veined legs—what could accidentally be glimpsed beneath her dark skirts, dresses, or long pants—always reminded me of Dad’s many creased roadmaps, his blue-penned lines delineating various vacation routes. Her flapping finger followed me everywhere. “You dratted hellion,” she’d bellow. She didn’t like me—or any kids, for that matter. “Children must not be heard or seen,” she’d say. Whenever she visited, I wasn’t allowed to have friends over. Instead, I had to play quietly in my room with my make-believe friends. I was grateful she didn’t visit often. She passed on when I was six, and I was relieved the crotchety ancient thing was gone. Gone forever, to wherever old souls disappeared to.
Eventually, I fell asleep.
I stir when sunlight enters through the open window and onto my closed lids. I’m groggy as if I didn’t sleep well. The incident haunts me. I’m almost certain it’s an actual event resurfacing from my youth. Or could it have been a fresh dream, even a remnant of a past dream that springs back to life? If it was a dream, it seems it returns often, but that’s the way with dreams: difficult to distinguish if they’ve occurred once or several times during one slumberous night.
After getting my bearings, I open my eyes. I’m in my childhood bedroom in my parents’ house, visiting for the long weekend, my single bed long ago replaced with a queen bed. My wife, Cynthia, breaths peacefully beside me, one leg draped over mine. Our two children are in the next room.
After breakfast, Cynthia and Dad take the boys outdoors, leaving Mom and me at the table. She gets up and refills our half-empty coffee cups. I watch the steam rise until it vanishes.
“Mike,” Mom asks, “do you remember that night years ago when you woke up screaming about Aunt Jessie being in your room?”
My stomach lurches. The taste of bacon and eggs surges to my throat. After several seconds, I croak a feeble “I do” as if I’m that scared kid from twenty years ago.
“That light you said you saw? I saw it, too. As soon as I opened your door, I saw it.”
“You did?” I swallow, unsuccessfully purging the taste of breakfast, hoping I don’t embarrass myself by barfing. “You saw her? Aunt Jessie?”
“No, just the light. It was strange. Bright yellow. Almost orangey. It freaked me out, probably more so than you. You were so scared I couldn’t let on that I saw it, too.” She rubs her eyes as if awakening from a deep sleep. “I don’t know what made me think of it this morning. So odd…”
The Spot Writers—Our Members:
Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/
Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/
Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com
Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/