The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes Fiction
Martin Green wakes up
A thunderstorm in June was almost unheard of where they lived...
Boom! The thunder sounded liked the blast from a cannon. Arnold Gray, who’d been alternately reading and dozing in his recliner, was startled. He stood up and went into the living room where his wife Amy was doing something on her laptop. As he did so, he saw a lightning flash and heard another thunderclap. “Don’t tell me we’re having a storm,” he said. A thunderstorm in June was almost unheard of where they lived, in a Northern California retirement community outside of Sacramento.
“I think it’s something coming up from the south,” said Amy. Then they heard the sound of rain on the roof. “Listen to that,” said Arnold.
“Yes. And just this morning it was nice and sunny. It’s very strange.”
Arnold and Amy talked for a few more minutes about the unusual weather, then he went back to his recliner, which was in the bedroom. He was trying to read, or re-read, a book he’d studied in college, “Middlemarch,” which he recalled being impressed by. He was finding it hard going. He picked up the book and started to read, then he dozed.
When Arnold woke up he was aware that it had stopped raining. He looked at his watch. Had he been asleep for three hours? Odd. His naps usually lasted only ten or fifteen minutes. He looked at his book. It wasn’t “Middlemarch,” but Somerset Maugham’s “Of Human Bondage,” another book he’d had in English Lit and had thought he’d like to re-read someday. He looked around the bedroom. It looked okay, but then he noticed a few slight differences. The TV set in the corner; it was a bit larger. The dresser; it was darker than he remembered. He looked out the window. He saw a backyard but it had different shrubs and trees. What the hell was going on?
He stood up and went into the living room. There was his wife Amy, doing something on her laptop. Just then the phone rang. She picked it up and said, “Yes, this is Ellen Gray.” She talked for a few minutes and put the phone down. Ellen? Wait. Ellen was the girl he’d left behind in New York when he’d decided to go West to San Francisco. When he’d met and married Amy he’d known that she looked a lot like his old girl Ellen. He looked more closely and saw that the woman wasn’t Amy. She was like Amy in that when she was on her laptop she was engrossed.
Paul coughed and the woman, Ellen, looked up. “You’ve had a long nap,” she said.
“Yes,” said Paul. For some reason, he didn’t want to disclose what had happened yet. Maybe it was self-preservation. What if he told Ellen he’d fallen asleep in California married to Amy and then had awakened wherever this was apparently married to her. She’d think he was crazy.
“It’s good you’ll be well-rested for tomorrow. “We have to be at Kennedy early, six o’clock.”
Kennedy? That must be the airport. Then he was in New York or someplace nearby. “Uh, where are we going?”
Ellen smiled. “Don’t tease me,” she said. “You know very well we’re going to the White House to get your award.”
Award? What award? “Of course. I could hardly forget that.”
He looked around the living room. It was somewhat like the one in California but larger and the furniture looked more expensive. He saw some photos on the mantelpiece and went closer to look at them. One showed him and Ellen on a beach somewhere. It might have been in Maui. Another showed the two of them younger, with three young boys. He and Amy had three sons.
“The boys are sorry they couldn’t come,” said Ellen. “But you know how busy they are.”
“Sure.” His sons in California also had busy lives. “Was it raining just now?
“No. It’s been sunny all day.”
Arnold thought he knew what had happened. Somehow or other, he didn’t know if the unusual storm was a factor, he’d slipped over into a parallel world, the world he’d be in if he’d stayed in New York and hadn’t gone West. He’d have married Ellen and he’d still have three sons. The question now was what to do about it.
“You still look tired,” said Ellen. “I’m going to start dinner. Why don’t you rest, maybe take another nap. I’ll call you when it’s ready.”
“All right.” He returned to the bedroom and sat down in the recliner. Well, he seemed to be doing okay in this parallel world. A nice house. Still three sons. And getting some kind of award from the President. He wondered what he’d done. He picked up the book, “Of Human Bondage” and glanced through a few pages. In a way, what Maugham had written had some similarity to his own situation. The book’s hero, Philip Carey, went to medical school and became a doctor. Maugham himself had gone to medical school but had then become a writer.
He was becoming drowsy. A voice was calling. “Arnold. Arnold.” He felt someone shaking him and opened his eyes. It was Ellen; no, Amy. “You’ve been sleeping all afternoon. Dinner’s ready.”
“Right. Let me get washed up.”
So he was back in California, with Amy. He looked at the book in his lap. “Middlemarch.” That trip to the parallel world had been a brief one. He’d never get to go to Washington and receive that award. That was okay; he didn’t much like the President anyway.
© Martin Green August 2015
June 15, was the day when I had my heart broken. The girl who did the breaking was Isobel Carter, whom I’d gone with all through high school.
More dreamscapes fiction