Eyes suddenly open. Pupils dilated, nearly no color to the iris. They stare straight ahead into near total darkness. The man sits up, putting his bare feet to the hardwood floor. His back is sweaty. His lungs heave.
He had been dreaming. He was at a beach. Or above it. In the dream he at times dwelled in a body and at times was omnipotent, an observer of all. He started on the beach, and waves began to slam the sand, swallow the shore, waves getting larger and larger and pushing the people on their towels and under umbrellas back, back, until they were right up against the dune and the waves did not look like normal waves but they churned and had waves within them. The silhouettes of sharks could be seen in the tall thin waves. And then he was omnipotent, above the beach, behind it, and there was a city, with tall skyscrapers, and out above the water were one, two, ten funnel clouds that struck water and land, forming spinning connections between earth and sky, spitting up water and debris. The tornados, spaced out but all approaching. Buildings sucked, crumbling, people running. And then he was back on the street, and a building was falling. Falling towards him. And then he was in the building, as it was falling. He was on the top floor, looking out from the glass as the rooftops and concrete flew up at him and then there was a crash and he flew off and landed and rolled but knew he shouldn’t have survived and because of that realization he woke up.
Every night, he did not rest. Every night, when his head lay on the pillow, his mind produced worlds, produced towns, produced people that he had to run from. Dangerous worlds. He could sleep but he could find no rest.
He stands, goes to the window and raises the blinds. A crescent moon shines lightly on his naked body. He turns to the dresser in the room and opens drawer after drawer, finally selecting black athletic pants and a grey t-shirt. He goes to the window again and lifts the sash, climbing out into the night.
His breath puffs out in front of him as he walks. His bare feet make no sound. Cats prowl in the shadows as he walks along the sidewalk, passing house after house. He stops to sniff the roses in the front yards of a green two-story, to run his hands along a stalk of rosemary and breath deeply through his scented hands. His walk takes him through a small park, and he sits down on a wooden bench for a few minutes before standing up and continuing on his way. Crickets provide the only noise this night, and the moon creeps behind dark clouds to make a deeper dark. He continues along until he is beside a mailbox with the number 5773. He turns and walks up the walkway. The front porch wraps around to the side and has two rocking chairs flanking a small table. After jiggling the doorknob he walks to the nearest window and tries it gently. It opens an inch. His fingers under the sill, he slowly lifts until it is all the way open. Then he climbs in and closed the window behind him. His bare feet track dirt and pine needles into the house. He finds himself in a foyer, with a kitchen ahead and a living room to his right. The living room had an L shaped couch and small flat TV. A glass of water, half full, sits on a coaster on a coffee table. He lifted the glass to reveal that the coaster is of a skeleton drinking. A smile flashes across his face. A bookshelf stands tall, nearly to the ceiling, filled with so many books some were resting horizontally on top of the arranged books. His finger trace the covers as he reads them, finally selecting one and pulling it from its brothers. Sitting on the couch, and in the dim moonlight that suddenly returns, he reads several pages.
After setting the book back, he continues down the hall to the kitchen, stopping on the way to observe the family photos hung in the hallway. Black and whites, tin types, of family members long since left this earth. In the kitchen he opens the fridge, the light flooding into his eyes, pupils retreating at the harshness. Opening a cabinet and pulling out a glass, he pours himself some orange juice. Guzzles the glass at the kitchen table. Fatigue strikes without warning. With the empty cup in front of him, he lays his head on the table and almost immediately falls into a deep sleep.
He dreams he is in a pool, then on a boat, and then at a picnic. He is a guest, being served food, but he is a guest to strangers and soon they take offense and one attacks him. When he fends off that attack, another stranger attacks, and then another. Finally a woman appears brandishing razor blades the lengths of her arms and she threatens death. He stands back, gathering his own knifes from among others he now notices scattered on the grass, and prepares for battle. He awakens in a pile of his own drool on the vinyl table. The moon had barely moved. He stands and puts the cup in the sink and continues walking to the back of the house. In the bathroom, he looks at himself in the mirror by nightlight. He bares his teeth and inspects them. He weighs himself on a small scale in the bathroom. 205. He nods at himself and leaves the bathroom.
He pauses for a long while in front of a doorway. Inside he can hear snoring. One foot carefully placed in front of the other, he enters the bedroom, testing each floorboard for creaks before he puts his full weight down. One of them hints a foul cry, and he lifts, the snoring stopping. He slows his breathing and stands completely still, waiting. After a moment the snoring resumes and he continues, until he is standing next to the bed. In the darkness he can see long blonde hair flowing over a gray pillow, part of a woman’s face. The rest of her is curled up under a thick blanket. He leans over and inspects her face. She has a perfect nose, slightly curved and ending in a small round. Her lips are narrow but shapely, and she is breathing through her nose and mouth, snoring gently. Her eyelids flutter with dreams. The man reaches out his hand and with his index finger, traces her hair along the pillow. She stops snoring and he retreats back, back into the shadows in the corners of her room. She stirs, rolling onto her other side, facing where he stands. He thinks he can see the whites of her eyes looking at him and his heart pounds in his chest. Soon she is snoring again, and his pulse slows. Taking each step carefully, and watching her, he leaves the room and heads back, past the bathroom, through the kitchen. He unlocks the front door and leaves, leaving it unlocked behind him.
He breaths the night air in deeply, feeling awake and alert. Recharged. Wandering from block to block, eyes devouring every house. The sizes, the colors, the shapes. His eyes fall upon a house with a second-story balcony, a garden spanning the entire front of the house with flowers and greenery, a porch swing swaying gently despite no breeze. He wanders up the front walk, eyes darting from dark window to dark window. Sits down lightly on the porch swing and it protests ever so slightly. His feet push off from the porch and he lifts them up, hugging them to his chest and closing his eyes.
He opens them when he feels sleep coming on and stands up, walking to the front door and turning the handle. It gives and he opens it slowly. The door is soundless, a well-oiled hinge. Closing it silently behind him, he stands with his back pressed to the door and surveys the interior. Stained oak furniture in the living room straight ahead and a large elegant table stands poised in the dining room on the right. A staircase to his left is lined with a lush carpet. He pads into the kitchen, his bare feet soundless on the hardwood floor. He notices a dull dancing glow coming from a small room in the back and peers around a corner. A man is asleep in an armchair sofa in front of a small tv. The remote rests on his belly. He walks into the room and turns the tv off, moving quickly behind the man in one motion as he stirs at the lack of noise. The man sits up, wipes his mouth, rubs his eyes, and look at the clock. 2:13. He yawns and stands, stretching his arms above his head. The intruder drops into a crouch behind the loveseat and holds his breath. When the man has left the room he stands and moves to the front of the chair, feeling the warmth remaining on the fabric. Upstairs he hears a light switch, a door close. He stares at the clock, watches it tick past, 2:14, 2:15, 2:16, 2:17. The door upstairs opens, a light switches, and moments later he can hear the low murmur of voices.
He continues to watch the numbers tick off the clock. The seat is comfortable and the warmth he feels is not a stranger’s but now his own. When the clock reads 2:32 he stands, the chair rocking slightly behind him. He creeps to the bottom of the staircase and looks up, listening. Then he begins to ascend, the carpet soft and supple, pleasing on his feet. When he reaches the top of the stairs he goes left, goes to where he imagines the second story balcony must be. It is through the master bedroom, the doors of which are open. He stands outside them for a long moment, just listening. When he hears rustling he turns and walks back the other way, glancing into the open doorways as he passes. Soon he is inside a small room converted with shelves floor to ceiling. He closes the door behind him and puts the light dimmer on low. The room looks out over the backyard from a large window and he looks down to see an even larger, more elaborate garden than in the front. There is a pool, a small pool house, and a table set out by a large tree towards the rear of the property. The yard is surrounded by a living fence, tall and dense shrubbery, impenetrable. None of this would be visible from the street, or even from the neighbors house, as on either side were ranches. He turned and flipped the light off, his fingers reaching out to graze the books as he leaves the room.
Descending the stairs, he begins to take off his clothing. He leaves his pants and shirt by the back door as he slips out. His toes hang over the side of the pool for just a moment before disappearing into the cool water with a quiet splash. Underneath, the cold nearly shocks him into inhaling, but he stays under and quickly gets used to it. He does not surface until he swims to one side, when he comes up and sucks in oxygen. Back under he goes, pushing his feet off the side of the pool and gliding, feeling like he is flying, his arms stretched out in front of him.
Dripping, he slips back into the house, and finds a closet on the second floor with soft, clean towels. He pats himself dry and wraps it around his waist. Back at the master bedroom he stands, listening, his skin feeling cool and taut, smelling of chlorine. Only the sound of slow breathing drifts from the room. By now, he knows that the house was built solid, not a floorboard creaked, so he padded through the room directly to the balcony door and opened it. The latch clicks and he glances back. Two bodies lay on a king size bed, facing away from each other, sleeping on their sides. He can’t see their eyes. He steps outside and stands at the railing, taking in the view. He smiles at the vantage point of the neighborhood. He can see roofs, backyards. The moon smiles at him. He smiles back before going back inside. Long brown hair snakes from the mound under the covers of the bed on the right side, so he goes to that and stands next to her, taking in her features. She has a straight nose and full lips. Dark brows and long lashes. Her hair is a deep brown, smooth and shiny. He traces it on the pillow with his index finger and keeps tracing it until he comes to scalp. His hand closes around her forehead and she smiles, murmuring something indistinguishable. “What was that hunny?” he heard from the other side of the bed. His hair stands on end and he drops to the floor. More murmuring. Rolling over. He hears a gentle kiss. And then more movement. Then silence. He stays low for a long time, listening for the breathing to slow. Hers slows quickly, his does not. He was still awake. Ten minutes later, he hears the rustling and creaking of the mattress and then from under the bed sees two feet land on the floor. Hears the man yawn. His feet move from the bed and moments later he hears the man downstairs. The TV switches on. He stands up and looked at the woman, smiling softly at her. She is so beautiful. He circles around to the other side of the bed and climbs in, putting the covers over himself and edging closer and closer to her body. He puts his arm around the woman and she nestles close, murmuring again in words incomprehensible. He kisses her on the back of the head and she coos.
He dreams he is in a garden with a beautiful woman and they are standing over a small fish pond filled with goldfish. The fish circle and circle, creating a whirlpool in the center that the two of them drop flowers into. They hold hands and watch as the flowers turned into clouds and the pond is a sky and the fish become birds. They stand on the edge of a forest, with a path cut in front of them, leading them in. She looks at him and says something but he cannot hear her, or her words have no voice. She tries again and he can’t understand and as he tries to tell her so, her face changes and she becomes someone else, and someone else again, and suddenly she collapses and is nothing but bones and he is back at the pond, fish swimming in a circle, only this time, she is not with him.
He wakes disoriented, confused. It is still dark outside. The clock on the bedside says four. He pulls his arm from around the woman and she does not stir. He can hear the TV on downstairs, the low chatter. He creeps to the dresser and pulls out a pair of jeans, a t-shirt, and slips them on. They are a little too small for him but he does not mind. He descends the stairs and exits out the front door without a sound, walking out to the sidewalk and taking a left. He feels like a ghost in the night, drifting and watching. He smiles at the thought. Rest will come to him one day, he was sure of it. But not tonight.