The dreams were getting more vivid. The faces were getting clearer; the screams were getting louder; the pain was getting deeper. Every night when she closed her grey eyes, the pictures danced in front of her in a sinister ballet so realistic it chilled her to the bone.
Laying in bed on that calm, cool summer night, Calline prepared for another night of hell. Another half a jar of sleeping pills, she thought, and another dose of drugs when I wake up.
Calline had been having these dreams for three years, since she had started grade nine. In the beginning, they weren't so bad: a little violence, a little terror, a lot of realism. As the days, weeks, months went by, they worsened, coming to make her injure herself as she writhed in pain and fear as she slept. After a few months, Calline had confessed her secret to her mother, whose immediate response was to take her to a psychologist.
Two weeks later, she had gotten an appointment with Doctor Baker. Doctor Baker was a tall no-nonsense woman with bowlcut brown hair and non-descript black glasses who wasted no time with silly questions and preferred drugs to therapy. Prescribing her a strong dosage of some drug to take every morning, she sent her out of the office, prescription in hand, fifteen minutes from the start of the appointment.
Her mother quickly filled the prescription, and Calline obediently began taking the pills every morning and the sleeping pills her mother insisted upon every night. For the first few weeks, the drugs seemed to work. Calline slept soundly and didn't dream of terrifying, vivid, graphic scenes; and for a matter fact, she didn't dream of anything.
Twenty one days after beginning the pills, the dreams came back worse than ever before.
To placate her mother and Doctor Baker, Calline had continued taking pills and had taken up lying and covering the evidence. She had taught herself not to scream when she awoke and she had learned to use foundation to mask the cuts and bruises she incurred upon herself in her slumber. Investing in a few sweaters and long sleeves shirts, Calline had quelled every suspicion of her terrors.
Slipping on a light nightgown and looking out her bedroom window onto the darkened plane of her farmyard, she paused. Something about the stars caught her, drew her in, and suspended her gaze far out in the atmosphere. Looking at the stars, she felt a thought nagging at the edge of her mind, but never catching hold. It was like a warm hand grasping for hers, but always missing. It washed across her mind, and she felt a sense of warmth and anticipation; for what, she didn't know.
The stars blared at her, their soft light soothing her, but also making her feel small, insignificant, and alone. Tearing herself from the lonely window, she walked listlessly to her bed across the room. The light from the window diffused across the floor, giving a pleasant glow to the room as Calline lay down in her bed.
With a heavy sigh, she closed her eyes and fell asleep.
Within seconds, she had opened them again. She heard a tapping at her window. Swinging her legs off the edge of the bed, she walked back to the window and looked out. The farmyard seemed quiet and the stars seemed still as the city loomed far in the background. She scanned the yard, looking for someone. Or something.
The shed sat at the North end of the property, which Calline's window faced. It appeared deserted and the array of hoes, rakes, shovels, and tractor parts and pieces sat silent as they were before. Closer to the house, a scattering of trees attached to the shelter belt jutted out and shielded the yard light. She stared intently at the trees, swearing she could see movement. With her eyes trained on the trees, she jumped back as a pebble came flying from the cluster and right at her window.
Holding back a screech, she focused in on where the pebble seemed to have come from. A shadow emerged from behind the tree and settled in her view, although it was only a black figure. The shape was about six feet tall and pretty slender, and she was sure it was a man.
"Who the hell is in my yard at this time of night?" she thought, "And what is he doing?"
Staring more intently now, she studied the man's posture. His shoulders were relaxed and his arms hung loosely at his sides, with his feet comfortably shoulder width apart. He didn't appear malicious or armed, but there still was no explanation for why he was outside her window. He didn’t feel threatening to Calline: she didn’t feel scared or panicked or even alarmed. She almost felt calm.
She couldn't see his face, but his form felt so familiar. He seemed to be pleading with her, calling out to her, but she couldn't hear a sound. Still fixed on him, Calline watched as he raised his left arm and pointed to the shed, turning his head to face it. Lingering a moment, he turned his face back to her and lowered his arms. Pointedly avoiding the light, he turned away and walked North along the trees, pausing but once to look back at the window.
As the black figure reached the end of the lane, it pointed again to the shed, faced Calline, then ran off like a shot in the dark.
She sat there for what seemed like hours waiting for the figure to reappear. It was killing her to wonder why he was motioning to the shed; to ponder over the possibilities of the secrets that could be contained in the mundane little shed. She waited a moment more, then decided that he, whoever he may be, wasn't coming back. She was going to the shed.
She crept out of her room and down the stairs to the porch. She opened the closet and pressed the hidden panel of the floral wallpapered alcove. The gun cupboard opened and Calline pulled out her father's ancient double-barreled side-by-side twenty two. If she was going out, she wasn't going out unprepared.
She opened the farmhouse door slowly. The house had been an old homestead, but her parents had renovated it into a beautiful two-storey modern bungalow. Stepping out onto the antiquated porch, Calline crept out into the night.
Her eyes and ears were alert as she crept across the yard to the shed. Holding the gun in both hands with white knuckles, she stopped in front of the door. Legs shaking, crickets singing, teeth chattering, she grasped the door handle in one palm and the shotgun in the other. The suspense gnawed at her as she wondered what was inside. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and stepped into the shed.
She crossed the threshold and opened her eyes. She didn't see a single familiar tractor or lawnmower or garden implement: nothing she saw was familiar. She loosened her grip on the gun and tried to take a step forward, only to fall face first on the ground. The toe of her shoe had caught on her dress.
Or rather, someone else's dress.
Casting her gaze to her feet, she didn't see the bare feet and light nightie she'd come outside with. She was wearing old Victorian leather laceup ankle boots and a long, layered, frilled pale pink dress. She still had the gun in her hands, and she felt a ring on her finger. Looking at her hand to inspect the ring, she was startled to hear voices.
"She never belonged to you!" The first one blared. It was weak and higher than normal for a man's voice. He was upset, and his voice cracked and broke as he talked.
"She doesn't BELONG to anyone! She has the right to choice and freedom just like you do, you lying son of a bitch! You only want her because you don't have her. You only wanted her to begin with because..." a second, calm, soothing man's voice said.
"You finish that goddamn sentence, and it will be the last thing you ever do!" said the first voice, interrupting.
"Calm down! You don't want to hear it? Fine. Don't listen. That doesn't change the facts! She doesn't want me, and she sure as hell doesn't want you! We have to respect her choice, as much as we may disagree with it..."
"May as well. She picked me, after all," a third calm, smooth voice interjected.
Calline rose to her feet. She crept up to the door, pressing her ear against it. The voices continued.
"Get the hell out of here!" the high voice said, “You have no business being here! You got what you wanted, didn’t you? Are you happy with yourself, you nasty scum? You’re playing games! You’re playing games with all of us!”
His voice grew close to hysterics.
“What’s been done has been done. We all know this isn't the first time, and we sure as hell know it won’t be the last.”