To Sleep, I Dread
Dreams that keep me awake
I'm a 'cursed' novelist because ever since I began writing my first novel, I regularly experience a nightmare.
Cheryl, my beautiful wife, having enjoyed success as a model, decided to settle on a 'normal' career, becoming vice president of a Fortune 500 company.
The only drawback is, until recently, she was required to attend monthly classes or meetings out of town. During these times, the worst nightmares seemed to occur.
As she was away tonight, I experienced another nightmare…this time, best described on a scale of one to ten, as a twelve.
At the very least, it was off the Richter scale. The only good thing, if there was one, was that this was Cheryl's last night away as I anxiously awaited her return.
In this nightmare, she had been killed, although I don't know how, or why. In the opening scene, I was watching the embalming process through tear-soaked eyes, which was nothing like it is today.
Firstly, the funeral parlor was located in a strip mall. Secondly, the embalming area was not located in the rear of the parlor, but was up front and in open view.
Strangely, no passersby seemed upset, as I recalled the experience of death was once considered to be very respectable. But today, it seemed akin to a stop-in at McDonald's, except you casually dropped your order off instead of picking it up.
I watched people walk by, seeing all the gore, a few shrugging their shoulders, but all generally still moving along, most of them apparently not giving another thought to it.
I was immediately cast into this horrific scene, watching my wife embalmed vertically.
She was held up and supported by a strange apparatus that appeared to be a three-inch round elongated PVC-like pipe running vertically from along the left side of her head, down to her left leg, with the angular end of it inserted into her calf.
Her legs were spread a shoulder-width apart as her head sagged, with her chin resting against her chest. Her eyes were closed and her arms were outstretched and supported on what appeared to be a five-foot crossbar that ran behind her neck, giving her the appearance of being crucified.
She was still dressed, sans stockings, in a purple skirt and wearing the patent leather black high heels I had bought for this particular meeting.
I stared in disbelief as the blood churned and dripped, making awful sounds as the unforgiving embalming system forced it from her body and into what appeared to be a bucket that had been placed directly below her leg. Each drop seemed to be amplified as if a microphone was sending its reverberating sound through a public address system.
I approached to get a closer look, accessing the podium on which she was propped and braved a peek at the top of the pipe-like element, which I discovered had an open end.
I can't even remember what I saw or felt but I suddenly moved away from her and off the podium.
Through my peripheral vision, I saw a female whom I assumed was a mortician, dressed in a powder blue shower cap and matching waist-length clinical jacket, blue jeans and sneakers. She was on her knees spreading two types of gooey messes on the floor in wide back-and-forth rituals.
One of the messes she was spreading was a sparkling light green in color while the other mess was a hazy yellow that appeared to emit a foggy-like mist from it that rose to the ceiling.
An express delivery service person wearing a dark brown uniform labeled, "Jetstream Services" across the left side of the chest, burst into the parlor, flinging one of the double glass doors against the wall, then rushed to the mortician and handed her a small boxed package while saying nothing. I could not see his face because of a mask and cap.
The mortician stared up at the deliveryman with fear. She then yelled at me to run to her car and get her purse, which I did, although I can't explain how I knew which car was hers.
Rushing back inside and handing her the purse, the mortician, still on her knees and upset, jerked the purse from me and opened it. She extracted a money clip of bills and tossed it to the delivery guy, who then rushed out.
As I was still standing a few feet away from Cheryl's body, I had just turned to get another glimpse of her still being embalmed by this strange insensitive contraption when she startled me by suddenly jerking her head up from her chest, opening her eyes and locking a fixed stare onto something directly across the room on the far wall.
Simultaneously, she removed her arms from the crossbar and brought them down by her sides. She then flexed the muscle in her calf, which caused the contraption to remove itself while emitting a buzzing sound.
She then elevated her left leg in a jerky movement, and held it in a frozen state while the blood still dripped intermittently.
A male mortician entered from a back room, looked at my wife, and then stared at me while stating that some unwelcome visitor had been in the funeral parlor "messing with the body."
Suddenly, all hell broke loose. Cheryl's body made a strange guttural sound as she released her fixated stare, then turned to me. With a faint smile, she stepped away from the apparatus and down from the podium to the floor as her body appeared to gather its composure.
Then, more bodies, in all stages of decomposition appeared and began dancing around happily in what appeared to be a celebration of being 'alive'.
Seeing all of this, I'm now past the brink of any possible return to sanity and finally make my getaway, bolting out the parlor's front doors like a madman for my car, which was parked alongside the curb.
Rushing to it, while gathering the keys from my pants pocket, that old black and white movie, "Night of the Living Dead," began playing over and over in my mind.
The last scene I remember as I slammed my door, started my car and threw it in gear, was looking through the parlor's window to see the male mortician laughing uncontrollably at me while sitting in a rocking chair, holding a once dead baby. I barely smelled the smoke and heard the screeching from my car's spinning tires.
I was awakened by knocking at my door. I abruptly sat up, wiped the sweat from my brow and gathered my robe from the foot of the bed, putting it on as I headed for the door.
Peering through the peephole, I could see two uniformed policemen. A cold fear enveloped me as I, reluctantly, turned the knob.
"Um, what's the problem, officers?"
"Are you Mr. Simon...Mr. Peter Simon?" one asked.
"Yes, I'm Peter Simon...what's going on?"
"I'm afraid we have some unsettling news, Sir... it's..." He hesitated, looked at his partner, then back at me. "It's about your wife, Sir," he continued.
A chill ran down the length of my spine and I felt my palms moisten.
"My...my wife?" I muttered. "Wha-what happened?" I asked.
"Sir, I'm afraid there has been an accident," the other officer informed me.
"An accident? What kind of an accident?" I inquired, uncertain if it was Cheryl's inbound plane, or if she had an accident on the way home, as she had driven her car to the airport and left it reserved.
"Sir, your wife's plane crashed while en route from Saint Louis…unfortunately, there were no survivors."
Hearing this caused me to stagger backward as I drew my hands to my face and began to openly weep.
"Sir," the other officer began. "Sir, we are, indeed, sorry for your loss. If you will please come with us for identification…” he said.
"Yes...sure," I responded. "Please come in while I dress."
I dressed as they waited, then chauffeured me to the coroner's office located on the east side of town. After a thirty-minute drive, we turned into an all too familiar territory...pulling alongside the curb of a strip mall.
The driver shut off the car and both officers began to gather their accessories and exit the vehicle as I still sat, reluctant to move. Afraid of what was unfolding, I turned and peered out the car window and through the coroner's window to see in plain view, my wife in a vertical position, supported by the same type of apparatus in my nightmare.
I could also see the same male and female morticians with eerie grins on their faces, awaiting my exit from the police cruiser. They stared at me, and I, at them.
"God," I prayed as the officer opened and held the door for me while I exited the cruiser. "Please let this be just another friggin' nightmare."
Kenny Love is an internationally syndicated journalist/writer/author in multiple writing genres. Millennium Eve (Sci-Fi/Suspense), his first novel, was published by Mys-Tech Publishers in 1998 and is available from Amazon.com, or directly from the publisher at a discount. His second upcoming novel is titled JigSaw (Mystery), of which the synopsis and first two chapters can be received by sending a request to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Published by permission of the author.