Poe Be Damned
By: S. Scott Bullock
Lenore sat up in bed, her sleep shattered by the raging storm. Lightning filled the bedroom with blinding-white, ice-cold light. Thunder exploded simultaneously. The storm was a ravenous animal crouching outside her window. It was roaring and clawing, trying to get inside and devour her. She felt the old familiar terror rising up in her again.
Lenore looked over at her husband and stared, mouth agape. She was once again astounded at what he could sleep through. She leaned in closer to make sure he was actually breathing. Lightning blazed again and the thunderclap was so loud and so immediate that she flinched forward in fear. Sadly at that moment her husband shocked awake and raised up in a jerk. Their heads banged together in a moment worthy of The Three Stooges.
“Owwwww!” Lenore shouted, laughing at the same time. She rubbed her forehead and felt a bump already rising.
“What the hell?” Her husband said, rubbing his own ravaged forehead. “Why did you…”
Lightning again. And exploding thunder.
“Shit!” He said getting out of bed and heading to the window. “What the hell is going on out there?”
“It woke me up.” Lenore said getting up and going to her husband. She hugged him from behind.
“Scared the poop outta me.” She hugged him tighter. “Especially because I was in the middle of one again.”
Eddy, her husband, turned toward her and pulled her against him.
“Again?” He said quietly.
“Yeah.” She said and lightning filled the room with a painful flare. “Man! That is one heck of a…”
The thunder was so loud and so immediate that both she and Eddy jumped away from the window and fell backwards on the bed, laughing.
“Holy sheet!” Eddy said laughing.
“You can say that again!” Lenore countered.
“HO-LEEEEEEEE SHEEEET!” Eddy shouted. He rose from the bed and went to the light switch on the wall. He flicked it up. Nothing. Then up and down. Nothing again.
“Power’s out.” He said and lightning flashed across the bedroom. Both he and Lenore clinched their whole bodies in anticipation of the thunderclap. It didn’t come right away.
“It must be further a….” Lenore began and BOOM, another earth shattering crash.
“Sounds like the whole damn world is coming to an end.” Eddy said. “There’s no way we’re going back to sleep. I’ll go get our camping lantern.” He walked out of the bedroom and headed to the basement.
“I fear it is coming to an end, my love.” Lenore said to the empty room. “I fear it is.”
The storm battered on for more than eight hours. Lenore and Eddy huddled in bed. She spoke of her dream to him in those sleepless hours of the raging storm. Her recurring nightmare.
“How long has this been going on now?” Eddy asked her. Rain battered the window, shifting directions with the wind.
“Like I’ve told you a million times they started when I was ten. But they have been on and off my whole life.” She lay her head on Eddy’s chest and inhaled the smell of him. Peppermint soap. Night sweat. Musk and watermelon. She, nor he, could ever understand or explain how he could smell like freshly sliced watermelon. But he did and she adored it. She adored him. Every single thing about him. He was her savior, her knight in shining armor. He was her everything.
“But just lately, like the past month or so, the are constant and relentless and are driving me insane.”
“Short trip.” He said poking her side. He brushed her curly, jet black hair off her shoulder.
“Not funny, Edgar.” She said pushing his hand away.
“And they’re always the same?” He asked, gently rubbing her arm.
“Same theme, different circumstances.” She said rolling off of his chest. She sat up. “This rain is crazy. I wonder if our basement will flood again.”
“You’re changing the subject.” Eddy said sitting up.
“Because it scares me, Melon Man.” She said softly, like a frightened child. “It scares me so bad. She’s trying to kill us. She’s been trying to kill me my whole life and now she wants you too.”
“But it’s just a dream.” Eddy said, feeling woefully inadequate.
“But it’s not.” Lenore stood up and walked toward the bathroom. She reflexively reached for the light switch and flipped it impotently upward. “Shit.” She said softly. “I need to light the candle in here.”
She walked into the bathroom. Eddy heard a drawer open and then the unmistakeable sound of someone rustling through the cast off necessities that occupy every junk drawer in the world. He heard the sound of a match being struck and watched as the flickering warm light of a candle flame illuminated the bathroom. The candle light cast Lenore’s shadow against the open bathroom door, it undulated with the flicker of the flame, and Eddy felt a sudden stab of unfamiliar fear.
“Why?” He began. “Why isn’t it just a dream?”
“I gotta pee.” She said and closed the bathroom door.
“You want some tea?” Eddy shouted toward the door, picking up the lantern.
“Yes, please.” She shouted back from inside the bathroom. “With honey, Honey.”
When Eddy came back with the tea, balancing a tray and the Coleman lantern, Lenore was back in bed and propped up with pillows. She helped him with the tray and they both crawled back under the covers. The thunderstorm was a little quieter but the rain was torrential and sounded at times like handfuls of gravel being thrown on their roof and at their windows.
“The basement’s gonna flood.” Lenore said sipping her tea. “Oh, the tea’s perfect.”
“Just like me.” Eddy said grinning.
“Yep. Like you, Melon Man.”
“So.” Eddy said dropping the grin. “Why isn’t it just a dream?”
“Shit.” She said and put her mug on the night stand. “You’re not going to let this one go, are you?”
“No.” He said
“They are too real to just be dreams. I know that sounds crazier than batshit, but that’s the only way I can say it. Too real. I wake up from one of them and it’s just as if it had happened in real life. I wake up from them and stare at the ceiling or at the nightstand or at you and I think, wait… is this real or was that real or…” She trailed off and looked down at her hands. “Am I even real?”
Eddy put down his mug and pulled her to him.
“You’re real.” He said moving a strand of hair from her face. “Would you like me to show you right now how real you are?” He moved his hand to her breast and caressed it softly.
Lenore pushed it away gently.
“I can’t right now, Melon Man. I’m sorry, but right now I just can’t.”
Eddy lay back and pulled her toward him.
“Then just stay here against me and tell me about this last one.”
“She was in the closet when I opened it to get my coat. She stepped out and I started walking backward away from her and she held out her hand and it was full of pills. She kept saying, ‘take these, take these and you’ll go away. Take these and you’ll go away forever. Take these and by tomorrow night you’ll be dead and gone and forgotten’.”
“And then?” Eddy asked. “I mean, yeah that’s spooky, but not really terrifying?”
“That’s why I don’t like to talk about it, Eddy. You can’t possibly understand. Unless you feel the absolute terror that I feel in these dreams, you can’t understand.”
“I’m sorry.” He pulled her a little closer to him. “Has it always been the same woman. All these years, in all these dreams?”
“What does she look like?”
“What does that matter, Eddy.”
“I don’t know. Maybe she represents something to you. Maybe she… oh crap, I don’t know. Just, what does she look like?”
“She’s tall. And has very long, very straight red hair.”
“That’s it?” He said puzzled. “Tall and ginger?”
“No. That’s not it. She has blue eyes, a small nose, very full lips. Her legs are long and slender, she has a tiny waist and big boobs. She has slender hips and a round ass. She has creamy white skin, freckles on her nose and a beauty mark on her right cheek. Her teeth are a tiny bit bucked and glistening white. When she smiles, two deep dimples appear at the sides of her mouth. She walks like a trained dancer and talks like she studied at Bryn Mawr. She smells of ‘Joy’ perfume. She has a french manicure that she changes the color of occasionally but never to anything bright or gaudy. She has a small birthmark on the inside of her left wrist, I think it’s called a wine stain. She always wears tailored clothes and usually in shades of lavender or purple. When she is angry her eyes squint and her brow furrows and when she shouts it sounds like a smoke alarm. She’s thirty-five right now and she always carries a giant handbag that never matches her clothes or her shoes.” Lenore stopped and inhaled deeply.
“Could you be a little more specific?” Eddy said grinning.
“Yeah. I can. She wants to kill us.” She said without humor or hint of smile. “Dead.”
“Any idea why? Does she ever talk to you or tell you why?”
“Sometimes she just stares. Sometimes she talks a blue streak, repeating things like, ‘You MUST go away! You must leave me alone! You CAN’T have that. You MUST die!’”
The wind made a radical shift in direction and rain ravaged the bedroom window. The sound was beyond angry and made both Eddy and Lenore stop speaking and stare at the deluge. At that moment Lenore began to weep. Softly at first, trying to hide it from Eddy. But then all her control left her and loud, pounding sobs racked her body. Tears poured from her eyes and her raging sorrow matched the raging storm.
“Oh my god, sweetheart. What? What?” Eddy sat up and faced Lenore. “It’s just rain. We’re safe. We’re okay.”
Lenore couldn’t speak through the tears. She shook her head and sobbed. Trying to catch her breath, she looked up into Eddy’s eyes. She felt him then. Truly felt his strength and his love for her. It poured from his eyes like the tears did from her own and like the rain did from the sky at that very moment.
“We’re safe.” He repeated.
“Not. The. Storm.” She managed, gulping air between each word.
“What then? The woman? Your dreams?”
“Yes.” She managed. “Yes. She… She… She….” She stopped herself. Clamped her mouth shut tight and willed herself calm. She slammed her balled fist down on her thigh and shoved the terror back down into the slimy black cave it had crawled up from. She pulled away from Eddy and sat up straight on the bed.
“I won’t do this.” She said in a voice filled with fury. “I will NOT let her win this.”
Thunder rumbled impotently off in the distance.
“Storms far away now.” She said quietly. “Rain’s not. But the storm is.”
“Nice metaphor.” Eddy said taking her hand.
The light from outside the window began to change from pitch black to dark gray as the sun began its rise. The rain continued, but now it was a steady fall, not the flailing wild waves from earlier.
“It’s morning.” Lenore said. “And by tonight, we’ll be dead.”
“Not if I have anything to say about it.” Eddy pulled her to him and they began to make love.
Annabel stepped into the elevator the same way she had every week for the past year. She stepped in, turned toward the front, pressed the ’15’ button and stared up at the numbers as they changed with each floor passed. She shifted her oversize tote from her left to her right shoulder and adjusted her snug, knee length skirt. The beautiful lavender color of her outfit reflected off the polished chrome walls of the elevator. She loved purple in all its permutations. The elevator dinged and stopped at floor ’12’. An overweight woman wearing a beaded caftan stepped in pressed the ’14’ button.
“I’d take the stairs.” The woman said. “But I’m too damn fat to make it the two floors. I’d drop dead of a coronary on the landing of the fourteenth floor and mummify in the stairwell.”
Annabel just looked at the numbers. Not sure of how to respond.
“You sure smell pretty, sweetheart, what’s that perfume?” The woman said pulling the beaded caftan away from her belly.
“It’s ‘Joy’.” Annabel said to the numbers above the door.
“Well it sure does make you stink pretty.” The woman said smiling.
The elevator dinged and the doors snaked open.
“This is me. Have a great day, darlin’” The woman said and clomped out of the car like a rhino in a rush.
The doors closed and then opened again on the fifteenth floor. Annabel stepped out, turned right and headed for the double doors at the very end of the long carpeted hallway. She passed by door after door with engraved name plaques glued to them. The names, ‘Cyrus Bandary, DMD’, ‘Roz Friedman, Ph.D’, ‘Frederick O’Brien, MD, Pediatrics’ flashed by her peripherally as she made her way to her destination.
Annabel stood in front of the double doors at the end of the hall and glanced at the nameplate.
Eugenie Lalande, MD, Ph.D
She stood for a moment staring at the plaque and hoping with all her might that this was to be the beginning of the end. She opened the door and walked into the office.
The receptionist slash secretary looked up and over her glasses.
“Hi Annabel.” She said pushing her arm mounted monitor to the side. “She’s on a call and running about 5 minutes behind. I’ll let her know you’re here. Your hair looks GORGEOUS today. What am I saying? It ALWAYS looks gorgeous. You can’t get that color red out of a bottle, that’s for darn sure. Trust me, I’ve tried.”
“Thanks.” Was all Annabel could muster.
The inner office door opened and Dr. Lalande stepped into the reception area and up to her secretary’s desk. She didn’t acknowledge Annabel.
“Email, Julius Rodman and tell him that I’m sending him a possible MPD. His name is Arthur Gordon Pym. That’s P – Y – M . He’ll be calling him for an appointment.”
The secretary motioned toward Annabel. Dr. Lalande turned toward her.
“Oh. It’s that time already. Hello Annabel. Come on in my office.” Dr. Lalande led the way.
“Right away, Madeline, okay?” She said over her shoulder. She let Annabel pass by and closed the door behind them.
“Sit.” She said and moved to her desk.
“You don’t want me on the couch?” Annabel asked.
“Nope. Not today.” Dr. Lalande said reaching into a file drawer and pulling out a folder. “So, I spoke with Dr. Usher and he agrees that while your case, your situation, isn’t unheard of, it is very rare.”
“And?” Annabel said setting her tote bag on the ground beside her chair.
“And, it’s going to take some aggressive pharmaceutical intervention on top of the therapy we’ve been at for the past year.”
“You’re going to drug me?”
“Not exactly.” Dr. Lalande leaned back in her chair and put her index fingers into a steeple shape. “Recurring dreams are not at all unusual. Recurring characters in all your dreams is a little more unusual, but a recurring character that has been in your dreams all of your life and has grown in age in tandem with yourself is very unusual.”
“I’m a freak?” Annabel asked without expression.
“Hardly.” the doctor said smiling. “But you are one for the books.”
“Those are books I’d rather not read.” Annabel said looking down at her hands.
“In our year together we’ve discovered why you dream of her. We’ve discovered what the particular dreams at the particular times and passages in your life mean. And why you have them. When you were ten years old and you wanted that bike so badly and your mother and father got you books, you first dreamed of her.”
“Yeah. And SHE got the bike.” Annabel said feeling the old familiar jealousy claw at her heart.
“And in school, she got the best friends and in college she got the quarterback boyfriend.
And she got the great job you wanted and the car you wanted and the house you wanted. She got everything you every wanted but couldn’t have and she got to do all the things you wanted to do that you never got to do.” Dr. Lalande paused.
“Why is it so bad now?” Annabel asked knowing the answer, but asking anyway.
“Don’t play me, Annabel. You know why.”
“Tell me why Annabel.” Dr. Lalande leaned forward and put her hands on her desk.
“Because the bitch has a husband and I don’t and her husband loves her the way I’m never going to be loved and…” Annabel’s voice trailed off.
“And?” Dr. Lalande asked pulling her glasses from her face.
Annabel sat. Silent.
“Okay. I’ll say it out loud then. Because she’s about to get pregnant. After that storm and all that conversation, Eddy started making love to Lenore in your last dream and she is going to get pregnant and you can’t. You can never get pregnant.”
Annabel began to softly weep and Dr. Lalande handed her a tissue.
“You’ve created a counter part who gets all of your deepest desires. You’ve given her everything you’ve ever wanted but you begrudge her every gift. She comes in your sleep, and has come in your sleep for 25 years because your subconscious was trying to give YOU those things. But your brain betrayed you, Annabel. Over those years your brain habituated and wired itself to dream these dreams as an outlet. But your conscious mind hates the woman that your subconscious created. Hence the turmoil and unrest in your life.”
“How can I stop it?” Annabel said wiping the tears from her cheeks.
“With this.” Dr. Lalande pulled a small paper from the folder and handed it to Annabel.
“What is this.” She said looking at the paper.
“It’s a prescription for the pills we talked about last week. I consulted with Dr. Usher and he agreed that you would be perfect for the trial of this medication.
“What does it do again?”
“It blocks your dreams. It’s like a reverse melatonin.”
“What’s mela…? Annabel started.
“Melatonin is a sleep aid that, in many people, causes vivid dreams. This pill, the pill that Dr. Usher is head of the trial for, does the exact opposite. It effects the area of the brain that creates dreams. It dampens it. Shuts it down.”
“So I’m never going to dream anything again?”
“Not for a period of about six months. After that we wean you off the medication. People have to dream. It’s vital for mental health, but if Usher’s studies prove true, you can last nearly a year without dream activity and still be healthy. And six months is more than enough time to rewire your brain. To un-habituate it. You take that pill and as of tonight, Lenore and Eddy and all the other inhabitants of your dream world will be dead and gone. I promise.”
Annabel smiled for the first time in ages. A genuine feeling of hopefulness swept through her. “I hope so. I hope SO much so.” She said still smiling and looking down at the prescription.
“Go see Dr. Usher and he’ll fill that and come see me next week at our regular time.” Dr. Lalande stood up from behind her desk. She walked with Annabel into the reception area.
“Next week, same time for Ms. Leigh, Madeline.”
“Holy cow!” Madeline shouted. “I’ve been seeing you here for what, like a year now, and I just realized you name is Annabel Leigh!!! Annabel Leigh, just like Edgar Allen Poe!”
“My father was a Poe fanatic.” Annabel said. “We’re supposed to be distant relatives. And he thought it would honor Poe to name me that. But quite frankly it has been the butt of too many jokes in my life for me to find it honorable.”
“Oh but I LOVE Poe.” Madeline said grinning a snaggle-toothed grin. “My favorite quote in the whole wide world is from him.”
“And what quote would that be Madeline?” Dr. Lalande asked.
“Well.. I can’t remember which of his poems it’s from, but it goes:
All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.”
“Oh.” Dr. Lalande said turning to Annabel. “After tonight, they’ll be gone. Next week then Annabel. ”
“Yes.” Annabel said opening the outer office door. “Next week.”