by Stephen S. Johnson
Thank God it was only a dream. Tim Hyatt awoke, startled and now fully alert—as alert as any man could be. He clutched the bedsheets as if his life depended on them, like he’d been playing tug of war with someone or something. In the gray, silent room, the only thing he could hear was his own heavy breathing, which had already begun to subside. A nightmare, he thought.
Tim looked to the other side of the bed for Laura, his wife. Their tabby cat, Phoebe, lay curled up in place of his wife. Laura must have gone downstairs to make coffee. So, he showered, brushed his teeth, slipped on some clothes, and headed down for breakfast. The whole time he kept trying to recall the details from his dream, but they were fading fast.
Tim and Laura had celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last week and were looking forward to the birth of a second great grandchild. How quickly the years had passed by.
As he descended the stairs, he glanced toward the picture of Brad. He felt sad, but the tears wouldn’t come. They had to say goodbye to their youngest son about a year ago. His unit fell under heavy fire during a battle in Afghanistan. The enemies’ bullets killed Brad instantly. He’d just been promoted to captain. Left behind were a wife and two teenagers.
“Morning, Dear,” said Tim. He kissed Laura, grabbed some coffee and headed to the deck to read the morning newspaper.
“You slept in this morning,” she said.
“I guess I stayed up kinda late last night. Was sleeping pretty well until—not sure—something woke me up. Must have been a bad dream.”
“Do you remember what you dreamed?”
Tim bobbed his head as he placed his hand on the door knob. He began to turn it, but then hesitated.
“Yes. It’s weird. It seemed so … so real. And it was a long dream, but now I can only remember a little, just the tail end. But it was one of those kinds of dreams, Laura. You know, there was more to it.”
Tim looked down at his bare wrist and up to the empty kitchen wall. “Hey, what did you do with the clock?” he asked.
“What are you talking about? Come on, tell me more about your dream.”
His hand relaxed and he let go of the door.
“It was scary. And I believe you were with me. I remember—you were there. All I remember is—we were driving down the highway. The radio was playing. The windshield wipers on high. Two bright lights—must have been another car—came out of nowhere, and then it happened.”
“What?” asked Laura.
“The other car began to swerve back and forth and then spiraled toward us.”
Laura had a deep, concerned look on her face, as if she might have had a similar dream.
“Hey, you want to go out on the deck?” asked Tim “Looks beautiful out there. I just need to relax and unwind.”
“Sure.” Laura turned off the stove and followed Tim out to the deck.
Tim leaned against the deck railing, breathing in the clean, crisp air. He stared at the tall granite mountains in the distance. “I never get tired of that view.” He cocked his head to one side and squinted at the panoramic scene. “Do you notice something different about them?”
Laura shaded her eyes with her hand and looked in the direction Tim was staring. “Yes, they seem a little clearer. Maybe it’s the weather.”
“It’s like I’m seeing them for the first time. Something’s different,” said Tim.
The sky was extremely bright. Which was a curious thing, since there was no sun in sight. Nature seemed to display her finer details. The leaves dripped the morning dew, creating a cadence of sound through the forest. The flower blossoms projected deeper, richer colors. The bees seemed to hum in a different rhythm than he’d ever heard before.
“Hey, there’s a fox over there! Look!” He pointed to the other side of a green and lush pasture. “Hand me the binoculars.”
Tim soon found the fox through his field glasses. He released a gasp. “What in the world? Now, that’s strange. Maybe I should go back to bed.” Tim eased back into one of the Adirondack chairs.
“Why do you say that?” asked Laura.
“Ah, never mind,” said Tim. What he didn’t want to tell her was what the fox was doing. At least to Tim, it appeared that the fox was frolicking with a rabbit—a live rabbit—which, as we all know, is not what foxes tend to do.
“So, tell me more about this dream,” said Laura.
“I don’t know. I think I’d like to just forget the whole thing.”
“It seems to be bothering you. Might help to get it out. Get it behind you.” encouraged Laura.
“I don’t know—maybe.”
“It’s okay, Hun. You can talk about it later if you want.”
“No, give me a minute.” Tim folded up his paper and leaned back in his chair.
“It was so dark. Such a dreadful, dreary place. I remember feeling very frail—if that’s the right word for it. I could hardly breath; the air seemed so thick. Water kept falling down my face. Salty tasting. There were blinking red lights and these weird sensations in my body. Then there was this guy in a mask. Yeah, a mask. But I remember the eyes.”
“Someone you recognized?” asked Laura.
“No, I don’t think so. They were sad and serious. I could hear voices. Then just one voice.”
“What did the voice say?” asked Laura.
“I believe it said, ‘I am …’ I didn’t catch the last part. And then it said, ‘You are here.’”
“That’s a crazy dream.”
“Suppose so,” said Tim. “Guess there’s no need to analyze these things too much. Was only a dream.”
Just then a blue bird landed on one of the deck posts. The blond-haired Jim could have sworn that the bird winked at him. So, he just smiled back. The brunette wife smiled at her husband. He caressed her smooth, radiant arm. How it seemed to glow brighter in the morning light. Not a blemish on her. She looked like she could pass for a girl in her late 20s or early 30s.
The doorbell rang. “I’ll get it,” said Laura. A minute or two went by and she came back to the deck.
“Who was it?” asked Tim.
“It was the FedEx guy.” She opened the small envelope and pulled out a letter. Two sentences in, her eyes widened.
“It’s an invitation!” She nearly dropped her coffee cup she was so excited.
“Who’s it from?” Tim stood and set the newspaper on the table.
“It’s a dinner invitation. Look who signed it.” Laura beamed at her husband as she handed him the note.
Tim read it and scrunched up his face. On the back of it were directions to a party. He could make out two places on the map: their house with—You Are Here—printed next to it. And the location of the party, just down the road from their neighborhood. The invitation was signed — I AM.
“You mean? We’re? This is really happening?” Tim was running out of questions as Laura gave an affirming nod.
“I’ve been waiting for this invitation all my life, Laura. It’s hard to describe how I’m feeling right now.”
“Me too! Maybe we both woke from a dream,” said Laura. They hugged each other tightly and kissed. The whole world seemed to pause.
Tim kept his arm wrapped around his wife as he drank the last of his coffee. Their eyes spoke of a hope like no other as they gazed on a new world. The present reality had engulfed them and swept them up in a few brief moments.
On the other side of the pasture, they both spotted a figure walking toward them. A young man in army fatigues was making his way toward their house.
The morning was only getting started.
Stephen S. Johnson is an engineer by trade. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia and has written several short stories over the years. One of his stories was included in The Story 2014 Anthology sponsored by Family Fiction Magazine.