Perhaps it was a dream, she thought. Perhaps, if she pinched herself, she would wake up. But she didn’t want to wake up. She wanted to stay in this dream world where laughter, soft and sweet, washed away the pain in her chest. Like waves over the sand with words etched into it, each rush over the shore took more and more of the writing away, leaving it clean and unmarked. Helping her forget.
She lay beneath a tree, the leaves rustling in the wind and dappling the sun and shade across her face. Her eyes were closed, and she soaked in the sun’s warmth, the cool breeze across her skin, and the sense of utter joy that surrounded her. Whole. Complete.
The voices of two children floated around her, and they were making up some nonsensical game as children were wont to do. It was lyrical, as though they spoke, played, and danced to some music only they could hear.
A noise sounded in the distance, jarring, like the needle scratching across a vinyl record, and she frowned. Not the distance, but THE DISTANCE. The outside. Real.
The wind died, and with its disappearance so too went the voices of the children. She bolted upright, her eyes shooting open.
“Seth! Jocelyn!” she said, crying their names into the night air, which was stale and slightly humid in her bedroom. Thunder rumbled and rain pattered against the window. She rubbed her eyes. The storm must have woken her. Yet, this pain in her chest and rising panic in her throat were not caused by nature’s intrusion on her dream.
She threw back the sweat-dampened covers and padded down the hall, her bare feet silent on the hardwood floor. She skipped the board that creaked, the instinct to avoid it as ingrained in her as the whorls on the wood.
As she made her way down the short hall and to the only other room in the small house, her breathing came faster and her heart raced. Something wasn’t right. She opened the door, the well-oiled hinges swinging it open as silent as cat’s paws.
A short sob left her constricted throat, punctuating the night like a knife in the gut as she remembered. As she saw.
Gone, like the dream.