By Ekta R. Garg
Prompt: Every time you fall asleep, you find yourself in the dream of a stranger. Describe one of these experiences.
Sam sat on the edge of the bed and propped her feet on the footboard. Wriggled her toes. Watched the glitter in her nail polish sparkle.
A yawn cracked her face so wide her jaw popped. She put a hand to cover her mouth and winced. Ever since she’d checked into the resort, she hadn’t slept well. Three nights and bizarre dreams, every single one.
Sam didn’t want this. She’d come to the resort to get away from strangers. Well, the stranger that Matt had become. It was hard enough coping with his crap. Why did she have to deal with the crap of people she didn’t know too?
Her head snapped up; she’d dozed off.
Okay, so now my choices are either get into bed or risk a concussion when my head hits the footboard.
She sighed; as appealing as the concussion sounded—Do people dream when they’ve got a concussion? No, wait, they’re unconscious in a coma—she knew she needed sleep. Even a little would help. And it wasn’t like she wasn’t getting any. It was just full of weird dreams. Dreams where her fingers memorized the textures of fabrics and exotic foods skipped over her tongue.
Dreams of people here at the resort.
She slipped off the bed, drank a sip of water from the glass on the nightstand, and sighed again. Then she flipped the switch at the base of the lamp. The room went dark, and she waited until her eyes adjusted. Within moments, she could make out shapes. The muted light from outside allowed her to pull back the comforter and top sheet and get into bed.
Instead of settling on her side, Sam lay on her back with her hands laced behind her fingers.
Stupid Matt, she thought. The words had become her mantra for the past six months. Any time anything went wrong, Matt was responsible. Anyone whose heart had been shattered would understand the logic.
It was Matt’s fault that she came on this trip alone—a trip they’d been planning together for a year. It was his fault she flirted with the cute guy at the reception desk. He made her laugh with an intelligent joke, and his biceps just below the folded cuffs of his shirt made her belly flutter. If Matt had come with her, she wouldn’t have flirted. She would have been too busy trying to pinch Matt on the butt with no one looking.
It was Matt’s fault she dreamed about Check-in Guy that first night. If he’d come with her, she wouldn’t have been thinking about Check-in or any other guy. She would have been distracted.
But Matt hadn’t come. He’d told her he wanted “space” and “time to think” and all that. Just because she’d asked about their future.
What’s there to think about? We were practically joined at the hip anyway. Is a piece of paper with our names on it together really going to change anything?
Matt apparently thought so.
Her eyes slow blinked, and she shook her head. She wouldn’t give in. Not yet. She couldn’t.
She thought instead of the dream she had. The one that started out with a scene similar to the afternoon she checked in. Except this time, instead of being on the guest side of the counter she stood on the employee side.
For a minute or two, she thought it was one of those weird dreams where her subconscious had mashed together her day (and maybe a naughty desire or two.) The longer she watched, though, the more she realized that Check-in Guy didn’t see her. He didn’t interact with her. No one else in the dream saw her either.
Then, when he walked right through her to the printer to pick up a guest’s bill, she shivered.
The dream continued. Check-in Guy got a call. Sam couldn’t see the number on the screen, but it made him stop midstride. He asked his coworker in that husky voice of his if she would cover the desk for a few minutes. The twentysomething just rolled her eyes, tugged on her short white skirt, and said yes.
He went in the office just behind the main desk and shut the door. Sam assumed that would be the end of it. After all, she didn’t follow him. But next thing she knew, she was standing next to a filing cabinet in the office.
“What have you got for me, Jack?” Check-in asked. He paused then said, “Well, I get that, but I’ve gotta get out of here. I’m smiling so much it makes my damn cheeks freeze up. I’ll take anything. Any job. I’m just sick of kowtowing to idiots all day.”
Idiots? Sam remembered thinking. Did he think I was an idiot?
“Okay,” Check-in went on. He grabbed a pen and a piece of scrap paper. “Go ahead. Kevin at Proctor and Gamble. 555-9823. Wow. So what kind of… Are you kidding me? Toilet paper tester?! What do I look like…”
He continued with a string of profanity, and Sam screwed her eyes shut. She willed herself to wake up, even pinched herself. After jumping up and down enough to make her teeth rattle, she bolted upright in bed.
The next morning, out of morbid curiosity, she’d gone to the front desk to see if Check-in Guy was there. Maybe her dream was some sort of premonition. Maybe she was a strange kind of telepath. Someone who could…attend other people’s dreams?
Check-in wasn’t at the desk, but Twentysomething Short Skirt was. Sam gave her a polite smile and kept on walking toward the pool in the back of the property. She sat on a wooden lounge chair and pretended to read the magazine in her lap. Ordered a mimosa from the bar. Sipped it. Pretended to relax. Felt self-conscious being poolside alone.
Stupid Matt. It’s his fault I don’t have anyone to talk to.
That night Sam dreamed of Twentysomething Short Skirt. Something about taking Katy Perry’s place as the judge on American Idol and becoming America’s next Idol all in the same season. Sam still didn’t understand the logic in that one.
The third night, she fell into the dream of the maid who cleaned her room. That one started off with Sam squirming. It left her in tears.
And now? she thought. Whose world am I going to fall into tonight?
Before she had a chance to go through all the people she’d run into during the day, she fell asleep.