Another short (long) story I have written which will be posted in chapters every Saturday morning for the next few weeks, I hope you enjoy!
Dreams of the future?
In the early hours of the morning, he was pronounced dead, at 93 years old, this was no surprise to his carers, he had little family left, all of which lived several hundred miles away, too caught up in their own lives to pay him much attention. He had spent the last decade of his life slipping quietly into dementia, alone and forgotten about, even by himself. As he was moved from the hospital bed to a stretcher, a white sheet was pulled over his slowly cooling body.
Raymond Henson bolted upright in bed, covered in sweat and gasping for air. His latest nightmare was so vivid, he was almost convinced it was a premonition. “Jesus christ” he muttered to himself as he shakily ran a hand over his clammy forehead. Grounding himself in his surroundings, he laid back down and turned to his pregnant wife snoring slightly in the bed beside him, running a hand over her warm body for comfort, he closed his eyes and tried to get back to sleep but the image of him being wheeled away cold and alone refused to leave him. Sighing he sat back up and reached for his tobacco on the bedside table, rolling himself a cigarette in the dark as to not wake Marge he lit it with a match and leaned back against the headboard.
Every night for the past week he’d had this nightmare, which was very unusual for Raymond, he had never before been prone to nightmares plus in all his other dreams he had been a spectator like in the audience of a play but in this one he was looking out from the eyes of the dying man. But it was more than that, in the dream, he knew it was him, he had a lifetime of memories, flickering before his eyes as they slipped shut for the last time. He saw himself as a young child growing up, the school he went to, the friends he’d lost. He knew his wife was carrying a daughter and they’d have 2 more children after, both boys, one would suffer badly with polio and would need leg braces for months but would recover with no untoward symptoms. His children would all grow up, have children of their own and their children would have children. He knew his precious Marge would die at 75 from complications following an operation to remove a lump. He saw the future, the end of the war, space exploration, satellites, vast advances in technology and health care. This one single dream contained the rich tapestry of an entire lifetime past, present and future.
Raymond had never before considered himself a creative man, he had little time for stories and fantasy, preferring the simple rules of maths, science, logic, he was deeply unsettled by his sudden ability to create such a fantastical story in his sleep.
He had tried to explain this to Marge without sounding crazy but he could never quite capture the feeling of the dream, the vivid reality. The first night he had experienced this, he had immediately woken her, to her great unamusement, she had brushed it off as an anxiety dream, a fear of failure… in the light of day he agreed with her but in the dark it was hard to brush off as easily.
Raymond’s father had been one of the youngest senior officers in the research department of the military in the first world war and raised his son to follow in his footsteps. Raymond knew his path was somewhat eased by his father’s reputation but he also knew only his intelligence, drive and initiative would get him through the doors he needed to go through. Now at 23 Raymond was 2 days away from an interview that would change the course of his life forever. The research facility he interned at while earning his degree in biological sciences was giving him a chance to work on a project that in their words ‘would end warfare forever’ and he was determined to make that happen. Not only was it a chance to do try and stop the second great war in its tracks but it offered an amazing pay packet, he could finally pay back Marge for supporting him through school and buy her the house she deserved.
Stubbing out his cigarette on the tin ashtray next to him, he lay back down and began to imagine what else he’d buy when he got the job and eventually fell back into a fitful sleep.
Two days later, the town car sent to ferry Raymond from his home in Kent to the military offices in London pulled up outside a nondescript town house in the centre of Westminster. Raymond thanked the driver politely and made his way up the steep concrete steps outside the drab looking building. The plaque next to the peeling, black door simply read ‘Dr. A. Foster’, there seemed to be no doorbell or knocker. Looking around confused, Raymond turned back to the car to ask the driver the procedure but the car was gone, behind him the door swung open, a smart looking young woman stood in its place, smiling politely. “Mr Henson? We’ve been expecting you, please come this way” she said without waiting for him to confirm his identity she gestured into the gloom of the house. Raymond tentatively stepped inside, peering into the deep shadows gathered in the corners as he walked, the young lady walked him into what would be the living room in a conventional house which had been transformed into a waiting room. “Please wait here, Dr Foster shall be here shortly” she instructed promptly and walked away without another word.
Raymond felt uncharacteristically nervous, he’d had important interviews before, to get into college and university, to get his internship, he hadn’t even felt this nervous when he proposed to Marge on the evening of their 6 month anniversary. He wanted to pace and chew his nails, both habits long since forgotten but using a tremendous amount of self control he sat himself politely on one of the wooden chairs lining the far wall.
Glancing around him, he took note of how shabby the place looked, the brown paisley wallpaper was peeling in places, heavy red curtains, dusty with misuse covered the bay window to his left. Four wall sconces provided the dim light inside, highlighting the dust motes in the air, but only three were in working order, the fourth, the one closest to the second door in the room, the door which he hadn’t come through, flickered and stuttered. In one of the dark corners of the room, he could see mould and damp crawling across the ceiling.
Though all of that left him with a less than enthusiastic impression about this facility the thing that commanded most of his attention was the smell, it was like nothing he had ever experienced. The smell of dust was there, as was the smell of the mould but also the smell of something rotting, something organic, and a distinctly chemical smell that made his nose itch.
Overall, he had a very, very bad feeling, he felt something… wrong with the atmosphere that had nothing to do with the run down state or the odd smell.
When the second door in the room suddenly opened, Raymond jumped out of his seat in fear, hurrying over to the short bald man with his hand out, he masked his nervousness with enthusiasm, pumping the hand of the man before him he smiled broadly, “Dr Foster I presume, what a pleasure to meet you, sir”. The Doctors hand felt cold and limp in Raymonds grip and the moment his eyes met those of his companion, his blood froze, his eyes were.. Dead, blank like the eyes of a fish on a market stall, there appeared to be no thought, no emotion behind those eyes. Raymond staggered back a step and was seized by a vision of an old man, the old man from the dream, the old man that was him, screaming at him “run, run RUUN!”.
The image disappeared as suddenly as it had assaulted him and when he looked back at Dr Foster, he could see nothing wrong with him, his eyes were bright, intelligent and inquisitive. “Mr Henson, are you all right?” he asked empathetically.
“Yes, yes, of course Dr Foster, I’m sorry, I’ve had a bit of a headache this morning, to tell you the truth I’ve been a little nervous about this meeting”
“Nervous my boy? Now, now, there’s no need for nerves, I assure you”
Raymond smiled broadly and shrugged off the unusual experience, once this interview is over and done with, either way it goes, I’ll feel a lot better, he said to himself and followed Dr Foster back into his office.
“Well? Don’t keep me in suspense, how did it go?” Marge asked, as she wiped her floury hands on her apron and put her arms around her returning husband.
Raymond thought back to his weird experience shortly before the interview started and decided not to tell her, there’s no reason to worry her, he thought. “It went, surprisingly well” he replied enthusiastically, “I think they’re really considering me, he was very impressed with my research” he added.
“Well that’s wonderful darling” Marge replied, plunging her hands back into the bowl of dough on the side.
Raymond stood behind his wife and wrapped his arms around her, stroking her protruding baby bump lovingly. “How are my two girls doing?” he asked, nuzzling her neck.
“We’ve been through this, it might be a bouncing baby boy in there” she replied chuckling and rolling her eyes at her husbands stubbornness, though deep down she secretly wished for a girl as well, her mother had passed just before she found out she was expecting and Marge thought the perfect way to honour her was to name a beautiful baby girl after her. Raymond knew they were in fact having a girl and they would indeed call her Amelia after his mother in law, this is something he saw happening in his dreams and though he was sceptical about most of it, this he knew for sure.
“I’ve never heard of calling a boy Amelia” Raymond said with a wink, loosening his tie. “In any case, all we want is a healthy baby, the rest is just details right?”
“Uhuh, whatever you say dear” she replied sarcastically, “let me stick this dough down to proof for the morning and I’ll get that stew on, I didn’t know when to expect you home”
“Now, there’s no rush is there darling?” Raymond purred, he flicked on the wireless sitting on the kitchen windowsill and spun his wife into the middle of their cramped living quarters, a smooth crooning voice whispered out of the tinny speakers, a young lady wishing the return of her sweetheart form the front line, accompanied by a brass band in the background, the tune was upbeat despite it’s haunting vocals. Holding his wife close, he spun her gently around the floor.
“Now stop that you” Marge instructed, “I’m going to get your nice suit all covered in flour!” she continued to protest but relaxed into his arms and the soothing swaying anyway. Raymond felt his tense shoulders relax and for the first time in weeks his mind was empty of all thoughts of the war, of the job, the dreams, the strange feeling, the only thing in mind was the woman in his arms and he felt at peace.
The song ended and the spell was broken. “Go wash up and leave me to dinner, you fiend” Marge said with a sly smile. Raymond kissed her on the corner of her mouth and did as he was told.
Raymond thought that his dreams were over now, thought that he could put the visions behind him and forget about them but he was very much mistaken. That night he had the worst dream of them all. Worse than seeing himself die. Because he realised, he wasn’t really dead at all. Once his cold body was wheeled out of the dark and depressing hospital room it was transferred to a room in the basement, not a morgue as you would have expected. It was a lab, filled with machines and computers the likes of he’d never seen before and couldn’t even guess at their uses. Electrodes were attached to his bald head, a cannula was inserted in the crook of his elbow, dripping a bright blue fluid regularly. The worst of it was, he could feel everything. The pain, fear and confusion. The hard table beneath his bare skin, the chill sneaking through the thin sheet above him. Raymond tried to sit up, tried to move his legs off the bed but he was frozen solid, numb and disconnected. The only things he could move were his eyes, he desperately searched around him but the room was empty, sterile. Only him and the futuristic machines to be seen. He screamed, over and over he screamed in his mind for someone to help him without ever making a sound.