This is a story I wrote about a year or two ago, based off a dream I actually had when I was about 14. It provided the inspiration for a character who has now appeared in quite a bit of my writing and he has developed at an alarming rate, with little to no effort on my part.
For your consideration...
The man awoke in a field, a man, no, a boy rather, perhaps 16, maybe 19, not that it matters. After all, were we to ask his age, he wouldn’t tell us, rather, he couldn’t. Nor his name, so neither is that any concern of ours.
Where was he? Well that is a question that could be answered by the woman who approached him, but it’s not relevant to our tale. Who was he? Asked the woman, as she came nearer, but as we know, a question he could not answer.
Well, at the least I can tell you that he was in a peaceful place, as the woman kindly invited him to her home. Perhaps though, it was because of his apparent youth, who can really know the truth of the circumstances?
Suffice it to say that he was brought to her home and treated well by her family, her husband and their two sons. The next day, they promised him, they would bring him down to the police station. And so, that very next morning, there he was presented, and they did their best to identify him. It was sad to say though that none seemed to miss him.
There were no reports of a missing person, or any outstanding warrants for him of any sort. And so, apologies were made, luck was wished to him, and the man and the family departed, with the promise that a call would reach him should there be any news.
That night, the family made a decision. The man was well mannered, intelligent, his only flaw being his lack of memories, though that being no fault of his own so far as they could ascertain. And so, the man had a home, a family to hold him until such time as he should know again who he was.
A year passed and no word reached them of his identity. He had no hopes, he was happy with where he was. It was easy to make a life in this town. Nearly everyone was kind, with very few exceptions, and the man’s highly personable nature made him difficult to dislike, so the number of his enemies was insignificant.
Soon after he settled into the town, he had work, despite his lack of identification or even age, as his personality and intelligence were more than enough to convince others that he was worthy of employment. Eventually, those with power in the town took notice of him and he was eventually sponsored to go to the local university and get a complete education. And it was there that he met her.
We’ll never know exactly what she looked like, as memory, as we have now realized, is a fickle and tricky thing. What we can know for sure is that she possessed trued beauty, both in body and in mind.
A unique human, whose distinctions were likened to his own. There was no question of their feelings, even having never experienced it; both of them knew that nothing else could be called love.
For the man, college had been an incredible time already, but being together with her had changed the world for him entirely. Every day that he was able to see her was full of happiness for him, and mere days after they had graduated together, he proposed.
The wedding she’d always dreamed of, that was how she had described it to him on their wedding night. He didn’t know exactly what he had dreamed, though he was sure it was something similar.
And now, we can move further into the future. Much further it would seem, as the man has lost much of his hair, and what remains is grayed, nearly white. He sits in an easy chair and smokes a pipe as he reflects on his life. Happiness and success have dogged his footsteps. His eldest son is in law school, his daughter is a musical prodigy, creating beautiful melodies, no matter the instrument. His youngest son is in the military, serving overseas in some war or another. Which one it is matters little to this tale as we come near to its end.
The man sits in his chair, his wife in the other room speaking to a friend on the telephone, and he realizes what the feeling is that he is experiencing. It is fulfillment; it is contentment. As he releases a long sigh of happiness, he is no longer alone. A man stands beside him.
A shock of white hair pressed under a black bowler hat, matching his black suit, run through with grey pinstripes. His shirt and tie are a deep, blood red, and a carnivorous grin splits his features. His teeth are unusually pointed the man notes, as the visitor opens his mouth and begins to speak.
“Have you enjoyed your life?” He asks, a hint of glee in his tone. The man answers in the affirmative, it has been everything he could have hoped for. He pauses for a moment before asking the question that weighs heavily on him. Is the visitor death perhaps? He asks. He doesn’t wish to struggle, he’s lived his life to the fullest and he regrets nothing, he simply wishes for a moment to kiss his wife goodbye and say he loves her. The visitor’s grin widens at this and he appears to suppress laughter.
“Oh no,” he says in reply, “I’m not death; at least, not in the sense that you might think. No, I’m simply here to tell you that it’s ended. It’s time for you to wake up.”
A man sits upright in his bed, clutching at his heart. The pain is incredible, though not physical. The man collapses forward, sobbing into his hands. No matter how many times the dream came to him, the pain of it did not lessen. His happiness, snatched away from him in an instant. He’d lived a life of decades, had success, love, fulfillment, and it had been shattered in an instant.
He composed himself as best he could, showered, and dressed for work. Breakfast, he skipped. He had no appetite, though he never did in the mornings. He goes to work and sits in his cubicle, doing his menial tasks, each keystroke reminding him painfully of his dreams that haunt him each night, destroying him every morning.
A knock on his cubicle wall summons him to alertness, and his supervisor stands there with a dour look on his face. The man knows what is happening, he knows. He can see the envelope in his supervisor’s hands. He takes it, tears streaming down his face, and he begins to put his things in order. Today would be his last day.
As he finishes his work for the last time, he walks out onto the street. He stares at the grey sky and sobs silently. Tonight again, he knew, he would be submitted to that torture. Tonight, and the next night. His happiness, within his grasp, and then shattered. He stopped at the convenience store down the street from his house and used what money he had with him to buy his dinner and restock his medicine cabinet.
His dinner has been eaten, his lack of appetite conquered by his body’s natural hungry state. He sits on the bed and reads the label on the bottle in his hand. Sleeping pills, it says that they will provide a dreamless sleep. Carelessly, he tips one into his hand and swallows it without water.
He pauses for a moment, and then repeats the process. Twelve times he tips the bottle into his hand and swallows. With a small sigh, he lays down on his bed and stares at the ceiling, feeling his eyelids droop. As his eyes close for the last time, the visitor appears before him.
“Are you ready to begin?” he asks, cackling. The man smiles in triumph as the visitor’s edges begin to blur. As the picture in his mind’s eye fades to black, the smile stays on his features. As darkness fully encircles him, he breathes out a contented sigh and whispers his last words.
“To sleep, perchance, to dream.”