Do Gabriel's disturbing dreams reflect an invasive reality?
About 700 words
Gabriel Dupuis enjoyed his garden. Planting, weeding, trimming, mowing--these activities brought him satisfaction, even a kind of peace. He was proud of the layout, proud of its color and form, proud of his green, perfect lawn. It required a great deal of effort, but he considered the effort worthwhile and rewarding.
One evening, as he snoozed in his hammock in the back yard, strange dreams disturbed his sleep and roiled his mind. He fought to overcome a nameless dread, a dark and forbidding terror that threatened death and darkness. His entire species, his very world, doomed to extinction, unless--a jumble of impressions--huge projects, vast expenditures, grand undertakings, desperate and frantic haste.
He woke, panting, sweating, his mind filled with a feeling of doom, an unlikely and almost impossible chance of surviving that horrible risk of oblivion. He rolled himself out of the hammock and attacked the weeds in a flower bed, which calmed him for a while. But that night, in his bed, the terror returned.
The unusual dreams continued. Gabriel considered seeing a doctor, but settled for off-the-shelf sleeping pills. He thought they helped, because the dreams were not as terror-laden. Instead, as his shrubs grew and blossomed, as his flowers budded and bloomed, he dreamed for weeks of escape, of relief, of vast empty spaces, of long periods of thoughtless vacancy, of vast distance, of lonely emptiness. At times, there was even a feeling of hope. Since the dreams were no longer bothersome, he gave them little attention and stopped taking the pills.
On a warm Monday night in July, he dreamed of rushing noise, a heavy sucking pull, a violent impact, a period of patient waiting. On Tuesday night, he dreamed of success, of achievement, of joy. For the next two nights, he dreamed that he was active, industrious, incredibly busy with planning and building. They were good dreams, satisfying dreams. He felt that whatever had been bothering him had backed off.
On Friday evening, he was sitting on his back deck with a drink and a cigarette when he noticed in the middle of the back yard a clump of dark green plants with red veins, noticeably higher than the surrounding lawn. Aghast, he walked over to check it out: some kind of filthy weed. The clump was about a foot across, with a six-inch burnt depression in the centre, as though there had been a small fire there. There seemed to already be buds on some of the stalks. He nipped one off, but immediately flung it down. Dang thing burns! He looked at the redness on his fingers as he went for gardening gloves and a shovel to dig out the offending clump. There was a metallic clang when he threw the bundle of weeds into the trash. Must have dug up some kind of junk with the weeds. He filled the hole with a mix of topsoil and sand, raked, added grass seed, and rolled it smooth.
That night, he dreamed of being attacked, of hope destroyed, of bitter anger, of fierce determination. The next day, the hole he had dug in his lawn was surrounded with a fairy ring of red-veined clumps. The grass outside the ring was dead and dried, as though robbed of all nutrients. Remembering his burnt fingers, he put on long pants and rubber boots, then took the weed-whacker to the plants. He lopped off all the buds and chewed the stems down to the ground. Then he raked everything up and trashed it. He took the shop-vac and sucked up the smaller bits. That should kill the damn things. He carefully re-seeded the entire area.
With a vague recognition of the link between his dreams and his actions, he took two sleeping pills that night. Nevertheless, he dreamed of terror, attack, destruction, horrible violent death, despair, hunger, growing frustration. He tossed and turned to thoughts of retribution and vengeance.
The clump did not regrow, though the lawn remained dead in a four-foot circle. For several days, Gabe was relieved to find his sleep less disturbed. There were calmer dreams, of secrecy, of planning, of carefully hoarded resources, of burrowing things creeping towards dark corners.
Gabriel thought he had got rid of the invasive weeds, until one day he noticed numerous small clumps hiding under shrubs and nestled in corners of the fence around his yard.
Enough of this nonsense, he thought. Damn things are going to take over the whole yard!
That day after work, he came home with a gallon of heavy-duty agricultural herbicide. He started by spraying the outside perimeter of his fence, in case they had escaped his yard. Then he soaked every clump of red-veined green he saw, and sprayed the area between clumps, and for a foot around the clumps. He watched with satisfaction as the plants writhed and shriveled and died. He ignored the tiny screams as figments of his imagination.
That night, his sleep was dreamless.