A Man Has A Waking Dream
The Flame Of Mortality
The word bounced aimlessly off the walls of Andy’s small bedroom, but nobody heard it.
Not even the one who had said it.
“No,” Andy repeated. “I won’t.” His eyes remained fixed on the wavering flame of the candle as it fought for its life in the growing pool of wax.
He was sitting with his legs crossed in the middle of the room, wearing only his boxer shorts.
Suddenly, the flame grew almost an inch, struggling for its last gasp of air, and then slowly dropped into the pool of wax.
The room went dark.
The flame was dead.
Shaking his head, Andy looked around, trying to figure out where he was. As his mind slowly came back to reality, he got to his feet and fumbled for the switch on the wall. The room abruptly flooded with light and Andy shaded his eyes from the glare.
“What the hell?” he asked himself. Looking at his clock-radio, he realized he couldn’t account for the last hour. He stared at the plate of wax on the floor, his mind searching for answers and not finding any. He picked up the plate, put it on his dresser, and sat down on his bed.
“Why? Why does this keep happening to me?”
This was the third night in a row that he’d performed this strange ritual, without even knowing he was doing it.
And it wouldn’t be the last.
~ ~ ~
Andy Caldwell did manage to sleep that night, but not very well. He kept waking up every forty-five minutes or so from a dream, the same dream that had troubled his sleep for the previous two nights. The first night he had the dream he was standing in a large field and a man dressed in a white suit and black tie was walking toward him and saying something, but he was too far away for Andy to hear him. In his hands was a small wooden box. With each dream the man gradually came closer, to the point in this last one that he could finally hear the voice, but not make out the words. He was only twenty yards away now, and that was when Andy woke up to the sun just rising over the horizon.
As he got dressed and headed for work that morning, the dreams and the blackouts with the candle were fresh on his mind. He knew the two were somehow tied together.
~ ~ ~
The little green numbers on the clock-radio read eleven, and the only light in the room was coming from the flame of the candle. And once again he was sitting in the middle of his bedroom in his boxers, staring absently at the little dancing flame.
“Who are you?” he asked the man, without knowing he was doing it. “What do you want?”
His mind could see him. He was only fifteen yards away, close enough now that he could hear what the man was saying.
You know what I want. And I know what you want.
Although Andy’s physical eyes remained on the flame, the eyes in his trance moved to what the man was carrying. The box was small and square, about eight inches to a side, and a strange reddish glow seemed to emanate from it.
“What is it?” he asked.
Too many questions, the man replied. Why don’t you see for yourself?
They were only a few feet apart now, and the man held the box out to him.
Go ahead, my friend. Open it.
He looked at the man’s face. He was smiling, but to Andy it seemed like more of a grin.
“No. No, I won’t!”
The man’s smile softened a little.
Andy, I know about the dreams. And I know they’ve been bothering you. If you open this, I promise you the dreams will go away.
Andy hesitated for a moment. In his other self—his physical self—he would have seen that the candle was almost gone.
Reluctantly, he reached out and took the glowing box from the man’s outstretched hands. As he slowly raised the lid, his eyes grew wide with terror.
Inside was a human heart, still beating, its rhythmic ‘thump...thump...thump’ causing the box to vibrate in his hands.
Thank you, Andy, the man said. Thank you for opening your heart for me.
Taking the box from Andy, he turned around and started back the way he’d come.
~ ~ ~
His scream is what woke him up from his trance.
The room was dark.
The flame was dead.
Andy quickly rose to his feet and immediately went to the light switch. He looked down at his chest, where a twelve inch scar ran down the center of his rib cage.
And a voice from somewhere in the deep recesses of his mind said:
Thank you, Andy. Thank you so much.
(3rd place in The Supernatural Writing Contest of December, 2013)