Dreams. They whisk us away to a faraway land where all of our troubles melt away and we’re left feeling that anything is possible. Anything that your heart desires can be yours, if you just shut your eyes, drift away and fall silently into the depths of your mind. That is, if you can manage to fall asleep. I haven’t really slept in over a month – an hour here, two hours there. What’s it like to dream again? I mean, I always day dream in class, but it’s more like watching TV through a bed sheet and the speakers muted. I can’t quite see what it is that’s there, but I know there’s something.
A month ago, this new couple moved into the apartment directly above the one that my mother and I live in. I haven’t had the chance to meet them yet, but I know they’re there because every night they’re at each other’s throats about something. I can never really make out the muffled screams, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that it isn’t a happy exchange. What’s worse, is that these two carry on into the night. I swear they must be bred with owls, or some other nocturnal creature. Do they even sleep?
Every night I lie awake in bed and feel the deadened screams breathe down onto me from the ceiling above. Every night, I try to slip blissfully into a comatose state, only to find myself jarred back awake from a slight shriek. I often times find myself staring off into the blackness of my room – memorizing the shadows of figures on my desk, or the faint outlines of the house across the street. Sometimes, I stare at my wall – watching the passing headlights flicker across and count the cars like sheep, hoping that for once, just once I would pass away into a dream.
But every morning, it’s the same old thing. The proverbial rooster crows, and here I am – in my bed – eyes wide open and mind lethargically registering that the sun has finally risen. With darkened eyes that carry the weight of sandbags, fighting to stay open, I begin my morning routine. I get into the shower, silently lumbering there as I begin to wash. I get out and begin to brush my teeth – only to realize that I had forgotten to put toothpaste on the brush, and dry, harsh bristles were attacking my gums in fury.
I slink back into my bedroom, and begin to get dressed. Have you ever put your pants on inside out only to realize you’ve forgotten your underwear? My morning was sort of like that, except I put my pants on, and then my underwear – this is a rather normal occurrence. I shuffled out of my room – leaving my bed the way that it was. That’s supposed to say something about a person, right? I made my way to the kitchen where the sound of bacon sizzling filled my ears.
Of course, my mother hasn’t noticed a thing – heavy sleeper that one. She barely believed me when I told her that someone had moved in.
“That old ratty apartment?” she said, contorting her face into a confused look.
“It’s been vacant for years. I thought they had condemned the place – what with the black mold growing in the walls. And it took them all of two months to clear up the cockroach infestation. We smelled bug bombs for weeks! Don’t you remember?”
Of course I remembered. I couldn’t have friends over the entire time it happened because they would go home sick, complaining of the smell. Maybe she was right, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was going on in that apartment.
Two months. Two months of sleepless nights and endless fights. Voices from two unknown entities, crawling into my head through my ears and fending off my REM cycle – every night. Sometimes, when I close my eyes and concentrate, I feel as though I can make out a word or two. “Worthless”, “vile” – those are the ones that I hear most often. The two distinct sounds have blurred together, and after all this time – I can’t tell them apart. Male, female? Are they even really screaming anymore, or am I just hearing what I want to because it’s become so normal for me.
As I contemplate my own sanity, I’m brought back to reality by a new sound. One I hadn’t heard before, but familiar nonetheless. Silence? I paused and strained as hard as I could to hear something more. Nothing. For the first time in over two months, I could hear the crickets chirping just outside my window – the faint hooting of an owl in a nearby tree. For the first time in two months, I could feel myself falling – falling ever further into myself. But old habits die hard because I found myself still awake, almost as if by reflex. But, maybe I had actually fallen asleep, because it was now morning outside.
I did my usual morning routine, and then made my way to the kitchen. There, my mother stood cooking bacon, as she did every morning.
“Ahh, finally. You’re awake. Don’t want you sleeping all day, do we? You’ll never get that time back! The day is young, and so are you, my dear. Have a wonderful day at school.” She said this with a bright smile.
I grabbed my knife and fork, and cut into my eggs. I was so hungry, I couldn’t wait to pile them into my mouth. I look down at my plate and notice that the normally yellow yolk, has turned blood red. In fact, I think that is blood! I dropped my silverware and pushed the plate away in a panic. I turned to tell my mother, who was washing dishes at the sink. I yelled to her, but she didn’t make a sound. She simply stood there, facing the sink. I got up and ran to her.
I grasped her shoulder and swung her quickly around. As she turned, I could see why she hadn’t said anything. A small river of red wrapped around the underside of her throat. She was gasping for air and clawing at her neck to stop the blood from pouring out. She fell to her knees, and onto the floor. I’ve never seen my mother so scared. But – it wasn’t so much scared as it was disbelief.
“I… I love you.” She said this to me as she slowly slipped away – I say she said this, it was actually more of a gurgled whisper.
As I stood there, staring at what used to be my mother, lying lifeless in the floor – I notice that in my hand I hold a knife, covered in blood. I dropped it, and it clanged heavily to the floor.
My hands, they were covered in blood. My clothes – stained red and it would take more than bleach and years of therapy to get them out. It clicked. I was the one who did this, I was the one who killed my mother. But, I hadn’t. I was eating my eggs, and then, suddenly she was dead. This all has to be a horrible nightmare, I thought. I know! I’ll will myself awake, and this will all be over. I closed my eyes, and when I opened them, to my surprise, I was still in my kitchen. This wasn’t a dream. I ran to the phone to dial 9-1-1, but dropped the receiver when I realized that I wouldn’t’ be able to explain this to the police if they came. No, I had to clean this mess up myself.
I went into the closet and grabbed all of the bed sheets that we had – I had. There was no “we” anymore, I thought as my heart sank. I began to carefully wrap my mother into them. One by one, I lay the sheets onto her – trying to be gentle, as to tell her “I still love you”. I had finished tying the last one off, when a knock came at the apartment door. I slowly got up and made my way into the living room. I fumbled with the locks, and opened the door nervously, but nobody was there. I figured it may have just been someone who realized they had the wrong apartment number. I shut the door and made my way back into the kitchen.
I had just walked through the archway connecting the kitchen and living room, when – I could have sworn I heard voices coming from the other side of the door. They were faint, but they were definitely there. I could tell they were arguing about something, but I couldn’t tell what. Then came another knock at the door – heavier this time and with purpose. “It’s the police” I thought. They know – I hadn’t hung up the receiver and they sent someone over to check on things. But, I hadn’t dialed 9-1-1, had I? It’s certainly possible, I did find myself with a knife in my hand. Maybe my conscience was getting to me, and it made me forget that I had so that I would turn myself in. I really am going crazy! But, if I really am going crazy, then those voices from the other side of the door aren’t really there. They’re in my head! But, another knock came. I turned around and sprinted to the door, the voices growing louder as I approached it. I undid the locks, and swung the door open.
I was staring at the ceiling of my room – shrouded in complete darkness. It was all a dream! I really had been dreaming this whole time. I felt a wave of relief roll over my body, and I heard the two faint voices arguing overhead. I’ve never been so happy to hear two people yelling in my life.
Morning came fairly quickly. As I was getting dressed, my mother yelled to me from the kitchen.
“Hurry up and don’t be late for school. I’m leaving for work, I’ll see you when I get home. Don’t forget, you have chores to do! I mean it!”
I heard the door to the apartment close, and I rushed into the kitchen. No blood, bacon on the table and my mother – telling me goodbye as she left. It really was just some horrible nightmare. I scarfed my bacon down and quickly made my way to school.
I returned later that afternoon and to my surprise, my mother wasn’t in the living room like usual.
“Mom?” I called.
“I’m in here, sweetheart. I’m taking a shower.”
I rushed to her bedroom, and stood by the door to the bathroom – I needed to talk to her, to hear the sound of her voice and drown out the last words she said to me in that dream – “I love you”. I started explaining the dream that I had the night before, and I had just got the part about the eggs when she interrupted me.
“Oh, honey that must have been awful. But, remember, it’s only just a dream.”
“I know,” I muttered, “I just want you to know that I love you”
“I love you, too.” She said, and with that I made my way back to my bedroom.
Three weeks have passed since the night I thought I killed my mother, and this couple above our apartment are still going strong. Tonight’s going to be my night, though because my industrial grade earplugs that I ordered offline just arrived. As night grew ever closer, I was more and more excited. I’d finally be able to get some peace and quiet tonight – just the sound of my thoughts to keep me company and lull me to sleep. I crawled into my bed, ripped open the packaging and inserted the plugs into each of my ears – first my left, and then my right. Silence. I had just closed my eyes when I could have sworn I heard glass shatter. No, that can’t be right. I focused, listening for any sort of sound. Nothing. “I must really need sleep” I thought to myself, and closed my eyes once more.
Kshhh! There it was again! Kshhhh! Once more! I jerked the ear plugs from their resting places, and I could now hear the voices once more. The male sounded much angrier this time, and I think the woman was crying. There was shuffling above – someone was running. I heard a door slam shut. I jumped to my feet and threw on some clothes. I quickly picked up the phone and dialed 9-1-1. I quickly explained to them that there was a domestic disturbance in the apartment above me.
“We’ll send someone out right away” said the voice on the other end.
I hung up the phone. The police knocked at my door around 10 minutes later. They sure took their precious time, that woman could be dead by now. But she wasn’t, I could still hear her screams.
“You called about a domestic disturbance?” questioned the officer, trying to fight back a yawn.
“Quickly,” I said, “this way!”
I bolted up the stairs to the apartments above – the police quickly in tow. I ran over to the door of the apartment that was directly above my own.
“This one, here. This is it!” I yelled.
The police pushed me back and knocked on the door. Silence.
“Police, open up. We’ve had a report of a domestic disturbance coming from this apartment.”
Still, nothing. A few moments later, the landlord came bumbling up the stairs with his keys.
“What on earth is going on here?” he asked.
“We’ve had a report of a domestic disturbance coming from this apartment.” The policeman explained.
“Are you sure? I don’t –“ the man was stopped short by the officer.
“Please, sir. Just open the door.”
The man rattled his keys around and finally found the one corresponding to the apartment door. He inserted it into the lock, and slowly turned the key. Click! His knobby old hands reached for the door knob. I felt as though this was taking ages, that this door would never open. I felt as though, this was another dream. Once that door opened, I would be back in my bed, staring quietly at my ceiling. He turned the knob, and slowly opened the door. The officers went inside, and I quickly followed.
It was empty. There wasn’t even so much as furniture in the place. Dust lined the old peeling walls, and a nice wound left by the previous owner was still very much intact – giving a makeshift window into the spare bedroom through the living room.
“I tried telling you gentlemen, nobody’s lived in this apartment for quite some time. Years, in fact. I believe the last occupant, why, I believe it was that boy and his mother. Oh yes, we used to get complaints five or six times a week about a couple arguing so loudly they could wake the whole block!”
My heart dropped wildly. The place was empty – nobody had lived here for years. My mother was right. I closed my eyes and hoped that I could be lying in my room – cars passing by my window and headlights dancing on my walls. I wished that this was all just a dream. I opened my eyes. My darkened ceiling sat above me, welcoming me back home. No screaming, no doors slamming or things breaking. It was calm – like the night after a storm rolls through. I lie there, staring at the blank space above and I could faintly hear a voice coming from the apartment upstairs. Just one, a soft, female voice – and I can just barely make out what it is that she’s saying to me. In a low whisper, almost as soft as the wind blowing by my window, gurgling the words and forcing them from her mouth – “I love you.”