Madeleine with eyes closed, still screaming, sat up in bed. Sweat beaded down her forehead. She had refused to open the door.
“It’s OK honey, I’m here.” Jack shook his wife until her eyes opened. “I’m here,” he repeated bringing her back to reality. This was the third night his wife had the dream of walking a long dark corridor. The walls surrounding her shrank as she took each step forward, closer to the door in front of her. She believed if she opened it, her child would die.
“I just know,” Madeleine told her husband of 25 years. “If I open that door, one of them will die.”
Jack held his wife, allowing her to vent. He didn’t believe dreams came true, especially this one.
“It’s just too real. As soon as I sleep, I’m in this dark place. Then the door. I want to open it, but I know the price will be a life.” Madeleine sobbed. “I can’t harm my kids.”
“Try to lie down and rest. You don’t have to go back to sleep. Just rest. I’m right here”, Jack calmly told her. Sleepy eyes glanced at the wall clock showing 4:45 am. ‘Saturday, thank god he thought. Spooning his wife with his head on a soft cotton pillow, Jack fell asleep. Warm breath soothed the goose bumps on her back. Her eyes remained wide, staring at nothing.
“What makes you think the kids will die?” Jack asked her again, not understanding.
“ Not both, just one I told you. I just can’t figure out who or why.” Madeleine grew frustrated as she made breakfast for her family. Chloe age 10, had the pineapple pancakes with a smiley face, Stevie 8, had the scrambled eggs and cheese in the shape of the sun, and Jack had sunny side eggs, bacon, and toast. Madeleine ate the remaining eggs, bacon, and pancake that was left on the stove.
Jack waited until the kids finished eating. Once they left the table, he brought up the dream again.
“Let’s try something. Tonight if you have the dream, I won’t wake you. Go through the door. You have to get ahead of this. I know it’s my way, but you’ve got to do something.”
“Yeah mommy, we are going to help too,” Chole said from the hallway. We will hold your hand all night if we have to, right Stevie?” Her younger brother looking on nodded in agreement. ‘Kids seem to get in every conversation,’ Jack decided as he thought about closing the door to their bedrooms tonight.
Jack spent the whole day with his children. Bicycling, volleyball, and tag kept the kids busy. They were exhausted. ‘I should have done this sooner. I really had fun with them while allowing Madeleine some me time,’ he kept the thought of losing one of them to a dream out of his mind. To finish his long day with them, he made two glasses of warm milk as a bedtime snack. Young hands reached out for the beverages.
“Tonight we do our part to help mommy stay sleep right?” Jack asked the children, their eyes drooping. No answer. Little eyes closed and laid calm in front of the TV. He put them to bed.
Madeleine spent her day looking through family photos hoping something might explain the dream. Nothing. Just old photos of family, and one of the boy she had a crush on who lived next door long ago. She closed the album, shutting down a memory she wanted to be forgotten. Now nightfall, she wanted to rest, but felt her mind would be taken by the dream once her eyes closed.
She lay in bed shaking from imagined cold. Her husband’s words earlier did not comfort her but she understood what he wanted her to do. Tonight would be the fourth night in a row if she had the dream. Jack sat her up and gave her a cup of camomile tea.
“Remember what I told you,” Jack said holding her hand after she finished drinking. “If the dream comes, go through the door.”
He put his arm around his wife which seemed to steady her shaky frame.
They lied down. Jack, already tired from playing with the kids all day quickly fell into a deep sleep. Madeleine still a little jittery about sleeping sat up. Putting on slippers she got up and grabbed one of the paperback romance novels kept on the nightstand. Eyeing her husband’s robe, she wrapped her small frame around it, tying it tight around her body. It’s feel and his scent helped her relax. Tension faded as she made her way to the living room sofa, paperback at the ready.
An hour later, Madeleine read the same page twice. Words ran together, not making any sense. Her eyes grew heavy as the book fell quietly to the carpet floor.
The hallway was long, narrow, and dark. Madeleine waited for her eyes to adjust before she moved forward. Taking a breath she followed her husband’s advice.
She opened the door, gasping as a scene unfolded before her eyes.
Madeleine saw herself when she was a teen about to give birth. Two women by her side holding her as her child was born. Cries of life filled the room.
“Good job Maddie. Everything is OK. We’ll get you cleaned up. It’s best you stay with us for a few weeks,” the older woman told Madeleine.
“Yes, you can stay in my room,” the other woman said. “I’ve had friends visit before.” She looked the same age as teenage Madeleine.
Through tears of joy, the teen version of herself asked to see her baby.
“It’s best not to see,” the older woman said. All cleaned up and wrapped in a blanket, she was preparing to take the infant away.
“Please let me see my baby,” Madeleine begged, too weak to get up.
That time long ago, she never got to see if she had a boy or girl. Anger replaced fear as Madeleine stepped into the room to confront the woman with her child.
“Hey! Give me my child!” she yelled at the woman. Reaching out to take the baby, Madeleine ’s touch caused the image to disappear. She was standing once again in front of the closed door in the dark narrow corridor.
‘I’ll go in again. This time I won’t touch anything.’
Madeleine opened and stepped through the door. She found herself on a playground. School children played about while others ate. A gang of kids about twelve or thirteen were picking on a short stout kid. They chanted “Chubby Charles Chubby Charles,” while taking turns hitting and kicking him as he fell to the ground. She knew in her heart this tortured kid was her child.
“Get away from him,” she yelled at the boys as she ran to his aid. As before, when she tried to touch the fallen boy the image vanished and she found herself back at the door entrance.
‘His name was Charles. A boy,’ she told herself standing in front of the closed door.
Her parents forced her to give up her baby because she was underage and living in a time when families were shamed if girls got in trouble. He was adopted and she never heard of him again. A boy. She had no idea what became of him.
“I’ll keep going through the door until I can get some answers,” she said stepping in. This time a young man who looked in his late twenties lay in a hospital bed. He was in an acute care facility. Attached to him were a heart and breathing monitors. Madeleine was careful not to touch anything. Instead, she looked about the room and out the window, searching for a way to identify this place when she woke up.
“Charles, can you tell me your last name? Where is this hospital? I cant touch you but I want to help. I want to visit you when I wake. Can you help me?,” she sobbed while waiting for a reply.
“No one would help me find you. Then a Wiccan told me I could find you by the spirit. I believed and here you are.”Charles spoke in a soft voice. “Wanted to see you before I died,” Charles said. “That was the deal. I love you.”
“What’s a Wiccan and what deal did you make?” She asked, close to losing the battle of not touching her son.
“He’s like a wizard. He needed a soul. I gave mine to find you.” Charles breathing became labored.
“No!” Madeleine screamed. “We just met! I couldn’t find you either. There were no records back then. My parents told me to never tell. I’m so sorry. I love you too Charles. Find another way to stay with me. Do anything you have to to stay. Do you understand? Do anything!” She tried to hold his hand but the image disappeared as before.
“Wake up! Wake already! Maddie! Wake up!” Jack shook his wife, calling until her eyes focused on him.
“I’m here honey. I’m here,” he held her hand.
“I opened the door,” she said faintly. “I went through. He died.”
“Stevie is fine. Chloe too,” he tried to reassure her.
“He died. I’ll never forgive myself. She looked at her husband with tearful eyes. You made me go through that door. I wanted to find him too, but I couldn’t tell.”
“Tell what honey?” Jack hugged her tightly. “What?”
Pulling from his embrace she ran crying to the bedroom.
Jack sighed. “I’ll check the kids again,” he called out to her as he went into Chloe’s room.
She was still asleep. Chest rising and falling in peaceful bliss. He kissed her cheek, then left for Stevie’s room. ‘Looks like it will be a long time before I get to sleep like that.’ Jack figured.
Jack noticed Stevie was sitting up in bed looking around like the room was foreign. ‘Well, he’s not dead. I’m 2 for 2,’ he chuckled to himself.
“Hey, buddy! You couldn’t sleep too? How about me and you get a nightcap of warm milk?”
Jack shook his son, but he maintained a blank look.
“Stevie! Come out of it! Wake up, boy. Stevie!” Jack called out to his son sternly.
Slowly blinking he looked up into Jack’s eyes.
“My name is Charles.”
Copyright © 2018 Darnell Cureton. All Rights Reserved.