Chapter 6: The Dream

The dream returned the next morning – even clearer and more vivid than before. Aveny had never felt so liberated nor so at peace. Every molecule of her being was alight.

When her alarm cut through this mental reverie, she tried to ignore it, to cling to her dream state. It had been so wonderful, she never wanted to wake; not if staying here was an option. But the sound was relentless.

She pushed her way out of bed, turned off the alarm jackhammering her bedside table, and went to wake the kids.

It stayed with her longer this time. The dream sensation hovered around the edges of her mind as she dropped the kids off at school. It lingered behind her eyes as she ordered her morning tea. It danced in the periphery of her imagination as she sat down to work, scrolling through emails, editing articles and updating the site.

Aveny found herself re-reading sections of her work over and over again. She couldn’t focus. Even when the caffeine kicked in, her mind strained away from her computer screen, longing to return to that untamed dream.

She stood and stretched. She walked a loop around the coffee shop. She bought a brownie and nibbled on bits of chocolaty goodness while she worked. It made no difference.

She did some deep breathing, puffed out her cheeks like a bullfrog, crossed her eyes, and dropped her forehead onto her keyboard. A steady stream of yyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy appeared on the screen.

Nothing helped.

Aveny stared glassy-eyed around the shop at her fellow patrons, trying desperately to focus her attention on something – anything.

Two men sat nearby wearing different colors of the exact same suit. They mumbled furtively together while gesturing emphatically at a pile of papers spread out between two crumpled paper cups.

At the next table, a straggle-haired woman sat reading a paperback romance novel and sipping from a large mug. Its glistening surface emitted hot coils of steam, which curled around her nose like a thick mustache.

A heavy-set and rather unkempt young man sat on a couch in the corner. His pale, round cheeks were clamped between a pair of large black earphones, giving his face the appearance of a double stuffed Oreo. He aggressively pummeled his laptop keyboard, doubtlessly battling some kind of military attack, renegade rebellion, or mind-munching zombie.

Aveny liked her “coworkers,” as she thought of them. Normally they provided good distraction from the occasional boredom of virtual work, without actually diverting her from her job.

But not today. Today they felt like actors on a very distant stage.

When Aveny’s second alarm sounded, signaling the end of both her work day and her cue to pick the kids up from school, she didn’t know how much she had even completed. While flexible, the downside to this sort of work was that it needed to be completed, no matter how long it took. She’d have to make up the lost time somewhere. But not today. Any further attempts were clearly futile.

After an evening of wrangling kids and fielding endless childhood questions in the same absentminded state, Aveny fell into bed, exhausted. She wasn’t sure why she was so tired. It was just an ordinary day. But sleep descended upon her with a vengeance.

As she reclined into the comfort of her rumpled pillow, Aveny noticed something tucked beneath. She tiredly reached in and extracted it.

The skin.

Clearly, whichever of her children was masterminding this particular prank, were not giving it up easily. But she could handle that. She folded the skin and slid it beneath her mattress. Good luck finding it there, she thought. Then she released her grip on consciousness and slid into a deep and all-consuming sleep.

The dream came almost immediately this time.

She welcomed it wholeheartedly.

Click here to read chapter seven

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