The church hall was warm from the spring sun but the coffee was surprisingly tepid. Three or four of the people gathered in a circle in the centre of the wooden floor had put their Styrofoam cups to one side. They were all listening to the speaker. His small frame hunched, head in his hands he spoke in a soft monotone.
‘It’s just the same dream as always. It starts with the wind. I look up and around and I can see a sky so dark and yet so light, swirling with cloud and rain and flecks of snow. Below I hear the waves crashing. I’m standing. Chains at my wrists stretch to the floor, they look thick and of wrought iron. The floor is stone and below me on all sides the sea rages. I drift back and can see myself atop the tower of stone in the middle of the sea. It seems a hundred feet high and occasionally the raging tempest beneath swamps the top of the peak. I struggle for breath and when caught it is unleashed in a fearsome cry. It is a sound I have never made in the waking world, but in my dreams I hear it more clearly than a conversation I could have with any of you. It is terrifying and unnatural and I fear that scream more than anything else in the world, yet I hear it every night. Once I have exhausted myself yelling at the wind and the swirling vortex around me I start to strain at wear or break, but start to look as though they are breakable, they become smaller and smaller until they become straps of leather and then rope and then twine and then, nothing. Then the sea calms, the world stops spinning and I take a deep breath as if to say something, to bark an order.’
‘Then what’ a taller and thinner man in the circle asked.
‘Then nothing’ said the speaker, ‘I just wake up’.
‘None of us are awake.’ Said the fat man next to him. ‘That is the problem’.
The woman to the speaker’s right put her arm across his curled shoulders and squeezed his neck. Her eyes were glazed with tears.
‘Thankyou John’ she said, ‘who wants to go next?’
Trooper Stevens was bored. Working in a backwater like Stanson
was never exciting. Cows in the road, a broken down tourist needing help from a
ditch or a field, a few farmers getting too drunk. The town had a single high
street with restaurants and bars that ranged from bad to terrible and tarmac
that stretched only as far as the limits of the commerce. There was no rush
hour to speak of and at five pm Stevens was sat in his cruiser outside the
drycleaners in Bankfoot, the ext town over. He picked up the dispatch call from
the office. Missouri
‘Bill, there’s a problem in town.
‘I’m on my way, just picking up your dress’ He put his cigarette out and flicked the butt out the window.
‘Bill’ the radio continued, ‘it’s Marcie Graham; she’s gone nuts.’
‘Be there in five Jeanie, don’t panic’
‘No seriously Bill, she’s in the middle of the road with a Gun’
Three minutes later, sirens blazing, Bill Stevens skidded his eight year old police cruiser to a halt, thirty yards from a middle aged woman stood in the centre of the high street. She as medium height and thin, the crowds that had gathered had been ushered to a safe distance behind her. Dressed in a summer frock and flat shoes she held a large automatic weapon to her own head. IT looked ridiculous in her small hands pressed against her grey hair. Bill cold see clearly enough in the June sun, but walked slowly closer to try and see more. She was babbling incoherently, body ramrod straight, arm tensed, finger on the trigger. Bill new he should draw his gun but didn’t. Her flimsy pink dress blew in the breeze. She was about forty with short hair, thick glasses and an air of superiority that Bill had never liked in her or thought usual. She had moved to the town a few years back, on her own, and had taken a job teaching Maths at the local school.
‘Marcie’ he called softly to her, ‘Marcie, what’s wrong?’
Her head was locked stiff but her eyes were alive and bright. They moved frantically as if following a sparrow.
‘Marcie’ he called again, still inching closer, ‘can you hear me honey?’
‘Stop’ Marcie spoke with the quiet authority of a schoolteacher.
‘I’m here to help Marce’
‘I said stop’ She turned slightly to face Bill. He froze as she lowered the gun from her head to her side. The finger no longer on the trigger.
‘What’s wrong? Whatever it is, it can be worked out, you know that, you’re a smart girl.’
Marcie smiled and looked Bill like a Lion sizing up its prey.
‘In a minute Bill I am going to try to shoot you.’ She began.
‘Marcie now you don’t want to…’
‘Shut up you imbecile’ She snapped, ‘I will raise my gun and you will have to fire, you will hit me square in the chest where the round from what I am assuming is a Glock 22 a standard issue firearm traveling at 1,190 feet per second will completely destroy my heart. You are a clinically obese man with a reasonably low IQ for your chosen profession, however you have two character traits that I admire, your marksmanship and your excellent memory for facts, demonstrated ad nauseaum by your sporting trivia and ability to recall anecdotes at will, I have experienced at least seventy and each time they are told, and believe me you do repeat yourself, they are told exactly the same way. I require that you remember everything I am going to tell you over the next three minutes officer Stevens and that when I raise my gun towards you that you do not miss. Please believe me if you do not fire then there will be severe repercussions, the first of which will be the widowing of your wife.’
‘Please Bill’ the woman scolded, ‘we do not have time.’