I’m late again for Writer’s Island this week.
The prompt this week is deja vu.
Here’s my story –
SOMETHING UNCANNY THIS WAY COMES
Amy dreamed disconnected images, disjointed as a slideshow waiting to load. Weird things, unrelated things. Black shoes in white cupboards. Red handbags in pale pink bathtubs. Yellow bunches of roses drooping in laundry tubs.
Sometimes the dreams were all one colour. The green was nice, a walk through a summer forest. The pale blue was joyful, like being part of the sky. The black wasn’t as scary as expected but the grey, the grey was mournful – sad mouths on pretty girls, dull hats on old men.
Amy had a recurring dream. Just one. It always began with an image like those promotional travel films from the fifties, made on reel –to- reel tape, the images jumping around and splitting before your eyes. Welcome to Paradise, it said. Once you visit you’ll never want to leave.
Children were playing on a yellow beach, all blonde, all wearing varying shades of blue swimsuits. Their lips were scarlet as if they been sucking on ice blocks. The shot swept to the boardwalk where couples walked with linked arms, men in brightly coloured shirts and Panama hats lounged on wooden benches reading newspapers. It was a happy scene, an idyllic scene except for one thing – the palm trees planted on the boardwalk, fronds dragging on the ground, encased in concrete.
The dream segued to Amy’s old house, her childhood home where her mother still lived. She pushed open the dense oak front door with the door knocker in the shape of a lion’s head. Something was wrong. A feeling laboured in her chest as she stepped over the threshold, she couldn’t define it but it had the ponderous pull of desolation. There were primroses in the hallway in those heavy crystal vases her mother favoured. One of them had fallen onto the floor. The painting of the ducks on the pond done in oils hung crookedly. There were blue balls of dust lining up against the skirting boards making a lie of her mother’s usual fastidiousness.
There were voices coming from the kitchen. She brightened as she pushed open the door, anticipating the usual smell of sage and oregano, the luscious sting of freshly-sliced tomatoes, the welcoming sound of cups chinking on saucers. She moved forward, keen for gossip and tea. Two men stood there with clipboards drinking instant coffee. The kitchen was packed in boxes. Crates blocked the door to the garden.
‘My mother, where’s my mother?’ Amy asked. Her heart was flipping in her chest like a fish pulled out of water. ‘She’s gone,’ the men said, leering at her, their teeth yellow. ‘She’s gone for good.’ She ran to find solace in the garden; a man stood there, the typical demon man of dreams, tall, good-looking with dark hair and a beard. He looked at her directly, raising an eyebrow as if questioning her place in this house that belonged to her mother. And then she woke up.
At least three times a week Amy dreamed this dream that felt like prophecy. Each time it felt more real. She asked colleagues at work if they believed dreams were a way of seeing into the future; if you had a dream often enough could that give it the power to become real, but they scoffed. Dreams mean nothing, they said. They’re just dreams.
She rang her mother several times a day until she knew she was bothering her. ‘I’m not seeing anyone, dear,’ she said. ‘I’ve been alone since your father died. Stop worrying.’
Amy couldn’t switch off the dread that kept gathering and regrouping at the base of her throat, questioning her mother’s friends, her Art History group. She heard people muttering that she needed help, that she was delusional. Then one night the dreams stopped.
As the weeks passed Amy began to relax. She dreamed now of clean, green fields and birds in trees, waking refreshed and uplifted. She left her mother to her own devices, calling her only twice a week. She started language classes, learning how to conjugate verbs and ask for directions to the nearest railway station in French. She coloured her hair and got it cut to just above her shoulders so it swung around her cheekbones, earning her appreciative wolf-whistles from men on building sites. She was happy; the air around her fizzed and crackled like someone had poured champagne into the sky.
Two months later Amy’s mother announced she was going on a date. A man she had met online. ‘He’s a toy boy,’ she joked. ‘Ten years younger than me. He’s 55.’ The image of the man in the dream swept into Amy’s mind but she discarded it. There was nothing to fear. She was pleased for her mother; she had been alone for too long.
Another month passed. Then another. Amy was promoted at work. Her levels of productivity were the envy of the department. She had all but forgotten about her mother’s date. Then she got a postcard in the mail from Hawaii. Call me impetuous, it read. But Edward and I are married. We are so in love. The palm tree on the postcard stood back from the beach, on the boardwalk. Aloha it said, its green fronds waving invitingly; its roots encased in concrete.
Amy dropped the postcard. ‘It’s déjà vu,’ she thought. ‘Nothing more. People have experiences like this all the time. Seeing things they’ve never seen before that seem really familiar but aren’t. I’m jumping to conclusions thinking that this has anything to do with my dream.’
She called the number her mother had included on the postcard, a hotel. ‘Mrs. Fortune is unavailable,’ the clerk informed her. ‘She has taken a boat cruise to see the turtles. Very popular with tourists.’
‘And Mr. Fortune?’ Amy asked.
‘He is with her,’ the clerk replied. ‘They are inseparable. He calls her his good luck charm. Last night he won five thousand dollars in the hotel casino. He is definitely fortune by name and by nature.’
Mrs. Fortune. On her honeymoon in Hawaii. Amy’s mother. A woman who believed that being impetuous was tantamount to being foolhardy. Who scoffed when she heard other women say I would do anything for love. A woman whose most reckless behaviour to date was having two glasses of wine with dinner instead of her usual staid, responsible one. A woman who recycled her paper and plastic, and always paid her bills on time.
That night Amy had trouble sleeping. Just before dawn she felt into an unsettled half-sleep that left her feverish and cranky.
When she got to work there was a message for her from her mother. ‘I’m so happy, darling,’ it read. ‘Hawaii is glorious. Edward is glorious. Marriage is glorious. Please don’t worry. We’ll be home soon.’
Amy tried to convince herself that anyone who used glorious three times in a row must be happy; but she could feel clouds of doubt assembling.
Two weeks passed. Three. Four. Eight. She and her mother had exchanged faxes, emails, text messages but had still not spoken directly. Amy had booked a flight to Hawaii. She was leaving in two days time.
On the way home from work she drove past her mother’s house. A For Sale sign stood in the driveway. The door was wide open. The hallway was dusty. The pictures were crooked. Primroses drooped with neglect in their crystal vases.
Amy heard voices in the kitchen. ‘Mother,’ she shouted, breaking into a run. ‘It’s me, Amy.’ The kitchen was full of boxes. Crates blocked the exit to the garden. The kitchen was being packed away.
‘What’s going on here?’ Amy cried. ‘Who are you people? Where is my mother?’
A man emerged from the garden, long legs climbing like spiders over crates to get to her. A handsome man with a dark beard. ‘This can’t be happening,’ Amy thought.
‘Ah, there you are Amy,’ said the man as if they knew each other, as if they had met before. ‘I’m Edward Fortune. Where have you been? Your mother’s been calling you for weeks.’
‘I’ve been trying to call her for weeks. She hasn’t responded. What are you talking about?’
‘We’re selling the house, moving permanently to Hawaii. We’ve bought a little guest house there, a holiday inn. Your mother stayed behind to oversee the decorating. She trusts me to settle things here.’
‘Trusts you. She barely knows you. What right do you have to be here?’
Edward handed her a document. A letter from her mother’s lawyer outlining that the house, in accordance with her wishes, was to be sold and that Edward was to handle the sale. It was signed in her mother’s angular hand.
‘This isn’t real,’ Amy muttered. ‘You aren’t real.’
‘Your mother said you had been fraught lately. Delusional. She warned me you might be difficult. I can assure you it’s what she wants. She’s giving half of the money from the sale to you. You’ll be rich. Doesn’t the thought of that make you happy?’
‘The only thought that makes me happy is seeing my mother again. In person. Unless I get to see her in person I am getting the police involved.’
‘That would not be a good idea.’ Edward pulled a stool up to the kitchen counter, leaned on his elbows. His eyes were opaque, stone black. Amy felt like she was being observed by a bird of prey. ‘You see your mother is gone. For good.’
Edward killed Amy quickly with a spade like she was a rodent or a snake. It took him four hours to dig her a grave in the garden by the primrose bush.
The next day the removalists came, men with yellow teeth and clipboards who had frequent breaks to drink instant coffee. They noticed nothing untoward in the garden.
When the house was empty the shadows descended like monsters painted on the grass. Lizards scrambled for flies. A radio sounded in the distance. The sundial in the corner by the peach tree shifted to night. Birds twittered lullabies to one another. And the world rested as if nothing had changed.