Prompt: One night you realise you can continue dreams from previous nights. You start building your perfect life but in your obsession you start neglecting reality. (Reddit link, to my submission on the original /r/WritingPrompts post.)
I cannot stop thinking about the faceless maiden from my dream last night.
I woke up late this morning and had to scramble to arrive on time to that coffee shop at which Jenny told me to meet her. Brushing my teeth in the shower and buttoning my shirt as I put on my shoes, I stumbled into my car and drove across town in serene Sunday morning traffic.
When I arrived at the coffee shop, Jenny greeted me with a hug and a peck on the cheek before pulling back. She gives me a pout before badgering me about my late arrival.
“What took you so long?”
I shrugged and avoided her questioning gaze.
A vast, pastoral landscape.
The grassy hills that roll around across the field and surround us. The clear blue sky that bleeds into the horizon. The breeze that blows and gently weaves with her hair.
The faceless maiden in a white summer dress turns to me and smiles with her shapeless lips. I cannot hear her silent voice, and yet it grips my entire being with every uttered word:
What a beautiful day.
Those nocturnal days with her linger with me even after I wake.
I go to see Jenny at her place. She has come down with a cold, so I bring medicine, some chicken stock and spices for a hearty soup, and a bootleg copy of a movie she wanted to see at the theater. I let myself into her house with the key hidden underneath the flowerpot on her front porch and immediately get to work conjuring up a meal with the ingredients I brought and the scraps in the back of her fridge.
As the water boils, I chop up a rigid broccoli stalk as I think about the image which has stayed in my mind’s eye since I woke up this morning. Glancing out the window above the kitchen sink, I only see a dull, overcast grey.
Too focused on my repetitive chopping and the dichotomy between reality and dream which has bothered me for weeks, I do not notice Jenny stumbling into the kitchen behind me until I feel her arms slip under mine and wrap around my torso. She buries her face in my shoulder right at the base of my neck and breathes in deeply, then out.
“You feeling okay?” I put down the knife in my right hand and move to ruffle her messy hair. Despite usually being against me touching her hair like this, I feel her body relax and push into me as I gently pet the top of her head.
“I threw up.”
“I brought some medicine with me. Maybe you should take some right now while I finish up this meal?”
“Let’s stay like this for a while.”
I try to keep cutting into the firm broccoli in front of me, but I decide to just let it be and put my hands on her hands which cross over my navel. I enjoy this intimate moment with an inexplicable but palpable guilt.
There was once a time where her pressing her bra-less chest against me like this, with only a thin shirt over her swells, would have excited me and caused me to become flustered or embarrassed. And yet, here we are, casually holding each other in front of the beginnings of a patchwork dinner splayed out on the kitchen counter.
The water begins to boil over. I move to turn off the heat, breaking free from Jenny’s hold. I take the cutting board with an assortment of half-chopped vegetables and put them into the hot water with a shrug. Whatever. Good enough.
I put the lid on and turn to face Jenny. Immediately, her arms shoot up around my neck and pull me into a tight embrace. I hug her back, resting my hands on the small of her back. Looking down at the ground, I am bemused as always by the sight of her standing on the balls of her feet.
“Make sure to get better before this weekend, okay? In time for the eclipse.”
Indeed, a solar eclipse is going to happen this weekend. For the people of this town, who live every day restless and aching for novelty, the excitement and anticipation surrounding this astronomical event is a temporary distraction from the mundanity of everyday life. A community gathering at city hall has been planned, which has been pretty much the only thing Jenny talks about these days. She has always been interested in astronomy, and the incoming total eclipse is basically a dream come true for this girl who has never seen beyond our town.
This girl deserves to see her eclipse. I feel a pang of pity for Jenny as she lets out a pained groan.
“I feel so shitty. I’m gonna die before Sunday.”
“Not with me taking care of you.”
She nestles her face into my chest.
“You’re here for me now, and you’ll also be there with me on Sunday. Will you always be by my side?”
Jenny looks up at me with expectant eyes. I move my hand to cup her cheek as I draw my face closer. The world turns to black as we both close our eyes and—
I feel her palm right there her lips should me. I open my eyes to see her covering her mouth with her hand.
I kiss her on the forehead before we both break out into hearty laughter. I think about how lucky I am to have Jenny right here with me at this moment. And yet, somehow, this scene in the kitchen with a pot of half-assed soup cooking behind me and a sick girl in my arms leaves me feeling just a little empty.
The same perfect scenery, illumined by the brilliant Sun characteristic of my nighttime fantasies.
Although the light cannot pierce through the imperceptible veil on her face, I know that she’s smiling and laughing with me. The nameless maiden has laid a white blanket on the grass, and we sit together enjoying the imaginary birdsong which accompanies this timeless day.
She leans forward from her sitting position and moves into a seductive crawl, inching closer to me and lithely settling right between my legs with her knees between mine. Even this close up, with her head moving right next to my ear and our bodies almost touching, I still cannot make out her face.
Stay with me for a while. Her silent voice beckons me to enjoy this eternal summer day with her.
However, I hear a persistent beeping noise over the horizon. I do not know what it is, but I sense that it is time for this meeting to end.
“I have somewhere to go, now.”
The world begins to fade as I feel the vision in my eyes sensing some sort of dull otherworldly light. I see a digital clock screen showing [9:00] juxtaposed with the bright scene I am so reluctant to leave behind.
Just a little longer.
I somehow know that her shapeless lips are curling into a coy smirk, inviting me to spend eternity with her and escaping from the waking world—
I reach my arm through to the otherworld and turn off the alarm. The beeping stops and the clock display abruptly disappears. Once again, it is just me and the faceless maiden on a beautiful day with fields and sky in all directions.
I wake up utterly confused.
Although my clock reads [2:00] and my phone clearly shows that it is indeed 2pm, it is completely dark outside.
It takes me more than a few sleepy moments for my brain to finally take control of my rattled instincts and figure out what’s happening.
I throw on some clothes and rush out the door fumbling with my car keys. As I back out of the driveway near blind, without the aid of any streetlights, I look out the window at the magical daytime sky with stars scattered around a mysterious ring of light. But I do not have time to admire this once-in-a-lifetime view while drive through the streets. All I see ahead is someone running and using their phone as a flashlight—
I hear Jenny’s voice. I skid to a stop and jump out of my car to see Jenny running toward me, out of breath.
“Where the hell were you?”
She is angry. Her eyes brim with ire as she tries to catch her breath. I try to think of the right thing to say—a flowery apology, or a funny line—but instead stand silently while she boils over with rage.
“I waited there for hours! I found us the best spot! I was calling you this whole time and worrying that something happened to you!”
She unleashes a barrage of fiery words at me, and all I can do is take it underneath the darkness of this once-in-a-lifetime daytime sky. I gazed behind her at the bright ring in the sky, which right before me bursts in a flash of light as the Moon slowly uncovers the Sun.
“This was the first eclipse in this town in over a century! I looked forward to this for months! It was going to be the memory of a lifetime, seeing an eclipse with you!”
The stars, which twinkled gently during this tense scene, suddenly hid away once more as the Sun’s light once again filled the daylight sky.
“I’m done! I’m leaving!”
She storms off and leaves me standing there in the street. After a while, I stumble into my car and drive back home while looking at the daytime sky and wondering if the scene that just occurred had actually happened.
By the time I arrive home and stumble back upstairs and into bed, not a trace of the eclipse remained in the afternoon sky.
The faceless maiden looks at me with what I somehow know to be a questioning gaze. I look away and silently enjoy the rain which falls around us and covers the usual nightly perfect summer day in a curtain of grey.
We sit underneath a tree which somehow completely shelters us from the raindrops which pound on the otherwise completely empty field which stretches in all directions.
I have spent countless nights—countless days in this dream world—with this faceless maiden. And yet, even though I still do not know her name, I feel at ease silently sitting here with her as the dull sound of rainfall drowns out my thoughts.
Her silent voice calls out to me. Just this once, I’ll ignore it.
I turn away and reach my arm out to feel the raindrops—
This is not a silent voice. I turn around and, to my alarm, see the no-longer-nameless maiden’s face. Jenny, wearing a white summer dress, gives me a forlorn look which juxtaposes with her earnest smile.
I feel myself choke up and cry tears of sorrow as the field and sky crumble away and give way to reality. As I am plunged back into the otherworld, Jenny comforts me with her no-longer-silent voice.
“I love you.”
I wake up and immediately jump out of bed to get dressed and run to Jenny’s house. It’s the middle of the night, but I have to see her.
However, as I slip my leg into my pants, I see that I was not alone in my bed.
It seems that while I slept, Jenny had snuck into my house and moved into my bed between me and the wall.
She stirs at the sound of me moving. Moving closer to observe her face, I see that her eyes have opened a crack and that her lips have curled into a smirk.
“Going to meet someone at two in the morning?”
I glance over at my clock and realize that it is indeed that time. Somehow, I managed to sleep another twelve hours after sleeping in this morning.
“Looks like she was right here with me.”
I slip my arm around her and she pulls herself closer to me. We stay there for a moment in silence before I finally speak up again.
“I’m so sorry.”
In all of our time together, I have taken for granted how forgiving she is of my countless faux pas. I thank the world for letting me meet and fall in love with such a good girl.
“You know… eclipses happen all around the world. I can buy tickets to somewhere where another eclipse will happen.”
I feel her shaking her head.
“But… I screwed up and ruined a once-in-a-lifetime event. I want to make it up to you.”
“No need. I don’t really want to go anywhere. Besides…”
She moves her head up and kisses my cheek before whispering in my ear:
“Every moment with you is already once-in-a-lifetime.”
While she nods off to sleep, I shed a few tears of happiness at the thought that she feels the same way.
This became way longer than I originally intended, but I really like the idea.