What Dreams Are Made Of
I woke today knowing I would lose my job.
Last night I’d seen a broken clock, springs and gears scattered haphazard about the floor; Henry’s clock… Uh-oh. Teacups rattling on saucers, passed to two formally-attired men. Henry’s stony gaze, and Trevor standing watch upon my empty desk. No distinct message, but isn’t that how everyone’s dreams are?
Dreams are funny like that; limitless slide-shows of the every-day and the surreal, all so accepted until they end. Some think they’re the mind’s way of sweeping a broom over the chaotic web of the day’s events, and some think they’re the subconscious knocking on our door the only way it knows how. Some think they don’t mean squat. Me? Day by day, my dreams come alive before me, and I’ve become an ace at distinguishing signal and noise.
Thirty minutes enjoying the Metropolitan Line’s unique collage of combative odours, then battling the bustle of the commute, wailing buskers and stuffed rush-hour escalators, and finally emerging topside to the overwhelming glass monoliths of Bishopsgate. The morning commute is already the stuff of nightmares without my own unique anxieties added to the mix.
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“Morning, Sam,” Trevor the security guard greets. I return the gesture with a plastered friendly smile. Ordinary enough thus far, yet the office couldn’t help but appear a shade different from the standard efficiency blue, as if its every-day banality was a thin veneer clumsily covering all manner of lurking terrors. I proceed with the usual routine: Pour the coffee, grab the incoming post, and power up my workstation. It takes longer than usual, distracted as I am by the involuntary hunt for lurking nightmares, the familiar signs and symbols of my impending termination.
Eventually I get with it enough to check my mail, but there’s little of relevance until I catch sight of my name, hiding at the bottom of a memo:
Sam, I’ll be in a meeting with an important client from 8:30. Please bring refreshments when you arrive at 9.
The clock on the wall reads 9:08; Mr. Yates was always a stickler. Great start, Sam. I bolt for the kitchen, throwing together whatever I can find onto the trolley. The kettle takes an eternity, the hissing and bubbling like the sound I imagine the ground will make as it deforms and gives way beneath my feet, swallowing me up. But finally, with cups, saucers, and pots ready to go, I take a deep breath and commence the trundle to the conference room. I move down the lengthy blank corridor like a death row convict facing that last long walk, the trolley’s squeaky wheel a mad cackle as I force it along. A deep breath, a gentle knock at the conference room, and I open the door.
“Ah, here we are.” Mr. Yates throws me a surreptitious look of displeasure before turning back to the client.
The other man turns in his chair and gazes up at me with the brightest, deepest, friendliest set of blues, and off goes the swarm of butterflies in my stomach. I barely register their words, more concerned with the blush creeping up my cheeks. My hands rattle the saucers as I pass them over. I see the rims of the cups dance on the saucers, the liquid jumping and bouncing. Before I even know it’s happening, one of the cups is escaping, toppling, spiralling. Hot brown liquid cascades down, all over the client’s shirt.
Yates is up in a start. “Miss Fuller, really!”
I mumble my apologies—rehearsed on the train ride—while the client gets to his feet, brushing hands against a growing brown stain across a pristine white shirt.
“No, no,” he says, attempting to smile through a wince, “it’s alright Henry, just an accident. Nothing to worry over.”
All the while I’m stepping back without particular purpose, bumping the small table behind me, only then remembering what it houses. Henry’s precious antique clock falls in slow motion, an inexorable swan dive into oblivion. The casing breaks on impact, the glass of the face sounding a hideous crack, insides spilling out all across the grey carpet.
Mere moments later, I’m standing in Henry’s office, being told in no uncertain terms how much my little accident has cost the company. What hurt more, I wonder, the loss of a client, or the loss of that clock? Either way, I’m to pack up and hand my credentials over to security immediately. I don’t argue, instead meekly stowing my meagre knick-knacks while Trevor looms over, insurance against any last-minute mischief. Unnecessary, as I’d performed all the mischief I was capable of for one day.
I take my box of belongings and make my way home for the last time.
That night, I retire to bed early, cursing these blasted dreams of mine, futile visions of things that surely nobody should have to know. Each day recorded the night before, each night a plunge headlong into tomorrow. If I’m incapable of exercising control over my future, I may as well stay in bed and await the inevitable in comfort.
But sleep doesn’t come easy. Scarce more than an hour at a time, only the barest snatches. I see Mr. Important Client standing at a crossroads, impeccably dressed in a sharp suit, collar unbuttoned. He’s looking left, looking right, a hefty decision on his mind. No tea spoiling his shirt though; yes, I can manage to feel mortified even while I’m asleep.
It’s all irrelevant though, since I’ve already resolved to spend the best hours of tomorrow with my face hidden under a pillow.
The knock on the door comes early.
I won’t answer, I won’t!
Curled up and with eyes squeezed shut against the encroaching morning light, the second, more insistent knock-knock is as welcome as a jackhammer during a migraine.
Dragging myself out from underneath the covers, I throw on my robe and take one lamentable glance in the mirror. Looking how I feel, I thump a path down the stairs.
“Yeah, I’m coming…” Bleary eyed and stifling a yawn, I open the door.
“Oh, hi!” Mr. Important Client stands awkwardly at the threshold, fingers drumming a nervous ditty at his sides. I rub my eyes again, just to be sure.
“I hope I didn’t cause you too much trouble yesterday,” he says, a nervous smile playing around his lips.
“Oh, none at all,” I reply, “just lost my job.” Then my caffeine-deprived brain registers how strange it is for him to be here at all. “Wait. What are you doing here? How did you know where I live?”
“That would take some explaining,” he chuckles uncomfortably. “You’ll probably think I’m mad.”
I take him in, up and down. Very smart, well groomed, and does he know how good he looks? In less than my finest morning ensemble and replete with bed head, I must make quite the contrast. If it bothers him, he doesn’t show it.
Against my better judgement, I make a decision. “Not that I’m in the habit of inviting strangers into my home, but…”
He nods and steps inside. Closing the door, I add, “Sorry, I’m a bit of a mess.”
“No need to explain. You did just get the sack.”
“Mr. Yates blamed me for losing your contract.”
“I’m sorry. You never know, it might be the best thing for you.” I invite him to sit, and he does so gingerly, as if afraid the armchair might swallow him up. “Besides, I never intended to sign with him anyway, so it wasn’t your fault.”
“Oh? Why did you arrange the meeting?”
“This will sound strange. Um… You see, I had this dream. I know how this sounds, but you were in it. It’s actually how I found you today. Yesterday, too. Something told me if I didn’t meet you, I’d never know what I’d missed.”
“I see.” Carefully neutral, I hope. “All because of a dream?”
“Maybe I’m a little superstitious,” he says. “But if we never took chances, where would we be?”
Where indeed? Now I feel the fool, but bury it under a smile. I’d never met anyone else like me before. Well, not that I knew of anyway. But then, he wasn’t really like me. I’d never purposely sought out the things I’d seen. Experience had taught me the hard way that they’d find me, one way or the other. It must have been a bad day when I’d first resigned myself to numbly waiting for them. Now I’m not so sure if I have no choices because of the dreams, or if I have the dreams because of my choices.
The dragging silence seems to last an eternity. He breaks it first. “I’m Chris, by the way. Samantha, was it?”
“Sam,” I said, creeping self-consciousness clawing inside. I run a hand through my hair, fingers catching in ungainly tangles. Looking at his pristine white shirt, all I can think to ask is, “Would you like some tea?”