PART ONE, GIRL
Do you sleep well, all safe and sound at night? All tucked up tight, don’t let the bugs bite? I used to. I was never one of those kids who hated going up to bed, who kicked up a fuss at bath time, pleading for five more minutes.
Mind you, I didn’t always go to sleep. Some nights I liked to read – book propped on my knees, one hand on the light switch listening for Gran’s slippered tread on the stairs. Fairy stories usually, or a comic Gran had bought with her newspaper. Or if I didn’t feel like reading I’d lie on my back and stare at the ceiling, searching for familiar faces in the patched-up plaster or humming to myself as I sailed the seas between the tiny raised islands and strange shaped continents.
No, I wasn’t afraid then, night-time noises didn’t bother me. A shout outside, the rattle of a water pipe, a buzz in my ear – they only made me feel safe and warm, a little girl tucked up tight in her narrow bed.
And when I slept, I slept well, opening my eyes to the light through the flimsy curtains, the miracle of hours passing.
Not now though, not anymore. Don’t drift off to dreamland – too many dark spaces waiting to swallow you up. Don’t even close your eyes. Too many pictures waiting there, waiting to pull you in: candles in saucers measuring out the length of a cold dark hall; a library of old books, shelves climbing to the cobwebbed ceiling. Pull out an ancient tome and you half expect something to scuttle away into the back of the bookcase on clawed feet.
The curve of a stair twisting up into the velvet darkness, and on each step a tiny flickering flame; a bedroom cold as a cave, hidden deep within the dark house; an old wardrobe with something charred and dreadful hanging between the coats. They say people do the oddest things in fires, crawl under the sofa, hide in cupboards. Anything but save themselves. Not that you’ll read that in your local newspaper.
But don’t think of all that. Don’t even go there because it isn’t your concern, it’s not your fault. I mean all those candles. An accident waiting to happen my Gran would have said.
Don’t blame yourself Poppy. Keep right away, look after yourself, because god knows no one else is looking out for you.
Do you sleep well at night, all tucked up tight? I used to but not now, not anymore. I lie in the darkness, eyes prickling with the effort to keep them open, heart juddering at each tiny noise. Don’t close your eyes whatever you do, too many pictures waiting behind your eyelids.
If I could stay awake always I would.
M J Lewis 2015
Dream Girl is available here in the Amazon Kindle Store (for 99p)