The Strangers

Photo by Tran Phu on Unsplash

Theo woke up with a migraine. He remembered having the strangest dream- there was an angel in it and she was almost as confused to see him as he was to hear her. Her accent was the patter of rain on a window and she was singing a song about a fairy and a baby. It was like he’d been dumped on Mars, and she was no less bewildered. He’d been running in the dream as if he was on fire. The strangest dream.

Nadia woke up with a migraine. She’d had another of her wickedly lucid night visions, but this time she was not in a foreign world alone. She was singing the lullaby her mother had written just for her and touching the locket around her neck, but when her fingers touched the sterling silver, it all changed. Suddenly, she felt herself fade. It was as if she was even disappearing from her own mind. In her place, stood a man; he only stood for a moment before he took off sprinting wildly. She gawked at him embarrassingly, as if she’d never seen a man before. They sensed each other and it was as if the universe was thrown off kilter. It was a strange dream, even for a girl like her.

Nadia’s fiance was still sleeping soundly next to her, so she rubbed her shoulder and wandered out to the terrace, grabbing a cigarette pack and lighter as she walked by them. Her gentle puff was like a breeze tickling the night and she regretted her promise to herself that there would be no smoking in the new apartment. She missed the dependence, missed the days when escape from reality was second nature. Now, her automatic response was nicotine-free and that made adulting much harder. Her mind on the dream and still throbbing in pain, she let the cigarette slip through her fingers; by that point, it was just an ash anyway.

Theo was in his kitchen, working on his third piece of toast and debating whether or not his heart health mattered enough to forgo butter. His nose wrinkled up and then he took a deep breath. The smell of ashes was in his living room. He got up and went inside, but the lights were out and the room was its usual sad and empty self. He went back to his toast, hoping to find a painkiller for his head in the medicine cabinet. Only when he remembered it was in his bathroom, did he realize he wasn’t smelling pure ash; it was the diluted perfume aroma of his mother, who’d stayed with him on the weekends before she died of lung cancer four years prior. Her scent was back? Dreams are strange, he decided, because they sometimes decide to mimic life.

Nadia’s fiance was up and getting ready for work by the time her migraine began to fade. They kissed, promised to meet up for lunch, and parted ways. Nadia was on her way back to bed, but her dreams were only black voids. Emptiness, she explained to herself, was the thing she feared most in the world because emptiness meant she was just as alone as she was when her brother died of leukemia. Her dreams that morning consisted only of a scent- old fashioned Calvin Klein. “Dreams mean nothing,” she declared.

Theo figured it might clear his head to get out in the fresh air, so he grabbed his dog’s leash. That was all it took, and the birds were singing the right song again. The two of them half-dragged each other out of the house and down the street, not stopping for a breath until they reached the new apartment complex down the road from Theo’s corner home. A pixie-like woman was breezing out the front doors of the building with a coffee mug in hand.

Nadia got dressed for work, only to realize the music store was closed that day. Not wanting to let the morning be all about bizarre dreams, she wanted to get a coffee. Heading downstairs installed a sense of normalcy in her. The jingling keys, the squish of the carpets everytime she moved, the oddly chosen “modern art” on the walls at each landing, everything was just as it always was. She strode through the lobby, feeling like the day could turn out to be life-changing. There was nothing holding her back- except the animal that stopped her in her tracks. She was terrified of dogs, and occasionally, the men that accompanied them.

Especially this one. Nadia knew this man was familiar.

It drove Theo insane when he thought he recognized someone but couldn’t place it. More than ever that morning. The woman who emerged from her building had crossed his path before; he’d seen her somewhere at some time. They gave each other a moment’s intense look, and shock came across their faces. Theo and Nadia stepped closer to one another feeling strange. As if it was a dream.

“Dreamcatcher with feathers at Vero Beach” by Megan Hodges on Unsplash

Thanks for reading this short story, alternatively titled “The Neighbors”. Check out my last work of flash fiction here:

And check out the one minute key to happiness:

If you’re looking for more short stories, here’s a series you need to dive into.

…BRD…

I write poetry, prose, and personal pieces. All images are mine unless indicated otherwise. Feel free to leave feedback on my work anytime; I hope you enjoy.

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