After submitting my first short story to Answers.com's Creative Writing Challenge, I hadn't intended to write another one. But then one night, as I was jogging, my mind wandered off and I began formulating another short story incorporating the words from the second writing challenge. I usually contemplate software and programming challenges while pounding the pavement. But one mind-drift led to another and this story almost wrote itself over a few segments of my various routes, including the two cemeteries I often run through near the center of my town.
The sun was flooding the room with its blinding rays, but it didn't matter. I was awake already and sitting on a bare floor. "Where am I?", I wondered as I rubbed my eyes. Yet I knew this place well.
It was my room in the house I had grown up in, nestled in a sleepy hamlet just inside the state line. There was a fresh coat of white paint on the walls, the ceiling, and the floor. There were no posters of simians swinging in the Sumatran rainforest on the walls, no bookshelves filled with my spy novels and stories of double-agents infiltrating fifth columns; not even a lamp. I slowly rose to my feet and walked a few steps to the window. The fields down below had a passing resemblance to the Kew Gardens.
Standing in the room where I had spent my salad days, I was reminded of my faithful dog, Lucas, buried out back, who once helped me abscond with my father's pocket knife, and my parents, also long dead now. The reflection quickly turned into sorrow and I felt my eyes welling up, but I quickly turned my attention to the matter at hand, which was to learn how I had ended up there.
The door leading to the hallway was closed. It had the same ghost white paint as the rest of the room. I turned the knob and pulled the door in. It opened with a frightening screech that echoed in the room. Horripilation set in. I froze, listening intently for any signs of life in the house. And then I heard it. Someone was coughing downstairs. The type wheezing cough that sounded so familiar, yet I didn't know why. I was a prowler in a strange house, only this was my house, at least the house of my childhood. It felt like a horrific opus.
I passed the bathroom and saw the spiral stairway leading downstairs. Everything was white, even the house door. There was that cough again. I started my descent with my trembling right hand gripping and sliding over the banister. Sunlight was beaming in through the window panes above the house door. As I reached the bottom stair, I turned and squinted at the figure of a woman who appeared to be dusting the bare, whitewashed living room with a feather duster. She abruptly turned. "Oh, Jonathan, you scared me. About time you woke up." She appeared ashen and tired. "I left a bowl of gazpacho for you in the kitchen. Your father's been working outside since the crack of dawn. He could use a hand."
"Hello Mother", I muttered as tritely as a child greeting a parent in the morning and then I realized the gravity of the situation. A fug of dust was billowing out of the room. I couldn't quite see the details of her face but there was no mistaking the voice. Was this woman really my mother? Was this an apparition? Was I dead? I stood there agog at the ghost of the person I had just addressed as "Mother".
My mind was racing. "I'm in a dream. What do they call it? Yes, lucid dream. It's a lucid dream. I always wanted to have one. Now I'm right in the middle of it." I turned quickly towards the door and flung it open. The bright sunlight blinded my eyes, I could feel its warmth on my face. A man in a distance was hollering my name, "Jonathan, Jonathan". A barking dog was racing towards me. I felt my stomach muscles contracting, the way they do just before vomiting. "Lucas," I cried out.
I opened my eyes and tried to swallow, but my throat was dry and throbbing. My fiancée was sitting on the edge of the bed gazing nervously into my eyes. She appeared exhausted. There were bright lights overhead. "Hello Jonathan, how are you feeling?", inquired a middle-aged, bearded man wearing an unbuttoned white overcoat. "We're almost done. I just removed your feeding tube. You might feel a little dizzy or nauseous." He then turned to the attending nurse carting away the apparatus, giving her rapid-fire instructions.
The room was white and reeked with the smell of anti-septic. A heart monitor was blipping rhythmically above my bed. "Oh, Jonathan, you scared me. About time you woke up." I gave my fiancée a grimaced smile in response. "Who's Lucas?"