Rose and Sonia had taken to doing their garage sailing together. Working the sales as a team they were getting more good stuff together, and Rose's apartment was already fairly safe, so when she replaced something Sonia got first dibs on it. Plus, it was just plain nice to have a friend who understood. The two of them would do the garage sales, then go back to share the work of installing new things in Rose's apartment. Then with Sonia's stuff, plus whatever old things Rose was casting off, they'd go on back to her place and share the work of installing it there. So Rose's apartment was getting nicer, and Sonia's was getting safer, much faster than either had had any right to expect before they started working together.
Sonia's big score, a few weeks after she met Rose, was an American flag. It had flown over an entire season of college football once, the object of ritual concentration by thousands of people as the national anthem was sung before each game. It had a presence as powerful as Rose's mandala, if not as tranquil. It became Sonia's bedspread.
With the bedspread, and a bunch of other things Rose helped her find, Sonia was finally able to sleep in a bed in her bedroom, instead of being limited to a handwoven tatami mat in her closet. And the first four nights she slept well.
But the fifth night, there was a nightmare-storm. She woke up with a start, all horny and slimy-feeling, and her heart was pounding like a hammer. She went to take a cold shower and get over it. What had it been...? So frustrating, to try to remember dreams. She remembered that it had involved dogs, somehow. But it didn't make any sense. She hated it when she got caught in other people's nightmares. She hated it almost as bad as getting caught in other people's wet dreams. And this had been both, somehow.
As she scrubbed furiously at herself, she wished Rose were there. Rose would be able to tell where it was coming from. Rose could tell so much more than Sonia could that way. Of course, Rose needed more protection to sleep, too. Sonia could still feel it, here in the shower, even though she was awake now. But she couldn't tell what it was exactly, or where it was coming from. It was like a bad smell she couldn't get rid of. Two or three times she caught herself reaching down to where her legs joined, fingers aching to relieve the tension left by the dream. But each time she jerked back. No. She didn't want to have sex, not even masturbation, that felt slimy and wrong and came from someone else's wet dream or someone else's nightmare.
Back in her bedroom, she pulled the flag off the bed and wrapped it around herself tightly, and crawled back into the closet to sleep under all her clothes, between all the amateur paintings she'd stuck on the closet walls and door, on top of the handwoven tatami mat and using a bunch of macrame stuffed into an embroidered pillowcase to rest her head on. And she lay awake, for an hour or more, before the storm finally faded away and she could trust herself to sleep again without getting drawn into the nightmare. It must be very close.
She didn't know it, but six blocks away James Abelard, behind solid shelves of books and surrounded by stacks of graded homework, was tossing and turning, slick with sweat and barking softly in his sleep.
And Rose, halfway across town, also behind solid shelves of books and paintings in her bedroom, had woken up with a headache. She thought maybe she had smelled a wet dog, but then she drifted back to sleep.
The man whom Rose had seen briefly swearing at a stop-sign one Friday night had gone to sleep on a rooftop. His name, although he didn't know it anymore, had once been Joe, and the nightmare came down on him with crashing intensity. He had no protection at all except a coat stuffed with paperbacks, and didn't even really understand anymore why the paperbacks were so important to him. He was drifting from dream to dream as he usually did, a chaotic jumble of unconnected experience coursing through his helpless head, when it hit him full force. He got up in a sweaty, heart-pounding, thundering panic, and ran from the dogs that were chasing him, across the junkyard where he found himself, and as he was getting close to the fence he saw cutting off his (her?) escape at the edge of the junkyard, his feet found the edge of the roof. Some might have said he was caught by the things pursuing him. Some though, would have claimed he had finally escaped.
In the morning, Abelard stared bleakly at his newspaper, at a story of a woman who'd been trapped in a junkyard after hours and ripped apart by the guard dogs there. He couldn't put together anything very coherent about it, but the story, to his horror, seemed familiar to him. Several times he anticipated details before he read them. He had the shakes, and he couldn't eat breakfast.
In lieu of breakfast he took his coffee bitter and black that morning, because he wanted the strong taste to wash out his mouth. He had the nagging, queasy impression that he knew what she'd tasted like.
What else the dogs had done to her went into the coroner's report but not the newspaper, and the coroner called Mitch Flanagan that afternoon.
That morning, in front of a department store, the police found the body of a homeless man that some other homeless people identified as "crazy Joe" or "spooky Joe" or "library Joe." He didn't have any ID on him, just twenty-six paperback books that were long overdue at the municipal library. They finally got his full name from the library's copy of his library card. He had taken a dive off a rooftop, and they called it a suicide.
YOU ARE READING
This is a story that tells, among other things, why it really sucks to be psychic, what people who endlessly collect art and trivia are really doing, and where Gods, Goddesses and Devils come from. Rose is a telepath - but it isn't really "readin...