Pleasant Nightmares
by Luke Joshua Davis

Home. Nothing is more comforting or secure than home. There you can relax, forget your worries, and just be. That was exactly how John felt. He was lying on his new green couch, in his new apartment in perfect comfort.

The warm sun shone though his sliding glass door blanketing him in its rejuvenating light. He tilted his head slightly and squinted his eyes to gaze at the angel. He was not alone. Home would not be so comforting were he alone.

In his arms and lying with him on the sofa was Sarah, his love. The light from the window illuminated her. Her blond hair glowed from its brilliance. It radiated off her white sun dress and truly made her look like an angel. John's slight movement woke her from a peaceful slumber.

She turned faintly to look at him, adjusting her weight against his chest. Her shoulder dug into him. It felt good. When she got comfortable, a small smile crept onto Sarah's face.

That smile, and the knowledge that he brought it into existence, filled John's heart with joy. Heaven must be a great place, for John could not imagine a more wonderful feeling than her soft stomach, or her coarse hair against his face, or the rise of her breath under the embrace of his arms…

John awoke with a start. He laid there for a moment slightly confused and stunned. His small dog, Lonesome, lifted her head and the pain of reality rushed over him. A single tear ran down the side of his face.

John did not move for quite a while. Lonesome put her head back down, thinking her master went back asleep. John's body wanted to go back to sleep, but he could not. He was afraid to. Gritting his teeth against the pains of moving first in the morning, he rolled out of bed.

The harsh green light of his alarm clock glared at him. Three o'clock. Three and a half more hours till time to wake up. John grabbed his robe from the bedpost and shrugged it on. His apartment was cold in the morning and John wasn't strong enough to bear the cold tonight. The terrycloth felt good against his back and neck, a small, but welcome, comfort.

John stumbled down the short hallway leading to the kitchen. He stepped on the slimy remains of a rawhide bone Lonesome had enjoyed a few hours ago. A mumbled insult directed at his companion escaped his lips as he flicked on the kitchen light. The brightness surprised John's eyes, causing him to squint in pain.

The refrigerator's contents was sparse, beverages mostly. John reached for a bottle of water, but stopped when his hand touched its damp surface. Almost as if the decision was difficult or significant he grabbed a can of soda.

Instead of returning to bed, he made his way to the living room. After a few seconds of frustratingly searching for the remote, John turned on the TV. Illuminated by the blue light of the television he popped the can top and took a deep drink. The first mouthful of soda burnt his throat as he found something worth watching. Lonesome sleepily walked into the room and curled onto John's lap. Her soft slumber kept John company until the alarm clock's harsh ring.

*****************************

John stepped out of his class room and locked the door behind him. A parade of children walked past quickly. Their faces filled with the joy of living. The hall was crowded this time of day. Parents coming to pick up their kids, band members and ball players going to practice, children, normally small, now large with their full backpacks strapped to them, all in a rush to get where they were going.

A smile perpetually dawned John's face, a contagious light that infected the children around him. His eyes followed a group of third graders down the hall and fell on the back of a woman walking away from him. His smile instantly changed into a true smile. Sarah!

He quickened his step to catch up. He would have run, but that would be a bad example to the children and the hall was crowded to begin with.

Sarah glanced back and winked with her own seductive smile, as if to say "Catch me if you can!"

The hall was crowded. People wanted to talk to him. All he wanted was Sarah. Her slow even walk brought her further and further away. Before he could get halfway down the hallway she had turned a corner…

Something woke John up. Something was wrong.

John sat up and looked around. His bedmate, Lonesome, was at his feet twitching. Another seizure, John grimaced. He gently placed a hand on Lonesome's back, ensuring that the little animal would not fall off the bed. These were happening with more frequency.

The seizures were a mixed blessing. They caused John to worry; he could not bear loosing his only friend. The vet bills didn't help either. However, they did keep his mind off his dreams. Lonesome looked up at John as if to ask what was happening.

It only lasted a few seconds. Less than a minute. Lonesome stretched and slipped into Johns lap. The exhausted ball of fur quickly fell asleep, leaving John to contemplate.

Eight thirty. Morning light poured though his bedroom curtains. It was much earlier than he usually woke on Saturdays, but he had no desire to return to his dreams. His dreams. Once they were a haven, beautiful imaginings of his pleasant life. Now his lovely visions were worse than nightmares. They haunted his waking world.

John gently scooped up Lonesome and gave her a big hug. It earned him a low groan from the newly wakened animal. "We might as well get up." Lonesome flopped back onto Johns arms. It didn't look like she agreed. John sat his small friend on his feather pillow. "At least one of us can sleep soundly" John grumbled. With that he rolled out of bed.

John had made it a habit to clean his apartment every Saturday morning. His domain was small and there was only him and Lonesome, so it usually only took an hour or two. This morning he did not feel like cleaning. Honestly, he didn't feel like doing anything. His dreams weighed heavy upon him. He said out loud to no one, "This has to stop." A telephone call later he was out the door and on his way to a meeting he should have had months ago.

Pastor O'Neal usually did not take counseling appointments on Saturdays, let alone at the last minute. However, when John called his curiosity was pricked. He had seen John at almost every service for a year, and yet he had never really spoken to him. Oh, they had exchanged introductions and after church they would shake hands, but Pastor O'Neal did not even know Johns occupation. Why would this quiet man sitting in front of him call on a Saturday morning asking for help?

The pastor's study at Emanuel Baptist Church was spacious. Bookshelves lined the walls, filled with bible reference books of all types and positions. At one end was the pastor's desk, large and cluttered with notes. At the other end were three comfortable, overstuffed chairs sitting in a circle. This was the area used for counseling, marriage counseling mostly. It was in one of those chairs that a very uncomfortable John sat.

After beginning in prayer, Pastor O'Neal asked John to explain his problem. John opened is mouth and then closed it, as if he could not put his feelings to words. Pastor O'Neal waited patiently, this was common. Finally, he uttered "It's my dreams." His head fell, ashamed that he had bothered the pastor for something seemingly so small. "I'm afraid to go to sleep and when I'm awake they're all I can think of."

In his forty years in the pastorate Pastor O'Neal had seen and heard much. While this was not common, he had dealt with bad dreams before. "Nightmares can be caused by many things, John. A traumatic event, sin in ones life, or even satanic influence can trigger ..."

"These aren't nightmares." John's interruption surprised both of the men. The now confused minister watched as John tried to recover. "Th-they aren't nightmares. The dreams are wonderful. The problem is that they cause me to remember good times I'd rather forget." John withered in the oversized chair, defeated.

Pastor O'Neal paused, this was new. After a long moment he took a deep breath and said the one thing that works in all situations. "Tell me about it."

It was John's turn to take a deep breath. There was so much to tell, and yet as he really began to think about it, there was so little to say. "I've never had much luck with girls. I dated in high school, but not in college. Girls just didn't seem to like me. That was until two years ago when I met Sarah." At the mention of his tormentors name John's eyes faded, as if is mind was far off in another world.

Sarah Parker was the prettiest girl in her entire family. Growing up she was the prettiest girl in her junior high, and then in her high school. It was the same everywhere she went. She new it too. Everyone liked Sarah. She was everyone's best friend. Even the people who said she was a snob secretly wished they were like her.

Not only was she the prettiest girl in her family, she was the most outgoing. The Parkers were, and still are, introverts. They spoke when they were spoken to. Helped out when asked. They were pleasant enough, no one disliked them. But Sarah, Sarah did not quite fit their mold. And her parents adored her for it. Worshiped even. She was everything they wanted to be, but lacked the courage to become. Sarah was the lifeblood of the Parkers.

"I can still remember the first time I saw her. I don't believe in love at first sight," Pastor O'Neal nodded in agreement, "but I remember thinking that there was something special about this girl." John shifted his weight and swallowed nothing.

"Eventually, she felt the same for me. We had a relationship. It didn't last long." John looked into Pastor O'Neal's eyes for the first time since he began. "You see, her parents hated me." John paused pensively.

"Why is that?" the Pastor prodded.

"I'm not entirely sure." John seamed more relaxed, as if this was less painful to speak of. "I confronted her father about it; he never gave me a straight answer. Just threats and ill-fated predictions. I think they were afraid to lose her. Maybe that I would take her away."

John's unpopular relationship was all too familiar to Pastor O'Neal. These things never ended well. "What happened?" He gently encouraged the wounded member of his flock to continue.

"It stopped."

"What did?"

"Everything. One day she stopped responding to my letters, stopped calling, stopped everything. No warning. No explanation. She just stopped. Now, when I see her she won't look at me, not even in my direction! I approached her, asking what was wrong. What I did." A lonesome tear meandered down Johns face. "She blew me off, told me to stay away from her."

Few things are more disturbing than seeing a man cry. It touched Pastor O'Neal to the point that he too wanted to weep. He could not, though. It was his job to stay strong. He gave John, and himself, a few moments.

Before the pastor could decide what to say next, John spoke. "I'm over it. It doesn't look like it I know, but I really don't care about her any more. I can go an entire day without thinking of her once. It's just these dreams!" The pain of hopelessness washed over his face. "I dream of her and the dreams are so good! When I wake I feel so lonely. It's like I've lost her all over again."

"You want the dreams to stop." It wasn't a question. Pastor O'Neal now knew why John needed him.

John nodded.

"We can't decide what we dream. I believe that is in the hands of God"

"Me too." John whispered.

The man of God bowed his head and said, "Lets ask Him to take away these dreams." John mimicked his pastor's stance and the two men went before the Throne of Grace.

*****************************

Rain pounded against the windshield of John's little car. The darkness of night contrasted with the glaring light of headlights made John feel like he was driving blind. His windshield wipers were fighting a loosing battle against the torrent.

Home was moments away. Almost there. Just concentrate on the road. It will be alright. Johns brain tried to comfort itself. One more turn. Lightning illuminated what the street lamps did not. Giving John a quick glimpse of his surroundings.

Movement to the right. Ignore it. Concentrate on the road. Another flash. More movement. A small animal was running alongside John's car. Lonesome! How did she get out?

John slammed on his breaks. Nothing. Panic. Can't stop! Somehow Lonesome gained on John, running right in front of him. Can't stop! Lonesome!!

John practically jumped out of bed. His sheets were so wet with sweat it seemed as if he had just come in from the rain. Instant relief bathed him in its warmth. Just a nightmare.

A slight rustle at the foot of his bed proved that his small friend was fine. John reached out and pulled Lonesome towards him. Then, he rolled over and went back to sleep, a tiny smile gracing his lips.

You can contact Luke Joshua Davis at luke@sermondepository.com

 

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