Abruptly he wakes with a breath of jagged glass. His dream catches in the mangled wreck of hot duvet and sheet. He kicks it out, pushes it backwards, tries to skid away from the dream, but it's too late. They'd collided. In the dream they again became the familiar spoons, a sensuous couple tangled close together in sleep. He checks again for the smell of her hair, the molten heat of her body, his arm about her longingly, but it's just a dream. He pulls the pillow back over his face. Two hundred kilometres per hour awake, his heart races madly. He examines all of his disturbed senses, rolls onto his back and surrenders his arms to the cool air above the pillow.
Outside a Pukeko screams, a short siren blast that shocks the midnight silence and echoes gently back across the valley, through the cabbage trees and over the little whispering stream.
He consoles himself to the shape of his dark room. Out into its mundane corners his mind cruises, over the strewn debris of clothing, across the floor, out to the near empty wardrobe where the mirrored doors stand ajar. He knows the image practised into the glass. More frantic in the dark, the lost glare that lives there now constantly eyeing itself.
The pile-up had been so unexpected. He circles the wreckage wondering how she could have entered his sleep. He'd worked so hard steering himself through the waking hours, keeping his defences up. The dream, the thunderstorm dream is the one he'd have much preferred. It doesn't have her in its grip. He doesn't have to negotiate her at all in the satisfying thunderstorm. If he closes his eye's can he go there?
In this dream he is a foreigner under the grey polluted European skies. It is an overcast day in a dreary town. Puffy-faced pale-skinned people crawl about in their colourless little lives. Dull people with large bulging bloodshot eyes subconsciously move about in this busy, over-populated shit-hole. It is alive only with the incessant noise of traffic and the silence of voices.
He stands in front of the two-storeyed house. Just a red brick post-war characterless cube, sharper than a single piece of Lego. The exterior of the house is unremarkable, identical to the other square blocks in the row. He recognises the neat little green painted letterbox from the photo. The interior is a secret to the outside world, lavishly decorated with modern chrome and leather. He recognises it all from the photos, pictures swollen out to fill a seventeen-inch screen. Larger than life, glow in the dark pictures as crisp as radiation.
He doesn't falter as he enters, fists clenched tighter than a heartbeat smash their way in. Smash through nose and cheekbone, smash through blue eyes and smiling teeth. Great heavy drops of blood fall like thunderstorm rain, onto the neat white shirt with its perfectly knotted black tie, fall onto the perfect white collar around the neck of that smiling, rugged big-eyed European face. A huge eruption of thunderstorm drops quell the dust of a ferociously dry anger. The dream smiles at him. In the final act he pulls the computer monitor from the desk. Ripping it with cords flailing, he lifts it high above his head and smashes it down on the limp body at his feet. The body of the once single male occupant lies gasping with the reality that this was the husband, the mild mannered father of her children at the other end of the big anonymous world. Then he hears his calm voice in the dream:
'I C Q is now uninstalled!
Your computer has performed an illegal operation.
Windows is shutting down.'
In a silhouette of soft darkness the child's rag doll breathing reaches him from the side of the bed. She coughs quick and deliberately. He wakes again but this time it's not the thick, slow death of dreams. Automatically he pulls back a corner of cool duvet, lets the child smooth her way in, curl up on the larger than empty side. He feels the wide-awake eyes piercing his face in the dark with that hypnotic rhythm of chesty breaths coming straight at him. He waits for it, knows the whispered question soon arriving. The metallic scratch of the pin being slipped from the hand grenade. He closes his eyes. Waits. The breathing quietens.
"When's mum coming home?"
"Soon sweetie, soon."
He rubs a smooth thumb across her brow. "Now go back to sleep."
"Can I have Nutella on my sandwiches tomorrow?"