Remember I told you I wrote this short story but couldn't share it with you until it was published? Well, it was published a few days ago on Wattpad (as part of a Dreams contest thingy), so now I can post it here, as promised. It was the first short story I wrote that I plotted extensively, according to my own formula (it's now written out in my Scrivener template, very convenient), and it was a breeze to write it, knowing where I wanted it to end. I think plotting is really becoming me. Or I'm becoming plotting. In any case, I'm loving it. And loving the ease with which I can sit down and write the final thing (whereas before I both loved and dreaded finding my way to the end of the story while writing it).
When Sarah got done editing it, she said it reminded her of Siren Suicides as well. Only perhaps a more mature rendition of the themes touched upon there. Both trains and water...you tell me. Here it is (beware, some people said they were scared to be in the room alone after reading it). Enjoy.
SLEEP WELL, PAPA
A short story by Ksenia Anske
Papa came to me in a dream. He said the first time was in the bathroom. He was washing me.
“Why?” I asked.
“I don't know,” he said. “You were so little, so sweet. I started kissing you between the legs. You liked it.”
He said the other time I saw him running out of the bedroom, naked, erect.
I said, “Why are you telling me this? It's disgusting.”
He laughed and said, “What's so disgusting about it. Look.”
“I don't want to,” I said.
I woke up.
He came again, and he wouldn't let me go. He said, “I want to show you,” and dragged me with him to the bed. We struggled, and I lost.
My alarm started ringing.
I jerked awake and sat and breathed for a long time. The sheets were soaked.
I didn’t go to work that day.
That night I set the alarm an hour back.
He showed up the moment I closed my eyes. “You like seeing me. That’s why you keep coming.”
“Leave me alone,” I said. “I need sleep. I didn’t come here to see you. I don’t want to see you.”
“Tough luck,” he said.
He dragged me in an outhouse. It was dark and it stunk, and he suspended me over the hole and asked, “Are you scared?”
“Let go of me.”
I thrashed. He was stronger. He pulled off my pajama bottoms and pushed me in the hole. The chilly air goosed my buttocks. I sunk in halfway.
“You know what you have to do,” he said.
“I don’t care.”
“Oh, yes you do. How about this?” He pressed on my head.
“I said, do it!”
And I did.
I woke up gagging, fell out of my bed and retched. The vomit steamed on the carpet. It was dark, two hours before the alarm.
The next night, I didn’t go to bed at all.
I drank three cups of coffee around midnight, and by four in the morning I was wide awake and grinning. I had won.
That day at work, I dozed.
He was there right away.
“Did you miss me?” he asked.
“Get out! Out!”
“I knew you’d come. It’s not like you have a choice.”
“I said, out. Get out of my dreams!”
“They’re your dreams, aren’t they? It means you want me in them.”
I stumbled home that night and fell asleep while eating dinner, my head on the table.
He didn’t even talk to me. He stripped me, shoved me in his car. It was freezing. I hugged myself. My teeth chattered like crazy.
“Where are you taking me?”
There was nothing to see. Only the dark and the white below it. Snow.
“You can’t keep me forever, you know.”
“You’re so naive.”
“It’s only a dream.”
He smiled. “Is it? Feels plenty real to me.”
I pinched myself and slapped my cheeks. “Wake up. Wake up, dammit. Come on.”
He stopped the car. “We’re here.”
It was our old house.
He hauled me out, pushed me to the door. “Get in.”
I took a step, another, turned and ran. I could run with my eyes closed. I knew every rock, every tree, every pit in the ground. The snow froze my feet. It didn’t matter. I was free. I’d just keep running until I woke up.
I never did.
Not that night, not the next, not the five nights after. He kept me in the house, locked in the upstairs bedroom. He fed me, let me use the bathroom, let me wash myself, always there, always watching.
After a week, I didn’t think it a dream anymore. It felt real. There were neighbors, cars in the street. Stray dogs. Some kids came to the backyard alley. They smoked cigarettes, had a snowball fight. I watched them from my window. I wanted to open it, shout to them.
Papa stood behind me, his hand on my neck. “You want to go out there and join them?”
“Don’t lie to me.”
“I’m not lying.”
He tightened his fingers.
“I’m not, Papa, I promise.”
“I don’t believe you.”
I did. And in my head, I planned my escape. If I couldn’t leave him, I’d take him with me.
The next morning, he came to my bedroom before I woke up. I felt his breath on my cheek.
“I know you’re awake,” he said. “No use pretending.”
“I’m not sure if I’m awake or not anymore.”
“I thought it was your dream.”
“I don’t think so now.”
“And what do you think?”
“I think this is real. I think you’re real. I think you and I can live here together like you always wanted to, without Mama. What do you say?”
He looked at me. “I don’t like this.”
“You’re playing games with me.”
“Why would I do that?”
“You hate this. I know you, and I know you hate this. I won’t let you go until I teach you to love it. Then you’ll stay on your own. You will not want to leave.”
The prospect chilled me. “I want to stay.”
I paid for my lie.
That night I didn’t go to sleep after he finished with me, wiped himself, and left. I lay under the covers, breathing. Then I had it. I crawled out of my bed and crept out of the room and down the stairs. He was in his bed, asleep. I climbed in with him.
“What are you dreaming about?”
“What am I doing?”
And so, I went into his dream. I was in my kitchen. I was eating spaghetti, and Papa was sitting across the table, watching me slurp it up and chew.
“You want some?” I said.
“No, thank you. I’ve already eaten dinner.”
“There’s plenty more in the pot.”
“I said no.”
“Just trying to be hospitable.”
“You don’t need to be hospitable. It’s not your dream, it’s mine.”
“You sure about that?” I twisted my fork in the spaghetti and smiled.
He shifted in his seat. “What’s there to be sure about?”
“The dream. Whose do you think it is?”
“This is a pointless conversation.”
“Finish your dinner.”
“Scared because you’re not sure, aren’t you?”
“We’re going.” He stood up.
“I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying. I quite like it here. Nice kitchen. Nice food.” I scraped the last of the spaghetti to the edge of the plate and licked it off. “I want seconds.”
He understood then and made a dash for the door. I was already on my feet. I sprung after him and leapt on his back like a monkey.
“You’re not going anywhere without me,” I said.
“Tough luck, Papa.”
He rammed his back against the wall. It knocked the wind out of me. I held on.
“Nice try,” I said. “It’s not real, remember? It’s your dream. You want me here, don’t you?”
“Get off me.”
“You know what you have to do,” I said.
“Suit yourself. I like it here.”
He ran out the door.
It was like when I was little, riding him piggy-back style. I curled my legs around his waist and held on to his neck. He panted hard, running himself into exhaustion. He tried shaking me off a few times. In the end, he gave up. We ran all the way to my work and past it, to the railway and to the woods behind it, stopping by the dark, slow river. There, he collapsed.
“You got what you wanted,” he said.
“It’s obvious, isn’t it?”
He looked at me.
I looked at my watch.
“No,” he said.
I shrugged. “I’m in no hurry.”
He was wheezing. “Let’s go back. Just you and me. In the house. Wasn’t it nice?”
“I didn’t know the dead can dream,” I said. “Didn’t know their dreams were so boring.”
A train went by, and we both looked up and watched it disappear into the haze.
He sat up. “The dead don’t sleep,” he said.
“In my dream they do.”
“We talked about this.” He got to his feet.
I was fast.
It was the first time I used the trick he’d taught me. He once used it to fight off a man with a knife when he was a boy. I hunched my shoulders, tucked in my neck and ran at him, driving my head into his stomach. He doubled over. I pushed him in the river. It wasn’t deep here, but the bank was steep, and he couldn’t swim. I watched him struggling, calling to me, watched him recognize the look in my eyes. That’s when he sunk.
I woke up in my bathroom.
The water was running over the edge of the tub. It was cold. I put my hand in it, stirred it around.
“Sleep well, Papa. I know I will.”