The Stranger – Dream
I had to go to work to finish up a few things before I went on holidays with Dayne and Colt. They were sitting in a waiting room just outside my office (which was my actual office, but not the proper waiting room). They couldn’t see what was going on inside, although they were welcome to come and go as they pleased.
All the lights were off for some reason – I suppose it was because the place was nearly closed. There were a few people going by and there was one in the registration area who seemed to be working there but I didn’t know her very well so we didn’t have anything to talk about.
In my office, there was a long bench where my chair usually sits and a man came in with a young child; a boy, who was fussy and not wanting to sit still. They sat down beside me, too close to be comfortable. The man was forever shifting the child from arm to arm, putting him on his feet and picking him back up; taking his shoes off and putting them back on. All of this only made the toddler seem more restless which proved to be even more distracting than a strange man cozied up to my side as I tried to get through some tasks at work I’d been trying to complete.
“I need your help with something.” the man said quietly, leaning into me as he whispered it.
It was not sudden and not threatening but I jumped at the sound of his voice anyway.
“What do you need?” I parroted. I was at work, after all, and helped people all day long.
“I have something that needs to be put in the mail. I need to communicate with someone but the police are after me and I can’t be seen putting anything in the mail box, plus, I don’t want my fingerprints anywhere on the envelope. It’s really important that I reach this person though…will you help me? Please?”
There was something in his voice that melted me; made me want to rescue him. I felt like whatever had gone wrong in his life could not have been his fault somehow. I didn’t know where those feelings were coming from, particularly because I had no other information on this guy, but still, I trusted him.
“Okay, well, I can drop the envelope in the hospital mail for you if that would help. They won’t know where it came from aside from this campus because of the stamp machine in the mail room.”
“That’s a good idea but I don’t want there to be any chance it’s traced back. Can we not just go for a quick drive so you can put it in a public mail box? We’ll just go down the road…?” He trailed off, casting a quick glance to see if I was buying it. I noticed.
For the first time I started to feel uncomfortable. “I’m not sure I have time to go for a drive with you.” I said, hoping he’d just give me the envelope and leave.
“Please? It’s really important. I would never be asking this of you if it wasn’t.” He implored, sounding even more desperate than before.
His toddler started fussing, obviously cranky and tired. I could tell he needed a nap.
“Why don’t you let your son lie down in the waiting room? I’ll run outside with your envelope and drop it in the mail box down the street while he rests; no need to go for a drive.”
When he answered, it was in a stronger tone of voice than before. “No. Listen, I already have this all planned out and you have to do it the way I tell you to. If you don’t, I’ll get caught and go back to jail. This little guy won’t have anyone to take care of him and it will all be because you wouldn’t help me and kept changing the plan.”
The end of his speech took on a sulky tone I immediately recognized from my ex husband and it made me even more wary. It was then that I started to seriously second guess my involvement in this stranger’s plan. Before I could reconsider aloud, he reached out and took my hand in both of his, toddler squirming in the space left between his arms.
“Please Grainne? Please. I’ve never begged anyone for anything before but this is so important I’m willing to get down on my knees and plead for you to help me. There’s no one else to turn to and I need your help so much it feels like my life is dependent upon it.”
I found myself at a loss. How could I turn away such a desperate plea? Empathy overwhelmed me, particularly when I looked at the sleepy toddler who was whining for something to drink. He was annoying in his fussiness, but sweet. I hated to think of him without a daddy.
“Okay listen, my husband and son are in the waiting room. Let me just tell them where I’m going and I’ll be right back…” he interrupted me before I even managed to extract my hand from his grip.
“No! Stop trying to change the plan Grainne! No one can know what you’re doing; no one can know about me or what I’ve asked. Come on. Let’s just go now, quickly, and you’ll be back before anyone even knows you’ve left.”
I got caught up in the momentum of his words and allowed him to pull me, hand still enclosed in his, to standing. I grabbed my phone with my free hand but had no time for anything else before he pulled me out of my office and we slipped down the back hallway out to the parking garage. When we arrived at his truck he opened the door and finally let me go as I stepped in and sat down, then went around to the drivers side to get his boy strapped into a car seat in the small rear of the truck cab.
The man seemed far less agitated now that we were on the move and the toddler fell into a restful sleep almost immediately upon the start of the engine.
“Okay,” I said gently, not wanting to upset the man again. “So tell me the rest of the plan. You have a mail box in mind? Where is this letter?”
He reached across my lap and into the glove compartment in front of me and retrieved a thick white envelope that was sealed and blank. It was stuffed almost overfull and felt heavy in my lap where he dropped it. He fished around his cup holders for a pen and when he found one, he added that to my lap as well.
“I need you to write on the envelope okay? Just be sure to change your handwriting so no one would recognize it.”
I picked up the pen and sat with it poised, awaiting instructions.
“Write ‘P, E, N, N, Y’ at the top and ‘C, H, E, E, S, T’ underneath.”
“Cheest?” I asked. “Is that a surname?”
“Don’t ask me any questions.” He bluntly replied and continued on. “Then you need to turn the envelope over and use the lipstick in the glove compartment to draw a heart and then write the name and brand of the lipstick in pen below it.”
This was starting to get weird. “Uh, you’re not some kind of predator are you? Stalking someone? Threatening them?”
He didn’t like the questions and the growing storm on his face made it crystal clear. “Stop. Asking. Things.” Was the only reply I received.
I decided to just follow his directions, help him out, and get back to my office where Dayne and Colt were waiting.
“Okay, are you done?” He asked. “Now I need you to pick up your phone and text my phone number.”
I picked up my phone obediently and opened it. “What’s your number?”
“407? I don’t know that area code. Okay, let me put it in…” I said.
Each time I tried to enter it I hit the wrong numbers. (reality interjected here – I sleepwalk and often actually pick up my phone in my sleep, trying to reach people I’m dreaming of reaching. It happens nearly nightly. I think my brain scrambles the numbers and keys so I don’t actually start sending messages. It does the same with locks on doors. All of the locks on doors in my dreams are backwards or open in some way that isn’t logical. I’ve spent hours of my life asleep on my feet in front of a door, trying to let myself out for real, but locking the door each time I try to open it, rather than unlocking it. Self preservation? It doesn’t always work though as I have on many occasions come to outside in the cold somewhere around my residence. Always distressing, that. Dayne installs multiple locks on all of our doors to help keep me inside when I sleepwalk. Ok…back to the dream.)
The man was getting frustrated with me because I couldn’t get his number into my phone.
“Come on! Hurry! Why can’t you do this?” He scolded.
I looked up and saw a cop following behind the truck. “Well here, you do it!” I said, handing him my phone but he didn’t even reach for it and it fell into his lap.
“Do you think I’m stupid? I can’t get my fingerprints on your phone!”
I sighed and picked it up again. “Hey, there’s a cop behind us you know. Oh…and one ahead of us too…”
He didn’t seem alarmed but definitely wanted me to hurry up. “Yes, fine, it’s fine, just get that text sent and then you can mail the envelope in that mail box up there.” He pointed to the one just outside my hospital. We had drive in a big circle, but, I kept my mouth shut about it.
As I fumbled with the phone, entering the wrong numbers again and again, the police cruisers seemed to be multiplying around the truck. The man started to make odd gestures to them, or it seemed to be that way in my peripheral view, but each time I looked up he would stop.
“Would you please just hurry?” he pleaded, sounding nearly defeated by this point.
Before I could answer one of the cruisers suddenly jerked in front of us from the opposite lane and came to a screeching halt. Before it fully registered we were surrounded by police cars with lights and sirens were going off, waking the toddler and making me freeze in surprise and fear while the little boys wails rivalled the screaming sirens.
A large officer appeared at my door and pounded on it three times. *Bam Bam Bam!* “Let me see your hands NOW!” he demanded and I obliged in the same instant.
“Out of the car! Hand where I can see them!” Orders came from all angles and guns were drawn, all pointed at me.
I looked back at my accomplice but he was just sitting in the drivers seat with his head in his hands, eyes closed. No one was even looking at him.
As I stumbled out of the car, envelope, phone, lipstick and pen in hand, I heard him start to growl from inside the truck.
“You idiots! You blew the entire thing! I told you to wait for my signal but you just rushed in before anything was completed and you fucking blew it!”
It took only a few moments for me to understand that I was being set up for something.
“Drop your weapons!” Came a command from one of the officers. “She’s not done anything wrong. We can’t hold her for anything.”
At that, I dropped everything in my hands, including my phone that was still open to the text screen with the man’s incorrect number half entered from my last attempt, and ran for the hospital, not looking back.
“For fuck’s sake…” was the last thing I heard the stranger say.
I slipped through the front doors, my heart pounding and head swimming with confusion and realizations, and went back down to my office where Dayne and Colt were still quietly and patiently waiting for me.
“You almost done babe?” Dayne asked when he saw me.
“Yep, nearly done. Just another few minutes and I’m all set.” I answered, trying to keep the shaking from my voice.
I didn’t do anymore work that day, just shut down my computer and forwarded my phone. I knew I’d have to be more careful in the future about strangers who appeared from nowhere, asking favours of me that didn’t make sense.
And then I woke.
** the phone number either had a 407 or 405 area code, neither of which I am familiar with. 405 is Oklahoma and 407 is Florida (Orlando) I discovered upon googling. The rest of the digits are made up – I can’t recall the actual number from my dream**
Aaaaaaaand that’s how my morning went. *sigh*