A Bad Dream by David Barber


A Bad Dream


“What do you see when you close your eyes?”


Robert Wellman looked at his friend across the small table.  He’d seen him worked up after seeing a client before, but he’d never seen him this bad.  

Simon Calderwood looked up from the glass of whisky he was nursing and spoke.

“That’s what I asked her.  What do you see when you close your eyes? Her initial answer was the usual smart one, the inside of my eyelids, but then she started telling me what she actually saw.”

Simon lifted his glass to his mouth and drained it, wincing slightly as the fiery liquid ran down his throat.  He motioned to the barman for another couple of drinks.

“Not for me, Simon. I’m meeting the wife in an hour,” Robert said.

“What I’m going to tell you, you’ll need another drink.”

The barman brought the drinks and Simon began.

* * *

“Mr Calderwood, your two o’clock client has arrived.”

“Okay, Jenny,” Simon said, pressing the intercom, “You can send her in now.”

Simon Calderwood was a shrink and had been practicing for the past twelve years.  His office, or his surgery as he called it, was plush and stereotypical of any psychiatrist’s office in the city.  A large mahogany desk, photos of his wife and two children, reminding him what a normal and functional life he led, facing him on the polished surface.  Book shelves covering a whole wall, filled with medical encyclopaedias, leather-bound medical journals along with classics from Twain to Hemmingway and Shakespeare to Poe.  And, the biggest cliché of them all was his black leather ‘shrink’s couch’, a matching black leather chair positioned at the foot of it.  Behind his desk, a replica of Van Gogh’s Irises hung on the wall.

Simon rose from his chair as he heard the knock on the door, adjusted the painting as he turned and made his way to let his client in.

“Hello, I’m…” the words got caught in Simon’s throat as he looked at the woman standing before him.  Her make-up was subtle yet perfect in the way that it accentuated her cheek bones and brought out the dazzling blue of her eyes.  Her long blonde hair had a gentle wave to it and it spiralled onto her shoulders.  Her matching black skirt and jacket were immaculate and her white blouse unbuttoned enough to reveal the swell of her breasts.

“…I’m Simon Calderwood,” he said extending his hand.

The woman shook his hand and introduced herself.

“Hi, I’m Valerie Johnson. Thank you for seeing me.”

“No problem at all. Why don’t you take a seat and we can get started.”

Valerie took the seat in front of the desk and Simon walked round to his chair. He took out his notebook and pen and wrote down her name. When he looked up at her, she was staring right at him, almost taking him by surprise. Her eyes were intense.

“Err, Mrs Johnson…”

“It’s Miss, and please, call me Valerie.”

“Ok, Valerie. How can I help you today?”

Valerie was still staring right into Simon’s eyes, making him feel a little uncomfortable, but then she lowered her gaze and spoke.

“Well,” she started, crossing her legs and brushing the material of her skirt, “I keep having this recurring dream.”

Simon averted his eyes from her legs and spoke.

“And what is this dream about, Valerie, could you explain it?”

“Well I can remember bits of it, but…” she let the sentence trail off.

“I’ll tell you what, why don’t you move over to the couch,” Simon got up and walked over to the light switch, turning down the dimmer.  He watched Valerie get up and walk over to the couch. Her movement so graceful like that of a swaying lily being brushed by a gentle breeze.

“Could I remove my jacket?” she asked.

“Make yourself as comfortable as possible.  The more comfortable you are the freer your mind will be.”

Valerie slowly removed her jacket.  Simon took it from her and hung it on the coat stand.  He turned and watched her sit and then raise her legs onto the couch.  He walked over and sat on the chair at the foot of the couch, his favourite chair in his office when he had a female client wearing a skirt.  Simon eyed her from her immaculate black heels, up her legs and then let his eyes come to rest on her breasts.

Jesus, she is perfect, he thought to himself.

“Are you comfortable, Valerie?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“Okay, Valerie, let your mind be free and close your eyes.  Relax and breathe, in and out, in and out.  Now, what do you see when you close your eyes?” Simon asked lowering his gaze to the hem of her skirt.

“The backs of my eyelids,” Valerie replied, a nervous laugh escaping from her perfect mouth.

“Ha!  Please, Valerie, you must relax and clear you mind. Tell me what you remember from your dream.”

Valerie took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, her chest rising and falling. Simon looked on, and then his eyes went to her face as she began talking.  He started taking notes.

“Well, I’m in a house, but… it’s not my house.  It’s a house that’s strange to me.  I feel like I’ve been there before but I’m not sure.  I’m walking down a long, dark hallway and there’s a light on in the room at the end.  I make my way down the hallway.  In the gloom I can just make out paintings on the walls, and doors that led off into… other rooms, I imagine.  I can hear a voice and its calling out a name.  I can’t quite make out the name being called but I know it’s certainly not Valerie.”

“Carry on, Valerie, just keep telling me what you see,” Simon urged.

“I’m getting closer to room at the end of the hallway now and I can hear music and a man’s voice singing along to it.  I reach the door and look into the room.”

Valerie opened her eyes.

“Are you okay, Valerie?”

“Yes… sorry, I just needed a break.”

“That’s fine.  Do you want to call it a day there?” Simon asked.

“No, no… I’m ready now,” Valerie said, taking a deep breath and exhaling.  She closed her eyes, composed herself and carried on.

“I reach the door and look into the room.”

“And what’s in the room, Valerie?  What can you see?”

“The lights are subdued and there’s a… err… a… seductive feel within the room.  There’s a man in front of the bed and he’s dancing with a bottle of champagne in his hand, singing along to the music.  He’s wearing a pair of dark trousers and a vest.  His jacket and shirt and tie are thrown on the floor.”

“What does the room look like, Valerie?” Simon asks, scribbling in his notepad.

“The bed is a four-poster with white linen bedding.  All the bedroom furniture is antique and free-standing and the walls are all white.  There are expensive paintings on the walls.”

Simon stopped writing and got up.  Silently he walked round the back of the couch to get a clearer look at her.  He studied her face.  There was something familiar about her, but Simon couldn’t quite put his finger on it.

“I walk into the room,” Valerie continued, “He walks up to me but he has no face, yet the strange thing is, when he puts his head to mine and kisses me I can feel his lips.  Then, he pushes me onto the bed and he starts ripping at my clothes,” her hands move to the collar of her blouse, pulling it together under her chin. “He’s making these noises, almost animal grunts as he’s pulling at my dress, kissing and biting at my neck and ears and face as he’s getting more excited.”

“Then what happens, Valerie?” Simon asks the woman who he’s sure he now knows from somewhere.

“He turns me over and throws me onto my front, ripping my dress all the way down the back. He starts kissing down my back and then rips off my panties.” Valerie’s gasping now, like she’s struggling for breath.

“Take a moment, Valerie,” Simon urges, sitting back down.

“No, I need to tell you.  He gets off me briefly and then I feel his weight on me again.  I can feel his nakedness and then he’s forcing my legs apart and I can feel him forcing himself into me.  It starts off gentle like he’s become a sensitive lover, but then it changes and he pulling me up and thrusting himself into… like he wants to really hurt me.  And it’s at that moment that I feel it.”

Studying her features, he asks what she feels.

“The cold tip of the blade being dragged down my back, along my spine and all the time he is still thrusting into me.” 

Tears are running from her eyes now.

“Valerie, do you want to leave it there?  We can reschedule if…”

“NO!  I want to finish,” she takes a breath.  “The blade reaches the bottom of my spine and then moves across to the right and then there is searing pain as it is pushed up below my rib cage. I scream, but only briefly as he pushes my face into the bed linen, my screams muffled to almost nothing.  He pulls the blade out and thrusts it in again and again and again.”

Valerie is crying now.

“Okay Valerie.  I think we should stop there.” 

Simon walks back to the door, turns the light back up and gets her coat from the stand.  His hands are shaking as he hands Valerie her jacket.

“Thank…you,” Valerie says wiping her eyes with a tissue from her jacket pocket.

“I’ll reschedule you for Friday, if that’s okay, and we can carry on then,” Simon said, avoiding eye contact.

“Are you okay, Simon? You look like you’ve seen a…”

“What?  No, no, I’m fine.  That’s some dream you’re having.  I’ve got some reading up to do before we meet on Friday.  What time would you like to come back?”

“Well, the same as today, if that’s ok.”

“That’ll be fine.  I’ll book you in and see you then.”

He walks her to the door, opening it for her. Valerie turns to him.

“Thank you for listening, Simon.”  

“You’re welcome.  I’ll see you on Friday.”

* * *

“Wow. That was some dream she had, Simon.” Robert said, finishing his whiskey.

“Yes, it was.  The only thing is it wasn’t a dream.  After she’d gone her face was still in my mind.  And then her surname brought it all back.  It came back to me, in all its gory detail.”

“What, Simon?  What came back?  Are… are you okay, mate?”

Looking at his friend, Simon spoke and tears ran from his eyes.

“Robert… I killed a woman four years ago.  Maria Johnson.  It was a fling, just a stupid fling.  One night we got stoned on coke and drank too much champagne and she threatened to tell my wife.  Next thing I know I’m covered in blood and…” 

“Simon, what are you saying?  Are you hearing yourself?  Are you telling me that you actually killed a woman?”

“Yes, Robert, I did.  And she’s come back!”

* * *

Outside the pub, looking in through the window, Valerie is standing in the darkness.

“I met a man in Purgatory, Simon,” she whispered to herself, “It’s a place where dreams are made.  He offered me a second chance in exchange for my soul. I’ll see you on Friday.” 

Laughing, she walked away from the pub and into the night.

~The End~


David Barber was born and bred in Manchester, England, but now lives in Crieff, Scotland with his wife, Lisa, and their two daughters.  He wrote some years ago but was inspired to write again by an old friend and the beauty that surrounds him.  His stories have been published on Thriller, Killers ‘n’ Chillers, A Twist of Noir, The New Flesh and Blink Ink.  He is also the editor of The Flash Fiction Offensive and is currently working on a few projects including a novel.  He can be found lurking at http://davidbarberfiction.blogspot.com


12 Responses to A Bad Dream by David Barber

  1. Col Bury says:

    Enticed me in and kept me gripped throughout.
    Good work, Dave.

  2. As Col says, Chilling with a capital C. Well done, David.

  3. RS Bohn says:

    Wow, yes, chilling! I knew — since this was written by you, after all 😉 — that her dream would not be of the usual “recurring nightmare is really about her father/fear of death/etc”, but something far more insidious, and whoa, did you deliver! Creepy, creepy, and more creepy. I love a good revenge tale.

  4. This is incredibly eerie! I’ve never read a story quite like this before and from you, David. This is my favorite of yours to date! Wow.

  5. Beach Bum says:

    As usual an excellent story, had me engrossed the entire time.

  6. Dave- Very well done. Besides your “Vincent” stories, like Jodi, this is my favorite to date. At least from the stories of your’s I have read so far.

  7. Lily Childs says:

    Ooh, yes!

    How clever to tell the tale from a shrink’s couch. Totally chilling, spooky, creepy… I loved it.

  8. Doc says:

    I liked it the first time and it is even better the second time through. You have tightened it up quite a bit. Well done, as always.

    I know this is going to sound stupid, but I couldn’t quite get why he put his vest back on. He takes off his shirt and tie but he puts his vest back on. Perhaps it is simply the dream world details.


  9. David Barber says:

    Thanks to all for your comments. They are very much appreciated.

  10. Wow David, that was awesome. I missed this one the first time around so i’m really glad i caught it here!

  11. That’s a brilliant story, David, I really enjoyed it. It’s both chilling and somewhat disturbing. Which is good, obviously!

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