My 365 project for 2013: One sentence a day, with the year-long goal of a story of 365 sentences by Dec. 31.
I’ve had a request for a roundup to make this easier to follow. Here are the first three months of the year.
Alex stared out the window at the setting sun, thinking about the day before: She’d thought they were just goofing, but eventually Sam didn’t reemerge from the river.
She hadn’t told anyone, yet.
She wouldn’t know what to tell them, unable to remember exactly where they’d been in the woods that day. Alex knew, as the sun sank behind the mountains, one last shot of sparkling pink blasting out of the horizon, that he, and his body, had disappeared forever.
Shuddering from a sudden chill, she crept into the kitchen for her usual late-night cup of coffee. It had become a necessary ritual to help her stay awake when sleeping was a fearful and dangerous choice. When Alex fell asleep, the dreams started. Nightmares might be more accurate: Lately it seemed the craziness from her night-brain showed up again during her days.
The first time it happened, Alex thought it was coincidence. Or that she’d misremembered the dream about her mother’s car accident after the phone call from the hospital. When it happened again a few months later, this time with a coworker’s traumatic child birth, she started paying attention. Now, years later, she was pretty sure that whatever she dreamt would one day happen. So she tried not to dream.
Except last week—she still remembered that dream vividly. Sam had kissed her, and she’d never seen him again. No explanation, no resolution. He was just … gone. What really scared her was that she couldn’t remember all of their time on the river that day—what if she had caused her dream to come true? What if she’d done whatever it was to Sam that meant he was gone forever? If that were the case, how could she tell anyone he’d disappeared?
Alex just returned to her coffee, purposefully thinking about each warm, bitter sip, driving all other thoughts out of her head. If she tried not to think anything, maybe an answer would come. She stared out the window, into the night, not seeing anything besides her own reflection in the glass. Her third cup of coffee finished, Alex put the mug down and tried not to move.
She was startled awake by the telephone, her face numb from where it was mashed into the hard table, the coffee mug tipped over from her sudden movement.
“Yeah, hello?” Alex wiped something wet off her cheek—drool, coffee, she wasn’t sure.
“Hi Alex, honey, were you sleeping?”
“Yeah, hi mom, I guess so.”
Her mother sighed, the noise cutting across the telephone.
“You need to sleep more, dear, I worry about you.”
“You know I can’t, mom.”
“Are things still happening?”
“I don’t know.” Alex wiped a tear from her eye. She couldn’t put it off any longer. “Mom … there was something. With Sam, in the woods. We were just having a good time, and then the river was suddenly there, and … He’s gone, Mom.” It was such a relief to tell someone, she barely heard her mom’s confusion and panic coming through the phone.
“What do you mean, gone? Gone where? Disappeared, run away, vanished, what? Have you called the police?”
Alex’s silence answered her mom’s question.
“Alex, you have to call the police.”
“And tell them what, mom? That I lost Sam? That I can’t explain what happened? They’ll arrest me.”
“And it’ll only be harder to explain the longer you wait. I’m coming over, we can do it then.”
Alex made coffee: It was her way to self-soothe, like a baby with a pacifier. While it was brewing, she started going over the day in her head. Problem was, she couldn’t separate the terrifying dream about Sam from the horrible reality.
They’d met after lunch that day, planning on relaxing in the woods, a place they’d often went together. Sam had been having a terrible time at work, and although Alex didn’t know details, she knew enough to insist he take some time away. At the edge of the woods, they compared supplies: Alex had brought all the beer she could find in her house, which admittedly wasn’t much, while Sam unearthed a few joints from his pocket. They were set.
There was a favorite spot, where the pair had been going since elementary school, that was near the river but secluded enough that anyone walking by couldn’t see it. When they were young, it had been easy enough to crawl through the thick underbrush to the base of the giant evergreen, but now, as adults, it took some maneuvering. Even though they practically sat on top of each other, long limbs entwined, it was still the go-to spot. Alex knew they’d crawled in and cracked open a couple bottles of beer, toasting to their carefree afternoon. She knew Sam had started to tell her about his worries—the company wasn’t doing well and layoffs were probably coming shortly. She knew she’d tried to console him, that he was smart, and talented and would be able to find another job. She also knew that during their conversation Sam lit up and the two continued to smoke and drink. Then it started to fall apart.
Sam stopped what he was saying and just looked at Alex, his dark eyes resting on her face. It made her uncomfortable—they’d always flirted with each other, but nothing had ever happened. They’d been friends for so long, Alex wanted to keep it that way. She was afraid of screwing up her relationship with someone so important to her. Was it part of her dream, or did he really lean in and try to kiss her? Did she really push him away and start yelling? Did he really take off, stumbling in the weeds? Or had they just been walking beside the river and he fell in, unsure of his footing, while she started laughing, thinking he was playing? And if they were walking, where, exactly had they been on the river?
A knock at the door made Alex jump.
“Hi honey,” her mom said, letting herself in. She walked over and hugged Alex. “We’re going to figure this out.”
“I’ve been thinking about it, mom, and I just don’t remember.”
Her mom sat down after grabbing a pen and a pad of paper from the countertop. “Start at the beginning.”
So Alex relayed her tale, leaving nothing out. Her mom knew about her substance habits. Who didn’t, in this town? It was no secret that Alex had often been in trouble in high school.
“Did you take anything besides the pot?”
“I don’t think so.” Alex rubbed her head in an effort to try and extract a clearer vision of the day.