(And to think it all started with just a dream.
Just a silly, silly little dream… . )
There, in the small hours of the night, it came again.
“No! No! Go away, please! No, don’t come any closer!”
The throaty sound of a young woman’s scream broke through his dreams, and commanded him to awake. He immediately sat straight up in bed, and the sudden move caused his heart to pound so hard that his head began to thump as well. Sitting there in the dark, abruptly awakened from such a sound, deep sleep, he wondered: what was that? As he grabbed his night robe and staggered toward the bedroom door, there was another, even more frightening scream.
“Get away from me! Don’t come any closer!”
That was enough to clear anyone’s mind, and he realized what was happening: his sister was having another night terror.
“I can’t run, I can’t run! Let go of me, I can’t run!”
True to a mother’s instincts, Runa lithely whisked past him on her way to the door at the end of the hall. He wearily stepped to the threshold of the door she had thrown open, and looked in the room with sleep-filled eyes. She had already turned on the light, revealing that his sister was still trapped in her struggle with some unseen specter, and thrashing wildly about in her bed. Runa placed her hands firmly to the sides of her daughter’s face.
“Miaaca, Miaaca, wake up!” she said in a soft but compelling voice. “It’s just a bad dream, wake up!”
Miaaca drew up a deep breath, and her eyes opened wide. She let out a sob of terror as the dream that had possessed her finally began to relent, and reached out for her mother’s calming embrace.
“Oh, Momma, I’m so afraid!” she sobbed in genuine emotion. “Was it really just a dream?”
Runa stroked her daughter’s hair from her face, and smiled reassuringly.
“Yes, dear, it was just a dream. Relax now, just relax.”
That was a suggestion that Miaaca seemed to find hard to follow. Her tender, youthful face drew up in anguish as she clung to her mother in much the same way she had as a small child…but she was not a child, anymore. She was a young adult now, and this should not be happening. Unless, it was due to a deeper cause.
He watched as his mother held her for a long moment, then eased her back onto the bed. As the sleep finally left her eyes, the last of the terror faded as well, and she recognized her surroundings.
“I- I’m, sorry,” she haltingly apologized. “I didn’t realize that I had called out.”
“There, there,” Runa said, as she finished smoothing out the tresses of Miaaca’s long, silvery-white hair. “Is there anything I can get you to help ease you back to sleep? Some warm cocoa, perhaps?”
“N-n-no,” was the reply. “I’m all right now. I’ll be fine.”
She was embarrassed, and her apology was sincere; still, it was not enough to compensate for his lost sleep. At the moment, he did not know what he felt more- concern, or irritation. This was, what, the seventh such episode in the past three months? Yes, she could not help herself; but, these recurring nightmares frazzled the nerves, and had a good effect of preventing any further sleep.
He said nothing as his mother persuaded her to try to go to sleep again. She quickly agreed, although she did not look the least bit sleepy. Glancing back and forth at them, she assured them that she would be all right. He backed out into the hallway, but did not venture back to bed. As he rubbed the remaining sleep from his eyes, he patiently waited in the hallway for his mother to close the bedroom door behind her.
“Ah, Mom, that offer of warm cocoa sounds good to me,” he then said. “Care to come downstairs, and have some, too?”
She only briefly hesitated.
“You go ahead. I’ll be down in a moment.”
By the time that she joined him, the cocoa was already hot, and steeping in their respective cups. She let out a sigh, as she settled into her chair, and looked at him across the kitchen table. He did not say anything, as he quietly sipped his drink. There was something on his mind, however; she could tell by his overly attentive concentration on the hot brew. Finally, she broke the silence between them.
“Why don’t you tell me what you are thinking, Son,” she said, both as a request and a command.
“Well, uh, I’m not sure that I should,” he cautioned.
She gave him an indulgent look.
“Come on, now, just spit it out.”
He sighed deeply, then spoke in a low whisper. “Mother, I think that it’s time to take my sister to a psychiatrist.”
“A psychiatrist!” she exclaimed in an indignant whisper that could have been heard across the house.
“Yes, a psychiatrist,” he quietly maintained. “These night terrors are getting ridiculous, and it cannot go on much longer.”
She caught control of herself, and spoke in a lowered voice.
“You are joking, aren’t you?”
“No, as a matter of fact, I’m not,” he said. “She keeps having this same bizarre dream over and over again, so it must mean something. We can’t figure out what it is, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to away by itself; so, maybe a professional can help. Once she finds out what it means, then this dream should stop bothering her; and, stop keeping all of us up half the night.”
“But she’s not mentally ill!” Runa defensively responded as she drew the wrong assumption from his suggestion. “She doesn’t need a doctor for us to see that.”
“I’m not saying she’s deranged or anything,” he patiently replied. “I know that she’s not. It’s just that she has a problem right now, that she can’t seem to resolve, and we can’t help her, either. She needs an expert to help her figure this matter out.”
“So what is there to figure?” she huffed.
“Someone has to figure out why she’s having this recurring dream; that’s what,” he quietly insisted. “She keeps dreaming that some big round dark cloud descends and burns down the whole house around her, then it takes her away. There’s some reason why she keeps dreaming this, but we just don’t know what it is.”
She did not seem inclined to agree with his reasoning. She drew herself up in her chair, and spoke with authority.
“Taaben, you have been the man of this house for a long time now. But I am still your mother.”
It was time to try a different tact. He let the tension flow out of his mind before he continued.
“I know that you and Dad have always prided yourselves for your independence; venturing out so far from any town, and starting a successful farm; and, raising a family, too. But you must remember that same stubborn independence is what killed Dad. You know he had symptoms that were serious enough that he should have checked them out with a doctor. I mean, no one has headaches anymore, and certainly not like the blindingly painful ones you said he had. Hiding it from me, and Miaaca, did not make those symptoms go away.”
An old sorrow lined her tired eyes at that remembrance.
”It was easy enough to hide it from you two. The older children had moved out, and made lives for themselves before we even had you. You had just turned eight, and Miaaca was a month shy of her fourth birthday.”
He bowed his head in memory.
“But hiding it from us didn’t stop that rare aneurysm from hemorrhaging in his right temple,” he maintained. “And there he was, on the first day of spring planting, out alone so far from the house; too far for anyone to know what happened. We didn’t have any idea that he was even dead, before the rescue squad found him at midnight.”
Despite the passing of time, the pain of remembering that old event was still too fresh, too hard, for her to discuss. Her heavily lined face creased ever deeper, and she, too, bowed her head.
“Please, no more.”
“I’m sorry, Mom,” he reacted as he realized what he had done. “I didn’t mean to…”
“It’s all right,” she said. “I know you meant no harm.”
He quietly got up, and poured more cocoa into their cups. After he set the steaming mug in front of her, he carried his mug to his seat. Only after letting his drink cool enough to sip did he continue.
”Look, Mom, I’m sure that for someone skilled in such things, it won’t take long to find the source of her problem. Who knows? Maybe it’s some unresolved issue dealing with Dad’s death. You know, it took her a long time to accept his death. She kept insisting that he was just asleep. Maybe that’s the problem. But whatever it is, we need to do something about it, before it drives us all nuts, and possibly causes some real harm to her, as well. For the sake of Dad’s memory, I think we should just be certain that she is all right. Besides, we really shouldn’t send her to University with any unresolved emotional conflicts, should we? It wouldn’t be fair to her, and might negatively affect her studies.”
She sighed as she set the heavy mug on the table.
“I suppose you might have a point. But she seems so well-adjusted, otherwise! Nieeco is a successful micron-surgeon, and Ardu’eenen is a well-regarded architect. As for what happened to Raaise- well, it was just a tragic accident, that’s all. At least she didn’t suffer…I just don’t understand this. None of my children have ever needed outside help before.”
“But none of them went through what she went through when Dad died,” he patiently insisted. “She was the youngest; she was Dad’s favorite, and was very close to him. When he died, for a very long time, she simply didn’t understand why he never came home again. Now, I don’t know that is the problem, but it could be something as simple and straight forward as that. One thing I do know, though, is that her midnight scares are beginning to wear me down- and you, as well.”
“All right, I will think about it,” she reluctantly answered.
That was all she was going to agree to, at least for tonight. She did not argue, but it would take more to convince the fiercely independent Runa Aiison to agree with his suggestion. It was not any outmoded fear of psychiatry that made her hesitate, but the imagined loss or compromise of complete self-sufficiency. Even so, he would not allow the matter to die.
She went on back upstairs to her room, but he was still too awake to consider sleep just yet. He listened to the sounds around him, but all he heard was the wind outside, waxing and waning, and making some of the wooden planks in the house to sigh a bit.
He wrapped his robe a bit tighter around him, and opened the kitchen door. A cool, crisp breeze gently brushed through his snowy-white hair, and softly bathed his face as he stepped out to enjoy the view. It was a few hours, at least, before their sun, N’Renarus, would spread dawn across the horizon, and herald a new day; but the view of the stars was spectacular. Both of the small moons that circled N’Renara were high in the sky, but they were too small and dark to eclipse the sparkling autumn sky’s glory.
Autumn was a good time of year. The harvest was done, the crops processed and sold, and the fields laid slumbering in wait for next year’s spring rains. This time of year always filled him with mixed emotions. It was always deeply satisfying to grow a bumper harvest, and to reap the rewards of toiling over the fields. But it also was a poignant event, because it reminded him anew that he was not really born to be a farmer, like his father before him… .