There’s only one work of writing that I’ve actually a.) finished and b.) felt was acceptable overall. I wrote it back in 2001, and I will admit that the first paragraph or two was loosely based on my own real life. After that, I let the story do its thing, and if elements of myself appear in the main character… well, it happens.
I’ve decided to post it here, under a Creative Commons license. I think it’s entirely too cliché to ever be published anywhere, but deserves to see the light of day somewhere. I did post it on my website years ago, and got some positive feedback about it, so here it is again.
I know my writing-related limitations. If you feel the need to critique, I’ll try not to take it too hard, but I’m not specifically calling for critique. I’m just sharing, for whatever fucked up reason. Remember, this is a sample of my writing from five years ago — not that my writing style has changed *that* much since then. Although I was hard-pressed to keep myself from making minor edits as I plugged in the HTML for italics and such.
[Update: I didn’t mean you shouldn’t leave any comments… If you read it and liked it, or even if you were ambivalent about it, feel free to leave your thoughts.]
Please be aware that this story contains sexual situations, occult hocus-pocus, and ending dialogue adapted from a chapter of one of my favorite Star Trek books. If you aren’t turned off yet, read on…
She stared at the computer screen, the whiteness of the blank page reflecting in her glasses. She shook her head and sighed, leaning forward and putting her head in her hands.
She thought of all the bizarre dreams she’d had recently. Surely one of them could be the basis of a fiction short story — or, dare she say, a novel? But the only ones she could think of involved being romantically involved with a person, real or imagined, who wasn’t her fiancé. At some point in each dream, she’d disentangle herself from the other person at a critical moment and inform (or remind) him that she was engaged. Then she’d awaken and feel guilty for having enjoyed the encounter in the dream. Sometimes she’d even tell her fiancé about the dreams. He’d always look at her as if to say, “so?” He’d try to make her feel better by telling her about his dreams of faceless blondes… and she’d try not to feel jealous of people who didn’t exist.
Finally, Joelle pulled herself from her guilty rememberings and sat back in her chair. The screensaver was dashing vertiginously through the cosmos.
So I’ll write a smut book, she thought grimly. Fine. Change the names and no one will be any wiser. If it’ll sell, great. If not… I’ll just make sure Eric never sees this file.
She cracked her knuckles, placed her hands hovering over the keyboard, took a deep breath, and began.
* * * * *
Joelle had been a staunch Christian at one point in her life. Now, she studied many different realms of spirituality. Tarot, Wicca, Buddhism, Taoism, all the New Age mind-expanding philosophies had entered her mind at one time or another.
Kneeling on her bedroom floor, facing her small makeshift altar of candles, incense, old family photos, and flowers, Joelle emptied her mind. She fancied herself having ESP, as some women in her family professed to have displayed. Precognition, clairvoyance, empathy, even a degree of telepathy. Sometimes she found this amusing. But each night, she put questioning and doubt far from her mind. This night, as she had done every night for a year, she closed her eyes and stretched out with her mind. Seeking, reaching, believing that she might touch another. For, if one believes, there may well be no limit to what the mind can accomplish…
This night, however, she reached out to the unwitting subject of her latest fiction.
* * * * *
The night was cold, and she thanked Whatever Deity Might Exist for the warm body sharing her bed. She lifted her head, smiling as she gazed at the face of—
The moment of confusion passed quickly, as in a dream …
In a dream? she wondered. Yes, that must be it. I’m dreaming. She glanced at her left hand, at her engagement ring sparkling in a moonbeam. Satisfied that she was indeed herself, she studied the room which was not quite her own. Her family altar was there in its accustomed place, but… the desk was in the wrong place, the room was bigger, even the bedknobs were carved slightly different. But she knew that Kevin was a guest in her bed.
I wonder… Joelle probed her dream memory, to see if she could recall how he got here. In dreams, after all, sometimes memory exists, unexplained and unashamed. As expected, she pulled forth the knowledge that they had met covertly for a romantic evening the night before, and had enjoyed a keenly sweet night of passion. Possibly their only night, she realized, as remembered guilt flooded into Joelle’s thoughts.
It’s a dream, for crying out loud! There is no deception, no infidelity. It’s not real!
Having made her decision, Joelle reached over and caressed Kevin’s arm. His eyelids fluttered, then snapped open. She saw the same slow remembering in his eyes as he realized where he was. Then he focused on her and smiled.
“Jo,” he spoke aloud.
“Kevin,” she answered, leaning in to embrace him.
The shared, giddy joy of a new lover flooded Joelle. I may never have this again, she thought, her eyes travelling unbidden toward her ring. Seizing the moment, she tipped her head up and pressed her warm mouth on his. He responded, pressing his body to hers, his passion now fully aroused. Wrapping his arms about her, he rolled the two savagely over, face to face, until he lay looking down upon her. She gazed up at him, inviting, as he began the lovemaking.
* * * * *
She awoke sweat-covered, tense, and aroused. It was early morning, as evidenced by the orange sunrise streaming through the window blinds. Already wide awake, Joelle swung her legs out of bed and padded over to her computer desk. She touched the button that would bring her electronic writing companion to life, and headed to the bathroom for her initial morning routine.
Peeling off her nightgown, she tried to pin down the reason for her tension. Nothing due at work, no deadlines coming up. She stepped carefully into the shower, adjusted the water temperature, and brought the tepid needles pelting down.
Maybe it was something I had to mail? No, all the bills are paid this month… She went through the motions of her morning shower, running her shampoo-filled hands through her hair—
A memory triggered. She stood in the shower, transfixed, as the image of Kevin in her mind ran his fingers through her hair in much the same way she had just done. Kevin? But—that never happened!
The previous night’s dream came flooding into her thoughts, engendering the same guilt-ridden passion she had felt in the dream itself. Her soapy hands fell of their own accord to her breasts, one hand moving down the gentle curves of her body. Remembering…
She shook herself mentally, realizing what she was doing. Hurriedly, she finished her morning routine, anxious to get to the computer to record it all.
* * * * *
The digital clock on the wall read 9:02 as Joelle strode into the office. She tried to put all non-work-related thoughts from her mind as she sat down at her desk and logged into the corporate network.
She twisted around in her chair, looking outside her cubicle. A pair of familiar eyes met hers.
“Kevin.” She attempted a light tone, but suspected she was failing miserably. She swiveled to face him. “How was your weekend?”
“Nothing new.” He stifled a yawn.
Joelle chuckled. “Long night?”
“Kind of,” he replied noncommitally, and shrugged. “Weird dreams.” He shook his head, as if to free himself of the previous night’s memories. “So, how was your weekend?”
“Same old, same old,” she replied, still struggling to sound casual. She struck a jaunty pose in her office chair. “So, ah, what kind of weird dreams did you have?”
“Hmm?” Kevin had seemed distant, pensive, preoccupied for a moment.
“What were—oh, never mind. Personal question.”
Kevin rolled his eyes. “Damn that Political Correctness seminar, anyway. Keeps us all from speaking our minds anymore.” He smiled, a genuine smile that lit up his eyes from within. “Now, what was that personal question?”
Joelle was getting flustered. She felt awkward, like a 13-year-old with her first crush. Kevin seemed oblivious to the effect he was having on her, and she didn’t know how much longer she could last without making a complete ass of herself. She waffled for a moment, then blurted her question as flippantly as she dared:
“What did you dream about?”
As soon as the question left her lips, she regretted having asked it. You’re fooling yourself, her inner voice chided. ESP? Telepathy? Bullshit. There’s no conceivable way he possibly dreamed about—
Her composure was nearly gone, by her own standards. She forcibly relaxed her shoulders to relax, and took a breath.
“Really?” She could hear the excited adolescent creeping out in her tone of voice. “I—what was I doing in your dream?”
In the garish flourescent lights, she could just barely see the slow blush begin creeping up his neck. “I… don’t really remember much about it,” he fumbled, “just that you were in it.”
She flirted with the idea of refreshing his memory, but quickly came to her senses. “Well, you’ve got me curious, now,” she said, finally reachieving some level of casualness. She let loose what she hoped was a knowing grin as she watched the blush creep up over his ears. “Let me know if you ever remember any of it.”
“Will do. Well, I guess I’ll let you get back to work, then.” He hastily backed out of Joelle’s cubicle and offered a short wave and a tight grin as he strode off.
Joelle swiveled her chair back to face her computer. She logged into her work e-mail, thinking of the single password-protected file on her own computer and what Eric would think if he ever found it.
* * * * *
She was working late. Again. It happens when you’re on salary, Joelle thought to herself. The credit card processing module has to go live by week’s end, and guess who’s responsible. Sighing, she saved the program and leaned back to stretch.
It was Kevin, entering her cubicle and standing over her shoulder to peer at the code on the screen.
“Yeah,” she replied easily. “I thought I was the only one.”
“I thought I was,” he answered. “The building’s locked, I think. I’m pretty sure we two are the only ones left.”
Was that a seductive glimmer in his eye…? This can’t be right…
Kevin leaned over her shoulder to examine her programming. His hand rested on her chair as he leaned in close, pointing to the monitor. She could feel his body heat.
“Here’s your problem,” he announced.
“Where?” She leaned closer to examine the screen.
Slowly, she felt his hot breath on the back of her neck. “Here,” he whispered, as he delicately kissed her skin, her jaw.
As his lips met hers, Joelle’s racing thoughts tried to wrap around the sequence of events: how she’d come to stay so late, how she was no longer fumbling for words—and neither was Kevin, for that matter. They suddenly felt familiar with one another, like lovers. As his hands wrapped around her, she realized what was happening.
I’m dreaming again! Damn. The dreams were becoming more stealthy, more real. She’d been having them every night for nearly three weeks now, and it was becoming more and more difficult to separate the dreams from reality. Her working relationship with Kevin hadn’t suffered overly much, though, since the two of them didn’t actually need to interact in everyday business. When they did meet in passing, they no longer shared the easy rapport of friends; rather, they traded glances like forbidden lovers.
Her relationship with Eric… now that was a different story. Her dream-fantasies had become so real that sex with Eric had gradually become mundane. Sometimes he asked if everything was OK, and she would always respond that everything was fine. Then she’d try to re-enact with Eric some dream-fantasy she’d had about Kevin. Sometimes he’d agree, but mostly he would slip back into their same old habits.
Kevin’s hands began to slide up her brief skirt. Joelle willed her dream to continue as she gave herself over to him.
* * * * *
It was 4:00am on a Friday morning. Joelle stared at the ceiling, wide awake. Again she’d dreamed of Kevin, but this time it wasn’t just a frivolous sexual encounter they’d had. They’d shared goals, ideals, philosophies. The Kevin of her dreams far exceeded the Eric of her reality. And this frightened her.
She contemplated her relationship with Eric, and her farcical relationship with dream-Kevin. Eric was stable financially and emotionally, having a nice apartment and a well-paying accounting job. He’d grown up in a well-to-do household, been raised up as a proper Christian boy, and had only kissed girls until he met Joelle. His strict moral upbringing was part of the reason they still maintained separate households. They had set a wedding date for about a year and four months in the future, time enough to renew their respective leases once more.
Eric would sometimes say that he was drawn to her because of her uniqueness, her spark, her denial of all things normal and mundane. Privately, he seemed to frown upon her rejection of Christianity in favor of Eastern religions, but he also supported her in finding her own path.
As for Kevin… she had no idea if the Kevin of her dreams bore any real resemblance to the real Kevin. But this Kevin, the one she’d been encountering every night for the past month, was perfect. He also practiced Eastern religions, and meditated nightly, just as she did. He was witty and had a glow about him, the kind of person people gravitate toward.
—But she knew that part already. The company picnic back in July had produced, among other things, an introduction to Kevin. Joelle recalled how she had felt attracted to him, as a moth to flame, and had wondered if Eric had noticed. She’d toyed idly with her engagement ring as they spoke, as if to remind herself that she was taken.
Since then, she and Kevin had become fast friends. She recalled how strange it had seemed that it took the company picnic to bring them together, when they only worked five cubicles apart. They hung out in the break room, talked by their cars after work, even went out for drinks one weekend when Eric was away.
It hadn’t been a deliberately romantic encounter—Joelle had just been bored at home with no one to talk to. Eric was gone on a business trip to Chicago, so she didn’t make her weekly pilgrimage to his apartment. She didn’t know what made her call Kevin at home on a Friday night to invite him out to a local bar & grill. She didn’t know what made her buy him a drink. And she certainly didn’t know what made her look into his eyes like that.
Must have been those two Cosmopolitans she had.
Joelle brought herself out of her reverie and sat up in bed. Her alarm would go off in about three more hours, but she was in no mood to go back to sleep. She couldn’t pretend anymore. The façade could not continue.
But she had no idea what to do. Eric might be a tad… normal? She searched her mind for a better word, but could find none. At any rate, he may be normal, but at least he’s stable. And she loved him; she was sure of it. At least, she thought she was sure…
Unbidden by conscious thought, her feet took her to her altar. She knelt and lit the candles, casting weird shadows in the darkened room. Focusing on the central flickering flame, she strove to empty her mind.
But her mind would not be still; images of Kevin, both in reality and in dream, flooded her thoughts. His deep blue eyes; his strong hands; his warm lips; his musical voice. She tried to think of Eric—but his features would consistently shift and become Kevin’s.
Something had to be done, and it couldn’t wait until morning.
Joelle closed her eyes and began the meditation routine she followed every night. When she reached the point where she would reach out with her consciousness and, recently, seek out Kevin, she formed the mental image of herself sitting in a park she knew well. It was quiet and moonlit at night, with tree-shadowed benches. The park was only about five blocks’ walk from her apartment, and she knew Kevin lived in a nearby neighborhood in the same town, though she had never dared to visit him in his home.
She projected the intention to meet him there, and did so until she imagined she had communicated with Kevin. As always, the hint of cynicism threatened her concentration, but she pushed it away into a far corner of her mind. Disbelief could not be tolerated. Not when she could feel his presence in her mind. Distant, yet palpable. Ethereal, yet definite.
Slowly, Joelle brought herself to reality. She rose, walked out of the bedroom still wearing her thin linen shift, slipped on some casual shoes, wrapped her long trenchcoat about her, and headed out into the Autumn night.
* * * * *
Joelle arrived at the park in disbelief of herself. She had almost turned back twice, coming to a complete halt for nearly half a minute before continuing on.
Maybe I’m crazy, she had thought. Maybe I just want… what? Something new? Someone new? Maybe I’m getting cold feet with Eric. But that’s over a year off! What, then?
She paused again at the park gates, which, as usual, were always open. And what if I’m right? What if he is here? What then? Disbelieving, anxious, yet hopeful, she entered the park and moved gingerly toward the trees.
Deliberately, she kept the ancient tree between herself and her goal, the iron bench she had chosen in her mind. She didn’t want him to see her, in case she decided to leave. And if she did leave, she didn’t want to know if she had been right, if he was actually there.
She approached the tree. She stepped around it—
There Kevin stood, his back to her, his hands thrust deep into his pockets. Fighting astonishment, and the urge to flee, she approached him.
“Kevin,” she whispered, not trusting her voice.
He whirled, an equally astonished look on his face. “Jo!” He caught himself, regaining his composure. He removed his hands from his pockets and fiddled nervously. “I thought I was crazy…” he said, ducking his head.
“I thought I was,” Joelle responded. She nodded toward the bench, and they both sat.
The silence grew, and Joelle wondered which one of them should speak first. Finally she spoke, softly.
“Have you been having dreams about us?”
He turned to look at her. His eyes spoke of confusion, and desire. He nodded silently.
“How long?” she asked.
He took a deep, shaky breath. “About a month now, I think. Every night, since the day I told you at work…” He trailed off. Joelle remained silent, waiting for him to continue.
Finally, he seemed to shed his uncertainty, speaking quietly but with an inner passion. “I knew what you were thinking at the company picnic. I was thinking the same thing. I wished I could… I don’t know. Could convince you to be with me. But then I felt guilty about even thinking such a thing, seeing you were engaged and all.
“My evening meditations became more difficult—I kept seeing your face. I would…” He looked down at his hands again, embarrassed. “I would fantasize about you. Wonder if it could have worked between us, if things had been different.
“Then, last month, as I was meditating, I… reached out to you. And I think you reached back…” He looked up at her face, in time to see the look of amazement that sat there.
Words flowed from her lips, too long restrained. “You too? I thought it was just me. I reached out to you… I wasn’t sure if it was possible. Then the dreams started…”
“I was so confused,” he responded. “I didn’t think I was that strong, that I had that kind of scope…”
“So it was both of us…”
“At the same time…”
The tension lifted for a moment as the two quietly laughed away their confusion. Their eyes met, and their laughter stilled.
“So,” said Kevin after a moment, “what happens now?”
It was the question Joelle had been avoiding. She looked away, searching for the right words. Finally she sought his eyes again.
“There’s only one thing we can do,” she said quietly, clasping her hands in her lap.
Kevin stood, slowly, and Joelle followed suit. Speechless, the two gazed at one another. Kevin took a deep breath, as if to stall his words of parting. He could say nothing.
Joelle’s clasped hands caught his attention. Slowly, deliberately, she removed her engagement ring, held it before both their eyes, and slipped it into the pocket of her coat. She stepped toward Kevin.
Passionately they embraced, as they had so often dreamed.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.