12th July, 1987.
“The permanent temptation of life is to confuse dreams with reality. The permanent defeat of life comes when dreams are surrendered to reality.”
There are times when I cannot remember if something happened in a dream or reality. I still don’t know how we would be conscious of the difference between dreaming and waking if we had no eyelids. Perhaps we would simply keep dreaming on.
It is three am and I’m wide awake.
There is a shuffling sound near my bedroom window and I instantly know I’m not alone.
I’m sitting up in bed, heart racing, breathing labored and senses heightened. Wide awake and hyper aware of my surroundings.
There is some more shuffling as though someone is blindly maneuvering their way around my useless study desk and with a trembling hand, I reach out and switch the bedside lamp on.
With some illumination in the room, I now see the silhouette of the imposter, thin and slight, like an eerie shadow in the dark, it steps forward.
“I need your help.”
Her cheeks are tear stained, eyes swollen and red and she is trembling from head to toe. But none of this is what turns the blood in my veins to ice.
There is a trail of blood running from her forearm to her fingertips, the scarlet color striking against her unusual pallor.
I sit stunned for a moment and then leap out of bed and run to my suitcase. I never bothered unpacking. I rummage for my travelling first aid kit and then lead Beatrice to the bed. She is semi-hysterical. Her chest heaving uneven breaths and her eyes wild. She looks lost.
The source of all the blood is a long but shallow cut on her forearm. I sigh in relief as I clean it. Neither of us speaks.
After it’s done, I dare to look into the hypnotic depth of her blue eyes. The naked fear in them makes me flinch.
Finally, I gather the courage to speak.
“What happened?” I whisper hesitantly.
Beatrice shakes her head, “I don’t—I was just—I swear—“ her voice catches and more tears spill down her cheeks, “I don’t want to live like this anymore. I can’t. He’s always there. I can’t escape him.”
The pain in her voice sends an ominous chill down my spine.
“Beatrice, who is always there?” I feel guilty for questioning her when she is clearly in shock.
She looks into my eyes, her lips trembling. For a long time to come, her face in this moment will haunt my dreams.
“My Father.” She whispers, almost inaudibly.
My heart drops into my stomach.
“Your father?” I try to recollect all the information she’s revealed about her father since we met. I come up with nothing. “What—what did he do to you?”
Beatrice’s expression hardens; I’m taken aback by the stark hatred in her eyes.
“My mother died three years ago, I told you that,” Her voice is monotonic, barely a whisper, “what I didn’t say, is the fact that she killed herself. Because of him. He broke her. She was beautiful before she met him. Even when I was a child, I remember how he would treat her, punishing her with bruises, murdering her spirit. And one day she was gone. There was nobody he could punish anymore,” Her breath falters, “but me.”
I stay silent, processing her words.
Beatrice starts sobbing, ”You don’t know—what he did to me—the things—“ she pauses to collect her breath, “now I’m here, away from him, but he’s still here—in my head. He won’t let me sleep! You have to help me!”
“Hey, hey—you’re safe here, I promise.” I say in a hopefully soothing voice as I reach out and gather her trembling form in my arms.
I gently lay her down on the bed beside me as she continues to sob quietly.
When her sobbing dissipates into hiccups and sniffling, she takes a deep breath.
“I will never be safe.” Her voice is so soft that I wonder if I imagined it.
Beatrice doses off after a few moments and so do I, eventually, strange faces and words dominating my dreams.
She is gone when I wake up.