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Bad Dreams












Getting louder and louder.

Closer and closer.

Shifting shapes, blurred images.

Sudden sharp bursts of crimson.

Getting clearer.

A tall man, standing over a cowering woman, shouting at her, his noise occasionally punctured by swift, accurate blows to her body.

A slim, metal object is clenched in his fist. The woman stays screaming, not strong enough to even try to push him off.

A small girl, no more than ten years old, appears, trying to fight him off her mother. The man repeatedly forces her away. She’s not much of a hindrance. Even though her kicking and hitting are quite strong, he’s so incensed he doesn’t even realise it’s happening.

The girl starts crying, pleading with him, and he ignores her further.

A bigger problem now. Two teenage boys.

The blonde one aims straight for the mans face, his fist meeting its mark. The girl watches as the man staggers, dropping his rifle, clutching at his nose, which is bleeding profusely. Another hit, this time to his stomach.

His slurred cursing taints the air, joining the filthy, copper smell.


Suddenly, a damp hand grabs the girls arm.

It’s her brother. He yanks her towards the front door. Her vision is impaired; tears are streaming down her face. A glance at the brawling males vaguely shows her a direct hit in the boys chest. Struggling to follow, she doesn’t look at them any more.

She only focuses on the door, and the slightly sweaty feel of her brothers hand. Then…

Extreme pain explodes in her jaw, her nose, and spreads to the rest of her face rapidly.

No warning.

No caution.

She can’t close her mouth, she can’t see, she can only feel the pain. Her brother starts shrieking her name as she falls.

‘Elaine! Elaine!’



Elaine McGee woke up.

She can still hear the screaming. It was coming from her own mouth. As soon as she realised it, it faded away.

She hasn’t had that dream for years, but now it was haunting her, turning on like a film each night, as soon as she closed her eyes. Her body was drenched in a cold sweat, causing the bed sheet to stick to her. She kicked it off swiftly, letting it crumple on the floor, then laid flat out on her bed.

Why was this happening? It had taken her years to push it to the back of her mind, cramp in into the dark. The day she’d almost died.

For the first time - an occupation in Spectrum meant your life was almost always at risk.

A tear trickled from beneath her closed right eyelid. She wiped it away furiously.

Big girls don’t cry.

She knew she had to get help. But what can anyone do? How can you make a bad memory, a bad dream disappear? It wasn’t as simple as just rubbing it out with an eraser.

She remembered the events of earlier. Talking to Mario. Why had she felt at the time that it had helped? He hadn’t really done anything to benefit her, just listened, and asked more questions than were necessary.

Maybe it had helped, a little. He’d made her think, want to know more answers herself. And, finally, someone had now some idea of why she had been so moody recently.

But I shouldn’t have told him. It’s private.

Suddenly angry with herself, Elaine turned over onto her side, staring at the slowly dying plant she always forgot to water.

She can still hear the screams in her head. Why didn’t I protect my mother? I tried. I failed. I should have tried again.

What happened afterwards? No one had ever told her the truth. All she knew was that a neighbour had called the emergency services, and she’d been taken to hospital.

That was it.

What happened between her blacking out, and the police and ambulance arriving?

There were so many questions without answers, and she didn’t think she’d ever get to know it all.

The incident in her life when she’d started to change…for better and worse.

She gained a friend in the daughter of the woman next door, told the school mentors, who’d ceased the constant teasing against her, gained respect. But she also acted up, lost her chance of getting good grades by staying off school.

She’d hurt herself.

But that was a long time ago. She’d changed again. No one could say she wasn’t strong now.

No one.

Elaine came to a decision.

I won’t ask for help. I can get through this. I have before. I’ll try and force it into submission again, get the memories under control.

It’s just a bad dream after all.












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