Green Man Red Woman
Cherise wakens in her bed wrapped around Rhee, who is sleeping restlessly. She withdraws her numb arm and sits up, recalling the dream—it must have been a dream—and the lingering chill. But how did Rhee end up in her bed?
She climbs out of bed and prepares coffee, leaving Rhee to sleep. She adds a little cream and sits down at her old metal-framed fifties table, savoring the first sips of morning elixir, until, minutes later, Rhee makes waking noises.
“How did I end up in your bed?” she says, her voice groggy and slurred.
Cherise turns to her and shrugs. “I was wondering the same thing. You must have been cold on the couch, or something. It’s okay — I don’t mind.”
Rhee shivers. “I’m still cold. I had the most terrifying dream last night.”
“Don’t tell me, it started with a deer.” Cherise laughs, but it’s a nervous laugh.
“Yeah,” Rhee says. Then she relates her dream, which is only different in small details from the one Cherise remembers. The shock Cherise feels must be on her face, because Rhee’s reaction has an unsettling urgency. “What is it?”
“The dream. It’s the same one I had, Rhee. I don’t think it’s a dream.”
“Don’t say that, Cherise. Please don’t say that. It’s awful. I don’t want that to be real.”
“Then how did we have the same dream?”
“I can’t explain it. But synchronized dreams seems more reasonable than what happened might be real.”
Cherise recalls Rhee’s terror last night and leaves it.
“You’re probably right, Rhee.”
But she’s thinking about Jack’s words, “… and that don’t protect her there.” Suddenly, she’s afraid for her friend.
“Can I walk you home, Rhee?”
“What time is it?”
“A little after eleven.”
“Oh shit,” Rhee says, “I gotta shift at noon. Come on down to The Nethers with me and we’ll have Gillian make us a breakfast burrito.”
The least she can do is escort Rhee to work, but the danger will come later, the way she figures it, after dark, in the quiet of the night. How can she convince her friend to be extra careful? Maybe this is all a shared dream and maybe it’s something else, something more benign than it feels, but she doesn’t trust maybes. She only trusts her gut, and it tells her to fear for Rhee.
They proceed in awkward silence, too numb and addled from lack of sleep to be companionable. In her mind, Cherise takes apart the narrative of last night, inspecting its little pieces. They’re no friend of our kind, daughter, Lou had said. Our kind… meaning what? That she was some kind of shape-shifting creature, like them? That she was really their daughter? Or, was it an alcoholic’s delusion talking? And what about the forest? Had they been stoned, somehow? Or had they entered some alternative universe?
For the next episode of our novelette, when it’s available, go to Part Nine.