This month's White Rabbit Story is a little different. It forms the opening of a novel I'm working on. The novel is called Fingers, and now that I'm back in the swing of writing regularly, I'm hoping it'll be the next big project I actually finish...
When he woke in the night he was thirsty and his eyes were sore. He climbed out of bed and went downstairs to the kitchen, where he filled a pint glass with water from a tap and drank it down in a series of huge gulps.
The dream still clung to him like scraps of paper blown in a gale. He couldn’t shake it off. Probably wouldn’t be able to until it was morning and he was fully awake.
He always knew it was a dream. He’d been experiencing it for most of his life. It wasn’t what he’d call a recurring dream, because it didn’t come often enough; but it was certainly a dream that had repeated since he was a small child.
As best he could remember, he’d first had the dream when he was twelve years old, so that meant he was always twelve years old in the dream. It was as if the dream had stuck there, like a stylus in a scratch on an old record, and he’d been unable to move on.
The dream always followed the same strand. It never wavered.
It went like this:
He was a small child and he’d just woken up from a dream. The bedroom window was open and a light breeze was blowing the curtains. He got up and closed the window, shivering from the chill. The streetlight outside his window flickered once, twice, three times, and then stopped.
He turned back to his room. The family dog was sitting on the bed. They’d had the dog a long time. It was old, and its fur was patchy. It was a mongrel but nobody had ever managed to decide which breeds had mixed to create this hybrid hound.
“Come on Fluffy, get down from there.” His mother didn’t like the dog climbing up on the beds.
He glanced towards his bedroom door but it was closed. He had no idea how the dog could have gained access to the room, unless it had somehow got outside and climbed in through the open window.
He walked over to the bed, sat down next to the dog, and stroked its neck. The dog nuzzled his hand.
“Come on, boy. I’d better let you back out, or mum will kill me.”
Standing, he heard the bed creak; the mattress undulated.
As he walked towards the door, he heard someone cough – a polite cough, like the kind of sound someone makes when they’re trying to get your attention.
Turning, he stared at the dog.
“No one will ever believe this,” said the dog, in a voice that was calm and soft and quite well-spoken. “Tell whoever you want that your pet dog spoke to you, and they’ll just laugh and think you’re joking. Persist with this fantasy, and they might think you mad. Dogs don’t talk.”
He felt a chill again but this time it wasn’t the wind.
“Fluffy? What did you say, Fluffy?”
The dog stood up and plopped down off the bed, then walked to the centre of the room. It squatted down and took a shit on the carpet.
He didn’t know what to do, what to say; this situation was too much for a twelve-year-old boy.
The dog strolled calmly to the door and waited to be let out. He opened the door and watched it leave. The dog didn’t even look at him, it just walked along the landing and vanished around the top of the stairs. He heard its paws gently padding on the carpet as it went downstairs.
This was always the point at which he woke up, his head filled with questions that he couldn’t have verbalised if someone had asked him. Usually, he felt some kind of obscure muted terror.
It always took him a long time to get back to sleep.