James stumbled to the phone and answered it, expecting to hear the familiar and annoying fax tone on the other end.
Instead, he was greeted by a female voice.
“I’m sorry we’re so late. We got stuck in traffic but we’ll be home in another 15 minutes or so. You must be so hungry!”
James was startled. And speechless.
“Huh? Well who else would it be, honey?” Lisa was laughing. “You must really be hungry – you’re acting delirious!”
James let out an exasperated sigh. “That stupid Dan next door told me that, that you were dead! And that Tim had moved out of the house!”
“What are you talking about?”
Totally confused, James was wondering why he had listened to Dan’s nonsense and also wondering why he was trembling and he couldn’t speak. He had to shout for his voice to come out as he responded to Lisa. “Dan said – “
And then the phone rang again, this time really waking him up. James sat there in a daze and let it ring. Am I awake for real now? He wondered. He tried to open his eyes as wide as he could, as though he were still dreaming and wanted to wake up. It seemed he was awake.
Meanwhile, the incessant ringing of the phone caused the answering machine to start. This time the same fax tone came through on the speaker. James groaned. He was too weary to get out of his chair; he sat there for a long, long time.
By the time James arose it was too late to call his friend and work buddy, Roger. Falling asleep was difficult that night; he lay there mulling over the dream, remembering Lisa and wondering what Tim was doing now. And also, who exactly Dan was supposed to be in real life.
Roger’s phone rang early the next morning.
“I can’t explain it by e-mail,” James told him. “I had to call you. Last night’s dream was the weirdest of the weirdest.”
“So far,” Roger said, which gave James pause.
“I thought these were supposed to be pleasant dreams. Last night was a nightmare! I don’t get it.” James then recounted the nightmare to Roger. It had been so vivid he had no trouble recalling all the details. He told him, “Now I’m afraid to open another bottle of that wine.”
“I don’t blame you,” Roger said after listening to James’ recap. “That’s spooky. But your aunt – she said she wanted you to drink them all, right? And all in order?”
“True. So she said. Or wrote. Why would she do that to me?”
“You act like she knew exactly what would happen after you drank each of them,” said Roger. “Do you think she did?”
“I don’t know. It would seem so.” James was scratching his head.
“If she knew then she wants you to drink them all. And you know how she felt about you. There’s a reason why she wants you to try them all. And in that order.” Roger was thinking it was a lot easier for him to tell James to do it than if he had to do it himself. “They’re just dreams,” he assured him.
“Just dreams?” James shot back. “You don’t know how real they felt. I was right in the middle. Lisa was alive again. And Tim was a little kid. It was more real than when it really was real, if you know what I mean.”
“So what are you going to do? Are you going to pull the cork on the next one tonight?”
“I think I need to.” James pondered what the upcoming evening would be like. “Oh, and there’s that damn fax machine to deal with,” he added.
“Why don’t you hook up a fax in your house and see what they’re trying to send?” Roger suggested, and then he launched into an out of tune version of the Twilight Zone theme.
James half-laughed. “After all this, I’m kind of afraid to.”
“Well good luck, buddy,” said Roger. They made some small talk then got back to work.
Around noon James pulled his car out of the garage. He looked at the house next door and was half expecting this Dan person from his dream to come walking out. But no one did and he let his senses tell him that he was now wide awake and knew who his real neighbors were.
Then he drove to Staples to buy a cheap fax machine.
To be continued..
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