Catherine set breakfast down in front of her husband and joined him at the small table. Sunlight flickered in through the swaying birch trees, and the smell of fresh coffee filled their modest kitchen. She smiled and dug into her omelet. Melted cheese and a tiny bit of bacon rolled across her tongue and were sent down to soothe her rumbling hunger. Across from her, Bob sat quietly, rotating his glass of orange juice on the table. He was turned to the right, looking through the glass door, and he hadn’t said a word all morning.
Catherine paused on her second bite. “Whatcha thinkin’?” she asked with her fork in front of her face. Bob just shrugged. Catherine took her bite and set the fork down, then reached her hand across the table to touch his. “More dreams?”
“Yeah,” he said, glancing down at her hand.
“Same one?” Catherine asked.
“No,” Bob said. He looked her in the eye for the first time that morning, and Catherine could see a fear lurking deep within those blues. “No, something different this time.”
“Tell me,” she said. She picked up her coffee to let the cup warm her hands, and leaned back in her chair. Bob sat for a few seconds, fiddling with his fork some, rotating his glass once again, before finally setting off.
“It was us,” he said. “All of us. You, me, the kids, our folks and such. Most of our friends and even our old neighbors from before. We were here, at home, but it wasn’t our home, ya know? I knew it was our house, but it wasn’t any of the houses we’ve lived in.”
“Sure,” said Catherine. “It’s strange how places are in dreams.”
“Yeah,” Bob said, looking at her with a strange earnest. His eyes had a look that told Catherine he was trying very hard to understand something.
“Anyway,” Bob continued, “we’re all here in our house, and everyone is downstairs. It’s a big get together, but not really a party. Everyone is just here. And upstairs, there are all these rooms, dozens of them, like a hotel our something.” Bob paused to take a small sip of orange juice, and his face grimaced when he drank. “And in each one of these rooms, water is leaking out from the walls. And I mean like flowing out and streaming onto the floor. Some rooms are leaking worse than others, but all of them are putting water on the floor in a pretty bad way.”
“Was it raining?” Catherine asked.
“No, just dark outside,” said Bob. “Not bad weather.” He drummed his fingers on the table for a moment before starting again. “I keep going upstairs with this bucket to scoop up the water. I go into these rooms and I’m scooping water like crazy and dumping it back outside, out the window. I’m trying to keep the water from leaking out of these rooms and coming down the stairs. I’m trying to stop the water from reaching the party.”
Catherine watched as her husband shook his head slowly while he spoke. She realized then that she no longer had a taste for her coffee.
“And all the while I’m doing this,” Bob said, “y’all are downstairs waiting for me. Everyone is downstairs just enjoying themselves and each other’s company while I’m trying to stop all this water from coming. And it just keeps coming.”
“That doesn’t sound very pleasant,” Catherine said.
Bob turned and looked her in the eye again. Puffy white eyebrows hung over blue eyes that were filled with concern. “But that’s not the part that makes it so bad. Y’all knew about the water,” Bob said. “Everyone knew I was upstairs trying to keep all this water in all of these different rooms, and no one bothered to offer any help.” Bob sighed and picked up his fork to stab at his food. “Nobody cared. It was just me against the water, and everyone else just waiting downstairs.”
Catherine set her cup on the table and watched her husband closely. She came to realize why his look was so unsettling. He was genuinely scared. “What happened next?” she asked.
Bob took his first bite of breakfast and seemed to relax from the taste. He shook his head and chewed. “I couldn’t keep up anymore,” he said. “I scooped up water in all those rooms, but it just kept coming. It finally made it out into the hallway and fell down the stairs. I scrambled to try n’ catch it, to try n’ beat it, and when I got down everyone was just sitting in the living room looking at me like it was my fault. Soon, the water was flowing like a river, swirling around my ankles, and no one said anything. They all just stared. And not once did anyone offer to help.”
He swallowed and took another bite. “And then I woke up.”