The alarm woke Jeanne with a start. She sighed, rubbed her eyes and rolled over. The alarm clock was still ringing, so she smacked the "snooze" button. She yawned, stretched, and got out of bed.
She opened the closet, picked out her outfit for the day and closed the door. Then she noticed something strange in the mirror. She laid the clothes on her bed, and went to take a closer look. She looked and looked, but didn't notice anything different.
That's so weird, she thought. She turned to get her clothing. Only they had changed. Instead of her dress jacket and slacks it was now an orange skirt and blouse.
What is going on here? thought Jeanne.
She picked up the clothes. They were hideous, and two sizes too small, at least. "I'll put them back," she announced, although to whom she didn't know. She opened up the closet door, but instead of a closet it was a black hole, a bottomless pit--it sucked her in, she started falling...
Jeanne woke with a start. She sat straight up in bed, gasping. She rubbed her eyes and tried to stop shaking. "It was only a dream, nothing to worry about, only a dream," she chanted, over and over.
She opened the closet door carefully, but nothing happened. She breathed a sigh of relief. Jeanne went into the kitchen, and made her breakfast. Strangely, her cat, Toby, was nowhere to be found. But then, he probably stayed out last night, he did now that the weather was warm.
Jeanne put the radio on, while she made her fried egg sandwich. She put the toast in the toaster, and filled up the kettle. Now that her fear over her dream had dissipated, and she felt pretty good. The water in the kettle boiled, so she poured out a cup and put the teabag in it. Then she noticed something odd: It wasn't steaming.
She tested it, and found it to be ice cold. The kettle water was boiling, yet the cup water was freezing.
"How bizarre," she said out loud. She shook her head at her voiced comment, hoping she wasn't getting into a habit of talking to herself. However, she decided that she had just left it standing for too long. She popped it in the microwave and set the timer. The whir of the microwave was comforting white noise, and Jeanne felt her spirits raising again.
She started singing again. All of a sudden, the toaster started sparking. "Oh no!" cried Jeanne, as she rushed over. "The toast must have caught fire!" Large flames sprouted from the toaster. The air was filling with smoke. Jeanne tried to remember where she kept the extinguisher, but her mind went blank.
This is just great, she thought, coughing. What else can happen?
As if on cue, the microwave exploded. It showered sparks everywhere. The sparks set the towels on fire, and soon the entire kitchen was ablaze.
Jeanne was trapped.
She dropped to her knees, coughing, even as her clothes started burning. She tried to beat the flames out, but they were spreading all over her orange suit--wait, that's not what I was wearing! Jeanne's mind screamed--when finally the smoke and heat were too much, and she--
She was covered in sweat. Her throat was parched and she drank the entire glass of water (on her night table) in one go. "It was a dream," she chanted. But she didn't quite believe herself. She had thought the dream was real life. It had felt like it...as did this "reality"...
"Stop it!" she said out loud, in her sternest voice. "Don't go getting all paranoid just because you've had a bad dream." She got out of bed. Now she knew she was starting to talk to herself to much. She knew she had to make sure whether or not she was dreaming again, so she went to her closet, opened the door carefully, inspected the (thankfully) normal closet for the orange clothes, but everything was as it should be.
She went into the kitchen. Toby wound himself around her legs, wanting to be fed. When Jeanne didn't immediately respond, he started miaowing and poking her legs with his claws. Jeanne laughed, and felt a little more at ease. She fed the insistent cat, and made her own breakfast--cereal. So far, so good. Everything was still as it should be. She finished her cheerios, gathered together her papers, said goodbye to Toby, and went out the door, locking it behind her. All her paranoid feelings were gone. But they came back as soon as she reached her car.
In a neat pile on the front seat, folded neatly, lay the orange suit. Jeanne gasped and dropped her suitcase. She slowly backed away, sheer terror causing the hair on her arms to raise. Suddenly she heard a noise behind her. She turned around...to come face-to-face with it. It was a huge, faceless monster, hideous, a composite of every fear and loathing of Jeanne's. She screamed, and ran. She ran as if the Devil was chasing her; indeed, it was, Jeanne's personal demon, composed of every negative thought she ever had. And she was terrified. She knew that this was dream--the orange suit proved that--but she couldn't calm down, couldn't slow her heart, couldn't stop running. She ran, and ran, and ran...finally, it seemed as if the monster wasn't chasing her any more.
She slowed down, and checked behind her. It was nowhere in sight. She stopped, and leaned on a telephone pole. Jeanne started to cry.
This was way too much for her. She wanted out. She wiped her tears on her orange sleeve. Jeanne suddenly realised what she had done, and what the suit meant. "Why can't it just end?" she sobbed.
"It will end," said a deep voice. Jeanne whirled around. The monster was standing right behind her. "It will end now," the shadow demon said. It reached towards her with a huge, clawed paw, and Jeanne had the chance to scream, once, before she woke up.
Now she didn't even bother getting out of bed. She just sat, wrapped in blankets, huddled and shaking. She didn't know how long she stayed like that. She didn't know anything any more.
The phone rang. She jumped and screamed. She picked it up, held the receiver in a shaking hand and in a small voice, inquired: "Hello?"
"Jeannie!" exclaimed the voice of her friend, Carla. "You're late for our breakfast meeting!" Jeanne broke, finally, and started crying. "What's the matter? What happened?" asked Carla, very concerned.
Jeanne managed to choke out the story, and the nightmare(s). Carla was very sympathetic. "You know," she said, "You're due for a day off soon anyway. I'll phone your office for you, if you want."
"Thanks," said Jeanne, between sniffles.
"No prob. In fact, I think I might just have something to help you sleep. Do you want me to come over? This afternoon okay? Alright then. See you soon, and don't worry."
Jeanne put down the phone. She was still shaking, until Carla stopped over. She found her still wrapped in blankets, in bed. Her eyes were red from stress and crying.
Carla immediately set about making her more comfortable. She rearranged her bed and blankets. He also made her lie down. "You won't get any rest like that," she said.
"But--" Jeanne protested.
"But nothing. You need rest. No, don't argue. Look, i brought some sleeping pills. Take them, you'll get some rest, but with out dreams. Okay?" Carla asked her. She nodded, and took the pills and glass of water that her friend offered.
She drank it down, and settled into the bed. Carla took her leave, and Jeanne sank back into bed with a sigh. She felt so calm. She knew, deep down, that finally, she would get some rest, some peace, some dreamless sleep.
And then she woke up.