Joshua sat gazing blearily at his laptop screen. He had finished editing his work and sat doing Internet research on sleepwalking. The idea that his friend would spontaneously just start sleepwalking was troubling. Halfway through an online article, Joshua felt a presence. He looked up and was startled to see Thomas standing in the darkened doorway.
“Oh hey, I didn’t hear you get up. I was just….you look upset. What’s wrong? Did you have a bad dream?”
“I don’t want to kill her.”
“You don’t want to kill who?”
“I don’t want to kill her!”
“What are you talking about man?”
Thomas shuffled into the dim light of the living room and stood over him. Joshua took in the open yet unseeing eyes and realized that his friend was sleepwalking. From the looks of his expression, he was having a nightmare. The growing horror on his face was disconcerting. Joshua wondered what he was dreaming about.
In another moment, his friend was brushing past him and staggering toward the front door. Joshua grabbed him by the arm. Thomas forcefully freed himself, rocking Joshua back on his heels. Joshua sprang forward and caught him, as Thomas clumsily rushed for the front door. Thomas turned and launched a right hook which grazed Joshua’s chin. They grappled with one another, until Joshua managed to restrain Thomas with a bear hug.
Out of frustration, Joshua shook Thomas and shouted his name until he awoke. Thomas came to himself in degrees, gazing at his friend with dawning recognition. He allowed himself to be led over to the couch. They sank down into it side by side breathing heavily. Joshua recovered quickly. Thomas couldn’t seem to catch his breath.
“Are you okay,” Joshua asked.
“I…think so, just got a little spooked. Those dreams are always so real. It’s hard to shake them off.”
“Say man, what were you dreaming about? You kept saying that you didn’t want to kill her.”
Joshua could tell his friend was lying, but decided to leave it alone. Thomas would tell him about the dream when he was ready. Joshua guessed that having dreams about killing his own girlfriend had to have been deeply disturbing. Thomas looked miserable. Joshua talked to fill the awkward silence.
“Before you came in here, I did a little research on sleepwalking. You wouldn’t believe some of the weird websites I stumbled onto. There were even some about hoodoo. Can you believe that?”
Joshua started to chuckle and realized that he was the only one. He glanced over at Thomas and was taken aback by his hopeful expression. Sitting next to him and looking into the wide eyes that seemed larger in the gauntness of his face, Joshua was suddenly worried about his friend. How many sleepless nights had he endured?
“I’m glad you said that Josh! It all makes sense now.”
“What makes sense?”
“I thought that I was in love with Nicole, because no other woman made me feel the way she did. When we kissed for the first time, it felt like the ground beneath my feet tilted. I felt giddy and slightly dizzy. It caught me off guard, because I didn’t think the date went all that well. All night, she had acted a little distant and bored. Another couple of dates and I started to crave that kiss. Every time we went out, I spent the whole evening anticipating that kiss.”
“Well, that doesn’t sound unusual. Maybe you just fell hard for her. She is kind of hot in a bossy, controlling way.”
“That’s what I believed at first too. Then I thought about the weird way that my lips tingled after she kissed me. I don’t know how else to explain it. I always felt so good when I was kissing her and so miserable when we were apart, but then the misery became so extreme that I had to admit that it wasn’t normal. It became like…an addiction. I felt physical pain.”
“Still just sounds like she just got under your skin. You always did fall head over heels for demanding women.”
“Then how do you explain the nightmares, the sleepwalking, the…voices?”
“You’re hearing voices? Are you serious? You’re not are you? You’re joking right?”
Joshua grinned hopefully. He didn’t know what else to say. Thomas was beginning to scare him. Other than his mother, Thomas was the only constant in his life. His friend always reassured him. Now that their roles were reversed, Joshua was failing miserably. He didn’t want to let his best friend down, but he was at a loss for what to say. Thomas put his feet up on the coffee table and Joshua was shocked by the swelling and discoloration in them. Thomas followed his friend’s gaze and nodded as though he could hear his thoughts.
“Another punishment from her. This started a couple of months ago. I don’t even know what I did wrong that time. All I know is she started giving me the silent treatment that evening. I should have gone home, but I couldn’t stand to leave with her all pissed off so I spent the night. I got up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and felt this burning sensation on the bottom of my feet. When I switched on the bathroom light, I saw all this gray powder all over the soles of my feet. It looked like I had walked through some dust. Ever since that night, my feet just randomly swell until the skin is painfully tight.”
“What makes you think she had anything to do with it?”
“When I went to bed that night, there was a small rug on the floor next to my side of the bed that I had never seen before. It was gone by the time I got up the next day.”
“Let me guess. You didn’t ask her about that either did you?”
“She still wasn’t talking to me the next day. At the time, I assumed that the rug was just dusty.”
“Your legs don’t look good man. Maybe you should go and see a doctor.”
“I went a month ago, when the pain got so bad that I couldn’t work. The doctor said it looked like neuropathy, but I don’t have diabetes. All he did was prescribe a diuretic and give me something for the pain.”
“Why didn’t you tell me about this before?”
“I figured you wouldn’t believe me. I’m having trouble believing it myself.”
“So what are you…I mean, what are we going to do about it. You gotta do something before your legs and feet get any worse.”
“This is going to sound crazy, but I’ve asked around and there’s a woman who may be able to help. She’s what they call a rootworker.”
Categories: Valley of Shadows (Novel)