DREAM 312

A young woman has just moved to the city in the middle of a pandemic. She doesn’t have any friends yet. She is a nurse, so she can’t work from home, but she chooses to self-isolate outside of work because she is interacting with sick people all the time. For exercise, she walks in the mornings, when it’s still dark. That’s when he first sees her, and follows her home. He watches as she lets herself into her home, a granny flat backing onto a nature reserve. Quiet. Everything is quiet. He watches her for a long time, maybe a month; he’s lost track. He knows everything about her. She is very conscious of her own safety, and the flat has many security features, but he knows if he watches her, follows her, and is vigilant, she will make a mistake. Then he will be in. But then he gets sick. He gets the virus and has to abandon his observations. He’s wild with worry about not watching her everyday. He misses her. When he’s back on his feet, he goes back to her house to resume his watching, but the lights are off and she never comes out. On the third day, he tries her front door. It’s unlocked! He lets himself into the darkened flat. It’s silent, and then he hears the rustling of fabric coming from the bedroom. She is here! He stalks silently towards her bedroom, his fingers beginning to tingle in anticipation. But he notices that the living room looks different than he’d anticipated, having watched from outside for so many hours. The proportions are wrong. It makes him uneasy. He looks into her room and sees a swaddled bundle wrapped in blankets. Success! The bundle sneezes violently, rapidly descending into rib shattering coughs. The bundle moans. She has the virus. He goes to her bedside, but she is fevered and doesn’t seem to see him. She mouths “water”, her eyes rolling in her head. Before he knows what he is doing, he has lifted her head and is helping her drink some of the water on the bedside table. It takes days for the fever to break. She is delirious the whole time. He helps her, nurses the nurse back to health. He enjoys the irony. He enjoys having the run of the house. She starts to have more lucid moments. He tells her that her parents have hired him to take care of her while she is sick. She is still too sick to realise this doesn’t make sense. She sleeps. He stays. He is happy, having this time with her. He wonders, could he just stay, forever? Could they make a life? She is hungry. He looks in the fridge for food, but there’s nothing there. He can’t go to the shops, can’t leave, not when he’s so close to her; he can’t ever leave now. She pads out to the kitchen in bare feet, startling him. It is the first time she has been out of her bedroom or ensuite since his arrival. How did my parents know I was sick? She asks. He looks at her. She’s started talking. Thinking. Dammit. He’s always liked her quiet. He’s watched her talk through windows, her quiet voice even more muted by the glass and curtains between her and him. She had mumbled during her fever dreams, but always softly, quietly, barely coherent most of the time. He never likes it, when the women talk. He walks over, strokes her cheek. He is surprised at the surge of tenderness that washes over him. He gently, quietly, places his fingers at her neck. She looks confused, gazing up at him with trusting, baffled eyes. He has nursed her. He is her nurse. He squeezes. I wake up.

Camberra

Australia

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