The dream had been plaguing me for days. I’d go to bed determined that this night would be different, that I’d break the cycle. But I couldn’t.
I should have paid more attention to what the dream was trying to tell me.
I’m in bed, and at first, I think I’m just waking up in the random way people do where we sigh and roll over and drift right back off. Then I realize that it’s cold.
My bedroom is never cold.
The heat must be broken. I reach over and shake my husband’s arm. “Joshua,” I whisper, not wanting to wake the girls sleeping next door. “The fire’s gone out again.”
Josh mumbles something unintelligible and throws an arm up over his face.
He’s been working so much. I decide I’ll just take care of it. I always get splinters when I fill the stove, but there are worse things.
I get up and slide on my robe. I tiptoe past the girls’ room and out into the living room to take care of the fire.
It’s too bright out there, but not because there are any lights on. The moon must be full, I think absently.
I nearly jump when I start to walk past the bay window and Rachel’s bell clear, but startlingly inflectionless, voice says, “Mamma, the stars went out.”
It takes a split second before I can breathe again. Then I answer. “Sweetie, you scared me half to death! What are you doing out of bed?”
Carolyn speaks then, sounding, as always, exactly like her twin. “The stars went out, and now they’re falling. We want to watch them burn it all up.”
Gooseflesh zings up and down my arms, my spine. I look out the window, past their identical white blonde heads stained lavender by the strange light pouring in the picture window.
And they’re right.
The stars are indeed falling from a sky that looks nothing like it could possibly belong to Earth.
The girls turn toward me then, and their light blue eyes are gone. All that’s left are puckering holes filled with the light from that alien sky.
It woke me up screaming every day for a week. Once I could breathe again, once I could stop sobbing in terror, I’d go make my coffee, regardless of the hour and be up for the day.
Why didn’t I seek comfort from Josh, or go check on my girls?
Because they don’t exist. And they never have.
I’ve never married, and I don’t intend to. I’ve certainly never had children. I can’t. And even if I could, I don’t think I’d want them.
Now that I know.
When the dream came to me again this morning, instead of getting up and making coffee, I lay in bed for a long time.
I finally got up a couple of hours later and dressed for a long hike. I even packed my backpack for one.
I walked straight through my silent living room, not looking left or right. I especially avoided looking at my bay window. It was no longer stacked with pillows as a reading nook. As the dream persisted, I started filling that shelf up with everything I could that would prevent anyone, including eyeless dream offspring, from sitting on it.
I walked out my front door, not bothering to lock it behind me. I knew with eerie certainty that locks stopped mattering sometime between the dark and the dawn.
I looked up and saw what I’d been both dreading and expecting.
The sky has gone purple.
The same purple as the eyes my twins didn’t have. My twins that don’t exist.
The stars aren’t falling yet. But I know they will.
I feel it.
Deep in my chest.
But I feel something else, too.
We might be able to stop it.
I’m sure as Hell going to try.