Water laps at the boat. I’m intently watching the skeleton with the red hat spin beside my paddle whilst its toes brush the reeds on the bank. We turn a bend in the river and I see the light of a fire in the distance. I paddle harder. There are three people against the backdrop of jungle underbrush and only their silhouettes against the yellow of the fire are visible. I look back at the water but the skeleton has gone.
Paddling closer to the bank I shout out but no sound comes from my mouth. The figures on the bank do not stir yet their shadows sway in the leaves. Stones emerge like stalagmites from the black water and they lead towards the bank in an S shape. I count fifteen stones. Someone calls my name. It sounds as though carried by a wind but there is no wind only a force pulling at my legs as I put one foot over the side of the boat and step onto the first stone..
In front of me a young boy appears. He skips from stone to stone swinging his arms. I step quicker and when we reach the halfway point he is almost within an arm’s reach but he slips and his head flies back, he has no features except his open mouth and toddler tonsils rumbling from a scream I cannot hear. He falls into the water and I jump forwards arms outstretched but he is pulled away and under. I hit the water too. It is cold. Pain rolls over my body.
I fall and do not wake.
I am in an empty car park. The horizon in each direction is cloudy. A white bus appears from the clouds. I cannot hear it. It pulls up beside me. The door opens and the white-coated man descends the steps. His blank face turns towards mine and he holds up one arm with a single finger outstretched and he points towards the windows of the bus, where in each frame there is Cora staring down at me, licking her lips. I take the man’s hand so that he can lead me onto the bus and when I am there I stand in the aisle so that the Coras can approach me. Some come at me wildly and begin to tear at my clothes and skin whilst others stand further off, touching their bodies and twisting. I sink down into ecstasy.
My eyes open in the dark bedroom.
I get up and do not disturb my wife, the sleeping Kit. The dream is still vivid in my mind. I slip out of bed and down the stairs in the dark, picking up my phone from the hallway dresser on the way to the kitchen where I exit into the garden. I take a deep breath. The dream burns. On my phone I search Cora’s name on the internet and find her profile which is private except one profile picture of her on a beach with a man so I cover the man with my thumb and with my spare hand touch myself. I pull harder and faster and Cora soars across my sky the squirming body of Kit beneath her a floating body the breasts are Cora’s the skin is Cora’s the curves are Kits the hands that tease my chest are. Are. Are. Are. I come into the light of a full moon.
I hunt for a cigarette, scouring the drawers and empty coffee pots and jars full of beans until I finally find one in the cupboard beneath the sink tucked into an empty plant pot and it is crisp to the touch but when the smoke enters my lungs it feels. It feels. The pain disappears. I climb wearily up to bed. I fall next to Kit. As I pass into sleep I hear her murmur. It sounds like “You stink.”