I killed someone last night. Again.
Sitting up in bed after turning off my alarm, I told myself it had just been a dream. I wasn’t really a killer, just someone with an overactive imagination. Dreams weren’t real.
But it was difficult to believe my own denials. If it had just been a dream, why was there blood on my hands?
I got in the shower to wash off the sweat, the grime, the blood. This was the third night in a row I had had the dream. Each night, it felt more real than the previous night. Though this was the first time there was blood. I didn’t know how to explain that new detail. After washing everything away, it was clear there were no cuts anywhere that might explain it.
A knock on my door as I was toweling off startled me. I quickly threw on jeans and a t-shirt before walking to answer it. Through the peephole, I could see a cop on the other side. I debated not opening the door, but he knocked again.
“Good morning, officer. Can I help you?”
“Sorry to bother you, sir.”
“That’s okay. What can I do for you?” It took a lot of effort to act normal. I was certain I was failing.
“Are you alright, sir?”
“Oh fine. Just running a little late.” Was that believable? I couldn’t be sure.
“I won’t keep you. We are talking to everyone in the area. There have been several break-ins recently. Have you seen anything or anyone out of the ordinary recently?”
“Nothing comes to mind.”
“Well, keep an eye out and let us know if you do see something. Be sure to lock your doors.”
“Will do, officer. Thanks.”
He nodded and moved on to the next door in the hallway.
I waited until the door clicked shut before exhaling. They weren’t looking for me. Not yet. Maybe it was just a dream. A horrible dream. But how to be sure?
At the hardware store around the corner, I bought a padlock. As I installed it on the outside of my door, one of my neighbors walked by. A nice guy, kind of serious.
“I was thinking about putting one of those on my door, too. Especially after that cop came by this morning. But wouldn’t it be better on the inside?”
“Yeah, but this lets me lock it while I’m out.”
“Thanks. Hey, could you do me a favor?”
“I got two keys with this. Would you mind taking one and locking this side tonight? Open it on your way to work in the morning?”
“Won’t you be stuck inside, then?”
“Yeah, but I’ll feel safer tonight.”
“That seems like overkill.”
“Probably. But still. Will you do it?”
He shrugged. “I guess. When do you want me to lock it?”
“Now. I’m going to turn in early. Just make sure you unlock it in the morning.”
“Okay. But call me if you need out.”
That settled, I went inside and closed the door. Locking it from the inside, I waited until I heard the padlock close. Now I couldn’t get out. If I had the dream again, I could be certain it was just a dream. That gave me some reassurance. Exhausted from the day and the restless night of sleep, it was easy to go to bed early.
A knock on my door woke me the next morning. It was my neighbor. “Hey. I’ve taken the padlock off. I’ll put it and they key in the usual place.” We had a spot where we hid packages for each other.
I had had the dream again. But the blood on my hands, and the new blood splattered on my pajamas, said it wasn’t a dream at all.