The Dream: Prelude to To Catch a Fire Child
The call had come at six o’clock, just before a rerun of Seinfeld. Someone was sick, and they requested his services. And he was going to go. There was need, and they needed him. And with that Orlando Bloom had a method to keep the lights on another month.
Beside him at the time was his friend Angelia Buchannan. They had been lounging on his couch with a couple of TV dinners and cans of Coke. Angelia, who was an elementary and middle school English teacher at Kaminari Academy, had decided to take a break from grading essays and book reports and join her fellow Englishman on his couch.
At that moment, they were trying to figure out what to watch on TV and it wasn’t working out very well.
“The news?” Orlando scoffed as she snatched the remote from him.
Angelia looked at him, blue eyes opaque. “I’m just curious about what’s going on nowadays. Can’t I be curious? Besides, I have to keep up with current events. I’m a teacher, remember?”
“Then buy a newspaper.” He took the remote back. “There’s a game on tonight.”
Angelia glared at him. “How dare you inhibit me in my academic pursuits for the sake of an asinine football game?”
Orlando shrugged. “I just change the channel.”
Angelia threw the balled up cellophane from her TV dinner at him. It bounced off his arm.
On the TV, a redheaded anchor with bright eyes and big teeth appeared beside a picture of a man with bleached hair and sunglasses and another of a woman with long dark hair and heavy makeup. Orlando set his teeth and tried not to groan. “And in entertainment news, it seems that AJ McLean from the Backstreet Boys has made headlines yet again for getting back together with–”
“Are we actually watching this?” Orlando asked. He suddenly couldn’t help it. For some reason the image on screen sickened him. “I mean, really, Annie. This is bloody drivel.”
“Fine fine. What do you want to watch? I think there’s a show about monkey reproduction on the National Geographic channel. Oh no, wait! I think you want to peruse the Weather Channel! Oh we do love the music on the Local on the 8’s!”
Orlando’s response to Angelia’s sarcasm was a pillow to her blond head.
“Oh, stop it would you? I was just messing around.” She sighed. “I brought a movie instead. Maybe we should watch that.”
Before Orlando could approve or disapprove, the phone rang. Angelia frowned a bit as Orlando reached over her to pick it up.
“Hello?” Orlando’s eyebrows wrinkled in concentration. “Yes, this is he…oh yes, the work study program? I applied a few weeks ago…” His face relaxed. “There’s a position?” He frowned again. “Oh that’s really too bad…” He didn’t talk for a moment but nodded as if listening. “Yes, I will be in the office in the morning. Thank you.” With that he hung up the phone.
Angelia stared at him.
“Well? What happened?”
Orlando took that opportunity to change the channel. “That was someone from Kaminari Academy. It looks like they have a new work study program. They’re doing this substitute teacher thing.”
“Hmm.” Angelia frowned thoughtfully. “I suppose it’s a nice program, though. The only objection I have is that sometimes the teachers and students get, eh, attached.”
Orlando stared at her a moment. Then he kissed her on her forehead. “Angelia,” he said huskily, “you must know that you are the only woman in the world for me. All those little girls in their little school uniforms are so…unfulfilling.”
Angelia, who was used to his flattery, tilted her head. “And you would know because?” she prompted.
“Angelia love, you don’t have to stick your head in an oven to know that it’s hot.”
“And I don’t have to stick my head in your mouth to know that what’s coming out is bullshit.”
Orlando couldn’t help but laugh at that. While Orlando was laughing, Angelia took the remote back and turned it onto MSNBC.
Orlando stopped laughing. “Wait a bloody minute—”
Angelia flashed her blinding smile and Orlando sat through the news for another thirty minutes.
* Meanwhile…. *
“Did it work?”
The girl turned off the reconstructed contraption that could barely be called a 21th century phone and turned to her younger sister. Her smile was sly, cunning. “Of course it did, baka. I always have the best ideas, don’t I?”
“Would you can it?” her other sister snapped. She twirled her coveted basketball on her index finger. “You’ve got one more phone call to make before you get all happy and junk.”
The girl glared at her other sister. Before they could start a catfight, the younger sister broke in with her usual dose of calm.
“Don’t you two start bickering,” she said gently. “Gel, make the rest of the phone calls so we can get going. We’re going to be traveling all night in this case.”
“Gel” huffed. “Fine fine.” She picked up the receiver again and dialed a series of numbers. After what seemed an eternity, someone picked up. She pushed a button on the machine to make her voice come out like a man’s. “Yes, is this Dr. Charles Francis? Yes, this is the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes. You just won ten million dollars!”
The other sister shook her head. “This is so evil.”
* * *
Angelia left a couple of hours later and told Orlando to go to bed immediately. Even though he tried, he found it difficult to go to sleep by lying still. He tossed and turned, his body rebelling against the fact that he had to be up at seven tomorrow. So he turned over on his back and counted sheep.
He was asleep by fifty-seven.
* * *
He dreamed of nothing spectacular at first. He was walking through a pink forest. The leaves from the trees were everywhere, coloring the world in a rosy hue. He looked down at himself and found that he was wearing loose orange-red cotton. The breeze was warm and it ruffled his pants and shirt.
A sound in the distance attracted his attention, and he followed it.
A moment later, a unicorn galloped out of a patch of trees. Orlando tried to side-step the silver-haired beast but it seemed to be coming after him. Before he could yelp, it stopped. After whinnying, it nudged him with its horn.
“What the bloody hell?!” Orlando uttered, alarmed. “What the hell do you want?” The unicorn nudged him again. It was pointing him in the direction of the break in the trees. Orlando sighed and told the unicorn—even though it seemed funny that he was explaining himself to a unicorn—that he was going through the trees. The unicorn nodded its head as if it understood. When Orlando looked at the unicorn bemusedly, it moved to nudge him again.
“Okay okay okay. I’m going.”
The unicorn observed him leave, then galloped away.
This is getting odd, Orlando mused, and stepped through the break in the pink leaves.
And he had a feeling that it was going to get even odder.
There was a woman sitting on an orange blanket. She was wearing a long orange-red dress that left her shoulders bare for her long red hair to cover them. Under her chin was a violin, and the melody that she played sounded as sad as a funeral dirge. As he stepped closer he found that her strangely colored eyes were devoid of tears.
And even though that she was engrossed in her playing, she heard him approach. She placed the instrument on the blanket in front of her.
“You’re here,” she said simply.
“Here?” Orlando was perplexed. “What do you mean? Where is ‘here’?”
The woman stood, her skirts falling to the ground. She was taller than he was. “I cannot tell you that now. The important thing is that you listen to me.” She placed her hands on his shoulders. “We need you.”
Orlando shrugged her off. “Need me? What the hell do you need me for? This is a bloody dream!”
The redhead shook her head. “No. This isn’t quite that simple, Orlando.”
“How did you know my–”
“That’s a silly question. We do not need those now. You have to listen—”
“No!” he exclaimed. “I don’t have to listen to anything. This is a silly dream. You don’t need me for anything.”
“But we need your help!” she told him.
“How can I help you? It’s just a dream!”
The woman stood before him, chest heaving. He hadn’t of been so worked up, he might have propositioned her. She wasn’t bad looking.
In the next moment, she slapped him, erasing all thoughts of taking her on a midnight stroll out of his head.
It took him a moment to recover from the shock and the pain. And in that moment, he realized that it was too real to be a dream. But it couldn’t be anything else but! That would be silly if it wasn’t.
Figuring that the woman could help him, he tried to stand. But fire descended upon them with such suddenness that he hardly had time to blink.
The fire swallowed the woman up first. She screamed with something that was beyond terror or pain; it was defeat. Pink leaves curled, turned black, then became ash. As Orlando scrambled for his life, he heard laughter. Frantically, he willed himself awake. He had to wake up. This was a fucking dream!
* * *
When Orlando woke up in his bed, he was slick with sweat and shaking violently.
The moon shone into his window like a calming light. It took him several minutes before he could move and catch his breath. He smoothed out the cover with a shaky hand then applied the same hand to his face. He sat on the edge of the bed, staring at the phone. In his frightened state, he contemplated calling Angelia, but it was two a.m. She wouldn’t have appreciated the wake-up call.
I have got to get a grip, Orlando told himself, standing. He trudged to the kitchen for a glass of water and returned to his bedroom afterwards. He placed the glass beside him on the nightstand. He stared up at the ceiling again as he had a few hours before. Would he ever get back to sleep?
It took him forty-five minutes, but he fell into a dreamless sleep to be undisturbed by flames.
But he was not the only one who dreamed of fire that night.
TO BE CONTINUED….