by Elle Boyd

Lusitana slips under her bed covers, grabs her sleep mask, pushes her ear plugs in place, selects the white noise option on her phone, and reaches for her pastel pink DreamTime Deluxe pill. She hesitates before popping it into her mouth. This new “wonder drug” promises lucid dreaming for everyone, but something unexpected always appears in her dreams. She can curate the most perfect, calming dream, and suddenly a bright search light will sweep through the scene. She can be in the middle of enjoying a full orchestra performing her favourite classical pieces, and the tubist will stand up and break into a jazz solo. She has no idea why.

Lusitana has read the instructions over and over, but they are simple: take one tablet right before bed. (Check.) It helps to not have any distractions as you drift off to sleep. (Check.) Focus on what you would like to dream about. (Check.) Do not mix with alcohol. (Check, although she misses her nightcap of a half-bottle of wine.) Enjoy a night dreaming about anything you choose. No warnings about little glitches or unruly characters.

Same as every other night, she washes her DreamTime down with a large sip of bottled water, then lies on her back, consciously relaxes every part of her body starting with her toes and ending with her forehead, and pictures what she wants to dream about. Tonight it’s her favourite room.

It is all white. Lusitana sits on a white chair before a pristine white canvas perched on a white easel. Classical music wafts in the background. She is wearing a ballroom gown the same fire-engine red as her hair. In her hand is a white brush with a red tip. She lightly presses it against the canvas, dabbing a bit of crimson in the centre. She adds a few more dots of colour, then turns in her high-back chair to dip the brush in the paint.

Beside her on the floor is a man in a tux, a pretty boy with strawberry blonde hair who snubbed her at the Save the Whales fundraiser last month. They had previously gone on one date, which had ended the next morning when he left her apartment, and she hadn’t heard from him again. And then he pretended she was a stranger when they bumped into each other at the fundraiser. Her cheeks had burned with humiliation.

Lusitana tsks. Such a sin. He had been so pretty, and well-endowed to boot.

Now he lays on his back across a white beanbag chair, throat sliced wide open and blood pooled nicely in the wound. She dips the brush right up to the metal. The blood drips on her dress and the floor as she paints a broad stroke across the canvas. Then she pauses, looks around the blank room, closes her eyes. Enjoys the subtle music.


Her eyes snap open. She can feel the air move as if someone has opened a door. She cranes her neck to see behind her chair.

There is a door, standing open in the middle of the room. A door she did not create. Through the doorway she can see a white hall. Here we go again, she thinks.

Lusitana rises from her chair and steps over the body of her ex-pretty boy. The door is a good fifteen feet away from her. She stands, waiting, paintbrush clutched in her hand. This is the first time a door has materialized in her dream. She has to be ready for anything.

A man appears in the doorway. Short brown hair, big head, no taller than Lusitana. Frumpy black pants and shirt.

He shuffles into the room.

“Who the hell are you?” she asks.

He looks at her bashfully as if afraid to meet her gaze. “Sorry,” he says, “I think I’m in the wrong place.” He looks around, though there isn’t much to look at. One of his eyes seems a bit off.

“Who are you? What are you doing here? How dare you come in here?” Lusitana’s voice borders on a shriek.

Now he stares at her. Yes, one eye isn’t quite looking at her. But she is so angry right now–

“This is my time, my time, my quiet time!”

The intruder makes a calm-down gesture, patting the air with his palms. “Look, lady, I just made a wrong turn or something. I thought you were a Puerto Rican girl.”

“Puerto Rican? Do I look Puerto Rican to you?” Lustiana’s paintbrush is no longer a paintbrush; it has transformed into a butcher’s knife. “Get out! Now!” She raises the knife and flings it at the stranger.

Lusitana wakes before she can see any damage she’s caused. She sits up in bed, shaking with rage, which melts into self-pity. She gets up and stalks around her apartment until the rush of adrenaline wears off. Why do these shitty things keep happening to her? First her stupid ex, now this stupid dream. She is so much better than this. She deserves better. Her dreams deserve better.

Finally she crawls back into bed and cries into her pillow. The DreamTime company will hear about this. Her lawyer too. She wonders if she can sue for mental anguish.

Then again, she did set the tone by painting with the pretty boy’s blood. She grabs a wad of tissues from the box on her nightstand and wipes her face. Come to think of it, the audience in her orchestra dream usually consists of family and friends who don’t enjoy classical music; they are bound with rope to their seats at the wrists and ankles. Only Lusitana herself enjoys the concert. Hell, even her more active dreams tend to involve her ex-boyfriends in unsavoury ways. One of her favourites is using them for target practice with an archery set.

Perhaps she should try dreaming of less violent events and see what happens. Then maybe she’ll have more control and these strange occurrences will stop. She deserves to have a truly peaceful sleep. Lusitana settles back down in bed and tries to think of a different angle. Something where everyone is happy, not just her; something where she considers the feelings of others; something where she shows how much she really cares.

She wrinkles her nose. “Sounds like hell,” she mutters, and pictures the white room again. This time she’ll be ready.

Elle Boyd lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, with her husband and their cat overlord. Elle’s work has been published in Otherverse and Black Hole Comics & Entertainment. She can be found on Twitter @TheElleBoyd.

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