The Case of the Naughty Nightmare, Part 1 – by J. R. Kruze
(This book is available almost everywhere. If you can’t wait to see part 2 (or want your own copy) – see https://calm.li/CaseNaughtyNightmare for details and immediate access.)
I’d heard a scream in the storm-filled, rainy night, but thought at first it was just the peacocks roosting in the shed on my farm.
When it didn’t repeat, I thought no more of it.
Until I opened the door to my tiny home and found a naked woman laying on my couch, face down.
She seemed to be sleeping. I could see her back rise and fall, so I knew she was breathing.
There was no car out front, no tracks to the door or inside. She seemed dry, but I hadn’t touched her.
Her tearful eyes then flashed open and focused on me, pure terror in her look. “Please help me – “
And then she fainted dead away…
– – – –
It only took a few steps to reach and kneel beside her. She did have a pulse, but no fever. Breathing evenly. And when I saw the rain drops coming off my chore coat onto her bare skin, I reached up to pull the coverlet off the back of that couch to cover and protect her.
Then I rose back up to shrug out of that sopping coat and hang it up with my soaked wide-brimmed hat to drip over the black, hard plastic boot tray below it. My soaked brown leather chore boots were next. Toeing these off and setting them such that the coat drippings weren’t going to keep them wet.
Turning back to my guest, I saw she was still resting OK, so I reached up to the long shelf across the end of that cabin, above the door, and pulled down a couple of winter comforters. One went across her on top of the fall-patterned hand-knit coverlet she had already. The other comforter I laid across the back of the couch for ready access if she later turned feverish.
Kneeling again, I gently elevated her head to put a pillow under it, then brushed her dark russet hair off her face and back from her neck. Almost an angel now, as she rested.
Then I recognized her – it was Joyce. The story who had at first haunted me to write her into existence. But here she was in human form, not just pictured in my own mind’s eye. Sure, I talk about writing books into life, but had never actually witnessed one taking full human shape.
Yet, here she was. In my tiny cabin, on my single couch that took up the biggest part of the floor space, even without expanding that futon into a full-size bed.
That sleeping form was a mystery in her own right. Yet I wasn’t going to get any answers until she’d rested enough to wake on her own.
Having done all I could do for her now, the next obvious point was to get myself dry and warmed up.
Slipping out of my wet work pants, I hung these up to drip onto that mud tray. Then turned to a tall narrow set of custom shelves and drawers that formed the corner, with a hamper down below. Shucking out of wet t-shirt, skivvies, and socks, I replaced all these with dry versions, only glancing once at my sleeping guest out of some curious modesty. Then, on with my light gray sweatpants and and a brown sweatshirt to take my own chill away.
Running my fingers through my soaked hair, I padded to the other end of the cabin in a few steps to pour myself another tall mug of coffee. Then filled a short china carafe with water into the microwave. Ensuring the lid sat securely on it, I simply left it there. No reason to make a lot of noise of microwave humming and dinging, as I didn’t know when my guest was going to waken.
Adding honey to my mug of coffee, I crossed back to my narrow writing table in front of the couch. Moving my rolling chair to the end of it, I sat down and tried to sort out what I knew about this mystery.
Just sitting down was welcome to me. Sitting and thinking soon showed I had nothing to go on. Joyce had brought several good stories to me during the last year. All had sold well when I published them, and some I intended to expand into a serialized novella and perhaps into a full novel. Mostly romantic mysteries.
I’d always been busy with stories, no lack of inspiration. She said that the only thing that kept my “queue” short was my own prolific output. As she described it, all authors have long or short lines of stories waiting to be “brought to life” through their chosen author’s typing and publishing. And several stories would pitch themselves over and over to different authors hoping to get a better result, which explained how a lot of plots repeat.
Joyce had almost seemed an endless story-fountain of inspiration for my own queue. Her stories had many of the same characters, but different episodes and involvements that were always interesting and entertaining. So she had earned her own series of stories, all popular in their own right.
None of this prepared me for a very real story-turned-human in my tiny home cabin. Or gave me any clue to why she had just appeared here.
The warm honeyed coffee, as well as relaxing after the slogging, wet field work started to make my eye lids heavy. Finishing off the last of my brew, I set it on the desk top away from the edge where it wouldn’t fall or get knocked over by accident.
Rolling my chair back to the wall and stretching out my legs, I folded my arms and rested my head against the wall as I looked at my guest again. She was still resting, quiet against the matching quiet of that cabin as the rain pattered on the insulated metal roof. The patter became a rhythm that soon helped me drop into my own deep sleep.
I woke with a start as the microwave buzz turned into a ding. And found I couldn’t move at first. Something heavy was covering me. Managing to get my arms loose from their crossed position, I batted at the covering and moved it off my face, only to squint from the sudden light in my cabin.
“Hey there, sleepyhead. How about some breakfast?” Joyce was up and smiling at me. She had dressed herself in my own clothes, giving them a fit and shape that looked better on her than me. She’d found a pair of cutoff shorts, and had a t-shirt on under my spare gray sweatshirt. Her feet were bare at the end of some shapely legs, the ones I’d imagined for so very long. Her long russet hair was loosely gathered behind her neck with a wrapped single strand holding it in place and out of her cooking.
She had the frying pan going, with the smells and sounds of sizzling egg omelet pan bread. She almost bounced the few steps to set a fresh mug of coffee near me on the desk – or at least parts of her bounced. A good looking breakfast was on its way, for sure.
I rose to pick up the quilt she had covered me with, and folded it to set on the end of the couch. It covered the folded comforter I’d put across her last night. I noted that she had already remade the couch with its coverlet across its back again.
Stretching first, I then picked up the mug and sipped the steaming brew. Delicious. Just the way I liked it. Too obvious, though. She’d been around my mind so much that she knew almost too much about me.
The relationship between the writer and story is more intimate than you’d expect between two people. I knew details to her back story that would never see the light of day. She lived in my mind so long from her patient waiting for me to take my breaks and prepare my meals, to only then get around to the necessary writing and proofing and publishing online. All before she saw herself in final digital form.
I also felt her return when the printed proofs came. They required their own cross-checks. I shared with her the sensation of feeling the heft of its weight and the slick cover with vibrant colors. As well, turning it over to verify the back cover text and how the art fit.
The quiet satisfaction we both felt as I approved the book online, and then shelved another proof on my long shelves that lined the upper wall spaces. I also saw her in my mind’s eye parlor, putting her book on the mahogany-stained Ikea coffee table that stood in front of her red velveteen daybed. She position this edition next to the earlier books in that series already artfully displayed on the coffee table. Then she would recline there with satisfaction and another big mug of chocolate topped by a mound of whipped cream.
At that, the real world Joyce interrupted my musings by sliding a plate toward me with the thick omelet-bread, folded over once and slathered with wild-plum jam, fork stuck vertically in its thick middle. She set her own plate down and pulled up the folding chair I keep for incidental guests.
In this world, she had her own cup of coffee, but left it alone to dig into the tasty treat she had prepared for both of us.
After a few bites, and a few sips, I again looked at her charming face. Her hazel eyes met mine as she continued to chew daintily and smile at me.
“Love it. You did good. Got the recipe down perfectly.”
“Well, it’s not like I didn’t see exactly how you did it. And, you’re welcome. Also, thanks.”
I smiled at her. She knew my ways of thinking so well, that our conversations were more shorthand than full sentences. Beyond just finishing each other’s sentences. Far more efficient.
“Of course. You know you’re welcome to visit me anytime.”
At that her eyes went downcast toward her food. Her hands didn’t move. A tear formed and ran down one cheek.
(Stay Tuned for Part 2… This book is available almost everywhere. If you can’t wait to see part 2 (or want your own copy) – see https://calm.li/CaseNaughtyNightmare for details and immediate access.)
Also published on Medium.