The room was dark, the blinds drawn against the dawning light. Trying to move, Pauley’s arms and legs were lead. In her dream, her screams were shrill, terrified. Her husband snored softly beside her, oblivious to her cries for help.
Trying once more to cry out, she struggled against her immobilization. Her dog, reacting to her master’s distress, jumped up on the bed, crawling in-between Pauley and Sam. Licking Pauley’s face, her tail thumping against the footboard, the disturbance work up Sam, and jolted Pauley out of her sleep paralysis.
The screams she thought she was voicing were more muffled gasps. Sam gathered her close, gently trying to wake her from her nightmare. Bailey, the Lab mix whined softly, nudging her nose under her master’s hand seeking comfort.
Pauley’s body jerked suddenly, her eyes flying open. A choked gasped escaped her throat and she grabbed onto Sam’s arm, drawing her legs up toward her chest.
After a few minutes, her breathing slowed and her body relaxed.
“Babe,” Sam said, gently stroking her hair. “That’s the third nightmare this week. Did you remember any of it this time?”
Pauley wrapped both arms around Sam, settling into his body as close as she could.
“Nothing clear,” she said. “I was running away from something, but can’t focus on what or who. I know I’m screaming.”
“You’re making noises, but they aren’t screams. They aren’t loud and are more like you’re being strangled,” he said. “Your body is twitching, but you’re not trashing. Bailey notices you’re in trouble and she’s usual the one waking me up.”
“I’ve got to figure this out,” Pauley said, disentangling from Sam. “I can’t concentrate and that’s affecting my work. I’ve got to get some sleep, I’m starting to look haggard.”
Sam brushed her sweat slick hair away from her face, lifting up their blankets to check out her oversized, and ratty sleep shirt.
“That’s my girl,” he said. “Armed and glamorous.”
Slapping Sam’s hand away, Pauley rolled toward him, welcoming his embrace. Before she could respond, a small apparition appeared at the foot of their bed.
Still edgy from her disrupted night’s sleep, Pauley let out a startled cry.
The tiny eidolon squealed with delight.
“I scared you, mommy!” Pauley’s daughter, Muriel crawled into bed with her parents wearing her trick-or-treating costume. “I was pra-tis-ing for Hall-a-ween.”
Muriel snuggled in with Bailey between Sam and Pauley.
Sam looked over the little girl’s head, an expression of surrender on his face.
Pauley tickled a squirming Muriel until Bailey began barking a warning. The little girl and dog jumped from the bed, running into the living room to watch cartoons, leaving her parents alone to finish their conversation.
“I haven’t taken a job in weeks,” Pauley said. “All this sleep deprivation is making me edgy. I can’t keep my hands from shaking.”
When Sam didn’t say anything. Pauley poked him in the chest.
“Don’t you want me working?” She frowned, her voice rising.
He sat up against the headboard, took a deep breath, but didn’t answer.
“I’ve been thinking,” he began. “With Muriel getting bigger and more active, and all this stress you’ve been under lately, maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea for you to retire.”
Pauley felt her throat tighten and the threat of tears sting her eyes.
“Let’s figure out these nightmares first,” she said when she found her voice. “Then, maybe we can talk about me retiring.”