“D’rum, d’rum, d’rum, d’rrrrrrumm, d’rrrrrrummmmm, er d’ruh, er d’ruh, errrr d’rum.”
It wasn’t his gibberish that woke her. He was speaking so softly, she had to lean in close to hear what he was saying. What woke her was it wasn’t his usual train-engine snoring.
Every night for weeks, he repeated the word, “d’rum.” He sometimes put a strong emphasis on the “d” or rolled the “rs,” maybe stretched out the “emm” sounds, but it was always a variation of “drum.”
After many sleepless nights, she asked him if he was dreaming of being in a band.
“I remember in college your fantasy was to be in a rock band,” she mentioned over coffee. “You’ve been ‘drumming’ in your sleep lately.”
Studying the steam lifting off his coffee, a raised eyebrow his initial response.
“I don’t remember having any dreams,” he blew on the steaming cup. “Are you sure you weren’t dreaming about me talking in my sleep?”
“The first night it happened, that’s exactly what I thought,” she watched him for any crack in his façade, “but, when it happened several nights in a row, I changed tactics.”
She caught a slight tic in his right cheek.
“What do you mean?” He sat his cup down to pick up the morning newspaper. He flipped to the second page of the sports section and feigned interest in the box scores.
“I mean, if I was dreaming about you dreaming, I could prove it, or disprove it, by recording us sleeping.” She tried to keep her voice even, her body relaxed.
“What did you find out?” He glanced toward her for a split second, but she caught the slip.
“You were talking in your sleep,” she said, taking slow, shallow breaths. “It was hard to make out exactly what you were saying, but I managed to capture enough to play back. To sort out what you were saying.”
“And I was jabbering about playing in a band?” He lowered his newspaper so he could look at her over the top edge. “Sounds innocuous enough.”
“You would think,” she said softly, getting up to put her cup in the sink.
He dropped the paper again, scowling at her back. “Sorry, didn’t quite catch that.”
Leaning on the edge of the sink, her shoulders tense and drawn up to her tight jaw.
“I’ve listened to hours of recordings,” she said, her back still to him. “Much of it is really just gibberish, nonsense that is undecipherable. But.. the rest of it has a consistent theme.”
“Consistent theme? You do realize that a sleeper is in an unconscious state when they are dreaming. By definition, a dream is a fantasy,” he said, laying the paper on the table. “I can hardly be held accountable for anything I say while dreaming.”
Keeping one hand on the counter, she twisted around to look at him sideways.
“I finally pieced it together,” she said, her voice icy and shrill. “D’rum, d’rum, d’rum, er d’ruh, er d’ruh, d’rum.”
He shrugged, shaking his head.
“Red rum,” she spat it out.
“That’s supposed to mean something to me?” He shook his head again
“Murder…” She let the word hang in the air between them.
“I still don’t get it,” he said, coughing behind his hand.
“Red rum, murder backwards. You’ve been plotting my murder. Your sleep talking has given you away,” she spoke the words rapid-fire like firing bullets at him.
He coughed harder, taking a sip of coffee trying to quiet the spasms. She let a twisted smile break across her face.
“You’re crazy, I don’t want to kill you,” he said, doubling over in his chair, coughing until he couldn’t speak. Grabbing at the table, he fell onto the floor, drops of blood pooling in the corners of his mouth.
She watched his death throes dispassionately. When her phone rang, she jumped, squeaking in surprise.
“Did he tell you, yet?” Her sister’s excited voice brought her out of her fog.
“Tell me what?” she managed.
“Oh, shoot. I spoilt it. Might as well tell you now, just act surprised later.”
“Tell me what?” she repeated.
“The trip he’s been planning for weeks?” her sister said. “To the Red Wine Festival in Rome?”
She dropped the phone, and slid to the floor, her feet touching her husband’s lifeless body. “He was saying Red Rome.”