We downgraded from our pleasant life in London to a tiny cottage in Nowhere, Germany. They couldn’t get us there. Germany got Dad going with the theys and the thems. It didn’t help that Mr. Darius told him it was okay to form a small group for his supporters. The group loved to entertain his paranoia.
Mom referred to the group as Reese Quinn’s Band of Loony Toons. Dad preferred the shorter title “Dream Chasers.” I only saw his supporters in passing. I made a point to avoid them. It was easy since Dad spent more time with them than he did with us.
He formed the group to make contact with the dream world he referred to as Draio (pronounced like mayo, which made it difficult to take seriously). The group was also going by names starting with the letter “D” to honor their mentor: Darius. There was Davis, Damon, Dane, and Dax.
Dad went by Darius to signify he was the leader. When Dad explained this to Mom, he said he had cleared the use of the name with the real Darius. Mom didn’t dignify that with a response.
I was feeling exhausted. It had been a long time since I interacted with anyone but my parents. I love them both, but they hardly got along anymore. I was moving into my pre-teens and starting to feel the brunt of a missing childhood.
Eventually, Dad moved his meetings to our basement against my mother’s wishes. Listening to them have their meetings was like overhearing a bad spy movie. I heard Davis whisper to Dad that “things had been taken care of” and they “had made contact with home base.” It didn’t help alleviate my theory that my dad was a spy for the government. The spy theory made moving all of the time a little easier to swallow. It was better than thinking he was insane.
Mom didn’t allow me to listen to their meetings after a while. She made a point to make fun of Dad and his friends every time I asked her about them. She really blew her gasket when the group made a decision as a group that we were all going to move to the U.S. together.
Dad said it was the best place to avoid the enemy. He said, “We will be safe and protected. Hell, we will move somewhere where the enemy will never expect.”
Mom, poised to take the place of the enemy, said, “Where will that be exactly?”
Dad turned back to his team for confirmation. They all nodded in unison. “Kansas,” he said.
Mom almost fell over, “Jesus Christ, what are we going to do in Kansas?”
Dad walked up to hold her hand. She yanked it away. Dad said, “It’s the safest option. We can finally have stability, Alan can go back to public school, and we never have to move again.” He started to say something else, but Davis stepped up and shook his head, advising against it.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t flinch at the idea of taking the group with us. But, then, I thought about a chance to go back to school. It was a chance to make friends and get a break from the crazy life Dad had provided for us.
Mom said, “If you are lying to me, Reese. Alan and I are leaving and you will never see us again.” Before Dad could respond, she said, “I never told you to take this job. I believed in you and, I’ll admit, the money was a little blinding, but I can’t do this anymore. It isn’t fair to Alan. It isn’t fair to me.”
Dad said, “I promise all of your dreams will come true in Kansas.”
The Dream Chasers had a meeting the night before we would make the flight to Alabama. Dad, particularly loud that evening, spoke with enough volume to carry the sound through the vent in my bedroom. He was talking about Draio like he was preaching at a church service.
He said, “Brothers, the scourge reached for me last night. They ripped and pulled me from my bed right into their world. Naturally, I fought back against their prying fingers, but I grew tired quickly. What did I find when I gave in to their demon grasps? Horror? Death? No. I found poetry. A castle, colored like a child practicing with pastels, stands as a backdrop for meadows lush with blue grasses. Children who could shift into any animal they choose rolled around with creatures I can’t even pretend to describe, but that isn’t even the best part. You want to hear the best part?”
This was met with a resounding “Tell Us” from the other dream chasers.
Dad continued, “The world had a bit of a construction crew. I could feel the heat beat against my face as not men, but dragons used their flames for creation. Their fire built everything.”
The silence from the group told me Dad had them all in the palm of his hand. I was captivated.
“But, then they reappeared. I’m telling you, brothers, the Silhouettes destroyed everything with a flick of the wrist. They came into the valley, bringing the night with them like a sliding glass door. The castle fell into ruin. The children, who were so happy moments before, fled in terror. Draio fell right before my eyes and there was nothing I could do. The Silhouettes had me stuck to the ground. They made me watch as the world of dreams turned to ash.”
Damon, normally quiet, spoke up, “Brother Darius, what can we do?”
Dad’s voice was choked with tears, “Brother Damon, we need to expand. The war with the Silhouettes begins now.”
A war? My dad had lost his mind completely. I was beginning to think Mom had made a mistake not having him committed. I wanted to wake her up to let her know what the Dream Chasers were planning, but I feared it would make it worse.
Dad shouted, “The Silhouettes will woe the day they attempted to recruit Alan to their ranks. They will try to warp him to their cause, but loyalty never lies. No, no. I saw them again last night—the cages are ready. The world, once so magical, is a distant blur, but we will have our revenge. “
The dream chasers spoke in unison, “CAGE THE SILHOUETTES.”
I wished everything had been a big joke or that I was dreaming. It all sounded too real, but maybe that was the point. I just don’t want him dragging my name into this. Freaked out, I went to bed.
What would the Silhouettes want with me?
Joe stared into the mirror. His reflection stared back. His eyes were bright, youthful. His skin was wrinkled, timeworn.
Blood stained his crimson button up. Dirt crusted his fingernails. He could still hear the man’s gargled screams as he choked on the poison olive.
His final words: “They’ve cancelled Dukes of Hazard!”
“I think you look adorable,” Margaret lied. She had bought Jason, now her fiancé’, a tool belt for Christmas. She watched him try it on. She knew it looked stupid as hell and it hardly fit, but she didn’t know what to get him this year. This came on the heels of Jason buying a diamond ring for their engagement to add insult to injury.
“It’s great, honey.” Jason said.
Margaret knew he was full of shit. His words and tone did not match his eyes. His eyes were grim with disappointment from the night before. She had turned him down for sex, again. Jason had not factored bedroom rejection into his proposal.
Jason grunted, “Maybe I’ll get the hang of it by the time we move into our new house. I really do like it, Margaret.”
“Like it?” Margaret pouted her lips.
“I love it, Margaret.”
Margaret started to get up, “I’ll get the receipt. I knew this was a dumb idea. You got me this gorgeous ring and I got you tools? I’m going to be a terrible fiancé.”
Jason held up his hand, “Please don’t. It’s early. I’m tired. It’s not easy to show my appreciation when I’m tired, but,” he lowered his pajama pants, “there are other ways to show you my appreciation.”
Margaret was eye to eye with Jason’s erect penis. She briefly considered giving in to Jason’s offer. It was an easy out. A blowjob might put this gift giving fiasco to rest, and there was a time when she would have loved to jump his bones without question. Those times were long gone.
She tried to let him down easy, “Does that thing cook breakfast? If not, I think I can find a few tools in that belt that are far more useful.”
Jason’s mood shifted from playful to hurt in seconds. He pulled up his pants and threw down the tool belt, causing the wrenches and screwdrivers to hit the ground. They bounced against each other like small children on trampolines.
“Jesus, Margaret, It was just a joke,” he said, stomping out of the room.
Margaret inhaled a deep breath. She walked over to their living room window. She watched rain fall outside in spite of the meteorologist’s call for snow. In a way, she blamed his forecast for Jason’s bad mood.
Margaret overheard Jason repeat the story several times to his family members after she told him yes. He had pushed his proposal up a week from New Year’s Eve in anticipation of a White Christmas. Fucking weatherman.
Jason returned to the living room. “I’m sorry, Margaret. I care so much about you, but I feel like I don’t know how to act around you anymore. We used to be on fire.”
Margaret didn’t bother to glance at him, “Seems like we still are.”
He took a deep breath, “You know what I meant.”
“No, Jason, I don’t.” She moved back to the couch. “We haven’t been intimate in months. I’ve told you over and over again that I wish I didn’t feel this way, but the fact of the matter is that I do. It sucks, but pressuring me into sleeping with you isn’t going to fix it. I hate it for you, but I can’t help how I feel.”
“That isn’t what our relationship is about,” Jason said as he fought back tears, “I love you, Margaret. I just thought—”
“You thought what? You thought that a ring on my finger is what I needed right now to put our past behind me?”
“Never mind.” Jason got on his knees. He picked up the pile of tools. “I’m sorry.”
Margaret followed him to the ground. She softened her voice, “I do love you, Jason.” She placed a hand on his cheek, catching a tear on the way. “I’m not saying any of this to hurt you. I just think if we are meant to be together for the rest of our days, we need to put the work in. We need to figure out why we love each other before we get married.”
Jason placed his hand on hers, “I really think we can do it. I really do. I just don’t know the direction to take.”
Margaret pulled back her arm, “I know a way.” She held out her hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Margaret. What’s your name?”
Jason smiled. He wiped his eyes, “Jason. Would you like to get some coffee sometime?”
Thomas William Shaw is an author and stage actor from Birmingham, AL. He lives with his wife, Lauren, their children, and their cats in a quiet place. Occasionally he will post about it.