Chasing Dreams is the second of ten short stories published as a collection by writer and filmmaker Christopher J. Aran in his book, Awake While Dreaming.
Jeff will stop at nothing to catch up with the woman he believes he is meant to be with. Even when his own mind stands in his way.
Half hung curtains can barely stop the morning light from creeping past them and spilling onto the tacky red and brown carpet, a 70’s leftover in this once modern apartment. As the moments pass, the tiny shafts of light seem to glide their way across the floor and up the bed. Moment by moment they dance over bits of clothing and week old food stains. The golden slivers climb the dirty blankets and slip and bounce over the sheets’ ridges across the surface just reaching Jeff’s face. The light warms his stubble-covered cheeks causing him to stir a bit. A bungee line of drool hangs on for dear life at the edge of his mouth. The light tickles his ear and Jeff turns to face it. Now warming his eyes, he opens his heavy lids. He rubs his eyes and yawns, then with a swift wipe, the back of his hand drags the drool away. Jeff turns his head and stares at the nightstand. Side by side stand an empty bottle of clozapine and a framed photo of Jeff and a young woman donning safari hats. The photo would suggest Jeff was happy once. But this morning, he places the frame face down suggesting otherwise. A quick shake of the bottle confirms it to be empty. With a small sigh, Jeff fumbles out of bed.
In his boxers, Jeff stretches into the shower and turns on the hot water. The shower head burps a few times before raining into the tub. Jeff turns to the bathroom mirror and rubs his face. He reaches for a can of shaving cream and sprays some into his hand. Slowly he rubs the cream over his stubble. The shower continues to pour but now a small mist is forming. Jeff, staring almost trancelike reaches for his facial razor. Long, slow strokes, pull away the cream along with little black beads of hair leaving behind it soft, smooth skin. The sound of the shower running competes with the scrapping sound of the razor on facial hair inside Jeff’s head. A blink of the eyes and it’s over.
Jeff stands alone, fully dressed in the middle of a barren dessert. The sun beats down from high above in the sky but the rushing wind keeps him cool. The wind pulls layers of sand over and across the dunes slowly re-shaping the never-ending surface. Jeff turns in every direction in search of something. Anything. But nothing happens. Nothing reveals itself. No clue as to where he is or why he’s here. Nothing but sand for miles. The wind blows harder lifting the tiny granules into his eyes making it difficult to see. His hands cover his face in a futile attempt to protect it from the sand. He rubs his eyes to ease the pain.
“Shit! That’s hot.”
The shower stops and Jeff clutches his forearm and rubs it. He walks back to the sink and grabs the shaving cream, this time covering only half his face. He looks deep into the mirror as if searching for something. His pupils slowly open and he reaches for the razor. Once again, the steel passes over his skin. Each stroke of the sharp metal removes the stubborn bits of hair revealing the man underneath. When the last of it is almost gone, Jeff’s hand twitches. A small drop of blood falls into the sink. It stretches itself across the porcelain surface in a rich crimson line. Jeff watches his own blood as it’s about to pour down the drain. Another blink takes him away.
In the dessert, the wind has calmed. He pulls his burned forearm from his face. His eyes come into focus and in the distance seemingly a mile away is the trace of a flowing red dress. The wind tugs at the edges playing with its fabric. Jeff closes his eyes again and rubs them. He stares hard again and the dress is still there dancing in the distance.
“Hey!” he shouts.
Jeff starts to walk towards the red dress, his feet sinking, struggling in the sand. Looking up Jeff sees the sun has changed its position. Now he has a shadow for company as he trudges on towards the red dress. Closing the distance, the figure in the dress’ features become more defined and so Jeff shouts again.
“Hey! Hello!” The woman’s flowing black hair dances in the hot dessert sun drawing him in like a black hole. Her back to Jeff, she turns her head revealing her profile as she looks up into the sky. Her facial features are now just barely visible. Jeff stops in his tracks and the sand settles between his toes.
“Sandra…?” he whispers under his breath.
She turns her head and begins to walk away.
“No, no. Sandra, wait! …