The Arms is the third of ten short stories published as a collection by writer and filmmaker Christopher J. Aran in his book entitled Awake While Dreaming.
Layla is tormented by nightmares that become reality, forcing her to understand her father’s ignorance.
Layla had been having what at first she thought to be nightmares. The blurry visions in her mind of a barely open doorway. The faint sounds of boiling water and creaking wood. All in the back of her mind yet they felt so real. Each time she would wake with sweat on her brow and a dampness all over her body.
It was an early fall morning and the home attendant came in as usual at 8am. She checked Layla’s vitals then began the routine of washing her body with a dampened cloth, fed her breakfast and got about tiding the house. By the time the evening came around and the attendant retired to her own quarters, Layla had spent yet another day of her quickly passing life in bed as an observer. A woman who once had the power to move her own body by thought. Now, thinking was all she had left. Thinking and her vision. She couldn’t speak to ask anyone for their opinion on her dreams, so she gave up and attributed her nightmares to the fear of her condition.
As with the passing of another day, so comes the arrival of another night. Tonight Layla had difficulty closing her eyes and as the sunlight disappeared from the room, the blackness took hold. Her eyes could see the faint edges of the windows and doors in the room. The attendant would leave her room door open in the unlikely event there was a disturbance in the night. This gave Layla a clear view into the long hallway just outside her room. A hall she’d run down for many years as a child. Now it existed as a tease of space between the prison of her mind and the outside world. At first, her memories staring down the hall came back in pieces of images. Images that would start as simple shapes and eventually develop depth and color and sound. The memory of the first bicycle her father gave to her. He let her ride it in the house against her mother’s will. She could see the large front wheel turning over and over in her mind as she pedaled into all the furniture in the house. Layla’s father would spoil her growing up. She began to remember all the hidden ice creams he would give her and the times he would let her skip school knowing full well she was faking her sickness. He was the perfect father a young girl could ever dream of having.
After working all day, her mind began to slow its recollection of events past only to be replaced by a subtle darkness. When and how it came couldn’t be nailed to a specific time but it came nonetheless. She could feel her eyelids getting heavier. The only real weight she could still sense, and soon she would fall asleep. Her fading memories transitioned to the world of dreams where the facts could be changed and shaped into something else entirely. A trip to the supermarket was now a trip into space. A distant vision of a baseball game viewed from the nosebleeds, now saw her in the middle of the action about to hit the winning run of the game. The first and only female major league star. Her dad was proud. Then came the dreams of her neighbors. Her father arguing with them. His face was long rigid and flaming red. There was a fire behind his eyes and a heat surrounding him that affected the air she breathed.
Layla woke to the sound of a creaking piece of wood. She was happy at first for the disturbance of her twisting dream but then concern took its place. What was the source of the noise in the darkness? Where was it coming from? The creaking intensified and her eyes opened fully wide as she strained to scan the room searching for the source of the noise. A moment later, she saw it move. The closet door swung an inch. A flash in her head, was this real or a trick played by the darkness? But the sound was undeniable. A scratch on the frame and then it moved again. Layla stared at the door in fear now. This couldn’t possibly be a dream …