The Crushing Weight of Average Dreams

man standing beside train

The Crushing Weight of Average Dreams

I love my husband. I know he kept secrets. Every marriage has them. You can either recognize it and move on or lie to yourselves like all the other self-medicated fucks with an IV full of Housewives and a drum full of honey-fried chicken wings. Nevertheless, a friend of mine once opined that outright deception in a relationship is like lying to your left lung. Some people can breathe that way just fine all their lives. Others can’t. I knew for sure from a young age that I never could be that type of girl. The type that nodded and smiled sweetly and said things that didn’t make any sense. That just wasn’t me.

One morning, John woke up sick. He tried to hide it from me, but the creaking floorboards couldn’t conceal his clumsy footsteps, and the thin walls did nothing to mask his cat-like wretches. I laid awake for a while listening to him cough and gag. This wasn’t the first time that week. It wouldn’t be the last. Something was wrong. I just couldn’t comprehend what would cause him to lie about it.

“Honey,” I eventually called out. “Are you alright in there?”

“Uh-huh,” he shouted excitedly. “Fine. Totally fine. Didn’t mean to wake you up.”

The drone of a conference call replaced my reply. A man in monotone mumbled something undoubtedly important about numbers and critical mass. My husband whispered back. The loud fucking light turned on over the sink and the screech of the bath followed. I couldn’t hear much more.

John came back out after a shower and a shave. He looked like hot death. His skin was pale. Fresh snot welled up around his nose. Nevertheless, he claimed he would still be going into the office that day. Meetings to be had, budgets to be discussed, important people here, important people there.

“We have a project lined up,” he insisted. “A big one. The type that can finally get us out of this old house.”

We had argued about the topic before. Nothing could keep my husband from an honest day’s work. I typically played the slacker to his overachieving ladder climber. But this time was different. He breathed differently, as discussed, literally and figuratively.

“You are going to get the whole office sick,” I snapped. “Come on. Stay home. I’ll take care of you,”

He ignored me and walked over to the closet to pull out a shirt and tie. I rushed out of bed and planted my feet in front of the dresser. He stared back at me. New lines of thin blood leaked from razor nicks on his neck.

“You’re not going in,” I repeated. “Really. Enough is enough. You have worked yourself to the bone for this company. They can allow you a simple day of fucking rest.”

He eased me aside and pulled back a drawer.

“We get ten days of vacation a year. One work from home day a month. I’ve used up all of that and it’s only February. Plus my director is up my ass. My boss is up my ass. They have us testing this new material.”

I moved back in front of the dresser.

“Ah, what’s the point? You don’t care. I don’t care. Nobody cares. But it’s work that needs to be done, and it pays well, and we don’t make enough money as it is.”

There it was.

“I’m sorry.”

The dagger.

“I didn’t mean anything by it. But my new thing will get us out of this shit-hole. I promise.”

He reached for the pant drawer.

“Did you know the toilet in there only flushes when you hold down the plunger?”

I disappeared into the basement. I heard the door slam sometime later. I didn’t get up to investigate. I was pissed.

“Goodbye,” he shouted. “I love you.”

John got home late that night, sometime after eight, as announced by his hacking coughs and relentless sneezes. I greeted him in the kitchen with some tea and cold medicine. He shrugged it aside and collapsed into a chair. Sweat leaked out from the armpits and belly of his button down blue shirt.

“No tea,” he groaned. “Water. Please.”

I nodded and went to fetch it. He grabbed the glass and winced in pain when a little spilled on his hand. That’s when I noticed the rash. Bright red blisters formed at the joint of his collarbone and shoulder. Some were popped, some not. I pulled down the fabric and saw the cuts snake all the way down his arm.

“Are these all new?”

He nodded painfully.

“I only touched it once,” he whispered. “It was an accident. They don’t know. They can’t. They wouldn’t”¦ if they knew I touched it, they wouldn’t have let me leave. Right?”

I grabbed his hand. The skin felt loose.

“Slow down. What did you touch?”

He considered the question for a second.

“Nothing,” he muttered. “I don’t know. I’m fine.”

“Clearly not,” I laughed. “You need to see someone.”

“No,” he sighed. “I’m fine. Please. They’ll know.”

I relented in a compromise to see a doctor in the morning. We slept in separate beds that night. I set up cooling pads in the guest room and brought in a half dozen humidifiers. The room had an awkward sort of glow to it with all the different lights. The aromas made it feel kind of like an underground rub-n-tug. John traipsed in and buried himself under the covers. I kissed his forehead and it felt cool and clammy, but not feverish. I had hoped that meant the effects were subsiding.

“Thank you,” he kissed me. “This helps.”

“Doctor tomorrow,” I repeated.

“Doctor tomorrow,” he agreed.

I watched television for a little while. John fell asleep before me. The raspiness of his snore mixed in with the drone of the rain. I fell asleep to the episode of Friends where Monica gets her head stuck inside of a chicken.

I woke up to a skittering in the halls.

I don’t know any other way to describe it. We have two cats. Sometimes they chase each other around in the night. This would be like that if the cats were the size of bulls. Picture frames fell down the hall. The walls buckled. The floor shook. Something enormous growled and something bigger hissed back in response. I reached for my phone on the nightstand and slammed the screen with half open eyes.

Three in the morning.

The house grew quiet. I waited hopefully for my husband to get out of bed. I assumed an animal got inside. I knew he kept a baseball bat in both closets. I wished then that we had a gun. I could hear this low sort of vibration. I reached around and felt for the source. I realized then that both cats were in bed with me. They stared back with wide eyes piteously.

The house was still quiet.

A loose floorboard creaked by the bathroom. Then another one in the kitchen. A door creaked open. Then silence. All of a sudden a rush of scattered footsteps sprinted for the dining room. My china cabinet fell along the way. A voice howled an oddly interpretable victory as the remains of my teetering glass figurines shattered into pieces all over the floor.

I got out of bed.

I am not a formidable girl. I don’t have any fight experience whatsoever. I tend to be more well versed on the flight side of things and every instinct in my body told me to get the fuck out of that house. There are no windows in my bedroom. I was on the second floor. I needed to make it down the stairs and out the front door for my plan to succeed. I reached into the closet and found the back up bat for safekeeping.

The floorboard outside my bedroom only creaks if it’s hit dead-on. I danced around that broken motherfucker like a ballerina. I looked in the guest bed and saw my husband wasn’t in it. I should have stopped there. But something urged me forward. Call that curiosity or just plain stupidity.

The stairs only squeak if you rush. I took them one at a time, careful to place half my weight on the proceeding one before continuing. I could hear a mashing sound from the dining room. Something was eating. Something big. It ripped and gnawed hungrily along the broken glass pieces from the cabinets.

I turned the corner and wished I didn’t.

My husband was laid down across the floor. He was dead, as evidenced by the blood covered wound on his neck, and the glazed look in his eyes. Something was eating him. I couldn’t see the full shape of it at first. His legs pulled and ripped like a broken antelope on the savanna before his entire body flipped over in favor of the meatier backside.

I held the bat over my head. My feet followed their one foot after the other routine. Time slowed to a crawl. I could hear my every breath. Then a voice completely shook my battle trance.


The corpse went still as the shape behind it stood up. It was him. My husband walked over to me gracefully. Blood dripped down from his lips. He wiped at it awkwardly, like he’d just been caught snacking on ice cream. The blisters were gone. All of the sickness from the previous day seemed to be erased. He smiled and gestured smoothly at his own body on the floor.

“What the fuck?”

“I can explain that,” he whispered. “Why don’t you just relax?”

I swung once and the bat connected with his jaw. He grimaced for a second, looked back at me, and grinned.

“I made a mistake, honey,” he started. “White Valley made it right. Good as new. New me. Can’t you see? I’m fine. Really. I am completely fine.”

I hit him again.

“Honestly. We are good,” he spit out a tooth. “But we won’t be if you keep this up.”

John reached for the bat and the next few moments happened in a blur. I pushed him back, he fell to the floor, and I went for the door. I found the handle and raced out into the cold before remembering my keys. I opened the door one last time and snatched them from the ring. I looked into the house one more time and noticed John wasn’t chasing me. He had returned to the corpse of himself on the floor, with a long knife at the ready, tearing apart the easy bits.


I did all of the things you might expect. I called the cops and asked them to check the house. He wasn’t there. I had somebody go and pick up my cats. They were fine. I tried to put that night behind me as some sort of bizarre fever dream. John never tried to contact me. I never tried to contact him. I told my parents we were done. They didn’t press me on why. They never really trusted him anyway.

I returned to the house this morning for the first time in a long time. It felt eerie being there again. I took about an hour to pack some boxes and move stuff around for the eventual sale. I caught my reflection in the mirror towards the end of the trip. I looked haggard and exhausted. The bags under my eyes had bags. I felt sick.

And I almost didn’t see it, and never would have noticed, had it not been for the placement of that mirror in the bathroom. A bright red blister appeared on my neck. I watched as it popped right in front of my eyes.

I found two more in the last hour.

Something is happening. I don’t want to end up like him.

Please help me.