SHARED NIGHTMARES Sneak Peek: “Health and Wellness” by Dan Wells

cover - ebook 2We are so hungry.

A man gets up from his bed; it’s a small apartment in Manhattan—one kitchen, one bathroom, and one bedroom shared between two roommates. The walls are hung with posters of women and motorcycles, and the floor and table are littered with old food wrappers, cans of soda pop and beer, and some undetermined number of computers in various states of disassembly. Maybe they’re radios. We recognize their basic function, but their specific purpose eludes us. Perhaps when they’re put back together.

The man stumbles to the bathroom and pulls on a string, turning on a lightbulb that hangs uncovered from the center of the ceiling. “I had the most wonderful dream,” says the man. The other man, still in his bed, puts his arm across his eyes to block the light, and says nothing. “I was back in Lahore,” says the man in the bathroom. He grips the edges of the sink and stares into the mirror, as if he can see the images in front of him. “I was with that girl, the one from UET that I used to have a crush on. Do you remember her?”

“Shut up, Arjun,” says the man in bed. “It’s five o’clock in the morning.”

“Kalindee,” says Arjun. “She was wearing a blue sari, with gold trim and red birds that seemed to peek out of the folds of the fabric. One here, one here, and one here.” He touches his chest with his finger. “I remember them perfectly. And then she looked at me and she laughed, a happy laugh, like we were old friends, and she took my hand and her skin was soft and smooth as cream.”

“Kalindee talked to you once,” said the man in bed, “in her entire life.” He smiles, his wide mouth visible beside the arm that still covers his eyes. “She called you a fool and asked if you were following her.”

“We were married, Muhammad,” says the man in the bathroom. He pulls on the edge of the mirror and it opens, revealing a medicine cabinet sparsely filled with band-aids and painkillers and battered cans of shaving cream. “We lived in a small house, in a… damn it, why do dreams fade so quickly?” He takes a plastic box from the shelf, the edges rounded like a giant lozenge. “A small house in… well, in Lahore, somewhere by UET, in our same old neighborhood I think, because I recognized the streets, but it was a house, not an apartment.” He frowns. “I think it was a house.”

“Get to the good part before you forget it,” says Muhammad. “Was she good in bed?”

Arjun whirls to yell at him, brandishing the plastic box like a weapon, but as he shouts the first angry syllable the box flies from his hand, hits the wall with an audible crack, and then bounces off the sink on its way to the floor. “Damn it,” he says again.

“What was that?” asks Muhammad, sitting up in his bed.

“I dropped my dispenser,” says Arjun, kneeling to pick it up. “It’s cracked…”


Read the rest of this story and eleven more nightmare-inspired tales in Shared Nightmaresavailable now!


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