The following is a story from the Continue The Story Competition at The View From Here.

An experiment where a story was continued in the comments of my blog where I had no creative control!

Contributers were:

Myself (Mike French)
JP33
GO! Smell The Flowers
Mr Grudge
Anti Barbie
BT Cassidy
Kathleen Mayer
Swubird
Aussie Cynic
Taylor Blue
Paul Burman
Brigid

Thankyou to everyone who took part.

To see who contributed which bits, go to the original comments here.

Below is the story that unfolded, with some minor editing from me to help join the segments and to harmonise the tense, syntax and story.

Enjoy.


be still

Sean Deep’s vintage car stood out from the madness of blind traffic like Braille for those with eyes to see such wonder.

The car kept traction on the sheen of water as Sean headed towards his local garage, his head spinning. Sean looked at the railway track bisecting his path: a gantlet challenging him to duel engines with guts of steel. A pedestrian slipped passed the descending barriers. Sean stopped; the wake of water behind his tyres became still.

He tapped his last cigarette out from the packet on the dash.

‘Be still my world,’ he said. He lit the cigarette and flipped closed his silver lighter.

Windows flashed by as the train clattered on the old tracks. Smoke rose before the electric train. Sean pulled down on the grab handle beside his head as if an emergency stop chord for the train before him.

‘Be still.’

The flashing lights of the crossing lit Sean’s stubble. Blue eyes became red, then blue again.

If I ran alongside the night train would it appear to be still? thought Sean. He got out of his car and watched the train shoot away to hit timetable targets.

The barriers rose, allowing the release of twitching brakes. The driver behind Sean blasted his horn. Only one things to do, he thought. Time I waved good bye to my little friend. Foot to the floor.

Sean edged into the 24-hour garage wishing away the blinding neon and giggling foursome, stumbling out from the shop onto the forecourt in front of him.

He didn’t notice the white transit pull alongside the pump parallel to him. The same that had sat behind him at the barrier.

‘Three of those,’ he flashed the crumpled, red-coated carton from his coat pocket at the stud-nosed teen behind the counter, ‘and this.’ Each word vibrated in his head.

‘Be still.’

He had nudged a chocolate bar alongside the cigarettes and handed over a note to cover the total before the till had it calculated. Pocketing his change Sean swept the small sinful bag off the counter.

You shouldn’t even be driving. The thought passed as mischievously as it had appeared.

He slipped off the cellophane cover coasting back towards the road. Decision time. Sean could see the flashing red in the distance. The train in the opposite direction would be due.

Two a.m.

Sean said it again, to himself almost in a daydream. 'I don't belong driving.'

He wandered for a moment or two as a new idea formed in his head. He admitted to himself that he'd fantasized about it before. Somehow, abandoning his own car meant freedom.

He drifted along the street looking for a contributor, a co-author to the new chapter in his life.

Another supporting character in this movie he directed in his mind, which he enacted with each step he took, was a .38 caliber handgun in his pocket. He almost took out out accidently when he paid for the cigarettes. That would have sent fear and alarm through the clerk's tiny brain, he thought.

He saw some folks, coasting along within their protective cocoons of glass and metal, some chatting on cell phones, others listening to music, and most happy and content. Sean's adrenaline surged, like sexual energy. He spotted his new, unknown companion by the train gate. A middle aged man in a new Mercedes.

Sean approached the car, paused in earnest at the flashing lights. He tapped on the window. A pudgy, middle aged man flashed him a crooked Cheshire Cat like grin and rolled down the window. He could feel the man's eyes laughing at him from behind a pair of aviator glasses. His skin appeared to be practically hanging off of the bone and repulsively rippled with each movement.

'I knew you would come, Sean,' he said while reaching for a lit cigarette resting in his ashtray. Sean couldn't help but notice the man's movements were exaggerated and rigid like a poorly mastered marionette.

'There is much you must learn and little time in which to learn it.'

The middle aged man cocked his head in an unnatural looking angle, still smiling, even as the cigarette began burning the flesh between his fingers.

Sean tightly gripped the gun still concealed in his pocket and blurted out, 'Who the hell are you?' The bravo in his voice, faded with each syllable.

'You can't see yet, Sean, but you will. I didn't see at first.'

The middle aged man ripped off his glasses in a single jerking motion and Sean froze with his mouth agape.

'But I see now and so shall you.' The middle aged man's words began to slur.

There were no eyes, there were only bottomless black sockets; an abyss of absolute nothingness that made Sean feel like he was teetering on the edge of insanity yet he couldn't look away.
The world around Sean began to feel fuzzy and white, like television static. Sean felt his legs give out beneath him but he was unconscious before his head hit the pavement.

Unconscious was more than a lack of awareness, he thought, while his eyes blinked against the cold light above him. Above him? No, around him, like a halo glow.

Aha, thought Sean, am I dreaming? The thought given credence because he felt he was neither standing, nor lying down.

His eyes could only squint and blink against the white glow. Check your senses, get your bearings, he thought.

Taste rushed in; it seemed an errant mouse had died in his mouth and left its flavor as memento of its passing. With some trepidation he flexed his toes- he could feel the shoe encasing them, and the toes themselves pressing against the sole; none of this quelled his worried curiosity.

Focusing his eyes on what was before him left him no more informed- a dull white glow, that's all, that's it. His ears heard nothing, his eyes saw nothing, his flesh felt nothing but for what he was clothed in.

'Hello?'

Simone punched the pillow she was so irritated, same story every morning. 'Sean, these nightmares of yours, exciting as they may be for you,' and she rolled him toward her to tap the fresh, wet spot, 'are all too tedious for me.'

'A man can no longer dream in private? First it’s cameras in the bathrooms. Now they’ve got my girlfriend deciphering my Rapid Eye Movement?'

'Half the neighborhood probably hears how you imitate engines revving and brakes screeching. But just for me, darling, like the sweetest little nothings, you mutter, ‘Oh dear, too baked to drive.' And, 'Good Lord, how I love my .38!’ What wakes me up, however, are all those cigarettes you smoke, when you know the slightest waft and my jones is back like I never quit.'

'Quite the little telepath, Simone. You caught the entire soundtrack then? Followed the tracking dolly?'

'Oh, I don’t know. I suppose this was the one where you've made another deal with the devil who's really your father.'

'Lots of people have repetitive nightmares, Simone. My mistake was disclosing mine to you.'

'Just tell me this and then we better get going or we’ll be late to Mother’s. Did you gouge out his eyes this time? Or was this the one where he presents them to you, one hot bloody eyeball in each of your palms?'

Sean rubbed his eyes, and wiped both hands across his face. The diatribe spewing from Simone’s lips gave him a migraine. Christ, he thought, I don’t know what’s worse – my nightmares, or my life.

'You want to talk eyeballs, Simone? Is that the best you can do? What about the real meaning behind my dreams?'

'Oh, please. Meaning? Give me a break.'

Simone got out of the bed and headed for the shower, 'Get over yourself, dreamer.'

Simone disappeared into the bathroom. Sean closed his eyes and saw the man in the Mercedes. Ominous black orbs gazed up at him.

'… I see now and so shall you.'

Frustrated, Sean rolled over onto his stomach and pushed his face deep into the pillow. What the hell does that mean – 'so shall I?' Whoa! How do I really know which is my true life? Am I dreaming about the man in the Mercedes, or am I dreaming about my life with Simone?

Sean sat up, opened his eyes and listened to the shower water splashing against the plastic curtain.
Yes, I’m awake.
He closed his eyes.

'Be still.'

The night air was cold.

The acid smell of foreign cigarettes filled his nostrils. The white transit van, that had sat behind Sean at the barrier, pulled away from the garage and headed over to him. Behind it a trail of petrol floated over the rain water from the open petrol tank.

Sean watched as a man who appeared to be the same man as the horror in the Mercedes behind him, leant out of the open window of the transit. Spotting him, the man waved, shouted,
'Noch in den Windeln stecken,' then flicked his cigarette out onto the road.

The spilt petrol ignited and flames snaked back towards the garage. Sean shielded his eyes as the forecourt exploded. Shrapnel thudding into the road around him. Machine gun fire pitted around him as a spitfire appeared out of the smoke. A bullet skimmed the side of Sean's face. The spitfire banked and flew upwards.

'Where am I? Germany? Am I in Germany?' shouted Sean.

The mysterious man in the Mercedes smiled as the spitfire banked around for a return pass, then donning his sunglasses, he gunned the engine and sped away in a spray of water.

Simone leant over Sean and dripped water from her hair onto his lips. She nudged him as he tasted it. He had slipped unknowingly back into the reality so familiar and yet so distant. The dream felt so real and now upon waking again, he realised this reality was indeed more like a nightmare to which he needed escape.

'We are going to be late for mother,' said Simone.

The thought of sitting through another afternoon listening to Simone's mother wofting on about the neighbours and the weeks gossip, was not on his favorite list.
Mother was Mrs Jannette Barnworth, now in her late 60's with a full figure as denotes her age. She had recently discovered blue rinse and this gave her appearance a comical glow.
He did not dare not go and was soon dressed the nightmare still vivid in his mind would have to wait.

A short drive and they arrived at the stately home, manicured lawns and well maintained gardens. They approached the door in time to catch the housekeeper as she rushed out the door screaming words incomprehensible to their ears, her face was pale and the look of horror filled her eyes.
The woman just said, 'No Don't! I can't, I Just can't,' then she was gone; unconscious on the patio.

Sean turned back to the door in shock at what had happened, a man was waiting. A tall aged man in a formal suit more befitting an undertaker, but there was something oddly familiar about him. Was it the dark glasses he wore? No ... Sean thoughts rushed to his brain, scanning images in the photo album inside his head ... there! There in his mind's eye was the man before him.
The Black Orbed Man from his Dream ...

'Hello Sean.'

Thoughts rushed into Sean's mind ... tires screeching ... and yelling in German ... what was the yelling about?

This man was responsible for these flashbacks ... how would Sean get to the bottom of all this?

There had to be a way.

The sun beat down. Sean looked down. Somehow he was connected to the crisp shadow that stretched across the patio in front of him, even though he felt no real heat on the back of his neck. He squinted against the reflected brightness of the sun on white bricks, and was tempted to close his eyes, but doubted he should. Somehow, this man, with his aviator glasses and Cheshire cat grin, had slid into Sean’s humdrum domestic world too and had attached himself like a shadow.

‘Sean,’ the man said again.

Sean refocused. How could he be here? How could a character from one world leak into another? Especially if one was a dream and one was actual. What would stop other ingredients leaking through too? He shoved a hand in his pocket to see if a .38 would materialise, and pulled out a greasy comb instead.
Relief.

The man looked at Sean’s comb and grinned. In a series of jerky movements he pulled the gun from the back of his trouser waistband and dangled it between thumb and forefinger. ‘Lost something?’

Panic.

‘What are you doing here?’ he made himself ask, although part of him wanted more than anything to turn round and see what had happened to Simone. Why hadn’t she screamed at the sight of the .38? Why wasn’t she swearing her head off right now?
But the man didn’t need to answer and Sean didn’t need to look round, because he arrived at the answer by himself.

‘They’re both dreams,’ he announced, and took a deep breath and smiled. ‘These are both lucid dreams, aren’t they?’

It wasn’t a matter of deciding which was a dream and which was actuality because they were both dreams---the most lucid dreams imaginable. He’d had similar experiences before, of course, when he’d realised he was dreaming and had been able to take control. On those occasions he’d leapt over buses and flown like a bird when he’d chosen to. Anything was possible. It was a matter of turning something freaky and unsettling into something adventurous and fun.

He looked down at his shadow and willed it to disappear, and the sun edged behind a cloud.

‘Bugger off,’ he said to the man. ‘You’re no threat,’ he told him. ‘I can run through walls.’

And he ran at the wall.

When Sean came to, the taste of blood trickling down the back of his nose filled his throat and mouth. Simone was leaning over him, the morning sun framing her hair in a holy glow. Her expression, however, was anything but angelic, as she seemed uncertain whether to be concerned or frustrated.

'What happened to you?' she said. 'We don't even get a chance to knock on the door and you bash yourself into a wall.'

'Didn't you see him?'

Sean tried to wipe the blood from his nose but Simone stopped him before he could soil his sleeve.

'See who? There was no one there until I called Mother for the ambulance.'

In the distance he heard the approaching sirens. Why did they make something intended to heal sound so mournful?

'This is a dream.'

'I wish. Then maybe I could wake up and have a normal husband.'

'Then where would I go?'

Sean tried to sit up but his head felt heavy. Best to just stay there and wait for the paramedics. Where do the people in dreams go when the dreamer wakes up? Do they wake up too? Or do they cease to exist? What if the dreams are the reality and this is the dream?

Simone swore under her breath. 'If you didn't already have a concussion I'd hit you right now. Whatever attracted me to such a stupidly philosophical guy?'

Sean didn't have time to answer even if he felt like it. The paramedics arrived and shoved him into the ambulance. He bounced around yet couldn't move.

'Just because something's a dream doesn't mean reality doesn't apply,' said the voice of the Black Orbed Man.

The familiar voice shook him as much from its presence as from the fact that he couldn't see the speaker.

'Am I going insane?' Sean muttered.

'Are any of us truly sane to begin with? No, no. This is all a dream, and it is all reality. It is your reality, so only you can see it, only you can hear it.'

Hallucinations. Sean saw himself being carted into a white room with men in white coats holding plastic clip boards and one burly gorilla holding a straight jacket. Just his size.

Sean rubbed his eyes and looked as one of the paramedics leant over him. The paramedic smiled and then taking a syringe filled it with a dark fluid.

'Hold still,' said the paramedic in the voice of the Black Orbed Man.

'Shit,' said Sean, 'Stay away from me.'

The syringe changed into the .38 gun. Blood filled over the eyes of the paramedic sending his eyes red.

'Good night, Sean.'

BANG!

When Sean awoke he found himself in a totally new space. The dimly light room was unknown, the smells past foreign, which left a sickly sensation within his mouth.

He moved to edge of the bed and sat up, his head still bounding that now long familiar tune of drums.

The door opened; with a blast of light a figure entered and closed the door behind him. As he approached the bed Sean recognised the face of the Black Orbed Man.

''Do you know where you are Sean?'

Sean shook his head, half wanting to run and hide and half to scared to move. What next? Am I mad? Totally crazy? he thought.
The man looked at him. Sensing the confusing he sat down and with a tone unexpected by Sean and never heard before he started to speak.

'You are not mad nor crazy. This place you are in is both real and not. Somehow you managed quite by accident to enter the 'World Between'. It is a place that is between realities. A place that exists simply as a launching site to enter other realities. You see Sean, both worlds are real and both lives are real and any other world you wish can be real also. It is just about knowing where to go and how to get there.'

Sean's head swam.

The drums in his head crashed and he awoke in bed. Simone was leaning over him with a worried look on her face, and a cloth in her hand.

'I ... what's the matter Simone?' said Sean rubbing his eyes.

'You were talking in your sleep. Well shouting actually.'

Simone dabbed the damp cloth on Sean's forehead and then stuck a thermometer in mouth. Sean protested and pushed himself up onto his elbows.

Simone pushed him back down, 'The doctor said you should rest Sean, that you needed to lie still.'

'The doctor?'

'He was here earlier. Don't you remember? He said you were too weak after the Chemotherapy. That you needed to rest.'

Sean looked at her.

'Did he have aviator glasses and a Cheshire cat grin?'

'Well he had glasses and yes he had a nice smile about him. German I think.'

'Be still,' mumbled Sean.

Images of the doctor leaning over him and putting a needle in his arm came back to his mind.

'Yes, now be careful,' said Simone, 'or you'll break the thermometer.'

Simone left, closing the door behind her. Sean lay listening to her footsteps, then took out the thermometer and replaced it with a cigarette from a packet hidden under the bed. Sean looked at the picture on the packet of a spitefire. He turned it upside down. Only one left.

Damn I need to get some more, thought Sean. He pulled his clothes on, grabbed his wallet and climbed out of his window. It was dark.

Sean rolled his vintage car down the drive, then climbed in and started the ignition. The engine roared and Sean looked back at the house.

The curtains remained still.

'Be still,' said a voice in his head. He ignored it and drove off to the garage.

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