Dream Diaries Chapter 1.
It started off as dreams. Every week she’d pop up in a dream somewhere or other and we would hang out and chat, maybe go to the pub and have a drink - all really normal, non-fantastical things that would stand out to me the next day by their ordinariness. Usually, I’d dream about hopping on space unicorns and eating velvet brain dust from a fairies arse, but when Tammy started turning up, it all became more real and everyday. We’d chat, I’d never remember what about, and she seemed happy, then I’d wake up thinking about her, fuzzy in the belief that she was still around. Sometimes I’d go so far as to actually try and call her up, only to get the click of a wrong number before realising she was gone. The omnipresence of her still-active Facebook page only compacted this dilemma of my brain thinking she was there, that somewhere, somehow, maybe she was knocking about and her death had all been a cruel joke.
On top of that, I’d find myself drifting off on a daily basis, thinking that I should go home and visit to see how she was, before catching myself and getting sad because I missed her. She was always so cheerful whenever I used to speak to her, her heavy Coventry accent ringing out down the phone to tell me what she had been up to, what guy was giving her trouble, how work was going. Shortly before she died her calls had started to get more frantic, more troubled, but it was for such a brief period that I never thought of them as cries for help. She always seemed so capable, so stubbornly motivated. I never dreamed that all I would have left of her would be exactly that; dreams. Dreams, memories, and a few forgotten text messages.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those soppy people who believes in fairy tales. I don’t believe in ghosts. I don’t even believe in God. My parents were vehemently atheist and I was brought up thinking that organised religion was one of those things that only mentals got into. Mentals like that Jehovahs Witness family who called round my house once and asked to see my parents, only to be confronted with my Dad running down the stairs and shouting “Eurrghh Christians!” at them before slamming the door in their face. Tolerance wasn’t exactly my parent’s forte. What can I say? They were young, and who’s to say we weren’t the mental ones? I found stuff like the door-slamming incident pretty funny though, especially when I was a kid. When you are a kid everything is ephemeral, light-hearted, fun. Nothing is serious and your life is a series of fleeting moments, an idea that twenty years later I am still trying my hardest to cling onto.
It was Thursday the 12th of November, the day after my birthday, when she first visited me for real. I awoke to find her sitting on the end of my bed. I’d had experiences in the past where I’d woken up with a start and my dreams had followed me for a few seconds, the dark monsters from my dreams hovering above my bed and then fading, gradually, back into the shadows... but this wasn’t like that. When I blinked she was still there, silhouetted in the darkness. At first, she was just a vague shadow, then that familiar face came out of the darkness, clear as day, and...
I screamed. It was my first reaction, I didn’t know what else to do I was petrified. There was a pause as she looked on at me with amusement.
“Scared ya din’t I!”
I sat there in disbelief as she started absolutely pissing herself with laughter. If she was a ghost, she wasn’t like any ghost I’d ever seen before in the movies; she wasn’t ashen, or glowing, or decomposed. She didn’t look like a zombie, or a ghoul, or anything scary. She just looked like she always did. Tanned, and pretty, and well, like Tammy.
“Oh my god you scared the life out of me!” I squeaked, still not entirely sure if this was a dream or not. “I thought it was a nightmare, I get these things sometimes.... when I sleep talk... my dreams follow me and I think there are robbers in my room.”
“Who knows, maybe it’s just one of them then.” she stated, deadpan.
“They don’t normally last this long.”
“Well then, maybe it’s not. Be quick though I’ve only got ten minutes.”
“Really? Are you on a timer?”
“I’m just pulling numbers off the top of my head you dipstick.” she laughed good-naturedly.
I rubbed my eyes, still thinking she would disappear and that I would fall back to sleep.
“This can’t be real, I must still be dreaming” I muttered, almost to myself.
“Pinch me and see.” She offered her arm out towards me as proof, and as I pinched her wrist her skin felt smooth, soft... almost warm. I couldn’t believe it.
“But you’re dead.”
“I know that, dickhead.”
She was so calm about it, it threw me off and a hint of hysteria crept into my voice.
“This is insane...what are you doing here?”
“Thought you might want some company.”
“It’s 4am Tammy, I was asleep! Not that I’m complaining or anything, I mean this is pretty weird, but I’ve got work tomorrow...”
“Well yeah, obvs the pub is shut but beggars can’t be choosers. I’ve got some Malibu in my bag if you want some.” She reached down, and there was indeed a small bottle of Malibu peeking out of her bag, along with a gossip magazine, and a book on quantum physics.
“Err... No thanks.” I muttered.
“What’s that book about?” I asked pointing towards the book on Schrödinger's Cat.
“Ah,you know, I thought I better take the time to learn some new stuff and all that seeing as I was never much of a boff at school.” She took a swig from the bottle of Malibu. “Ah ha... do you remember that time when we were 13 and we stole your Mums bottle of Archers and got shit faced in your bedroom? With those two twins we smuggled in... Mervin and summat?” She scrunched her face up as if trying to remember.
“Marlon and Mervin.” I recalled, out of nowhere. Gosh, I hadn’t thought about them in years. “Fucking stupid names. My Mum was screwing when she found out we hid them up there, I wasn’t supposed to have boys round.” I remembered
“Ah, your Mum was alright about it though, and it was better than going to mine, I couldn’t have anyone round cause there were so many of us! At least you had your own room!”
Memories flashed up of us getting ready to go out next to the bunk bed she shared with her sister, of me constantly trying to borrow her clothes as they were always so much cooler and tartier than mine.
“I see him about every now and again.” She offered, cryptically.
“Marlon, Mervin, Maurice... whatever his name is, yeah. I mean it’s not like we’re all pally pally, but I’ve seen him around.”
Now I was confused. “Seen him about where?” Oh, that was right - he’d died in a motorcycle accident when we were seventeen. “Do all you dead people hang out together or something?”
“Something like that.”
“Care to elaborate?”
“It’s not my place. Look, it’s complicated and I still don’t really understand how it all works exactly. I mean, it hasn’t even been a year since, well you know.”
“But you’re alright though?”
“Yeah, I’m fine! I’ve got this banging boyfriend! He’s so fit he looks like a fucking footballer, and we go to all these fancy dress parties and stuff... it’s a wicked laff.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?”
God, what was it with all these cryptic answers?
Tammy got up and started looking around my room. Picking up things and pinching at my dirty clothes.
“Your room’s a bit of a shithole ain’t it.”
“I haven’t really had time to tidy it”
“Oh c’mon, I’ve been watching you - all you do is sit around all day moping, doing fuck all. Don’t think I don’t know.”
“You’ve been watching me?”
“Yeah, of course. I was curious... I always wanted to see what all this London fuss was about.”
“I always said you should have moved here.”
“Yeah well, it’s easy to say that in hindsight. You know I could never have left my family, I would have missed them too much...." she trailed off and went quiet. "Anyway, it’s not that great, you know. This London lark, it’s just the same as Coventry, there’s just more of it and the people are ruder.”
“Oh, as if! At least we’re not all going round kicking each other’s heads in.”
“And whatever is wrong with that eh? Nothing like a good fight to clear the air.” She chuckled as she cracked her knuckles and fingered the sovereign rings that dominated her tiny hands. Tammy always did like a fight. “C’mon Alex, at least us Cov girls know where we stand, rather than all this two-faced kissy kissy London bullshit. You’ve gone soft, you have.”
“Oh really? So that wasn’t you who just almost pissed their pants when they saw me at the end of their bed then?”
“I’m not Hayley Joel Osment! it’s not every day I get to hang out with dead people.”
“You were alright a few weeks ago.”
“Huh?” Now I was really confused. “That was you? I thought I was just dreaming.”
“Yeah, well, you were. Sort of. It took me a while to get the hang of this.”
“The hang of what?”
“Spooking you out. Anyway, come on, stop being such an emo and get up, we’re going for a walk.” she started to put her coat on.
“At this time, you’ve got to be kidding me!”
“Nope. Let’s go and cause some trouble.”
As I fuzzily climbed out of bed and pulled on a pair of jeans off the floor, the thought did cross my mind that I was going absolutely insane, but there was no doubt that this was Tammy. My imagination was pretty strong, but I’d touched her. She felt real! How the hell could I explain that? As I turned my bedside lamp on I could see her more clearly, and she was dressed exactly how I remembered her, down to her dark blue Nike Air Max’s, baggy Benetton jumper, jeans, and heavy leather jacket, with tons of gold chains around her neck. She noticed me looking and laughed.
“I thought my outfit would make you chuckle. I don’t normally dress like this you know, I do have a bit of style, but I can wear anything I want where I am so I digged out the old Nike Airs and went a bit retro. Mid-nineties fashion must be in by now, surely.”
“God, I used to be so jealous of those trainers.”
“Well, they were pretty wicked.”
“Where are we going by the way?”
We left the house and walked out onto the dark main road. Cars rushed past, mainly taxis and a few night buses taking passed out drunken city boys home. The pavements were completely deserted.
“Can they see you, you know, the people in those cars?” I wondered aloud.
“Maybe. Who gives a shit.”
“Well how do I know I’m not dreaming?”
“You don’t.” she countered.
My senses were on overdrive, I could feel a light drizzle on my face and the smell of dirt and metal wafting up from under the wheels of cars carrying pallid early morning commuters overpowered me. There was no way this was a dream. We walked for a while, down past the canals until we came to a kids play area surrounded by metal railings, which Tammy swiftly vaulted over. I hesitated.
“There’s no way I’m getting over that.”
“Don’t be such a pussy.” she hissed.
“But we’ll get in trouble - look, there’s cameras.” I pointed over to two security cameras placed directly above the play area. Tammy didn’t seem to care.
“As if they’re even on. They never replace the tapes in those things... Come on, climb over, it’s not that high.” She climbed up to the top of the railings and offered me her hand. “C’mon dickhead, I’ll pull you up.”
I reached up and was surprised by her strength as she lifted me up to the top and helped me over.
“See, it wasn’t that bad was it?”
“I suppose not.”
“Haha, I forgot how much of a fanny you are.”
We walked over to the swings and sat down, then spent the next couple of hours smoking cigarettes and swinging softly back and forth, talking about ‘old times’ hanging out down the Albany social club and playing pool at Suzie Q’s. Of days and nights spent sitting on walls trying to get boys to notice us, of late night trips to the park with boys and booze and fireworks in dog shit bins. Before we knew it, it was dawn.
“Oh shit,” she glanced around “it’s getting light. I didn’t even notice... I suppose I best be off.”
“Will you come back again?”
“I should hope so.”
“I can’t promise anything. Soon.”
“Ah, okay.” I said with just a tinge of disappointment. “I guess I’ll see you when I see you.”
“I guess you will. Smell you later shithead.”
And with that she got up, stubbed her fag out on the merry-go-round and vaulted back over the fence before disappearing off into the distance, only to be replaced by a disgruntled security guard.
“OI! YOU! Stop right there or I’m calling the Police. This is private property!”
The guard started running towards me, but he was old and slightly overweight so he wasn’t very fast. I ran towards the fence and cursed myself. Why did I have to be so shit at climbing? As I struggled to get a foothold I could hear the guard huffing and wheezing and getting closer and closer. The fence was one of those six-foot high metal jobbies, and I almost hit my face on the way over before landing badly on the way down, twisting my ankle. Dammit. I limped off and hid behind a skip for ten minutes, waiting until I was sure I had the all clear before getting home and collapsing into bed. What a nightmare.
When I awoke for work later on, I was completely confused. Had it all been a dream? I tweaked my foot and sure enough, it hurt like fuck and had swelled to double the size. On further inspection I was still wearing the same clothes, and my phone, which I had stupidly left on silent, had 8 missed calls. I was late for work. I was supposed to be on a train to Brighton, but instead I was crippled, confused, and fearing for my sanity. After calling in sick and booking an appointment to see the doctor about my foot, I started to slowly piece together what had happened. Half of me, the logical side, was convinced that in some weird misguided sadness I had willed Tammy into existence and that maybe I was just seeing things, as seriously, there was no other logical explanation for what had just happened. The other half, some might say the foolish side of me, was 100% convinced that what I’d seen was real.
There was only one thing that could tell me for sure though; the security camera tapes. If they even existed. I had to get my hands on them.