AS HE SLEPT, Bill slipped into a dream state and his dream began, as most do, benignly. He was out for a run. It was a beautiful, bright, sunny day and, while the landscape was familiar, he really couldn't quite place it. He was alone, running at an easy pace, enjoying the scenery. The road was dirt and winding. As he rounded a bend in the road, he glimpsed a figure running ahead of him and could tell by the shape and gait the runner was a woman. His heart soared. Had Karen come out for a run with him? It had been so long since they'd gone for a jog together. He called to her, but she did not turn or slow her pace. He tried to catch up to her, but as soon as he got close, she ran out of reach again.
As he jogged along, following the figure ahead of him, he began to notice the landscape start to change dramatically. The trees that lined the road now appeared to be closing in, their branches threatening to block his path. All around him, the bright sunlight was fading and dark shadows loomed. He tried to run faster, but he gained no ground. Bewildered, he looked down at his feet, surprised at what he saw. The dry dirt road had turned into a muddy morass and his pace slowed to a crawl as he attempted to pull his feet free. Struggling and beginning to feel a bit panicky, he looked up. The woman ahead of him had stopped. She turned toward him, and when he saw her face, his mouth opened in surprise. This was not Karen. No, this was something else - something unclean, something foul.
He tried to turn to run away, but his feet would not move. He looked up again. The woman was walking toward him. An odor of decay filled his nostrils and fear washed over him. She was coming closer and closer, her hands reaching out, reaching for him. He opened his mouth to scream....
He woke up with a start, choking back the scream that was about to erupt from his chest. He sat up, drenched in sweat.
What the hell was that all about? he asked himself as he got up and went into the kitchen for a glass of cold water.
As he drank, he tried to remember the dream, but it had already begun to fade. All he could recall was he had been running and there was a woman involved. He walked back to the family room and stood at the window, looking out. It was still night but the storm outside was winding down. He could no longer hear the wind, and the rain was just a soft pitter-patter on the roof.
Cooled off, but exhausted, he lay down on the couch again and fell back asleep. This time, however, he slept peacefully and there were no bad dreams to disturb his slumber.
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