A View From the Bed

There was a grand ball filled with people she thought she knew. Yet, when she looked at their faces, they seemed to turn away from her. Exasperated, she tried to join the ongoing dance, but the dancers moved further away, as if an invincible force originating from her was driving them away.

She opened her eyes to find a young woman sitting near her bed. “I brought you tea, my lady,” the young woman said, with Ralf the kitchen boy standing behind her with a precariously teetering tea set on a platter. Recovering from her slumber she had a moment of confusion about the scene before her eyes. And oh how tired she felt. Hadn’t she just slept a full night’s sleep? She could see the sun peeking behind the heavy burgundy curtains, and she was certain the sun had been shining when she took to bed. Ah yes, she had felt nauseous yesterday, when entertaining her nephew and his group of friends from the capital.

She conveyed her agreeableness for some tea to the young woman who must have been one of her nephew’s friends. She found them to be a cardinal example of the romantic notions going around the nation, which seemed to infect especially the youth in the most predictable ways. Yet, she sensed a certain nouveau way of thinking, that seemed to represent the more permanent kind of change rather than the transient. She finished her tea and asked the young woman, whose name she could not be pressed to recall, to give her some peace. Excusing herself, after inquiring if the lady felt any better, the young woman left with Ralf in tow. Not soon after the lady of the manor fell asleep anew.

Waiting in the great hall of what must have been a magnificent palace, she saw a servant with small goat’s feet tapping on the marble floor hurrying her way. Not knowing why, and yet feeling it from the deep recesses of her being, she felt indignant towards this queer attendant. The goat-man was trying to express something with great urgency. After lowering herself to glance at the creature, she thought it willed her to follow.

Thus she ended up in a chamber decorated excessively and painted to impress the viewer of those glorious romantic epics, which nations pride themselves on. She saw mountains, eagles, herculean efforts, old hags, handsome princesses and a great ship in the middle of an unearthly storm. Then her attention was captured by the figures entering the chamber. She could not, on the account of the moody light and old eyes, see their features perfectly. But they were surely high and noble based on the tiaras, medals, shining leather and billowing silk which they were adorned in. They paid her no mind and started to seat themselves around a round oaken table. She was naturally interested in hearing their discussion and followed them to stand next to the table. One of them, with black hair that seemed wet, looked around the group before opening his mouth and letting out a procession of frogs, small fish, seaweed of various kinds, a few pebbles and a green sludge mixed into it all. Being far from hysterical, she still let out a quick scream and all eyes in the chamber were upon her.

This time she woke up with clarity and surveyed the room around her. All seemed well and she found some cheese and bread next to her bed. There was even a pot of tea kept warm by a small plate filled with hot water. Helping herself to some bread and tea she wondered if the doctor should be called to make a full assessment of her health. She felt her mind slipping more easily, and had trouble differentiating between wakefulness and sleep.

After some minutes or hours she had the peculiar feeling of sharing the room with someone else. No one appeared in her vision, yet when she let her eyes wander and glass over, there was a nagging presence on the left edge of her vision. There was a tension in her body brought on by fear and confusion, and she wasn't sure if she wanted to confront or hide from the nagging presence.

The door to her room opened slowly, and in came small Ralf stepping lightly. “M’lady! I didn't think you’d be awake. The young master’s lady friend told me ‘make sure the Lady has fresh food,’” Ralf said and brought some small pies next to his Lady.

“Thank you Ralf. I’m glad to see you, for I’ve seen the most vivid dreams and sometimes I’m not sure if the dream is over, and being alone gives me fright,” she said and looked away from the boy, for it was not like her to share such things even with Ralf, whom she’d seen grow up from a small bundle that wailed when the cook had to focus on the cooking and not the feeding of tiny Ralf.

Ralf looked surprised by her confession and stared at her for a few slow moments, as if the words uttered held a deeper meaning for him than he said out loud. He then collected his wits and left the room promising to be back before too long.

The lady of manor then decided that she had laid long enough in bed, and besides once her own esteemed mother had laid in bed for two weeks in her old age, she had never gotten up again. So she took hold of the bed pillar in her right hand and tried to lift herself into a sitting position. She executed the move with such determination and gusto, that once it was successful she had to lie again for her head was woozy from the fast motion. There she laid a while attacking her own stupidity in not pursuing a calmer approach to getting out of bed, yet feeling the allure of closing her eyes and letting her mind wonder where it may.

She woke up in a room that was a replica of her bedroom instead of the real one. She knew this from small differences, which would have been left unnoticed to someone else, but she had been blessed with photographic memory, and thus she could see shadows of stains missing and a chipped corner restored on the fireplace. The room had dark shadows in the corners, and in one such corner someone tall was talking it seemed with many voices at once. The man, if it could be called a man, was all of a sudden in another corner nearer her and again speaking in a cacophony of speech that was either foreign or too much at once to understand. The man wasn’t shouting nor seemed aggressive, but she felt something was off in the way the man's body moved in the shadows. It reminded her of fanciful fears she’d had as a child when there was just enough light in a room to misinterpret a shadow or a form as something malevolent, rather than the mundane object it always was in reality. She didn’t feel such fear now, but was puzzled by this familiar tingling in her spine.

This time, after opening her eyes, she was sure that what had just passed was a dream and this world before her eyes was the real world. She was helped into the thought by the pungent odor that caught her nose, because in her dreams there were no smells. She became alarmed by the odor, since usually such things meant an accident of some kind had transpired. Perhaps her nephew and his group had discovered the wine stash she had asked the cook to hide before their arrival. She then noticed the bread had gone stale and the teapot which did not emanate heat. Thus alarmed even further by the unknown passage of time, she decided to investigate the source of the odor. Her mind felt the clearest since becoming bedridden, but her muscles ached. So it took her a long while and the support of a chair to move out of the bedroom.

The curtains of the manor were all drawn shut, so it was difficult to see properly. She moved from the wing that held her bedroom towards the parlour, where the youth had spent most of their time. Getting there she was shocked by what she saw. The room had been rearranged so that the center of the parlour was free of furniture and burnt out candles were placed in circles around the freed space. Looking closer she saw something drawn or written on these circles, and also understood these marks to be the origin of the pungent odor. Taking a step back from this scene of mutilation against her beloved family manor she leaned against a table and felt something sharp cut her hand. There was a knife discarded upon the table and something hastily engraved into the expensive mahogany surface: “SLEEP NOT”.