Tennyson Hawley Has a Dream

Tennyson Hawley has a dream that forces a smirk like an ampersand on his small mouth. He is nine, and the unusual night vision awakens him upright into a capital L shape. Tennyson switches on the bedroom light, rubs his head, pulls on his slippers and housecoat, and hurries out of the warm room thick with soft yellow paint and pictures he draws at school. Careful not to make noise to upset his family, he is terribly excited to see if the dream is real.

Tennyson uses the kitchen door as his exit, steps down into the grass and hurries across the yard, past the swing set, past the swimming pool, leaving foot imprints in the grass on his way toward the farthest away tree. The air is very cold, enough that he can see his ghostly breath in the light from the incomplete head of the moon. Although maybe he should be, Tennyson is not afraid of what he might hope is in the tree.

He leans against the tree's bark, hugs it. Tennyson stares into the danger of the bark, as if preparing to kiss it, then looks straight up, steps back, still looking up while holding the tree like a dance partner. His eyes adjust to the darkness that has roosted there until morning. Inside the darkness Tennyson sees what he saw in his dream, and this thing from his dream looks back at him. It has been watching Tennyson's trek across the yard.

"Is your name Samuel?" Tennyson asks in a loud whisper.

"Of course." The answer comes not in a whisper. "May I call you Ten?"

"Of course, just like in the dream," Tennyson says with a smile.

"Is it safe for me to come down?"

"It appears to be safe," Tennyson says, looking away from the tree top, administering a quick diagnosis of the surroundings, then continuing, "but what will cause you harm?"

"The doctor will harm me, Ten."

"There's no doctor here, Samuel, so please come down. You're safe with me."

"Yes, I suppose I should."

And with Tennyson's prompt, and as Tennyson stands back away from the tree, Samuel comes down. Samuel's appearance would startle most people to absolute death, but Tennyson Hawley knows him from the dream and has sufficient time to become accustomed to this thing he sees stepping away from the tree into the cold grass. In the light the incomplete head of the moon affords him, Tennyson sees completely the bulbous red growth on the creature's head.

"You're the only one who can see it, Ten."

"I know, but soon everyone will know."

Tennyson takes Samuel's hand. They stay out until the moon succumbs. Tennyson must go back inside before his parents awake. He knows that his father will explain everything once more and why there is a substantial risk. As his father explains this, Tennyson will rub his head, thinking of Samuel and how he was just outside in the tree.

Tennyson Hawley and his parents will journey to the medical center, where the procedure takes place and where he will spend the night. He has dreams of Samuel while he is there. He will return the next evening to the tree to see if the bulbous red growth is gone from Samuel's head.

About the author:

Joel James Davis has work appearing or forthcoming in Paterson Literary Review, Blood Orange Review, Black Swan Review, Elsewhere, Anemone Sidecar, Starry Night Review, and The Cartographer Electric. A creative writing student at Binghamton University, he lives in upstate New York with his two children.