See You in Your Dreams by Paul Carpenter

Julia stands at the end of a long line of shufflers. She shuffles. The bright lights in the corridor are brighter than any lights need to be. So bright they make shadows of the shadows.

Hello Julia, remember me?

Julia screws up her eyes and shakes her head to dislodge the voice.

The voice sings. Julia. Julia. My little Julia.

Julia tries to concentrate. Her shaking hand fails to fill the plastic cup with water. A puddle forms on the floor. She is not sure if it is water from the cup or if she has wet herself.

Remember Julia.

Julia drops the plastic cup and sits down on a plastic chair.

Remember Julia. You are thirteen. Sitting on the top deck of the bus with Terry. Terry, short for Theresa, your best friend. One of those rare, hot summer days in England. You had taken the bus to the only outside public baths. You are on your way home, your hair still wet, smelling of chlorine. You are, upstairs, front seat with the window open to cool you. Upstairs too so that you can smoke. Both looking out of the window, watching the passengers get on and off.

At Levenson Avenue an elderly lady waits at the bus stop wearing a dull beige, full-length coat. A coat far too hot for the temperature and far too dull and beige for any season. The bus stops and she waits, as a pretty young man in a t-shirt and a middle-aged woman holding the hand of a young child with straw-blonde hair, get off. The elderly lady takes a hold of the metal pole and lifts a tired leg onto the platform. The conductor steps off the bus and, as she raises her other leg, holds her waist to steady her. He climbs back onto the bus and rings the bell. You see his arm wrapped around the metal pole as the bus pulls away

Neither of you say anything but you exchange a knowing look of approval. You take a long pull on your cigarette, courtesy of a week foregoing school dinners.

And then it happens.

You both turn to look out of the window again and watch as the bus turns the corner into Levenson Avenue. Watch as it pulls up at the bus stop and idles. Watch as an elderly lady wearing a dull beige coat waits patiently while a pretty teenager wearing a t-shirt and a woman holding the hand of a young boy with straw-blonde hair get off.

You and Terry exchange a look.

“Did you …?” asks Terry.

You nod.

“Haven´t we …”

You nod.

And you both watch, with widening eyes, as the elderly lady raises one tired leg to the platform.

“He´s gonna …” you begin to say and then you fall silent and watch as the conductor steps off the bus, takes the woman by the waist, and steadies her as she lifts her leg onto the platform. You watch as he rings the bell. You stare at his elbow as the bus pulls away; pulls away for the second time on that journey from the only bus stop in Levenson Avenue.

“What the …” says Terry.

You stare at each other looking for an answer. Neither of you has one and so you both laugh because you don´t know what else to do.

The rest of the journey passes without incident. By the time you get off at your stop in Love Lane, you are both unusually silent. You walk to the end of the road, where Terry will turn to the left towards her house and you will turn to the right towards yours. You share a look. Both questioning.

Do you remember Julia?

One of the other shufflers in the line swears loudly as she steps into the puddle.

That was me.

Julia stands and joins the back of the line.

Remember Julia.

A year and a season later you and Terry are with your friend Gillian and some other friends whose names you have long forgotten. It is the night of Halloween and you feel the need to do something to mark the occasion. On Gillian’s instructions you walk to St Stephen’s cemetery. The cemetery at the edge of the village. The church is in darkness, it sits like a toad, idly watching, as Gillian’s torch lights your way through the lynch gate and down the narrow path towards the graves.

You follow her to the far corner of the graveyard, where the oldest looking graves lie. You stop at one with a headstone that leans at a precarious angle. The inscription is so worn all you can make out is the “IP” of the last line. You and Terry and Gillian, and those lost forgotten friends, hold hands and circle the grave. At the first stroke of midnight by St Stephen´s clock Gillian begins to recite an incantation in a language that you cannot understand, although you are sure it is an ancient and magic tongue.

As the bells continue to chime and Gillian´s chants become more insistent you feel the fear welling up inside you; like an icy electric shock spreading through your veins. At the last stroke of midnight you are so frightened you let go of your friends’ hands and turn to run. But as you turn you find yourself falling, falling onto the cold, wet mud. You have fallen because you cannot feel the left side of your body and your leg is no longer able to support you. From the ground you watch as Terry and Gillian and your other friends all try to run but all fall in the same way.

Remember that Julia?

Later Gillian tells you that the grave belonged to a woman who had suffered a stroke six months before her death, leaving her with the left side of her body paralysed.

Remember Julia? Of course you do.

Again you wonder, was it only you that felt the paralysis? Did the others feel it too? Later, as the years garland the memory with cobwebs you cannot be sure who fell to the ground first, although you think it was probably you. Did the others just follow or did you all follow Gillian?

Remember Juia? That was me too.

I continued under the guise of Gillian for a few years before I tired of her. Dropping little incidents into your lives: the game with the Ouija board, played in your bedroom and the sticky patch that appeared on the bedside rug soon afterwards that would never go away, no matter how often you cleaned it; the mirror game, where Gillian told you to write out with your index finger the name of the person you loved upon the mirror and from that day forth, from certain angles, the name “Johnny” could clearly be seen upon the glass and this too would never go away no matter how much Windolene you applied.

These little games continued until you began to suspect that Gillian was maybe a witch or at the very least a little unstable, and both you and Terry pulled away from her. My last act with Gillian was to throw her body off the car park roof, sowing contrition into your soul that bloomed into the guilt that you still feel to this day.

What fun we had back then Julia. Eh?

Who am I?

What name shall we give me?

Let us try.

I am the face in the mirror behind your reflection in the steam of the bathroom when nobody else is there.

I am the shadow that you see at the end of the alleyway that disappears as you approach.

I am the sound of that baby crying in the middle of the night. You tell yourself that it is a cat on the prowl but in your heart of hearts you know that it is a baby. You do nothing and when you do not hear it the following night, you feel the guilt chipping away at you.

I am the smell of your mother’s perfume filling your room when you awake in the morning, even though she has been dead for 20 years.

I am the green-wood tree-wood sprite of the early morning light. The knowing in the darkness. The truth that cannot speak its name.

Or am I Julia?

Or am I just a voice in your head?

So what is this Julia, what name are you giving it? This voice that speaks to you. Should we tell or should we keep it to ourselves?

You remember what happened when you told before.

Do you remember that time when you were in the chemist, waiting patiently in line for your prescription? The lights were bright, too bright, fluorescent headache piercing bright. As you

waited, the conversations of the other customers in the line filled your head like a jumble of sounds. And there was your head filling with too much light and too many sounds and you could feel that it would explode and the pain was too much and you screamed so loud that it felt like it could burst everybody´s eardrums.

Wasn’t that fun?

You ended up in that hospital with all those fun people with their funny ways.

By the time they let you back out you had lost touch with Terry. Met a man moved up north her mum said. Couldn’t find her address at the time she lied. Would let you know later. Never did.

I covered her tracks.

Sometimes I do not think you realise just how lucky you are to have me. We have been together for such a long time now you no longer know where you end and I begin. Whether the voices are in your head or from outside. Whether you can get to your feet now or if you have to stay here on the floor until the music stops.

What music? There is no music. Is there music? Is it just in your head?

Is it just in my head?

Who said that? You or I? Are we one Julia?

I like to think so.

Do you remember that time when you broke into the church, found your way to the vestry, got drunk on the communion wine and then topped the bottle up with water from the tap? You laughed all the way home, thinking who in the communion queue was going to complain that the blood of Christ had been watered down?

And in the night you had such nightmares that you thought the Devil himself was in your head but it was just me again. It is always just me. And you. Me and you Julia, what a pair we are.

Julia stands in line, a plastic cup half full of water in her hand. She has to concentrate because her hand is trembling so much and she does not want to spill it again. As she approaches the glass partition she looks away for fear that her reflection will not be there.

Julia swallows the yellow and then the pink and goes back to her room She lies on her bed and waits for the voice in her head to depart. Slowly the voice grows faint until it disappears altogether. She can feel it melting into her brain.

All is silence.

Julia has taken her medication. Blanked me out. I am done.

For now.

We will have lots more fun, you and I Julia. You should see the things I have planned for us.

Do not worry, your own flight from the top of the car park is a long way off.

I love you Julia. I am always with you. Even when all else have forsaken you. Even when you have forsaken yourself.

I am here.

Goodnight my Julia.

See you in your dreams.

Paul was born in the UK. In early days he wrote plays for touring theatre companies before becoming a chef and running his own bar and restaurant. Paul now lives in Valencia and writes poetry and short stories. One of his stories is soon to be published by Close To the Bone magazine. Paul was on the shortlist for the Six Word Wonder 2023 competition and his submission appears in the Six Word Memoirs book 2023. You can also read some of his prose work at He is currently working on a poetry collection in both English and Spanish