Friday, 3 February 2017

The Cafe Of Stolen Dreams - A First Chapter Is Written

For my daily writing challenge I've been using the prompts given at  The prompt for this day reads as follows:

34. Sounds: Sit outside for about an hour. Write down the sounds you hear.

It's the beginning of February.  It's Newcastle.  I'm rebelling today and refusing to sit outside for an hour holding a pen in hands that are getting far too cold to write anything.  I had to write my name and email address on a form a few nights ago after standing outside for an hour.  If anyone can read what I wrote it will be a great feat of understanding.

Today I am leaving the prompt behind.  One of my recent posts was about things which make me happy flappy.  While writing about the first of these I stumbled upon an idea and mentioned it in passing.  Most ideas just die away.  Some do not.  A title came to me:

The Cafe of Stolen Dreams.

This is a possible beginning to that story.  It's pretty freely written based on the first of some additional story fragments that have popped into my head without invitation.  It's not fully free written - Google is my friend when it comes to London street names.

Newcastle 29th January 2017

Before the dreams Charlotte had it all.  For thirty years she had been the golden girl.  Brilliantine.  Everything shone for her, seemingly without effort.  She had been blessed with the best of families and a top class education which she sailed through almost indecently brilliantly, earning a first class honours degree at nineteen.  Her instinctive social skills and rapport had allowed her to forge a life and career which was the envy of many.  Quickly ascending the ranks of the financial dealers she was able to buy a central London penthouse suite aged only twenty-seven.  She didn't want to settle down and get married but had enjoyed a string of boyfriends and girlfriends.  Sometimes both at the same time.

Life was pretty much as good as Charlotte had ever imagined it could be.  Until the dreams.

For as long as she could remember she had been blessed with excellent sleep.  She had never suffered a single night of insomnia.  When Charlotte's head hit the pillow that was it.  She would quickly drift away in tranquility, soothed by the shadows and the gentle hum of ambient noises.  Every morning she would wake refreshed.  Apart from that one time at university when she had agreed to try a psychedelic drug.  Just to see.  She had a bad reaction to it.  A nightmarish trip that she didn't like to remember even ten years later.  She told herself she would never try another drug.  Ever.

When the first dream surfaced Charlotte was more curious about it than anything else.  She couldn't ever remember dreaming before.  She knew from science that everyone dreams but science didn't match up with the evidence of her silent nights.  There was nothing.  Ever.  Not even a hint of missing a train, losing a tooth, or finding herself indulging in fantastic sex with someone she swore she didn't fancy.  She couldn't recall fragments of faces, places, incoherent plots, bright lights or big dreamscapes.  Her nights were marked out by a rich oblivion rather than rambling, sprawling narratives.  That was the way she liked it.  She preferred things the way she were and felt sorry for the dreamers when they talked about their dreams, good and bad supposedly but Charlotte reckoned they were all nonsense.  She didn't say so of course.  She knew better than to risk relationships over something so trivial as a nightmare.

On the evening before that first dream Charlotte had headed to the West End with friends.  She had seen Les Miserables nine times before.  So this would be her tenth trip to Queen's Theatre and to celebrate she had dressed up as Cosette and encouraged her friends to dress up too.  Jack had attempted a Jean Valjean costume but the others hadn't made any kind of effort which was a little disappointing.  Charlotte had hoped maybe they would begin a new custom of people attending Les Miserables in character to add to the excitement of the show.  After the show they had headed out for a couple of drinks at an experimental cocktail club.  Charlotte didn't drink often but when she did she liked the drinks to be spectacular, special, something to be a talking point the next day.  Nobody at work would want to discuss downing a pint of lager but an exotically named cocktail was worthy of a full description.

She arrived home that night feeling a little giddy.  Not drunk.  Just giddy.  She wondered whether she was getting ill.  Or whether something in one of her two cocktails - just two - had disagreed with her in some way.  She hoped it was the latter and that the effects would have totally worn off by morning.  She didn't like getting ill and having to miss work.  Especially not on a Friday when they could wear what they liked and when some of them went out to lunch.  That Friday she knew they were going to try a new place that opened on Moorgate a few weeks earlier.  One of the company directors had been talking about how stunning the food was and how the atmosphere and decor raised the restaurant out of the ranks of ordinary even though it didn't yet have a Michelin star.

Charlotte slept.  She dreamed.

She was back at the theatre.  On stage Les Miserables was approaching its rousing conclusion.  Charlotte was in the middle of the stalls enjoying the show for an eleventh time.  She was surprised to find herself without friends and wondered why she had gone to the theatre without company.  That wasn't enough to dampen her enthusiasm.  She was still standing and applauding and vowing to continue the revolutionary spirit.  Everyone who ever watched the play made some vow to themselves during the final song.  Nobody kept their vow.  It was only after the curtain fell that Charlotte noticed she was completely alone.  An audience of one.  A woman appeared, pushing a broom between the seats.  She told Charlotte to hurry up and leave before the doors were locked and warned her that getting trapped in the theatre would be a bad idea.

On the way out of the theatre Charlotte visited the toilet.  Afterwards, while washing her hands, she looked in the mirror.  She was dressed as Fantine, fallen on hard times, after it all went wrong and life killed the dream she dreamed.  Charlotte looked at herself.  The costume was incredibly realistic and she congratulated herself on having done such a good job.  Then she saw.  That really was her hair, not a wig.  And those weren't blacked out teeth, they really were missing.  Charlotte ran from the toilet and out of the theatre just as the man with the broom was locking the main doors.  He called after her "Don't you come back you ugly whore.  I'm going to have to fumigate the whole building now.  Sod off."  He kept shouting at her as she ran, across Shafesbury Avenue, narrowly avoiding being knocked down by a taxi whose driver slammed the brakes on and shouted, "What the hell do you think you're doing you witch?"  A group of rich city workers stood on Wardour Street pointing at her, laughing and jeering.

A woman on the corner of Gerrard Street cackled and stuck out her foot.  Charlotte fell.  As she picked herself up the woman said, "Backwards or forwards.  That's not the way."  Chinatown was lit with lanterns of all colours, turning night into a rainbow day.  Ahead of her, Charlotte could see a man leading an enormous dragon on a lead.  His face was covered with scars and his clothes were the colour of blood.  When he saw Charlotte he looked at her sadly and said, "I'm so sorry.  It's not my choice."  Then he let the dragon off the lead.  It charged at Charlotte, its mouth open wide revealing green-dirt teeth and a gangrenous tongue.  It caught her with one of its claws, its mouth clamped shut over Charlotte's head.  And she woke.

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