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Mystery

You know how you have a dream, and sometimes it feels so real you’re not really sure if you’re dreaming? And then you wake up, and you’re not sure you’re awake? Well, that’s how I felt. Maybe I was dreaming, but it sure seemed real to me. Maybe I was awake, but nothing was quite right. Especially Frank.

I thought Frank was dead, but there he stood, right in front of me on this street I didn’t recognize, smiling at me.

“Frank? Is that really you, or am I dreaming? I thought you were dead.” As soon as I said that I felt like an idiot. What would Frank say, if I was dreaming this?

“Of course I’m dead. You’re dreaming.” Probably not what I dream of Frank saying if this was a dream. What would he say if I wasn’t dreaming?

“Do you really think I’m dead, Amanda? Why would you think that?” No, that doesn’t sound like Frank talking. I must be dreaming, then. Frank would laugh, feel himself all over. Then he’d look at me, cock his head and say “I don’t think I’m dead. Do I look dead to you?”

Unless he was in one of his moods for bad jokes. Then he would stretch out his arms, make grunting noises, and say “Brains. Must have brains,” pretending to be a zombie.

“Could I really be thinking of all these different ways Frank would be talking to me if I was dreaming? Or could I only think of them all if I was?” Before I could make up my mind Frank stretched out his arms and grunted. “Brains. Must have brains.” I chuckled. Thank goodness. Frank wasn’t dead, and I wasn’t dreaming.

Frank laughed. “Or ice cream. Brains or ice cream? I think ice cream sounds better. How about you?”

I laughed with him. “What about ice cream made from brains?” I asked.

“I know just the place. Come on.” Frank took my arm in his and we headed up the unfamiliar street. He steered us to an ice cream parlor I didn’t recognize - Cool Concoctions. There were tables and chairs on the sidewalk and more inside the small shop. We went inside.

“Ice cream made from brains, please,” Frank ordered. “That one. Two scoops.” He pointed to one of the barrels of ice cream in the display case, to what looked like Rocky Road to me. Although it did have just a hint of brain convolutions on the surface.

“Why don’t you sit down?” Frank suggested. “I’ll bring the ice cream to your table.” I saw two empty tables inside, and two more outside.

“Let’s eat outside,” I told him. “I’ll be out there.”

“OK.”

I went outside and sat at one of the two empty tables, underneath a metal shade umbrella with colored stripes. A couple of minutes later Frank joined me, handing me a medium-sized paper bowl with two scoops of mint chocolate chip, my favorite, nestled inside. His bowl had the lumpy Rocky Road in it. His favorite.

“Brains. Yum.” He dug in with relish. I chuckled and took a large spoonful of my own. I should know better than that. I got brain freeze. Except it didn’t feel like brain freeze.

A strange image floated across my eyes. I saw a large, sparkling spider web, heard a loud “WHAM!”, then the web was covered by a grey blob.

“What’s the matter, Mandy?” Frank asked.

The image disappeared, along with the feeling of brain freeze. “Nothing,” I said. “Just a little brain freeze.”

“Hey now,” Frank frowned. “I’m the one eating frozen brains.” He peered into my bowl. “Nope. Yours is mint chocolate chip.” Then he looked suspiciously at his own bowl. “You didn’t steal some of mine when I wasn’t looking, did you?”

I laughed. “No, I didn’t steal any of yours.” I took another big spoonful of mint chocolate chip. It tasted heavenly. As I was sighing contentedly, another bout of brain freeze grabbed me, coupled with another image.

This time the spider web glistened through a transparent film of red. As it was also disappearing from my mind, I heard the wail of an ambulance. I looked up and down the street. No sign of an ambulance.

“Did you hear that?” I asked. Frank was eating his Rocky Road, and paying no attention. He looked up.

“What?” he mumbled, mouth full of ice cream.

“Nothing,” I said. “I just thought I heard something. Must have been brain freeze.

Maybe I was dreaming. Frank had preternatural hearing. Yet he didn’t react at all to the sound of an ambulance I heard. Thought I heard. Dreamed I heard?

Frank looked up from his empty bowl. I gasped. Not a dream; a nightmare. One eye was missing, blood ran down his face, the left side of his brain was showing. He looked more like a zombie than the real thing.

Definitely dreaming. I guess. That struck me as funny. Not the way Frank looked but thinking of movie and television  zombies as “the real thing.” And just like that Frank was Frank again.

“What’s wrong?” Frank asked. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

“Not a ghost - a zombie.” I gave him a nervous laugh and took another bite of my ice cream. And I was hit with another image and the feeling of brain freeze. This time I saw long rectangles of bright white light flashing by over my head. And I felt like I was moving.

“Mandy? Amanda?” Frank’s voice sounded like it was far away. My brain felt truly frozen; like it wouldn’t warm up for a very long time. It took a while for the last image to slowly fade away. And there sat Frank, with a worried frown and an empty bowl of brains and Rocky Road.

“I’m OK, Frank. I think.” I wanted to pinch myself awake. I wanted to stay asleep forever. In a forever where Frank was still alive. I looked at Frank and took my last bite of mint chocolate chip.

“You’re not dreaming, Mandy.” Frank smiled. He wasn’t angry. He loved me, still. “I think you figured it out,” he said, pride in his voice. And love.

“I think I have, sweetheart. You’re not really alive, are you? This is all a dream.” Frank shook his head.

“I’m more alive than I’ve been for a long time,” Frank told me. “And I don’t think it’s a dream. But I’ve had a little longer to figure it out than you have.”

“It’s not a dream?” I looked around again. Everything shimmered and changed. Frank wasn’t a zombie this time. He was an angel.

“We’re in heaven, aren’t we?” I smiled.

“Yes, Mandy. We’re in heaven. Together. Forever.”

July 27, 2020 21:40

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