Lucia Verona

The Octopus

- A dream, nothing more -

 

    It all began with a soft touch, like a caressing, on his neck. Then he saw its eyes, round and shining in the dark. It was perhaps Post, the tomcat he had adopted two years earlier, in the evening of a winter day. He had succumbed to the appeal of a former colleague:

- Now, wouldn’ you like a splendid and awfully clever kitten?

Ada – it was the name of his former colleague – possessed a cat, Sissi by name and a glorified mum of the feline kind, who, in seven years of thorough activity had given birth to over one hundred kittens. Every three or four months, Ada pestered her kith and kin, friends and foes, acquaintances, neighbors, colleagues and so on, trying and eventually succeeding to get rid of a new generation of Sissi’s offspring.

 It wasn’t Post, it was something long, wet and cold; snakelike tentacles getting closer and closer to his neck, around it; he stayed motionless, almost paralyzed by the off-white indefinite creature who didn’t lose its grip. He was choking; he wanted to cry out, but couldn’t utter as much as a word, nor a sound. Then the grip went lose, the tentacles disappeared and he found himself in a small street, no, it was a big boulevard, full of cars and buses, he was reading the names of various shops and the posters on the pillars he was passing by. “Il n’y a rien au dessus de Président” read a big poster showing an enormous camembert cheese. “Rotonde”, “Coupole”… So he must be in Paris, on Boulevard Montparnasse. What the hell was he doing there? He got off the bus and entered the “Coupole”. He asked for a coffee and a pudding. The waiter recommended a “Crème caramel à la cannelle”. And then he awoke, still with an after-taste of cinnamon in his mouth and an after-feeling of the cold tentacles around his neck. All day long, he was obsessed by his dream of octopus and Parisian café. His wife Muriel, scrutinizing herself in the mirror and carefully pinning up her hair, said coldly:

- Too much dinner last night. I told you not to go to bed on a full stomach.

- But I don’t care for cinnamon, not even in your famous apple pie. And, as you are well aware, I never eat sweets, don’t like them. Kids’ stuff. As for the octopus…

But his wife had already done her hair and was getting ready to go to her school; she was a teacher and she couldn’t be late for the sake of an imaginary cephalopod. Nor a dream one, either.

- You looked at a TV show on corruption, most likely, voiced his opinion one of his colleagues at his work place. Or on anti- corruption.

- Anti-corruption? - The Mob, the octopus, “La piovra”, don’t you remember that Italian series?

- Or maybe you have read “Octopussy” said another man.

- Octopussy?

- “Greetings from Jamaica”, the James Bond story. It has an octopus, her pet name Octopussy or Pussy.

- I didn’t read it. And I don’t see what it has to do with the crème caramel...

Two nights later, he had the same dream again, about the octopus but without cinnamon and without Paris. Only the snake-like tentacles. Then every night. Sometimes, another dream followed in the wake of the octopus one. A stair he had to climb. Or a door which he had trouble to open, but he knew he had to, because something good was waiting for him on the other side. Night after night, the octopus was throttling him. He was now afraid to go to bed, he hated the sleep itself, he was terrified at the thought of feeling again the tentacles around his neck, of having again those symptoms of suffocation. Perhaps he had some coronary problem.

- No way, said his doctor. Your heart is in perfectly good condition. Maybe you should see a psychiatrist.

- You are crazy, doc. I don’t need any damned shrink.

He was going to bed late, awaking early, at dawn, and he took the habit of snoozing an hour or too in the afternoon, trying against hope to chase the creature off his dreams. But the octopus was coming back almost every night. One day, he went abroad, on a business trip. On the first night, he looked anxiously at the white, starched pillow in the hotel room. Would the octopus follow him here too? But no. Seven evenings, in three different hotel rooms from three European capital cities, not as much as a glimpse of the octopus, nor the grip of its cold, wet tentacles. “I am O.K. now”, he told himself happily.

 At home again, he went to bed thoughtlessly. The unexpected grip of the tentacles made him cry out, but he could hear no sound. With great pains, he woke up, to get rid of the nightmare. At his side, Muriel was sound asleep, her long hair-locks around his neck.

-

(c) Lucia Verona, 2000-2007

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