by Michael Akerib
She was slipping gradually into a sleep laden with the same recurring nightmare – a white cloud that transformed itself into a woman dressed in an elegant white dress.
She was flying, Lorella thought to herself, she was flying to the edge of the universe. She remembered the name she gave her in her nightmares: Antonia.
A nightmare, a recurring nightmare. A recurring, frightening, nightmare. It was frightening because Antonia was flying away while Lorella was earth-bound. Was Antonia part of herself, her mind could not help wandering.
Oh no, Lorella thought in her dream, Antonia is going to fly to the edge of the universe. Don’t go that far away, don’t. There was the silence of vacuum. Was Antonia Lorella? If so why did she want to leave this world? Or had she already left it? Perhaps she had ….
A warm breeze touched her fingers, her hands, her arms. She refused to wake up and closed her eyes tighter. She clung harder to the pillow that was wet with her sweat.
Antonia did not seem to be able to climb higher. She was flapping her arms uselessly. Her altitude was still the same. Lorella tried to look at her eyes, but Antonia had closed them. Instead, she had opened her mouth and was singing a lullaby Lorella had heard as a child. Pam-pam-pam, laa, pam-pam.
Lorella saw angels. Antonia was not one of them and actually Lorella wondered if they were really angels. She had never seen any other than in pictures, paintings and sculptures. What if it was a devil, he wondered. The fact that she did not feel threatened did not mean anything at all. It is only a dream – the thought crossed her mind. It is only a dream but she must not let Antonia fly out of her sight.
She could see the clouds open and forming a channel through which Antonia could escape. The clouds opened and closed. The channel was crossable, then not.
Then the clouds took another shape, then another, and still another. Then they took the shape of a face and its mouth gaped. She was lying under the cloud, entirely at its mercy.
Wake up, wake up, Lorella thought to herself, it is too frightening. But she buried her head deeper into the pillow, instead. The channel opened wide. But very slowly. Antonia was trying once more to go through.
Before she could safely sail through the clouds closed again. One of her hands was nearly caught between two white shapes.
Dawn. The rays were piercing through the clouds. The angels were holding onto the rays. They were there to prevent anything bad could happen to Antonia.
When all the saints come marching in. The music came from far away. Listening to it, Lorella forgot about Antonia. Lorella closed her eyes even tighter. One of the angels had spread its wings. It flew over Antonia and encircled her with the tip of its huge white wings.
Deep silence, very deep. The angel was flying silently, Antonia at the tip of its wings.
Amazing feeling of sublime peace. Lorella hug the pillow even tighter.
La-la-lala, la-la-lala. ‘Help me ! Help me !’ screamed Antonia. ‘Don’t let them take me away!’ The angel was rising above the first layer of clouds.
Deeper into the mattress. Buried under the blankets. Not holding her hand out to save Antonia from the angel’s grip.
She extended her hand to the ringing alarm clock but only managed to drop it on the floor.
The angel was now diving toward the ground.
‘Go away!’ screamed Lorella only half-awake. But it was useless, the angel did not listen. As it came close to Lorella, it tore away part of the blanket then flew away.
Lorella stretched, picked up the alarm clock, put it back on the table, and went back to sleep. How easy it was compared to tracking angels.
The angel dived again. The cloud cover was lower and denser, and the sun’s rays did not filter through. The angel dropped Antonia on the bed.
Lorella recoiled and made space for Antonia. The angel’s wings were making a whistling noise.
Lorella’s left hand felt for Antonia’s body. The palm of her hand encountered a very wet stain.
She licked her palm and found the liquid to be sweet.
The blankets dried rapidly.
Lorella rose from the bed. She was glad to be alive.
She looked at her toes and moved them one at a time. She walked to the bathroom.
When she looked back the bed was empty.
She stood in the middle of the room for a long time. Then she started dressing.
When she had finished, she walked out of the flat. She walked briskly down the road, stopping only to swallow her medication.
She wondered what had happened to Antonia.