“Wait!” Melanie cried.
The woman turned a panic-stricken face to Melanie and shook her head. Her hair waved
slowly from side to side, as ifit were floating in water. Then suddenly it started to fall out. The pretty white-and-pink
skin began to shrivel and draw away from the skin. Brown eyes disintegrated, and the
swanlike neck became a tree branch. Melanie watched in horror as the woman sank to
the floor, drawing her arms and legs up in a fetal position. She was nothing but a
black, shriveled blob. Then a skeleton. Then, nothing.
Melanie screamed and screamed, falling back into a chair. She felt two hands on her
arms and tried to pull away, but they held her tightly. And from the other side of
her terror, she heard a comfortingly familiar voice.
“Melanie, wake up!”
She dared to open her eyes. Gary was leaning over her in his wheelchair.
“Gary?” she asked weakly. “Where did the woman go? Did you see the woman?”
“What woman?” Gary asked. “Here, calm down. There’s no woman here.”
Melanie looked around at the empty kitchen.
“Yes,” she said, her voice weak but insistent “Yes, I saw her! She led me down here.”
“No one led you down here,” Gary said. “I saw you get out of bed and leave the room—by
“You must have seen the woman, too,” Melanie said. “Why didn’t you follow us?”
Gary sighed. “Melanie, you were alone. You must have been sleepwalking, although I
didn’t realize it until I heard you screaming. Luckily, I was awake.”
“What about the children? Did they hear me?’ Melanie asked, her fears giving way for
the moment to motherly concern.
“No one’s awake,” Gary said. “Now, come back to bed.”
Melanie stood up.
“Gary, I saw a woman,” she insisted. “She brought me down here. She even spoke to
me, warned me to leave this place!” Melanie shuddered. “And then she turned into a
“There was no woman,” Gary said. “You were sleepwalking, that’s all. And it’s no wonder,
after you found your studio torn apart like that. That was a frightening experience.”
“It isn’t happening again, is it Gary?” Melanie asked, her voice almost childish in
“Of course not,” Gary said. “Come up to bed now, darling.”
She did. But she laid awake for hours thinking of the woman. Who was she? What did
No answers came. Melanie considered the possibility that she had been sleepwalking,
as Gary said. She only wished she could be sure.
“Well, today’s the day, Gary,” Derek announced as the two entered Gary’s therapy room
the next morning. “I’m going to have you start on crutches.”
“It’s about time,” Gary said eagerly.
“Here, wheel yourself to this mat,” Derek said. “That’s the way.”
“What’s it for?” Gary asked, looking down at the heavy vinyl mat.
“Hopefully for nothing,” Derek said. “How do you feel this morning?”
“Fine,” Gary said. He shrugged his shoulders. “Well, a little tired. Melanie and I
were up late last night. She went into her studio and found it ransacked. It upset
her pretty badly.”
“Did someone break into the house?”
“Oh, no!” Gary said. “I found Lad cowering underneath the sofa. I think he knocked
over a few things and got scared. Anyway, it’s okay now—so let’s get on with this.”
Derek positioned a pair of crutches under each of his patient’s arms, then lowered
the footrest of the wheelchair. After warning Gary to go slowly this first time, he
stepped back and said, “It’s all yours.”
Gary grinned at him, his face a mask of confidence. He had waited so long for this
day that he was certain he would just get up and speed right across the room.
Suddenly, as he was leaning forward, the chair shot out from behind him. With a frantic
cry, Gary dropped thecrutches and grabbed for it, landing sideways in the seat. His hands