Elvin Sharp awoke with a start. His eyes sprang open to reveal ribbons of soft blue and white light billowing from beneath the motel door. The swirling strips of light confused him. Light doesn’t curl like that, does it? Of course not. I must be dreaming, or waking from a dream. He lifted his neck from the pillow and shook his head, hoping to clear the haze in his brain that he thought must have caused the unsettling image. But light continued to surge from the threshold, twisting and rolling back upon itself. He sat upright and smelled burning wood, realizing what he saw. Orange and red flashes from outside the room illuminated the smoke pouring in from the hallway. The temperature in the room soared. Streamers of grey and blue and white smoke morphed into a black cloud as Elvin swung his legs over the side of the bed. He tried to breathe but the dark fog filled his lungs with hot soot, triggering reflexive coughs, as he stumbled out of bed and fell to the floor. Elvin struggled to crawl toward the window but he didn’t make it all the way, slipping into unconsciousness just inches away from the outside wall.
When he awoke at six fifteen, the bed sheets were wet with perspiration and his hair was wet with sweat. He remembered the dream; it was so real he could smell the burning wood, still. He turned toward the bedside table where a cold cone of burned incense sat on a saucer, a half-burned match stick alongside.
“Damn her, she controls even my dreams,” he said aloud, seeing in his mind’s eye an image of the woman who married his best friend a year earlier.