Note: The following piece was written as part of B. Nagel's nightmare prompt.
Mirabel clawed at the hospital bed's railings and shook them spasmodically -- once, twice -- with a force that rattled the entire frame.
"William!" she cried, her voice a reedy croak. "William, I need you!"
"Shhhh," came a calm voice through the darkness. "You're safe, mom. I'm right here."
"I had another dream. The same one."
Strong fingers made her yield her grip. "You're okay now. A dream can't hurt you."
"Awful. So awful." Mirabel sank back into the sweat-soaked sheets. "I'm at a party. Like the ones I used to go to with your father."
"Quiet, mom. Conserve your strength. You'll need it to get better."
"Beautiful parties, even if they were --" She had to pause for breath. "-- for business. They knew how to throw them back then. Tuxedos and pearls. Big bands. The best champagne."
"I'm going to get your medicine." A creak sounded as of someone rising from a chair.
Panic rose in Mirabel, and she threw out an arm to grab for him. She felt it clank against the safety rail, knew there would be another bruise there tomorrow, a slick of purple spreading under liver-spotted skin. "Please, I need someone here."
"Mom, I'll just be a few seconds."
"I need to tell you about it."
The chair complained again as it bore returning weight. "Okay. You know, I'm always here for you."
"Yes. You're a good boy. Better than the rest. Not with your hand always out like they are."
No reply came out of the darkness.
"I'm dancing. In the dream. And I reach for a champagne flute. But it isn't a flute. Not when I touch it."
"It changes." The voice held gentle indulgence, but no actual interest.
"When I lift it to my lips. Turns into an iron goblet. And spikes come out of it and pierce my hands."
"There's a man across the room. Watching me. The light, though, it somehow doesn't quite reach him. I know then, know every time."
"What do you know?"
"I'm going to die. Whatever's in the cup, it isn't champagne. That's when I wake up."
"I don't want to hear any more talk like that. It isn't healthy. Enough about dreams, it's time for your medicine."
Footfalls sounded on the stone floor, retreating. Light suddenly slanted from the bathroom door, and Mirabel blinked as crown molding sprang into existence along the border of ceiling and wall above her, pleated blackout drapes appearing just at the edge of her sight along the room's eastern side. William was a backlit shadow, featureless as he filled a syringe from a tall bottle and set it on the rolling table beside the bed. Mirabel held still as an alcohol pad swabbed the vein above her left wrist.
"Easy now, I'm going to stick you. The social worker is coming by this week. We don't want you looking all beat up. If we aren't careful they might not let you stay here at home."
Mirabel grit her teeth at the needle's sting. "There's a wing of that hospital. It's named after your father. You'd think at least they'd let me choose my own treatment."
"That's their prerogative because you checked out against medical advice. Their medical advice, not mine. I think you're better off here."
Mirabel squinted at the bottle on the table, her medicine. Her eyes weren't what they used to be, but she could make out the words poloxamine and sodium borate and 99.99% sterile in the weak light. "I do, too. William, why do you think I dream it?"
A cotton ball pressed against the puncture on her wrist. "It's your mind cleaning itself out, that's all. All your recent experiences get jumbled together and come out strange. They may seem significant while you're asleep, but they really aren't."
"You think so?"
"Absolutely. You're safe, mom. I'm right here. Hold this tight while I put everything away."
Mirabell squeezed the cotton against her skin, hoping William wouldn't be angry when he saw the new bruise tomorrow. Cabinets clattered open and drawers slid back as he replaced the medical supplies. Such a good boy, studying all those legal books, spending every night beside her bed, all so she would get better. And she would, she knew. He was taking care of her.
The light switch flipped off with a snap, and Mirabel flinched as the darkness came down on her like a blow.