Editor's Note: A friend recently wrote to query why I've not posted anything in The Harvey Journal in several weeks. I've been busy getting my manuscript ready for publication and have not had the time to think through any of the great issues of the day. So I've decided to break a cardinal rule and publish the Prologue to Paper Puzzle in lieu of a piece this week. I hope you enjoy it and that it whets your appetite for more.
Harold Michael Harvey
PrologueClay Moore awakes. Breathing heavy he trembles. Fear grips his lean torso. Sweat pours from his brow. His sleep wear drenched, chills race along his spine.
It has happened again. The dream has returned. Intervals between the dream are shorter. Yet it interrupts another night’s sleep. This one is similar to others. A stealthy sniper moves quietly, searching for the target. At times the faceless hunter stalks outside Clay's house or office. It is a far too familiar scene with different variations; Clay doesn’t understand the meaning of it.
This morning, just like each morning since the spring, Clay wakes in the cross-hairs of the sniper, cheating death again. The nocturnal sniper grimaces, frustration shows through the stillness of night, the sniper’s motto unfilled: “One shot, one kill!”
Like a stealth bomber, the sniper blends into the surroundings, recedes into the murky backwaters of Clay’s unconscious mind, and waits another opportunity to squeeze off a single round.
Clay slows his breathing to a snail’s pace. His feet find the floor. Another night of broken sleep means fighting to stay awake in the early afternoon, just as the evening news stories are taking shape.
The managing editor, at a local newspaper, Clay needs to be mentally alert around 5 p. m. This is the time decisions are made to go or not go with a story, give a story front-page coverage; instead of burying it on the inside, or killing the story altogether.
News fit to print hang in the balance during the hours between 5 p. m. and the evening dinner break. Coffee isn’t the answer. A coffee break after 3 p. m. makes it impossible for him to fall asleep. Clay doesn’t like staying awake tossing and turning. Coffee is out of the question.
Albeit staying awake relieves him from the dream, because no matter the time Clay drifts off to sleep, he has had some version of the dream.
Clay collects them like a camera collects still images. He jots as much detail as he can remember from each dream. He wants a record in case he decides to get professional help, or worse pay a visit to one of the local dream interpreters.
Seeing a psychic was a fleeting thought. Clay knew he wouldn’t be caught dead coming out of such an establishment.
(c) June 12, 2009