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An entry for the Just a Minute Challenge

By Rachel DeemingPublished about a month ago β€’ 6 min read
Top Story - April 2024
Photo by Sergey Gorban on Unsplash

"Murray! Wake up!"

He loved that period between waking and dreaming. To him, it was like entering another dimension; more of a dreamscape than dreaming itself. There was an otherness to it that he wanted to grasp and yet deeply respected the fact that it could never be his totally. This is what gossamer was; flighty and light, a wisp of smokiness, an idea suggested but not fully revealed, a slit in cloth, a copse in the wood.

It was where he let his deepest fantasies run riot, in that gap between what was, and what was possible.

He was entering that phase, that stage where he was reluctant to leave this inbetween world but he could sense Dana on the pillow next to him. Was she calling to him?

The gossamer threads were still tickling him, drawing him in, and he succumbed to their attentions. He wanted to be tethered to them.

He knew he had been dreaming about Jane, a lady who worked behind the counter at the local library. Murray was a fantasist, not an adulterer and his dreams were a vent for what he would like to do but never would. Never anything sinister, always slightly erotic, always involving him as the man desired by others. In his dreams, he was taut, his stomach flat and honed and his dress sense was impeccable, all pastels and cabled jumpers, but not gauche golf wear. His was more a George Clooney weekend look, or how he imagined George to look - suave, polished but still just the boy next door. His face was wrinkled in just the right places and the only creases were in the front of his trousers.

"Murray! Please!"

The pleading voice of someone was trying to penetrate his dream and hijack it. He could feel the gossamer thread drifting like a web on the wind, retreating into the ether and he desperately wanted it to stay. Jane had handed him a book he'd requested after bending over in a tight pencil skirt to search through the "Reserved for Murray" trolley and her eyes were bluer than normal and they were shining at him. Her lips moved into a pursed position like she was puckering up and she said, "Please..."

Please what? Murray thought in his dream. You have something for me? Oh, if you insist...

"Please, Murray! Please wake up!"

And then he was awake and the vision started to vanish with the interruption, colours fading, Jane less vibrant and diminishing and he was conscious that if he opened his eyes he would be met with the half-light gloominess of dawn behind curtains, piercing his vision like a pin in a balloon.

He refused to open his eyes and he still had his back to Dana. He was feeling very hard done by, petulant even, at having had his morning slumber interrupted. It was one of his favourite parts of the day and although it happened most days with a variety of different scenarios and desirable females, some of them actual, others products of his fertile imagination, he still begrudged leaving it all behind. It's not that he was powerless in real life; it was just that he was not so commanding.

He lay there, sulking. Dana wasn't moving. No twitching, no reaching for him. He could hear something though. Sniffing?

And then a whisper: "Please. Please help me."

There was something about the quietness of that plea that made him anxious. Something was wrong.

He turned over and Dana was lying there on her back like she was carved in marble, a sarcophagus in a medieval church in an old lady's nightie, arms by her side, rigid. She looked at him with just her eyes which he thought was odd. Why wasn't she moving her head?

"I can't move," she said, and he could see the panic in her eyes, like the wild-eyed freedom seeking of a trapped mustang, her whites more pronounced than her iris.

She looks like someone with one of those collars that they give when you have a neck injury, Murray thought.

His mind raced with possibilities, as to how she could have hurt her neck, all of them ludicrous:

Had she fallen down the stairs? And then climbed back into bed? Stupid.

Had she been attacked in the night? And you slept through it? No, not possible. Unless he'd been drugged. But it was just him and Dana and this wasn't an Agatha Christie novel!

And so he asked: "What's happened?"

A tear ran slowly down towards her ear. "I don't know, Murray. I can't move."

His mind was dumbstruck, flailing with what it was being told. She was paralysed? How could this be?

"What? Not at all?"

The tears were flowing more readily now, a small circular patch forming on the pillow.

He felt helpless in the face of this.

"Well, what do you want to do?"

Normally, when presented with Murray's silly questions, Dana would have responded with some sort of sarcastic response but quick-wittedness is the reserve of the untroubled and she was very, very frightened.

She suppressed a howl of anguish and said, very quietly, "I don't know, Murray." And then added, "I don't know what's happening. But I feel," and here she stuttered, "I feel like something is very wrong."

Murray leapt to his feet. Thirty seconds ago he had been fantasising about saucy encounters with sexy librarians and now, he had awoken to his worst nightmare, where his wife was helpless and as a result, so was he. He started to pace, wanting his nervousness to divert itself into productive action so that his heart would not be pounding so dangerously in his chest.

"I'm going to call an ambulance, Dana. Stay there."

And as he went out of the room to get the phone, he realised what a stupid thing that was to say. Stupid, stupid Murray. He hoped she wouldn't remember it as it would be the sort of thing that would be brought up again and again, probably to ridicule. Luckily, his conscience was able to transport him away from the egotistical thoughts that threatened to derail his purpose and he was just starting down the stairs when he heard Dana calling out to him.

"Murray? Can you hear me? Murray? Come back!"

Oh God, Murray thought. What now? And he was filled with a sense of self-loathing at his own cowardice.

He had just got to their bedroom door when he found himself momentarily halting before entering, his mind taking a moment to mentally steel itself for what was about to happen next.

But he needn't have worried as, as he entered the room, harried and fearful, it was not to a Dana prostrate in the bed, laid out like a body-shaped rock but to a moving Dana, sitting up in the bed, leaning against a pillow and looking mightily relieved although shell-shocked still.

"What? What's going on, Dana?" Murray found himself asking. "What happened? I was only gone a few seconds!"

Dana's expression was one of bewilderment and relief. "I...I...honestly don't know, Murray," she said, hesitantly. "I was...willing myself to move...but...I just...I just...couldn't."

"Well, what changed?" Murray was also struggling to fathom exactly what had occurred and whilst he was welcoming the waves of relief that were washing over them both, he was also still concerned. What if this was an indicator of something more serious? A whole new life for them? And he envisioned hospital visits, wheelchairs, winches...

Poor Dana, he thought and he realised just how scared he was of being without her, his wife.

He came over then to the edge of the bed and sat.

Dana placed her hand on his.

"I don't know what happened. It was weird, Murray." She looked directly at him, into his eyes. "As you went out of the door, it was like something was lifted."

Murray raised his eyebrows and said, "Lifted? What do you mean?"

Dana frowned, thinking. "Well, if I was to liken it to anything, it would be like a thread suddenly snapping and releasing me, like I'd been tethered and held, and then that thing suddenly breaking." She paused, then added,"Or being broken."

Murray suddenly felt a chill. A thread. A gossamer thread. His mind guiltily went to his dream and how reluctant he had been to leave it and how he thought of that stage like gossamer. He was not a superstitious man but...this revelation made him feel very uneasy.

"Like a mummy, I was," Dana said and shivered. "How very strange." She smiled, weakly. "Well, I'm glad that's over."

Murray returned the smile but was unsettled and preoccupied all day and that night, he was very reluctant to sleep, which Dana noticed and thought was very peculiar. And when, he did finally sleep and the state between wakefulness and dreaming coaxed him with its magic, he willed himself to think of Dana's wild and panicked eyes, and severed that gossamer thread.

thrillerShort StoryPsychologicalMysteryLoveHorrorFantasy

About the Creator

Rachel Deeming

Storyteller. Poet. Reviewer. Traveller.

I love to write. Check me out in the many places where I pop up:


My blog






Beware of imitators.

Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

Top insights

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  2. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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Comments (26)

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  • Christy Munson3 days ago

    Oooooo! Terrifying moments happening here. Great and compelling writing as always. Congratulations on Top Story!

  • L.C. SchΓ€fer25 days ago

    That sounds terrifying! I'm glad she's OK πŸ‘

  • Lamar Wiggins25 days ago

    Great Story, Rachel!!! Glad I finally read it! Seems like a few people in the comments including yourself have had sleep paralysis episodes before, similar to what Dana went through. It happened to me a lot growing up but not so much now. I would be okay with it never happening again. Such a crazy feeling...Congrats on your Top Story!

  • Absolutely captivating! Once I started you had me hooked to the end. So well written. Congratulations on the TS.

  • John Cox27 days ago

    Circling back to congratulate you on another Top Story, Rachel. well deserved!

  • Andy Potts29 days ago

    Great stuff! Congrats on the top story.

  • Mark Gagnon29 days ago

    Glad I saw this, Rachel, it's a work of art. The story tied me to it with gossamer threads. Congratulations on Top Story!

  • Back to say congratulations on your Top Story! πŸŽ‰πŸ’–πŸŽŠπŸŽ‰πŸ’–πŸŽŠ

  • D. D. Lee29 days ago

    Congrats on Top Story!

  • Kali Mailhot29 days ago


  • D.K. Shepard29 days ago

    Excellent piece, Rachel!! Powerful picture of when something that feels so harmless ends up having some big consequences! Loved the imagery and significance of the gossamer!

  • Babs Iverson29 days ago

    Congratulations on Top Story too!!!πŸ₯°πŸ₯°πŸ₯°

  • Babs Iverson29 days ago

    Terrificly written yet horrific!!!πŸ’•β€οΈβ€οΈ

  • Cathy holmes29 days ago

    Wow that was amazing, and utterly terrifying. Well done. congrats on the TS.

  • Anna 29 days ago

    Congrats on Top Story!πŸ₯³πŸ₯³πŸ₯³

  • Paul Stewart29 days ago

    Oh ffs, Rachel. lol. Sorry...that came off very aggressive. It's meant in a good way. This is way too real for me, as you may have guessed in some ways from my divulgings....anyway...the fact that this resonated so well, is just yet another example of why you are one of my favourite writers on this platform. You get people...even if you have experience or not of the can put yourself into their shoes...into their lives and really do a wonderful job of unfolding things. Well bloody done on this getting Top Story. I really hope it places...because it is really very good. Even if I am, I fear, slightly biased? Who fucking cares lol. It's great. Rachel. Well done, chumalum. Also like the Moorester (that's a thing I won't repeat lol) I've suffered from sleep paralysis before and yeah...well done. lol.

  • Flamance @ lit.about a month ago

    With Deep fantasy on it ,πŸ₯³

  • Ameer Bibiabout a month ago

    This story's exploration of dreams and truth captivated me. Similar to how Murray's mind changed the story, mine can change how we see and feel things. It reminded me of times in my own life when the line between being awake and dreaming was unclear. Feeling like I was connected by a thin thread made me think of how little control we have over our lives. Basically, it was an article that made me think, and I kept thinking about the secrets of the mind after I finished it.

  • Shirley Belkabout a month ago

    Ah....relationships are so fragile and have so many threads of conceit and unfulfilled longings at different stages. Sometimes it takes a jolt of reality to bring one back to our senses.

  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarranabout a month ago

    Hey Dana, please do yourself a favour and divorce his ass! He doesn't deserve you! Gosh, if I was a marriage counsellor, my advice to all of them would be to divorce 🀣🀣🀣🀣🀣🀣🀣 Murray may have severed that gossamer thread but I'll only be happy if I've severed his head!

  • John Coxabout a month ago

    How on earth did you dream this up, Rachel? It's an incredible, edge of the seat tale! Walter Mitty just got deflated, big time!

  • Lana V Lynxabout a month ago

    Ah, the dreams that are nightmares. So familiar. You've nailed how it feels, Rachel.

  • Caroline Cravenabout a month ago

    ha! I love it when Murray tells Dana to stay there. That's the exact same stupid thing I would say! Thought this was chilling and excellent. I can't imagine how terrifying it must be to wake up and not be able to move. You nailed that fear totally.

  • TheSpinstressabout a month ago

    This is really powerful. Thank goodness Dana was OK. Good luck in the challenge!

  • Hannah Mooreabout a month ago

    I love that "what do you want to do?" I feel, as a reader like I am yelling "just call a bloody ambulance but I can imagine being in that room and saying that. I get sleep paralysis, this was a disturbing reminder.

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