a short story by Michael R. Lockridge
Tyler Jenkins carried the hot tea pot with care. Once he was out on the front porch he placed it on the small dining table he kept there for evening meals on nice days. This was a particularly nice day. A few fluffy clouds in a deep blue sky, his nicely trimmed yard before him. Tyler sat down at the table and poured himself a cup of tea.
It was Oolong, one of his favorites. Tonight he had ordered Chinese. Tyler was savoring the aroma of his tea when the delivery van stopped at his curb. A young man got out and carried a white bag up to the porch steps. Tyler removed his wallet from his pants pocket and extracted the requisite number of bills to cover the cost of his dinner and a nice tip.
"Enjoy your meal, Mr. Jenkins." said the young man. "I am a big fan of your writing, Mr. Jenkins."
Tyler nodded in acknowledgment and began setting his dinner out on the porch table. The young man remained, which did not surprise Tyler. His horror novels had not become best sellers, but he was making a name for himself in the genre. The nominal fame he had acquired had not yet become troublesome, and he did not mind the moments of awkward adulation.
"Do you live here for inspiration?" asked the young man. He was looking past the house to the large fenced facility beyond. The small yard surrounding the house actually was encompassed by that fence on three sides. It was the only house on the same side of the street as the state mental institution at which the young man was gazing.
"In a manner of speaking." answered Tyler. He stood by his table and sipped at his tea. The food was still quite hot and he could afford a few minutes for this young fan.
"Kind of weird how this house is almost part of the nut house." said the delivery man. "I would think it would give you nightmares."
"It was in that hope that I bought it." said Tyler. "When the mental institution was being built the owner of this little Victorian gem would not sell. They had to build their fence around the place. It did keep the property value down, and I bought it from that owner's estate several years ago."
The delivery man nodded, and then turned and walked to his vehicle. "Enjoy your meal, Mr. Jenkins. I hope you have some wonderful nightmares!" He waved as he got into his vehicle and drove away.
Tyler did enjoy the meal. He gathered the empty boxes and the delivery bag and carried them to the trash can at the side of his house. He looked through the fence and watched as light after light went out in windows in the institution next door. It was almost time.
He picked up the tea pot and his cup from the porch table as he went into the house. He rinsed them and set them on the drying rack. He then went into the room at the back of the house that was nearest to the main institution building.
Tyler turned on his computer. While it went through the start up routines he selected several crystals from a large collection on the shelf behind his writing chair. This was done intuitively. Finding the right stone was a very subjective activity. One by one he touched the stones. Some he held for a moment. Some were rejected at the first touch. Tonight he found three that felt right.
He placed the crystals in a bag and hung the bag around his neck. Yes, they felt right! Tyler sat down in his writing chair and opened a document on the computer. Then he just sat and waited.
Soon the deep anguish of some poor soul in the institution touched Tyler deep in the heart of his being. He felt the tendrils of other hearts and minds touch him, and he welcomed them. Memories not his own, real or delusional, flooded him. One moment he was laughing, the next sobbing uncontrollably. Then he reached out with both hands and found the keyboard.
Tonight he wrote for three and one half hours. Then the waves of agony and ecstasy abated, fading to vague memories of memories. Tyler saved the document without reading any of it and shut down the machine. Tomorrow morning would be the time to read and edit. Tomorrow he would work the nightmares he had captured into stories to be shared with the world.
Tyler carefully put away his crystals.
It had been draining. Tyler went to the bathroom and took a shower. Soon he was ready for bed.
As he drifted off to sleep he wondered who might capture his own dreams.
"Who eats the sins of the sin eater?" he mumbled as sleep engulfed him. Vaguely he recognized that the answer might make a good story. Perhaps, but a story for another day.
Tyler slept soundly. He never heard the chorus of screams that arose from the institution next door whenever he went to sleep. For all he knew, his sleep was always dreamless.
His neighbors might be inclined to disagree.