The Swan, The Sheep, and the Bejeweled Mirror by Mary Thompson

Late last night Barney pinged me, a man I barely knew but liked, a bearded farmer I’d snogged once at a wedding. He said he was self isolating with his friend in rural Wales, a friend with benefits, he said with a winking emoji. We had a brief chat, then I told him I needed to sleep so I could lucid dream and escape this new reality. I told him about the symbols that appeared in my Zoom Nidra class – the swan, the sheep and the bejeweled mirror, and how I’d grown so tall I could do virtually anything. I told him I was so tall that my head clashed with the sky, and I needed to duck when I stood up.

‘That will get annoying eventually,’ he said.

‘Yes,’ I replied, ‘but for now it’s okay.’

I wanted to celebrate, ideally with him. Only we weren’t together, he already had a ‘friend’ and I needed to sleep.

‘Dreams are the only reality now,’ he pinged.

What does that make your relationship then, I thought.

I couldn’t sleep so I popped a Zopiclone, lay on my right ear and waited for the dreams. But they didn’t come. Sleep didn’t come either. I did the tapping and breathing techniques but nothing happened. If dreams were my only reality, what then was this?

But I did sleep eventually and I saw the swan and the sheep standing side by side, gazing into the bejeweled mirror, and I realised I felt more comfortable around them than with ‘normal’ beings, banging on about their bread-making skills and watch parties on Facebook. Then in the mirror I saw Barney. He was all alone and ambling towards me.

‘Where is she now?’ I mouthed.

‘Who?’ he said.

‘Your friend with benefits.’

‘Dreams are the only reality now,’ he said, and he reached through the mirror and stroked my sheep.

Mary Thompson works as an English tutor in London. She is a recent winner of two BIFFY 50 awards. (Best British & Irish Flash Fiction 2018-2019) and has just been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her story, ‘Ladybird’ was selected for inclusion in Best Microfiction 2020 and her first flash collection was Highly Commended in Ellipsis Zine’s 2020 competition. Mary tweets at @MaryRuth69.

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