What Do You Hear?

"Have you ever wondered what cats dream about when they fall asleep," Megan asks. "They must dream about something. There is too much twitching going on for just plain old sleep."

I groan in annoyance and roll onto my right side on the bed, stuffing my face into my pillow. I am not sure how much more of this I can take.

"Maybe they are dreaming about chasing mice," Megan continues without even seeming to notice that I have turned away from where she is seated with her back against my headboard, knees pulled up in front of her and staring at the curled up form of Calvin near her feet.

"House cats twitch and I highly doubt some of them have ever even seen a real mouse," I say and then realize my mistake in engaging in the, so far, single sided conversation.

"But maybe they are just dreaming about chasing toy mice," Megan continues with the same amount of enthusiasm that she has been keeping up for the last two hours.

"Can you go think about this somewhere else?" I ask. "Some of us are trying to get some sleep."

Megan gives an offended sounding huff.

"You want me to leave but you are fine with your buddy sitting in the corner over there?"

I frown and look over to where Megan is now pointing. I am just in time to see one of my characters throw me a half wave from where he is sitting in my beanbag chair. I give him a half smile and he looks back down at the tablet that he has sitting in his lap.

"At least Bobby is being quiet," I say. I flip over onto my back and roll my head to look at Megan. "Getting him to leave the room kind of lost a few ranks on my priority list when you dropped in. Now, please, just let me sleep."

"But there are so many stories that you need to finish," Megan whines. "How can you be thinking of sleep when there is so much to do?"

"If there is so much to do," I say, "then why are you talking about twitching cats when it has absolutely nothing to do with any of the stories I am currently writing or even thinking of writing?"

Megan shrugs. "You weren't really one for keeping up an inspiring conversation."

"She's got a point," Bobby says from the corner.

"Hush up, you," I say with a pointed glare in his direction. I turn back to Megan. "Did you ever, just maybe, think that my lack of response means that I don't want to talk at the moment?"

"But it's dark outside," Megan says as she points at my bedroom window. "Our best conversations happen when it gets dark outside."

I close my eyes and scrub a hand down my face.

"That doesn't mean that I want to talk all night, every night."

"You've talked all night before," Bobby says.

"Again, quiet," I snap as I sit up in bed.

Bobby raises his eyebrows in an expression of mild shock and then glances down and away. I hear him mumble something that sounds suspiciously like the word 'touchy' but I am not sure.

"Look," I say as I shift my position so that I am facing Megan more fully. "I am tired, my brain is fried, it can't get any further on any of my stories right now. So please, just leave me be. We can pick this up again in the morning."

Megan is opening her mouth to respond when she is cut off by the sound of my cell phone buzzing on my nightstand.

I screw my palms into my eyes and groan.

"Nobody sleeps anymore," I say.

"Could be a wrong number," Bobby says his gaze still on his tablet.

Megan gains a new grin. "Maybe it's a mysterious text message from an unknown number that eventually leads you on a grand adventure."

I lean over to grab my phone. "Not happening. I don't care how cryptic the message is."

Megan crosses her arms and drops back against my headboard with an annoyed huff. "Killjoy."

I ignore the comment and cringe against the sudden glare of light as I activate the screen on my phone. Once my eyesight settles into the new light level I am finally able to see the message.

"It's from my friend," I say. "It's a picture."

Megan's annoyance drops away and is instantly hovering over my shoulder to peek at my screen. "It's a screenshot."

"I can see that," I say. "Must be a new song that she found."

Megan tries to reach for my phone and I twist away to keep it from her grasp.

"Pull it up," she says. "I want to hear it."

"I want to sleep," I snap back. "We can listen to it tomorrow."

"It already is tomorrow," Megan argues and tries for the phone again. "It turned tomorrow hours ago."

I let out a snort and tuck the phone against me, wrapping my arms around it and holding on for dear life.

"It's not tomorrow until I fall asleep and wake up again," I say through clenched teeth as Megan claws at my grip.

"Come on," she says. "Just listen to it once. Just one time. If you do, I will let you go to sleep."

I pause in my struggles against her and look at her with as much seriousness as I can muster.

"Do you really mean that?"

Megan holds up one hand, palm towards me. "I swear it," she says.

I slowly release my death grip on my phone and look over at Bobby. He gives me a noncommittal shrug of one shoulder.

"What have you got to lose?" he says.

"Sleep, for one," I say but pull my phone out anyway.

Megan is practically bouncing next to me as I respond to the message, telling my friend that I am listening to the song now and will let her know what I think.

"Just open it," Megan says. "The quicker you listen to it the faster you can get to sleep."

I level a glare at her. "My friend is waiting for a response," I say. "I always tell her when I get her messages."

Eventually I am able to pull up the song on my music program and I settle back against my headboard, my shoulder touching Megan's, as we hear the first notes begin to play.

We listen to it through to the end and then I am reaching for my phone, planning to stop the music and send a reply so that I can go to sleep. But Megan's grasp appears on my wrist, halting my motion. The song starts over and I look at her with confusion.

"You said I could sleep if we listened to it once," I say. "Just once. You promised."

"Yes," she says and I can see something odd settling in her gaze as she stares at my phone. "I did promise that. But I ask you one question. Did you listen?"

"You heard the song," I say. "I turned it up loud enough for-"

"No," Megan says and her gaze shifts to me. "I mean did you listen? Really listen?"

I open my mouth but stop as her expression takes on an edge that I have never seen before. She is searching me, digging down deep into my mind and looking for some sort of deeper answer.

"What else is there?" I ask. "What else can I do but just listen to the song and give my opinion?"

Megan tilts her head and I can see that she is considering her next words."

"Do you trust me?" she asks simply.

I cock an eyebrow. "You are a figment of my mind. Why is trust being called into question here?"

Megan shakes her head and purses her lips. She looks away for a moment and then turns back to me.

"I am your imagination imagined," she says. "Do you trust yourself? Do you trust that your imagination will lead you in the right direction? Many people don't and spend their lives in a dark and dreary world. So, I ask again, do you trust me?"

I close my eyes and draw in a deep breath through my nose. "Yes," I say with a nod.

Megan's lips quirk in a smile. She orders Bobby out of the room and, once he's gone, she points one finger down and twirls it in a circle. "Turn around," she says.

I shift my position and suddenly her hands slide over my eyes, blocking out any kind of sight allowed by the light from the street lamps outside my window.

"Now," Megan says. "I want you to listen again. I want you to really put yourself in the song and feel what it is telling you about your friend. Think about what your friend heard in this song, what she liked so much that she felt she had to send it to you in the middle of the night."

I nod slightly and then try to do as she asks. I set my mind on the music and I try to dig deeper into it, to feel what my friend felt while she listened. For a long time nothing happens. It just sounds like a regular song, of the same type that my friend usually sends me. But then I begin to notice something odd.

I can hear the instruments a little more distinctly. The voice that sings a wordless melody is a little more emotional. The rhythm is a bit more enrapturing and everything but the song fades away. The notes flow around me, setting fire to my mind and a picture begins to develop.

I can see my friend sitting with me. I can see her smiling as we share small jokes and inane secrets. I can feel her gentle touch on my arm as she seeks out the source of my sadness. I can feel her shaking with laughter as she leans against me for support when her legs almost give out from the sheer force of her joy.

Megan's hands drift away from my eyes but I do not open them. I remain in my world of sense memories and shared gifts. The music swells in my ears and I suddenly turn to Megan with a gasp, my eyes snapping open and locking on her face.

"What do you hear?" she says.

My breath hitches and I can feel tears pricking in my eyes. "My friend," I say.

"Exactly," Megan says.

The song ends and she reaches out and shuts it off.

I stare down at my lap trying to take in what just happened.

"When a friend gives you something," Megan says quietly, "you must give it the respect it deserves. It was given to you by someone who loves you very much. They felt the need to share and so you must do your best to accept the gift, to understand it."

I blink several times to clear the wetness in the corners of my eyes and then reach for my phone again.

"What are you going to tell her?" Megan asks.

I glance up at her with a smile. "That can wait until morning," I say as I start the song again. "Right now I have a story idea and this song is going to help me write it. That story will be my reply."

Megan gains a shining smile and nods. "That sounds like a good plan."


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