The Other Side of The Curtain by Helen McCloy

by Arun

Source: The Quintessence of Queen #2

Story Number: 79

Letty Jason, for the last eight months, has been experiencing a dream which always ends in the same manner – she approaches a curtain hanging across the passage, blocking her way. She doesn’t part the curtain and see what’s on the other side; she feels terrified at this point and wakes herself up as she is fully aware of the fact  that she is dreaming while she is in the act of dreaming. The doctor to whom she has come with this problem asks her to part the curtain in her dream and see what’s on the other side – he tells her that a great fear in her wakening life is manifesting itself as a curtain in her dream and the only strange thing about her dream is the fact that she is always aware that she is dreaming. He also tells her that at some point of time she will lose the ability to wake herself up during the dream.

Not finding the doctors words to be of much use, she ignores his advice. The next dream she encounters follows an entirely different but horrific pattern. She is accused and arrested by the police for poisoning Olivia Jason, the first wife to her husband Ralph Jason. Olivia was a cripple and hence she couldn’t have gone to the chemist to buy the eye drops which contained atropine. Also, the police point out that there was no real reason to buy the eye drops as neither Olivia nor Letty suffered any eye problem. The dream continues with a vivid court room drama  where every single evidence points to her as the guilty party. Her husband convinces her that the last alternative would be to say that she bought the medicine for him for his eye problem. She pleads with the defense lawyer to put her husband on the witness stand but when he does so, her husband completely repudiates the testimony! And then the reality strikes her that it was indeed Ralph who murdered Olivia. Just on the verge of being convicted by the jury, she is in a dilemma whether to wake herself up or go through the entire dream, she wonders whether the words of the doctor has come true so quickly that she has lost the ability to wake herself up! How does the story end? One is in for a rude shock – there is a cunning but masterful twist to the whole saga after the impending horror has been built up; which turns the story upside down and leaves the reader gasping for breath.

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