Continued from Part One…
The pure genius of her practical jokes delighted Natalie. They took away the frustration and bitterness she’d been experiencing, replacing them with mischievous anticipation and secret smiles. She’d loitered around enough on Monday to hear Monique telling Paul that her latest nightmare had her trapped in a small box, where she suffocated to death. So when Natalie saw Monique ferreting around between the tall, narrow filing cabinets up the back of the building at lunch time, she ‘accidentally’ closed the door that concealed the cabinets, trapping the idiot.
A panicked Monique was saved twenty minutes later after banging on the door quite loudly and desperately. Seeing her gasping for breath and crying set off a twinge of guilt in Natalie, but only a twinge – it wasn’t enough to stop her in her tracks.
It went on this way for a few days.
Monique would tell stories of choking on a chicken bone in dreams, so Natalie would find some bony bits and pieces to spike the girl’s lunch with, freaking her out no end.
After the nightmare where Monique was literally buried in books, it was orchestrated that some insurance texts would fall near the already-paranoid girl, sending her into fits and spasms.
Monique took another sickie. She didn’t know if she could face leaving the house anymore. It seemed she was nearing her real-life death, that fatal disaster was inevitable. If she couldn’t avoid it, she could at least do her best to die as painless a death as possible. She only had soft objects in the house these days.
She paced her lounge room, dreading her death, wondering why this was happening to her. She couldn’t even sleep any more, yet the dreams invaded her exhausted mind. Everything was about death and dying, and she knew she couldn’t ignore this obsession when it seemed to be obsessed with her. She wondered for a moment if she should kill herself, so she would at least have some control over how she died.
After a couple of hours of pacing and ignoring the phone, she fell asleep on the couch. Like a deranged teenage victim of Freddy Krueger, she prayed to God that she wouldn’t fall asleep, but the urge was too overpowering. She dreamt of death yet again, but this time it was different. This time she dreamt of Natalie’s death. It was one thing to hide away in fear of her own demise, but this concerned her best friend – she’d have to stop thinking about herself and warn Natalie!
She rang Natalie’s work number only to have Ron Ryan answer the phone.
‘Natalie’s down at the pool with Paul. Something about a lunch time swim, new fitness routine and that. Doesn’t sound like our Nat, does it?’ he laughed.
Monique was almost winded by the macabre realisation she had, and hung up on poor Ron without a word.
Neither Paul nor Natalie were answering their mobile phones.
Monique shakily opened the door of her Volkswagen Beetle and sped through heavy lunch time traffic to get to the pool near their office. She knew which one it would be – it had featured in her nightmare.
She ran into the pool area only to find that she was too late. Natalie lay on the concrete, surrounded by people, some of whom were from their office.
‘She drowned!’ Paul cried. ‘I don’t know how it happened, but she drowned! No one can revive her!’
Hysterical with worry and panic, Monique yelled ‘No! Get out of the way!’
She was suddenly poised again – she knew what she had to do.
She gave Natalie the kiss of life, all the while inwardly chanting ‘You’re going to live, you’re going to live. Please God, let her live, you know she doesn’t deserve to die.’
She wasn’t going to let the dreams get the better of her – she was going to change the path she’d been led down. She sure as hell wasn’t going to let her best friend die.
After a few moments, Natalie started spluttering water.
‘Hurrah!’ everyone cheered.
Natalie lay there looking around – there were so many people. She knew she had been dead for a moment. This would give her the recognition she so dearly craved. She would tell them she’d seen a bright light, even though she’d seen a fluorescent lit cavern filled with fang-faced sprites.
‘Hurrah for Monique!’
Everyone: kids in togs, lifesavers, old grannies, work mates, even a couple of Goths that looked terribly out of place at a public swimming pool, waltzed around with Monique held high above them, like she was crowd-surfing. Like she’d just kicked the winning goal in the World Cup final. Like she was a… a heroine.
After that, Natalie was the one having nightmares every night. No one seemed to care that she had been dead for moments. No one seemed to care that she was haunted by dreams of her own permanent death – nasty dreams that tortured her, telling her that she got away from death’s grip and that it would have its’ way with her next time.
Every one loved Monique more than ever, hailing her as perfect and divine, beautiful and heroic, like Pamela Anderson in Baywatch, minus the fake boobs. There was even an article about her in the office online newsletter, with a small inset picture of Natalie looking horrible, spluttering water everywhere. That was near a large picture of Monique looking fabulous, of course.
One night the dream was very explanatory, not very cryptic at all.
‘Your nights are terrorised with stories of death and decay because of your wickedness! You set out to torture an already tortured soul – you know – the practical jokes? Anyway, this is your punishment! Your only redemption is a selfless deed!’
It all made sense. Monique was nightmare-free now .The frightful night terrors had been passed onto Natalie. Now all she had to do was something nice for someone who didn’t deserve it .She hadn’t deserved another chance at life, but here she was, breathing in and out like a living human being. She was desperate to make things right.
It left one question though – what nasty deeds had Monique done in order to have these harrowing dreams inflicted upon her in the first place?
Monique drove to work in her Volkswagen Beetle the following Monday morning, singing along to The Veronicas.
She admired her appearance in the rear view mirror. It was nice to have life back to normal again. She was so grateful to live another peaceful day after another dreamless night of sleep that she had gone all out and tried a different shade of lipstick.
This one was called Velvet Violet. Sort of like Poised Plum, only more daring.
She was stopped at a traffic light for a bit. Instead of cursing it, she took the opportunity to people-watch and appreciate the amazing world she lived in. She promised herself she would never complain about anything again.
She noticed a hunched over figure, quickly flitting across the road in front of her. She gasped for breath, feeling a sense of self-disgust wash over her. It was the girl that had gotten drunk and passed out at the races a couple of months ago. Monique’s friends had dared her to go through her things. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she remembered taking the Poised Plum lipstick from the girl’s handbag, along with a few fifty dollar notes.
She was not a heroine at all, she was a complete and utter scumbag.
She considered telling Janice Lawler, who had written the article about her being great, so that she could put out some kind of notice to let people know that she wasn’t in fact a heroine.
But people were simple, you couldn’t go and confuse and disappoint them that way. And wouldn’t telling Janice that be like making a complaint? Only moments before, Monique had promised herself she’d never complain again. She wasn’t about to go back on her word so quickly. Anyway, what was a bit of lipstick and cash compared to saving someone’s life? As far as she was concerned, she was totally in the ‘credit’ line when it came to good deeds done.
Monique Medwell continued on her way to work, now happily singing along to the Divinyls. Yep, life was back to normal. She looked forward to playing pranks on Natalie today. That bitch had almost driven her to suicide with her little practical jokes… she’d known there’d been a good reason to bring the jealous cow back to life.
She entered the office with her fake smile plastered on, and proceeded to print out twenty copies of the article about her heroic act.
It’s good to be me, Monique Medwell thought.
The hunched-over woman had recognised Monique at the traffic lights.
The woman straightened up, swearing that her bad back would be the death of her.
She thought back to a couple of months ago. That day at the races, when she’d drunk too many champagnes. She’d been saved by a cute boy named Paul Freeman that day. He’d given her water to drink, had nursed her back to a modicum of sobriety. She was at his place later that night, flipping through the digital photos he’d taken at the races.
She’d been completely shocked when she noticed her own slumped over body in the background of one of his group photos. That awful blonde girl was hovering around her, the one she’d just seen at the traffic lights. She’d known then that traffic light blonde was the thief, her gut feeling had convinced her of that. It was just coincidence that Paul worked with the little vixen.
Such a shame that the curse had somehow transferred itself elsewhere. Paul and her had done such a good job with it. She loved him so much. She wished she could see him again. It had been weeks. She really missed him.
Paul kissed Monique one more time as they lay in her pink, frilly bed, poring over the twenty copies of the famed article.
‘You’re so amazing,’ he told her.
He finally had the girl he loved. He didn’t need to waste any more time with drunk girls he found at race courses or chain-smoking chicks from work. Every thing was perfect – he had Monique, and he had mastered the art of magic. He’d done quite well to transfer the nightmare curse from Monique to Natalie. It had been meant to be – the curse had brought him and Monique together, and now Natalie was so stressed out that she had no time for him.
Jeez, men are so conniving!