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Lost in a dream by Marine Corps Veteran Steve McGuirk

Marine Corps Veteran Steve McGuirk, winner of the Palo Alto VA Creative Arts Festival.
Marine Corps Veteran Steve McGuirk, winner of the Palo Alto VA Creative Arts Festival.

Every year, the local Creative Arts Festival, held at the Menlo Park VA, provides a platform for Veterans at VA Palo Alto to showcase their artistic talents. This year, Marine Corps Veteran Steve McGuirk's short story emerged victorious.

His captivating work earned him the distinction of representing VA Palo Alto at the 43rd National Veterans Creative Arts Festival in Denver, Colorado. We extend our best wishes to Steve as he takes his winning short story to the national competition. It's going to be a big event with tons of talented Veterans!

Continue to read McGuirk’s local winning short story.

Lost in a dream

by Steve McGuirk

Anna Donova looked out of her office on the 4th floor of the LA County Sheriff's Department. Outside the window a gray haze lay upon the City of Angels. How ironic she thought; what angel would ever choose to live here?

Anna was in Los Angeles as a part of an exchange program with Russia’s police force. She had been a translator in the Soviet army and after her enlistment she joined the Moscow militia. Because of her prowess in English, when an opportunity came up for an exchange program with the Sheriff's Department she applied and won the coveted trip to America.

She sat at her desk drinking tea and reviewing cases when her supervisor walked in and handed her a folder. “Here's a case I thought you might enjoy pursuing, Anna.”

She pushed aside the stacks of missing persons folders and opened the file. This one was interesting, she thought as she perused it. A 75-year old male, David Emerson, was reported missing by his ex-wife. Oddly enough he had taken nothing with him but his pajamas. His wife had evidently called the department and was told that she needed to wait the mandatory 48 hours to see if he returned. He hadn't. Anna decided to pursue the case. She called the wife and went to visit.

When she got to the small two-story home in Encino, Edward's ex-wife Dorothy met Anna on the porch. Dorothy described her former husband as respectful and quiet. She said that he had moved back into their home for mutually-sensible economic reasons. As she led Anna upstairs to David's room she said that she hadn’t moved anything.

Anna slipped on her latex gloves and went carefully through the items around his room. It was puzzling because everything was in order, nothing in disarray except for the unmade bed. Dorothy said that the clothing he had been wearing the day before was neatly hung in the closet and his shoes were at the foot of the bed. His wallet, car keys, pocket knife and change were laid out on the fabric cover of his dresser and his phone was also there, turned off. His wife said she had tried to call him and eventually realized that he didn't have it, something she said was highly unusual. She told Anna that David had no enemies and Anna asked more questions. Did he suffer from alcoholism, drug abuse or mental illness? “No.” she responded. Did she suspect that he might been having a relationship with another woman? Dorothy stared at her incredulously. “No,” she responded emphatically. “I would have known.”

Anna was almost finished with her review of David's room when she noticed a shelf above his bed filled with what looked like journals. There was also one by his bedside. “Was David a writer?”, she asked Dorothy.

“Not a serious one,” she responded. “I mean if you're asking whether he tried to sell his work the answer is 'no'. But as you can see he journaled extensively and a lot of it is his recordings of dreams.”

Anna asked if she could take the journals with her, noting that there might be something in them that would be of help. Dorothy said, “Sure, take all of them if you think they might be useful.” Dorothy got Anna a bankers box, and Anna packed all of the journals into it. She thanked Dorothy, handed her a business card and took the box to her car.

In Los Angeles the processing of evidence was handled very differently than it was in Moscow; it was much more discretionary. So Anna decided that rather than taking the box of journals back to her cluttered desk, she would take them home to review.

Although his wife had claimed that he was not a professional writer, David’s writing was poetic and fascinating to read. Anna opened the first journal and several hours later realized that it was already midnight. And as with all spellbinding stories, she decided to jump ahead and read the last entry in his bedside journal. It was dated the day before his reported disappearance. In the journal he described a dream in which he was walking through a forest and encountered a woman walking the other way. Their eyes met and in an instant they both recognized that they were a perfect match. They didn't talk about their pasts but each knew that their futures lie together. And as was one of the most enjoyable things about David's dreams, they leaped into the air and swam towards the full moon as it rose ahead of them.

When she returned to work the next day Anna had a hard time thinking about other cases. Reading David's journals had put her in an entirely different mindset, one that made all other work seem inconsequential. That night she started reading the rest of the journals. His dream recordings were so vivid that when she went to bed she found herself present in her own dream. She was rejoined with the love of her life, another Moscow militiaman who had been killed in the line of duty. In her own dream she felt the full emotions of love with this man, something she had lost with his death. David had also claimed that he could join the woman in his dreams by willing himself to do so, and Anna started to believe him. When she slept that night, and for many nights thereafter, she's always had the same dream, reestablishing a loving relationship with the man who had died.

Several days later, Anna did not show up for work. Her apartment was searched and, like David's, the only thing missing were her pajamas. When her supervisor reviewed David’s case file, he noted the similarities between their disappearances, but to no avail.

A year later, both cases remained unsolved, put in cold case files, and never looked at again. Each had become lost in a dream.